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The Sun Inn Humbershoe

The former Sun Inn 64 High Street January 2010
The former Sun Inn 64 High Street January 2010

The Sun Inn: 64 High Street, Markyate [possibly formerly The Bull's Head]

The Sun Inn lay in the parish of Studham until 1866 when the new Bedfordshire civil parish of Humbershoe was formed for those properties north of Buckwood Road and west of Markyate High Street from the junction with Buckwood Road north.

The first mention of a Sun Inn at Markyate is in 1682 when a servant of the innkeeper was robbed [HSA1683/W/37]. The full deposition of the man, with modernised spelling, is as follows: "The Information of Edward Smith of Markyate Street, servant to George Seere at the sign of the Sun, taken upon Oath the second day of October before me Thomas Snagge one of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace for this County of Bedford, Anno Domini 1682. This Informant saith: That as he was coming along the Close next unto Clarke Close with Elizabeth Tarbox and going out of that Close into Clarke Close, John Jenkins came out of the ditch, or near the ditch, not far from the Gate, and the Informant saith he passed by the said John Jenkins, and he the aforesaid John Jenkins came running after him a pretty pace. And Elizabeth Tarbox who was with the said Informant, as the Informant sayeth, looked back and said unto him: "Ah Lord Ned the man is a coming" And he the said Informant answered her: "Let him come, you be not afraid of him, be you?" She answered: "Yes". And this Informant further sayeth, that John Jenkins came in upon him, about five pole from the gate, and threw him down, and said: "Damn you, have you any money?" And the said Informant made him answer again and said: "Yes that I have". And this was done by John Jenkins unto him the said Informant upon the nine and twentieth day of September last past, between seven and eight of the Clock at night, and further sayeth not".

It is not possible to say if the Sun Inn of 1683 was the same as that later at 64 High Street but it seems likely as this premises was listed by the former Department of Environment in 1967 as Grade II, of special interest and was dated, despite its 18th century outward appearance, to the late 16th century, having wall paintings of about 1600. Internal alterations and an attic floor were inserted in the 18th century and the whole was re-fronted with brick about 1820. The building is timber-framed on a high red brick sill and then infilled in the same red brick on the ground floor. The first floor level and the rear wing have exposed timber framing with painted or plastered brick panels. The listing is significantly more detailed than many and notes that the interior has four structural bays at the front, the north bay occupied by a carriageway with a large 17th century chimney backing onto it which serves a large ground floor room with a sophisticated early 17th century classical Totternhoe stone fireplace including a panel with a fawn or satyr amid scrolls with foliage and grotesques. There is a similar wall painting in situ on the central stud of the north end wall in the attic with stylised foliage in black on white with a border and yellow flowers. The listing notes that the main stair is said to have been moved in 1940 to Woodhill Park House nearby. The listing concludes: "Inn said to have had The Sun as its name."

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has a small run of deeds for the inn beginning with a mortgage of 1769 [RY192] in which George Wilkins of Markyate Street [Hertfordshire], brewer (his premises was, presumably, on the east side of the High Street or on the west side south of the Buckwood Road junction) mortgaged the Sun and Swan in Markyate, together with land, to Frederick van der Meulen of Saint Albans [Hertfordshire]. The Sun was described as "heretofore used as a common brewhouse" and had the Bell Inn to the north. He had recently purchased the Sun and Swan from John Bigg, victualler.

George Wilkins made his will in 1767 [RY193] in which he left all his real estate to his son Francis; he died in 1775. In 1781 the mortgage was transferred to John Crabb of Hitchin [Hertfordshire], brewer [RY195]. By 1791 Francis Wilkins had sold the Swan and in that year assigned the mortgage to Leeson Wright following the death of John Crabb, and borrowed more money secured on the Sun and brewing apparatus listed as a large brewing copper with iron grate, two coolers, one mash vat, one underback, two large working vats and one malt mill with stones and tackle [RY196-197]. In 1794 Leeson Wright's mortgage was assigned to new mortgagees and Wilkins borrowed still more money secured on the Sun [RY198].

The new mortgagee was Joseph Greaves. Family historian David Greaves contacted Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service with some information about his ancestor who was born at Withwood, Worcestershire in 1734. By 1769 he had moved to Saint Albans where he remained until his death on the 26th December 1799. In his Will, which is dated the 18th December 1799 he instructed: "I give devise and bequeath unto my Executrix and Executors hereinafter named all that Messuage Tenement or Inn which is called or known by the name or sign of the Sun situate standing and being in that part of the Markyate Street which lies in the Parish of Studham and County of Bedford and now in the occupation of Francis Wilkins or his undertenants together with the premises and appurts to the same belonging and all my Estate and Interest therein". Clearly Joseph was devising his interest in the premises, which would have become absolute had Francis Wilkins ever defaulted on the mortgage. Clearly this never happened.

In 1800 John Crabb's old mortgage was again assigned, this time to his son John Crabb junior [RY200-201]. Finally in 1801 Francis Wilkins was dead and his son, also Francis Wilkins conveyed the Sun to his mortgagee John Crabb [RY202].

In 1844 the Sun was conveyed to John Blincow of Markyate Street, land surveyor, by the trustees for sale and mortgagee of a man named Marshall [RY203]. There is no corresponding deed (it may be at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies, see below), but presumably John Crabb had sold and Marshall bought, or later acquired, the inn.

Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies has the archive of Simpson's Brewery of Baldock and this includes a bundle of twenty two deeds [T151] relating to public houses in various locations, including the Sun at Markyate, between 1831 and 1841

The Hertfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER 12101] states: "The original Sun Inn was at 64 High Street (the name was transferred to the public house across the street in the 1840s)…The sale of the inn in 1844 [see above] included all the buildings from numbers 58 to 64 and the outbuildings. In the early twentieth century, no.64 was used as a café". This clearly suggests that the inn closed in or about 1844. The HER says of 101 High Street [which has always been in Hertfordshire]: "Sixteenth century building with later additions, including a nineteenth century brick front. Its current name, the Sun, dates from the 1840s; it was previously known as the Bulls Head" [HER 12090].


  • HSA1683/W/37: theft from a servant to the innkeeper: 1683;
  • RY192: mortgage: 1769;
  • RY193: will of George Wilkins: 1767, proved 1775;
  • RY195: transfer of mortgage: 1781;
  • RY196-197: further advance: 1791;
  • RY198: further advance: 1794
  • RY200-201: assignment of mortgage: 1800;
  • RY202: conveyance to John Crabb: 1801;
  • CLP13: Register of alehouse licences: 1822 - 1828;
  • CRT110/102: deeds at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies relating to Simpson of Baldock: 1831-1841;
  • Z172/20: an abuttal mentioned in a deed concerning the Bull & Butcher: 1836;
  • RY203: conveyed to John Blincow: 1844;

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list. Italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known. The list goes up to 1897 at which date Humbershoe became part of the new Hertfordshire civil parish of Markyate: 

Pre 1769: Richard Halsey alias Chambers;
Pre 1769:William
1769: Robert Martin;
1799: Francis Wilkins;
1800: Robert
1822-1828: John Pennington;
1839: John Woodward
Inn closed around 1844.