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The Bedford Arms Public House Kempston

The Bedford Arms about 1906 [Z50/67/149]
The Bedford Arms about 1906 [Z50/67/149]

The Bedford Arms Public House: 214 Bedford Road, Kempston

This public house was in existence for about a century. According to the countywide licensing register of 1876 it was first licensed in 1869 and was owned by Bedford brewer Bingham Newland, who carried on the former brewery of Sir William Long. Newland was bought out by Thomas Jarvis in 1873 and Jarvis by Charles Wells in 1910.

In 1927 Kempston, along with the rest of Bedfordshire was valued under the terms of the Rating Valuation Act 1925. Every property and piece of land was valued to determine the rates it should pay; the valuer visiting the Bedford Arms noted that accommodation comprised a saloon bar, public bar, tap room, bottle & jug room (for off-sales), wc and a Cellar downstairs and four bedrooms ["no fireplace – not good"] upstairs. There was also a basement ["good"] containing a kitchen, scullery & bathroom with 2 W. Cs. Outside were a brick and tile barn and 2 old wcs ["not used"].  Trade consisted of three barrels of beer at £9 each, four dozen bottles of beer, twelve dozen half bottles and half gallon or more of spirits per week. Six dozen bottles of minerals per week as well as tobacco were also sold making weekly takings around £24.

This sober assessment can be contrasted with something rather more colourful. In 1968 trainee police cadets at Mander College undertook a survey of Kempston premises as part of their course-work, their findings at the Bedford Arms were not good: "The trade of this Public House was extremely poor about 4 persons were present. The public house was badly in need of decoration; it was dirty and untidy, obviously had not been decorated for several years. The external appearance of the pub was as bad as the interior. The pub would be well suited for demolition….the customers also appeared to be of the poorer class…..".

The landlady mentioned in the report was not still there in 1970 when the then current licensees purchased Grange Cottage, Kempston. The cadets' observations had proved accurate and the public house was shortly thereafter demolished. It stood on the south-west side of the junction of Bunyan Road and Bedford Road somewhere beneath the small public toilet which stands outside the Saxon Centre. 

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

  • GA487: sale particulars: 1873;
  • WL647: owned by Bedford Brewery: 1874;
  • PSB9/1: register of licenses: 1903-1935;
  • Z50/67/149: photograph: c.1906;
  • UDKP390: plan of additions: 1920;
  • UDKP654: plan of additions: 1934;
  • UDKP671: plan of additions: 1934;
  • UDKPZ/30: plan of additions: 1938;
  • WL712: plan of additions: 1938;
  • PSB9/2: register of licenses: c.1955-1995;
  • Z1301/1: Survey of Kempston by Bedford Mander College Police Cadets: 1968;
  • X713/7/16:  conveyance of Grange Cottage, Kempston to licensees: 1970
  • PSBW8/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1976-1980.


1877-1894: Edwin Preston;
1901-1906: Frank Hughes;
1906-1909: Edward Hurst;
1909-1913: John Warwick;
1913-1918: Benjamin Wardle;
1918-1920: Beatrice Wardle;
1920-1924: Frederick John Hudson;
1924-1930: Frederick Cavendish Macdonnell;
1930-1934: Frederick Walter Thurley;
1940-1946: Alfred L Stocker;
1951: Doris Stocker;
1952 -1955: Arthur J Handscomb;
1961: Donald W, Matilda E. and William Handscomb;
1970: Alfred George Tinley and Margaret Tinley.