The George Inn Silsoe
The George Inn, 1718 - shown in red [X1/97/5]
The George Hotel: High Street, Silsoe
Today's George Inn on the High Street in Silsoe is a relatively recent building when compared with the history of the inn itself. The first mention of it is on 26th December 1613 when the executors of John Child conveyed it to Richard Daniel for £240/10/6 [AD1101]. Even accounting for the close of three acres adjoining and the eight acres dispersed in the common fields of Silsoe which went with the purchase the sum is a large one for the date indicating that the George must already have been a well established business.
In 1628 Edward Daniel, citizen and draper of London, sold the George, its adjoining close and land now amounting to seven acres dispersed in the common fields of Silsoe to Flitton gentleman Benjamin Hale and Ann, his wife, for £285 [L5/8]. Hale, made his will, in which he is called Benjamin Hales, in April 1631 and devised the George to his daughter Ann [L5/10]. The will was proved on 11th May 1632.
His daughter Ann, who had evidently married a man named Wheeler, made her own will in February 1673 and devised the George to her daughter Mary. Her will stated that she lived at the George [L5/11]. The will was proved on 1st March 1673. Just over a fortnight later Mary Wheeler mortgaged the George to Thomas Arnald of Ampthill, gentleman, for £260 [L5/12]. On 30th May that year Mary together with a William Wheeler, her elder brother, conveyed the George to Arnald for £310 [L5/14] and he then leased it back to Mary for five years at a rent of £18/12/- per annum [L5/16]. This conveyance was simply to secure the mortgage £260 original mortgage with its £50 further advance. In March 1676 both Mary Wheeler and Thomas Arnald joined in conveying the George to Amabella, Countess Dowager of Kent, for £350 [L5/17-18].
The George turns up three times in the 17th century parish registers for Flitton and Silsoe. On 12th March 1625 "a stranger which died at the George" was buried. On 12th August 1674 Thomas Godfrey, alias Cooper "of ye Georg at Silsoe" was buried and on 13th March 1680 Susan, daughter of John and Elizabeth Allen "at the George Silsoe" was baptized.
In 1719 a rental was prepared for Wrest Park Estate tenants. The George [L33/286 folio 11] is described as: "A Messuage with Barns, Stables &c. called the George Inn with two Closes Adjoyning Called George Closes" this came to 4 acres, 2 roods, 25 poles. The tenant, Humphry Fletcher also leased two parcels of inclosed land amounting to 3 acres, 1 rood, 18 poles, twenty nine separate parcels of arable land amounting to 34 acres, 2 roods, 7 poles and two parcels of meadow amounting to 4 acres, 2 roods, 33 poles all for £53 per annum.
The map accompanying the rental [X1/97/5] shows that the George then stood approximately opposite the spot where West End Road runs into the High Street, today's 6 and 8 High Street [see the plan at the top of this page]. From there it ran up the hill towards the site of today's Star and Garter, which, to judge by the map, may not yet have been built. In April 1751 the George was visited by three highwaymen.
On 16th July 1781 an advertisement appeared in the Northampton Mercury to the effect that the George Inn was going to be taken over by John Gough, butler to the late Lord Polwarth. This man was refused his licence in 1786 after an argument in public over the death of serving girl of his four years before. She had died in labour and many supposed he was the father. The licence was then acquired by Benjamin Carter. There was still a Benjamin Carter at the George 68 years later in 1856 so it seems reasonable to assume that there were at least two licensees of the same name, presumably father and son.
John Byng, 5th Viscount Torrington (1743-1813) kept a detailed diary between 1781 and 1794. He was a great traveller and he mentions the George three times. The diaries were published betwen 1934 and 1938. The Torrington Diaries Volume IV page 100 deals with 30th May 1789: "A short Road [from Wrest Park] brought me, at 2 o'clock to The George Inn, Silsoe, a tolerable Noon Stop, free from Noise, close to The Park, and with a neat Garden; where on a Seat in a yew-Bush, I enjoy'd the fragrance of a Sweet Briar Hedge, Shelter'd from the Rain; I but just Escaped. The Stable here is very good, and The People very Civil. – Unluckily, I was too late for their Eggs and Bacon, So was obliged to have a bad fry'd Beef-Steak;- but I brought good sauce with me".
"Wrest is a deserted Place; No residence, now, of Nobility; or of expensive Housekeeping! I made a longish tedious Stay here; my Horse faring better than I did, in a good Stall, and with good Food; But my charge was very cheap, and the brown Bread excellent (white I always discard), nor was the Sage-Cheese amiss … I always think of Dinner for ½ an hour before my arrival at the Inn, which gives me an appetite, and an hurry for eating; and I never Eat with so much good will, as when I come in heated, and can have my meat quickly; for then both Body and Mind are instantly Refreshed and Recover'd". the bill was as follows:
- Eating – Beef Steaks and: 8d.
