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The Three Horseshoes Beerhouse Keysoe

The former Three Horseshoes March 2016The former Three Horseshoes March 2016

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county’s historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The entry for The Old Post Office [HER 12011] states that it was also previously a public house (actually a beerhouse) and a smithy and has 17th century origins (which may not be accurate, see below). It is built of rendered brick, with a tiled roof and comprises two storeys with a modern single-storey wing.

Mention of a blacksmith gives the clue that this was originally a beerhouse run as a side-line. A deed packet for the property [GK82] begins in 1801 and notes that the beerhouse was first called the Farrier’s Arms. An abstract of title to the property, made about 1848 [GK82/6] states that in 1801 Matthew Sturges and his wife Ann, born Ann Newall, granddaughter and devisee of Samuel Gurney of Keysoe Berry, gentleman, conveyed Reynor's Cottage and part of a small close of pasture in Row March Field to Thomas Sturges of Brook End, victualler for £55. This cottage does not seem to be the later beerhouse as it is not mentioned again in the deeds. The following year Sturges bought 7.5 acres in various fields in Keysoe from Francis Crofts for £94. In 1812 he then sold 6 acres, 2 roods, 16 poles abutting west and south-west on the turnpike road from Bedford to Kimbolton [Huntingdonshire] to Elijah Peacock of Pertenhall, yeoman, for £420. Peacock sold small parts of this land in 1815 and 1821.

Then, in 1830 Elijah Peacock conveyed a close of land of 6 acres, 32 poles to Rev John King Martyn of Pertenhall “minister of the Gospel” (Rector of Pertenhall from 1800 to 1804 and later holder of the advowson). This land was bounded south-west and west by the turnpike road from Bedford to Kimbolton [Huntingdonshire] [GK82/1]. Almost immediately King Martyn contracted to sell part of the land to William Maile (but never conveyed it) for £10 and he then built on it, presumably the building still standing today. In 1832 King Martyn and Maile conveyed part of the land, two cottages and a shop to Rev Thomas Martyn, Rector of Pertenhall for £130 [GK82/1]. So it looks as if the property which later became the Farriers Arms was built around 1830.

In 1840 Thomas Martyn conveyed a “lately erected messuage”, which had previously been two cottages and a shop, to John Stanton of Keysoe, blacksmith for £105 [GK82/2]. At that date the property was occupied by Robert Lines; a directory of 1847 lists John Stanton as a blacksmith and beer seller. Stanton mortgaged the property in 1843 [GK82/3] but had repaid it by 1845 [GK82/4] when he sold the property to Bedford merchants Thomas John Green and Thomas Abbott Green for £200 [GK82/5].

In 1850 a sale catalogue of the Newport Pagnell Brewery [GK82/7] lists the Farrier’s Arms Beerhouse, Keysoe. It therefore seems likely that the Greens owned the brewery and that they had bought the Farriers Arms as part of that business. The Farriers Arms contained a parlour, a tap room, a washhouse, a cellar and four bedrooms. There was also a yard in front and ground at the side, a draw well, a brick-built blacksmith’s shop, a stable for three horses, a coat house and piggery. The catalogue is annotated that it was sold to Bedford brewer George Higgins for £255.

George Higgins died in 1883 when his sons Lawrence Read Colbourne Higgins and Cecil Charles Norman Colbourne Higgins established a partnership to carry on the firm. By that time the Farriers Arms had become the Three Horseshoes [GK4/2]. The brewery company was floated as Higgins and Sons Limited in 1902 with 55 public houses.

The January 2012 edition of Village Voice the local magazine for Bolnhurst and Keysoe [Z1401/30/1] has an account by Kathleen Dimes deceased (via Patricia Ramsdale) about the Three Horseshoes where her family lived. Kathleen Dimes’ father was licensee and blacksmith Fred Bull. He was paralyzed by stroke aged 48. George Seth, a later licensee, worked for Fred Bull. She recalled that the taproom had a very long table, settles, chairs and stools and a wood block herringbone floor. The family moved to Saint Neots when her mother could no longer cope looking after her father and running the business.

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. The valuer visiting the Three Horseshoes found that the tenant, G Seth, paid rent of £12 per annum to Higgins and Sons. As for trade: “Sells about 18 gallons of beer in all weeks. Small tobacco trade. Small workshop”.

The premises comprised a tap room, a kitchen, a living room and a cellar. Three bedrooms lay on the first floor with attics above. A barn was used as a store. The smithy “does fair trade” and measured 11 feet by 25 feet, the shoeing shed 16 feet by 10 feet. A note made on 4th July 1939 states that the smithy was then used as a barn. In 1927 Higgins and Sons was taken over by Biggleswade brewers Wells and Winch. The last record of the beerhouse held by Bedfordshire Archive and Record Service is John Winkless’ entry in Kelly’s Directory for 1936.


  • GK82/6: land conveyed by Matthew and Ann Sturges to Thomas Sturges: 1801;
  • GK82/6: sale of land by Thomas Sturges to Elijah Peacock: 1802;
  • GK82/1: conveyance of land by Elijah Peacock to  John King Martyn: 1830;
  • GK82/1: sale of land by John King Martin to William Maile: 1830;
  • GK82/1: conveyance of two cottages by John King Martyn and William Maile to Thomas Martyn: 1832;
  • GK82/2: conveyance of messuage and shop by Thomas Martyn to John Stanton: 1840;
  • GK82/3: mortgage: 1843;
  • GK82/5: conveyance by John Stanton to Thomas Abbott Green and Thomas John Green: 1845;
  • WG2533 and GK82/7: sale particulars: 1850;
  • GK82/9: conveyance of Farriers Arms by Thomas Abbott Green and Thomas John Green to George Higgins: 1850;
  • GK4/2: conveyance of business including Three Horseshoes by trustees of will of George Higgins to Laurence Read Colburne Higgins and Cecil Charles Norman Colburne Higgins: 1884;
  • ST/U4/12: architects’ notebook: 1893;
  • PSS3/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: c.1901;
  • PSS3/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: c.1903;
  • PSS3/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: 1904-1930
  • X396/159: photograph: c.1910;
  • HF40/5/1/2: draft conveyance from Higgins and Sons to Wells and Winch: 1931;
  • BTNegOB39/1: negative: 1931;
  • Z1401/30/1: memories of the pub: 2012.

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

1847: John Stanton;
1850-1869: Elizabeth Stanton;
1876: James Ibbott;
1885: Robert Charles (a blacksmith);
1890-1898: William Hart;
1901-1907: Fred Bull;
1907-1914: Ernest Harry Cuthbert;
1914-1928: George Seth;
1928-1929: Charles Stapleton Robinson;
1929-1936: John Winkless.