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The Speed the Plough Public House Higham Gobion

The Grove February 2011
The Grove February 2011

The Speed the Plough Public House, Higham Gobion [previously the Plough]

The first reference to the Speed the Plough Public House, then simply known as the Plough, is in 1861 when the personal effects of deceased licensee James Arnold were put up for sale by auction [SF27/1/1]. At that time the property was in the ancient parish of Higham Gobion.

The countywide licensing register of 1876 notes that the Plough was owned by Sarah Horne of Hertford. The 1891 licensing register gives the owner as Henry Trethewy of Silsoe, as does the register for 1901. The state of the Plough is noted as: "repair fairly good, not very clean". The house had both front and back doors and the tenant's rent was £14 per annum. The Ampthill division licensing register [PSA5/1] reveals that the property was conveyed to Frank Lilley Allingham in 1912 and to W. G. Sharp in 1920.

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. The valuer visiting the Speed the Plough found that the tenant, Thomas Sharp paid no rent, evidently he was a relative of the owner. The property stood in just under half an acre and comprised: a tap room ("fair"); a cellar; a living room; a parlour; four bedrooms; an attic and a washhouse.

Trade was about half a barrel of beer per week. The valuer noted: "Trade falling off badly". Taking in 1923/25 had been £618/12/- resulting in a profit of £37/13/10. In 1924/25 takings were just £429/2/6 resulting in a profit of just £7. Things were a little better in the following year with takings of £467/12/6 resulting in a profit of £28/3/10½. The valuer noted: "Tenant admits more trade could be done with younger people". He took his beer from Saint Neots [Huntingdonshire] brewer Paynes but the establishment was not a tried house.

In addition to the public house itself Sharp rented 10.531 acres of grassland for £9/10/- per annum. He also rented a weather-boarded and staled range of buildings comprising a hen house, a three bay hovel and a loose box as well as a barn with a brick floor and a brick and slate stable for four horses with a loft over and a piggery. Rent on these buildings was £4/16/- per annum.

In 1927 the Speed the Plough was conveyed to Barritt Marshall [PSA5/1]. In 1933 the Speed the Plough and its surrounding area was transferred from the civil parish of Higham Gobion into the civil parish of Pulloxhill where it remains. Two German bombs fell nearby on 3rd October 1940 [WW2/AR/CO/2/2].

Emily Violet Marshall was the owner from 1957 [PSA5/2], later owners were Essex Brewery, then Tollemache & Cobbold Breweries [PSA5/5]. During the 21st century the pub was closed and boarded up for a while before becoming a bar with exotic dancing. In a complete volte-face the building is now [2011] a family bar and restaurant with an extensive children's play area.


  • SF27/1/1: sale of James Arnold's effects: 1861;
  • PSA5/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1927;
  • Z1091/4/1/30: sale catalogue: 1913;
  • Z55/5/685-687: photograph of building a culvert: 1934;
  • PSA5/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1934-1959;
  • WW2/AR/CO/2/2: two bombs dropped nearby: 1940;
  • PSA5/4: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1950s;
  • Z196/117: shown on an aerial photograph: c. 1964;
  • PSA5/5: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1968-1995

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

1861: James Arnold;
1864-1881: Joel Arnold;
1881-1887: George Cook;
1887-1891: Richard Whiteman;
1891-1892: Renfrew Smith Tucker;
1892-1920: Richard Whiteman;
1920-1927: Thomas Sharp;
1927: Kenneth W. Brewster;
1927-1959: William Barritt Marshall;
1959: Peter Lewis Richard Marshall;
1962-1977: Raymond Smart;
1977-1987: Graeme John Cutts;
1987-1989: Graeme John Cutts and Derek Michael Harper;
1989: Derek Michael Harper;
1989-1992: Maureen Patricia Penny;
1992-1993: Monty David Penny;~
1993: Patricia McClements;
1993-1995: Patricia McClements and Nicola Tookey