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The Bell Inn Silsoe

The Bell Inn: High Street, Silsoe.

This inn only occurs in deeds of properties in Silsoe forming part of the Lucas archive [L5]. This indicates that it eventually became part of the Wrest Park Estate.

On 20th October 1721 when William Bourne of Middlesex, locksmith conveyed a cottage and pightle of three roods in Silsoe to John Allen of Silsoe for £43 [L5/321-322]. The cottage was in the occupation of Thomas Bird and adjoined the highway to the east, land of William White to the west, land of Thomas Bishop south and Waterslade Field north. This looks as if the property was on the west side of the High Street.

By 1737 the cottage had become the Bell Inn. It is not possible to say from the deed whether the old cottage was demolished and the Bell built in its place or whether the old cottage simply became the Bell. On 8th July that year the cottage, together with some other property was mortgaged by John Allen to Dame Elizabeth Sanderson for £200 [L5/323]. The Bell was described as being in the occupation of Mary Bird, widow. Three new brick houses had been built next to it by John Allen. Also part of the mortgage was a cottage which adjoined the George Inn. At this period the George lay on the east side of the High Street south of the church, more or less opposite the point where West End Road turns into the High Street. It is possible that the Bell lay in this general area on the west side of the road.

Two years later John Allen was in financial difficulties as his property was released to trustees for the benefit of his creditors [L5/325-326]. In December that year Allen joined the trustees in conveying the Bell, now described as formerly in the occupation of Mary Bird and the adjoining three brick cottages to John Swaisland of Silsoe, yeoman for £317 [L5/328-329]. Swaisland immediately mortgaged the properties to Rev. Philip Birt, who had been one of the trustees for Allen's creditors, for £100 [L5/331].

In September 1774 Elizabeth Swaisland of Kent, widow conveyed the Bell, now in the occupation of Mary Bust, along with the adjoining cottages to William Harrison of Silsoe, gentleman for £171 [L5/336-337]. He kept a school in the chancel of the chapel. The following January Harrison sold the Bell and cottages to the surviving executor of the will of the Duke of Kent for £263 [L5/338-339].

Just confuse matters there seems to have been another Bell in Silsoe. As we have seen in 1774 the inn was owned by Elizabeth Swaisland and in the occupation of Mary Bust. In August 1773 there was an agreement to discontinue an inn called the Bell. This was between James Polton of Silsoe, innholder and Joseph Cole on behalf of the Earl of Hardwicke, husband of Marchioness Grey.

The Wrest Park Estate clearly owned this second Bell as Polton agrees that he will pay the same rent for the private house to the estate as he had when it was an inn [L5/343]. Perhaps the best reading of the situation is that the two inns called the Bell were in different parts of the village (not so unusual an occurrence as one might think) and that the newer inn, that run by Mary Bust, was more profitable so the estate simply decided that the old inn was no longer sustainable. An alternative reading is that the Earl of Hardwicke was concerned about the number of licensed premises encouraging drunkenness and/or riotous behaviour and so closed one of them. As we have seen in January 1775, seventeen months after Polton's Bell closed, the estate bought the surviving Bell too. It then disappears from the record and must have closed by 1822 as it is not listed in a countywide licensing register for that year, the only licensed premises in Silsoe being the George and the Star and Garter.


  • L5/321-322: conveyance from William Bourne to John Allen: 1721;
  • L5/320: assignment of mortgage to Henry Allen: 1722;
  • L5/323-324: mortgage from John Allen to Elizabeth Sanderson: 1737;
  • L5/325-326: release and assignment in trust for creditors of John Allen: 1739;
  • L5/327-330: conveyance from the trustees for the creditors and John Allen to John Swaisland: 1739;
  • L5/331-332: mortgage from John Swaisland to Philip Birt: 1739;
  • L5/333-334: assignment of mortgage to George Barnard: 1760;
  • L5/335: assignment of mortgage to William Harrison: 1774;
  • L5/336-337: conveyance by Elizabeth Swaisland to William Harrison: 1774;
  • L5/338-342: conveyance from William Harrison to trustees of the will of the Duke of Kent: 1775

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

1737: Mary Bird;
1774: Mary Bust

Another inn called The Bell

1773: James Polton