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The Elephant and Castle Public House Wilshamstead

The former Elephant and Castle March 2012
The former Elephant and Castle March 2012

The Elephant and Castle Beerhouse: 49 Cotton End Road, Wilshamstead

The countywide licensing register of 1876 states that the Elephant and Castle was first licensed in 1848. In 1877 the beerhouse was put up for sale and the particulars [WG2515] described it as a free house: “now in the occupation of Mr. John Whittemore, a highly respectable tenant who is under notice to quit”. The premises consisted of a tap room, a bar, a parlour, a kitchen, a cellar, a large club room and four bedrooms with a corn barn, stable, piggeries, small farmyard, small garden “and a very Superior Well of Good Water”. The particulars enthused: “The House has been doing a Considerable Trade for some years past, is situate about the centre of the Village, and the Premises are well adapted for the occupation of a Dealer”.

Unfortunately the particulars are not annotated with the name of the buyer. Both the 1876 and 1891 licensing registers give E. K. and H. Fordham of Ashwell [Hertfordshire] but this term is often used to indicate the principal tenant but later evidence does suggest that Fordhams were the buyers in 1877.

The countywide licensing register of 1903 states that the Elephant and Castle was in a fair state of repair. It was also clean and “apparently sanitary”. It was 55 yards from the nearest licensed premises and had no less than four front doors! This last is, perhaps, a transcription error.

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, Wootton was largely assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting the Elephant and Castle beerhouse [DV1/C65/50] found it was owned by E. K. and H. Fordham Limited and occupied by Herbert Masters whose rent was £6 per annum. At some later point Ethel Mary Masters bought the beerhouse as she is recorded as owner in the licensing register [PSB9/1].

Accommodation comprised a tap room, a cellar and a club room (“not used”), private accommodation being a parlour, a kitchen and living room (“partitioned off”); four bedrooms lay upstairs. An old stable, a garage and a store room all lay outside.

Trade comprised about half a barrel (eighteen gallons) per week – “does not know takings, does teas”. The valuer commented: “Situation not good”. In 1939 the property was once more up for sale, along with three cottages adjoining to the east. The particulars now [PK1/4/126] described it as comprising four bedrooms; a lounge; a public bar; a dining room; a drawing room; a kitchen “and the usual Domestic Offices. There is a small Conservatory attached to the Lounge”. Outside were timber and corrugated iron outbuildings comprising a loose box, a garage and a barn. “There is a small Greenhouse attached to the rear of the Property, also a small Enclosure of about 0.425 acres part laid out as a Beer Garden and part Vegetable Garden and Orchard. Electric Light available”. It seems that London brewers Mann, Crossman and Paulin bought the property because in 1945 they applied for planning permission to carry out improvements [RDBP3/426].

By 1976 the Elephant and Castle had closed because it is not included in the Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Division licensing register which begins in that year [PSBW8/3]. The former beerhouse is now an attractive private residence which looks, to the naked eye, as if it may date either from the 18th century or early 19th century.


  • WG2515: sale catalogue: 1877; PSB9/1: Register of Alehouse Licences -
  • Bedford Petty Sessional Division: 1903-1935;
  • PK1/4/126: sale catalogue of the Elephant and Castle: 1939;
  • PK2/3/1/2: sale catalogue of the beerhouse’s furniture and furnishings: 1939;
  • RDBP3/426: plans for improvements: 1945;
  • RDBP3/794: plans for sewage treatment plant: 1947 Z620/5-6: photographs: 1985

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

1876-1877: Joseph Whittemore;
1885-1890: Mrs. Joseph Whittemore
1891-1906: Frederick Thomas Nash;
1906-1913: Frederick Nottingham;
1913-1920: George Redman;
1920-36: Herbert Masters;
1940: Harry Sidney West.