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The Bull Public House Harrold

Berkeley Arms sale poster
Berkeley Arms sale poster [GA2089]

Bull Public House: East End [later Berkeley Arms then Bull again]

The Bull, later called the Berkeley Arms, later changed back once more to the Bull, was quite an old building. A set of deeds for the property [GK79] begins in 1739 when William Amis of Harrold, butcher, and his wife and children conveyed a cottage in the East End of Harrold to William Wootton of Harrold, carpenter, for £18. The property was on the north side of the High Street , had a cottage on either side and an orchard at the rear [GK79/1].

William Wootton sold the premises to Graveley Lawton, baker, in 1809 [GK79/3]. Lawton mortgaged the property in 1820 and died in 1821 and his son, also Graveley, inherited the property. In 1824 the mortgage taken out by Lawton senior was assigned to another mortgagee and by that date the property is referred to as a public house called the Bull abutting south on the street, east and west on two cottages and north on an orchard [GK79/3].

Graveley Lawton junior died in 1832 or 1833, his widow Betsy gaining administration of his estate [GK79/5]. Graveley's financial affairs were obviously poor as in 1833 his property was conveyed in trust for the benefit of creditors [GK79/6]. The next year the property was sold at auction, initially to Thomas Layton, a farmer from Wymington for £300 but he then agreed to sell it on to Harrold yeoman Thomas Brittain for an additional £30 [GK79/11].

The sale particulars survive [GA2089]. The Bull had now been renamed as the description is: "The Berkeley Arms Inn, situate in the High Street of Harrold aforesaid, comprising Tap-room and Parlour in front, Bar, Kitchen, large Dining Room for 50 Persons, 5 Bed Rooms, and Cellar for 50 Hogsheads: Together with a convenient Yard, Brew-house and two lofts over, and well of excellent Water, now in occupation of Mr.Allen".

Brittain took out two mortgages on the property then sold the equity of redemption of them to Bedford brewer Charles Higgins in 1841 [GK79/16]. By this date the house was once more known as the Bull. It is still described as abutting cottages east and west, the common street south and an orchard north. Higgins paid off the outstanding mortgage in 1842 [GK79/17].

The last mention of the Bull as a public house is in a directory of 1847. At some point thereafter it closed as it does not appear in directories of 1850, 1853 or 1854, all in the possession of Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service. When it was conveyed to Laurence Read Higgins and Cecil Charles Norman Colburne Higgins in 1884 [GK4/2] it was described thus: "All the messuage or tenement with the yard and appurtenances thereto belonging and also the cottage and all erections and buildings erected and built thereon situate in the east end of Harrold in the County of Bedford, all which were formerly used as a public house and called by the sign of the Bull then of the Berkeley Arms and then of the Bull and in the occupation of William Kins, afterwards [blank] then of Graveley Lawton then of Thomas Brittain then of Charles Higgins, his undertenants and assigns; the said messuage or tenement and part of the said yard and outbuildings being now in the occupation of Charles Squires and the said cottage and part of the said yard and outbuildings (part whereof is used as a bakehouse) being late in occupation of Parsons and now of George Watts; the Common Street or Highway lying on or towards part of the south and a cottage or tenement formerly belonging to Zachariah Clayson and late of Isaac Webb and now to the Countess Cowper on or towards the other part of the south; a cottage or tenement late of Joseph Pain and now of Caleb le Fevre lying on or towards the east; an orchard and garden belonging to the said Caleb le Fevre and late in occupation of Samuel Lett and Knightley Smith and now of the said Caleb le Fevre being on or towards the north; and the said cottage or tenement belonging to Countess Cowper and the garden thereto being on or towards the west".

This description, coupled with the sale particulars of 1834 give us a clue as to where the Bull was. It was in the east end of Harrold north of the High Street. In 1884 part of the site was a bakery in occupation of George Watts. An orchard lay behind. The public house had a cellar and five bedrooms. One place which seems to fit these facts is today's Magpie Public House. In the 1927 rating valuation survey the Magpie lay west of Watts' bakery, had a cellar and five bedrooms. The cottage east of Watts' bakery had two bedrooms and no cellar. A final factor indicating that the Bull might have become the Magpie is that a deed of 1867 to 52 High Street (neighbouring the Magpie to the east) describes it as being bounded to the west by a cottage formerly in occupation of William Wootton, now Miss Neale. William Wootton was, of course, a previous owner of The Bull Public House.

These facts are certainly not conclusive and no definite statement can be made without more recent deeds, elegant theories often fall down in the light of new evidence! However, it is at least possible that the Bull, after a period as a private house, once more became a public house, the Magpie, in the 20th century. If anyone reading this knows any more please e-mail Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service!


  • GK79/1-2: cottage feoffed from William and Anne Amis and John Amis and Susan Burridge to William Wootton: 1739;
  • HF40/5/8/1: will of William Wootton devising to wife Ann: 1802, proved 1808;
  • HF40/5/8/2a-b: conveyance by William and Ann Wootton to Gravely Lawton the elder: 1809;
  • GK79/3: mortgage of two cottages by Gravely Lawton the elder to Elizabeth Sturgess: 1820;
  • CLP13: Register of Alehouse Recognizances: 1822-1828;
  • GK79/3: assignment of mortgage from Gravely Lawton the younger and Betsey, his wife to John Brice of property including cottage for some time past called Bull: 1824;
  • GK79/4: further advance by Gravely Lawton from John Brice: 1829;
  • GA2082: auction sale held at Bull: 1827;
  • GK79/5: mortgage by Betsey Lawton to Joseph Harrold and Benjamin Coles: 1833;
  • GK79/6: conveyance in trust for the benefit of creditors by Betsey Lawton to James Pearson and John Laughton: 1833;
  • GK79/7: release of reversionary interest by Henry and Ruth Wykes, John and Catherine Dexter, Judith Bonfield and Betsey Lawton to James Pearson and John Laughton: 1834;
  • GK79/8-10: conveyance by James Pearson and John Laughton to executors of John Brice: 1834;
  • GA2089: sale catalogue of Berkeley Arms: 1834;
  • GK79/11-13: Berkeley Arms conveyed by executors of John Brice to Thomas Brittain and subsequent mortgage to Joseph Browne: 1835;
  • GK79/15: assignment of mortgage by Joseph Browne to Thomas Arnott and Edward Swanton Bunting: 1836;
  • GK79/16: conveyance of mortgaged property, now again called Bull, by Thomas Brittain to Charles Higgins the elder: 1841;
  • GK79/17: reconveyance by Thomas Arnott and Edward Swanton Bunting to Charles Higgins: 1842;
  • GK79/32: fire insurance certificate: 1844;
  • GK4/1: schedule of deeds to Bull: 1853;
  • GK4/2: former brewhouse conveyed, with other premises by executors of George Higgins to Laurence Read Higgins and Cecil Charles Norman Colburne Higgins: 1884  

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list; entries in italics refer to licensees where either beginning or end, or both, dates are not known:

before 1809: William Amis;
1809: Gravely Lawton senior;
1820-1826: Gravely Lawton junior;
1826-1830: William Lilley;
1834-1836: George Allen;
1839: William Luddington;
1847: George Sharp