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47 High Street Leighton Buzzard

The Shop front of 47 High Street in 1910
The Shop front of 47 High Street in 1910 [Z50/72/115]

The Manor of Leighton Buzzard alias Grovebury was the principal landowner in the town before the 19th century. Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a full run of court rolls from 1393 to 1727 [KK619-715] and another full run from 1704 to 1867 [X288/1-23]. The service also has court rolls for other manor to own land in the town, the Prebendal Manor, from 1448 to 1459, 1588 to 1591, 1611 to 1622, 1627 and 1631 [KK792-1798]. A fair number of buildings in the High Street were originally copyhold and a detailed study of these court rolls would probably produce quite detailed histories for a number of properties and the sites on which they stand, though it would take many years of study.

45 and 47 High Street were listed by the former Department of Environment in 1954 as Grade II, of special interest. They do not look it at a casual glance, but both originate in the 17th century as a single building, later divided into two. The front is of colour-washed plaster and the roof is steeply pitched and formed from tiles. Number 47 had an 18th century shop front but this was removed and both are now modern fronts.

A project called Our High Street Revisited 1819-2000 by Leighton-Linslade Local History Research Group [CRT130Lei58] aimed to use directories and census records to try to establish as full a history of use of the building in the High Street as possible. The results for Number 47 are as follows:

  • 1819: owner Thomas Price; occupier W. Rose;
  • 1841-1851: John Price, grocer;
  • 1861: Thomas Pettit, grocer;
  • 1871-1881: Frederick Penton, grocer;
  • 1891-1894: Charles J. Willard, grocer;
  • 1906: Mrs. Alice Wilard, grocer;
  • 1965: Charles Archibald Willard, grocer;
  • 1986: Dewhurst, butcher;
  • 2000: Tatlas, ladies clothes; Luigi's Café;
  • 2008: Millets

 45-47 High Street June 2008
45-47 High Street June 2008

Under the terms of the Rating and Valuation Act 1925 every piece of land and building in the country was assessed to determine the rates to be paid on them. Leighton Buzzard was assessed in 1927 and the valuer discovered that 47 High Street was owned and occupied by Charles Archibald Willard, grocer. The premises had a basement measuring 13 feet 6 inches by 26 feet used as a warehouse ("good). The ground floor comprised three shops measuring 19 feet 6 inches by 15 feet, 19 feet 6 inches by 10 feet and 15 feet 6 inches by 24 feet. A 6 feet by 12 feet store stood behind and a covered passageway led to a kitchen measuring 8 feet by 16 feet 6 inches, a scullery measuring 8 feet by 7 feet 6 inches and a dining room measuring 14 feet by 12 feet by 6 inches.

The first floor contained a sitting room measuring 19 feet by 15 feet and three bedrooms measuring 9 feet by 14 feet, 9 feet by 14 feet 6 inches and 14 feet by 12 feet 6 inches. The second floor contained a W. C. and a bathroom as well as two bedrooms of 15 feet by 10 feet and 8 feet by 12 feet. A "small" brick and slate outbuilding of one storey was used as a store and W. C. and brick and slate stabling and coachhouse with a loft over was used as a garage with a warehouse over, both floors measuring 16 feet by 27 feet. Another brick and slate warehouse measured 13 feet square. There was also, rather surprisingly, a petrol pump and a 300 gallon tank.

The proprietor held a spirit licence and reckoned to sell three dozen bottles of gin and whisky over an unspecified period (a week, a month?). The valuer summed up: "Old fashioned shop front. Good position. Old building".