- Drinking – 3 glasses Brandy and Water: 6d.
- Horses – hay and Corn: 5d.
- Feeding – two Servants: 4d.
- Total: 1/11.
The Torrington Diaries Volume II page 282 for 25th August 1790 reads: "but the rain falling fast, hurried us along under an avenue of trees to the George Inn, Silsoe; where we housed ourselves and stabled our horses. – C. thought of a good dinner, but I confined his wants to the situation, and to an half eaten, half-hot leg of mutton; to which were added eggs and bacon: C. praised the ale and I quaffed brandy and water…The misery of the inn and the misery of the day could not but gloom us". The bill was as follows:
- Dinner: 1/-
- Beer: 3d.
- Brandy: 1/-
- Tea: 1/4
- Horses, Corn and Hay: 1/4
- Total: 5/5.
The Torrington Diaries Volume IV page 15 for 9th May 1794 reads: "More rain coming on, hurried us to the GeorgeInn, a small public house at Silsoe – (often mention'd in my tours). Here in the back room towards the garden, we employ'd ourselves in blowing the fire – and in waiting for something to eat. The day was cold and rainy – and this house is only for a hot summer's lounge. The people – and their best room was taken up by a post chaise company. The stabling is tolerable and the hostler very attentive. – The chops at last burnt up and our bad dinner came in". The bill this time was:
- Eating: 2/-
- Beer: 3d.
- Brandy: 1/3
- Fire: 6d.
- Horses, Corn and Hay: 1/6
- Total: 5/6.
The diary goes on: "The expense was not high for 3 people? Tho' they screw'd up hay one penny pr. Horse".
The Ampthill Petty Sessions of 20th December 1838 recorded that the George was "untenantable and irreparable". As a result the licence was moved to a new building [PSA1/1]. It is likely that the old building was demolished soon afterwards.
The George in 1961 [Z53/104/11]
The new George was the building which still carries the name today, further up the High Street and on the opposite side of the road. This building was listed by the former Department of Environment in 1960 as Grade III but is no longer listed. The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county's historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The entry for the George [HER 3809] reads: "Largely rebuilt during the early 19th century. May be very late 17th century elements, but probably 18th century. Interior very altered. Renovations in the 1990s uncovered a well in the courtyard, and an early to mid 19th century smoke-driven spit in one of the fireplaces".
In fact there was no building on the site in 1718 as can be seen from the map of Silsoe made for the Duke of Kent at that date [X1/97/5]. A map of 1828 [L33/9] shows a building on the site but it is just a narrow strip along the roadway, almost like a row of cottages rather than the extensive buildings of today. Pigot and Company's Directory for Bedfordshire of 1839 states in its Silsoe entry: "A good inn has lately been built here; it is a convenient posting and commercial establishment" which implies that today's George dates to 1838.
The countywide licensing register of 1903 estimates the gross rental of the George as being £129 per annum. Rateable value was £115. It was a free house "in good repair and clean" and had both front and back doors
In 1919 Nan Ino, 10th Baroness Lucas of Crudwell was completing the break up and sale of the Wrest Park Estate. She agreed to sell the George to the tenant Mrs. Charlotte Anderson. Included in the sale were 29 acres, 1 rood, 28 poles of pasture and 29 acres, 1 roods, 25 poles of arable. The total purchase price was £3,100 [L23/1007/20]. When Mrs. Anderson gave up the licence in 1924 she sold the inn to Bedford brewers Higgins and Sons Limited for £3,000 [GK85/1]. During the 1920s the company made alterations [Z1169/8/66/1].
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 the George [DV1/C238/116] found it owned by Higgins and Sons Limited and tenanted by Frank Carthew. The inn stood in just under half an acre and the tenant paid £50 per annum in rent, reduced from £80 before World War One.
The building had a "long, imposing frontage" and comprised, on the ground floor, a saloon bar, a public bar with four beer pulls, a coffee room ("very good"), a private drawing room ("good"), a club room ("fair"), a kitchen and a scullery. It was, no doubt to this club room that the deputation from the Borough of Bedford proceeded after their meeting with King Edward VII at Wrest Park in July 1909. Upstairs lay seven bedrooms ("3 of them letting bedrooms"), a bathroom and three W. C's.
