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The Knife and Cleaver Public House Houghton Conquest

The Knife and Cleaver January 2016
The Knife and Cleaver January 2016

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. The entry for the Knife and Cleaver [HER 5677] tells us that the 18th century building used to be Grade III, but this listing has now been abolished. Interestingly, given the original name of the public house, the parish register [P11/] tells us that on 21st December 1761 Leon Cuthbert, butcher and publican was buried.

The Knife and Cleaver was previously known as the Butcher’s Arms, being so-named in the first surviving evidence – the countywide licensing register of 1823 [CLP13]. There is no mention of the pub in the licensing register of 1822. The public house was owned by Ampthill brewers John and Joseph Morris and in an inventory of their property of 1827 the Butcher’s Arms is described as follows [Z1043/1]: “a freehold public house, occupied by Edmund Day, with a detached wash house and yard, stabling for three horses with a loft over, wood barn and two hovels.  Adjoining the house is 2 acres, 2 roods, 3 poles of pasture land and on the opposite side of the road is an Enclosure of pasture containing 1 acre, 3 rods, 10 poles;  outgoings - Land Tax £1 4s 6d.”. The pub would continue to be owned by Morris & Company (Ampthill) Limited, as John and Joseph’s business came to be known, until it was taken over by Luton brewer J W Green Limited in 1926.

A description of 1831 [WB/M/4/1/VP1] is of a messuage with brewhouse, stables and buildings called the Butchers Arms, Houghton Conquest with homestead and pightle containing 2 acres, 2 roods, 3 poles and a close of pasture adjoining of 1 acre, 3 roods, 8 poles in occupation of Edmund Day.

The last mention of the Butcher’s Arms is in 1866 [SF30/11]. The first mention of the Knife and Cleaver is in 1873 [SF30/10]. This suggests that the name was changed by blacksmith William Day when he became licensee in the late 1860s.

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 found that the tenant paid rent of 6/5/- per quarter, the rent before the Great War having been £5 per quarter.

The premises comprised a parlour, a bar, a tap room, a living room, a kitchen and a cellar with three bedrooms and two attics upstairs. A brick and slate barn, stable and coachhouse (all “good”) stood outside, the coachhouse being later converted into a garage. Trade was one 36 gallon barrel of beer per week, a half-gallon of bitter per week and a gallon of spirits per month. The valuer commented: “Looks better from outside than in”. A grass field of 1.995 acres adjoining was also owned by J W Green Limited and rented by the publican.

In 1954 J W Green Limited merged with Midland brewer Flowers, the new company taking the Flowers name. Flowers was taken over by Whitbread in 1962. In 2001 Whitbread divested itself of its brewery and public houses. Despite this the Knife and Cleaver remains a public house at the time of writing [2016], now owned by a company called Epic Pubs, based in Aspley Heath.


  • CLP13: Register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
  • Z1043/1 Butchers Arms in inventory of John & Joseph Morris of Ampthill: 1827;
  • X21/629: devised by Joseph and Martha Morris to Mary Ann and Jane Morris: 1828;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP1: mortgage of Morris’ brewery: 1831;
  • WE2241: auction sale at inn: 1846;
  • SF30/11: auction sale at the inn: 1866;
  • PSA5/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1927;
  • SF30/10: auction sale at the pub: 1873;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP2: mortgage of Morris’ brewery: 1882;
  • CCE5304/1: conveyed (with others) to Morris & Company (Ampthill)  Limited: 1907;
  • WB/M/4/2/1-2: particulars of Morris & Company properties: 1926;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP8: abstract of title of Morris & Company: 1926;
  • CCE5304/3 Conveyed to J W Green Limited 1926;
  • PSA5/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1934-1959;
  • PSA5/3: list of premises taken over by Wells & Winch on voluntary liquidation of Newland & Nash: 1936;
  • WB/Green6/4/1: trade anaylsis register: 1936-1947;
  • WB/Green4/2/4: certificate of title to J W Green properties: 1936-1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/10: schedule of J W Green deeds and documents: c. 1949;
  • PSA5/4: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: c.1950s;
  • WB/Green4/2/5: list of J W Green properties: c. 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/17: J W Green trust deed: 1952-1972;
  • WB/Green4/2/19: J W Green schedules of deeds and documents: c. 1954;
  • WB/Flow4/5/HoC/KC1-2: external photographs: c. 1960;
  • Z53/62/5: photograph: 1961;
  • PCHoughtonConquest30/1: transfer of license: 1962;
  • PCHoughtonConquest30/3: transfer f license: 1962;
  • AU48/6/C14 and AU48/6/P12-13: photograph of church stall made from panelling from Houghton House found at the Knife and Cleaver: 1968;
  • PCHoughtonConquest18/15: planning application for alterations: 1982;
  • PCHoughtonConquest30/14: off-license application: 1985;
  • PCHoughtonConquest30/21: transfer of license: 1989.

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

1761: Leon Cuthbert?

1823-1864: Edmund Day;
1864: Mrs Phillis Day;
1869-1886: William Day (a blacksmith);
1886-1892: Elizabeth Day;
1892-1902: George Gadsden;
1902-1911: Charles David Chilvers;
1911-1935: Harry Valentine;
1935-1936: John Alfred Tilworthy;
1936-1940: Frederick Thomas Lawson;
1940-1959: Bertram Christopher Odell;
1961: Richard James Gooch;
1961-1962: Gerald Pulker;
1962-1989: John Brian Chadwick;
1989-1995: David John Loom and Pauline June Loom.