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The Black Lion 20 High Street Leighton Buzzard

The Black Lion in June 2008
The Black Lion in June 2008

The Black Lion Public House: 20 High Street, Leighton Buzzard

The Black Lion in the High Street of Leighton Buzzard meant, until about 1860, the inn on the site of today's 23a and 23b High Street, part of Ravenstone Chambers. This inn had been in operation since at least 1672 but changed hands in 1860 and seems to have then closed. The first licence of the current Black Lion public house at 20 High Street was applied for on 22nd August 1865 [PSLB1/2]. The 1876 countywide register of licensed premises states that the public house was then owned by the licensee George Andrew and that it had first been licensed in 1864, presumably a mistake on the part of the clerk compiling the register.

Maureen Brown, June Masters and Tom Lawson wrote a book called The Old Pubs of Leighton Buzzard and Linslade which was published by Leighton Linslade Local History Research Group in 1994. In producing the book they used sources at Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service, Buckinghamshire Record Office, Northamptonshire Record Office as well as a number of published sources. They state that the premises had previously been an inn called, successively, the Bullhead, then the Sow and Pigs, lasting from the 17th century into the 19th century, perhaps with a break in the 18th century. Maureen Brown kindly lent her notes to Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service and it is clear that this statement is based on a sight she had had of deeds owned by the Co-operative Society and other research. Her notes, up to the opening of the Black Lion, are reproduced below:

  • 1676: Co-op deeds to Leighton House "the house called the Bullhead on the west part";
  • 1695: Co-op deeds to Leighton House "the house then called or known by the name or sign of the Bullhead on the west";
  • 1703: Co-op deeds to Leighton House "the Bullhead on the west";
  • 1725: Co-op deeds to Leighton House "next to the messuage or tenement late of John Smith on the west and fronting north onto the High Street";
  • 1747: Co-op deeds to Leighton House "next to the message or tenement late of John Smith now of John Capon on the west";
  • 1749-1753: Quitrental of Leighton Buzzard Manor: John Capon late George Christmas freehold house 3/4 [KK783-784];
  • 1772-1777: Quitrental of Leighton Buzzard Manor: Ann Capon, now wife of [blank] Joans late John Capon's, formerly George Christmas, now William Ingram 3/4 [KK785];
  • 1781: Co-op deeds to Leighton House "tenement late John Capon esquire now William Ingram on the west";
  • 1781: Sun Fire Insurance "William Ingram of Leighton in the County of Beds victualler on his household goods in his dwelling house and offices adjoining situate as aforesaid. Brick and tiled not exceeding £100";
  • 1783: Land Tax: William Ingram £1/5/9; Richard Gerves 8/6;
  • 1793: No
  • Northampton Mercury: resolution of Leighton Buzzard publicans banning "seditious and disaffected persons" from their houses including William Ingram of the Sow and Pigs: 19 Jan 1793;
  • 1797: Land Tax William Ingram £1/5/0; Richard Norman 10/6; meadows 14/-; close 7/6; House and garden John Goudes 5/-;
  • 1802: Land Tax: William Ingram £1/5/-; Richard Norman 10/6; meadow 14/-; close 7/6; House and garden Goades 5/; W. Partridge 6/-;
  • 1807: Co-op deeds to Leighton House "next to the messuage late of John Capon esquire now of William Ingram on the west;
  • 1807: Land Tax: William Ingram £1/5/-; meadows 14/-; close 8/-; House and yard, goods 5/-;
  • 1811: will of William Ingram, yeoman;
  • 1813: Land Tax: Mrs. Ingram £1/5/-; meadows 14/-; close 8/-;
  • 1817: Land Tax: Mrs. Ingram £1/5/-;
  • 1819: Bevan No. 451 owner/occupier T. Wilson; No. 452 owner T. Wilson; occupier Mrs. Ingram;
  • 1826: Land Tax: Mrs. Ingram, House £1/3/4;
  • 1835: conveyance from Ann Ingram to John Eagle and Henry Charles Chilton;
  • 1851 census: occupier Ann Ingram, 79, annuitant, born Leighton Buzzard and Martha Spencer aged 39, servant, born Buckinghamshire;
  • 1861 census: occupier George W. Haroer aged 26, gasfitter, born in Leighton Buzzard

The Black Lion was listed by the former Department of Environment in 1954 as Grade II, of special interest. The Department dated the building to the 18th century, suggesting that any 17th century inn on the site was in a different building. The construction is of local bond brickwork of grey headers with red brick dressings; the roof is tiled.

