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The Dukes Head Public House Heath and Reach

The Dukes Head June 2008
The Dukes Head June 2008

The Dukes Head Public House: 7 to 9 Leighton Road, Heath and Reach [earlier the Duke of Cumberlands Head]

The Dukes Head has the most interesting history of any licensed premises in Heath and Reach, simply because there are ample records to allow it to be traced. The building was listed by the former Department of Environment in 1980 as Grade II, of special interest. It was reckoned to be an 18th century building. It is built of Red brick and is thatched.  The south elevation is weather-boarded.

Records prove the 18th century date. In 1745 the property was two cottages mortgaged by William Jeffs to Henry Cox [Z1118/1/21/11] but ten years later the cottages have become the Duke of Cumberland's Head public house [Z1118/1/21/11], conveyed by William Jeffs to Benjamin Seear. The Duke of Cumberland had defeated the pretender to the throne Charles Edward Stuart (grandson of King James II), known as Bonnie Prince Charlie at the battle of Culloden in 1746 and so might have been a popular choice as the name of a new public house.

In 1788 the public house was devised by Benjamin Seear in his will to John and Tabitha King [Z1118/1/21/11] who conveyed it to Thomas Meacher, a common brewer of Newport Pagnell a year later. Meacher conveyed it to Leighton Buzzard brewer William Bennett in 1810 and in 1832 all of Bennett's properties were conveyed to Samuel Reeve.

In 1842 a bizarre robbery took place at the Dukes Head perpetrated by inmates of Leighton Buzzard workhouse - a linked page tells the story

In 1845, around the centenary of the public house, it as valued at £450 [Z1118/1/21/16] and conveyed to Leighton Buzzard brewer Joseph Procter [Z1118/1/21/18]. In 1864 Procter leased his brewery and all his licensed houses to Edward Terry of Aylesbury [Buckinghamshire] [Z1118/1/21/36] and two years later, following his death, all Procter's properties were conveyed to Edward and Percy Procter [Z1118/1/21/39]. In 1884 their properties were conveyed to Hugh, Harold, Jane and John Goldsmith Procter [Z1118/1/21/45]: 1884 who, in 1897 conveyed them to Kingsbury (St.Albans) Brewery Company Limited [Z1118/1/21/51].

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 ordered every piece of land and building in the country to be assessed to determine the rates to be paid on it. Heath and Reach was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting the Dukes Head [DV1/C254/30] noted that the owner was then Benskins Watford Brewery Limited who, in fact, simply leased it from Kingsbury. The tenant paid a rent of £12 per annum fixed in 1913, which would rise to £15 from 7th September 1927. The premises comprised a tap room ("fair"), a bar ("fair"), a cellar ("fair"), a kitchen, a scullery and a parlour with four bedrooms above. The valuer noted: "do not let bedrooms". Outside stood a brick urinal, two brick and corrugated iron pigsties, a brick and slate three stall stable with a loft over and a one bay open fronted cart shed "now garage". There was also a 0.234 acre grass field in same ownership/occupation.

Trade was a barrel of beer a week sometimes 1½ barrels a fortnight and well as half a gallon of spirits a week, bottled beer was not sold. The valuer noted: "Trade has fallen off a lot"; "does not know takings"; "Tenant [i.e. the old tenant Richard Botterill] leaving in 3 weeks"; "Lewis hasn’t done 2 barrels in week he has been there".

The valuer noted: "Gas", presumably meaning that this utility was laid on. He also commented: "long frontage but small bars". The public house was closed for some time in 2007 and 2008 and has since been a succession of Asian restaurants, first Thai, then Chinese and, at the time of writing [2011] Indian.


  • Z1118/1/21/11: mortgage by William Jeffs to Henry Cox of two cottages: 1745;
  • Z1118/1/21/11: William Jeffs conveyed Duke of Cumberland's Head to Benjamin Seear: 1755;
  • Z1118/1/21/11: devised in will of Benjamin Sear to John King and Tabitha, his wife: 1788;
  • Z1118/1/21/11: conveyed by John King and Tabitha, his wife to Thomas Meacher, common brewer of Newport Pagnell: 1789;
  • Z1118/1/21/11: conveyed by Thomas Meacher to William Bennett of Leighton Buzzard, common brewer: 1810;
  • Z1118/1/21/11: all property of William Bennett conveyed to Samuel Reeve: 1832;
  • Z1118/1/21/16: valued at £450: c.1845;
  • Z1118/1/21/18: property of Samuel Reeve conveyed to Joseph Procter: 1845;
  • Z1118/1/21/27: account of Land Tax: 1845;
  • Z1118/1/21/30: insured for £280: 1846;
  • Z1185/1: précis of diary of Joseph Procter regarding business premises: 1853-1865;
  • Z1118/1/21/36: property of Joseph Procter leased to Edward Terry of Aylesbury: 1864;
  • Z1118/1/21/39: conveyance of property of Joseph Procter by Edward Procter to Percy Procter: 1866;
  • BML10/30/7: auction sale held at: 1881;
  • Z1118/1/21/45: licensed houses conveyed by Thomas, Hugh and Harold Procter to Hugh, Harold, Jane and John Goldsmith Procter: 1884;
  • Z1118/1/21/51: licensed houses conveyed by Hugh, Harold, Amy, Joseph and Jane Procter to Thomas Owen Pugh on behalf of Kingsbury (St.Albans) Brewery Company Limited: 1897;
  • BML10/30/55: auction sale held at: 1928;
  • Z851/11/5: photograph: c.1970;
  • Z1309/1/7b: drawing of Dukes Head: 1984;
  • Z1309/1/7a: drawing of Dukes Head: 2000  

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:

1745: William Jeffs;
1755: Benjamin Seear;
c.1810: Thomas Culverhouse;
1822: Richard Cooke;
1822: Edward Robbins;
1828: William Bennett;
1832: John Cook;
1850: William Tompkins;
1854: Benjamin Holt;
1862: Thomas Dancer;
1891: James Duncombe;
1894: William Culverhouse;
1894: Henry Evans;
1895: John Roberts;
1899: William Turney;
1899: John Hankin;
1901: John George Bottrill;
1912: Robert Edwards;
1913: Richard Botterill;
1927: George Lewis;
1928: Charles William Geeves;
1933: Arthur William Brook;
1947: Sarah Brook;
1950: Doris Gwendoline Brook;
1956: Harold Burnham Smith;
1969: Douglas Peter Hodgson;
1972: Douglas David Sargent;
1982: Peter John Playle;
1986: Ronald David Parkes;
1986: Michael Matso;
1987: David Michael Field;
1991: John Michael Short and Peter Philip Rolt;
1992: Edward George Smith and Teresa Caroline Smith;
1993: Edward George Smith;
1993: Edward George Smith and Claire Marie Major.