The Bell Public House Marston Moretaine
The Bell: 2 Bedford Road, Church End, Marston Moretaine
Woburn Road, Marston Moretaine, looking towards the Bell Inn on the right, c.1906 [Z1130/76/3]
The original Bell public house was opposite the existing premises in Bedford Road and appears to have been in existence since at least the 18th century. An inventory of John & Joseph Morris, brewers of Ampthill, dated 24 June 1827 lists The Bell as a freehold public house, occupied by Mary Cook, with a stable for two horses, wood barn, double bayed barn, cowhouse and loose stable [reference Z1043/1]. Opposite The Bell it lists a cottage “formerly the Old Bell” with a woodbarn, large garden behind and a piece of arable land containing together 3 acres 1 rood and 19 perches. In 1828 another deed states that the original Bell premises had been purchased by John Morris in 1812 from Vincent Wallis of Wootton and Edward Smith of Marston Moretaine in 1812. Morris had also bought a former farmhouse “now a public house called the Bell” , together with yards, gardens and around 4 acres of land from Ann Bosworth of St. Albans in 1811. It seems likely that Morris bought both properties with a view to changing the location of the Bell to better premises, and that the “new” Bell was established in or shortly after 1812 [reference X21/629]. The “old” and “new” Bell premises, together with other property owned by Morris’s Brewery in Marston, appear to all have been held as a single tenancy, as in 1832 they were all occupied by Mary Cook [reference WB/M/4/1/VP1]
In November 1839 Elizabeth Pilgrim, a servant at the Bell, served two local men, Enoch Saunders (or Sanders) and John Faulkner, with some beer. Saunders followed her into the parlour where she went to add their payment to the takings in a basin kept in a cupboard there. Later she noticed that a half crown (2 shillings and 6 pence) was gone. As Elizabeth had overheard a conversation about tossing a coin for a quart of beer, in which Saunders having a half crown was mentioned, she accused him of stealing it. At the time the money went missing the licensee, William Cook, was out, and his wife ill in bed. A couple of days later, Saunders visited William Cook and told him he was a “great fool” for taking the half crown out the basin, and would give him anything to settle the matter. Cook refused and Saunders was prosecuted at the Bedford Quarter Sessions in January [reference QSR1840/1/3/9]. He was found guilty and sentenced to 3 months imprisonment with hard labour.
In 1860 tenant Alfred Britten was paying £44 per annum rent for the Bell, which included a farm of 19 acres, part grazing land and part arable. Part of this farmland, amounting to 5½ acres was sold and his rent was reduced by 30 shillings per acre, giving a revised total of £35 15s per annum [reference SF82/3/6]. By 1907 the homestead attached to the Bell Inn had been reduced to 12 acres, with William Odell as tenant [reference WB/M/4/1/VP8].
The Bell c.1960 [WB/Flow4/5/MM/B1]
The Rating Valuation carried out in March 1927 [reference DV1/C/77] shows that at this time the owner of The Bell was J W Greens Limited (Luton) and it was occupied by William Odell. The pre-war rent of £32 had been reduced to £30 under a quarterly tenure.
The detached building is described as being of brick, slate and tile construction with ‘Nice front, good draw up’. The downstairs had a ‘good’ tap room, a small bar and a large Smoking Room as well as a kitchen, pantry, cellar and dairy. Upstairs comprised three bedrooms and two boxrooms. Outside there was a timber and tile stable, barn, cow house, pigsties and hovel.
The valuer describes it as a ‘poor place’ which he believes is because there are too many pubs in the village. Its trade amounted to two barrels per week of beer and half a gallon of spirits per week.
The Bell, October 2014
J. W. Green merged with Flowers Breweries in 1954 and took that company's name. Flowers were then bought by Whitbread in 1962, which sold its brewing concerns and public houses in 2001. The Bell outlasted most of its local competition and is still open as a public house at the time of writing .
Licensees: note that this is not a complete list and that dates in italics are not necessarily beginning or end dates, merely the first/last date which can be confirmed from sources such as directories and deeds:
1822: James Cooke
1828: Mary Cooke
1839: William Cook
1860-69: Alfred Britten
1871-96: George Denton
1896-1904: Henry George Dalton
1904-1927: William Odell
1927-1928: LIlian Florence Odell
1928-1959: Frederick Hillson
1963: Vernon Frederick Crouch
1966-1968: Ernest Henry Hunt
1968-1986: Peter Ernest Gale
1986-1989: Harold William Marston and Deborah Julia Marston
1989-1991: Emanuel Vello Galtop
1991-1992: David William Chatwin and Paul Acton
1992-1993: Daniel Divers
1993-1995: Aivars Zakss
WB/M/4/1/VP1: Mortgage of Morris properties, 1832;
SF82/3/6: Estimation of variation of rental, 1860;
SF82/1/36 Agreement for lease of the Bell to George Denton, Feb 1871;
CCE5304/1: Conveyance to Morris & Co. (Ampthill) Limited, 1907;
CCE5304/3: Conveyance to J W Green, 1926;
WB/M/4/1/VP8: Abstract of Title of Morris & Company (Ampthill) Limited, 1926;
WB/M/4/2/1-2: Lists of Morris & Company properties with information about trade, licensing, leases etc., 1926;
WB/Green6/4/1: Trade analysis ledger, 1936-1947;
WB/Green4/2/10: Schedule of deeds and documents of premises belonging to J. W. Green, c.1949;
WB/Flow4/5/MM/B1-2: Exterior photographs, 1960s;
Z1105/1: Liquor Licence Traders Survey Form, 1963;
CLP13: Register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
PSA5/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1927;
PSA5/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1934-1959;
PSA5/4: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: c.1950s