Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Wilstead > The Carpenters Arms Public House Wilshamstead

The Carpenters Arms Public House Wilshamstead

The site of the Carpenters Arms March 2013
The site of the Carpenters Arms March 2013

The Carpenter’s Arms Public House [also the Bricklayers Arms]: 148 Cotton End Road. Wilshamstead

A countywide licensing register of 1876 states that The Carpenter’s Arms, then, briefly, called the Bricklayers Arms, had been licensed for over a century. However, the first countywide licensing register, of 1822 [CLP13], seems to disprove this as it does not record the Carpenters Arms. The next year, 1823, though, does record the public house and so do the remaining countywide registers from 1824 to 1828 so it is possible that the 1822 list simply missed the establishment. Incidentally, the name Bricklayers Arms is only recorded in the 1876 register, directories of 1869 and 1877 refer to the Carpenters Arms, so the name change seems to have been very short-lived.

By 1876 the public house was already in the ownership of Bedford brewer, George Higgins. Higgins’ father Charles had begun the business in 1838 when he built a brewery in Castle Lane. In 1884 the public house was conveyed, along with the rest of the business, by George Higgins to his two sons [GK4/2]. It was then described as having a garden, yard, barn and stables and a close adjoining – a total of seven acres, three roods of land.

The last directory to mention the Carpenters Arms is Kelly’s for 1894. The next Kelly’s, 1898, does not list it and the occupier, Thomas Taylor, is simply listed as a blacksmith. The second edition 25 inches to the mile Ordnance Survey map of 1901 also shows the property as a smithy but does not mark it as a public house. It seems, therefore, as if the Carpenters Arms closed between 1894 and 1898.

A short run of deeds survives relating to the property after it had ceased to be a public house [STuncat399]. An abstract of title shows that Higgins & Sons Limited (as they were from 1902 onwards) continued to own the property until 1918. The description of the property is as follows: all the messuage or tenement some time past used as a public house formerly known by the sign of ”The Carpenter’s Arms” but now used as a private house situate and being at Westcotts in the village and parish of Wilshamstead in the county of Bedford, together with the garden, yard, barn and stables and outbuildings thereunto adjoining and belonging and also all that close or parcel of land thereunto adjoining and belonging all which said premises or the site thereof contain by admeasurement 7 acres and 3 roods of assize more or less and are bounded on or towards the north by the turnpike road, on or towards the east by property late of William Henry Whitbread, esquire but now of Samuel Whitbread esquire, M. P., in the occupation of George Quenby, on or towards the south by property late of Thomas Potter Macqueen, esquire, but now of the said Samuel Whitbread, in the occupation of Henry Simms and on or towards the west by property late of the said Thomas Potter Macqueen and now of Samuel Whitbread in the occupation of the said George Quenby, all which said hereditaments having been formerly in the occupation of John Dodgson, afterwards of John Newman, since of Joseph Cowland and others then of Redman and now of Thomas Taylor”. This tells us that the Carpenters Arms, if it was licensed before 1823, had John Dodgson and John Newman as early licensees.

In May 1918 Higgins and Sons sold the former public house to Thomas Eady of Hill House Farm, Houghton Conquest and Ruth, his wife, for £400. In November that year Eady sold the property to Charles William Mitchell of Turvey, farmer, for £500. In October 1919 Mitchell bought just 9.681 adjoining acres, part of Cotton End Farm, for £242.

In 1935 Mitchell sold the former public house and land, now called Red Cow Farm, to Lewis Potter Muirhead of Biddenham for £850. Muirhead sold the farm to Charles William Illsley of Village Farm, Cockayne Hatley in 1938 for £1,000. A modern house now stands on the site of the old pub though it stands back from Cotton End Road whereas the Carpenters Arms stood right on the road.


  • CLP13: countywide licensing registers: 1822-1828;
  • PSB1/1: petty sessions register: 1829-1834;
  • GK4/2: conveyance of the business by George Higgins to his sons: 1884;
  • GK4/4: agreement to convey licensed premises to Higgins & Sons Limited on incorporation: 1902;
  • PSB9/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Bedford Petty Sessional Division: 1903-1935;
  • STuncat399: deeds: 1918-1938.

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

John Dodgson?
John Newman?
1823-1840: Joseph Cowland;
1840-1844: William Redman (licence suspended for 2 months in 1844 on the complaint of the Superintendent Tebbutt for improperly conducting the house)
1850: William Redman;
1850: Edward William Redman;
1850-1853: John Joseph Cowland;
1853-1854: Thomas Skilleter;
1854: Sophia Skilleter;
1854: Thomas Woodward;
1854 - 1869: William Nottingham;
1876-1877: Charles Groom;
1885-1894: Thomas Taylor (also blacksmith).
Public house closed between 1894 and 1898.