Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > LeightonBuzzard > The Coach and Horses Leighton Buzzard

The Coach and Horses Leighton Buzzard

The site of the Coach and Horses June 2008
The site of the Coach and Horses June 2008

The Coach & Horses Public House: 31 Lake Street, Leighton Buzzard [earlier the Star then the Catherine Wheel or Saint Catherine's Wheel]

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.

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. Maureen Brown's notes, kindly lent to Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service, show that she found that in 1691 a cottage in Leck End called the Star was surrendered by Matthew Deane to Abraham Willis. 

In 1721 a cottage north-west of the Star was surrendered in the manorial court [X478/245]. In 1730 Thomas Potts, the infant son of Joseph and Mary Potts, along with Thomas Stevens, Roberta Gladman, Jane Willis and Hannah Suster, all heirs of Henry Wells, were admitted to the copyhold inn called the Star on Wells' death [X288/4]. Stevens, Gladman, Willis and Suster all surrendered their fifth shares in the building to Daniel Leach of London that same year [X288/4]. Daniel Leach died in 1732 and his brother James was then admitted as his heir at a manorial court in 1733 [X288/4]. The same year Thomas Potts, presumably no longer an infant, surrendered his fifth of the Star to James Leach who now owned the whole thing [X288/4]. He made his will in 1744 [STuncat368] and died two years later, leaving the inn he his son James [X288/5] who immediately sold it to John Franklin [X288/5].

In both 1749 [KK783] and 1755 [KK784] John Franklin was shown as the owner of the Star in ledgers of quitrents for the Manor of Leighton Buzzard; he paid one shilling and eight pence. In 1765 John Deverell surrendered a cottage in Leck End, now divided into two tenements and called the Star to the use of his will [X288/7]. This seems odd as there had been no surrender of the inn by John Franklin and in 1779 he made a wil ldevising all his property including the inn [BO311]. One can only assume that Deverell set up a competing inn called the Star which, though unusual, is not completely unheard of, something similar happening in Woburn. There is no further reference to Deverell's Star in records held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service.

It may have been this competition that prompted the name change of Franklin's establishment from the Star to the Catherine Wheel. In the Northampton Mercury of 19th January 1793 licensee of the Catherine Wheel, John Inwards 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).

At the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century a bewildering number of members of the Franklin family, all called John of Thomas owned the public house and their various interactions are very difficult to determine. What seems to have happened is that John Franklin in his will of 1779 devised all his lands in Leighton Buzzard to a succession of members of his family. First recipient was John Franklin, eldest son of his late nephew John Franklin. John Franklin the testator died in 1781 and his nephew John a year later. According to the terms of the will the testator's nephew Thomas Franklin, son of his late brother Thomas then succeeded. He lasted for two years then died leaving several sons and daughters and his eldest son Thomas took possession of the Catherine Wheel on reaching his majority in 1799. In that year he agreed to demise a number of properties including the inn to his mother Juliana, who had provided for him during his minority, in order to provide for her and his siblings [BO81]

In 1806 Thomas surrendered all the lands to another John Franklin, to be in their joint ownership, called "father of me" in the abstracted surrender, though this cannot possibly be right as Thomas' father, as we have seen, was Thomas, who died about 1784. Perhaps the clerk's mind was wandering by this stage and the text should have read "brother of me"! At any rate in 1815 this John Franklin died and his son, yet another John, was admitted to the Catherine Wheel [BO311]. Then in 1817 Thomas surrendered his half to his mother Juliana in exchange for an annuity partly secured on the inn [BO100]. A few months later John surrendered his share in property including the Catherine Wheel to Juliana [BO102]. By 1823 Juliana was dead and Thomas released the Catherine Wheel to her children George Arthur Franklin, Henry Hankins Franklin, Sabina and Martha Franklin [BO109]

The countywide 1876 return of licensed premises states that the owner was then George Franklin of Leighton Buzzard. The countywide return for 1891 states that the owner was the brewery firm Phipps & Company of Northampton, thus the Franklin family must have sold the premises between the compilation of the two lists - Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service does not have the deeds to this transaction, which are presumably at Northamptonshire Record Office.

