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The Woolpack Public House Wilshamstead

The Woolpack March 2012
The Woolpack March 2012

The Woolpack Public House: Bedford Road, Wilshamstead

A packet of deeds traces the history of the building from the early 18th century. This may be the same building as the current [2013] Woolpack, or it may be an older building on the same site. In 1721 a cottage in Wilshamstead “where Thomas Cawne lately dwelt” and formerly owned by George Turpin was conveyed by William Eaton, only heir of Mary Beech to John Bonner of Houghton Conquest, husbandman, for £12 [GK153/1]. Two years later Bonner conveyed the cottage, in which he now lived, for £8 to Francis Thomas of Haynes, labourer [GK153/2]. In 1726 Thomas conveyed the cottage, now in the occupation of John Odell, to Mary Furnace of Loughton [Buckinghamshire] for £25 [GK153/3].

In 1740 Mary’s nephew Richard Furnace conveyed the cottage, now in the occupation of Jonas Yarrow and Richard Sharp, to Francis Thomas of Wootton, husbandman, for £20 [GK153/4]. In 1754 Thomas conveyed it to James Kendall of Wilshamstead for £20 [GK153/5]. The cottage was now tenanted by Thomas Saunders and Thomas Clarke. In his will of 1793 [GK153/6] Kendall left the cottage to his wife, Elizabeth, stating that after her death it was to go to their son Darmer Kendall.

Darmer, or Dearmer, conveyed the cottage in 1806 to William Tow and Benjamin Coley, both of Wilshamstead, yeomen, for £40 [GK153/7]. The cottage was now divided into two tenements, occupied by Tow and Thomas Watts. In 1820 Tow and Coley conveyed the property to John Downing of Chicksands, gardener, for £56. The cottage was now described as having a barn and a piece of inclosed ground [GK153/8]. In 1833 Downing conveyed the cottage to James Weston for £145 [GK153/10], by now the barn had been pulled down. The conveyance also included a cottage built by Downing on part of the ground and it is not clear whether it is this, or the original cottage, which became the Woolpack in 1846.

In 1871 a theft occurred at the Woolpack which is documented in quarter sessions records [QSR1871/1/5/6]. William Manton of Clophill, a gardener stated that he called at the Woolpack at about 8 p. m. on 19th November. He left his basket with twenty three herrings and a cup and saucer in a basket in his cart. When he went out in about a quarter of an hour the basket was gone. He later met Henry Burr near the crossroads of Cotton End Road, Bedford Road and Luton Road. P. C. Britchfield was with Manton and he asked Burr what he had about him. Burr said he had nothing. Britchfield found two herrings in Burr’s pockets. They went to John Burr’s house where the policeman found Manton’s basket. John Burr then confessed that he had twenty herrings. The policeman went upstairs and found twenty one herrings and the cup and saucer. P. C. Britchfield charged Burr with stealing the goods.

Burr said there were some boys shouting “herrings”. They set the basket down and Burr picked it up and took it home. Burr said he did not know the boys. He charged Henry Burr with aiding his brother in stealing 23 herrings, the basket, cup and saucer. Henry Burr said he had not told his wife about the herrings or about being searched and had not taken them out of his pocket.

The countywide licensing register of 1876 states that the Woolpack beerhouse was first licensed in 1846. In 1876 it was owned by Bedford brewers Newland & Company who must have bought it the previous year, when it was part of an auction sale of licensed premises owned by John Weston’s Biggleswade Brewery in Shortmead Street. The particulars [WG2563] state: “a stud-built, rough-cast and slated freehold dwelling house formerly known as “The Wool Pack”, licensed for the Sale of Beer, containing tap room, parlour, kitchen, sunk cellar, with a large club room divided into 2 bedrooms, and one other bed room over parlour, a brick-built and slated stable, timber-built and pantiled pigsties and closet, timber-built and pantiled cart hovel, with four bays, brick-built and slated slaughter house or workshop at end, with large open yard, small piece of garden enclosed, fencing, gateway entrance from the Bedford Road, next which it has a good South frontage, being bounded on the west by the Trustees of the Building Society and Mr. Tow; East by property of Lord John Thynne; and North by Mr. Robinson, and now in the tenure of Charles Crowsley. In connection with this House, a good Village Club is held, bringing an increasing business with the same”.

Newland and Company became Newland and Nash in 1890 when William Pritzler Newland went into partnership with Susan Nash of Nash and Company. The countywide licensing register of 1903 noted that the property was in fair repair, it was clean and “apparently sanitary”. It was 80 yards from the nearest licensed premises and had one front and one back door.

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 Woolpack beerhouse [DV1/C65/27] found it owned by Wells and Winch and occupied by Harry Crowsley whose rent was £18 per annum.

The premises comprised a tap room, a parlour, a cellar and a living room with two bedrooms on the first floor and a clubroom (“not licensed” and “not large”). A store place with a copper for heating water, a three bay open shed (one bay of which was used as a store), a store place, a stable for one horse, two W. Cs and a further store place all lay outside.

The valuer noted: “Trade does not average more than a barrel per week. Tobacco very small. The beerhouse received a full license, becoming a public house, on 5th March 1959. At the time of writing it remains, with the Red Lion nearly opposite, one of the two remaining public houses in the parish.


  • GK153/1: conveyance of cottage: 1721;
  • GK153/2: conveyance of cottage: 1723;
  • GK153/3: conveyance of cottage: 1726;
  • GK153/4: feoffment: 1740;
  • GK153/5: feoffment of cottage: 1754;
  • GK153/6: will of James Kendall: 1793;
  • GK153/7: feoffment: 1806;
  • GK153/8: conveyance: 1820;
  • GK153/10: conveyance: 1833;
  • QSR1871/1/5/6: theft from the Woolpack: 1871;
  • WG2563: sale catalogue: 1875;
  • GK160/2: mortgage: 1875;
  • GK153/21: conveyance: 1875;
  • GK160/4: mortgage: 1877;
  • SF1/274: valuation: 1888-1891;
  • GK158/1: mortgage and reconveyance: 1888-1895;
  • SF74/34: auction sale held at Woolpack: 1894;
  • SF74/40: auction sale held at Woolpack: 1894;
  • GK3/1a: conveyance of licensed properties to Newland & Nash Limited: 1897;
  • GK3/1b: Newland & Nash Limited trust deed: 1897;
  • PSB9/1: register of licenses: 1903-1935;
  • GK3/3: Newland & Nash Limited schedule of deeds: 1936;
  • GK297/2: conveyance of Newland & Nash Limited to Wells & Winch Limited: 1938;
  • PSB9/2: register of licenses: c.1955-1995;
  • Co/PH1/19/1: photograph: 1964;
  • BorBTP/79/183: extension and alterations: 1979;
  • Z620/11-14: photographs: 1985-1988

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

1876-1922: Charles Crowsley;
1922-1940: Harry Crowsley;
1980: William Frederick Davies;
1980-1982: Peter Isom Musgrove;
1982-1983: Benjamin Thomas Burns;
1983-1984: John Swindells Schofield;
1984-1985: Alan William Scamell;
1985-1991: Jon Christopher Sulzbach;
1991-1992: John Boult;
1992-1995: John Stephen Wheeler.