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The Birch at Woburn

Birchmoor Arms about 1900 [X21/760]
Birchmoor Arms about 1900 [X21/760]

The Birch at Woburn: Newport Road, Woburn

The earliest reference to this public house in a document at Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service is on 7th November 1842 when a felony occurred [QSR1843/1/5/55]. In the evidence given the Birchmoor Arms is specifically stated to be a beerhouse at that time.

Sarah Foxley, wife of the licensee stated that on Saturday 29th October John Odell was in their house. William Grover a butcher from Bow Brickhill was with him. They were there two or three hours and left about 5 p.m. They were not tipsy but had had a good deal of beer. About five minutes after they left she missed a pair of candle snuffers from the tap room mantel shelf. She also missed a drinking glass with the initials of her name on it. She gave this information to Parrott, the police constable. Sarah stated that she had no other reason for suspecting Odell than that she could trust the others he was with.

P. C. James Parrott gave evidence that he went to John Odell's house. He saw the snuffers hanging over the mantelpiece. He asked where Odell got them - he said he bought them the previous Saturday from "some chap on the road". Parrott took the snuffers and showed them to Mrs. Foxley and she identified them as hers. They were hanging openly. There was no one in the room besides Odell and a child.

John Odell stated that he did not take the snuffers out of the house. He had been very tipsy and could not say if anyone put them anywhere about him. He gave 4d. for the snuffers. He bought them as he was going to work and did not know the person he bought them from only that it was a travelling man going down the road. The register for Bedford Gaol [QGV11/2] reveals that Odell was five feet five and a half inches tall, aged 27, with dark brown hair and hazel eyes. He was a married labourer from Bourn in Cambridgeshire but had been born in Bow Brickhill [Buckinghamshire] which would explain his presence in Woburn. He was found guilty of larceny and received three months' hard labour.

The Birchmoor Arms was owned by the brewer Henry Fowler of Woburn and the site was also Fowler's brewery. Both brewery and public house, as it then was, were sold, together with 25 other public houses and beerhouses in Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire at auction in 1881 [WL1000/10/11]. At that time the brewery is described as consisting of a brick and slate malthouse with 35 quarter steep, two cemented working floors, double kiln with wire plates, stokeholes and malt lofts; there was also a maltster's cottage and piece of ground, yard, detached two floor malt chamber and cottage occupied by brewery servant. The Birchnmoor Arms is described as having a tap room, bar, parlour, with a cellar under, kitchen, four bedrooms, yard opening to road, washhouse, stabling for four horses, brick and slate skittle shed. The sale particulars do not note who bought both brewery and public house but for at least part of its history it was owned by P. Phipps & Company (Northampton & Towcester Breweries) Limited.

Another felony occurred at the Birchmoor in 1890 [QSR1890/4/5/3]. On 8th September James Fossey came to the house at 3 p.m. with Edward Cook and asked for beer. Emma refused to draw it and told them to go to work as they had had quite enough. They refused to go and kept asking for beer and she gave them a pint but refused to draw them another. She went into the bar and put the two pence they had given her into the till. She then noticed that there was eleven to trwelve shillings in the drawer. She then went upstairs and left them in the bar alone.

Whilst upstairs Emma heard her bar door rattle. She went down as quick as possible and saw Fossey just sitting down again in his seat. She said to him “Fossey you have been in my bar”. He said he had not. She asked Cook if Fossey had left the house since she had been out. Cook said he had but did not know where he had been. She went to the till and saw that half a crown and a two shilling piece had gone. She told Fossey and accused him of taking them and told him that if he did not give them back she should send for the police. After a time he handed her the coins which he took from is pocket. He left the house and she sent for the police. She had noticed the half crown and florin among the silver in the drawer before she had gone upstairs.

George Smith, the Inspector of Police for the Woburn division stated that Fossey was delivered into his custody next day and he charged him with stealing the money. The prisoner said he did not steal it. The day of the theft Smith saw the defendant at 12.30 midday and asked him for three shillings. The prisoner said he did not have any money. Edward Cook had told him that Fossey had his money and asked him to ask for it. Fossey said he had given it to Cook’s mother.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 stated that every property and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. Woburn, like much of the county, was assessed in 1927. The valuer visiting the Birchmoor Arms found the owner was Phipps & Company and the tenant John Thomas Turrell. The rent was £16 per annum.

The building consisted of a bar parlour ("fair"), tap room ("fair"), bar ("small"), smoke room ("fair"), lounge ("tiled floors"), kitchen and pantry and scullery ("used as workroom") downstairs, with no cellar. Upstairs were six bedrooms and a bathroom. Outside were two barns, 2 W. C.'s, a trap shelter and old malt store. Trade consisted of selling 1½ barrels of beer per week, a dozen bottles of beer per week and a dozen bottles of spirits per month. The valuer noted "Seems a house of call for lorries. Cement rendered. Fairly modern. Good pull up". He also noted that the tenant's brother used a small portion of the buildings outside as a boot repair shop, otherwise the buildings outside were practically unused.

In 1988 The Birchmoor Arms was conveyed by Manns and Norwich Brewery Company Limited (Watney Mann had purchased Phipps in 1960) to Heron International [WL1000/7/GLIN/1/26]. The old public house is now [2006] a restaurant called The Birch at Woburn.

Birchmoor modern photograph
The Birch at Woburn in February 2007

List of Sources Held at Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service:

  • QSR1843/1/5/55: evidence regarding a theft from the beerhouse: 1843;
  • QST1872/3/5/2-3: evidence regarding a theft given by a drinker at the beerhouse: 1872;
  • WL1000/10/1/1: auction sale particulars: 1881;
  • QSR1890/4/5/3: theft from the beerhouse: 1890;
  • X21/760/5: postcard: late C19/early C20;
  • HN6/CO/2/47: inquest on William Benjamin Poole, aged 83: 1923;
  • Z1105/1: Liquor Licence Traders Survey Form: 1948;
  • Z1309/1/27: drawing: c. 1980s;
  • WL1000/7/GLIN/1/26: conveyance: 1988;
  • PCWoburn30/11: transfer of licence: 1991;
  • PCWoburn30/13: transfer of licence: 1992;
  • PCWoburn30/23: transfer of licence: 1995;
  • PCWoburn18/9/1: planning application, plans and elevations: 1995

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

1843-1853: Samuel Foxley;
1861-1864: Francis Tompkins;
1869: Thomas
Mrs.Emma Stonhill;
1902-1903: John Geeves;
1903-1906: Frederick Summers;
1906-1909: William Brook;
1909-1917: William Linney;
1917-1927: John Thomas Turrell;
1927-1934: Thomas William Ingham;
1934: William Reginald Whittaker;
1934-1942: Frederick John Miles;
1942-1947: Leonard George Potter;
1947-1953: Arthur Richard Kay Potter;
1965-1969: Sidney Eric Woodward;
1969-1971: Nicholas Gordon Pinnock;
1971-1978: Daphne Katherine Pinnick;
1978-1982: Robert Frederick Sheward;
1982-1983: Albert Phillips;
1983-1991: Margaret Jane Phillips;
1991-1992: Pietrino Dino;
1991: Mairead Keswani and Morad Mahmoud Hikal;
1992-1995: Mairead Keswani, Morad Mahmoud Hikal, Deborah Ann Sparrow;
1995: Anfor Ali and Ahad Ali