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The Eagle and Child Leighton Buzzard

1-5 Market Square in the late 19th century
1-5 Market Square in the late 19th century [Z50/72/130]

The Eagle & Child Inn: 1-5 Market Square, Market Square

An article in Volume III of Bedfordshire Magazine by Page Woodcock, page 192 includes a paragraph on the Eagle and Child: "The old-'uns still remember when the keystone of its gateway bore the eagle and child's head. It is an unusual title. The combination appears on the arms of the Earls of Derby, and is connected with the legend of the finding of a child at the foot of a tree in which an eagle nested. In 1342, an Earl of Derby stayed at the local manor. Famed in the North as a champion jouster he competed in Dunstable's tournament that same year. Was it a sporting fan who copied the design on the earl's shield and hoisted it outside his alehouse?"

It is a colourful story and who knows it may even have a grain of truth in it. Henry Grossmont was created Earl of Derby in 1337 and was one of Edward III's chief captains during the wars with France. 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. The authors found a reference to the Eagle and Child in 1621 in the manorial court rolls, owned by Edward Wilkes. He was still the owner in 1626 when he appears in the Quitrent ledger for the Manor, paying a quitrent of five shillings for the Eagle and Child; he also owned the gatehouse of the Talbot and the Crown [KK776]. By 1656 Thomas Disney was paying five shillings for the Eagle and Child [KK780].

In 1684 some nefarious trading occurred by a man staying at the inn. One John Green of Maidstone [Kent] was examined by the justices regarding the sale of stolen cattle, in his statement he said that about four of the clock in the afternoon, in the Road between Brickhill and Hockliffe [the modern A5], he bought three cows from a man he overtook on the road, two were black and one brown. Green stated that he paid nine pounds five shillings for them. Naturally, he did not know the name of the vendor. He arrived in Leighton about two hours later and sold the cows in the market the next day, having stayed overnight at the Eagle and Child [HSA1684/W/69].

In 1687 Disney sold the Eagle and Child, described as abutting on "the High Cross" on the south and Friday Lane on north, along with other lands, to Thomas Coles for £255/7/6 [RI118]. Coles surrendered the copyhold premises in 1711 to the use of his will in which he devised it to his kinswoman Mary Osmond (who lived there with Coles and her husband John) and, after her death, to his nephews Richard Gardner and John Burton [RI120]. Burton, a butcher of Clerkenwell [Middlesex] did not want the inn as he sold his inheritance to Henry Gurney of Potsgrove, grazier in 1715 [RI121]. The inn was insured against damage by fire to the tune of £300 in 1727[NC705] and described as having a brewhouse, three thatched barns and six stables. In 1731 Henry Gurney bought the other half of the inn from Richard Gardner, a cooper of Leighton Buzzard [RI122-123].

Gurney split the building up, selling off three shops which had lately been part of the inn and now adjoined it in 1740 [RI125]. That year he also made his will and devised the inn to his wife and Elliston Walker "who now lives with us and has been a faithful servant". He died in 1741 [RI126] and two years later his widow sold her half of the building to Elliston Walker for £140 [RI127-128].

In 1745 Walker sold the Eagle & Child to Hezekiah Walker, citizen and plumber of London for £280 [RI129-130]. In 1749 Walker paid a quitrent of six shillings and sixpence "for the new Eagle and Child inn" [KK783]. Clearly he had enlarged the building, as it now attracted a higher quitrent. The building was listed by the former Department of Environment in 1954 and is listed as Grade II, of special interest. The listing ties in well with the evidence of rebuilding in the 1740s as it is described as an 18th century row of houses. The construction is of a local bond of vitrified headers dressed with red brick, It has an old tiled roof with stone coped Dutch gables to the side elevations and comprises three storeys. In the Land Tax return of 1750 it was noted: "Part of the Eagle and Child empty" [F89] and in 1755 Walker again paid six shillings and sixpence quitrent [KK784].

In 1960 Bedfordshire Historical Records Society published a volume, its fortieth, dedicated to diaries. County Archivist Joyce Godber edited and published the diary of Leighton Buzzard Justice of the Peace John Salusbury (1713-1787) written between the years 1757 and 1759. He was a reasonably frequent visitor because his club, the Civil Society, sometimes met there at a member's nomination. He made visits on 2nd March 1758, 14th September, 15th February 1759 and 31st May. He made a visit on Boxing Day 1758 without attending a club meeting. He had been at the nearby Market Hall where John Millard, James Clarke and Hawkins were nominated surveyors of the highways for the parish for 1759. He then "adjourned to the Eagle and Child, where I spent the evening".

