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The Pack Horse Public House Kensworth

The Pack Horse in the 1960s [WB/Flow4/5/Ke/PH3]
The Pack Horse in the 1960s [WB/Flow4/5/Ke/PH3]

The Pack Horse [earlier the Old Pack Horse, earlier the Orange Tree]: Watling Street, Kensworth.

The Pack Horse was listed by the former Department of Environment September 1980 as Grade II, of special interest. The property dates from the 18th century “and earlier”. It is built of brick which has been whitewashed, though timber-framing has been exposed on the north gable end suggesting that structural timber-framing lies beneath the surface of bricks. The structure comprises two storeys beneath an old clay tiled roof. A modern one storey addition lies at the left-hand side.

Until 1897 Kensworth was in Hertfordshire; at that date it transferred into Bedfordshire. The Pack Horse was owned by Dunstable brewer Thomas Burr, who died in 1835 [BH407]. In 1843 Burr’s Dunstable Brewery was put up for sale along with its various licensed premises. The Pack Horse is described as containing [BH409]: a parlour; a bar; a lobby; a tap room; a pantry; a kitchen; a cellar; five bedrooms; a “dark room”; a yard with a pump; stabling for twelve horses; a mangling room; a woodhouse; a cart house and lodge and a garden with a paddock and pond altogether containing 1 acre, 1 rood, 26 poles. It was then in the occupation of Thomas Smith whose rent was £20 per annum. The property was copyhold and held of the Manor of Kensworth.

The 1841 census describes Thomas Smith as a 55 year old publican. His wife, Sophia, was 45 and their children were: Ann, aged 20; Richard, aged 15; Emma, aged 14; Eliza, aged 13; Harriet, aged 12; Abigail, aged; Jane, aged 8; Sophia, aged 5 and Thomas, aged 3.

In 1857 Thomas Robert Rackstrow conveyed a number of licensed premises and pieces of land to Ivinghoe [Buckinghamshire] brewer Charles Meacher [RY1045]. Included in the conveyance were three closes of meadow comprising six acres, three poles near the Pack Horse. Online catalogues at Buckinghamshire Centre for Local Studies have an entry for a property "Called The Pack Horse, formerly The Orange Tree, also a close of 4a called Wayman or Waynemere Mead, and a close of 4a abutting on Kensworth Wood Green" ,[Buckinghamshire reference D123/12]. This suggests that the Pack Horse itself was by this stage owned by Meacher.

The countywide licensing register of 1903 states that the owner was, by then, Luton brewer J. W. Green Limited. Green may have purchased the Pack Horse on the death of Charles Meacher in 1871 - his business was taken over by Roberts and Wilson. The property needed repairs and cleaning and sanitary arrangements were unsatisfactory. The nearest licensed property was The Chequers, 900 yards away. The building had a front door and a back door.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. Kensworth, like most of the county, was largely assessed in 1927. The valuer visiting the Packhorse [DV1/C110/113] found it atill owned by J. W. Green Limited. The tenant was John Ellingham whose rent was £16 per annum.

Public accommodation comprised a tap room, a private bar and a smoking room. There was also a private living room downstairs and five bedrooms on the first floor. The valuer noted that there was also one room “for Storing Beer”.

Trade was two barrels of beer per week – “Does not know how many bottles of Beer are sold. Does not know how much spirits are sold” despite a tenancy of, at that point, fifteen years! Outside stood a brick and tile stable with three stalls, a cart shed and three weather-boarded and tiled pigsties. There was also glasshouse measuring 10 feet 9 inches by 6 feet.

In 1954 J. W. Green Limited merged with Midlands brewer Flowers, the new firm taking the Flowers name. In 1962 Flowers was taken over by Whitbread. Whitbread withdrew from brewing in 2001 and divested itself of all its public houses. At the time of writing [2013] the Pack Horse is one of only two public houses left in the parish, the other being the Farmer’s Boy. In 1897 there were ten licensed houses – public houses and beerhouses in the parish.

The Packhorse January 2013
The Packhorse January 2013


  • BH 407: abstract of mortgage: 1841;
  • BH409: sale catalogue of Dunstable Brewery: 1843;
  • RY1045: sale of land near the Pack Horse: 1857;
  • PSL6/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Luton Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1901;
  • WB/Green4/1/VP1: conveyance by J. W. Green to J. W. Green Limited: 1897;
  • WB/Green1/1/1: record of properties of J. W. Green Limited: 1897-1936;
  • WB/Green5/5/1: register of successive tenants: 1897-1926; Z883/49 postcard c.1910;
  • PSL6/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Luton Petty Sessional Division but without Luton Borough premises: 1929-1954;
  • WB/Green6/4/1: trade analysis: 1936-1947;
  • WB/Green4/2/10: schedule of deeds and documents to J. W. Green Limited properties: c. 1949;
  • WB/Green4/2/11: schedule of deeds and documents to J. W. Green Limited properties: c. 1949;
  • WB/Green4/5/Ke/P1: exterior photograph: 1950s;
  • WB/Green6/2/9: liquor transfer book: 1950-1951;
  • WB/Green4/2/5: list of J. W. Green Limited houses: c. 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/16: J. W. Green Limited titles: 1952; WB/Green4/2/17: J. W. Green Limited trust deed: 1952-1972;
  • WB/Green4/2/19: schedules of J. W. Green Limited properties: c. 1954;
  • WB/Flow4/5/Ke/P1-4: exterior photographs: 1960s;
  • PL/PH/2/69: car park sign: late 1960s; Z50/68/11 Junction of A5 to Packhorse Public House - photo 1972;
  • PC Kensworth 9/18-19 notice of transfer of licence 1985 – 1987.

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

1841-1851 Thomas Smith;
1897-1899: James Eggington;
1899-1909: John Strutton;
1909-1911: George Frederick Gates;
1910: George Bates
1911-1912: Robert Weston;
1912-1937: John Ellingham;
1937-1938: Alfred Charles Ellingham;
1938-1950: Reginald George Tompkins;
1950: Cecil Percy Tompkins;
1985: N. Smith and B. Wright
1985- 1987: Jane Quelch and Andrew McCartney;
1987: Graham Jones and Andrew McCartney.