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The Gate Public House Harrowden

The Gate at Harrowden about 1925 [WL800/2]
The Gate at Harrowden about 1925 [WL800/2]

The Gate Public House: Old Harrowden Road [earlier the Pig and Whistle also The Hanging Gate]

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county’s historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. Historic Environment Record entry 11859 is for the Gate and notes that an inscription on the building read: "THIS GATE HANGS WELL/ AND HINDERS NONE/ REFRESH AND PAY/ AND TRAVEL ON."

The countywide licensing register of 1876, which is not always strictly accurate, states that a beerhouse in Cardington owned by Isaac Mann was first licensed in 1846. The countywide register of 1891 also lists a beerhouse in Cardington owned by Thomas Mann and specifically states that this was in Harrowden. The countywide register for 1903 gives a beerhouse in Harrowden owned by William Mann of Park Lane, London and tenanted by James Mann, called the Pig and Whistle. The register commented: “Bad, clean, apparently sanitary”. It had one front door and the nearest licensed premises was “¾ mile and 150 yards” away. It seems reasonable to assume that all three entries refer to the same beerhouse which later became the Gate.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. Eastcotts, like most of the county, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting the Gate [DV1/C280/30] found it owned and occupied by Mrs. Mann, noting “Husband died a fortnight ago – 11/10/1927”. She does not appear to have become licensee as the register notes Arthur H. and William Mann as licensees.

The valuer commented: “”Fairly modern building” - to judge by photographs and the current building the 1846 structure looks to have been replaced around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. It comprised a tap room and parlour (both “fair”), a kitchen and scullery and four bedrooms above. The valuer stated: “I think tenant tried to be honest”. She estimated trade at two barrels in summer and one in winter – presumably this was per week. Four 36 gallon barrels were on tap in the cellar. Outside stood a weather-boarded and slated barn, a brick and slate store barn, a weather-boarded and tiled barn, a weather-boarded and corrugated iron stable (“now pig sty”) and a weather-boarded and tiled cow hovel. Finally, the valuer noted: “Bedford people come out here on Sundays. Nearest licensed house to Aerodrome”. A photograph of the Gate with two people outside, presumably the Manns, appears in a Charles Wells photograph album from about this time. Presumably Wells supplied the beer.

Meanwhile there had been a fire at the Gate in 1933 [AD1082/4a], a newspaper report read: “The Bedford Fire Brigade received a call to Harrowden on 22nd December at 6 p. m. to a fire in a bedroom at the “Hanging Gate” public-house. The fittings, bed furniture and flooring were alight, but the fire was soon under control and was and was confined to the one room. The Brigade went out under Deputy Chief Officer Hopkins. While the firemen were working upstairs Engineer Bell, a survivor of the R101 disaster was paying out Sick Club Dividends”. Despite reference to the Gate being a public house, directories indicate that it was still a beerhouse at this date. It may not have become fully licensed until after the Second World War.

In the 1930s the name of the establishment seems to have changed from the Gate to the Hanging Gate and this may be connected to a change of ownership. In 1938 Biggleswade brewers Wells and Winch sought planning permission to build the extension on the left side of the house which was to form a smoke room [RDBP3/9]. The following year they applied for planning permission to build an external toilet block [RDBP3/115].

In 1961 Wells and Winch were taken over by Suffolk brewers Greene King. The Gate, the house seems to have reverted to this name, remained a Greene King establishment into the 21st century. At the time of visiting in April 2011 the premises was closed and boarded up.

The former Gate Public House March 2011
The former Gate Public House March 2011


  • PSB9/1: register of licenses: 1903-1935;
  • AD3572/38: pen drawing: 1920;
  • WL801/29: negative: c.1925;
  • WL800/2: photograph: c. 1925;
  • AD1082/4a: fire at the Hanging Gate: 1933;
  • RDBP3/9: alterations: 1938;
  • RDBP3/115 and Z1169/8/2/26B/1-2: alterations: 1939;
  • PSB9/2: register of licenses: c.1955-1995.

List of Licensees:

Note that this is not a complete list. Italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known: 

1846-1877: Isaac Mann;
1885-1898: Thomas Mann;
1903-1904: James Mann;
1904-1927: William Mann;
1927-1931: Arthur H. Mann and William Mann;
1931: Sarah Mann;
1931: Joseph Arthur Goodger;
1940: Bertie Clarke
1964-1967: Ernest Dennis Hodson Lant;
1967-1975: Gerald Jessop;
1975-1977: Dereck Ivor Tassell;
1977-1995: Alfred Leonard Perkins