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The Cross Keys Public House Pulloxhill

The Cross Keys about 1925 [WL800/2]
The Cross Keys about 1925 [WL800/2]

The Cross Keys Public House: 13 High Street, Pulloxhill

The Cross Keys was listed by the former Department of Environment in May 1985 as Grade II, of special interest. The department dated the property to the 17th century. It is a timber-framed structure with colourwashed plaster rendering and a 20th century tiled roof. It is built in an L-shape and comprises one storey and attics. There are various 19th and 20th century additions at the rear.

The first reference to the public house comes in a countywide licensing register of 1822 [CLP13]. From at least that date until the early 1870s the Cross Keys was run by successive members of the Day family. There are three parish register entries for people named Day who are recorded as alesellers and innkeepers in the late 18th century and it seems a reasonable guess that these, too, kept the Cross Keys. On 22nd April 1774 Ann, daughter of Daniel Day, innkeeper and Sarah his wife was baptized. On 26th May 1786 Daniel Day, aleseller, was buried and on 19th December 1790 William, son of Daniel Day, aleseller and Frances, his wife was baptized.

The Cross Keys was the scene of an unsightly set-to in 1840. The Quarter Sessions rolls contain the evidence of police constable Daniel Hazard: on 27th July he was on duty at Pulloxhill, the day of the Feast. A fight took place in the Cross Keys Public House about 11.30pm. The landlord asked him and the parish constable Charles Cain to go in. Cain went in and Hazard stood outside. He saw Cain take hold of a man who was fighting as if to get him out. A man named Bonner Downing took hold of Cain. Hazard took Downing out and told him to go away quietly but he refused. Stephen Emmerton came and took Hazard by the collar, another man took him round the waist, and he was thrown into the ditch. Stephen Emmerton held him down and struck him on the head, as did some others. A man named Flint helped Hazard to get his staff and he struck Stephen Emmerton with it. Emmerton let go. John Emmerton then came up and said: "Where's that bloody policeman", took him by the neck and got him down again. Many threatening words were used. Flint helped him to get rid of John Emmerton. Cain helped him to get clear of the others and he got out his handcuffs. Edward Emmerton was one of the men upon him the last time he was down. As Hazard was giving his handcuffs to Cain, Edward Emmerton got hold of them and ran off with them. The disturbance lasted some time. Edward Emmerton came back and said he wished he had his gun - he would have shot him. Hazard then took him and John Emmerton and got them into the public house, but the mob continued outside until daylight. Hazard "was very much bruised and could not do his duty the next day".

Charles Cain, the parish constable of Pulloxhill said that he was with Hazard when he was asked to clear the Cross Keys public house. He went in and Edward Emmerton was in a "fighting attitude". He told him to go away but he refused. He got him out and saw several of the men fall on the policeman. He saw Edward Emmerton and Stephen Emmerton among them. He did not see John Emmerton attack the policeman but he was there. The policeman did not do anything to aggravate them. "The mob was very violent".

Charles Flint of Shillington, a labourer stated that he was at Pulloxhill the night of the Feast. He saw John Emmerton run across the road saying "Where's that bloody policeman" and seize the policeman round the neck. He took him away - the policeman called him to help. He heard Edward Emmerton say if he had a gun he would shoot the policeman. There was a great row with many men about the policeman. He saw all three of the defendants there.

All Stephen Emmerton could saw was that he was: "very sorry he got into this row". John Emmerton said that: "He was tipsy and did not know what he was about". Edward Emmerton said it was the first row he ever got in in his life. He was very tipsy and was off his guard".

Each of the three Emmertons was subsequently fined £2, a hefty sum for labouring men at that time [QGV10/2]. They were also bound over to keep the peace for a year to the tune of £20 each. The gaol register reveals that John Emmerton was 23, Edward Emmerton 29 and Stephen Emmerton 40. None of the three ever seem to have been in trouble again.

The countywide licensing register of 1876 reveals that the Cross Keys was then owned by Bedford brewers Newland and Company. This firm was created by Frederick Thomas Young who bought a brewery in Duck Mill Lane in 1873 and took William Pritzler Newland, brother of another Bedford brewer, Bingham Newland, into partnership in 1874. In 1876 Newland bought Young out and renamed the business as Newland & Company.

The countywide licensing register of 1891 gives Charles Wells as the owner. He had set up his business in 1875 when he bought out Joseph Allen Piggot who, with his partner Henry Collings Wells, had bought a brewery in Horne Lane, Bedford in 1851. The countywide register of 1901 still gives Charles Wells as owner and reveals that the tied rent was £16. The Cross keys was described as needing general repairs, but clean. It had both front and back doors.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. The valuer visiting the Cross Keys found that William Davenport paid a tied rent of £24 per annum to Charles Wells Limited. This included a five and a half acre grass field with a few movable hen houses and two walnut trees adjoining the property.

Accommodation comprised a parlour, a "cabin", a taproom, a kitchen and a cellar with three bedrooms and a lounge on the first floor. Outside stood a weather-boarded and tiled barn used for wood and coal, a corrugated iron trap house, a corrugated iron, brick and tiled urinal and earth closet and four weather-boarded henhouses. The valuer noted: "Takes Guests". The tenant was not helpful: "Says Beer Trade is private matter. Refers to Excise Officer for spirits. Keeps no accounts. Ex-Navy man". His recalcitrance did not avail him. The valuer decided on a valuation of £34 per annum and another hand has commented "I agree, especially as trader refused". In summary the valuer commented: "Nice looking house, not large".

The Charles Wells in-house magazine Pint Pot for the winter of 1999/2000 [WL722/100] has a section on ghost stories. The Cross Keys is supposed to have the ghost of a grey lady who sits in the inglenook fireplace. At the time of writing the Cross Keys remains a Charles Wells public house.

The Cross Keys March 2011
The Cross Keys March 2011


  • CLP13: register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
  • QSR1840/4/5/38: fight in the Cross keys on the day of the Pulloxhill Feast: 1840;
  • PSA5/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1927;
  • WL800/2 page 5: photograph: c. 1925;
  • PSA5/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1934-1959;
  • PSA5/4: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1950s;
  • PSA5/5: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1968-1995
  • WL722/9: photograph in Charles Wells in-house magazine Pint Pot: 1973;
  • DCM/Pub1/1: photograph in Mid Bedfordshire District Official Guide: c. 1978;
  • Z923/4/2: poster for line dancing and a cowboy night at the Cross keys: 1996;
  • WL722/100: article on a ghost at the Cross Keys in Charles Wells in-house magazine Pint Pot: 1999/2000  

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

1774-1790: Daniel Day?
1822-1828: Frances Day
1839-1850: William Day;
1854: Mary Day;
1862-1871: William Day;
1876-77: Lawrence Chapman;
1877-1909: George Cook;
1909-1916: Barbara Jane Cook;
1916-1924: Charles Cook;
1924-1927: William Samuel Davenport;
1927-1928: Spencer Alldritt;
1928-1930: Henry Mayhew;
1930-1955: William John Horne;
1955-1959: Francis John Hartley;
1960-1970: Victor George Thomas Clapton;
1970-2000: Peter Charles Meads.