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The Plough Inn Kensworth

The Plough Inn: Watling Street, Kensworth

Until 1897 Kensworth was in Hertfordshire. The 1841 census shows that the Plough Inn was then tenanted by John King, aged 40. His wife, Mary, was the same age and their children were: Ann, 20; Mary, 15; Elizabeth, 13; Jane, 13; Caroline, 11; George, 7; Samuel, 5 and Thomas, aged seven months.

In 1851 Luton brewers Frederick and Thomas Burr tried to sell off nine of their licensed houses, including the Plough. The particulars [X95/251] state that the Plough was a brick, tile and slate building containing: a tap room; two parlours; two kitchens; a scullery; a pantry; an oven; cellars; six bedrooms; two stables for twelve horses with loft over; one single and one double lockup chaisehouse; piggeries; a cart shed; a yard; a garden; an orchard and a meadow. The whole site containing 1 acre, 2 roods 30 poles and was still in occupation of John King.

The evidence suggests that the Plough did not sell because in 1860 Burrs’ brewery and licensed premises including the Plough were conveyed to Luton brewer Thomas Sworder [Z660/D/1/4]. John King was still the tenant. In 1862 Sworder wrote Benjamin Bennett, Dunstable brewer, raying him for 48 barrels of beer sold to the Plough [X95/292/41].

In May 1864 the land agent of Sworder’s uncle, also called Thomas Sworder (who had lent his nephew the money to purchase the brewery) wrote to him about the Plough: “I have been promised rent from King but he has brought me only about 30/- and a quantity of property and Land Tax receipts and has promised to bring me more to make up half a year’s rent, but I hear some person has advised him not to pay any more rent as someone is going to put in a claim for the property. I think the better way will be to put in an execution and force payment, please let me have your instructions” [X95/290/1/4]. Thwe next day he wrote: “I have seen Mr. Benning [Dunstable solicitor] and he informs me he has taken a deposit of £50 from Stevens on the purchase of this property, the purchase is not to be completed till Michaelmas and he says he must agree with you about the form of conveyance, I think it would be well for you to correspond with Mr. Benning on the subject or when the time for completing arrives there will be a further delay, and I fear you will be getting no rent and losing Interest [X95/290/1/5].

In September the agents wrote again [X95/292/107]: “I have seen King of the Plough Inn Kensworth two or three times but have not been able to get any money from him. If you think it safe to put in execution please sign a warrant and let me have it by an early post as on Thursday next will be the time for the purchase to be completed and if so the property will pass from you and the power of distraint will have gone. Altho I don't think there is much to distrrain please let me hear from you by an early post and oblige".

A few days later he wrote: “On Monday last agreeable to your instructions I distrained the goods & chattels of John King but found nothing on the premises worth taking, the whole would not pay expenses so I have made an arrangement with him to pay me Ten pounds tomorrow as a final settlement and to give me possession of the property. I thought it very desirable to get rid of him as Mr. Benning informed me his Client Stephens would not complete the purchase…” [X95/292/109]

In October the agent wrote to Sworder senior: “"I am sorry I was unable to meet you yesterday but I trust the completion of the purchase was made satisfactorily and I hope you were satisfied with the price. I have had a very great deal of trouble with King and did my best to get rid of him as I found Stephens would not complete the purchase while he had possession”.

Unfortunately we have no evidence pinpointing where on Watling Street the Plough lay. In the 1851 the entry for the Plough comes directly after that for the Pack Horse, so it may have been the next property on the west side of the road going north or south.


  • X95/251 Sale catalogue 1851;
  • Z660/D/1/4: conveyance and mortgage: 1860;
  • X95/292/41: sale of beer to the Plough: 1862;
  • X95/290/1/4-6 correspondence regarding the sale of the Plough: 1864;
  • X95/292/107: letter regarding the landlord: 1864.

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

1841- 1864: John King
Public house closed and sold 1864