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The Five Bells Public House Riseley

A merry-go-round outside the Five Bells in the 1920s [Z50/96/42]
A merry-go-round outside the Five Bells in the 1920s [Z50/96/42]

The Five Bells Public House: 38 High Street, Riseley

The Five Bells is first recorded in the Northampton Mercury of 4th February 1809 where the following advertisement appears: 

Estate at Riseley, Bedfordshire

A Most eligible FREEHOLD ESTATE, situate in RISELEY aforesaid: consisting of

Lot 1. The said Five-Bells Public-House, in full Trade, with the Out-buildings, and an Orchard thereto adjoining.
Lot 2. A Dovehouse, and Orchard (near to Lot 1) of about one Acre, and a Close of Pasture adjoining, containing about six Acres and a Half.

Apply to Messrs. HODSON, Solicitors, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

The public house was obviously a hub of the village in the early 19th century, as there are a number of references to public roles: manor and hundred courts were held there from at least 1811 until at least 1848 [WG6/15-16] and people could pay their county rate precepts there from at least 1821 [P40/18/38a] until at least 1824 [P50/18/6].

In 1824 the Five Bells, along with 6¼ acres of land were owned by Samuel Richards, gentleman, who died intestate in that year [WG2050]. His estate was divided between John Garratt, eldest son of his sister Ann Garratt, and Millicent Smith and Grace Morris, daughters of Richards' other sister Millicent Byron. The following year John Garratt, along with Millicent Smith and Grace Morris and their respective husbands, conveyed the public house and land to Thomas Bridges of Wilshamstead, yeoman for £795 [WG2050]. To judge by the countywide register of alehouse recognizances, Bridges immediately became licensee of the Five Bells himself, rather than running it through a tenant. The deed describes the property thus: "All that Messuage, tenement or Dwelling House formerly a Farm House and then and for several years past used as an Inn and known by the Name or Sign of the Five Bells". This suggests that, as the building was certainly a public house by 1809, that it must have been built in the late 18th century or very earliest years of the 19th century at the latest.

In 1856 licensee Joseph Peasnall died owing money to creditors. All his goods were auctioned and a very complete catalogue of them exists [SF52/2]. Interestingly the public house is named The Six Bells on the sale poster. The sale raised £146/10 [SF52/3]. It is not clear whether the Peasnall family were the owners of the Five (or Six) Bells by this date but the next known licensee was Thomas Askew Peasnall.

By 1867 the property was owned by Bedford brewer William Joseph Nash who mortgaged it, with other property, in this year [GK161/1]. Nash was grandson of Peregrine Nash who purchased the Saint Mary's Brewery in Bedford in 1783. William Joseph died in 1884 leaving his widow Sarah to carry on the business. She took rival Bedford brewer William Pritzler Newland as a business partner in 1890 to form the company known as Newland and Nash. On Susan's death her four daughters became partners. The business was floated as a limited company in 1897 by which time it owned seventy five public houses. William Pritzler Newland died in 1900 and, despite acquiring several small breweries the company began to fail, being taken over by Biggleswade brewers Wells and Winch in 1922. Wells and Winch was taken over by Suffolk brewers Greene King in 1961 and this firm owned the Five Bells through the rest of the 20th century.

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. Riseley was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting the Five Bells [DV1/C222/21] did not, unusually, note the number of rooms inside, though he recorded a brick and tile two bay hovel and barn outside, along with weather-boarded and corrugated iron fowl sheds, a weather-boarded and tiled barn, a brick and tile stable for two and a similarly stable for four "now used for fowls" and a brick and tile barn adjoining the house., as did a grass field of just over half an acre.

The tenant was John Edwin Hopkins, in the final year of his tenancy. The valuer commented: "Mr. Hopkins out - at work. Mrs. Hopkins stone deaf. Gossip says house does no trade at all - about the least in parish". He noted that there was a tapped barrel of beer in the cellar and half a barrel standing untapped. He summarised: "No trade done. Bad tenant. Might be a decent house…Well built place in good position".

The public house continued into the 21st century though by 2010 it was boarded up. Today [2015] it is a private house.

The former Five Bells August 2010
The former Five Bells August 2010

List of Sources

  • Northampton Mercury: Five Bells to be sold: 1809;
  • WG6/15-16: Hundred and Manor Courts held at the Five Bells: 1811-1848;
  • P40/18/38a-47: precepts for the county rate to be paid at the Five Bells: 1821-1831;
  • CLP13 : list of alehouse recognizances: 1822-1828;
  • P48/18/6: precepts for payment of county rate at Five Bells: 1823-1824;
  • P50/18/6: precept for payment of rates at the Five Bells: 1824;
  • WG2050: conveyance: 1825;
  • SF52/1-3: sale of deceased landlord's property and effects due to debt: 1856;
  • GK161/3: mortgage of William Joseph Nash: 1867;
  • GK3/3: schedule of deeds: 1868;
  • GK159/1: mortgage of William Joseph Nash: 1882;
  • GK3/1: conveyance of business to Newland and Nash Limited: 1897;
  • Z50/96/42: photograph of a merry-go-round outside the Five Bells: 1920s;
  • GK297/2: Newland and Nash property conveyed to Wells and Winch: 1938;
  • BorBTP/79/1912: plans for alterations and extension: 1979

The former Five Bells April 2015
The former Five Bells April 2015

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:

before 1822: Daniel Dawson;
before 1822: Thomas Cole;
1822: Benjamin Everitt;
1823-1824: William Henman;
1824-1825: John Dickens;
1825-1828: Thomas Bridges;
1847-1856:  Joseph Peasnall;
1864: Thomas Askew Peasnall;
1869: Frederick Ross;
1871-1881 Joseph Valentine
1885-1894: Henry Robins;
1898-1903: Charles Mitchell;
1906-1927: John Edwin Hopkins;
1928: Horace Woodville Price;
1931: Cecil Green;
1936: Elizabeth Turner;
1936-1970: Frederick Albert Tarry;
1970-1973: Allan Douglas Bately;
1973-1995: Ernest Thomas