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The Bridge Hotel Leighton Buzzard

The Bridge Hotel in the 1940s
The Bridge Hotel in the 1940s

The Bridge Hotel: Bridge Street, Leighton Buzzard [earlier the Ram, then the Running Horse, then the Sown and Pigs then the Shoulder of Mutton]

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]. Detailed study of these would be bound to produce quite full histories for most licensed premises in the town. Unfortunately such study would take a very long time. Thus the histories of licensed premises in these web pages are quite summary and not necessarily the full story.

The Bridge Hotel, as it was finally called, bordered the parish boundary between Leighton Buzzard and Linslade which was, until 1965, also the county boundary between Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. The boundary was the middle of the channel of the River Ouzel. Today it is difficult to determine where this was as where there were three, more or less parallel, bodies of water there are now only two - the canal (both banks of which were wholly within Linslade and Buckinghamshire) and the mill stream (both banks of which were wholly within Leighton Buzzard and Bedfordshire). The River Ouzel has now disappeared at this point beneath modern developments but lay roughly in between the two. The Bridge Hotel spanned the island between the Ouzel to the west and the Mill Stream to the east.

The first mention of a hostelry on the site is in 1739 when John Thorpe surrendered the copyhold inn called the Ram in Lovell End "between the Shire Bridge and the Middle Bridge" to John Goddard [X288/5]. Goddard evidently renamed the inn as the Running Horse as it was by this name that he surrendered it to George Nash in 1742 [X288/5]. Nash died in 1762 and his brother Robert was admitted as tenant of the Manor to the inn, as his successor [X288/7]. When Robert died in 1774 his brother Joseph was admitted to an inn which had now been renamed as the Sow and Pigs (suggesting that Robert Nash may also have been a butcher) [X288/8].

Joseph evidently did not like the name Sow and Pigs as, by the time he sold the property to Joseph Lucas in 1791, he had renamed the inn again, this time to the Shoulder of Mutton [X288/9]. In the Northampton Mercury of 19th January 1793 licensees of the town subscribed to a resolution banning "seditious and disaffected persons" from their houses. This presumably was in reaction to the events across the Channel in France (four days previously King Louis XVI had been sentenced to death and two days later he went to the guillotine). William Hall signed for the Shoulder of Mutton.

A Sow and Pigs also stood in the High Street on the site of the later Black Lion The surrender of 1791 by Joseph Nash, notes that the Shoulder of Mutton had been formerly in occupation of Sarah Weedon, then William Ingram, now William Hall. This clearly suggests that Ingram took the Sow and Pigs name with him when he moved to the other inn. By the time the next licensee is noted, in the countywide register of alehouse recognizances of 1822, the name given in Joseph Turney.

In the 1830s Leighton Buzzard adopted the Lighting and Watching Act [CRT130Lei5] and the Shoulder of Mutton was given as the westernmost point of its enforcement. Similarly when street lighting was introduced in 1839 the Shoulder of Mutton was to be the western starting point for it.

In 1825 Joseph Lucas of Rowsham [Buckinghamshire] made his will devising all his public houses, including the Shoulder of Mutton, to trustees for his daughter Catherine [CCE2778/9]. He died in 1832 and his nephew, another Joseph, eventually inherited, his daughter dying childless. In 1856 Joseph junior devised his licensed premises to his nephew Edward Munday Major [CCE2778/9]. He died in 1859 and Edward Munday Major subsequently took the name Lucas by royal licence. Lucas was in partnership with Moses Lovett [CCE2778/7] and leased the Shoulder of Mutton to Joseph Stone of Leighton Buzzard, publican, on a yearly tenancy for £9/15/- in 1861. Lucas made his will in 1862 [CCE2278/9] and devised his licensed premises to to his son-in-law Edmund Munday Major Lucas and Edmund Bennett as trustees. He died in 1864 and in 1877 Edmund Munday Major Lucas enfranchised the copyhold Shoulder of Mutton [after its demolition! - see below], turning it into freehold [CCE2778/11].

