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The Sow and Pigs Public House Toddington

The Sow and Pigs about 1960 [Z1306/126]
The Sow and Pigs about 1960 [Z1306/126/3/6]

The Sow and Pigs Public House: 19 Church Square, Toddington

Joseph Blundell in Toddington: Its Annals and People states that the Sow and Pigs had been in existence since the 17th century. The original inn was demolished in the mid-19th century and replaced with the existing Victorian property. In an article in The Bedfordshire Magazine Volume II of 1949 Page Woodcock stated: "My companion on this fact-finding tour assured me that the inn had obtained its sign from the frieze of sows and pigs on the old Gothic church opposite. Soberly viewing the greatly weathered cornice chiselled in Totternhoe stone, I was startled to see that one "sow" possessed what looked like the hind legs of a kangaroo. Closer inspection revealed even more unnatural members of the pig family until I became convinced that the bucolic masons who carved the animals had spent a considerable time in the inn itself". Today a modern carving of a sow and her piglets adorns the frieze.

 A sow and pigs March 2016
A sow and pigs March 2016

Page Woodcock went on: "The present Sow and Pigs was built about 1850, after its predecessor's demolition. Blundell says that the old house was three hundred years old; certainly it was there in 1681 when "16 butchers alone had stalls on the market". This 19th century building was, itself, altered in 1908 [RDLP2/27].

In 1803 widow Mary Dix leased the Sow and Pigs to Richard Gibbs, cow dealer, for seven years at a rent of £19 per annum [WE114].  In 1835 Biggleswade brewers Frederick Hogg and William Lindsell (their company later became Wells and Company) were admitted to the Sow and Pigs, which was a copyhold property, at the manor court of the Manor of Toddington [Z1039/34/1].

Licensed premises in the centre of Toddington figure quite frequently in Quarter Sessions records for the mid-19th century. In 1854 licensee William Shaw gave evidence against Richard Johnson [QSR1854/2/5/9]. Johnson was a stranger to him, who came and lodged at the Sow and Pigs on 31st March and remained there until 3rd April when he left. On 31st March there had been a pair of breeches tied up in a handkerchief in a cupboard in the room where the prisoner slept. A pair of stockings was in the drawers in the same room. After the prisoner had left Shaw missed the breeches, handkerchief and stockings. Johnson had been apprehended with the clothing at the Marquis of Chandos public house in Newport Pagnell [Buckinghamshire]. He later told the arresting officer that he was sorry for the crime and hoped the prosecutor would be as lenient as he could as he could not think what induced him to steal them. Johnson, who was 45 and from Holbeach [Lincolnshire] was given three months' hard labour [QGV10/3].

Two years later Shaw's wife, Sarah, have evidence against George Pardo [QSR1856/1/5/9] who had come into the tap room and asked her and her servant if she wanted any needles. Both women said they did not and the prisoner asked for two penny-worth of rum. This was served to him and he paid the servant with a half -crown piece and he was given two shillings and a four-penny bit in change. He asked her to change the four-penny bit for four pennies worth of halfpennies, which she did.  He then left the house. Sarah then held the half-crown in her hand and detected it was a bad one. PC Thorogood was passing the pub and she called him to the door and told him she had received a bad half-crown from a tramp. She gave the half-crown to the constable and he marked it with a cross. Pardo was 30 years old, from Manchester [Lancashire] and was sentenced to six months' hard labour. He was evidently a bad lot because earlier that year he had been given given a three month sentence for "assaulting a female" [QGV10/3]. In 1857 he would be given another moth for assaulting a policeman [QGV12/1] and in 1860 a further fourteen days for breaking windows [QGV12/1].

William Shaw, as well as keeping the Sow and Pigs was also a plumber and glazier. He was also busy giving evidence in legal cases. In 1858 he gave evidence against Joseph Randall [QSR1858/2/5/1] On 12th March Sergeant Thorogood (he had evidently been promoted) came to his house and asked if he had lost any lead. The sergeant produced some lead which Shaw examined and found it to be his. The value of the lead was 3s 6d. On 11th March he had seen Thomas Major in his yard, who had evidently stolen the lead and Randall acted as the fence, selling it on. Randall was 19 years old and got three months' hard labour. Major, 59, got twenty one days [QGV12/1].

