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The Bell Public House Odell

 The Bell in May 2008
The Bell in May 2008

Bell Public House: 81 High Street, Odell

The Bell is an old building - it was listed by the former Department of Environment as Grade II, of special interest, in 1964. It dates to the 17th century although it has been much extended and modernised. It is built, like most old houses in this part of North Bedfordshire, of coursed limestone rubble and has a thatched roof. The building has two storeys and, unusually for a public house, no cellar

It cannot be said whether the place was built as an inn, the first mention of it in any document held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service being in 1736 when John Amis, baker, devised it in his will to his son, John. It was common for publicans to have another occupation and to keep an inn, public house or beerhouse as a side line.

The Bell, belonged to the Alston family, as did most of the rest of the village, until they sold it be Bedford brewers Higgins & Sons Limited in 1926. In 1927 Odell was valued under the terms of the Rating and Valuation Act 1925; every piece of land and building in the country was valued to determine the rates to be paid on it. The valuer visiting the Bell, then a beerhouse, [DV1/C166/27] noted that rent had been £47 per annum rent as a free house, but, since Higgins & Sons took the property over the previous year the rent had not yet been fixed. He remarked:  "small paddock opposite and gardens by mill".

The Bell in January 2008
The Bell in January 2008

The building comprised two smoking rooms, a tap room, reception room and kitchen on the ground floor with four bedrooms above. Outside lay extensive outbuildings comprising a brick and slate store, a tile and slate range (16 feet 6 inches by 28 feet), a fowl house, a two stall stable ("gone", "very bad"), a two bay open shed, a garage and a three bay stone and corrugated iron open shed. The valuer remarked: "Being done up March 1927". He estimate the trade at 1½ barrels and two dozen bottles of beer per week, explaining: "Trade very bad, no money in Odell". His final remark was: "rather dark"

In 1931 Higgins & Sons sold their business to Biggleswade brewers Wells & Winch Limited who, in turn, were taken over by Suffolk brewers Greene King in 1961. During World War Two the local ARP wardens used a room at the rear of the Bell as a Wardens' Post. In 1927 the Bell had been a beerhouse, at some later date it received a full licence to become the public house it is at the time of writing [2008], now the only one in the parish.

 Proposed south-east elevation of The Bell
Proposed south-east elevation of The Bell [BorB/TP/88/277]


  • SJ1407: inn devised in will of John Amis of Odell, baker to his son John: 1736, proved 1737;
  • QSM X.190: Quarter Sessions held at: 1749;
  • CLP13: Register of Alehouse Recognizances: 1822-1828;
  • Z50/86/15: view on postcard: C19/20;
  • Z50/86/27: photograph: C19/20;
  • PSS3/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: c.1901;
  • GK4/4: conveyance, with other properties, by Laurence Read Higgins and Cecil Charles Norman Colburne Higgins to Higgins & Sons Limited: 1902;
  • PSS3/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: c.1903;
  • PSS3/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: 1904-1930
  • GK4/6: schedule of deeds: 1926-1927;
  • GK83/2: conveyance from Roland Crewe Alston, mortgagees and trustees to Higgins & Sons Limited: 1926 ;
  • GK297/1: conveyance from Higgins & Sons Limited to Wells & Winch Limited: 1931;
  • WW2/AR/C/2/71 and 74: ARP Wardens post at: 1940;
  • WW2/AR/CA1/1/4: release by Bedfordshire County Council of room at rear of public house used as an ARP Warden's Post: 1945;
  • PCOdell9/9: change of licensee: 1966;
  • PSBW8/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1976-1980;
  • PCOdell9/9: correspondence regarding car parking: 1977;
  • BorB/TP/88/277: plans for extensions and alterations: 1988;
  • BorB/TP/402/LB: plans for extensions and alterations: 1988;
  • E/YM6/3/2: details of public house from training agreement for catering assistant on Youth Training Scheme: 1988.

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:

1736-1737: John Amis senior;
1737: John Amis junior;
1822 - 1828: Thomas Swannell
1847-1876: Samuel Ekins (& farmer & maltster)
1890: William Partridge;
1891: George Barber;
1902: William Neale;
1902: Arthur Worley;
1927-1940: Albert E.Smith;
1945: Emily Annie Smith;
1966: Margaret Doreen Louise Tebbutt;
1966-1984: Gordon Bennett;
1984-1985: Barbara Della Bennett;
1985-1995: Derek William Scott