Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Shillington > The Noahs Ark Public House Shillington

The Noahs Ark Public House Shillington

The Noah's Ark April 2015
The Noah's Ark  April 2015

The Noah's Ark Public House: 16 Hillfoot Road, Shillington 

The Noah's Ark, surely one of the best Bedfordshire pub names, is listed in the countywide licensing register of 1876 as a beerhouse owned by John Kempson of Shillington and as having first been licensed in 1869.

The deeds to the property go back to 1827 when Thomas Francis of Shillington, carpenter  sold fifteen poles of copyhold land at Hill Foot End to John Kempson of Shillington, builder. The land abutted south on the roadway, east on land of John Lowings, north on land of John Hanscombe and west on other land of Thomas Francis [GK288/1]. In 1861 Kempson enfranchised the land, that is, he made it freehold by paying a fine of £25 to Lord of the Manor, Rev Henry George Musgrave Musgrave [GK288/2].

In 1866 John Kempson took out a £1,300 mortgage secured on 22 acres, 1 rood, 36 poles in Shillington. The land included a dwelling house and carpenter's shop, barn, stable and other outbuildings erected by Kempson on the plot of land purchased in 1827 [GK288/3]. The property was now described as abutting south on the road, east on land late of John Lawings, north on land of Mr Hanscombe and west on land of Emma, wife of John Kempson. The mortgage was repaid in 1881.

In 1885 John Kempson made a tenancy agreement with Baldock [Hertfordshire] brewer Oliver Steed, rent being £23 per annum [HF40/3/2/10].On Steed's death in 1888 the firm was purchased by Charles Morley for Burton-on-Trent [Nottinghamshire] brewer William Pickering, who changed the name to Morley and Company, later Wilson and Company. In 1898 the name was again changed, on flotation on the stock market, to Baldock Brewery Company Limited [GK165/12]. The firm became bankrupt in 1904 and was acquired by Biggleswade brewers Wells and Winch [GK165/17]. In 1906 Kempson made an agreement with Wells and Winch to lease the Noah's Ark on a yearly basis for £15 [GK288/4].

In 1918 the building was conveyed by the executors of Emma, wife of John Kempson, to her daughter Marion Elizabeth Palmer of Wood Green, London [GK288/7]. 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 Noah's Ark in 1926 [DV1/C74/40] found it still owned by Marion Palmer the tenant, George Hinge, paying rent of £12 per annum (up from £8 before the Great War).

The beerhouse comprised a tap room ("poor"), a cellar, a living room, a scullery, two bedrooms and two lean-to rooms. A wood and tiled barn and stable for two horses stood outside. Trade consisted of one 18 gallon barrel of beer, 1½ dozen bottles of beer and one pound of tobacco per week. Takings were "somewhere around £200 per year (Wells and Winch beer)". The valuer commented: "Can't get living here – too many pubs in Shillington" and "Poor looking place".

The Noah's Ark became fully licensed on 10th March 1955 [PSA5/2]. It remains [2015] one of just three public houses in the village.


  • GK288/1: covenant to surrender: 1827;
  • GK288/2: Enfranchisement: 1861;
  • PSA5/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1927;
  • GK288/3: Reconveyance: 1881;
  • HF40/3/2/10: assignment of lease to Steed's Baldock Brewery: 1885;
  • GK165/12: conveyance to Baldock Brewery 1898;
  • GK1/36: Baldock Brewery sale catalogue: 1903;
  • GK165/17: conveyance to Wells and Winch: 1904;
  • GK288/4: Lease: 1906;
  • GK2/1: authority to collect rents for Noah's Ark: 1910;
  • GK288/7: Conveyance: 1918;
  • PSA5/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1934-1959;
  • PSA5/4: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: c.1950s;
  • PSA5/5: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1968-1995;
  • Z1062/1/11/8: photograph: 1998

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

1876-1892: Jesse Dear;
1892: Alfred Dennison;
1892-1907: Eli Bigmore;
1907: Emily Bigmore;
1907-1942: George Hinge;
1942-1958: Arthur Banks;
1958-1959: Violet Muriel Banks;
1959-1962: William Herbert Christopher Higham;
1962-1983: Ralph Alfred Mabbott;
1983-1986: Kenneth James Vintner;
1986-1994: Malcolm Stewart Williams;
1994: Thomas Alec Pooley;
1994-1995: Peter Reginald Dearman.