Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Wilstead > The Black Hat Public House Wilshamstead

The Black Hat Public House Wilshamstead

The Black Hat in the 1960s [WB/Flow4/5/Wil/BH1]
The Black Hat in the 1960s [WB/Flow4/5/Wil/BH1]

The Black Hat Public House: Bedford Road, Wilshamstead

The Black Hat was one of Wilshamstead’s oldest public houses. It is first encountered in surviving records in January 1777 [SA822-823] when it formed part of a conveyance of land and buildings by Rev. Philip Monoux of Sandy to Richard Lane of Hambledon [Buckinghamshire] by an order in Chancery. The public house was then in the occupation of Thomas Cox. Later that year Lane sold the Black Hat to Ampthill brewers John and Joseph Morris [X21/629]

In 1827 John and Joseph Morris caused an inventory of all their business holdings to be compiled [Z1043/1]. The entry for the Black Hat described it as a freehold public house, occupied by George Phipps, with an open thatched shed and cartlodge, double bayed barn, stable and cowhouse and yard, garden and pightle, and a quantity of arable and pasture land (as described below) containing about 23 acres

  • The site of the public house, buildings, garden etc. – 21 poles;
  • Part of Gillard's Close – 3 roods, 25 poles;
  • Pightle adjoining Mr Armstrong's Farm – 1 acre, 1 rood, 26 poles;
  • Allotment purchased from Thomas Glover with a cottage – 3 acres;
  • Allotment for a right of common and open lands in the Wilshamstead inclosure award – 16 acres, 1 rood, 38 poles.
  • Allotment required in exchange – 1 acre 35 poles

The following year Joseph Morris sold his half of the business to John [Z1043/1]. In the middle of the 19th century the Black Hat, being on the main road from Bedford to Luton, became a favourite venue for auction sales involving local property and land. The countywide licensing register of 1903 noted that the premises were in fair repair, clean and “apparently sanitary”. They stood a hundred yards from the nearest licensed premises (the Red Lion) and had one front and one back door.

In 1907 Morris and Company, as the Ampthill brewery had become known, became a limited company under the name of Morris & Company (Ampthill) Limited [CCE5304/1]. In 1926 it was recorded that the Black Hat sold twenty five barrels of beer per annum [WB/M/4/2/1]. That same year the company, with all its licensed premises, was sold to Luton brewer J. W. Green Limited.

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. Like most of the county, Wilshamstead was largely assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting the Black Hat [DV1/C66/71] found it now owned by J. W. Green and occupied by George William Abbott whose rent was £20 per annum and included a fifteen pole grass field in Chapel End Lane.

The valuer commented: “Good brick and tiled house, modern, good draw up”. The accommodation comprised a tap room, a smoke room used as a living room, a parlour (annotated by a later hand “now cellar”), a cellar, a kitchen, three bedrooms and two attics. A large barn and a barn used as a henhouse and stores (annotated “gone” by a later hand) stood outside.

The tenant had “been here 12 months”. Trade consisted of a barrel and a half of beer per week in summer and less than a barrel in winter together with a “very small” amount of spirits.

In 1954 J. W. Green merged with Midlands brewer Flowers and, despite Green being the senior partner, the new firm kept the Flowers name. In 1962 Flowers was taken over by Whitbread. In 1994 the Black Hat closed for the last time.

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county’s historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The listing for the Black Hat [HER 3582] described it as a late 17th century building, "restored". The ground floor was constructed of colourwashed brick. The first floor had roughcast render over a timber frame. The roof was composed of modern tiles. Today a modern housing estate stands on and around the site, the pub being remembered in the road name - Black Hat Close.

The site of the Black Hat March 2012

The site of the Black Hat March 2012


  • SA822-823: conveyance to Richard Lane: 1777;
  • X21/629: conveyance to Thomas Kendall: 1777;
  • CLP13: register of licences:1822-1828;
  • Z1043/1: inventory of John and Joseph Morris: 1827;
  • X21/629: sale to John by Joseph Morris of his half of the brewery business: 1828;
  • PSB1/1: register of licences: 1829-1834;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP1: mortgage: 1831;
  • QSR1841/2/5/10-12: depositions involving a criminal case: 1841;
  • P22/8/1: vestry meetings held at the Black Hat: 1844-1930;
  • SF74/4: auction sale held at the Black Hat: 1857;
  • SF74/6: auction sale of landlord’s land held at the Black Hat: 1858;
  • SF74/7: auction sale of landlord’s land held at the Black Hat: 1858;
  • SF74/8: auction sale of landlord’s furniture etc. held at the Black Hat: 1858;
  • SF74/11: auction sale held at the Black Hat: 1866;
  • SF74/12: auction sale of landlady’s furniture held at the Black Hat: 1869;
  • SF74/16: auction sale held at the Black Hat: 1871-1872;
  • WL1000/1/WILS/1/3/2: poster for auction sale at the Black Hat: 1872;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP2: mortgage: 1882;
  • SF74/22: auction sale held at the Black Hat: 1883;
  • SF74/21: auction sale held at the Black Hat: 1884;
  • SF74/24: auction sale held at the Black Hat: 1886;
  • PSB9/1: register of licenses: 1903-1935;
  • CCE5304/1: conveyance to Morris & Company (Ampthill) Limited on formation of the public limited company: 1907;
  • WB/M/4/2/1: list of Morris & Company (Ampthill) Limited properties: c. 1926;
  • WB/M/4/2/2: list of Morris & Company (Ampthill) Limited properties: 1926;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP8: abstract of title of Morris & Company (Ampthill) Limited to its licensed premises: 1926;
  • WB/Green6/4/1: trade analysis: 1936-1947;
  • WB/Green4/2/4: certificate of title: 1936-1952;
  • WB/Green2/3/2: J. W. Green Limited minute book: 1945-1967;
  • WB/Green4/2/12: schedule of deeds and documents: c. 1949;
  • WB/Green4/5/Wil/BH1: exterior photograph: c. 1950s;
  • WB/Green4/2/5: list of J. W. Green Limited public houses: c. 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/16: letter as to J. W. Green Limited titles: 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/17: J. W. Green Limited trust deed: 1952-1972;
  • WB/Green4/2/19: schedule of deeds and documents: c. 1954;
  • PSB9/2: register of licenses: c.1955-1995;
  • WB/Flow4/5/Wil/BH1-2: exterior photographs: 1960s;

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

1777: Thomas Cox;
1822-1827: Thomas Glover;
1827-1854: George Phipps or Phillips;
1859: John White;
1862: John Willis;
1864-1869: Mrs Mary Willis;
1876-1877: George Smith (also a tailor);
1885-1925: Charles Cox (also a carter);
1925-1930: George William Abbott;
1930-40: Albert Fox;
1956: J. A. Burr;
1962-1977: Walter Joseph Brabazon;
1977-1984: Desmond Saunders;
1984-1987: Leslie Jones;
1987-1990: Graham Stewart Walker;
1990-1992: Brian Henry Steel;
1992: Alan Longstaff;
1992-1994: Denise Angel;
1994: Robert Thomas Berry
Public house closed 1994.