The Case is Altered Ravensden
The Case Is Altered, Church End, Ravensden
This page was written by Trevor Stewart
An unusual pub, with an unusual name, often referred to as ‘the pub with no bar.’ Originally a beerhouse, it was granted a full licence in 1965.
It was located in a dip off Church Hill and was the first of the row of cottages of timber framed construction with brick noggin, built circa 1700, and known as Harper Cottages.
The Case is Altered, c.1900 [Z50/93/1]
Entry to the pub was gained through what appeared to be the front door of the cottage, and stepping inside the potential customer would find themselves in what, to all intents and purposes, could have been the front room of the cottage. It had wooden benches around the walls and in winter an open fire – absolutely no sign of any bar. It was not unusual for strangers to open the front door and look in, then to apologise for entering what they clearly thought was a private house, and leave again.
A few minutes after the bell attached to the front door had rung, the landlord would appear from a back room and take your order. He would then disappear back into the room down a couple of steps, where the beer was racked in barrels standing on a simple plank of wood. It was decanted by a barrel tap into glasses for delivery by tray back out to the customer. There was in fact another room off the front room, that was supposed to be the Lounge, but this door was never opened and until a skittles table was acquired, never used.
It was easy looking in at the ‘’bar’’ area to imagine its former use as a ‘’lock up’’ or temporary cell.
Local history records that the cottage which became the Public House was actually constructed as the village courthouse and lock up, but that when this use ceased it became the workhouse or poor house. Then, when the Ravensden Town and Poor Estate Charity took responsibility for the local poor, housing them in three charity cottages, it became a public house.
The earliest granting of a beer licence to premises on his site appears to have been in 1786 but the first reference to the property as a recognised pub is 1800.
The Case is Altered, c.1930 [Z1306/93/2/2]
As for that unusual name, there are four possible explanations.
a) When the Bedford to Kimbolton road was being properly constructed and surfaced, workmen and local agricultural labourers used to enjoy a lunchtime drink in the house. At the end of the week when the previous weeks wages had been expended, it was apparently the custom of the landlord of the time to grant credit and for the beer to be ‘’put on the slate.’’ He was so confident that he would get his money the next week. However when he passed away and the new Landlord took over - he was less sympathetic and would not grant such credit. On remonstrating with him those wanting to continue the old practice were simply told ‘’ Oh well that was then but now I am in charge and the ‘Case Is Altered’.
b) A second explanation is that the very first owners actually supported the cause lost in the civil war but won again at the restoration. Hence ‘the case (or cause) has altered.’
c) A third possibility is that it referred to the earlier use of the building as a court house and the ‘case’ was a legal one.
d) Finally, that the name is simply a derivation of ‘’Casa Alta’ or the house on the hill, and that this was brought back to the village by survivors of the Peninsular War 1807 to 1814.
If it offers any sort of clue, the original pub sign always showed a Judge in full robes and wig holding a quill pen and it was said that the face of the Judge was actually that of the grandfather of the last landlady.
The Harper family appear to have taken on the cottages in 1911 after years of working on local farms as horse keepers and labourers. Perhaps the best known of them all was a Sam Harper (son of Samuel Harper the publican in 1911). Son Sam was an unpredictable character who was not averse to chasing cheeky local youngsters with his pig whip.
Connie Peet (nee Harper) and her husband Dick were the last landlord and landlady they took over in 1965 and when they died this extraordinary pub was sadly delicensed and sold as a private cottage in 1998.
References of Documents held by Bedfordshire Archives:
- GK4/2: Conveyance of various public houses including the Case is Altered to Higgins, 1884
Licencees: 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:
[Higgins & Sons; then Samuel Harpur of Ravensden; then Connie Ruth Mary Peet] [
License first granted 1839, owner Edward Peacock of Eaton Socon, leaseholder George Higgins Esq, occupier Charles Billing. Full granted licence 21 Oct 1965
- 1901-1904: William Fensom;
- 1904-1940: Samuel Harper;
- 1961-1995: Connie Ruth Mary Peet