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The Mother Redcap Inn Westoning

Redcaps in Wood End January 2010
Redcaps in Wood End January 2010

The Mother Redcap Inn: Westoning Woodend

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has only one reference to today's Redcaps as a licensed premises. In 1779 John Everitt senior of Hitchin [Hertfordshire], Lord of the Manor, gifted a close in Ickleford [Hertfordshire] as well as The Mother Redcap Inn, Wood End and an adjoining close to his son John [TB100-101].

In 1777 the building had been described, when conveyed to Everitt by James Brooke, as a cottage standing on a piece of ground lately described as an orchard, "whereon stood a messuage rebuilt by Edward Gurney, deceased, but pulled down by the said James Brooke and two pightles adjoining, containing two acres…the said building abuts the road from Harlington to Woburn on the north end" [TB97-98]. Brooke had bought the cottage from Mary Gurney in 1773 giving us an unusually accurate date for Redcaps of between 1773 and 1777. It looks as if the inn began between 1777 (when the building is simply described as a cottage) and 1779 when it is described as the Mother Redcap.

The name is unusual but by no means unique; a pub in Luton was recently called the Mother Redcap. In 1951 the Folk Law Society wrote to an enquirer in Turvey [CRT150/6]: "About Mother Redcap I am able to offer some details. Information which tallies with your own recollection has been supplied to me by the landlady of the Mother Redcap Public House (174 Camden High Street, NW1) who says that Mother Redcap was a celebrated witch who kept the public house c. 1784. She acted as receiver for highwaymen's stolen goods (at that date what is now CamdenTown was on the outskirts of London, and probably close to a main road to the north), her familiar was a black cat, and she is said to haunt the present building. A ballad about her exists, copies of which may be seen at the public house - it is possibly apocryphal, and other details of the story may be so too". It is interesting that the Mother Redcap in Camden is placed only a few years after the inn at Westoning. It suggests that the legend was popular at the time. It is certainly a much older story than the late 18th century as it is known that a play called Mother Redcap was produced by Anthony Munday and Michael Drayton in December 1597. Sadly the text has not survived.

The countywide register of alehouse licences of 1822 to 1828 records only one public house in Westoning - The Chequers and so the Mother Redcap had evidently ceased trading by that point. Given the relatively isolated position of Redcaps it is hardly surprising that it was short-lived as an inn, more, surprising, indeed, that it ever became one. Presumably Woodend Road was the a more travelled route and there were sufficient men labouring in nearby fields to want a drink in the middle and at the end of their labours.

In 1918 the Tingrith Estate was sold at auction by the Trevor Battye family. Lot 9 was "Three Brick and Tiled Cottages fronting the Westoning Road and known as "Redcaps" two containing Four Rooms each and one having Five Rooms with bakehouse, Three Barns, Three Pigsties, and Gardens, the whole covering an area of about 0a. 1r. 9p. and proiducing £13 5s. 0d. per annum". The tenants were W. E. Hunt (of Woodend Farm) and a Mr. Walton, paying £10 and £3/5/- per annum in rent respectively.

Redcaps in the 1932 sale particulars [X511/1]
Redcaps in the 1932 sale particulars [X511/1]

In 1932 The Tingrith Estate was again sold, including Redcaps. Lot 7a was "A Desirable Semi-detached Cottage being one of a block of three, known as "Redcaps" fronting the Westoning Road and containing: Two Bed Rooms, Kitchen, Scullery with copper, outside Coal Barn, Earth Closet and Garden, the whole extending to about 14 poles". Rent was £8/10/- per annum and the occupant was R. P. Burton, who had Woodend Farm.

Lot 7b contained two living rooms and scullery, two bedrooms and a coal barn and earth closet outside. The site comprised 22 poles and rent was £8/10/- and the dwelling was, again, let to R. P. Burton.

Lot 8 contained a kitchen, scullery, small pantry, three bedrooms and a bakehouse - the site covering 14 poles. The occupant was Mrs. F. Walton who paid £3/5/- per annum.

General References:

  • TB97-98: conveyance of a cottage from James Brooke to John Everitt: 1777;
  • TB100-101: conveyance from John Everitt senior to John Everitt junior: 1779.

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:

1779: Mary York.