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The Kings Arms Public House Shefford

Kings Arms about 1870
Kings Arms about 1870 [Z50/101/14b]

Kings Arms: 36-38 High Street, Shefford

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service does not have many records for this longstanding public house, mainly because it was owned by Hertfordshire brewery Simpson of Baldock and the deeds are at Hertfordshire Archives Service. The building is old - it was listed by the former Department of Environment in 1952 as Grade II, of special interest. The surveyor considered it 17th century, reworked in the 18th and 20th centuries and originally one property. It is timber framed with red brick infill - Number 36 has been recased and colour-washed. Both properties have hipped clay tile roofs. Nikolaus Pevsner in the Bedfordshire section of his Buildings of England series dismisses it as "over restored".

Appropriately the first document held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service which refers to the building is 17th century [F696]: in 1654, following the bankruptcy of its owner Oliver Page, commissioners in bankruptcy sold the "messuage or inn called the King's arms in Shefford in occupation of Nicholas Clarke, innholder, between the tenement or ground of Francis Bentham east and ground of William Goldsmith, clerk, west, abutting north on ground of William Goldsmith and south on the High Street" to John Tutt of Southampton and George Towers of London, along with five acres of land in Campton and five messuages in Shefford.

The next incident recorded in material held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service was not until 1869, the Bedfordshire Mercury of 23rd November reported: " FIRE: - On Sunday evening, the 14th inst., about 6 o’clock, a fire broke out on the premises of the Kings Arms Inn, occupied by Mr John Levitt. From the position of the premises and the nature of the buildings (being principally of wood), great fears were at first entertained as to the safety of other houses adjoining, and if the wind had been as boisterous as it was on Saturday evening it is doubtful whether any portion of the north side of the High Street could have been saved eastward of the fire. Both engines belonging to the town were on the premises as soon as possible, and getting a good supply of water from one of the reservoirs, and from pumps close by, the blazing element, which threatened so much destruction, was, by the exertion and prompt assistance of the inhabitants, soon subdued."

In 1873 Police Sergeant George Daniels reported that Benjamin Smith of Shefford come out of Shefford Lane into the High Street.  He was very drunk and used very abusive language.  Segeant Daniels requested him to go quietly.  He went away but about an hour later he came back and went into the Kings Arms Public House and began to abuse the landlady.  Sergeant Daniels was called and took him out onto the street.  He said he would summons him.  Smith then went away. The case was bought before the magistrates but was dismissed [HF147/8/1422].

In 1875 the Kings Arms was in the news again when William Bedlow, inspector of weights and measures, summonsed Edward Ivens keeper of the Kings Arms at Shefford for three pint measures, each deficient [HF147/3/696]. Ivens pleaded guilty and hoped for leniency, which he evidently had as he was still the licensee in 1884.

The last licensee recorded in any document held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service was Joseph Harris, who died in 1918 [40/108/9]. In 1927 the town of Shefford was valued under the terms of the Rating Valuation Act 1925; every piece of land and property was assessed to determine the rates to be paid on it. By then the Kings Arms had already closed. The valuer visiting 36 High Street [DV1/C290/91] noted that it was occupied a Mrs.F.Mason as shop "two rooms downstairs as millinery prems only" in other words she only occupied the ground floor as a lock-up shop. The shop itself measured 13 feet square with a work room measuring 13 feet by 12 feet.

38 High Street [DV1/C290/89] was owned and occupied by A.G.Richardson. It comprised a hall ["tiled timbered"], reception room, kitchen, scullery and "large room in rear" (also noted as "waste room at rear"); upstairs were three bedrooms and a "small room". Outside were a wood and corrugated iron two bay open hovel and a brick and tile stores and loft ["poor"]. Richardson also occupied the upstairs of 36 where there were two bedrooms ["poor"]. The valuer's overall comment: "poor in front better built at back".

At the time of writing [2008] 38 High Street is a private dwelling called Tudor House. 36 High Street is a commercial premises called Nearly Nouveau.

 36 to 38 High Street January 2008
36 to 38 High Street January 2008

Document References:

  • F696: bargain and sale from James Mayo and Jephson Towers to John Tutt and Guy Towers: 1654;
  • CLP13: register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
  • SF56/2: sale of furniture held at Kings Arms: 1867
  • Bedfordshire Mercury: report of fire: 1869;
  • HF143/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1873;
  • HF147/8/1422: abuse of the landlady: 1873;
  • HF143/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1874-1877;
  • HF147/3/696: summons against the landlord for keeping deficient measures: 1875;
  • HF143/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1878-1881;
  • HF143/4: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1882-1890;
  • HF716: bill of sale and inventory of effects: 1886;
  • HF143/5: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1891-1900;
  • GK307/21 Site plan: c.1898;
  • HF143/6: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1900-1914;
  • PSBW8/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1903-1915;
  • Z740/108/9 Valuation for probate on death of Joseph Harris:1918-1919;
  • DV1/ C290/89: valuation: 1927

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:
1654: Nicholas Clarke;
1785: Thomas Allen;
1822-1839:  James Waller;
1853-1861: Sarah Jarvis;
1864-1869: John Levitt (& butcher);
1872-1884: Edward Ivens;
1884-1887: Charles James Ebbs;
1887-1891: James Maindley;
1891-1899: Thomas Preston Elliott;
1899: Rosa Elliott;
1899-1905: George Asher Taylor;
1905: Walter William Sluggett;
1905-1906: Arthur Oakley;
1906-1907: Charles George Ezra;
1907-1908: George Foster;
1908: James Henry Nesbitt;
1908-1914: John Walters;
1914: Elizabeth Walters;
1914: Edward William Watts;
1918: Joseph Harris
Public house closed before 1927