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The Five Bells Public House Swineshead

Five Bells Swineshead about 1925
Five Bells Swineshead about 1925 [WL800/2]

Five Bells Public House: High Street, Swineshead

The first specific mention of the Five Bells in any document held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service is when Elizabeth Linford was recorded as licensee about 1901 [PSS3/1]. There are mentions of Linfords in directories for Huntingdonshire [Swineshead only came into Bedfordshire in 1896] held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service but the service does not have many of these for obvious reasons.

Thus, it is only possible to say that the Five Bells seems to have been operating as a beerhouse at least as far back as 1871. The Linfords were bakers and it was common for tradesmen to also run a beerhouse as a side-line.

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has the work a searcher did on the Kangaroo Public House, Little Staughton [CRT130Stau9] which includes a photocopy of the particulars of the Robin Hood Brewery of Great Staughton [Huntingdonshire], sold at auction on 24th October 1898. Amongst the twenty five licensed premises was the Five Bells Beerhouse. It was described thus: "A brick and slated House containing Tap Room, Kitchen, Cellar, Shop, Parlour, and four Rooms over; Wash-house and Lumber Room in rear; also Bake-house and Flout Chamber. Entrance at side of House to Yard, with Coal and Wood-houses, w.c., &c, and piece of Garden Ground. In the occupation of Elizabeth Linford at £15 per annum. Copyhold of the Manor of Swineshead, in the County of Huntingdon".

At some point the beerhouse was purchased by Bedford brewer Charles Wells as it appears in an album of Wells houses put together about 1925 [WL800]. In 1927 Swineshead was valued under the terms of the Rating and 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 Five Bells [DV1/C/151] noted that the occupier had been F.Hales, but it was then vacant. The beerhouse's rent was 5 shillings per week on a three monthly tenure.

The establishment comprised a "good sized" bar, a kitchen, a pantry, a cellar and five bedrooms above. A wash-house, barn, stable and w.c. stood outside. Trade was about 18 gallons of beer per week; "very little tobacco – between 10s and £1". The valuer also remarked: "Quiet road, fully licensed house within 100 yards [i.e. the Three Horseshoes]. Not 1 dozen bottles per week. Opposite church. Tenant moving from here next month (end of June) and taking over the Fox at Kimbolton".

Building plans show that it was intended to convert the public house, as the beerhouse, had become, into a private home in 1992 [BorB/TP/92/1097] but this did not happen until at least 1995 as the property continues to appear in licensing registers until that date, the latest register held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service. Swineshead no longer has a public house.

 Old Five Bells May 2008
The Old Five Bells May 2008


  • CRT130/Stau9: sale particulars of Robin Hood Brewery: 1898;
  • PSS3/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: c.1901;
  • PSS3/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: c.1903;
  • PSS3/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Sharnbrook Petty Sessional Division: 1904-1930
  • WL800/2: photograph: c.1925;
  • WL801/121: glass plate negative of above
  • DV1/C/151: rating valuation: 1927;
  • PSBW8/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1976-1980;
  • Z50/120/8 Village scene with public house in background 1979;
  • BorB/TP/92/1097: Change of use to dwelling at The Five Bells Public House, High Street, Swineshead; [Hugh M Hughes, Chief Architect, Charles Wells Ltd, The Brewery, Havelock Street, Bedford] Scale 2cm : 1m; 4 plans showing site location, elevations and floor layouts: 1992  

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:
1871: Sophia Linford;
1877-81: Alfred Linford, baker & beerhouse keeper;
1885-1903: Elizabeth Linford;
1910: George Thomas Alfred Coles;
1914: Albert Childs;
1920-1924: Charles Watts;
1924: Leonard Bateman;
1924-1927: Frederick Houghton;
1927: F.Hales;
1927: Frederick Herbert Wagstaff;
1940: no publican listed
1968: William Joseph Tatman;
1968-1974: Walter James Kenyon;
1974-1975: Dorothy Mary Kenyon;
1975-1982: Thomas David Smith;
1982-1983: Raymond John Sands;
1983-1985: James Kubelick Willans;
1985-1986: George Burgoyne;
1986-1988: Sydney James Vale;
1988-1993: Graham Goodhew;
1993-1995: John Gibbs
Public house closed in or after 1995