The Cross Keys Public House Leighton Buzzard
The Cross Keys about 1798 [Z50/72/38] - the Boot and Curriers Arms are behind
The Cross Keys Public House: 35 Market Square, Leighton Buzzard
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.
It has been suggested that Middle Row was the site of the chapter house of the Fraternity or Gild of Corpus Christi, founded in 1473 by Lady of the Manor Alice, Duchess of Suffolk. It consisted of two guardians and brothers and sisters from the parish which built up an estate to celebrate mass in All Saints daily. Along with all other religious orders, they were abolished by King Henry VIII, in the case of this fraternity, in 1547. The Brotherhood House, as it was known, was still standing in 1583 when it was described as a house with two cellars and leased to Christopher Hoddesdon [KK157].
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 the first reference they could find to the Cross Keys was in the manorial court rolls of 1698 when John Marshall was admitted on the surrender of Rebecca King, Mary King and Jonathan King.
In 1721 Marshall surrendered the copyhold property to Robert Ashwell [X288/3 and Z1118/1/21/11]. Buckinghamshire Museum has a will of Edward Ashwell devising a cottage called the Cross Keys situate in the Middle Row of Leighton Buzzard with gatehouse, yards and barns behind dating to 1734. The Manor of Leighton Buzzard quitrent ledger for 1749 [KK783] notes Robert Ashwell paying a large quitrent of nine shillings "for a messuage being the Cross Keys Inn". In the ledger of 1755 [KK784] the quitrent was paid by Edward Ashwell, as it was in 1772.
In 1789 Edward Ashwell sold the freehold yard and garden of Cross Keys (which stood on the other side of the Market Square, then called Eagle Street, roughly on the site of today's 9 to 11 Market Square] to Woodell Iredale [Z1118/1/21/11]. At the same time he also surrendered a copyhold cottage [the Cross Keys] with shop and stalls in Middle Row to Iredale [Z1118/1/21/11].
In the Northampton Mercury of 19th January 1793 licensee of the Cross Keys, Woodell Iredale, 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).
Again in the Northampton Mercury, this time on 9th January 1796, it was stated that the Cross Keys was to be sold. Evidently, however, it was not, as in 1805 the trustees of the will of Woodell Iredale were admitted to the inn at the manorial court [Z1118/1/21/11] where they then surrendered the cottage "for a long time called the Cross Keys" to William Bennett [Z1118/1/21/11] who, in 1815, mortgaged it to John Goodman [Z1118/1/21/2]
In 1822 there was a serious affray at the Cross Keys. At the Quarter Sessions that year Ann, wife of Henry Samuel, the licensee of the public house stated [QSR1822/332] that Thomas Thorne had gone into the Cross Keys, already drunk, and called for beer, which her husband denied him. Thorne then "began to knock the tables and chairs about" and Anne, showing considerable pluck, tried to eject him and got two violent blows for her pains. Robert Pemberton from Leicestershire, a dealer in earthenware, presumably in Leighton for the market, also witnessed the violence [QSR1822/333] stating that about nine in the morning Thorne came into the public house and said "he came in for a row" and demanded beer, which was refused. He returned at three in the afternoon, drunk. Constable James Turney also stated that he arrested Thorne for making a riot and placed him in the parish cage, then: "Having heard in the evening that some one was giving beer to Thomas Thorne he went to the Cage, when Thomas Thorne attempted to escape and did violently assault him by kicking him in the ribs"
In 1832 William and Ann Bennett surrendered the Cross Keys to Leighton Buzzard brewer Samuel Reeve [Z1118/1/21/18]. On Reeve's death in 1844 a devisee in trust was admitted [Z1118/1/21/18] and around that time the public house was valued at £1,050 with £44 per annum rent [Z1118/1/21/16]. The establishment was bought, along with other Leighton Buzzard Brewery property, by Joseph Procter in 1845 [Z1118/1/21/18] and immediately leased them to Charles Reeve [Z1118/1/21/20]. The next year the Cross Keys was insured for £200 [Z1118/1/21/30].
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. Greening was charged with opening his house at inappropriate times. He clearly got his licence back again, as he was landlord until 1882.