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 20 were as follows:

  • 1819: owner T. Wilson; occupiers T. Wilson and Mrs. Ingram;
  • 1841-1851: the house of Ann Ingram;
  • 1861: the house of George W. Harper;
  • 1871-2000: the Black Lion public house

The Black Lion was put up for auction twice within seven years, first in 1883 [BML10/42/72], then in 1890 [BML10/42/85]. The first auction, "By direction of the Proprietor", i.e. George Andrew, gave the following particulars: "having a frontage of 45 feet and a depth of 140 feet; it is Substantially Brick-built and Tiled, and contains on the Ground Floor, Bar, Bar Parlour, Smoke-room (with seat round, upholstered in leather), small Sitting-room, and Kitchen; over which are a Sitting-room and Eight Bed-rooms, with Two good Cellars in basement. At the rear is Yard (approached by a covered gateway, with folding doors), in which are brew-house, workshop and store-room, with Loft over the whole length of the Building; a recently brick-built and slated building, consisting of Four Loose Boxes and Saddle-room, with Loft and Bed-room over; a large brick and timber-built and tiled barn, with lean-to Shed; a brick and timber-built and thatched stable, with room for 12 Horses; Dung Pit, and W.C.; also a Pump and Well of excellent Water. These most commodious Premises are adapted for the carrying on of an Upholsterer's or Joiner's Business in addition to the Public-house. The Fixtures and Brewing Plant will be required to be taken to at a Valuation in the usual way. Three-fourths of the Purchase money may remain on Mortgage, if required". The following has been added in pen: "The Grates - Gas fitting and piping - laid on in Boxes - £200 has been expended in Building Stabling in addition to which much has been done in interior fittings". Despite this the reserve of £1,350 was not reached as the particulars are annotated: "Bought in", in other words, not sold [BML10/42/72].

The second attempt at sale was by George Andrew's trustees after his death [BML10/42/85]. Given that the same firm was responsible for this auction it is not surprising that the particulars are precisely the same, with the exception of the annotation regarding gas pipes and repairs. This time the establishment did sell, for £1,670, to Saint Albans [Hertfordshire] brewers Bingham, Cox & Company. It was later owned by Benskins Watford Brewery.

In 1952 Page Woodcock wrote in Volume III of the Bedfordshire Times (page 232): "Our landlord, Mr. Francis Day, was Sir Douglas Haig's driver in World War I. The saloon walls pay tribute with photographs and sketches to his hunting days with the Whaddon, and portraits of racehorses and racing motorists mingle with likenesses of himself before he began his 31 years as a public servant".

Benskins carried out alterations in 1969. The Black Lion remains a public house at the time of writing [2009]. It is now a free house, not tied to any brewery.

 The Black Lion May 2008
The Black Lion May 2008


  • PSLB4/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Leighton Buzzard Petty Sessional Division: c.1860s-1949;
  • PSLB4/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Leighton Buzzard Petty Sessional Division: c.1860s-1956;
  • BML10/42/72: sale particulars of Black Lion: 1883;
  • BML10/42/85: sale particulars of Black Lion: 1890;
  • HN1/20-1-3: position shown on annotated Ordnance Survey maps compiled for licensing purposes: early 20th century;
  • P91/28/48: mentioned as "transferred to South Side" in notes compiled on Leighton Buzzard public houses: early 20th century;
  • PSLB4/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Leighton Buzzard Petty Sessional Division: 1922-1948;
  • Bedfordshire Magazine Volume III: 1952;
  • Z1105/1: Liquor Licence Traders Survey Form: 1960;
  • Z851/10/4: photograph of exterior: 1969

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:

1864: George Andrew[s];
1890: George Bonham;
1894: Charles Creasey;
1911: George Atchison;
1916: Edward Jarrett;
1916: Charles Edward Corkett;
1921: Francis Thomas James Day;
1960: Margaret Kennedy
1966: Peter Jackson Lees;
1977: Robert James Allen;
1982: James Joseph Johnston;
1983: Francis Joseph Benedict Barr;
1983: Robert James Thomson;
1987: John Frederick Bamford;
1988: Frederick Douglas Morris;
1990: James Jeffrey Stimpson and Richard Charles Phillips.
1991: Simon Andrew Nobes.
 The Black Lion June 2008
The Black Lion June 2008