Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Woburn > The Wheatsheaf Inn Woburn

The Wheatsheaf Inn Woburn

Wheatsheaf in 1868 also showing Tavern R6-63-4-58
The Wheatsheaf shown on a deed on 1868, note also The Tavern (in yellow) [R6/63/4/58]

The Wheatsheaf Inn (formerly The White Lion): Market Place, Woburn

The Wheatsheaf used to stand in the Market Place, the site is now open ground between todays' 20 and 21 Market Place. Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has the deeds which stretch from 1713 to 1868 [R6/63/4]. The public house closed about 1869, shortly after it was purchased by the Duke of Bedford.

In 1713 the building was owned by Jeremiah Rowberd (also called Roobard) and he mortgaged it to Katherine Dodsworth for £200 [R6/63/4/10]. Jeremiah and Mary conveyed the property to trustees, who were to act on their behalf, in 1724 [R6/63/4/1-2] when was described as a messuage in the Corn Market, previously known as the White Lion with a one acre pightle adjoining on which a malthouse had previously stood but had been burned down "in the late dreadfull fire", which had occurred three months earlier and destroyed 39 buildings in the town [R6/63/4/1-2]. There is no indication that the building was a licensed premises at this date. In 1731 the mortgage to Katherine Dodsworth was transferred to Thomas Cooke [R6/63/4]3.

Jeremiah died in April 1735 and devised the premises to his wife Mary in his will, the intention being that, after her death, it would be sold and the money divided between their children Jeremiah, Robert, Margaret, Elizabeth and Anne. In October 1739 the trustees released the property to Mary with the consent of her children [R6/63/4/4]. the following November Mary sold part of the building, but not the adjoining pasture, to her eldest son, Jeremiah of Woburn, grocer for £155 [R6/63/4/6-7]. The property was described as a messuage in the Corn Market with half the gateway and yard "from the stump that the gate there shuts against up to the orchard pales on that side" and was part of the former White Lion. The other half of the former White Lion, together with the land, now called an orchard, was sold to John Ireland of Woburn, maltster, for £310 and was, at that stage, shop of the barber surgeon Francis Timbs, who had died a few months before [R6/63/4/8-9]. On the same day the mortgage of 1713 which was still owing to Thomas Cooke was assigned by his widow to John Ireland [R6/63/4/10], it now stood at £165 and had been included in the sale price of £310 Ireland had paid to Mary Rowberd.

John Ireland's part of the former White Lion was conveyed by his children Catherine Durrant, Susannah Tims and Mary Coles, with their respective husbands and his granddaughter Elizabeth Horwood and her husband to John Gostelow, a Woburn victualler in 1777 for £300 [R6/64/4/18-19]. It is in this document that the name Wheatsheaf is used for the first time as successor to the former White Lion.

Jeremiah Roobard the younger went bankrupt in 1740 whilst carrying on the trade of tallow chandler and his creditors sold his part of the former White Lion to George Carey, a grocer and tallow chandler from Olney [Buckinghamshire] in 1741 [R6/63/4/12-13]. George's son Robert willed the property to his executors in 1777 [R6/63/4/20] and in 1782 it was conveyed to another Robert Carey, a surgeon of Woburn for £250 [R6/63/4/21-22]. Seven years later Carey sold it to John Gostelow for £260 [R6/63/4/25] thus reuniting the two halves of the former White Lion. Though half the property had been called the Wheatsheaf from 1777 the half sold by Carey in 1789 was not so called.

John Gostelow willed his real estate to his wife Mary in 1791 (proved 1792) [R6/63/4/27] and when she died in 1799 administration of her estate was granted to her brother-in-law James Gostelow [R6/63/4/28] because her eldest son John was a minor, becoming 21 on 10th February 1801 when he mortgaged the Wheatsheaf (with a newly erected malthouse) to his uncle James for £403 [R6/63/4/30]. This was still only part of the building (the western half) because a few months later Gostelow mortgaged the other half, still a private residence, to John White of Westoning for £150 [R6/63/4/31]. Both mortgages were transferred to Thomas Battams of Turvey in 1802 [R6/63/4/32].

Gostelow sold the Wheatsheaf in 1803 to Francis Ireland of Spitalfields [Middlesex] [R6/63/4/38-39]. Interestingly this document mistakenly refers to the Black rather than White Lion. The mistake may arise from the fact that, by that date, another White Lion existed in Park Street and the clerk drawing up the deed assumed that reference to a White Lion (closed for at least 79 years) was itself a mistake.

The deeds include a tenancy agreement of 1804 [R6/63/4/40] in which Francis Ireland leased the Wheatsheaf  to William Hurley of Woburn, plumber, for 14 years at £52 per annum rent, Hurley to buy all his liquor from the Wheatsheaf brewery, also owned by Ireland, behind the pub. Ireland then sold the Wheatsheaf to Hurley in 1809 for £995 [R6/63/4/42-43]. Hurley then mortgaged it for £700 [R6/63/4/44], the mortgage being redeemed in 1825 [R6/63/4/54].