In 1856 the license of Charles Reeves of the Cross Keys was suspended for harbouring prostitutes [PSLB1/1 page 31]. Procter leased the brewery and public houses, including the Cross Keys, to Edward Terry of Aylesbury [Buckinghamshire] in 1864 [Z1118/1/21/36] and after Procter's death in 1866 the brewery and licensed houses were conveyed by trustees of his will to James Procter [Z1118/1/21/38]. In 1882 Percy Procter leased brewery and licensed premises to Levi and Richard Gibson Ashdown of Leighton Buzzard, brewers [Z1118/1/21/43]. Two years later Percy Procter was dead and brewery and licensed premises were conveyed to by the trustees of the will to
Hugh Procter, Harold Procter, John Goldsmith Procter and Jane Procter [Z1118/1/21/45]. In 1897 they conveyed brewery and licensed houses to the Kingsbury (Saint Albans) Brewery Company Limited [Z1118/1/21/51].
The Cross Keys, Boot and Curriers Arms about 1895 [Z1306/72]
Two years later, in 1899, the Cross Keys burned down. Here is the description from the Luton News of 9th March 1899: "An extensive fire which but for its timely discovery, threatened to prove dangerous to life, broke out yesterday (Wednesday) morning on the premises known as the Cross Keys, Market Square, occupied by Mr. W. A. Sells. Mr. Sells noticing a smell of fire at 5.13 called to a passer by and asked id anything was amiss, when it was discovered that the "Bar" parlour was in flames. The services of the Fire Brigade were at once requisitioned, and Superintendent Sharp and Foremen Webster and Brown, with several brigadiers, were on the spot within ten minutes of the call, and thanks to their efforts and a plentiful supply of water from the town mains, the flames were considerably checked, although by this time practically the whole of the contents of the house were destroyed. Luckily the rest of the household were removed to the house of a neighbour before the bedroom was reached by the flames. Both the adjoining houses, the "Boot", and Mr. King's hairdresser's shop, were in danger of being destroyed, and as it was the former received considerable damage before the fire was got under, but the furniture in this case was nearly all saved. The building of the Cross Keys is a complete wreck and the "Boot" has sustained a good deal of damage. The buildings, we understand, are insured, but part only of the contents of the Cross Keys are insured in the Guardian Office. The total loss is estimated at about £800".
The Cross Keys about 1900 [Z1306/2]
The Cross Keys was rebuilt on a much larger scale, perhaps twice the size of the old inn. The new building was listed by the former Department of Environment in 1975 as Grade II, of special interest. The building is described in the listing as modified Carolean style. It is constructed of red brick with a slated roof with bracketed cornice. The Kingsbury Brewery was later bought out by Benskins Watford Brewery. The Cross Keys closed in 1988 and at the time of writing  the building is occupied by Lloyds TSB Bank.
