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The Chequers Public House Houghton Conquest

The Chequers August 2016
The Chequers August 2016

The Chequers Public House: Hazelwood Road, Houghton Conquest

It is possible, though by no means certain, that the Chequers owes its genesis to plans by the architect Henry Holland for the Duke of Bedford dated about 1790 [CRT130Hou14]. The points in favour of this are:

  • The pub is on a main road outside a village centre, a good commercial site for an inn;
  • The property is of 18th or 19th century date;
  • The Chequers was in existence in 1798;
  • No other known inn in Houghton Conquest had any connection with the Dukes of Bedford.

Points against are:

  • The site was not owned by the Duke of Bedford, for whom the plans were prepared;
  • The building is substantial but unremarkable, more likely the work of a local builder than a major 18th century British architect.

The Chequers is shown on the map of Houghton Conquest of 1797-1798 [X1/27/1] and described in one of the accompanying reference books [X1/27/3] as The Chequers belonging to Baker. By the time of the inclosure award of 1809 [MA69] the Chequers was held by Mary Baker, widow, Robert Baker had died in 1802, aged 58.

A plan of the estates of Ampthill brewer John Morris from 1810 survives [X21/391]; the Chequers is not included but a slip of paper in a later hand tucked into the volume refers to a premises near Houghton Toll as “late Baker”.

The inventory of John and Joseph Morris’ Brewery from 1827 [Z1043/1] describes The Chequers thus: “freehold public house, occupied by James Baker, a yard, stable and wood barn, another stable, part of which is converted into a cottage, piggery, cart hovel.  In a field adjoining the house is a brick built cottage divided into two tenements with small gardens.  There is attached to this occupation two Enclosures of land, one of which is arable and contains 3 acres 1 rood, 34 poles,  the other is pasture and contains 1 acre, 2 rods, 14 poles;  outgoings -  Land Tax £1 7s.”. The pub remained in the ownership of Morris & Company (Ampthill) Limited (as John and Joseph Morris’ firm eventually became) until the company was sold to Luton brewery J W Green Limited in 1926

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 pub [DV1/C86/1] found that the tenant paid rent of £25 per annum, which included adjoining fields.

The premises comprised a bar, a tap room (“fair”), a smoke room, a kitchen, a scullery, a living room and a cellar with four bedrooms and a boxroom upstairs. Outside were a brick, timber and slate stable, coachhouse, cart hovel and fowl house and a brick and tiled barn and pigsty. Trade was one barrel of beer and one bottle of spirits per week as well as three dozen bottles of beer per week. The valuer commented: “Super draw up” and “recently purchased by Greens. Tenant was here up to 3 years ago then went to Marston and just returned here. Trade fell when tenant left”.

In 1954 J W Green Limited merged with Midland brewer Flowers, the new company retaining the Flowers name. Flowers was taken over by Whitbread in 1962. Whitbread divested itself of the brewery business and its public houses in 2001. Nevertheless the Chequers remains a public house at the time of writing [2016] owned by a firm called Little Gems based in Milton Keynes Village [Buckinghamshire].


  • CLP13: Register of alehouse licences: 1822–1828;
  • Z1043/1 Inventory of John & Joseph Morris: 1827;
  • X21/629: conveyance of brewery from Joseph and Martha Morris to Mary Ann and Jane Morris: 1828;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP1: mortgage of Morris’ brewery: 1831;
  • QSR1836/1/5/35-37: arrest of customers at the pub: 1836;
  • QSR1839/3/5/4: customer involved in burglary: 1839;
  • SF82/1/4: tenancy agreement: 1856;
  • QSR1871/4/5/2/b: attempted fencing of stolen goods at the Chequers: 1871;
  • PSA5/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1927;
  • SF30/17: sale of household effects by Anna Maria Pilgrim: 1882;
  • SF30/39/1: inventory on change of licensee: 1882;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP2: mortgage of Morris’ brewery: 1882;
  • CCE5304/1 Conveyed (with others) to Morris & Company: 1907;
  • WB/M/4/2/1: list of Morris and Company properties showing bulk trade: c. 1926;
  • WB/M/4/2/2: particulars of Morris & Company houses: 1926;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP8: abstract of title of Morris & Company (Ampthill) Limited: 1926;
  • CCE5304/3 Conveyed to J. W. Green Limited 1926;
  • WB/Green4/2/2: figures for tithes and manorial quitrents: 1927-1953;
  • PSA5/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1934-1959;
  • WB/Green6/4/1: trade analysis: 1936-1947;
  • WB/Green4/2/4: certificate of title to J W Green houses: 1936-1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/10: schedule of deeds and documents: c. 1949;
  • PSA5/4: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: c.1950s
  • WB/Green4/2/16: letter regarding J W Green titles: 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/5: list of J W Green licensed houses: c. 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/17: J W Green trust deed: 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/18: certificate of title to J W Green properties: 1954;
  • WB/Green4/2/19: schedules of deeds and documents: c. 1954;
  • WB/Flow4/5/HoC/C1-2: exterior photographs: c. 1960;
  • Z53/62/1 photograph: 1961;
  • PCHoughton Conquest 9/9: licence transfers 1969-1981;
  • PCHoughtonConquest33/5: activities of Barton Gun Club behind the Chequers: 1977-1982;
  • PCHoughtonConquest9/4: activities of Barton Gun Club behind the Chequers: 1985

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

1798-1802: Robert Baker;
1802-1809: Mary Baker;
1822-1828: James Baker;
1831: W E Pannell;
1851: Joseph Pilgrim;
1856-1882: Mrs Anna Maria Pilgrim: [convicted for keeping house open during           illegal hours for sale of beer 29 May 1873; fined 1/- with 7/- costs or 7 days
1882-1892: George Gadsden;
1892-1902: JohnInns;
1902-1903: William E.Pannell;
1903-1906: George Bryan;
1906-1907: Henry Samuel Hawley;
1907-1908: Joseph Hodgson Bailey;
1908-1912: Allan Bray;
1912-1913: Waltor James Biddis;
1913-1920: Alfred Stanwell Oxley;
1920-1922: John Thomas Oliver;
1922-1925: William Martin;
1925-1927: Percival John Burgess;
1927-1934: William Martin;
1934-1938: Richard Walter Keast;
1938-1954: George Edmund/Edwin Church;
1954-1959: Frederick George Church
1965-1979: Walter Ronald Rayner;
1979: Norman Arthur Hards;
1979-1984: Gary Michael Farrer;
1984-1986: Brian Anthony Haddow;
1986-1988: George Lionel Kingsman;
1988-1995: Michael Peter Waldt