Hezekiah Walker made his will in 1762 and devised the Eagle and Child jointly to his sons Hezekiah, James and Thomas [RI131]. He died in 1772 and in that year Thomas paid the six shillings and sixpence quitrent [KK785]. Two years later he sold the inn to Leighton Buzzard innholder Joseph Procter [RI132-133], the conveyance making it clear that he was the only surviving son of Hezekiah Walker. Procter sold the inn to Samuel Simpson, innholder of Leighton Buzzard in 1786 [RI134-135] and the following year amessuage "now or heretofore part of the inn called the Eagle & Child" abutting east on the inn and south on High Cross was sold by Samuel Simpson to John Stone [RI136-137].

In the Northampton Mercury of 19th January 1793 licensee of the Eagle and Child, Samuel Simpson, 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).

Leighton Buzzard vestry meetings were held at the Eagle and Child in 1799 and 1801 then, in 1802, it was resolved that the inn was not a legal place to hold vestry meetings [CRT130Lei5]. In 1805 Samuel Simpson devised the inn to Ann, wife of Thomas Lane Wood in his will [RI141]. He died in 1807 and in 1813 Thomas and Anne Wood conveyed the property to Robert Thorp of Leighton Buzzard, draper, and Mary, his wife. The property is described in the deed as being "late known as Eagle & Child…now used as a dwelling house by Robert Thorp" [RI142-143]. This might suggest that the inn closed on Samuel Simpson's death in 1807.

In 1833 part of the former inn was sold and the conveyance described the premises as comprising a parlour in front and three rooms in front over it, another room in front being over the gatehouse room on the second floor with a garret over it. There was also a passage, staircase and kitchen with a room over it with vaults and cellars. The description indicates that this was Number 1 Market Square.

3 and 5 High Street, currently [2011] Lloyds Pharmacy has been a chemist's shop for something over 170 years. The following obituary for chemist Robert Richmond appeared in The Bedfordshire Mercury on 28th October 1882: "We very much regret to have to record the death, which took place on Friday week, of Mr. Robert Richmond, one of the oldest-established and most esteemed tradesmen of Leighton Buzzard. The deceased was best known in connexion with the business of a chemist and druggist conducted by him for a period of 45 years. In times gone by he had taken a prominent part in local affairs and served in various parochial offices, but for many years past he had lived a partially retired life, and had taken little or no part in public matters. In politics he was a staunch Conservative. About five weeks ago Mr. Richmond, who had been in tolerably good health up to that time, was suddenly seized with paralysis, brought on by a weakness of the heart, which completely prostrated him, and from which he never rallied. The shock,upon a system already udnermined by the natural infirmities of age, was too much, and he gradually sank, and died, at the age of 69. He was a man of very genial disposition; his loss is much lamented, and his surviving relatives have the deep sympathy of the townspeople generally".

The 1881 census reveals that Robert Richmond had been born in Brompton [Kent], his wife Eliza, two years his senior being from West Malling in the same county. His son Robert carried on the business after his father's death, the 1891 census revealing that he had been born in Leighton Buzzard. He wrote a history of the town in 1928 called Leighton Buzzard and Its Hamlets. Directories for the county were published every few years and Kelly's Directory for 1894 shows Robert Richmond still at the address. By the Kelly's of 1898, however, Philip Stoneham Canning is listed as chemist, as he is in 1903. By 1906 John Robert Sturdy was chemist at 3 Market Square and by 1914 Henry Samuel was in residence, still practising as a chemist at the address in the last directory for the county, of 1940.

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 1-5 Market Square found that 1 [DV1/R74/46] was owned and occupied by Doctor Arthur James and 3 to 5 [DV1/R74/47] by Henry Samuel. Number 1 had basement cellars and, on the ground floor, an entrance hall, dining room, breakfast room, kitchen with scullery and larder and a surgery. The first floor contained a drawing room, bedroom, dressing room and bathroom and the second floor three bedrooms and a dressing room. The third floor comprised two lean-to attics ["poor"]. Outside was a range of brick and corrugated iron stabling containing seven loose boxes ["only one box now used"] and a fodder store. There was also a greenhouse, tennis court and garden. Number 3 had a right of way through the gateway entrance. Mary Ann Keys also rented part of Number 1 comprising two rooms downstairs and two above with an outside W.C.

