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The Nags Head Beerhouse Toddington

Station Road with The Nags Head about 1900 [Z1306/126]
Station Road with The Nags Head about 1900 [Z1306/126]

The Nag's Head Beerhouse: 16 Station Road, Toddington

In a mortgage deed of 1841 relating to property belonging to the Dunstable Brewery property "now called or known by the sign of the Nag's Head" is described as being in the Tanners End of Toddington [BH407]. It was then occupied by John Bailey, whose predecessors were Joseph Barber, Stephen Lane and Katherine Lane. It was adjoined by Speed Close on the south-west and by land of Lord of the Manor W. Dodge Cooper Cooper to the north-east. In the Dunstable Brewery sale particulars of 1843 the Nag's Head beerhouse was described as containing a parlour, a tap room, a kitchen, a lean-to cellar and three bedrooms. It had a yard enclosed by folding gates with a well, a stable for four horses, a shed and a garden. It was occupied by John Baylie [Bailey] at an annual rent of £10 [BH409]. The Nag's Head appears to have been purchased by the Newport Pagnell Brewery as it appears as Lot 12 in that brewery's sale particulars in 1850. It was now occupied by Thomas Gilbert at a rent of £11 and it was noted that "this house enjoys a large and increasing trade" [GK82/7].

In 1845 landlord – John Bailey was sentenced to one month in gaol. At his trial at the quarter sessions [QSR1845/1/5/30-32] John Olney of Totternhoe, farmer stated that his men Thomas Pratt and Solomon Holland, labourers in his service were sent with two carts to Westoning Turf Moor for some turf dust. His men usually took hay with them to feed the horses. On the previous night he saw them tie up a bundle of between half a truss and a truss of hay, worth at least 1s 6d. He never gave them leave to give away or sell any of the hay which was only for the horses. Samuel Hornal, the Toddington police constable stated that he had been watching the teams passing through Toddington. About 11 am he saw Olney's teams go up to the front of the Nags Head Beer Shop. Pratt took some hay out of the second cart and took it towards the horse's head. Pratt and Holland then went into the beer shop. He saw Bailey come to the cart two or three times and take some of the hay with which he fed the horses. About noon Pratt and Holland left the beer shop, took the sacks off the horses and then came to the hind part of the second cart with Bailey, who took an armful of hay from the cart into his yard. Bailey came back, went to the house door and called for a pint of beer. Pratt and Holland drank the beer, gave the mug back to Bailey and thanked him. Bailey took the mug and appeared to drink out of it. The carts then went away. The constable did not see any beer paid for. He and PC Sinfield went to Bailey's stable loft where they found a quantity of hay of different sorts. The police superintendent, William Ralph Young, stated that when Bailey was in custody he (the superintendent) asked if he knew what he was in custody for. Bailey said it was about stealing the hay and pointed to sacks containing the hay produced. Bailey said he did not know who the hay belonged to. Bailey was cautioned and said it was only some of the loose hay he scraped up off the road when the teams were gone, all gritty and dirty.

In his defence Bailey said that the carts generally went to the Turf Moors about that time and most of them stopped at his house. He fed the horses while the men had their beavers [ their elevenses]. Sometimes when they left there was a "goodish deal" of hay littered about which he raked up and threw up in the loft. He never took any away until the horses are gone. He did not think there is more than a truss and a quarter in the loft. Pratt stated that when they came out there was a little hay about the cart and he had said to Holland it was all dirty and would not be much use for them to take away as their horses would not eat it. He told Bailey he could clean up what was left. Some beer was bought to them outside. They did not pay for it. Bailey said he would give them a pint of beer. Holland, unsurprisingly, agreed with Pratt.

Pratt and Holland were acquitted but Bailey was convicted. He was 34 years old and had no education, Whilst in prison his conduct was good [QGV10/2].

The Nag's Head was rebuilt in 1907. The plans show the new property to be double fronted with two bay windows at the front [RDLP2/15]. 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. At this time the Nags Head was owned by Charles Wells Ltd and occupied by Ernest Capell at a rent of £20 per annum The brick and slate detached property had a bar with "three pulls", a tap room, a smoke room, two private living rooms and a scullery downstairs, and four bathrooms and a boxroom upstairs. Outside were a timber and corrugated iron coach house, stable and coal house. The beer house sold 6 to 10 dozen bottled minerals, pints and ½ pints. 1½ barrels (36 gallons) per week, 9 gallons of bitter and 9 gallons of stout.

The Nag's Head closed in 2005. The 2007 building was demolished and replaced by flats which form part of the Tanners Court development. The frontage of 5-8 Tanners Court, which carried the date 2006, was designed to imitate the double front and two bay windows of the old Nag's Head.

Elevation of the Nags Head [RDLP2/15]
Elevation of the Nag's Head [RDLP2/15]


  • BH407: Abstract of mortgage dated 1841 (Dunstable Brewery), 1844;
  • BH409: Sale catalogue of Dunstable Brewery, 1843;
  • QSR1845/1/5/30-32: Depositions and examinations of Thomas Pratt, Solomon Holland and John Bailey, 1844;
  • GK82/7: Sale catalogue of Newport Pagnell Brewery, 1850;
  • WG2533: Newport Pagnell Brewery, list of public houses with occupiers, 1850;
  • SF69/2: auction sale at the Nag's Head: 1856;
  • 200BUC(45a): Catalogue including particulars of sale (held at Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies): 1891;
  • RDLP2/15: Plan for rebuilding of the Nag's Head, Toddington, 1907;
  • WL800/3(29): Photograph album of Wells & Co.Ltd licensed premises, c.1925;
  •  WL801/169: Glass plate negative (print in WL800/3), c.1925.

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:

Joseph Barber;
Stephen Lane;
Katherine Lane;
1843-1845: John Bailey;
1850: Thomas Gilbert;
1866-1877: James Clarke: fined £2 with 12/- for permitting drunkenness 3rd March 1876 and fined 5/- with 7/6 for the same offence on 31st August 1877;
1877-1895: William Joy;
1895: Richard Pilgrim;
1895-1908: Thomas Briden - died;
1908-1918: Jane Briden - died;
1981-1919: Henry Charles Brake - died;
1919-1924: Edith Emma Brake;
1924-1952: Ernest Capel;
1952-1955: Edith Capel;
1955-1961: Francis Philopson Morgan;
1961-1963: Peter Henry Ayres;
1963: Harold Joseph Emler;
1982: Alun Evans.