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The Three Horseshoes Inn Leighton Buzzard

Three Horseshoes Inn: North 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.

The first mention of the Three Horseshoes is in assize records for 1679 when a suspect in a sheep stealing case stayed at the inn. The record [HSA1680/W/82] states as follows [note the archaic spellings]: "The Information of William Nedham of Southwell [Southill] in the County of Bedford Blacksmith taken upon oath before me Wm Duncombe Esquire one of his Majesties of the peace for the County att Battlesden this 31st of Augustt 1679. Informant saith that on Tuesday last being the 26th inst he came from Newport in Buckinghamshire through Wooburne (where he had wrought journey work with one James Larrett blacksmith for the space of six weeks) to Battlesden to enquire for work, but finding none there he went that night from thence to Leighton, and took up that night at the Three Horse Shoes, the next morning he went again to enquire for work but finding none he went to the Checker to spend his penny and there mett with one Richard ----- (he forgatt his sirname) and this woman (says he pointing to the woeman who pretends to be the said Richard's wife) and there they drank together, then the said Richard called him out of doores and told him, that he found he wanted work, and that if he would goe with him (he would employ him) to Winsloe in Buckinghamshire to drive a few sheep to one Mercy Jenkins in Hockliffe, to which this Informant agreed (supposeing they had been his owne) but going towards Winsloe about Swanburne some two miles from Winsloe the aforesaid Richard and his pretended wife sought about for sheep, and the said Richard went up the hills to see where any sheep were feeding, and he and his wife did choose out some parcells, but they made exceptions to 'em, as being some of them fallow sheep, and some of them lay too neere the towne so not lighting upon any that pleased them they went through Winsloe to seeke after their prey, but it hapning to thunder and lighten very much that night this Informant left them perceiveing their purpose, and said he would have nothing to doe with any such business. He further saith that they would have taken some sheep away beyond Winsloe, but that they could not bring them through the towne, nor could they drive them any other way, because the waters were up. And further saith that by the way as they were going to Winsloe the abovesaid Richard and his wife told him that they were to send tenn sheep to John Gurney Butcher of Hockliffe, and three 3 to his sonn. And further saith that Richard's pretended wife told him at the Chequer att Leighton, that she was not Richard's wife, but that she had gone two yeares about the country a mumping (as she called it) with a pretended husband, who feigned himself dumbe. And that this day in his hearing in the house where the said Richard was apprehended he the ssid Richard did deny this woman (pointing to her) to be his wife. And further saith not".

In 1686 William Lord was admitted to half a copyhold cottage in the North End of Leighton Buzzard called the Three Horseshoes on the surrender of William Pawlett [KK257]; the other half Pawlett surrendered to Mathew Disney in 1690 [KK285]. In 1707 Disney, along with his daughters Frances and Elizabeth, surrendered their half of the Three Horseshoes to Mathew Cherry [X288/1], four years later Cherry became owner of the whole property on the surrender of Sara and Martha, two other daughters of Mathew Disney [X288/1]. He was admitted at a manorial court in 1717 [X288/3].

In 1741 Mathew Cherry and Dorothy, his wife, surrendered the Three Horseshoes to Thomas Deverell, owner of a number of inns and drinking establishments in the town [X288/5], he and his wife, Mary, being admitted the following year. He died in 1756 [X288/6] and his children Thomas, John, Joseph, Ann, Jane and Benjamin were admitted that same year [X288/6]. Mary, John and Robert Deverell were not admitted because they surrendered one eighth shares in the inn to Thomas [X288/6] who died with a four eighths share in 1765 [X288/7], his son Thomas "an infant" being admitted the same year. By 1772 Thomas Deverell, still an infant, was noted as paying seven shillings quitrent on the Three Horseshoes in the Manor of Leighton Buzzard alias Grovebury quitrent ledger [KK785]. A quitrent would imply that a property, which had been copyhold, was now freehold

The last mention of the Three Horseshoes is in 1796 when Thomas Chew was admitted, on the surrender of Thomas Deverell, to a close of two acres which had a right of way over a former close of pasture, now garden and yard of the Three Horseshoes in North End [RY1163]. This mention does not necessarily prove that the Three Horseshoes was still functioning as an inn. The Northampton Mercury of 19th January 1793 contained a resolution of Leighton Buzzard publicans banning "seditious and disaffected persons" from their houses. There is no signature by a publican from the Three Horseshoes. Again, this is not conclusive but is suggestive. Certainly no later mention of the Three Horseshoes has so far been found. The countywide Register of Alehouse Recognizances of 1822 [CLP13] has no entry for the Three Horseshoes and so it was certainly closed by this date.


  • HSA1680/W/82: inn visited by two felons: 1679;
  • KK257: admission: 1686;
  • KK285: admission: 1690;
  • X288/1: surrender: 1707;
  • X288/1: surrender: 1711;
  • X288/3: admission: 1717;
  • X288/5: surrender: 1741;
  • X288/5: admission: 1742;
  • X288/6: report of the death of Thomas Deverell: 1756;
  • X288/6: admission: 1756;
  • X288/6: surrender: 1759;
  • X288/7: death of Thomas Deverell: 1765;
  • X288/7: admission: 1765;
  • KK785: Manor of Leighton Buzzard quit rental: 1772;
  • RY1163: right of way over Three Horseshoes garden: 1796  

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:

1686: Jeremy Meade;
before 1690: Rowland Inn;
1690-1711: Richard Owen;
1741-1756: Christopher Rowley;
1765: Thomas Chandler