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The Buffalo Public House Leighton Buzzard

The Wheatsheaf and former Buffalo June 2008
The Wheatsheaf and former Buffalo June 2008

The Buffalo Public House: North Square, or 59 North Street [earlier the Windmill, then the Leathern Bottle]

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 first reference so far found to this public house is in 1715 when William Finch surrendered a copyhold inn called the Windmill to its occupier, William Meads, and Mary, his wife [X2883/3]. Meads sold the establishment, still in his own occupation, to John Jeffs and Mary, his wife, in 1727 [X288/4]. When Jeffs was admitted to the property at the manor court the next year Meads was still noted as in occupation.

The next reference is to the Leathern Bottle, surrendered by John Charlers or Chartars, carpenter and Ann, his wife, to maltster John Fox and Ann, his wife, in 1767 [X288/7]. Clearly Jeffs had either sold the establishment at some time after 1728 or had died. Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a formulary and notebook kept by 18th century attorney Benjamin Pyne which contains a list of twelve licensed properties in the town in 1761. Each inn also has a name beside it which appears to be the name of the licensee (who may both, of course, also have been the owner in some cases). The Leather Bottle is linked with the name of Matthew Rutley [X171/206].

In the Northampton Mercury of 19th January 1793 licensee of the Leathern Bottle, Thomas Geyton, subscribed to a resolution of Leighton Buzzard publicans 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).

By the end of the 18th century the public house was owned by a John Fox as in 1800 the executors of his will were admitted at the manorial court [Z1118/1/15/5]. Fox had specified that the property be sold after his death and it was bought by Thomas Steward. Three years later, Steward devised it in his will [PLBP/W1805/27]. His will reveals that he also owned the Wheatsheaf next door which he devised to his wife Patty and, after her death, to their daughter Jenney. The Leathern Bottle he devised to another daughter Hannah Steward, along with the barn and coalhole that had been shared with the Wheatsheaf. Another daughter, Ann, inherited cottages in Workhouse Lane [Baker Street] from him. Steward died in 1805.

There is no further reference to the Leathern Bottle. It does not appear on the 1822-1828 countywide register of alehouse recognizances and, though a property next to the Wheatsheaf is shown on map of 1819 the 1821 reference book accompanying it describes the premises as simply owned by Patty Steward and tenanted by John White, without an accompanying public house name. The likeliest guess is thus that the Leathern Bottle closed at or around the time of Thomas Stewards's death in 1805.

In the 1876 countywide return of Licensed Premises the Buffalo's owner is given as George Franklin of Leighton Buzzard and it is stated that it was first licensed 1837. The first licensed date given in the return is not always accurate but this seems a reasonable enough date; the first mention of the Buffalo in any directory is in 1854 when Thomas Samuel was licensee, he appeared in a directory of 1847 as a beer retailer in North End, so it looks as though the Buffalo was first licensed as a beerhouse, becoming a public house by 1854 (beerhouse names are not printed in directories).

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. The authors state that Hannah Steward married William Collings and sold the Leathern Bottle to Thomas Samuel in 1841 - presumably this information comes from a source not held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service. It would imply that the beerhouse was called the Leathern Bottle and that the Buffalo was the name for the public house.

In 1863 the Buffalo was put up for sale by auction [BML10/42/5], it was then described as: "Substantially Brick-built and Slated, situate in the centre and most eligible part of Leighton Buzzard, with an extensive frontage of [blank[ feet to the North Street, containing, on the basement, an excellent roomy Cellar capable of holding 500 hogsheads of beer, on the ground floor is a large Parlour, Sitting-room, Tap-room, Bar, capital Kitchen, and four excellent lofty Bed-rooms over. A large Brew-house adjoining, fitted up in a most complete and convenient manner, and well adapted for carrying on a wholesale trade. At the back, and approached from the street by a pair of folding doors, is a Large Yard, Enclosed by the following convenient Buildings - large Barn, and Stabling for 4 horses, with an excellent bricked Cellar under, capable of storing 1,500 bushels of Potatoes, with loft over the same, Calf-house, Pigstye, Chaise-house, Stable for 2 horses, with a capital Granary over, adjoining is a roomy brick-built and slated Cottage, facing the North Street and containing Dining and Sitting Rooms, Kitchen and 3 good Bed-rooms over, Coalhouse, and small back Yard, with a Well of excellent Water, and every necessary convenience. The Inn is let of to Mr. Field at a low rental of £30 per annum".

