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The Saracens Head Inn Leighton Buzzard

41-43 High Street June 2008
41-43 High Street June 2008

The Saracens Head: 41-43 High Street, Leighton Buzzard [earlier Tartars Head]

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.

The first mention of the Saracens Head so far discovered is in 1584 when it is mentioned as being near a shop in the High Street which was being leased [KK91]. There are three references the "Tarters hedd" in general accounts of receipts and disbursements to Sir Thomas Leigh (tenant of the Manor under the overlordship of the dean and Canons of Saint George's Chapel, Windsor) in 1611 [KK762], 1612 [KK728] and 1614 [KK734]. Each time the person paying is John Studds and the amount forty shillings.

In the Manor of Leighton Buzzard quitrent ledger for 1627 [KK777] is the entry: "Robert King for the messuage he dwelleth in commonlie called the Saracens Head" - fifteen pence. The property was thus now freehold. In 1647 Edward Turney conveyed the Tarters Head, abutting south on the High Street, to Henry Hill and a house and shop which had lately formed part of the Tartars Head to Benedict Coles [RY902]. The part which became a shop is probably that represented by today's 43 High Street which has a much smaller footprint than Number 41.

By 1739 the inn was in the ownership of Robert Baskerfield who devised it to his third son Abraham in his will of that year, proved in 1741 [X605/4 and X126/50]. Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit rentals for 1749 [KK783] and 1755 [KK784] show Abraham Baskerfield paying four pence for the Saracens Head. In 1751 Baskerfield married Katherine Oswald and the Saracens Head formed part of his property conveyed to trustees as part of the marriage settlement for her jointure [BS1584].

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 (who may both, of course, also have been the owner in some cases). The Saracens Head is linked with the name of Collins Millard, clearly just the licensee as in the quitrent ledger of 1772 [KK785] Robert Baskerfield paid the four pence for the Saracens Head.

In the Northampton Mercury of 19th January 1793 licensee of the Saracens Head, John Collins Millard, 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). Millard must have bought the inn from the Baskerfields as in his will he devised it to his widow Caroline who ran it from his death in 1823 until 1828 [CLP13]. In September 1958 a pewter pot inscribed I, C, Millard was found in or near the bank of the River Great Ouse near Oakley Bridge. It was made during the reign of George IV (1820-1830) presumably for John Collins Millard - had it been stolen at the time only to be found over a hundred years later?

It is not known when the Saracens Head closed for the last time but it is not mentioned in any of the directories which were increasingly printed from the middle of the 19th century onwards, the last mention being in 1851 when Clark Loke was licensee. 41 High Street is a 19th century building and so presumably the old inn was demolished and the present building erected in its place. 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 41 are as follows:

  • 1861-1903: James Webb, tailor;
  • 1906: James Nelson & Son Limited, butcher;
  • 1910-1928: W. H. Smith;
  • 1972: Rosehill Chemist; Leighton Buzzard Staff Bureau;
  • 1986: B. Dyehouse, chemist;
  • 2000-2008: Rosehill Pharmacy


  • KK91: mentioned in a deed: 1584;
  • KK762: rental of jointure lands: 1611;
  • KK728: General account of receipts and disbursements: 1612;
  • KK734: General account of receipts and disbursements: 1614;
  • KK777: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit rental: 1627;
  • RY902: conveyance: 1647;
  • X605/4 and X126/50: will of Robert Baskerfield:1739, proved 1741;
  • KK783: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit rental: 1749;
  • BS1584: marriage settlement: 1751;
  • KK784: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit rental: 1755;
  • X171/206: landlord named: 1761;
  • KK785: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit rental: 1772;
  • Northampton Mercury: resolution of Leighton Buzzard publicans banning "seditious and disaffected persons" from their houses: 19 Jan 1793;
  • BO1294: devise of property adjoining Saracens Head in will: 1809;
  • CLP13: register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
  • PLBP/W1823/22: will of John Collins Millard: 1822, proved 1823

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:

1611-1614: John Studds;
1647: James Collins;
1671: Thomas Doggett;
before 1751: Thomas Ward junior;
1761: Collins Millard;
1785 - 1822: John Collins Millard;
1823-1828: Caroline Millard;
1828-1830: Joseph Rogers;
1847-1851: Clark Loke