Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Oakley > The Former Bedford Arms Public House Oakley

The Former Bedford Arms Public House Oakley

The Bedford Arms shown in red in 1804 [MA72]
The Bedford Arms shown in red in 1804 [MA72]

The Bedford Arms Public House: site at 29 Church Lane, Oakley (formerly the Red Lion)

Today's Bedford Arms has been a public house since about 1840. Before this there was another pub in the village of the same name. The archive of the Dukes of Bedford has a deed packet to the former Bedford Arms [R6/42/1].

In 1664 Giles Smith of Oakley, yeoman, gave a property in Oakley to his son, also called Giles [R6/42/1/1]. The property was adjoined by a close of an acre and a half with land of Paul Cobb lying west and north and the common fields of Oakley to the east. Sixteen acres in these common fields were included in the grant.

On Christmas Day 1694 Giles Smith gave the property to trustees to hold on behalf of his son William [R6/42/1/3]. Giles had become indebted to a number of local people to the tune of £110 and William took these debts on in exchange for the house, then described as being in Duck End, and a substantial amount of land. The house still had the close adjoining it.

In 1713 William and his trustees transferred the house, which was in his own occupation, as well as its adjoining close and three acres in the fields of Oakley and Clapham, to Richard Willis of Bedford, gentleman as the new trustee [R6/42/1/4-5]. In 1714 Giles Smith of Kempston, William's son, mortgaged the property for £40 [R6/42/1/6]. Finally, in 1716 Giles sold the property and the land to Alice Reynolds of Bedford, widow and her sons Thomas and William for £86/5/- [R6/42/1/7-8].

In 1739 William Reynolds devised his cottage and lands in Oakley, occupied by William Little, to his daughter Elizabeth [R6/42/1/10]. He died in 1759. Elizabeth married Evan Phillips of Old Change, London, a candlemaker and in 1770 he mortgaged the property as well as properties in Bedford for £250 [R6/42/1/11]. The cottage was then occupied by John Bull. The following year Phillips conveyed the property, as well as property in Bedford, to John Gandy of Lawrence Poultney Lane, London, packer for £217 [R6/42/1/16-19]. It is in this deed that the cottage is first described as a public house called the Red Lion. It still included the adjoining close of an acre and a half and three acres in the common fields.

In 1777 Gandy conveyed the Red Lion and its land, as well as property in Bedford, to Gideon Costin of Bedford, wool merchant for £80 [R6/42/1/20-21]. By 1791 Gideon Costin was dead and his brother John, also a merchant, conveyed the Red Lion, as it was still known, and its four and a half acres of land to Bedford brewer Peregrine Nash for £130 [R6/42/1/24-25].

By 1839 Nash was obviously thinking of selling the property as he had an abstract of his title drawn up by s solicitor [R6/42/1/27]. This document abstracts a conveyance of January 1820 from Peregrine Nash to his son George Peregrine Nash of a public house in Oakley formerly known as the Red Lion but now known as the Bedford Arms, formerly occupied by Grace Eakins, then by William Foster.

On 21st November 1840 Nash made a conveyance to the Duke of Bedford [R6/42/1/28-29]. The deed referred to a piece of land in Duck End on which a public house formerly known as the Red Lion, then the Bedford Arms had stood, but "had recently been pulled down and removed". At that time the licensee had been Ann Wood. The purchase included the four and a half acres of land and the price was £800.

The Inclosure Map of 1804 shows the Bedford Arms buildings and adjoining land. The appropriate segment is reproduced at the top of this page. From this map it is evident that this is the site of today's 29 Church Lane, built by the Duke of Bedford in 1854.


  • R6/42/1/1: Feoffment of a house:  1664;
  • R6/42/1/2-3: conveyance of a house: 1694;
  • R6/42/1/4-5: conveyance of a house: 1713;
  • R6/42/1/6: mortgage of a house: 1714;
  • R6/42/1/7-8: conveyance of a house: 1716;
  • R6/42/1/10: cottage in Duck End devised in a will: 1759;
  • R6/42/1/11-12: mortgage of a house: 1770;
  • R6/42/1/16-17: conveyance of the Red Lion: 1771;
  • R6/42/1/18-19: conveyance of the Red Lion: 1771;
  • R6/42/1/20-21: conveyance of the Red Lion: 1777;
  • R6/42/1/24-25: conveyance of the Red Lion: 1791;
  • R6/42/1/27: abstracted conveyance of the Bedford Arms: 1820;
  • CLP13: register of alehouse recognizances: 1822-1828;
  • GK156/1: conveyance: 1836;
  • R6/42/1/28-29: conveyance of the site of the Bedford Arms: 1840;

Licensees: Note that this is not a complete list; italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known 

1771-1777: John Bull;
1791: Grace Eakins;
1820: William Foster;
1822: Hannah Foster;
1828-1837: William Wood;
1840: Ann Wood, widow.