The sale particulars do not include a note of the purchaser and seems that the public house did not sell as in 1866 Thomas Samuel devised the Buffalo to his wife Sarah in his will [BO1282], he died in 1869. The following year Sarah made her will [BO1280] devising the Buffalo to her stepson Thomas, she died in 1871.

By 1891 the owner was Frederick Saunders of Workington [Cumberland] who leased it to Dunstable brewer Benjamin Bennett. Bennett sold his brewery to Thomas Sworder of Luton, who was bought out by another Luton brewer. J. W. Green in 1897. The Buffalo closed in 1913 and became a private house. 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 visiting the former Buffalo [DV1/R74/36] noted that it was occupied by William John Barker, no owner was stated. The property comprised a living room, kitchen, scullery and sitting room with three bedrooms above and cellars below; outside stood an old brick and slate lean-to old brewhouse used as store and a W.C., there was "Joint use of yard". At the time of writing [2009] the premises is a print and copy shop.


  • X288/3: surrender of the Windmill: 1715;
  • Z117/41: admission of William Meads: 1717;
  • X288/4: surrender of the Windmill: 1727;
  • Z117/42 and X288/4: admission of John Jeffs, weaver and Mary, his wife: 1728;
  • X171/206: landlord named: 1761;
  • Z117/43 and X288/7: surrender of Leather Bottle: 1767;
  • Northampton Mercury: resolution of Leighton Buzzard publicans banning "seditious and disaffected persons" from their houses: 19 Jan 1793;
  • Z1118/1/15/5 and X807/1/8: admission of executors for sale of John Fox: 1800;
  • PLBP/W1805/27: will of Thomas Steward: 1803, proved 1805;
  • PSLB4/1: notes first licensed 1837 with no evidence: 1837;
  • CRT160/159: list of innkeepers: 1837-1910;
  • 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;
  • Z117/46 and BML10/42/5: sale particulars of Buffalo: 1863;
  • BO1282: will of Thomas Samuel of Bedford devising Buffalo to his wife: 1866, proved 1869;
  • BO1280: will of Sarah Samuel  devising Buffalo to stepson Thomas Samuel: 1870, proved 1871;
  • HN1/20-1-3: position shown on annotated Ordnance Survey maps compiled for licensing purposes: early 20th century;
  • P91/28/48: indicated as having been at 59 North Street in notes compiled on Leighton Buzzard public houses: early 20th century;
  • P91/28/21: mentions closure of Buffalo: 1915

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:

1716-1728: William Meads;
1761: Matthew Rutley;
1767: John Charlers or Chartars;
1793: Thomas Geyton;
1800: Sarah Gayton;
1803: John White.

The Leathern Bottle closed around 1805 

The Buffalo first licensed in 1837

1854-1861: Thomas Samuel;
1863-1864: William Field;
1869-1871: Sarah Samuel
1871: Richard Samuel
1876-1881: Frederick Bishop;
1881-1891: John Walter Rogers;
1891-1900: Charles Arthur Rogers;
1900-1901: William Thomas Mabbutt;
1901: Frank Higgins;
1901-1902: George Crampin;
1902-1903: William Brooks [fined 10/- with 13/1 costs for selling beer to a child under 14 on 19 Aug 1902];
1903-1906: Frederick William Sewell;
1906: Charles Watson;
1906-1907: Charles Loake;
1907: Thomas Arthur;
1907: William Hubbock;
1907-1908: Samuel Henry Dickson;
1908-1909: Thomas Badrick;
1909-1913: Harry Dunmall
Public house closed 1913