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The Griffin Public House Toddington

The Griffin about 1920 [Z1306/126]
The Griffin about 1920 [Z1306/126]

The Griffin Public House: 2 Station Road, Toddington

The Griffin is probably one of the oldest established inns in Toddington, although the existing building is an early 20th century replacement for the ancient inn which was destroyed by fire in 1904. It appears on the Agas map of 1581 but its situation next to the Church and the Hospital of Saint John suggest it may date back to medieval times. It appears that the churchyard originally extended into the area now occupied by the car park of the Griffin, where 28 medieval (or possibly Saxon) skeletons were found in the 1990s. The proximity of the inn to the churchyard may at times have proved too much of a temptation. In 1843 the churchwardens' accounts for Toddington record it was "resolved with one dissentient voice … that the footpath leading from the church to the Griffin Inn be closed".

The first known documentary reference to the Griffin comes in the later 17th century when it is included in a list of property belonging to the Manor of Toddington apparently compiled as a "Particular of Lady Wentworth" in the late 17th century. The Griffin Inn is described as "a very large house with Gardens, Orchards etc" and was valued at £12 per annum [AD1057]. This may have been Lady Philadelphia Wentworth (died 1696) as payments for building work at the Griffin appear in accounts relating to her estate in 1699 [CRT100/36].

In 1805 a messuage called the Griffin together with 151 acres 2 roods 27 perches of land occupied by Joanna Osborne was included as part of the sale of Toddington Manor [AD407]. It continued to be held with the Manor until 1898 when part of the Toddington Manor Estate was sold and the Griffin was bought by Henry Whitbread of the Old George Inn, Bedford for £2,225. The sale particulars [GK86/1] described it as a "highly-valuable fully-licensed old-fashioned freehold country inn and premises" as follows:

"The brick and tiled house, which contains: in basement capital beer and wine cellars; on ground floor private sitting room, commercial room, passage, hall, bar, tap room, kitchen, pantry, and scullery (fitted with copper and sink); on first floor six bedrooms. The gateway entrance at side opens into a large stable yard, containing: a 5-bay open cart shed, a lock-up coach-house, a 4-stall stable and loose box, with loft over. Adjoining is the farm yard, containing: timer and thatched fowl house, pig styes, open shed, loose place, brick and timber stable with lean-to chaff house at end. The property has an area of 35 poles, and is let to Mr. W. Millbank on a yearly tenancy at the apportioned rent of £50 per annum."

In 1842 Mary Shephard, wife of the licensee Daniel Shephard brought a case at Quarter Sessions against Eliza Emery [QSR1842/1/5/21]. Mary stated that Eliza came into her service as a servant of all work about a fortnight before the events described. A few days later she saw a ribbon on Emery's cap she thought was hers. Later she charged Emery with taking the ribbon. Emery denied it. She said no more but determined on sending Emery away as soon as her clothes should be washed up. She did not say so to Emery. On Thursday 11 November she saw part of a white veil among her clothes in the wash. Emery had been up and about her work. Emery was not present when she found it as she was upstairs ill. She saw Emery when Hickes the apothecary came - he said she was only tipsy. About noon she desired Emery to get up and saw the other part of her veil around Emery's neck. She accused Emery who at first said she was right but later denied it. She thought Emery was stupid from drink and did not know what she was saying. She sent for the police constable to search Emery's box and he did so. A muslin collar and piece of ribbon were in the box and were Mary's property. She also found a linen shift of hers which she thinks was there by mistake as one of Emery's was in her linen basket. The veil had been divided into two pieces since she had last seen it.

Eliza Emery was 30 years old. She was 5 feet 2 inches tall with brown hair and hazel eyes. She came originally from Potton. Found guilty she was sentenced to four months' hard labour [QGV10/2].