Next year Sarah was back in court giving evidence [QSR1859/4/5/1a,2a] On 20th July there was a holiday kept in Toddington and between 5 and 6 pm she went with her friend to see what was going on. She had six shillings in her pocket and after she had made some payments had eighteen pence or two shillings in silver in a leather purse. She also had a plain sixpence without either a head or tail upon it which had been in her possession for months. She had kept it so long and never tried to pass it. Between 7 and 8 pm she missed her purse and its contents. She told her friend but thought no more of it. On her return home between 11 and 12, PC George came to her house and asked if she had lost any money. She told him her pocket had been picked. George produced the sixpence. William Watts had picked the pockets of a number of people and received a sentence of four months' hard labour [QGV12/1].

In 1866 William Shaw gave evidence against George Palmer in a rather more serious trial [QSR1866/1/5/18]. Palmer was a labourer living at Toddington. Between 10 pm and 11 pm on the night of Saturday 11th November Palmer came to the Sow and Pigs with two others. They had some beer together and Palmer appeared to be quite sober. Shaw was in the bar and Palmer in the Tap Rooms. Shaw's son charged Palmer threepence for breaking a pot. Palmer put sixpence on the table but said he would only pay twopence and began to use "the most disgusting language" towards Shaw's son.    Shaw overheard this and went to the Tap Room and said he did not allow such language to be used towards his children. Plamer, who had been sitting down, jumped up and put himself in a fighting attitude then came across as if to strike Shaw. Shaw pushed the prisoner back to protect himself. The prisoner came at him again with a knife and struck at him with it. The knife hit a button on his waistcoat and glanced from that to the hand of James Seagrave who was standing to one side, cutting his knuckle. Another man, by the name of Alfred Baldwin, threw Palmer down on a seat and the knife was wrenched from his hand. The blade appeared pointed and four or five inches long. After this Palmer "was in a great passion and kicked at Shaw". Shaw told him to be quiet and go home but he refused and offered Shaw a shilling to have him taken home. Palmer remained in the house about 45 minutes and then he left. There was no doubt that if the blade of the knife had not been stopped by the button that it would have entered Shaw's as Palmer struck out with great violence.

James Seagrave gave evidence that Palmer had said he would "break the bloody nose" Shaw's son if he took threepence. He said Palmer had tucked up his smock and put himself in a fighting attitude and that he struck over-handed and with great violence. He heard the knife strike against something and it glanced off and hit him on the knuckles, drawing blood. Alfred Baldwin, a blacksmith working in Toddington and lodging at the Sow and Pigs gave similar evidence adding that Shaw told Palmer to get out of the house after Palmer abused his son. Baldwin did not know what became of the knife but he saw it and it cut his thumb when he pushed Palmer down. He said Palmer had been drinking beer but "he knew what he was about".

In his defence Palmer said: "Mr Shaw collared me and wanted to put me out of the house but he could not do it. I went and stood against the fireplace. I pulled out my knife to get a bit of baccy out of my pipe and they collared me again and in trying to put my knife in my pocket I must have cut them." Palmer was charged with assault with intent to kill and was probably lucky to just be sentence to four months' hard labour [QGV12/1]. Eight years later he was given ten days in the debtors' cells [QGV15/2]. At this time he is described as 32, 5 feet 2 inches tall, with brown hair, hazel eyes and a fresh complexion.

Shaw's final appearance as a witness was in 1866 when George Athews obtained beer by false pretences [QSR1866/2/5/4]. On the afternoon of 1st March Athews came into the Tap Room and said he was going to work for his old master, Mr Janes, and Janes had told him to come and have some beer and put it down to him. He ordered a pint and then another. The prisoner had thirteen pence of beer altogether. The next day Shaw let the prisoner have another two pints, the value of eleven pence. The prisoner said the bill was to be set to Mr Janes. The day after the prisoner had nine pence more of beer on the same account. Needless to say Mr Janes would not pay and Athews received one month's hard labour [QGV12/1]. He was 54 years old and had five previous convictions, the first dating from 1832. His offences included: stealing boards; being idle and disorderly; being a rogue and vagabond and stealing fowls.

