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The White Horse Public House Keysoe

The former White Horse March 2016
The former White Horse March 2016

The White Horse was listed by the former Department of Environment in August 1983 as Grade II, of special interest. The listing dates the property from the 17th and 18th centuries (see below however). The 17th century part is to the west and built of colour-washed roughcast over a timber frame with a thatched roof. The western part is 18th century, colour-washed brick with a tiled roof. Both parts are a single storey with attics. There is a 20th century extension at the rear.

The run of deeds for this property begins in 1592, suggesting that the older part of the property is actually 16th century. In that year [WG11] Thomas Rolte of Bolnhurst, yeoman and Edward Rolte of Great Staughton [Huntingdonshire], gentleman, conveyed a cottage and pightle of pasture of half an acre adjoining to Richard Conington of Keysoe, weaver for £18. Edward Rolte conveyed another acre to land to Peter Cunnington in 1617 [WG12].

In 1662 weaver Edward Conington mortgaged a messuage and pightle in Keysoe Row east of a highway called Pagge Lane and south of a highway called Row Streete for £8 [WG13]. A further £10 was borrowed in 1668 [WG14] and a further £12 in 1672 [WG15]. In 1680 Edward Cunington of Keysoe, carpenter, sold land [WG17] and in his will, proved in 1680, devised his cottage to his son John [WG18].

In 1721 John Swepson of Thurleigh, yeoman, and his wife Mary mortgaged the cottage, occupied by Isaac Woods, for £20 [WG19]. Mary was John Cunnington’s heir. In his will, proved in 1723, John Swepson devised the cottage to his wife [WG21]. The £20 mortgage was assigned three times, in 1726, 1744 and 1753 [WG22-24] until in 1757 it was conveyed by William Swepson of Keysoe, yeoman, Mary’s eldest son, to Samuel Folbigg of Colmworth, husbandman, for £35 [WG26-27].

In 1786 Samuel Folbigg conveyed the cottage to Saint Neots [Huntingdonshire] brewer William Fowler [WL98] and it is likely at this point that the cottage became a public house. In 1814 Fowler’s business was conveyed by his executors to John Day of Bedford for £40,000 [WG331-332], included was the cottage in Keysoe, now called the White Horse. In 1840 the White Horse was conveyed to Bedford brewers William Jones Johnstone and Frederick Redden, whose brewery was in Horne Lane [WL99-100].

On Johnstone’s death in 1848 the business was carried on by Redden until his death the following year, his widow selling it in 1851 to Joseph Allen Piggot and Henry Collings Wells, Piggot buying Wells out in 1862. In 1875 Piggots firm was sold to Charles Wells, whose firm at the time of writing [2016] is the last Bedford brewery. In 1875 the business included the Horne Lane Brewery in Bedford and 35 public houses of which 11 were in Bedford, 3 in Buckinghamshire and 1 in Northamptonshire.

A curious incident took place in 1898 [QSR1898/3/5/4]. Sarah Stewart, wife of the licensee, stated that Thomas Dunnigan and John Wilson entered the White Horse and asked for some beer which was served to them by Sarah’s daughter – there being other customers in the house at the time.  The two men stayed until the others had left and they then went and sat by the fire.  Dunnigan sat next the oven and Wilson sat in a chair where he could see Sarah about the kitchen.  A piece of pork was cooking in the oven. Sarah suddenly smelt a smell of burnt meat and I saw Dunnigan and Wilson get up and go out.  She then went to the oven to see to the meat and it was gone.  Nothing daunted, Sarah ran up the yard after the men and caught hold of Dunnigan and said “You have got the meat out of the oven”  He denied it.  Wilson said “Come on away from her”. Sarah said “If you don’t give it me I will send for a Policeman”. A boy was going by and she told him to fetch the policeman. Dunnigan then took the meat out of his pocket wrapped up in a handkerchief with blue spots.  Sarah took it out of the handkerchief and the men went towards Kimbolton. When apprehended by the constable Dunnigan said: “I’ll own up to it. I did take it but this other chap had nothing to do with it”.

