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The Old Farm Public House Totternhoe

The farm of Daniel Twidell about 1829 [Z102/85]
The farm of Daniel Twidell about 1829 [Z102/85]

As may be deduced from the name, the Old Farm public house began life as a farm. It was listed by the former Department of Environment in September 1980 as Grade II, of special interest. The listing dates the property to the 17th century "with later additions and alterations". It is a timber-framed building with colourwashed brick nogging i.e. infill between the timber framing). It has two storeys beneath a clay tile roof. The timber-framing visible at the front is, in fact, fake!

A schedule of deeds to the farm [Z607/3] reveals that the farm was built up by Thomas Munn in the late 18th century, with conveyances from William Fossey in 1773, Thomas Biddulph, James Somers Cocks, James Cocks, Lawrence Holker, and Thomas Herbert in 1779, and Joseph Camp in 1785.

In 1829, following the death of the Earl of Bridgewater, his estate in Totternhoe was surveyed [BW1004]. The survey also included every building in the parish, whether owned by the estate or not (and at that date most were not). At that date the future public house was still part of the farm and was owned by Thomas Hunt and occupied by Daniel Twidell, who had a number of farms in the parish. The farmhouse stood in two roods, twenty poles of land.

A similar survey was carried out in 1840 and by that date the owner is still Thomas Hunt and the occupier is still Daniel Twidell [BW1006]. The 1841 census reveals that Thomas Twidell was occupying the farm house (Daniel was living on one of his other farms). Thomas was about 35 years old and living with his wife Lydia, who was about 40 and their children James, about 15, David, 13 and William, 8.

In 1859 The Old Farmhouse and adjoining was sold to Alfred Gurney as Lot 15 in an auction sale, the remainder of the farm going to John Twidell [Z607/1]. In 1860 Thomas Twidell declared [Z607/2] that he had occupied the farmhouse from 1844 to December 1859 (though, as we can see from the census he was actually in residence in 1841) after which date the house was let to his son William. He also declared that his father Daniel had been in the occupation for 15 years until 1844 - which ties in with the 1829 survey.

The first suggestion that the Old Farm had become a licensed premises is in the Post Office Directory of 1869 when Daniel Twidell is noted as being victualler and shopkeeper at The Old Farm Inn. Alfred Gurney died in 1886 and the Old Farm was devised to his son Ernest Thomas Gurney of Wing [Buckinghamshire], then a minor. William George Twidell was then tenant, at £22/10/- per annum [Z607/5]. In 1888 William George Twidell, the licensee, leased three acres adjoining the inn from Henry Mann Roberts and William Wilson, Ivinghoe [Buckinghamshire], brewers for £10/10/- per annum [Z607/4]. This suggests that Gurney sub-let the public house as well to the brewers. A fact confirmed by the tenancy agreement of John Scott of 1897 where he leases from Roberts and Wilson [Z607/6] at £12 per annum.

Ernest Thomas Gurney became 25 in 1902 and in 1906 the trustees under his father's will, Mary Gurney of Slapton [Buckinghamshire], spinster, Henry Pettit of Leighton Buzzard, gentleman and Alfred John Gurney of Leighton Buzzard, gentleman conveyed the public house to him. He was then living at Great Gap, Ivinghoe. The conveyance still refers to the public house by its old description of a farmhouse at South End or Church End. Included in the conveyance were barns and a rick yard, Home Close of two acres, adjoining the pub, a right of common for two cows and land in Whitecot Lane Furlong comprising 1 rood, 27 poles [Z607/7]. Proof that Gurney had been running his father's estate, however, is shown by a renewal of Roberts and Wilson's lease in 1903, which was done by Ernest Thomas alone. They paid £42 per annum [Z607/9]. Frank Scott became Roberts and Wilson's tenant in 1905, paying £12 per annum [Z607/10].

Fanny Scott, the new tenant in 1913 only paid £8 per annum to Roberts and Wilson [Z607/12]. The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every piece of land and property in the country should be valued to determine its rateable value. Totternhoe, like much of Bedfordshire, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting The Old Farm Public House [DV1/C101/77] noted that it was owned by Roberts & Wilson Limited and occupied by Fanny Scott who still paid £8 per annum in rent. This suggests that at some point Roberts and Wilson bought the Gurney family out. They were themselves taken over in that year by Benskins Watford Brewery. The brick and tiled building comprised a tap room, sitting room, club room ("good"), combined kitchen and scullery and a bar with three bedrooms upstairs. Outside were a brick and corrugated iron stable for two horses ("good"), weather-boarded and corrugated iron cart shed and weather-boarded and corrugated iron hen house. Scott also rented a grass field and two small orchards totalling 3.302 acres for £13 per annum.

Trade was three quarters of a barrel of beer, 8½ dozen barrels of beer, three pints of spirits and a dozen bottles of minerals per week. The valuer commented: "Tied Rent very low". The valuer noted: "Looks better outside than in".

Fanny Scott was to remain the licensee for at least 47 years, the last renewal of her licence held by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service being that of 1960 when the owner is still listed as Benskins [Z607/25].Benskins was purchased by Ind Coope in 1957 and Ind Coope merged with competitors to form Allied Breweries in 1959. The Old Farm remains a public house at the time of writing [2010], now owned by Fuller, Smith & Turner, a Chiswick brewery founded in 1845. It is now one of only two in the village, the other being the Cross Keys in Castle Hill Road.

The Old Farm Public House in 1968 [Z50/127/2]
The Old Farm Public House in 1968 [Z50/127/2]


  • Z607/1-25 deeds 1859-1960;
  • BML10/75/5vi: details of auction sale of land on the premises: 1926;
  • Z1362/2: account book of Old Farm Inn Slate Club: 1930-1940;
  • Z50/127/2: photograph of a painting: c. 1950;
  • Z88/1-2: photographs before and after restoration and alterations: 1959;
  • Z50/127/2: photograph: 1968. 

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

1869-1881: William Twidell (& shopkeeper);
1881-1894: William George Twidell;
1894-1897: Thomas Jesse Twidell;
1897-1902: John Scott; [convicted 17 Sep 1900 for selling adulterated whiskey and fined £2 with 18/6 costs]
1902-1905: Sarah Ann Scott;
1905-1913: Frank Scott;
1913-1960: Fanny Scott;
1984: Percy George Smith.

The Old Farm Inn August 2009
The Old Farm Inn August 2009