Numbers 3 and 5 comprised two ground floor shops measuring 17 feet 6 inches by 15 feet and 17 feet 6 inches by 7 feet, a dispensing room measuring 9 feet by 11 feet 6 inches, a stocktaking room at the back measuring 15 feet by 14 feet, a storeroom measuring 7 feet by 9 feet and a back office 9 feet by 12 feet. There was also a dining room (15 feet by 17 feet), kitchen (17 feet by 13 feet), larder, scullery (13 feet 6 inches by 15 feet) and cupboard. Basement cellars extended under part of the dining room and shop. The first floor contained two warehouse rooms measuring 15 feet by 14 feet each, a bedroom measuring 14 feet by 16 feet 6 inches, a drawing room measuring 20 feet by 16 feet 6 inches, a boxroom measuring 12 feet by 10 feet, a bathroom and a W.C. On the second floor were five bedrooms (9 feet by 11 feet, 12 feet by 17 feet 6 inches, 10 feet by 14 feet, 12 feet 6 inches by 17 feet 6 inches and 11 feet by 20 feet). Outside stood a garage for one car and a storeroom with a loft over. The garden was large. The valuer commented: "Very fair repair - position not good, hidden, more rooms than wanted, large".

In the summer of 1964 the tenant of a flat above the shop at 1 Market Square died and, sadly, the first anyone knew of it was when maggots were seen on the ceiling of the electricity showroom below. In 2007 planning permission was obtained for converting the first to third floor offices into ten flats with a two or three storey rear extension by Oakflower Limited.

 1-5 Market Square June 2008
1-5 Market Square June 2008


  • KK776: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit rental: 1626;
  • KK777: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit: 1627;
  • KK780: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit rental: 1656;
  • HSA1684/W/69: theft of cattle: 1684;
  • RI118: feoffment: 1687;
  • RI120: devised in a will: 1711;
  • RI121: conveyance of half: 1715
  • BC95: mortgage of garden of Eagle & Child: 1719;
  • NC705: insured against fire: 1727;
  • RI122-123: conveyance of half: 1731;
  • RI125: conveyance of three shops: 1740;
  • RI126: devised in a will 1740, proved 1741;
  • RI127-128: conveyance of half: 1743;
  • RI129-130: conveyance: 1745;
  • KK783: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit rental: 1749;
  • F89: Land Tax return: 1750;
  • KK784: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit rental: 1755;
  • RI131: devised in a will: 1762, proved 1772;
  • KK785: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit rental: 1772;
  • RI132-133: conveyed: 1774;
  • RI134-135: conveyed: 1786;
  • RI136-137: conveyance of messuage "now or heretofore part of the inn called the Eagle & Child": 1787;
  • Northampton Mercury: resolution of Leighton Buzzard publicans banning "seditious and disaffected persons" from their houses: 19 Jan 1793;
  • CRT130Lei5b: All Saints’ vestry meeting held at the Eagle and Child: 1799;
  • CRT130Lei5: All Saints’ vestry meeting held at the Eagle and Child: 1801;
  • CRT130Lei5: resolution that the Eagle and Child was not a legal place to hold vestry meetings: 1802;
  • RI141: devised in a will: 1806, proved 1807;
  • BO1294: devise of house adjoining Eagle & Child: 1809;
  • BO1102: auction sale held at inn: 1812;
  • RI142-143: messuage "late known as Eagle & Child…now used as a dwelling house by Robert Thorp" conveyed: 1813;
  • NC399: conveyance of part of the former inn: 1833;
  • Z1118/1/21/39: former Eagle & Child mentioned in abuttal: 1866;
  • Z50/72/130: photograph of 1 Market Square": 1870;
  • P91/28/48: notes: early 20th century;
  • P91/28/48: indicated as having been at 1-5 Market Square in notes compiled on Leighton Buzzard public houses: early 20th century


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:

1687: Matthew Disney and his widowed mother Margaret;
1711-1727: John Osmond;
1731-1743: John Backhouse;
1785-1806: Samuel Simpson;
1811: Joseph Balls
Inn closed about 1807