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The Three Compasses Public House Upper Dean

The Three Compasses about 1925 [WL800/5]
The Three Compasses about 1925 [WL800/5]

The Three Compasses Public House [formerly the Compasses]: High Street, Upper Dean

The Three Compasses is first mentioned in any document held by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service in the countywide alehouse licensing register of 1822. The building is considerably older. It was listed by the former Department of Environment in August 1983 as Grade II, of special interest. The department dated the property to about 1700. It is built of colour-washed brick and roughcast over a timber frame and is weather-boarded at the north end; the roof is thatched. The house comprises two storeys

The countywide licensing register of 1876 states that the owner was Emily O. Day of Saint Neots, thus that it was part of Day and Sons brewery business. The 1903 register states that it was in a good state of repair and had two front doors and one back door. In November 1919 Day and Sons Brewery sold at auction in November 1919 to Wells and Winch Limited of Biggleswade. It is not clear whether the Three Compasses was sold along with the brewery or sold to a separate buyer, certainly it was owned by Bedford brewer Charles Wells by 1927 [see below]. The sale particulars [GK175/2] are annotated 450 W. Clearly the property fetched £450 but whether W stands for Wells or for Wells and Winch is not clear. The particulars describe the Three Compasses as being tiled rather than thatched and containing a taproom, a sitting room, a kitchen, a washhouse, a pantry, a cellar and a general shop with four bedrooms on the first floor. At the rear lay: a timber and thatched W. C.; a timber and tiled W. C.; a timber and thatched barn; two brick and tiled piggeries; two timber and tiled stables and a coach house; a timber and corrugated iron piggery with a run; a brick, timber and tiled workshop with a loft over and a urinal. A garden and a small paddock of pasture adjoined the house. The tenant, Charles Ballard, paid rent of £10 per annum.

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. It is likely that Upper Dean, like most of the county, was assessed in 1927. The valuer visiting The Compasses, as it was then called, found it owned by Charles Wells and leased by Frederick C. Smith (“came here 19th May 1927”) at a rent of £12 per annum.

Accommodation comprised a public bar, tap room, cellar, living room, kitchen, small room and four bedrooms. Trade comprised solely of bottled beer “does not sell any draught” and one to two dozen bottles per week were sold. The valuer noted: “House does not pay rent, no trade and is on parish. No spirits sold, absolutely dead house”. A note on 13th July 1938 states: “Old outbuildings pulled down, now has garage. Done up throughout no alterations”.

At the present time the Three Compasses remains a public house. It is now the only one in the civil parish of Dean and Shelton.

 The Three Compasses May 2011
The Three Compasses May 2011


  • CLP13: register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
  • GK175/2: in sale catalogue of Day’s Brewery: 1919;
  • WL801/122: negative image, damaged: c. 1925;
  • WL800/5: photograph: c. 1925;
  • WL722/8: article in Charles Wells in-house magazine Pint Pot: 1973;
  • WL722/41: article in Pint Pot regarding renovations: 1983  

Licensees: Note that this is not a complete list; italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known

1822-1828: John Cobbett;
1847: John Corbett;
1864-1871: Ekin Dickens;
1876-1894:  John Stains/Staines/Stanes;
1898: John Stringer;
1903: Clara Stringer;
1906: Clara Mehew;
1910: George Mehew;
1914-1927: Charles Henry Ballard;
1927-1931: Frederick Smith;
1936: William Parker Darlow;
1940-1948: Harry Charles Hewitt
1961-1968: Oliver Henry Histed;
1968-1969: Frederick William Cooper;
1969-1976: Thomas Neish;
1976-1978: Leslie Anthony Howard;
1978-1995: Ronald Thomas Peat