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The Bell and Woolpack Leighton Buzzard

Site of the Bell and Woolpack June 2008
Site of the Bell and Woolpack June 2008

The Bell & Woolpack Public House: Lake Street, Leighton Buzzard [previously the Little Bell]

In 1789 the copyhold Little Bell was surrendered by John Dell of Leighton Buzzard, butcher and Mary, his wife, to Thomas Walker [Maureen Brown's notes, kindly lent to Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service]. The property is described as being the cottage or tenement wherein Thomas Robinson late dwelt, now Joseph Nash junior, called the Little Bell in Leck End with property of Edward Ashwell on both sides. John Dell also seems to have owned a Little Bell further up Lake Street.

In 1790 the Little Bell was surrendered by Thomas Walker to Thomas Rogers [X288/9]. Rogers was admitted the next year [X288/9]. The Northampton Mercury of 19th January 1793 contained a resolution of Leighton Buzzard publicans banning "seditious and disaffected persons" from their houses. Ann Billington signs on behalf of the Little Bell whereas Thomas Rogers signs for the Bell. This adds to confusion over the names of these inns as the Little Bell further up Lake Street was also referred to simply as the Bell at the same time as the Bell in the Market square was in existence!

The Bell and Woolpack public house is first definitely recorded in the 1821 reference book accompanying Benjamin Bevan's 1819 map of Leighton Buzzard. It is also recorded in the countywide register of alehouse recognizance of 1822. The countywide register of licences of 1876 states that the establishment was first licensed in 1791 but gives no other information. Statements of first licensing are often suspect in this return but this might be evidence for a change of name in 1791 from the Little Bell.

In 1834 the public house was owned by Leighton Buzzard maltster Josiah Rogers (who had been admitted in 1816 under the will of Thomas Rogers, his father) and in that year he leased it to Leighton Buzzard brewer Samuel Reeve [BO434]. The lease described the building as being in Leck End and in occupation of Thomas Brown. It included a malthouse, malt kiln and cokehouse which Reeve already occupied and two adjoining cottages were also included in the lease.

A few other documents were found bundled up in this lease. One was dated 1845 and in it Rogers asked Leighton Buzzard solicitor David Lee Willis to get a surveyor to "look over" the building, presumably to assess dilapidations. In 1845 Reeve leased the Leighton Buzzard brewery recently acquired by Joseph Procter. There is also an undated piece of paper in which a seven year lease from Josaiah Rogers to Charles Reeve for £67/10/- is noted. It seems logical to assume that this was made around 1838. The petty sessional minutes for September 1858 [PSLB1/1] record that three publicans in Leighton Buzzard had their licences suspended - Joseph Fearn, once of the Bell and Woolpack, now of the Sun, William Greening of the Cross Keys and Henry Parrott of the Bell and Woolpack.  Parrott was charged with being often drunk and beating his wife.

Maureen Brown's notes describe the admission of Josiah Thomas Rogers to the Bell and Woolpack in 1855 after inheriting it in his father Josiah's will of 1848. Crucially, the property is described as having formerly been called the Little Bell, thus irrefutably linking the two. Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has no other records concerning this property except for mentions in registers of alehouse licences and in directories. In 1858 Rogers, of Dunstable, straw hat manufacturer, and his wife surrendered the Bell and Woolpack to Leighton Buzzard railway contractor Henry Parrott. Doug Byway wrote to the archive service in December 2016 with some interesting information about licensee John Waller. The Bedford Mercury of 13 May 1865 noted that he had: "run away taking the license with him". The brewer installed a man named William Byway in October 1864 to sell beer for him but he was then convicted of selling beer with no license so to do. He pleaded guilty and was fined!

The 1876 register of licenses notes George Franklin as owner. John Henry Green is noted as owner in 1883 [PSLB4/1] and by 1900, Benskins Watford Brewery Limited. The Bell and Woolpack closed on the last day of 1929. The site is now occupied by a garage.


  • X171/206: landlord or owner of Little Bell named: 1761;
  • X288/9: surrender: 1790;
  • X288/9: admission: 1791;
  • Northampton Mercury: resolution of Leighton Buzzard publicans banning "seditious and disaffected persons" from their houses: 19 Jan 1793.
  • CLP13: Register of alehouse licences: 1822 - 1828;
  • CRT130 Lei 33: list of publicans: 1823-1928;
  • BO434: lease: 1834;
  • BO436: request for surveyor to look at Bell & Woolpack: 1845;
  • BO437: seven year lease: about 1845;
  • PSLB4/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Leighton Buzzard Petty Sessional Division: c.1860s-1949;
  • HN1/20-1-3: position shown on annotated Ordnance Survey maps compiled for licensing purposes: early 20th century  

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list; entries in italics refer to licensees where either beginning or end, or both, dates are not known:

1761: Thomas Geedon?
before 1789: Thomas Robinson;
1789: Joseph Nash junior;

1790-1791: Thomas Walker;
1793: Ann Billington;
1821: J. Powel;
1822-1823: William Simmons;
1828-1830: Thomas Hutson;
1834: Thomas Brown;
1839-1847: James Snoxall;
1850: Thomas Tompkins;
1853-1854: Joseph Fearn;
1858: Henry Parrott;
1861-1862: William Ward;
1864: John Waller;
1864: William Byway;
1871-1883: Thomas Rogers;
1883-1885: William Pearson;
1885-1886: Henry Paiba;
1886-1900: William Pearson;
1900-1924: James Alfred Springham;
1924-1929: Albert Wade.
Public house closed 31st December 1929