William Hurley devised the Wheatsheaf in his will of 1817 (when he describes himself as plumber, glazier, painter and innholder) to his wife Maria [R6/63/4/46], though if she wished to give up the business she was to give their son Joseph first refusal before selling it. Hurley died in 1821 and his wife duly continued to own and run the Wheatsheaf until selling it in 1836 to another William Hurley, of Newmarket, grocer [R6/63/4/51-52]. This William Hurley sold the premises, together with a newly erected private house, formerly used as part of the Wheatsheaf, the orchard, Barn Close, of three acres, and a slip of land near the workhouse in 1842 to William Edward Rogers Freeman of Woburn, druggist, for £1,775 [R6/63/56] and he, in 1868 sold the pub and land, together with a number of other houses and pieces of land to the Duke of Bedford for £3,300 [R6/63/4/58]. Interestingly, one of the properties sold was a warehouse in Back Lane (which used to run from the Market Place), built in 1861 on the site of a cottage which had formerly been called the Tavern. This Tavern is first noted in 1585. Presumably the Wheatsheaf was demolished by the duke soon after he acquired it because it is not shown on the first 25 inches to the mile Ordnance Survey map of 1882.

The Wheatsheaf seems to have had rather dubious clientele as it figures in an unusually large number of cases of theft before the quarter sessions in the mid 19th century. The following case [QSR1852/3/5/30] is typical. William Jenkins and William marriott both lived in Aspley Guise and were labouring men. They had known each other for years. Both had been working together on William Goodman's farm at Eversholt, draining land for the Duke of Bedford. On 29th May they attended the office at Park Farm to receive their wages. Jenkins received 19 shillings and 6 pence, and he also had a shilling and sixpence in his pocket, and seven pennyworth of halfpennies. He put the silver all together in a purse. After receiving their wages Jenkins, Marriott and other men went to a beer shop in Woburn were they had some beer. The prisoner and Jenkins then went on to the Wheatsheaf where they took more beer. Jenkins then fell asleep, presumably due to all the beer.

On waking, Jenkins asked one of the serving girls in the Wheatsheaf if all the beer was paid for and she told him it was. Marriott had left by then. Jenkins then went to  John Steers' butcher shop in Woburn to pay his bill. He then found his purse was missing and he went to enquire of his mates and the serving girl at the Wheatsheaf, who said she thought Marriott had taken something from his pocket whilst he was asleep. He found Marriott at the Black Horse and asked him to go with him to the Wheatsheaf, which he did without hesitation and the serving girl duly identified him. Jenkins then asked Marriott for his money who said he did not have the money and went to leave, so Jenkins caught hold of his collar. Marriott then struck him in the face but another man who was there collared the miscreant and called the police.

Frances Tear was a cook at the Wheatsheaf and stated that Marriott and Jenkins came to the tap room alone and appeared to have been drinking. They had some beer and Jenkins fell asleep. She saw Marriott take some halfpennies out of Jenkins hand and pay for the beer with it. She then saw him put his hand in Jenkins' pocket and take something out and put it in his own pocket. Marritott remained a further ten minutes before leaving. Ann Cannard, a housemaid at the Wheatsheaf said that she saw them both come into the tap room and they had two pints of beer together for which Marriott paid. She saw him take money out of Jenkins' hand whilst he was asleep. She also saw him take something from Jenkin's pocket and put it in his own. Marriott then left the Jenkins asleep. John Quilty took Jenkins into custody and found 20 shillings worth of silver and 7 pence in coppers on him.

List of Sources:

  • R6/63/4/1-2: conveyance: 1724;
  • R6/63/4/4: assignment: 1739;
  • R6/63/4/6-7: part conveyance: 1739;
  • R6/63/4/13: part conveyance: 1741;
  • R6/63/4/17-19: part conveyance: 1777;
  • R6/63/4/21-22: part conveyance: 1782;
  • R6/63/4/25: part conveyance: 1789;
  • R6/63/4/27: conveyance: 1791;
  • P118/28/2: parochial assessment book: 1802-1833;
  • R6/63/4/39: conveyance: 1803;
  • R6/63/4/40-41: lease: 1804;
  • R6/63/4/42-43: Wheatsheaf conveyed by Francis Ireland to William Hurley: 1809;
  • LHE281b: auction sale held at the Wheatsheaf: 1810;
  • R6/63/4/46: devised in will a will: 1817; (proved 1821);
  • R1/78: Thomas Evans' map accompanying R2/69: 1810;
  • R2/69: Detailed survey of Woburn made by Thomas Evans for the Duke of Bedford: 1822;
  • R6/63/4/51-52: conveyance: 1836;
  • R6/63/4/56: conveyance: 1842;
  • AD3238/1: theatrical performance at the Wheatsheaf: 1842;
  • QSR1842/3/5/56: mentioned in a court case: 1842;
  • QSR1842/3/2/2: the licensee tries to avoid jury service: 1842;
  • QSR1844/3/5/3: theft of gaiters at the Wheatsheaf: 1844;
  • QSR1851/3/5/4a-6b: men of bad character seen drinking at the Wheatsheaf: 1851;
  • QSR1852/3/5/30: theft at the Wheatsheaf: 1852;
  • QSR1863/1/5/5a-b: theft of a pot of beer: 1853;
  • QSR1856/4/5/13: a man charged with horse stealing drinking at the Wheatsheaf: 1856;
  • R6/63/4/58: conveyance: 1868

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

1777-1791: John Gostelow;
1791-1799: Mary Gostelow;
1801-1803: John Gostelow junior;
1802-1804: George Bull;
1804-1821: William Hurley;
1821-1836: Maria Hurley - tavern/excise office;
1839-1840: Oliver Baker Croxen;
1842: J. Hurley;

1847-1850: George Rogers (1850 a commercial tavern);
1853: William Norris (also maltster, corn dealer and mealman);
1854: William Norris;
1861: Peter Nicholl;
1864-1869: Robert Hammond