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The Smiths Arms Public House Kempston

The Smith's Arms about 1900 [Z50/67/43]
The Smith's Arms about 1900 [Z50/67/43]

The Smiths Arms Public House: 15 Margetts Road, Kempston

In 1820 a newly built cottage in Up End, adjoining the street to north and east, was mortgage by its owner John Walker [GK132/2]. In 1855 Walker leased the cottage to Baldock brewer, John Steed [GK132/10]. Given that the lease included an agreement to build a blacksmith's shop it is clear that this was the genesis of the Smith's Arms. The countywide licensing register of 1876 confirms that the beerhouse was first licensed in 1856.

The place is first mentioned by name in deeds in 1860 when Walker mortgaged it [GK132/3] . He gave John Steed notice to quit in 1867 [GK132/11] and sold it to Frederick Samuel Cleaver [GK132/15].

Cleaver put the place, amongst others, up for auction in 1872 when it was described thus [CRT160/210]: "Lot Sixteen: ‘The Smiths Arms’ Beer House, Up End, Kempston, about 2 miles from Bedfordshire County Council A brick, slated, and tiled house, of modern erection, containing Tap Room, Parlour, Kitchen, Cellar, 4 Bedrooms and 2 attics, also a large Tap Room with doors opening on to road and loft over; A Yard at the back, with Gates to road, containing a brick and tiled Wash-house, and a brick and tiled Stable for 2 horses with loft over. Adjoining the House are 2 brick-built cottages of 4 rooms each, and small Barn, in the occupation of Dudley & Smart; Also a similar cottage adjoining the Stable, in the occupation of Walker. This property is FREEHOLD. Let to William Sharp at £25 per annum".

The purchaser was Frederick Thomas Young but by 1877 it was owned by brewer William Pritzler Newland who mortgaged it to Charles William Powell [GK160/4]. Susan, widow of William Joseph Nash, owner of Nash and Company took Newland as partner in 1890 to create Newland and Nash. Newland immediately closed his Duck Mill Brewery in Bedford, moving to Nash's larger Steam Brewery in Lurke Street. The company became a public limited company as Newland and Nash Limited in 1897 and, a year later gave the Smith's Arms to rival Bedford brewer Charles Wells in exchange for Wells' Black Horse Beerhouse at the junction of Bunyan Road ad Woburn Road [CCE2838/2]. The beerhouse became a fully licensed public house after World War Two and, at the time of writing [2007] remains a Charles Wells house.

In 1927 Bedfordshire was valued under the Rating Valuation Act 1925; every piece of land and building was valued to determine the rates to be paid on it. The valuer visiting the Smith's Arms [DV1/R25] found that accommodation comprised a public bar with four beer pulls, a jug bar ["very small"], living room and kitchen downstairs with a sitting room, box room and two bedrooms above. Weekly trade was one barrel of beer in winter and two in summer as well as about sixteen dozen bottles of beer and three or four dozen bottles of minerals.

The valuer noted: "Complains of competition of Conservative Club and also Liberal Club. Corner house built 1898. Good brick and slate building but a poor front". Given the fact that the place was clearly in the course of being built in 1855 one must conclude that either the valuer was misinformed about the date or that the place was demolished and rebuilt in 1898 when, of course, Charles Wells had taken it over. Alterations meant the Smith's Arms was revalued in 1932 when the valuer noted [DV1/X186]: "No increase in present £25 rent. As before plus brick rear extension to bar, makes large bar now, just what he wanted. Say +£4 =£40". 

The Smith's Arms October 2007
The Smith's Arms October 2007


  • GK132/2: mortgage: 1820;
  • GK132/1: redemption of Land Tax: 1854;
  • GK132/10: copy agreement for seven year lease: 1855;
  • GK132/2: reconveyance, on redemption of mortgage: 1860;
  • GK132/3: mortgage: 1860;
  • GK132/5: reconveyance by James Pettit to John Walker: 1863;
  • GK132/6: mortgage: 1863;
  • GK132/7: further charge: 1867;
  • GK132/11: notice to quit issued to John Steed: 1867;
  • GK132/15: conveyance: 1867;
  • GK132/16: note of agreement to lease by William Sharp: 1870;
  • CRT160/210: sale catalogue: 1872;
  • GK132/20: mortgage: 1874;
  • GK132./17: valuation: 1874;
  • GK160/1: mortgage: 1875;
  • GK160/4: mortgage: 1877;
  • GK132/20: reconveyance: 1883;
  • GK132/21: mortgage: 1883;
  • GK132/22: transfer of mortgage: 1889;
  • UDKPZ/35: plan of new garage: 1896;
  • GK132/23: reconveyance: 1897;
  • GK3/1a: conveyance: 1897;
  • CCE2838/12: exchange: 1898;
  • Z50/67/43: photograph: 20th century; 
  • PSB9/1: register of licenses: 1903-1935;
  • Z965/16/1 License to the Wildmans, recited in abstract of title to 13 & 15 Little Thurlow St, Bedford 1933;
  • UDKP748: plans of alterations: 1935;
  • 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: 

1861: Francis Green;
1863-1869: James Allen;
1871-1894: William Sharp;
1897: Albert Smith;
1903-1931: Frederick Warren;
1931-1946: William Edward Wildman;
1951-1961: William Leslie Day;
1965-1971: Cyril Benjamin Coley;
1971-1974: Alfred George Tinley;
1974-1978: Robert Ernest Ansell;
1978-1996: Alan Frank Umney;
1996: Stephen Richard Maisek