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The Royal Oak Public House Kempston

The Royal Oak public house October 2007
The Royal Oak public house October 2007

The Royal Oak Public House [formerly The Elm Tree]: 91 Woburn Road, Kempston

This licensed property began life as a cottage built by Thomas Abraham on a piece of land called The Nook which he had purchased from a Samuel Abraham in 1854 [GK131/1]. As soon as he had bought the land Abraham took out a mortgage with George Joyce, presumably to raise capital to build on it [GK131/2]. The countywide licensing register of 1876 states that The Elm Tree, as the beerhouse was then called, was first licensed in 1858.

The first specific mention of a property on the land in deeds is in 1862 when Abraham mortgaged two messuages he had built, niether of which is specified as a beerhouse [GK131/2]. The first mention of a licensed premises is in 1879 when Abraham mortgaged an unnamed beerhouse to Newport Pagnell brewers Francis Allfrey and William George Lovell [GK131/3]. This evidence does not seem to support the assertion of the licensing register and it is not possible, now, to state the precise truth since the register is not always accurate on the dates licensed premises were first licensed but descriptions of properties in deeds are not always accurate to the time they were written either!

The 1881 census reveals that Thomas Abraham was born in Wootton in 1811 and was also a market gardener. He is last listed as a beer retailer in a directory of 1894 and in that year he sold the Royal Oak to Bedford brewer Charles Wells [GK131/6].

In 1921 Charles Wells sold the Royal Oak to Bedford competitors Newland and Nash for £750 [GK131/8]. That firm was bought by Biggleswade brewers Wells and Winch Limited in 1924 and Wells and Winch taken over by Suffolk brewers Greene King in 1961, the Royal Oak remaining a Greene King house at the time of writing [2007].

In 1927 Bedfordshire was valued as a result of the Rating Valuation Act 1925, every piece of land and building was valued to assess the rates which should be paid on it. The valuer visiting the Royal Oak [DV1/R25] found that accommodation comprised a bar, tap room, bar parlour, cellar, kitchen and W. C. downstairs with five bedrooms and a W. C. upstairs. Outside were a stable and barn, both used as stores. Weekly trade was light at a barrel and three dozen bottles of beer; the valuer noted: "Tenant declined to reveal trade on plea of ignorance thereof". In his summary the valuer noted: "Rather a poor looking place, misses the trade, licence old". The beerhouse became a fully licensed public house on 8th March 1956. 


  • GK131/1: conveyance: 1854;
  • GK131/2: recited mortgage: 1857;
  • GK131/2: mortgage: 1862;
  • GK131/2: endorsement of transfer of mortgage: 1875;
  • GK131/3: mortgage: 1879;
  • GK131/6: conveyance 1894;
  • GK131/7: Land Tax redeemed by Charles Wells on Royal Oak: 1903;
  • PSB9/1: register of licenses: 1903-1935;
  • UDKP239: plans of new shed & piggeries 1907;
  • PK7/4/2: file regarding renewal of licences: 1915;
  • GK131/8: conveyance: 1921;
  • PSB9/2: register of licenses: c.1955-1995;
  • GK297/2: one of properties transferred from Newland & Nash to Wells & Winch: 1938;
  • BORB/TP/89/0036: plans for extension: 1989.

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

1858-1894: Thomas Abraham;
1901: Joseph Ames;
1903-1926: Charles William Jones;
1926-1940: Mary Ann Jones;
1946: James D. & Constance L.Kennedy;
1951-1955: Alice M.Lucas;
1963-1970: Edward Thomas Smart;
1970-1972: Brian Stanley Wildman;
1972-1974: Ronald George Roffe;
1974-1976: Mary Ann Roffe;
1976-1979: Brian Lawrence Ward;
1979-1980: Herbert Sansom;
1980-1983: John James Boland;
1983-1985: Bernard John Doggett;
1985-1990: John James Boland;
1990-1991: Patricia Carol Boland and Peter Gravestock;
1991-1992: Michael Allan Bedson;
1992-1995: Lawrence Patrick Hartnett