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The Raven Public House Leighton Buzzard

29 to 33 High Street in June 2008
The site of the Raven in June 2008

The Raven Public House: 31 to 33 High Street, Leighton Buzzard

The first mention of the Raven so far found is in 1669 when its owner, Thomas Meriden, mortgaged it to Richard Doggett for £50 [RY229]. There had been another Raven in the High Street - in 1654 it was divided into two and the western part later became the Black Lion at 23 High Street. It seems logical that the name simply transferred to a new inn which opened shortly after the old Raven closed - though the history of inns and public houses is not always logical! The mortgage was transferred by Doggett's widow to Richard Jones in 1687 [RY230].

In 1680 Meriden had devised the inn to his wife Avice in his will with the stipulation that after her death it was to devise to their niece Anne Lake of Aylesbury [Buckinghamshire]. By 1705 Anne Lake had become Anne Kelly of Wing [Buckinghamshire], widow and she sold the Raven to Arthur Tarsey and Thomas Thurston for £172/3/- [RY231-232]. Arthur Tarsey sold the Raven to James Hawkins in 1736 for £200 [RY243-244] - it was then described as abutting the Cock to the east and the Mermaid to the west. Interestingly it seems that it was part of a row of six drinking establishments on the north side of the High Street in the 18th century 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

Four months after he had bought it Hawkins, a baker, conveyed the eastern half of the building - described as the lower front room next to the gatehouse and the little room behind as well as a little place under the stairs and the chambers and garrets above as well as the chamber and garret over the gatehouse (but not the gatehouse itself) to Thomas Sharpe, a locksmith for £75 [RY245-247]. Also included in the sale were a thatched and boarded barn of one bay referred to as a "Bogghouse" and a small piece of land measuring 14 feet by 10 feet. Although a freehold property the owner of the Raven still had to pay a quitrent to the Manor of Leighton Buzzard alias Grovebury. Quitrent registers for 1749 [KK783] and 1755 [KK784] show Thomas Sharpe paying one shilling and three pence for half the Raven whilst James Hawkins paid a similar sum for the other half.

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a formulary and notebook kept by 18th century attorney Benjamin Pyne which contains a list of twelve licensed properties in the town in 1761. Each inn also has a name beside it which appears to be the name of the licensee. The Raven is linked with the name of James Hawkins showing that as well as being the owner he also ran the public house. The quitrent ledger for 1772 showed Thomas Sharpe still owned his half of the Raven [KK785]

By 1769 Thomas Hawkins was dead and his son Thomas, a Cranfield schoolmaster, sold the western half of the building, still trading as the Raven, to John Stringer of Husborne Crawley for £172/10/-. Stringer made his will the next year [RY260] and devised the Raven to his wife Mary and, after her death, to their son John. Thomas Sharpe sold his half of the Raven, no longer used as an inn, in 1783 to Thomas Bissell, a Shropshire ironmonger, for £80 [RY250-251]. Bissell sold it to Sir Jonathan Lovett of Soulbury [Buckinghamshire] for £73/10/- in 1784 [RY252-253] and he to David Willis, solicitor, for the same price in 1787 [RY254-255]. In 1790 Willis exchanged the former eastern part of the Raven with Stringer for the latter's fasting house, slaughterhouse and hovel adjoining the "Bogghouse" in the upper yard of the Raven [RY261]. At this time the eastern half of the building was tenanted by Thomas Sharpe's son, also Thomas. In 1792 John Stringer conveyed the Raven and the former eastern half of it, still evidently just a private house, to Charles Lucas of Aylesbury, tallow chandler following an auction at which Lucas paid £270 for the building [RY262-263].

In the Northampton Mercury of 19th January 1793 licensee of the Raven, Daniel Reeve, 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).

Charles Lucas sold his public houses in 1798 to Edward Terry of Aylesbury, common brewer for £900 [RY265]. As well as the Raven this included the Buckinghamshire inns called the Black Boy in Aylesbury, the Bull at Stoke Mandeville, the Swan at Cublington and the Old Red Lion at Bierton End, Swanbourne. In 1803 Richard Terry of Aylesbury, common brewer, sold the Raven and its eastern private house to the landlord Daniel Reeve for £240 [RY266-267]. Two years later Reeve sold the building to William Dickens for £270.

Dickens made his will in 1836 and died in 1838 [RY272]; in 1842 his wife paid the quitrent on the property [RY286]. In 1850, after the death of Mrs. Dickens, William Dickens' executors sold the Raven and the private house occupying the eastern half of the building at auction to Charles Page, a Leighton Buzzard watchmaker, for £870 [RY272].

The Raven is last recorded in a directory in 1854. Oddly, although the Raven is not recorded in the countywide Register of Alehouse Licences of 1876 but it is in the 1891 register where it is shown as owned by Levi and Richard Gibson Ashdown, who leased Procter's brewery in the High Street. An explanation might be that this was not the old Raven at all, which seems to have closed in the 1850s. Procter's brewery had a public house on site which, in 1886 was known as the Saint George and Dragon. By 1903 it seems to have been called the Brewery public house - it may also have been called the Raven in between the two other names in memory of a longstanding inn a little further up the street which would have more resonance with customers than the Saint George and Dragon. None of these three names is mentioned in any directory, presumably because they were simply thought of as part of the brewery.

In 1963 a new shop was built on the site of the Raven. At the time of writing [2009] the building houses Peacock's clothing store.


  • RY229: mortgage: 1669;
  • RY231-232: conveyance: 1705;
  • RY237: mortgage: 1727;
  • RY243-244: conveyance: 1736;
  • RY245-247: conveyance of east part of Raven: 1736;
  • KK783: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit rental: 1749;
  • KK784: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit rental: 1755;
  • X171/206: landlord and owner named: 1761;
  • RY256-257: conveyance of Raven: 1769;
  • RY260 and GK136/10: copy will of John Stringer: 1770;
  • KK785: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit rental: 1772;
  • RY250-251: sale of the eastern half of the Raven: 1783;
  • RY252-253: sale of the eastern half of the Raven: 1784;
  • RY254-255: sale of the eastern half of the Raven: 1787;
  • RY261: exchange: 1790;
  • RY262-263: conveyance of both parts of Raven: 1792;
  • Northampton Mercury: resolution of Leighton Buzzard publicans banning "seditious and disaffected persons" from their houses: 19 Jan 1793;
  • RY265: conveyance: 1798;
  • RY266-267: conveyance: 1803;
  • RY268-269: conveyance: 1805;
  • CLP13: Register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
  • RY286: receipt for quitrent: 1842;
  • RY272: sale of both parts of raven: 1850;
  • P91/28/48: noted as "now The Elms" 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:

1727: Robert Swannell;
Alexander Addams;
1736: John Pitking;
1761: James Hawkins;
1769: Robert Baldwin;
1792-1803: Daniel Reeve;
1819-1839: William Dickins;
1841: Sarah Dickins;
1847-1851: Elizabeth Dickins;
1853-1854: Alfred Loke.