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The Peacock Public House Leighton Buzzard

The Peacock about 1900
The Peacock about 1920

The Peacock Public House: 1 and 3 Lake Street, 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.

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 reveal that the earliest mention of the Peacock was in 1690 when Martha Peacock was admitted to the copyhold inn on the death of her husband John [X288/27]. Clearly the inn was named after the owners.

The building was listed by the former Department of Environment in 1954 as Grade II, of special interest. The department's architect considered it to be a 16th or early 17th century building. It is timber-framed with a steeply pitched old tile roof with gable, plaster infilling and some early 19th century brickwork to the front. In 1979 the property a detailed internal inspection by Bedfordshire County Council's Historic Environment Officer showed that the building is much older than was thought. It probably dates to the early 15th century and so is the earliest secular building in the town.

In 1711 John Peacock, son of Abraham Peacock of Tring [Hertfordshire], innholder, conditionally surrendered the Peacock consisting of four bays as well as the White Horse [today's Roebuck] to Mark Fountain by way of mortgage [X288/1]. Four years later Peacock surrendered it to his mother Anne [X288/3]. Anne Peacock died in 1730 and devised it to her son Francis, who was admitted in that year [X2884]. Two years later Francis surrendered it to the uses of his will [X288/4]. The following year his widow, Jane was admitted [X288/4]. In 1766 Abraham Peacock died and the following year his widow Mary was admitted to the Peacock [X288/7].

In the Northampton Mercury of 19th January 1793 licensee of the Peacock, Thomas Parson, 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).

Between 1766 and 1821 the Peacock finally moved out of the eponymous family's possession as in the reference book of that year accompanying Benjamin Bevan's 1819 map the inn is described as owned and occupied by Samuel Hopkins [X1/34]. In 1844 Hopkins surrendered it to Samuel Reeve [Z1118/1/21/18], who died that year and his son Charles was duly admitted [Z1118/1/21/18]. Around this time the inn was valued at £850 and rent at £43 per annum [Z1118/1/21/16]. In 1845 Charles Reeve covenanted to surrender the Peacock and other property to Joseph Procter, who had just bought reeve's brewery in the High Street and its licensed houses [Z1118/1/21/18]. Procter immediately leased the brewery and houses back to Reeve [Z1118/1/21/20]. The Peacock was insured for a rebuilding value of £300 in 1845 and 1846 [Z1118/1/21/26 and 30]. In 1864 Procter leased his brewery and licensed houses to Edward Terry [Z1118/1/21/36]. The Peacock was described as having a "newly built brick fronted house with small washhouse in rear with large common yard containing two stalled stable, wheeler's and blacksmith's shops two other large stables and wood hovels (all thatched) and shed with loft over in occupation of Charles White" at the rear - the blacksmith's forge referred to a century later by Page Woodcock [see below]. Two years later Joseph Procter was dead and his executors conveyed the brewery and licensed houses to James Procter [Z1118/1/21/38].

In notes kindly lent to Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service, Maureen Brown has identified three newspaper stories, all relating to the Peacock, found in the Leighton Buzzard Observer for 1869. The first of these refers to a fire: "These fires, although serious, were quite cast into the shade by a diabolical attempt made on Saturday evening to set fire to some premises at about the centre of the town. The firing of a few hay stacks would have been unimportant to the daring attempt on Saturday to create a conflagration, had it been successful. At about eight o'clock - it is remarkable that the half-dozen fires that have taken place during the last three weeks have occurred at precisely the same timew, within a few minutes - on Saturday evening, as Mr. Read, a shoemaker, was going to water his horse at the Peacock yard, he saw the thatched roof of his stable on fire, and he at once threw upon the burning mass the contents of the bucket he was carrying, and ran and gave the alarm of fire. Mr. Sanders, the landlord of the Peacock Inn, and some men whom he called to his assistance, immediately ran to the spot, and by the aid of several buckets of water, managed to put out the fire in a short space of time". Sadly, the other two stories show James Sanders in a much less positive light.

At the petty sessions of 26th January 1869 he was charged with assault: "James Sanders, landlord of the Peacock Inn, Leighton Buzzard, and his wife, Charlotte Ann Elizabeth Sanders, was charged with having assaulted a hawker, named George Hall, of Leighton. It appeared from evidence that Hall went into Sanders' house, on the 19th of January, and "tossed" a man for some beer; when Mrs. Saunders ordered him out of the house, stating that she would not have any of "Makepeace's party" there. Hall did not go at once, upon which Mrs. Sanders attempted to put hil out and, while doing so, struck him and scratched his face. James Sanders "put his fist in his face". In defence, Mr. and Mrs. Sanders said that Hall was gambling in the house - which was a thing they di not allow - and they turned him out. The bench thought the assault was the result of some ill-feeling towards Hall, and fined each defendant 10 shillings and 12 shillings 9 pence costs; making althogether £2 5 shillings 6 pence".

