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The Magpie Public House Harrold

The Magpie in 1962
The Magpie in 1962 [Z53/54/29]

Magpie Public House: 54 High Street, Harrold

The Magpie first appears in a directory in 1891. It is an 18th century building, built of coursed limestone rubble, with a clay tile roof, listed by the former Department of Environment as Grade II (of special interest). It consists of two storeys and attics. It is possible that in the 19th century this house was the Bull Public House.

In 1834 The Bull, or Berkeley Arms as it was then called, was sold at auction at which time it was described as: "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" [GA2089]. This description ties in quite well with a description of the Magpie in 1927.

In that year property in Harrold was valued under the Rating & Valuation Act of 1925; every piece of land and building in the country had to be valued to determine the rates to be paid upon it. The valuer visiting the Magpie Beerhouse [DV1/C/71/29] noted that it was owned by Charles Wells Limited and occupied by W.Back, who refused to give information about rent and trade. The public house comprised a tap room, smoke room ("good"), cellar ("fair") and kitchen-scullery combined. Upstairs were three bedrooms ("fairly good size") and two attic box rooms (perhaps, taken together, the five bedrooms of the Bull in 1834). Outside was a coal house, wash house and small garden. From other sources the valuer discovered that the rent was £12 per annum. He estimated trade as about 1½ barrels per week. He felt the valuation should be about £21 "but as all information refused say Gross £38".

Another factor indicating that the Magpie might be the Bull reborn is that both lay adjacent to a bakery in the occupation of a man named Watts. In 1884 the former Bull (by then a private house) was described as: "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. In 1927 the Magpie was next door to 52 High Street, a bakery in occupation of Ernest J.Watts.

A final factor indicating that the Bull became the Magpie is that a deed of 1867 to 52 High Street describes it as being bounded to the west by a cottage formerly in occupation of William Wootton, now Miss Neale. William Wootton was a previous owner of The Bull Public House.

None of this is in any way conclusive and the Bull may well have been elsewhere - many an elegant theory has been demolished in the light of new evidence! What can be said for certain of the Magpie is that it first appears in any record held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service in a County Licensing Survey of 1891, when it was owned by Charles Wells.

By August 2012 the public house was closed and for sale.

The Magpie May 2008
The Magpie in May 2008


  • PSS3/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: c.1901;
  • PSS3/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: c.1903;
  • PSS3/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: 1904-1930;
  • WL800/3 p.24: photograph: c.1925
  • WL801/5: negative to above: c.1925;
  • DV1/C/71: rating valuation: 1927;
  • Bedfordshire Magazine Vol.VIII.p.295: photograph: 1962;
  • Z53/54/29: photograph: 1962;
  • PSBW8/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1976-1980;
  • PCHarrold18/13: application for planning permission to extend car park: 1980

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:

1891: James M.Hawkes;
1894: Thomas Panter;
1904-1912: Charles Allen Surridge;
1912-1918: Charles Todd Morfitt;
1918-1922: George Keep;
1922-1929: William Back;
1929-1933: Margaret Back;
1933-1936: Percy Edward Pointer
1940: Leslie Walter Brittain
1966-1970: Thomas George Mathews;
1970-1971: Edward Raymond Johnson;
1971-1985: Michael Edward Hale;
1985-1986: Peter Hugh Simpson;
1986-1988: Keith Richard John Lawson;
1988-1996: Alan Charles Chettle;
1996: William Ransome and Andrew Peaple