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The Present Bedford Arms Public House Oakley

The Bedford Arms March 2011
The Bedford Arms March 2011

The Bedford Arms Public House: High Street, Oakley

The Bedford Arms was listed by the former Department of Environment in April 1985 as Grade II, of special interest.  It is an 18th century house with a range of attached outbuildings and a 19th century rear extension. The main house and outbuildings are built of coursed limestone rubble. The house has an old clay tile roof and outbuilding roofs are of Welsh slate. The main building comprises two storeys and attics.

A building is shown on a map of 1737 (see above) drawn up for the Duke of Bedford when he purchased the Manor of Oakley Reynes and with it much of the village. This may be today's Bedford Arms or not, it is impossible to say. Certainly at that time the building was simply a cottage. The inclosure map of 1804 (see below) shows a wood yard adjoining the cottage immediately to the south.

About 1770 a cottage occupying the site of today's 29 Church Lane became a public house called the Red Lion [R6/42/1/16-17]. It was still known as the Red Lion in 1791 [R6/42/1/24-25]. By 1820 the Red Lion had been renamed the Bedford Arms [R6/42/1/27]. This property was demolished about 1840 because a conveyance of 21st November that year to the Duke of Bedford from Bedford brewer George Peregrine Nash includes a piece of land in Duck End on which the public house had stood, but that building had "recently been pulled down and removed". The licensee had been Ann Wood.

It seems as if the licence of the public house simply moved up the road to the current building. A building "on the south side of the road from Oakley to Milton Ernest late in occupation of John Campion as a farm house and now used as a public house and known by the name or sign of the Bedford Arms and in occupation of Ann Wood" was let in an uncatalogued lease of 10th December 1840 from the Duke of Bedford to George Peregrine Nash for £24 per annum. John Campion had been in residence in 1819 as described in an estate survey [R1/58 and R2/97].

George Peregrine Nash died in 1844 and his son William Joseph took over the running of Nash and Company. He died in 1884 leaving only a widow, Susan. She took another Bedford brewer, William Pritzler Newland as business partner in 1890, the union of their two firms being known as Newland and Nash. This firm was floated on the Stock Market as a limited company in 1897 [GK3/1]. In 1924 the firm, which was failing, was bought by Biggleswade brewer Wells and Winch Limited.

Meanwhile the Duke of Bedford, still the owner of the Bedford Arms, decided to sell the Oakley Estate by auction on 31st October 1918. In the event one of two lots, including Oakley House, were withdrawn from the auction because the Duke decided to sell them privately to his cousin, the 2nd Baron Ampthill. The Bedford Arms, however, was still included in the auction sale and the sale particulars [AD1147/18] described it thus.

The Fully-Licensed Inn
in the centre of the Village

A brick built and slated House, containing Five Bedrooms and Three Attics, Club Room, Parlour, Kitchen, Sitting Room, Smoking Room, Barn, Cellar and Larder and Tap Room, Washhouse, Earth Closet; Well and Soft Water; Stables for Six Horses, Loft, Trap House, Three Piggeries and Yard

The Smithy

stone built and tiled, comprising Blacksmith's Shop, Shoeing Shed and Yard; also a Plantation and a Valuable Enclosure of Pasture Land, the whole embracing an area of about

5 acres 1 rood 15 poles
(5.345 Acres)

The Inn and Land held by Messrs Newland & Nash on a Yearly Michaelmas tenancy. The Smithy by Mr. George Ruffhead on a Weekly Tenancy, the Plantation is In hand, and a Garden in [Ordnance Survey Map] Number 135 is occupied by Mr. John Owens on a Yearly Michaelmas Tenancy.

The Rating Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine the rates to paid on it. Oakley, like most of Bedfordshire, was assessed in 1927. The valuer visiting the Bedford Arms [DV1/C107/77] found that it belonged to Fuller & Son Limited of Chiswick [Middlesex]. The fact that the owner was based in London accounts for the paucity of more modern records for the pub at Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service.

The pub at that time was occupied by Tom Richard Porter who paid £13 per annum, a figure set in 1919. The licensed premises comprised a club room, tap room, bar and smoke room. Private accommodation comprised a kitchen and front room with four bedrooms and a box room on the first floor and three attics ("not used") on the second floor. A barn stood outside along with a four stall stable, a wood store, two loose boxes, a two bay open hovel and two pigsties. There was also a corrugated iron shed "used for hens".

When the valuer visited the brewer had just made a delivery and five barrels lay in the cellar, the landlord's wife "said 3 weeks supply "about"" but the valuer commented: "I think trade a bit better than 1½ barrels per week". Spirits trade amounted to a gallon per month. The tenant opined: "No good now travellers' trade gone". Takings were £520 in the previous year. The valuer also commented: "Large house with good outbuildings" but a colleague, to judge by the different handwriting, opined "Useless House, much too big".

Ruffhead's adjoining smithy, an "open shoeing space", measured 20 feet by 17 feet. he rented it from Fuller & Son for £5/4/- per annum.

The Bedford Arms remains a public house at the time of writing [2011]. It is, as it has been for over two hundred years, Oakley's only pub.


  • GK3/1 conveyance from William Pritzler Newland, Emily Cressy Nash, Florence Mary Nash, Rosa Gertrude Nash and Constance Eveline Nash to Newland & Nash Limited of all properties: 1897;
  • AD1147/18: sale catalogue of Oakley Estate: 1918;
  • GK114/1: agreement for yearly tenancy of George Quenby to land: 1903;
  • PSB9/1: register of licenses: 1903-1935;
  • RDBP2/927: plans for alterations: 1936;
  • RDBP3/674: plans for a septic tank: 1946;
  • PSB9/2: register of licenses: c.1955-1995;
  • Z1105/1: Liquor Licence Traders Survey Forms: 1960;
  • Z866/1/6: Bedfordshire and Luton Topic Magazine feature: 1967;
  • Z866/2/1: Bedfordshire and Luton Topic Magazine feature: 1967;
  • PSBW8/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1976-1980

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

1840-1865: Ann Wood, widow
1866-1877: Thomas Pywell;
1885: Mrs. Isabella Pywell;
1890: John Burbidge;
1898-1903: George Quenby;
1903-1906: Thomas Frederick Crowsley;
1906-1919: John Owen;
1919: Joseph Pearsall Price;
1919-1933: Tom Richard Porter;
1933-1934: John Maxwell Thomson;
1934-1936: William Martin Higgins
1940: John J. Willetts;
1957-1967: Donald Knight;
1967: Edward Raymond Johnson;
1967-1973: Clive William Hall and Edward Raymond Johnson;
1973-1977: Clive William Hall;
1977-1984: Russell Bradford;
1984: Anthony Thomas;
1984-1985: John Dunkerley;
1985: Anthony Ivor Hugh Thomas;
1985-1986: Anthony Ivor Hugh Thomas and William Clement Jackson;
1986-1989: Gordon James John Guile and Bryan Leonard Jones;
1989-1990: Brian Jones;
1990-1991: Michael Francis Caine;
1991: Michael Francis Caine and Malcolm Doig Starling;
1991-1992: David Martin Hull and Malcolm Doig Starling;
1992: Nigel Christopher Harrop and Malcolm Doig Starling;
1992-1993: Neil Tidmarsh and Malcolm Doig Starling;
1993: Neil Tidmarsh and Susan Keen;
1993-1994: Neil Tidmarsh and Michael Alfred Porter;
1994-1996: Paul Battison and Michael Alfred Porter;
1996: Graham Anthony Robinson and Christopher William Goodwin

The rear of the Bedford Arms March 2011
The rear of the Bedford Arms March 2011