Sanders was clearly quite a violent man and his next brush with the law, on 16th March, was potentially much more serious. "James Sanders (37), landlord of the Peacock Inn, Lake Street, was charged with having, on the 25th of february, assaulted Police-constable Ruffhead whilst in the execution of his duty. The defendant pleaded not guilty. The police-officer said: On the evening of the 25th of February, at about half-past eleven o'clock, I passed the door of the Peacock, and when I arrived as far as Mr. Watts' shop window the defendant came out of his house and followed me. On coming up with me, he commenced a volley of abuse, and wished to know what I wanted by his door. I saw that Sanders was very drunk, and I therefore thought it necessary to visit his house and see who was there. I did so. I looked into the tap-room, and saw one man only. I was the  going to a back room, when the defendant went before me and placed his back against the door of the room  I wished to enter. I went towards the door, when Sanders caught hold of me by the coat and thrust me back, saying that I should not look into the room. I was then going away, when the defendant's wife came and endeavoured to persuade her husband to open the door for me to look into the room. His wife also requested him to loose me when he held me by the coat. I was going away, when the defendant came after me, and again taking hold of me by the coat, said that he would make me go back and look into the room. I saw that there was no light in the room, and walked away, and, as I was leaving, I was accosted by a man in the passage of the house. He said he was the parish constable and wished to know what I wanted in the house. He thought I had no business there, as there was no other person in the house besides himself, the landlord and his wife".

"Major Hanmer: Was the man drunk or sober".

"Witness: Well, I should not like to say that he was drunk, but he was very excited. He said he had been a constable for a good many years, and knew what police duties were. If I reported Sanders to my superior officer, and he were summoned, he (the constable) would come and gove evidence for the defendant".

"There was no other evidence for the prosecution"

"In defence, Sanders said that on the evening in question he started from Birmingham at about six o'clock, and arrived home at about ten, and all that passed his lips during that time was a cup of coffee at Rugby, and he had only had one glass of gin-and-water when the policeman came to his house, so that he could not have been drunk, as alleged by Ruffhead. Mr. Hammond, the parish constable, was awaiting his arrival from Birmingham, as he (Sanders) had promised to do some business for him there, and there was no other person in the house. While he and Hammond were talking together, Mrs. Sanders said she thought someone was listening at the window. He went out and found the policeman at the window, listening. He (Sanders) felt annoyed, and told the officer that he thought he would be better employed in looking round some farm yard, or watching hen-roosts or potato pits. He also told him that it was unmanly to listen at his widow; if he thought there was anything wrong going on in his house he should have come in, as his superior officer would have done. Ruffhead then said that as he particularly wished it he would come into the house and he did so. Sanders tild him that there was only one person in the house, but the policeman said he would see for himself, and, after looking in the tap-room, oushed by him to go to other apartments. Sanders said he thought it was not right that the officer come in and wander all over his house when he knew that there was nothing going on which called for his interference. He did not touch the policeman at all. Ruffhead looked where he liked about the house, and then went away".

"William Hammond said that he was at the Peacock on the night in question. He had been waiting there for some time for Sanders' return from Birmingham, when the policeman, whom the defendant had found at the window, came in. Sanders was quite sober. Hearing some words pass between the policeman and Sanders in the passage, he went out, and saw Ruffhead oushed by the defendant, and go to a room which Mrs. Saunders opened and allowed him to look into. The room was in darkness, no one having been in it during the evening. He was present during the whole of the time and did not see the defendant touch the policeman. He thought Ruffhead had exceeded his duty".

"Ruffhead, in answer to the magistrates, said that he did not listen at Sanders' window. He passed by the house without stopping, and the defendant followed him. He also said that when the defendant had hold of him by the coat, Hammond stood behind him i nsuch a position that he could not see the assault".

"The magistrates having consulted, dismissed the case, but cautioned the defendant - whose house, they said, did not stand very high in the estimation of the Bench - as to how he conducted his business".

By the time of the countywide register of licensed premises of 1876 the owner was Percy Procter, who leased brewery and premises to Ashdown Brothers. In 1882 Procter again leased the brewery and premises to Levi and Richard Gibson Ashdown [Z1118/1/21/43]. On Procter's death brewery and licensed houses were conveyed to Hugh Procter, Harold Procter, John Goldsmith Procter and Jane Procter [Z1118/1/21/45]. In 1891 the Ashdowns were still leasing the brewery and licensed houses from Procter. In 1897 Hugh, Harold, John Goldsmith and Jane Procter conveyed brewery and licensed house to Kingsbury (St.Albans) Brewery [Z1118/1/21/51]. Kingsbury was later taken over by Benskins Watford Brewery, which later became Ind Coope.