In 1862 Mary was again giving evidence at Quarter Sessions, this time against James Creamer, alias James Boston, who was accused of getting beer by false pretences [QSR1862/4/5/5]. Mary stated that she had often seen the Creamer in Toddington and believed him to live there. The prisoner occasionally came to the Griffin. On 6th August he came in and said he had been to Bedford for John Dexter and he was to have some beer and Dexter would pay. Dexter was a customer at the Griffin. The prisoner said he was to have a pot or two of beer or what he liked. She told him she would rather have a note from Dexter but the prisoner said it was all right and she served him with three quarts of beer in the tap room. The prisoner left about 10 pm and she scored the beer to Dexter. The prisoner said he had been working with Dexter's machine. On 12 August the prisoner came again and said he was to going to work again with Mr Dexter's machine and had been sent for more beer. He said Dexter would be there shortly to pay for it. She served him two quarts of beer which he drank on the premises. The prisoner wanted more but she would not let him have it until she had seen Dexter. The value of the 5 quarts of beer was 1s 8d. On 2nd September she saw Dexter and told him the prisoner had five quarts of beer in his name. Dexter said he knew nothing of it but he did knew the prisoner by sight and he had worked for him. He had not authorised the prisoner to get beer from the Griffin and had not sent him to Bedford. James Creamer was 16 years old. He was found guilty and sentenced to three weeks' hard labour [QGV12/1].

The old Griffin was destroyed by fire on the morning of Sunday 6th November 1904. This report from the Luton Times and Advertiser describes the scene:

"In the early hours of Sunday morning, just before 3 a.m., Mr. Jackson, the landlord of the Griffin Hotel, was awakened by a strong smell of smoke in his bedroom, and immediately discovered that his residence was on fire, that the flames had already got good hold, and that the lower portion of the house was burning furiously. He soon found that escape by the staircase was impossible, and he had his wife and three young children to get out of danger. He assisted his wife first from the bedroom window on to a small lean-to which abuts the church yard, and from here to the ground was not very far to jump. He next handed out the three little ones – the eldest aged 11 years, the youngest 4 – in their night dresses, and then lowered himself.

The neighbours opposite were by this time aroused by the noise. The children and Mrs. Jackson were taken care of by Mrs. Darby, the fire bell was rung, and a crowd soon collected. The fire engine was soon on the scene, and was quickly got to work under the direction of Dr. Waugh and Mr. John Neale, water being supplied from the town pump. It was, however, seen from the first that the ancient hostelry was doomed, and the energies of all who assisted were mainly directed in trying to keep the fire within bounds. Sparks in large showers fell as far away as the entrance of the cemetery, and between here and the Griffin are numerous thatched properties … Fortunately, however, the fire was kept within bounds, though for two hours it raged furiously, and the old house was reduced to a heap of ruins."

Another report describes the old building as "a very ancient house [which] showed signs of having been rebuilt more than once. The ceilings were very low, and there were the usual massive oak beams". It was believed to be at least 300 years old. There was speculation that the fire was caused by fireworks, coming as it did after Guy Fawkes Night. A number of crackers had been let off in the house early in the evening, but it was presumed that these must have burnt themselves out long before the fire took hold. The fire certainly began on the ground floor, trapping the landlord and his family upstairs.

The Griffin was rebuilt following the fire and the archive service holds plans for the replacement property under reference RDLP2/9. After the death of the owner Henry Whitbread in 1919 the property was sold to Messrs Higgins and Sons for £1300 [GK86/13]. In 1922 Higgins and Sons also purchased two plots of land adjoining the Griffin Inn from Leonard J. Buckingham [GK86/15-16]. The first quarter of the 20th century was a difficult time for the Griffin, with frequent changes of licensee.

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 them. When Toddington was assessed in 1926 the Griffin Hotel was owner by Higgins of Bedford and occupied initially by Henry Grover, then by H. Cappleman at a rent of £35 p.a. The detached, brick and slate building had a public bar, tap room, private living room, billiard room, kitchen, scullery, larder and pantry downstairs, and five bedrooms (including two for letting) upstairs. Outside there were a brick built garage and stable, and a timber hovel. The property had gas light and water from a well. A note adds that in 1930 it had a petrol tank but the petrol was not for sale. The valuer described it as a good house but the trade of 1½ barrels of beer and ½ gallon of spirits per week as poor, the property being too large for the town and always changing hands [DV1/C82/134].

Higgins and Sons business was conveyed to Biggleswade brewers Wells and Winch in 1931. In 1961 Wells and Winch was taken over by Suffolk brewers Greene King. Today [2016]. The Griffin remains, one of Toddington's last public houses.