In 1876 Lucas and Bennett agreed to sell the property Frederick Bassett, banker, Edward Lawford, surgeon, Henry Pettit, James Webb, tailor, Frederick Emery, grocer and David Thomas Willis, solicitor [CCE2778/13] for the purpose of road widening. They then sold the remainder of the site to William Deeley, publican after an auction. He pulled the old Shoulder of Mutton down and built the Bridge Hotel in its place [CCE2778/13]. Deeley devised all his real estate to his wife in his will and died in January 1877. His widow Sophia then put the hotel up for sale and it was bought by George Willis for £1,540. It was duly conveyed to him on the last day of 1878 [CCE2778/13].

George Willis conveyed the Bridge Hotel to Mrs. Mary Ann Sedgwick in 1896 for £2,000 [CCE27788/14] and in 1912 Rev. Gordon Sedgwick and Rev. Thomas Arnold Sedgwick sold it to Lance Tapley Simmons for £650 [CCE2778/15]. In 1922 Simmons sold the Bridge to the Northampton Brewery Company for £1,800 [CCE2778/21/2].

The Bridge Hotel closed in 1972 and was sold to Bedfordshire County Council for road widening in 1976 and subsequently demolished. The site was, for a while, a car park. Then, early in the new century, the site became a housing development under the name of Town Bridge Mill.

 Town Bridge Mill site of the Bridge Hotel October 2008
Town Bridge Mill site of the Bridge Hotel October 2008


  • X288/5: surrender: 1739;
  • X288/5 and X80/43 and 45: admission of George Nash: 1742;
  • X288/7: death of George Nash: 1762;
  • X80/47 and X288/7: admission of Robert Nash: 1762;
  • X80/48 and X288/8: admission of Joseph Nash: 1774;
  • X80/49 and X288/9: admission of Joseph: 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;
  • CCE2778/9: abstracted will of Joseph Lucas: 1825;
  • CRT130Lei5: Lighting and Watching Act enforcement in the town: 1835;
  • CRT130Lei5: street lighting in the town: 1839;
  • CCE2778/9: abstracted will of Joseph Lucas: 1856;
  • 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
  • CCE2278/9: abstracted will of Edward Munday Major Lucas: 1862;
  • CCE2778/11: enfranchisement: 1877;
  • CCE2778/13: conveyance: 1878;
  • BML10/44/89: auction sale held at Bridge Hotel: 1883;
  • BML10/44/20: auction sale held at Bridge Hotel: 1884;
  • CCE2778/14: conveyance: 1896;
  • HN1/20-1-3: position shown on annotated Ordnance Survey maps compiled for licensing purposes: early 20th century;
  • P91/28/48: mentioned as formerly being Shoulder of Mutton in notes compiled on Leighton Buzzard public houses: early 20th century;
  • CCE2778/15: conveyance: 1912;
  • PSLB4/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Leighton Buzzard Petty Sessional Division: 1922-1948;
  • CCE2778/21/2: conveyance: 1922;
  • Z1105/1: Liquor Licence Traders Survey form: 1960  

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:

1739-1742: John Goddard;
1762-1774: Sarah Weedon;
before 1791: William Ingram;
1791: William Hall;
1793: William Ingram or William Hall;
1822-1830: Joseph Turney
1839-1850: James Turney
1853-1854: Catherine Turney
1861: Joseph Stone;
1864-1871: Joseph Stone;
1876-1877: William Chamberlain;
1877: William Deeley;
1877-1879: Sophia Deeley;
1879-1887: Frederick Readman;
1887: Benjamin Boulton;
1887-1892: William Henry Smith;
1892: Albert Edward Heckford;
1896: William Henry Garratt Sells;
1896-1899: George Bonham;
1899-1907: George Gubbins;
1907-1908: Herbert Johnstone Thaire;
1908-1909: Harry Hills;
1909-1912: William James Inee;
1912-1915: John Andrew Foskett;
1915-1916: Hannah Foskett;
1916-1918: James McLeish Cocker;
1918-1919: Harry John Lanksford Sealey;
1919-1926: George Walton;
1926-1929: Malcolm Eckford Jelley;
1929-1930: Frank Neighbour;
1930-1932: Harry Phipps;
1932-1935: John William Clarke;
1935-1937: Spencer Ellingham;
1937-1938: Bernard Norman H. Shepherd;
1938-1939: Frank Herbert White;
1939-1940: Bernard Leslie Miller;
1940-1956: Thomas Richardson;
1956: Ralph Carrigan
1960: Bernard Peter O’Brien;
1966: Kenneth James Fuller;
1971: Eric Reginald Essam.
Hotel closed 1972.