In 1952 Page Woodcock wrote in the Bedfordshire Magazine (page 232): "Mr. Innes led us to Leighton's oldest pub, the Peacock, tucked away in Corn Exchange Alley. 'Everyone who is somebody in Leighton has been in the Peacock' proudly asserted a former resident, Mr. Stanley Cook, J.P. 'Built 1441' its landlord, Mr. Clarence Harris, late of Australia, informed us somewhat too exactly. This 'shambles' of a corner of Leighton (may the city fathers preserve it) is well worth exploration. Once one could enter this little Peacock by several approaches - from behind the Corn Exchange; from Hockliffe Street through a dormer gateway over which is a coachman's room over 300 years old; or, as I did, through an arched passage of flagstones and cobbles to the inn yard which still houses a blacksmith's forge of ancient oak and brick. Inside the inn, I climbed the rickety, narrow stairs to rooms with surprisingly high ceilings where the loft timbers have been cut out to make spacious, airy bedrooms. Little dormer windows open upon the red-tiled roof, and a hotch-potch of nooks and crannies make the old house fascinating. Even the painted panelling of the bathroom is of oak. The cellar, with its blackened and disused bread-oven, has been roofed over and is hardly man-high, so that, amidst timbers 'so hard you can't drive a nail in 'em' the Peacock has so many different levels that Mr. Harris stood four feet below us to pass up our beer through the hatch".

In 1975 Ind Coope made repairs to the south wall by Ind Coope. The public house closed in 1979 and at the time of writing [2009] is a Thai restaurant. the Peacock name survives both in the name of the restaurant and the Mews that lies behind it.

 1 to 3 Lake Street June 2008
1 to 3 Lake Street June 2008


  • X288/1: conditional surrender: 1711;
  • X288/3: surrender: 1715;
  • X288/4: death of Anne Peacock: 1730;
  • X288/4: surrender: 1732;
  • X288/4: admission: 1733;
  • X288/7: death of Abraham Peacock: 1766;
  • X288/7: admission: 1767;
  • Northampton Mercury: resolution of Leighton Buzzard publicans banning "seditious and disaffected persons" from their houses: 19 Jan 1793;
  • RY683: abuttal of Chalfferns Hall: 1810;
  • X1/34: owner and occupier Samuel Hopkins on Bevan's map pf the town: 1821;
  • CLP13: Register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
  • Z1118/1/21/18: recited surrender: 1844;
  • Z1118/1/21/18: recited admission: 1844
  • Z1118/1/21/16: valued at £850 with a rent of £43 per annum: c.1845;
  • Z1118/1/21/22: heriot in respect of Peacock: 1845;
  • Z1118/1/21/18: covenant by Charles Reeve and others to surrender Peacock and other property to Joseph Procter: 1845;
  • Z1118/1/21/20: lease of brewery and licensed premises by Joseph Procter to Charles Reeve: 1845;
  • Z1118/1/21/27: Land Tax of £1/1/- on Peacock: 1845;
  • Z1118/1/21/26: Peacock insured for £300: 1845;
  • Z1118/1/21/30: Peacock insured for £300: 1846;
  • A79/2: inclosure award notes Joseph Procter as owner: 1848;
  • Z1185/1: précis of diary of Joseph Procter noting trade etc.: 1853-1865;
  • 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: lease of brewery and licensed premises: 1864;
  • Z1118/1/21/38: conveyance of brewery and licensed premises: 1866;
  • Z1118/1/21/43: lease of brewery and licensed premises: 1882;
  • Z1118/1/21/45: conveyance of licensed premises: 1884;
  • Z1118/1/21/51: conveyance of licensed premises: 1897;
  • 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:
before 1715: Robert Bonnell;
1715: Pilgrim;
1766: George Cooper and/or Thomas Crane;
1793: Thomas Parson;
before 1821: Sarah Parsons;
1821: Samuel Hopkins;
1845: Thomas Gilbert, millwright;
1853: Thomas Warner;
1861: Charles White;
1862: William Gudgeon;
1864: Charles White;
1869: James Sanders
1876: John White James;
1881: Charles Pointer [convicted 10 Jun 1879 of keeping house open after hours; fined £5 with 8/6 costs];
1883: George Cartmale;
1883: Mary Cartmale;
1885: Charles Pointer junior;
1885: Sarah Ann Pointer;
1888: Albert Edward Easterbrook;
1889: John Staples;
1890: Frederick Cook;
1925: Jane Cook;
1934: Percy Clark;
1935: Charles Harris;
1956: Gilbert William Carthew;
1966: James Hall;
1969: Raymond Richard Yeo;
1971: Frederick James Thomas;
1975: William John Spencer;
1978: Paul Herbert Robert Rutter
Public house closed 1979