Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Shefford > The White Hart Public House Shefford

The White Hart Public House Shefford

White Hart about 1920
White Hart about 1920

White Hart Public House: 2 North Bridge Street

This public house is the largest in Shefford and has a long history. The first mention of it in any document held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service is in 1649 when a survey of the manors comprising the Honour of Ampthill was carried out [R6/1/1/18]. The White Hart formed part of the Manor of Campton and Shefford and was described thus: "White Hart hostelry in Shefford, at the west end of the Butchers' Shambles, with 4 [low] rooms and 4 [bed]chambers, well tiled, with barn and stable of 4 bays, with 3 roods in Fords Meadow on the backside of the hostelry to the east and 4 acres 1 rood 0 perches of arable in the common fields of Shefford to the south; the tenant is William Farr by conveyance from John Eldred and William Whitmore who had it from James I by letters patent of 31st August 1610 for 60 years". This, together with the estimated date of the building as about 1600 suggest that the inn may have first opened its doors in 1610.

In 1656 William Farr devised the White Hart in his will to his only son Jeremy; Farr died in 1660 and his will was proved on 25th January 1661. A stray letter in the Duke of Bedford's estate archive shows that the property was owned by him in the mid 18th century. It comes from the licensee to the Duke's estate agent [R35/5] gives an idea of the state of the White Swan in 1751: "I have lived 16 Years at the White Hart in Shefford belonging to his Grace of Bedford & his Rent is paid every Court Day, but for an Inn it is presumed there is not one in England that is Tenanted, that is in so Ruinous a Condition, being underneath Supported by props & the Tiling is no shelter to myself nor goods, if therefore Sir you please to give Orders to redress my Grievances I shall think myself infinitely obliged to you, or if you shall dispute the Truth of the above if you please to call, I will Endeavour to have an Entertainment Suitable for you Gratis, and manifest the Truth hereof".

From the evidence of a cheque book stub it looks as if the White Hart was bought by Bedford brewer George Higgins in 1874 for £900. Higgins and Son were bought out by Biggleswade brewers Wells and Winch in 1927 and Wells and Winch were taken over by Suffolk brewers Greene King in 1961.

In 1884 the White Hart saw an interesting scene, as described in a report by PC George Daniels stationed at Shefford.  He had hired a conveyance at the White Hart to convey a prisoner, George Earl of Clifton, who was in custody on a charge of being drunk and riotous, to Biggleswade.  With assistance PC Daniels fastened the handcuff on one hand to the other side of the cart.  Earl resisted being put into the conveyance and kicked PC Daniels on the bottom jaw.  Earl then threw himself over the side and broke the side rail of the cart.  While securing Earl he struck PC Daniels twice with his fist and skinned his knuckles while fastening him in the cart with hemp halters. The offending ruffian was fined 20/- with 5/- costs 5/-, with one month's hard labour if he did not pay up.

A glance at the sources below will show that the White Hart was an important venue for auction sales. This was no doubt due to its size and position. Surviving evidence of sales goes from 1802 to 1939 and 14 are known, no doubt there were hundreds more.

In 1927 the town of Shefford was valued under the terms of the Rating Valuation Act 1925; every piece of land and building in the country was assessed to determine the rates to be paid on it. The valuer visiting the White Hart noted [DV1/C289] that it was an: "Excellent building in centre of town. Imposing looking place". The building comprised a bar with three pulls ["good"], asmoke room ["good"], a commercial room ["good"], aprivate parlour, kitchen and scullery with 4 bedrooms upstairs ["sometime let one for night"] and three attics above that. Outside were a coach house, stabling for three horses, a six bay open shed ["Good stabling but not much used"], an open hovel and a stone double coach house. Trade seemed distinctly low at a barrel and four to six dozen bottles of beer per week and 1½ to 2 gallons of spirits per week. The valuer, however, was clearly impressed: "I should think about the best in the village".

The former Department of Environment listed the White Hart, awarding it Grade II, of special interest. The considered it to date from about 1600 with early and mid 19th century reworkings. They noted that it is a red brick refronting of an earlier timber-framed building. The White Hart remains at time of writing [2008] a Green King public house.

 White Hart from the front January 2008
White Hart from the front January 2008


  • R6/1/1/18: survey of Honour of Ampthill: 1649;
  • W2539: will of William Farr: 1656;
  • R35/5: letter regarding the consition of the White Hart: 1751;
  • WJ 111: auction sale held at White Hart: 1802;
  • CLP13: register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
  • RBox828Bundle6: letters regarding repairs: 1831;
  • L11/8: auction sale held at inn: 1851
  • Z858/19/4: sale held at inn: 1851;
  • X238/16-17: abuttal in a deed: 1860-1861;
  • Z210/88: sale held at inn: 1868;
  • HF143/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1873;
  • HF143/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1874-1877;
  • GK84/4: cheque book stub showing £900 paid by George Higgins to Thomas Barnard for White Hart: 1874;
  • WL1000/1/CLI/1/6: sale held at inn: 1877;
  • HF143/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1878-1881;
  • HF143/4: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1882-1890;
  • GK4/2: conveyance of a number of properties including the White Hart from George Higgins' executors to his sons: 1884;
  • HF147/11/25: report of resisting arrest: 1884;
  • GK304/10: sale held at inn: 1885;
  • X836/10/6: sale held at inn: 1887;
  • WL1000/1/CLI/1/10: sale held at inn: 1890;
  • HF143/5: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1891-1900;
  • SF40/5: sale held at inn: 1897;
  • HF143/6: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1900-1914;
  • GK4/4: conveyed by Laurence Read Colbourne Higgins and Cecil Charles
  • Norman Colbourne Higgins to Higgins & Sons Limited: 1902;
  • PSBW8/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1903-1915;
  • Z720/1/6: sale held at inn: 1909;
  • Z720/1/20: sale held at inn: 1917;
  • Z720/1/33: sale held at inn: 1920;
  • GK4/6: schedule of deeds of Higgins & Sons Limited properties: 1927;
  • DV1/C289: valuation: 1927;
  • GK297/1: conveyance of Higgins and Sons Limited to Wells and Winch Limited: 1931;
  • BTNegOB39/9a-b: glass plate negatives of White Hart: c.1931;
  • Z720/1/39: sale held at inn: 1935;
  • PK1/4/127: sale held at inn: 1939;
  • PSBW8/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1956-1972;
  • Z50/101/40-44: photographs of crossroads showing White Hart: 1972;
  • PSBW8/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1976-1980.

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:
1656: William Farr;
1660: Jeremy Farr;
1751: Thomas Ibbott;
1785: Samuel Ashby;
1822-1824: Ann Barker, widow;
1823-1839: William Barker;
1861: William Bell;
1869-1874: William Wallis (& postinghouse and inland revenue);
1874-1882: Edward Flack;
1882-1885: Henry Watson;
1885: Mary Worsam;
1885-1924: Edward Tingey;
1927-1931: Frank Jackson
1940: George H Brisdey
1957-1973: George Harold Buxey;
1973-1975: Arnold Ellison;
1975-1980: Margaret Ellison;
1980-1981: Roger Donald McCulloch;
1981-1983: Thomas Peter Anderson;
1983-1984: Leslie Arthur Jessamey;
1984-1986: John Hogfress;
1986-1988: Elizabeth Hogfress;
1988-1990: Brian Cullen and Samantha Jane Cullen;
1990-1996: Charles Fraser;
1996: Ann Christine Mary Fraser