In 1899 the Sow and Pigs was enfranchised by the Manor of Toddington, becoming a freehold property [Z1039/34/1]. This was because Wells and Company had been sold to Kentish businessman George Winch for the benefit of his son. The name of the firm thus changed to Wells and Winch.

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 the valuation was carried out for Toddington the Sow and Pigs was owned by Wells and Winch brewery and the tenant was Henry Pope who had been there since 1919 [DV1/C85/142]. The annual rent was £35, slightly higher than the pre-War rent of £33 per annum The premises consisted of:

  • Downstairs: Bar and tap room (both described as "miserable"); commercial room ("fair"); reception room; kitchen; larder; and pantry.
  • Upstairs: Billiard room; six bedrooms, including four letting bedrooms; bathroom and W.c.
  • Outside: Brick and tile stable; coach house; timber and thatch barn and loft; brick and tile ware house; brick and corrugated iron stables; derelict buildings.

Weekly trade was 1½ barrels (or 36 gallons) of beer per week and one gallon of spirits per month. The valuer was not impressed by the Sow and Pigs, describing it as a "poor looking house" and commenting that it was "not so good as it was when Armstrong was here" i.e. 1907 to 1913.

In 1961 Wells and Winch was taken over by Suffolk brewer Greene King. The Sow and Pigs was closed in 2011 and sold by Greene King. It is now [2016] a dental practice.

The former Sow and Pigs March 2016
The former Sow and Pigs March 2016


  • WE114: lease: 1803;
  • QSR1866/2/5/4: auction sale at the Sow and Pigs: 1826;
  • X21/410: auction sale at the Sow and Pigs: 1831;
  • Z450/30: auction sale at the Sow and Pigs: 1840;
  • QSR1854/2/5/9: lodger accused of theft: 1854;
  • QSR1856/1/5/9: customer using counterfeit coin: 1856;
  • QSR1858/2/5/1: lead stolen from the landlord: 1858;
  • QSR1859/4/5/1a,2a: landlord's wife pickpocketed: 1859;
  • QSR1866/1/5/18: attempted murder at the Sow and Pigs: 1866;
  • QSR1866/2/5/4: obtaining beer by false pretences: 1866;
  • QSR1886/4/5/6: landlord gave evidence in a case of horse stealing: 1866;
  • QSR1870/3/5/1: man accused of obtaining beer by false pretences: 1870;
  • HN10/273/Clarke3: auction sale at the Sow and Pigs: 1887;
  • X898/3/1: receipt from the Sow and Pigs: 1895;
  • Z1077/4/2; auction sale at the Sow and Pigs: 1898;
  • GK1/36: Baldock Brewery sale particulars: 1898;
  • Z1039/34/2a: conveyance of Wells and Company: 1899;
  • X291/186/83: shown in a postcard: c. 1905;
  • HN7/1/TOD1: auction sale at Sow and Pigs: 1906;
  • Z1077/1/4: auction sale at the Sow and Pigs: 1907;
  • RDLP2/27: plan for alterations: 1908;
  • P8/28/16/3: shown in a postcard: c. 1910;
  • Z50/126/26: shown in a postcard: c. 1910;
  • HN7/1/TOD2: auction sale at Sow and Pigs: 1918;
  • Z1039/34/1: schedule of deeds: 1922;
  • P8/28/16/6: shown in a postcard: Christmas 1923;
  • BML10/74/16: auction sales at the Sow and Pigs: 1924-1959;
  • HN7/1/TOD5: auction ale at Sow and Pigs: 1934;
  • PCToddington9/9: transfer of licence: 1939
  • Z772/69: shown in a postcard: c. 1955

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:

c.1700: Edward Carvell;
c.1710/20: Thomas Horley;
1803: Richard Gibbs;
1822-1847: Benjamin Foxley;
1853-1869: William Shaw;
1876-99: Thomas Horley;
1899-1907: Mary Lydia Horley;
1907: Annie Horley;
1907-1913: Bertie McViccar Armstrong;
1913-1919: Helen Armstrong;
1919-1934: Henry William Thomas Pope;
1934-1938: John Richard Innell; 
1938-1940: Emily Florence Innell;
1940-1947: William Bottrell;
1947-1949: James William Hanson;
1975: Roger Eric Joshua Martin.