The gaol register [PRIS2/2/7] tells us that Dunnigan was 42, he was 5 feet 5 inches tall, with light brown hair. He came from Glasgow and was a groom. He was sentenced to seven days’ hard labour. His companion was also a Scot, from Ayr – aged 35 , 5 feet 1½ inches tall with dark brown hair and also a groom. The case against him was dismissed.

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 White Horse [DV1/C213/88] found that the tenant, J Ruff, paid rent of £10 per annum to Charles Wells. The pub comprised a lounge, tap room, cellar, kitchen and four bedrooms.

Outside stood a weather-boarded and slate stable for two horses, loose box and store barn. There was: Samuel “very poor trade”. An eighteen gallon barrel of beer lasted a month and no spirits were sold.

During World War Two the White Horse was used by Air Raid Precautions personnel as a wardens’ post [WW2/AR/C/2/103 and WW2/AR/C/2/82]. The White Horse was still open in 2008 but by 2016 had closed and become a private house.


  • WG11: conveyance of messuage by Thomas and Edward Rolte to Richard Conington: 1592;
  • WG13: mortgage: 1662;
  • WG14: mortgage: 1668;
  • WG15: mortgage 1672;
  • WG18: will of Edward Cuningtonn devising to son John: 1680;
  • WG19: mortgage by John and Mary Swepson (Mary heir of John Cunington): 1721;
  • WG21: will of John Swepson devising to wife Mary: 1723;
  • WG22: assignment of mortgage: 1726;
  • WG23: assignment of mortgage: 1744;
  • WG24: assignment of mortgage: 1753;
  • WG25: conveyance of cottage by William Swepson to Samuel Folbigg: 1757;
  • WL98: conveyance of cottage by Samuel Folbigg to William Fowler of Saint Neots, common brewer: 1786;
  • WG331-332: conveyance by trustees of the will of William Fowler and George Fowler to John Day: 1814;
  • CLP13 Reg. of Alehouse licences 1822-1828;
  • P48/18/3/7 Letter to Joe Robertson, the landlord concerning Overseer’s business 1823;
  • WG2526 part of St Neots brewery 1840;
  • WL99-100: conveyance of White Horse by John Hill Day to William Jones Johnstone and Frederick Redden: 1840;
  • QSR1898/3/5/4: theft of cooking pork by customers: 1898;
  • 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
  • WL800/5 page 46: photograph: c.1925;
  • WL801/49: negative: c. 1925;
  • Z50/142/504: photograph of scout band at White Horse: early 1930s;
  • WW2/AR/C/2/103 and WW2/AR/C/2/82: ARP Wardens’ post at pub: 1941;
  • WW2/AR/C/2/249: former wardens’ post at pub: 1945;
  • PSB9/2: Register of Alehouse Licences – Bedford Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1955-1995;
  • Z53/69/28 White Horse Inn photo 1960;
  • WL722/22: photograph in Charles Wells in-house publication Pint Pot: 1978.
  • WL722/39: feature in Pint Pot: 1983;
  • X852/2: Women’s Institute Millenium history of Keysoe: 2000

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

1802-1825: John Goss;
1825-1840: William Claridge;
1847-1854 Richard Claridge (a farmer);
1864 - 1877: Thomas Cope (a shoe maker);
1885-1898: Joseph Stewart;
1903-1906: Mrs Sarah Stewart;
1910-1924:  Isaac Ruff;
1927-1940: George Woolston
1957-1966: Peter George Woolston;
1966-1978: Jens Edward George Beck;
1978: Joan Margaret Beck;
1978-1979: William Bagguley;
1979-1981: Michael George Freeth;
1981-1988: Charles Nicholas Pryke;
1988-1989: Jean Sylvia Pryke;
1989-1995: John Crummey.