The Griffin March 2016
The Griffin March 2016


  • AD1057: A Particular of the Manor of Toddington, late 17th century;
  • CRT100/36 (pp.31-33): Accounts of Lady Wentworth, 1694-99;
  • AD495: conveyed as part of the Manor of Toddington: 1801;
  • AD407: Sale of Toddington Manor and related properties including the Griffin, 1805;
  • X860/1: Bargain and sale in respect of Manor of Toddington and related properties, 1806;
  • QSR1840/3/5/9-10: case for assault against a customer at the Griffin: 1840;
  • QSR1842/1/5/21: theft of a ribbon from the landlady: 1842;
  • Z450/123: auction sale held at the Griffin: 1843;
  • Z450/123: Bill for two teas, lunch and brandy at the Griffin Inn, c.1845;
  • Z450/157: auction sale held at the Griffin: 1850;
  • Z450/159: auction sale held at the Griffin: 1851;
  • SF69/56: auction sale held at the Griffin: 1851;
  • Z450/39: auction sale held at the Griffin: 1851;
  • Z450/40: auction sale held at the Griffin: 1851;
  • SF69/6: auction sale held at the Griffin: 1857;
  • SF69/7: auction sale held at the Griffin: 1857;
  • SF69/9: auction sale held at the Griffin: 1857;
  • SF69/15: auction sale held at the Griffin: 1859;
  • SF69/16: auction sale held at the Griffin: 1859;
  • SF69/22: auction sale held at the Griffin: 1860;
  • SF69/26: auction sale held at the Griffin: 1861;
  • QSR1862/4/5/5: obtaining beer by false pretences: 1862;
  • GK86/2: abstract of title: 1863-1898;
  • SF69/49: auction sale held at the Griffin: 1869
  • SF69/33: auction sale held at the Griffin: 1873;
  • HN10/273/Fowler7: auction sale held at the Griffin: 1873;
  • HN10/273/Marnham1: auction sale held at the Griffin: 1875;
  • SF69/37: auction sale held at the Griffin: 1879;
  • BML10/74/1: auction sale at the Griffin: 1887;
  • BML10/74/2: auction sale at the Griffin: 1889;
  • GK86/1: sale particulars: c. 1898;
  • GK86/5-6: consents to sale: 1898;
  • GK86/7: mortgage: 1901;
  • RDLP2/9: Plans for rebuilding the Griffin following fire, 1905;
  • GK86/13 and HF40/5/1/12: conveyance by Emily Whitbread to Higgins & Sons: 1920;
  • Z1169/6/5: building a new kitchen and stable: 1921;
  • GK86/16: adjoining land conveyed to Higgins and Sons: 1922;
  • DV1/C82/134: Toddington Valuation Book, 1926;
  • HF40/5/1/2: draft conveyance : 1931;
  • GK297/1: conveyed by Higgins and Sons to Wells and Winch: 1931;
  • BTNegOB50/8a-b: negative of the Griffin: 1931

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:

1805: Joanna Osborne;
1822-1827: Thomas Horne;
1828: Thomas Patch;
1840-1864: Daniel Sheppard;
1869-1879: Mary Sheppard;
1879-1893: Thomas Sheppard;
1893: Lucy Sheppard;
1893-1896: Edward Birch;
1896-1900: William Millbank;
1900-1901: John Jenton;
1901-1902: Richard William Miles;
1902: John Jenton;
1902-1903: Edwin George Blackbond;
1903-1904: Alexander Summers;
1904-1905: George Edward Jackson;
1905: Ben Whitbread;
1905-1906: Henry Whitbread;
1906-1907: William Galpin Pearse;
1907-1908: Henry Whitbread;
1908: Alexandra Gillespie;
1908-1910: William Percy Whitbread;
1910-1911: George West;
1911-1912: Edmund John Long;
1912-1913: Mary McMahon;
1913-1916: James Schlesclman;
1916-1919: Henry Whitbread;
1919: Jack Lichfield;
1919: Frederick Barron;
1919-1922: Robert Brazier;
1922-1927: Henry Grover Robinson;
1927: Herbert Cappleman;
1927-1931: William Ernest Markall;
1931-1933: Ernest Edward Smith;
1933-1934: Edith Mary Smith;
1934: Leonard George Hacker;
1934-1937: Bert Andrew Fowler;
1937-1948: Eric Samuel Wickens;
1948-1951: George Thomas;
1951-1952: Robert Higham;
1952-1954: Walter Eastwood;
1954-1958: James Evan James;
1958-1963: Frederick Bosson;
1963: Albert Francis Davis;
1979: Brian Cox;
1987: John Alan Coombes;
1993: John Alan Coombes and Maureen Elizabeth Coombes.