The Coach and Horses closed on 29th September 1926. 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 it is fortunate that the Coach and Horses closed in 1926 as it was then a private house at the time of assessment and so details are held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service [public houses were assessed in a separate series of volumes which are, sadly, lost]. The valuer visiting 31 Lake Street [DV1/R80/24] noted that it wasowned and occupied by Francis Gleed. It was"brick and tile, old, formerly public house" and comprised anentrance passage, two sitting rooms, a kitchen, larder and washhouse ["large"] on the ground floor withbasement cellars below and three bedrooms above, with a further bedroom over the gateway into the yard in which were a brick, wood and tile coachhouse and two stall stable used as a store and a brick and tile two storey barn ["dilapidated"]. The valuer summed the house up as:"Large, roomy old place, poor".

In 1979 Bedfordshire County Council bought the 1,170 square yard site of 29 and 31 Lake Street from the Northampton Brewery Company Limited and Chef and Brewer Limited as the site for the new Leighton Buzzard library. The Coach and Horses thus lies under the southern portion of the library buildings. Just before the current flats occupying the adjacent site were built in 2000 an excavation was undertaken by Hertfordshire Archaeological Trust who found a late medieval pit (probably 14th to 16th century by pottery evidence) which may have been a sand quarry and 19th century foundations and soakaways from the malting which had lain next door to the Coach and Horses at 33 Lake Street.


  • X478/245: surrender of cottage in Leck End: 1721;
  • X288/4: admission: 1730;
  • X288/4: surrender: 1730;
  • X288/4:admission: 1733;
  • X288/4: surrender1733;
  • X288/4: admission: 1740;
  • STuncat368: will of James Leach: 1744;
  • X288/5: death of James Leach: 1746;
  • X288/5: admission of James Leach: 1746;
  • X288/5: surrender:1 746;
  • X288/5 and BO6: admission: 1746;
  • KK783: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit: 1749;
  • KK784: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit rental: 1755;
  • X288/7: surrender: 1765;
  • BO311: abstracted devised by will of John Franklin: 1779;
  • BO311: abstracted admission of Thomas Franklin: 1782;
  • Northampton Mercury: resolution of Leighton Buzzard publicans banning "seditious and disaffected persons" from their houses: 19 Jan 1793;
  • BO81: agreement: 1799;
  • BO86: admission: 1799;
  • BO311: surrender: 1806;
  • BO102: admission: 1815;
  • BO100: grant of annuity: 1817;
  • BO102 and WI435: admission: 1817;
  • CLP13: Register of alehouse licences: 1822 - 1828;
  • BO109: release: 1823;
  • X478/255 and CRT130Lei4: surrender of cottage NW of Star, then called Catherine Wheel now called Coach & Horses: 1829;
  • 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;
  • X606/5uncat: list of properties of the Saint George's Chapel, Windsor: 1862;
  • X606/6uncat: list of properties of the Saint George's Chapel, Windsor: 1868-1926;
  • HN1/20-1-3: position shown on annotated Ordnance Survey maps compiled for licensing purposes: early 20th century;
  • PSLB4/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Leighton Buzzard Petty Sessional Division: 1922-1948  

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:

1721: Henry Wells;
1735: Francis White;
1739: James Leach;
1746: John Hawkins;
1765: Edward White and/or Elizabeth Rowland;
1776-1777: Widow Hawkins;
1778: Richard Dell;
1793-1810: John Inwards;
1817: Robert Samwell;
1822-1823: Daniel Claridge;
1828-1854: Thomas Parsons;
1862-1871: Thomas Barker
1876-1878: Sarah Barker;
1878-1888: George Stears;
1888: Joseph White;
1888-1897: Joseph Hardwick;
1897-1898: Mary Jane Hardwick;
1898-1902: John Sadler;
1902-1904: Frederick Mills;
1904-1906: William Charles Whiteman;
1906-1907: Charles Penn Geyton;
1907-1908: William Hubbock;
1908-1912: Frederick Fountaine;
1912-1926: Charles Penn Geyton
Public house closed 29 Sep 1926