- KK157: lease of the Brotherhood House: 1583;
- BC95: mortgage of Cross Keys Yard: 1719;
- X288/3 and Z1118/1/21/11: surrender of the Cross Keys in the Middle Row of Leighton Buzzard, in occupation of John Marshall junior, by John Marshall to Robert Ashwell: 1721;
- Buckinghamshire Museum has a will of Edward Ashwell devising a cottage called the Cross Keys situate in the Middle Row of Leighton Buzzard with gatehouse, yards and barns behind: 1734;
- KK783: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit rental - Robert Ashwell "for a messuage being the Cross Keys Inn" nine shillings: 1749;
- KK784: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit rental - Edward Ashwell "for a messuage the Cross Keys Inn and Richard Flemons" nine shillings: 1755;
- KK785: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit rental - Edward Ashwell "for a messuage the Cross Keys Inn and the next" nine shillings: 1772;
- Z1118/1/21/11: abstracted feoffment of freehold yard and garden of Cross Keys by Edward Ashwell to Woodell Iredale: 1789;
- Z1118/1/21/11: abstracted surrender of cottage with shop and stalls in Middle Row by Edward Ashwell to Woodell Iredale, victualler: 1789;
- Northampton Mercury: resolution of Leighton Buzzard publicans banning "seditious and disaffected persons" from their houses: 19 Jan 1793;
- Northamptonshire Mercury: Cross Keys to be sold: 9 Jan 1796;
- Z1118/1/21/11: abstracted feoffment of freehold yard and garden of Cross Keys by devisees in trust of will of Woodell Iredale to William Bennett: 1805;
- Z1118/1/21/11: abstracted admission of trustees of will of Woodell Iredale: 1805;
- Z1118/1/21/11: abstracted surrender of cottage "for a long time called the Cross Keys" by trustees of will of Woodell Iredale to William Bennett: 1805;
- Z1118/1/21/2: copyhold Cross Keys mortgaged by William Bennett to John Goodman: 1815;
- QSR1822/332-333: affray: 1822;
- CLP13: Register of alehouse licences: 1822 - 1828;
- Z1118/1/21/18: Cross Keys surrendered by William and Ann Bennett to Samuel Reeve: 1832;
- Z1118/1/21/18: admission of devisee in trust of Samuel Reeve to Cross Keys: 1844;
- Z1118/1/21/16: valued at £1,050 with £44 per annum rent: c.1845;
- Z1118/1/21/22: heriot in respect of Cross Keys: 1845;
- Z1118/1/21/18: covenant by personal representative of Samuel Reeve, amongst others, to surrender Cross Keys to Joseph Procter: 1845;
- Z1118/1/21/20: brewery and licensed houses leased by Joseph Procter to Charles Reeve: 1845;
- Z1118/1/21/27: £1/17/4 Land Tax on Cross Keys: 1845;
- Z1118/1/21/30: Cross Keys insured for £200: 1846;
- PSLB1/2 page 31: licence of Charles Reeves suspended for harbouring prostitutes: 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;
- Z1118/1/21/36: brewery and licensed houses leased by Joseph Procter to Edward Terry of Aylesbury: 1864;
- Z1118/1/21/38: brewery and licensed houses conveyed by trustees of will of Joseph Procter to James Procter: 1866;
- Z1118/1/21/43: lease of brewery and licensed houses by Percy Procter to Levi and Richard Gibson Ashdown of Leighton Buzzard, brewers: 1882;
- Z1118/1/21/45: conveyance of licensed premises by trustees of will of Percy Procter to Hugh Procter, Harold Procter, John Goldsmith Procter and Jane Procter: 1884;
- Z1118/1/21/51: conveyance of licensed premises by Hugh Procter, Harold Procter, John Goldsmith Procter and Jane Procter to Kingsbury (St.Albans) Brewery Company Limited: 1897;
- 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 35 Market Square in notes compiled on Leighton Buzzard public houses: early 20th century
- PSLB4/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Leighton Buzzard Petty Sessional Division: 1922-1948;
- HiV30: case regarding frontage of Cross Keys: 1925;
- BML10/42/203: sale book for property in Cross Keys Yard: 1936
35 Market Square June 2008
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:
1719-1721: John Marshall;
1789-1805: Woodell Iredale;
1805: Thomas Warner;
before 1822: William King;
1822-1839: Henry Samuel;
1846-1850: Richard Samuel;
1853-1854: William Forth;
1856: Charles Reeves;
1868-1882: William Greening;
1882-1883: Charles Greening;
1883-1897: John Clarke Greening;
1897-1898: Charles Morris Olney;
1898-1902: Walter Alfred Sells [convicted of selling and permitting drunkenness 14 Jun 1898; fined £5 with 8/6 costs];
1902-1904: Samuel Girrell;
1904-1910: William Martin Kirby;
1910-1924: Henry Hill;
1924-1927: Alexander Telfer Ewart;
1927-1928: Norman Edgar Horne;
1928-1933: Richard Francis Fowler;
1933-1934: Horace Cormack;
1934-1938: Francis Charles Cockerill;
1938-1941: Charles Thomas Cryer;
1941-1947: William James Staples;
1947-1952: Edward Joseph Hitching;
1952-1956: Edward Saweard Robbins;
1956: Michael Snowball
Public house closed 1988