Outside stood an electric light plant in two parts, a coal house, a store shed, an oil shed, a motor workshop and petrol store, a new bottle store and a garage for two cars. The year to December 1926 had produced gross takings of £2,305, the previous fifteen months to December 1925, £2,569. The valuer noted: Apply Higgins for Beer consumption. Apply Burrow, Worth & Bell, Bedford, for wine and spirits and total".
In 1931 Higgins and Sons Limited sold their business, with its licensed premises to Biggleswade brewer Wells and Winch Limited [GK297/1]. Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has plans for alterations to be made to the George in 1939 [Z1169/8/66/2-4]. Wells and Winch were taken over by Suffolk brewers Greene King in 1961. At the time of writing  the George remains a hotel.
The George March 2011
- AD1101: conveyance by the executors of John Child to Richard Daniel: 1613;
- L5/8: conveyance from Edward Daniell to Benjamin Hale: 1628;
- L5/9: conveyance of a neighbouring close from Richard Hodgkis to Benjamin Hale: 1628;
- L5/10: probate of the will of Benjamin Hales: 1631, proved 1632;
- L5/11: probate of the will of Ann Wheeler: 1673, proved 1673;
- L5/12-13: mortgage from Mary Wheeler to Thomas Arnald: 1673;
- L5/14-15: conveyance from William and Mary Wheeler to Thomas Arnald;
- L5/16: five year lease from Thomas Arnald to Mary Wheeler: 1673;
- Bedfordshire Parish Register volume xviii: 1673;
- L5/17-20: conveyance from Mary Wheeler and Thomas Arnald to Amabella, Countess Dowager of Kent: 1676;
- P12/1/2: baptism of a child of John and Elizabeth Allen of The George: 1680;
- L33/286 folio 11: details of the inn: 1719;
- HE424: depositions regarding tithes taken at the inn: 1725;
- P54/5: Silsoe churchwardens' accounts: 1731;
- CRT100/27/3 page 5: highwaymen at the George: 1751;
- QSM xv. 59: Quarter Sessions held at the inn: 1770;
- L27/18: bill: 1774;
- Northampton Mercury: GeorgeInn to be taken over by John Gough, butler to the late Lord Polwarth: 16th July 1781;
- CRT100/27/(i) pages 117-120: accusations against the landlord regarding the death of a servant: 1786;
- CRT100/27(ii) page 121: landlord dismissed: 1786;
- CRT100/27(ii) page 128: character of the landlord: 1786;
- CRT100/27(ii) page 129: license granted to Benjamin Carter: 1786;
- The Torrington Diaries volume IV page 100: 1789;
- The Torrington Diaries volume II page 282: 25th August 1790;
- The Torrington Diaries volume IV page 15: 1794;
- L5/680: auction sale held at the George: 1814;
- CLP13: register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
- PSA1/1: old building described as "untenable and irreparable" resulting in the licensing of a new building: 20th December 1838;
- 1839 directory: describes the George as a "good inn, lately built": 1839;
- PSA5/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1927;
- X291/186/57: postcard: early 20th century;
- X291/77/440: postcard: c. 1910;
- X291/77/442: postcard: c. 1910;
- L23/1007/20: sale of the inn: 1919;
- Z1169/8/66/1: proposed alterations: 1920s;
- GK4/6: schedule of deeds: 1924;
- GK85/1: conveyed by Charlotte Anderson to Higgins and Sons Limited: 1924;
- GK297/1: conveyed by Higgins & Sons Limited to Wells and Winch Limited: 1931;
- PSA5/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1934-1959;
- Z1169/8/66/2-4: proposed alterations: 1939;
- PSA5/4: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: c.1950s
- Z53/104/11: photograph: 1961;
- PSA5/5: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1968-1995.
Licensees: Note that this is not a complete list; italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known
1719: Humphry Fletcher;
1782: Francis Jarman;
1786-1854: Benjamin Carter;
1862-1871: James Beaumont (a posting house);
1876-1890: Charles Browning;
1890-1914: John Palmer Gray;
1914-1924: Charlotte Anderson;
1924-1931: Frank Carthew;
1931-1933: Major Philip Reginald Cork OBE;
1933-1934: Samuel John Catherock Aintree;
1934-1937: Frederick Francis Tripp;
1937-1945: Cyril Partridge;
1945: Madge Lavinia Partridge;
1945-1958: Daniel George Rees Bilham;
1958-1959: Marjorie Vera Bilham;
1959-1970: Aidan Frederick Farwell;
1970-1978: John William George Bennett;
1978-1982: Ronald Ernest Boatman;
1982-1988: Alan Raymond Kirby;
1988-1990: Irene Margaret Edith Kirby;
1990-1995: John Charles Bridge.