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The Gardeners Arms Public House Kempston

The former Gardener's Arms in November 2007
The former Gardener's Arms in November 2007

The Gardeners Arms Beerhouse: 1 High Street, Kempston

This formerbeerhouse dates back to about the middle of the 19th century. The deeds show that the Gardeners Arms occupied land which had been in separate ownership before being bought by Bedford Brewer George Higgins.

Part of the site was sold in 1799 by Charles Steart to John White [GK80/3]. White converted the cottage into two before his death in 1827 and left the cottages to his wife Mary, then to their son Joseph [GK80/1]. The cottages were sold to William Rignold but the land remained in the White family and Joseph conveyed it to his son Joseph White Lambert in 1857 [GK80/1] and he quickly conveyed it to John Brown [GK80/5]. Brown conveyed the land to Bedford brewer George Higgins in 1862 [GK80/6].

The other part of the site comprised five cottages and these were conveyed by John Emery to Charles Swepson in 1827 [GK80/7] and mortgaged as five cottages to Thomas Street in 1839 [GK80/7]. Swepson died in 1847 and left the cottages in his will to trustees who were to sell them [GK80/7]. This sale did not take place until 1870 as the properties were still mortgaged to Thomas Street, who died in 1869. By the time of the sale the five cottages had been reduced to three and one of them was a beerhouse called the Gardeners Arms. The purchaser was George Higgins [GK80/7].

Clearly the Gardeners Arms predates the sale of 1870 and a licensing register of 1876 notes that it was first licensed 22 years before which would give a date of about 1854, whilst it was in the ownership of Charles Swepson's trustees. However, when the Gardeners Arms was conveyed by the trustees of George Higgins' will to his successors the property was described as: "a messuage or beershop known as the 'Gardeners Arms' Kempston erected by George Higgins on site of three cottages" [GK4/2]. Higgins did not purchase the cottages until 1870 but it seems likely that he simply demolished the old beerhouse and its neighbours to build the new Gardeners Arms.

In 1927 Bedfordshire was valued in accordance with the Rating Valuation Act of 1925; every piece of land and building was valued to determine the rates payable. The valuer visiting the Gardeners Arms [DV1/R25] found that the tenant, Robert William lack had "Been here 11 years last November" and that accommodation comprised a tap room, smoke room, scullery, kitchen and larder downstairs with 3 bedrooms above and a barn and wc outside, where there was also an army hut used as Club Room (rent – nil) a garage and garden. Weekly trade was 2½ barrels of beer, 8 dozen bottles and 16 dozen half bottles of beer. Takings were between £25 and £30 per week. The valuer concluded: "I think tied rent high. Cannot be as much as King William IV. Clean bars. At Cross Roads, I think a bit of personality here".

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service does not have a record of when the Gardeners Arms closed down, the last licensee recorded was in 1961 [PSB9/2]; the property is now [2007] three shops (ironically returning to the three separate messuages of 1870). 

Ground floor plan of the Gardeners Arms in 1932 [UDKP605]
Ground floor plan of the Gardeners Arms in 1932 [UDKP605]


  • GK80/3: conveyance: 1799;
  • GK80/1: recited will of John White: 1814, proved 1827;
  • GK80/7: recited conveyance: 1827;
  • GK80/7: recited mortgage: 1839;
  • GK80/7: recited will of Charles Swepson: 1847;
  • GK80/1: conveyance: 1857;
  • GK80/2: mortgage: 1857;
  • GK80/5: conveyance: c.1860;
  • GK80/6: conveyance: 1862;
  • ST840 conveyance (not executed): 1870;
  • GK80/7: conveyance: 1870;
  • GK4/6: schedule of deeds: 1870;
  • GK4/2: conveyance: 1884;
  • GK4/4: agreement by to Laurence Read Colburne Higgins and Charles Cecil Norman Colburne Higgins to convey properties to Higgins & Sons Limited including 'The Gardeners Arms' and harness makers shop adjoining, Kempston: 1902;
  • PSB9/1: register of licenses: 1903-1935;
  • Z1039/12/1: tenancy agreement of Robert William Lack: 1915;
  • GK297/1: conveyance from Higgins & Sons Limited to Wells & Winch: 1931;
  • BT NegOB39/12a-b: negative of Ralph W. Lack outside: 1931;
  • UDKP605 plans for additions 1932;
  • BTNegW971/2: negative of Kempston High Street crossroads taken from outside Gardeners Arms: mid 1930s;
  • PSB9/2: register of licenses: c.1955-1995;
  • Z808/2/10: postcard of Kempston crossroads includes this public house: c.1960s

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

1876-1885: Levi Garner;
1890-1894: George Slater;
1898-1910: Joseph Golding;
1910-1914: Sarah Elizabeth Golding;
1914-1915: Walter William Haynes;
1915 - 1955: Ralph Warren Lack;
1961 Wilfred G. Ruff.