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The French Horn Public House, Steppingley

The French Horn December 2016
The French Horn December 2016

The French Horn Public House: Church End, Steppingley

The French Horn was listed by English Heritage in May 1985 as Grade II, of special interest. The building’s origins lie in the 17th century, though it was re-worked in the 1860s [SF61/17 and SF82/3/7]. The structure is timber-framed with colour-washed brick cladding over it and has a slate roof. It comprises two storeys. The timber porch is 20th century as are the extensions to the right-hand end at the rear.

The name is unusual. In a piece in 1984 Ken Inwood of the Bedfordshire Times speculated that might be connected with Frenchman John de Schorne, rector of Steppingley 1273-1282, who had a reputation for miracle cures. A history of Steppingley Church written in 1960, probably by Ampthill historian Andrew Underwood confirms that de Schorne was highly thought of as a doctor.

The first reference to the public house is in 1794 in a sale particular of the lands of the late William Dutton [RBox 68 Bundle 5 Number 17]. It formed a part of Lot 2 and is described as “The French Horn Public House with barns, stabling and various out buildings, a garden and a small close of meadow land adjoining”. The lot also includes forty acres dispersed in the common fields. The tenant for the whole lot was William Phillips whose rent for it was £17 per annum. It seems likely that the landlord of the French Horn would have been Phillips’ sub-tenant.

A record of the estate of the Dukes of Bedford gives us a history of the ownership of the French Horn (the deeds themselves are not deposited with Bedfordshire Archive and Record Service). The French Horn included four cottages with outbuildings and gardens adjoining and a parcel of lands totalling 22 acres, 2 roods, 37 poles. The land was copyhold and in 1822 William Woodward was admitted tenant (jn other words he was the owner by the will of the Lord of the Manor). Woodward seems to have died in 1858 and in 1859 the trustees of his will, John Eagles and James Negus were admitted.

In 1879 Sarah Anne du Sautoy was admitted as owner and she immediately surrendered the property to Thomas Phillips and Joseph Beaumont Phillips. The property was enfranchised, that is, it was made freehold, in 1908 and in 1920 John Beaumont Phillips sold it to the Duke of Bedford.

The countywide licensing register of 1876 states that the owner of the French Horn was Ampthill brewer John Morris but, as we have seen, the firm was likely the tenant of the trustees of the will of William Woodward. The countywide licensing register of 1891 gives the owner as Thomas Phillips of Cople and notes that the pub was then a free house.

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 French Horn  [DV1/C81/23] found that the tenant paid rent of £20 per annum to Biggleswade brewers Wells and Winch (presumably tenants of the Duke of Bedford), which included 18.033 acres in four fields. The ground floor comprised a “good” bar, a “good” tap room, a living room, a scullery and a, pantry. There was also a cellar. Three bedrooms lay on the first floor. Outside stood a brick and slate stable, a thatched barn and an earth closet. Trade was estimated at 46 barrels, each of 36 gallons, per annum, with 24 dozen bottles, and ten gallons of spirits per annum. There was “no water supply”.

For some years past the French Horn has been as much a restaurant as a public house. At the time of writing [2017] the French Horn remains as a restaurant and pub.


  • RBox 68 Bundle 5 Number 17: sale particular: 1794;
  • HF18/12/1/1: devise of two thirds in a will: 1818;
  • CLP13: Register of Ale House Recognizances: 1822-1828;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP2: mortgage of Morris Brewery Company: 1831-1882;
  • SF82/3/7: specification for work: 1860;
  • SF61/17: specification for repairs and alterations: 1868;
  • X431/1: photograph of a “statty” fair held outside the French Horn: 1870;
  • PSA5/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1927;
  • P82/2/3/3: abstract of title of Joseph Beaumont Phillips to property in Steppingley including the French Horn: 1911;
  • 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;
  • Z1105/1: Liquor Licence Traders Survey Form: 1961
  • PSA5/5: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessions: 1968-1995;
  • AU48/3/1/7: speculation about the name: 1984;
  • AU48/3/1/11: planning permission to become a motel: 1986;
  • AU48/6/V19: colour photograph: 1986.

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list. Italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known:

1822-1828: Thomas White;
1847: William Phillipps;
1853-1869: Mrs Ann Phillips;
1876-1900: George Osborn;
1900-1903: Emma Osborn;
1903-1909: Alfred Williams;
1909-1910: Eli Norman;
1910-1951: Herbert George Odell;
1951-1955: Robert Henry Lewis Davis;
1955: Daisy Violet Davis;
1955-1957: Colin B. Hayers;
1957-1959: Priscilla Creighton Balfour;
1959-1963: William Henry Williamson;
1961: Herbert William Bland
1963-1971: Geoffrey Percival Brockett;
1971-1984: Haydon Sinclair Wilson;
1984-1986: Leonard Albert Beswick;
1986-1992: Eric Thomas Gilliland;
1992: Dawn Porter and Keith Anthony Adams;
1992-1993: David Proctor and David Keith Josey;
1993-1994: David Proctor and Russell Singer;
1994: Russell Singer and Paul Simpson;
1994-1996: Paul Simpson, Russell Singer and Dean Singer;
1996: Emmanuel Pettit, Louise Suzanne Winder and Keith Howard Cullimore