The Mermaid Public House Leighton Buzzard
29 High Street about 1960
The Mermaid Inn: 29 High Street, Leighton Buzzard
Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a number of records making tantalizing references to the Mermaid Inn, though, sadly, most of these references were made after its closure! Interestingly it seems that it was part of a row of five drinking establishments on the north side of the High Street which were, moving west to east, the Black Lion, the Kings Arms, a barn belonging to the Black Boy, which probably stood on the south side of the High Street, the Red Lion, the Mermaid, the Raven and the Cock.
The first mention of the inn is in 1711 when part of a close behind and north of the Mermaid along with a granary, part of a dunghill and a slipe, or passage, all belonging to the Mermaid were conveyed by Leighton Buzzard joiner John West to Leighton Buzzard freemason Arthur Tarsey [RY523-524]. Similarly in 1725 an acre described as being on the backside of the "Mare-maid" was, along with other land, mortgaged by Arthur Tarsey [BC97].
Those are the only two references to the inn during its life. It seems to have been a freehold, rather than a copyhold, property and so there are no references to it in manorial records. This is a shame because Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a full run of court rolls for the Manor of Leighton Buzzard alias Grovebury, the principal landowner in the town before the 19th century 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].
The Mermaid had definitely closed by 1736 as in that year the Raven Inn, lying immediately west was conveyed by Arthur Tarsey to Leighton Buzzard baker, James Hawkins [RY243-244]. Abutting the Raven to the west was a messuage described as formerly being the Mermaid and now in the several occupations of Joseph Hopkins, John Hollingworth and Richard Fry. By 1774 the former Mermaid was described as the messuage formerly of John West [RY532-533]. In 1777 a part of the former inn was conveyed by Benjamin and Valentine Pyne to William Mathews [RY273] and three years later the former Mermaid was described, in a conveyance of another property, as being in occupation of Thomas Birdsey [RY248].
In 1803 the Mermaid was occupied by William Mathews' grandson, also William [RY266-267] and in 1843 Thomas Mathews devised part of the former Mermaid in his will to his brother John of Leighton Buzzard, watchmaker [RY273]. Thomas died the same year. Finally, in 1850 part of the former inn was conveyed by the executors of Thomas Mathews to John, after a gap of seven years [RY273].
A project called Our High Street Revisited 1819-2000 by Leighton-Linslade Local History Research Group [CRT130Lei58] aimed to use directories and census records to try to establish as full a history of use of the building in the High Street as possible. The results for Number 29 were as follows:
- 1819: owner/occupier: Thomas Matthews;
- 1841: Thomas A. Matthews, cabinet maker;
- 1851: Esther Matthews, fancy repository;
- 1861: Christopher Williamson, draper; Emily Matthews, toy shop;
- 1871: Christopher Williamson, draper;
- 1881-1898: George Johnson, tailor;
- 1903-1940: Chamberlain Brothers, tailors;
- 1984: Keymarket;
- 1986: Gateway, supermarket;
- 2000: Peacocks clothing store
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 Mermaid [DV1/R56/63] noted that it was owned and occupied by Chamberlain Brothers, stating "was rented at £42 per annum on 7 year lease expired in 1925". Accommodation comprised shops measuring 13 feet by 15 feet and 11 feet by 12 feet, a fitting room measuring 9 feet by 8 feet and 4 feet by 3 feet, a cutting room measuring 9 feet by 15 feet and a workroom measuring 10 feet 6 inches by 12 feet. Beneath lay a basement cellar measuring 10 feet by 12 feet. Above were stores measuring 6 feet by 5 feet and 10 feet by 17 feet and rooms ("not used) measuring 17 feet by 9 feet and 11 feet by 12 feet. Three attic rooms ("poor not used") lay in the roof. Outside stood an old brick and slate two storey building comprising a ground floor stores measuring 10 feet by 21 feet and a first floor workshop of the same size. There was also a wood and slate coal shed. The valuer commented: "good shop front"
Sadly this old building was demolished about 1963 and replaced by western end of the bland building which stands today. At the time of writing  the building houses Peacock's clothing store.
29 to 33 High Street in June 2008
- RY523-524: conveyance of part of a close behind and north of the Mermaid: 1711;
- BC97: conveyance of an acre on the backside of the Mermaid: 1725;
- RY243-244: the former Mermaid noted in an abuttal: 1736;
- RY532-533: the former Mermaid noted in an abuttal: 1774;
- RY273 and P91/28/48: conveyance of part of the former Mermaid: 1777;
- RY248: former Mermaid noted in an abuttal: 1780;
- RY266-267: former Mermaid noted in an abuttal: 1803;
- RY273: will of Thomas Matthews: 1843;
- RY273: death of Thomas Matthews: 1843
- RY273: conveyance of part of the former Mermaid: 1850.