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The Half Moon Public House Kempston

The Half Moon by W. H. Pyne, 1815 [X67/935/19]
The Half Moon by W. H. Pyne, 1815 [X67/935/19]

The Half Moon Public House: 60 High Street, Kempston

The Half Moon is a modern building but it stands on the site of an ancient property. The earliest reference to the older property (then simply called a messuage, with no indication that it was an inn or public house) in any record held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service is 1595 when it was sold by Thomas Smythe to Kempston miller Richard Rolfe [GA650]. It remained in the family until sold by Edmond Rolfe to Richard Allen of Kempston in 1629 [GA652]. Four years later Allen sold the property to John Parke of Kempston, baker [GA653]. Parke died in 1648 leaving his property to his wife Katherine with instruction that it was to pass to their son John after her death [GK671].

The next unambiguous mention of the property occurs in 1742 by which time it had become the Half Moon public house. In that year Thomas Cooper alias Farrer devised it in his will to his wife Mary, with instruction that it should pass to their son John after her death [GA656]. The Kempston parish registers note the burial of a Thomas Cooper senior, victualler, in 1736 and it seems a reasonable guess that he was the father of the man making the will in 1742 and that he had been landlord of the Half Moon. Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a copy of his will devising a copyhold messuage in which he dwelt (the Half Moon was freehold) to his daughter Sarah and the remainder of his estate to his son Thomas, which presumably included the Half Moon [GA654]. Interestingly Cooper is here described as a tailor but carrying on a public house or beerhouse in addition to another occupation was then common. An earlier version of the will, written in 1733 [GA655] left his copyhold messuage to Sarah and his dwelling house to Thomas, indicating that he moved out of that dwellinghouse (presumably the Half Moon) prior to making his second and final will.

Both Thomas junior and his wife Mary were obviously dead by 1745 when Mary's goods were administered by their son John [GA657]. John Cooper alias Farrer died in 1782 and in his will devised the Half Moon to his wife Mary and, after her death, to their son Thomas [GA659]. The next known owner of the Half Moon was Mary Cooper Mackiness - the daughter of William and Mary Moore, Mary Moore being daughter of Thomas Cooper who had died a month after her daughter was born in 1808. William Moore was licensee by 1829.

 The Half Moon about 1900 [Z50/67/8]
The Half Moon about 1900 [Z50/67/8]

Interestingly Mary Cooper Mackiness had been deserted by her husband [WL1000/1/Kem1/2] and seven years later, in 1843, she and her father William Moore sold the Half Moon to Kempston brewer Robert Newland [WL1000/1/Kem1/3]. Robert Newland's son, Bingham, continued his father's business but it was bought by Bedford brewer Thomas Jarvis in 1873.

On 24th March 1891 the following report appeared in the Bedfordshire Mercury:


"Arthur Hill, Kempston, innkeeper, was summoned for bring found drunk on licensed premises in his own occupation on feb. 20. Further charged with being drunk on the highway at kempston on Feb. 20".

"Mr. Stimson, in the place of Mr. Webb, appeared for the defendant".

"P. S. Baldwin said: On Friday, feb. 20, at 8.30, I was passing The Half Moon public-house, at Kempston, when I heard someone talking very loudly in the house. I stopped and listened for a few minutes and then went into the house. I saw the landlord (the defendant) with his head on the counter. I said to him "Landlord, I consider you have a disorderly house". He lifted his head from the counter and said "Why?" I saw that he was drunk. He said "I don't understand what you mean". he came staggering from behind the counter. I said "Seeing the state you are in I will leave it until you are sober". He said "Who the - told you to come into my house". I said "No one" He then swore and told me to get out. I went out and he followed me. As he was stepping off the front step he nearly fell down, and I put out my hand to prevent his falling. Outside he used very bad language. I had seen him going home drunk hanging on a man's arm".

"Cross-examined: A man came in when I was there, and I pointed out the defendant to him and told him he was drunk".

"George makeham, kempston, said: On Friday I went to the Half Moon about 8.30. I noticed that the defendant was drunk".

"P. C. West said: On Saturday, Feb. 21, I was passing The Half Moon, when the defendant called me back and asked me what he said to the sergeant on the previous evening. I told him that I did not know. he said he was sorry for what he had said to him. He said he had had too much beer in him and he was drunk. Would it be any use in his going to see the sergeant to apologise so as to stop proceedings being taken. he said he had been dealing that day, and had had too much beer and did not know what he had said".

"The defendant was then sworn as a witness and denied that he was drunk, as he only had two glasses of beer at 11 o'clock and two more at 4. He had been dealing about some harness that day but he was not drunk. He might have had hold of a man's arm but it was not because he was drunk".

"In the other case P. S. Baldwin said about 10 o'clock on Feb. 20, he was on duty on the road in company with P. C. West, when the defendant came up to him drunk and said he wanted to know about his going into his house and what right he had there. he would not have him there nor any other one like him. He was a respectable man and there were two gentlemen in the village who would give him a good character. He was always watching his house. Witness told him that he could not have him disturbing the inhabitants at that time of night: he should either have to take him home or lock him up. Then he swore and said he would like to be locked up. Witness then took hold of his armand led him into his house and saw no more of him that night".

"P. C. West corroborated".

"Fined in the first case £1 and 12s. 8d. costs and in the other 10s. and 10s. costs". Not surprisingly Hill, who had only become licensee that year was swiftly replaced as landlord.

Tragically this ancient building, then over 300 years old, was completely destroyed by fire in 1904 and replaced by today's unexceptionable but also unexceptional structure. It is interesting to note, however, that the bottom foot or so of the building is stone and a glance at Pyne's sketch shows that to have been the case with the ancient building. It is therefore possible that the foundations of the old building formed the basis for the new one.

Thomas Jarvis' business was bought by Bedford brewer Charles Wells in 1910. In 1927 Bedfordshire was valued under the terms of the Rating Valuation Act 1925; every piece of land and building was valued in order to set the rate to be paid on it. The valuer visiting the Half Moon [DV1/R25] noted that accommodation comprised a bottle and jug room (for off-sales), public bar, tap room, servery, bar parlour, smoke room, cellar, larder and scullery downstairs, four bedrooms upstairs and, outside, a W. C., stables ["brick and tile, not used"] and coach house ["brick & tile used as garage"]. Weekly trade was not particularly brisk at one and a half barrels and two or three dozen bottles of beer and half a gallon spirits.

The Half Moon July 2007
The Half Moon July 2007


  • GA650: conveyance: 1595;
  • GA651: conveyance: 1608;
  • GA652: conveyance: 1629;
  • GA653: conveyance: 1633;
  • GA671: will of John Parke: 1648;
  • GA655: first will of Thomas Cooper alias Farrer: 1733;
  • GA654: second will of Thomas Cooper alias Farrer: 1736, proved 1737;
    Bedfordshire Parish Register Series Vol. XXXIX p.87: Thomas Cooper senior, victualler, buried 1736;
  • GA656: Will of Thomas Cooper ‘otherwise Farrer’: 1742;
  • GA657: letters of administration of goods of Mary Cooper alias Farrer: 1745;
  • ABP/W 1782/21 and GA659: will of John Cooper alias Farrer: written 1777, proved 1782;
  • Bedfordshire Parish Register Series Vol. XXXIX p.95: burial of ‘An infant from the Halfmoon, name unknown’: 1796;
  • WL1000/1/Kem1/1: inclosure award including Half Moon: 1801;
  • X67/935/19 and X254/88/156-157 Half Moon illustration by W.Pyne: 1815;
  • TY148: auction sale held at inn: 1822;
  • CLP 13: Register of Alehouse Licences: 1822-1828;
  • GK135/16: advertisement of auction at Half Moon: 1829;
  • PSB1/1 p3 & p317: William Moore, licensee: 1829-1834;
  • WL1000/1/Kem1/2: affidavit of William Moore and Mary Cooper Mackiness regarding right to convey Half Moon: 1843;
  • WL1000/1/Kem1/3: conveyance: 1843;
  • WL1000/1/Kem1/4: mortgage: 1844;
  • WL234: sale of Bell and cottages at Half Moon: 1865;
  • GA487: sale catalogue of properties belonging to Bingham Newland: 1873;
  • WL647: schedule of deeds of properties of Sir William Long sold to Thomas Jarvis: 1874;
  • WL1000/1/Kem1/5: reconveyance of Half Moon by Thomas Whitworth's trustees to William Pritzler Newland: 1874;
  • PSB9/1: register of licenses: 1903-1935;
  • Z50/67/8: photograph: before 1904;
  • AD1082/1&3: press cuttings regarding destruction by fire: 1904;
  • UDKP192: plan for rebuilding: 1904;
  • UDKPZ110: plan for additions: 1938;
  • PSB9/2: register of licenses: c.1955-1995.

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

1736: Thomas Cooper senior;
1736-1742: Thomas Cooper junior;
1745-1782: John Cooper alias Farrer;
1782: Mary Cooper;
1801-1844: William Moore;
1847-1854 Job Litchfield;
1854 -1877: Titus Cherry (also wheelwright);
1885 William Marshall;
1891: Arthur Hill;
1891: Charles Holland;
1894: Edward Bree;
1903: Walter Tompkins; [convicted 27th September 1902 of selling adulterated rum - fined £1 with 13/6 costs];
1903-1904: George Anthony;
1904-1905: John Randall;
1905-1912: Samuel Walters;
1912-1913: Ralph Henry Devereux;
1913-1931: Frederick Tompkins;
1931: Ellen Tompkins;
1931: Frederick G. Savage;
1940: L. Hedley Smith;
1946-1955: Charles Francis Lovell;
1961: Thomas Winrow;
1965-1966: Hubert Crowsley and James Alfred Howe;
1966: Hubert Crowsley and Leslie Newcomb;
1966-1967: Hubert Crowsley and John Edward Williams;
1967: Hubert Crowsley and Raymond Donald Fuller;
1967-1968: Hubert Crowsley and Alan Miller;
1968-1969: Hubert Crowsley and Michael William George Bourne;
1969-1970: Hubert Crowsley and William Henry Marsh;
1970-1971: Hubert Crowsley, William Henry Marsh and Charles Frank  Howard Crouch;
1971-1972: Hubert Crowsley, David Quenby and Charles Frank Howard Crouch;
1972: Hubert Crowsley, Eric Thompson and Charles Frank Howard Crouch;
1972-1976: Hubert Crowsley, Stuart Anthony Rice and Charles Frank Howard Crouch;
1976-1977: Richard Rawson Wolstenholme Hancock, Stuart Anthony Rice and Charles Frank Howard Crouch;
1977-1978: Richard Rawson Wolstenholme Hancock, Stuart Anthony Rice and John Russell Crouch;
1978-1990: William Francis Palmer;
1990-1991: Douglas John Baker and Steven Paul Birch;
1991: Douglas John Baker and John Burgess;
1991-1992: Timothy John Standring and Barry James Warner;
1992-1994: William Flanagan;
1994-1996: Kenneth William Critchley;
1996: Alison Victoria Hayward and Brenda Dickens