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The Fox and Duck Public House Wootton

The Fox and Duck March 2012
The Fox and Duck March 2012

The Fox & Duck Public House: 13 Bedford Road, Wootton

This public house did not become fully licensed until March 1956, prior to that it had been a beerhouse. It is first mentioned as a simple cottage in 1836 when it was conveyed by Samuel and James Beard to William Harris [GK91/1], who sold it the same year to John North [GK91/3]. Again in that year Charles Higgins, the Bedford brewer, lent £120 to North to enable him to complete building a property in Wootton [GK91/3]; by the next year it had been built and was mortgaged to Higgins to secure the loan [GK91/4]. This demonstrates that the Fox & Duck has been a licensed premises since late 1836 or early 1837, an unusually precise dating for a licensed premises as long ago as this. The countywide licensing register of 1876 states that the Fox and Duck was first licensed in 1830 but this is obviously a rough date.

In 1862 the Fox and Duck was conveyed by James Price Coles and Joseph North to George Higgins [GK91/12]. In 1884 it was conveyed, with other property, from the late George Higgins, via his will, to his sons Laurence Read Colburne Higgins and Cecil Charles Norman Colburne Higgins [GK4/2]. In 1902 the Higgins brothers conveyed it to their new public limited company - Higgins & Sons Limited [GK4/4].

Interestingly Higgins may not always have supplied the beer to the beerhouse. George Higgins assigned his mortgage on the premises to Woburn brewer James Fowler in 1842 and he to Newport Pagnell [Buckinghamshire] brewer James Price Coles in 1846. Coles reconveyed the place to George Higgins in 1862 when he purchased it from Joseph North. It seems reasonable speculation (though not capable of proof without hard evidence) that these brewers who became mortgagees would have also wanted to supply their beer to the establishment.

Higgins & Sons Limited was sold to Biggleswade brewer Wells & Winch in 1927 and in that same year Bedfordshire was valued under the Rating Valuation Act of 1925; every piece of land and property was surveyed to establish how much should be paid on it by way of rates. The valuer at the Fox & Duck [DV1/C41/124] found a brick and tile structure comprising a tap room, smoke room, club room, living room and scullery downstairs with three bedrooms and a box room above; outside were a barn and earth closet. Trade was 1½ barrels and two dozen bottles of beer per week. The valuer noted: "Done up NICE"; "Very good pub just been done up" and "saw Mrs.B does not know rent. Only 1 barrel tapped in cellars".

Wells & Winch merged with Suffolk brewers Greene King in 1961, the new company taking the Greene King name in 1963.


  • GK91/1: feoffment of cottage: 1836;
  • GK91/3: agreement to lend: 1836;
  • GK91/4: mortgage: 1837;
  • GK91/5: assignment of mortgage: 1842;
  • GK91/8: certified burial of John North: 1843;
  • GK91/6: assignment of mortgage: 1846;
  • GK91/12: reconveyance: 1862;
  • GK4/2: conveyance: 1884;
  • GK4/4: conveyance: 1902;
  • PSB9/1: Register of Alehouse Licences, Bedford Petty Sessional Division: 1903-1935;
  • BTNegOB60/5: Bedfordshire Times negative of Fox & Duck: c.1920;
  • RDBP1/815: plans for new Club room: 1925;
  • GK4/6: schedule of deeds of Higgins & Sons Limited houses: 1927;
  • PSB9/2: Register of Alehouse Licences, Bedford Petty Sessional Division: c.1955-1995;
  • PSBW8/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1976-1980.

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list; italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known:
1837-1843: John North;
1843-1862 Eliza North;
1876: Sarah Granby;
1891-1912: Alfred Harris;
1912-1924: William Lovell;
1924-1945: George Brightman;
1956-1970: Alfred George Longhurst;
1970: Ivy Maude Longhurst;
1970-1976: Richard Allen Longhurst;
1976-1980: Alan Raymond Aylott;
1980: Michael Richard Swain;
1980-1985: Kevin Joseph Blake;
1985-1986: Peter Andrew Fossey;
1986-1989: Jeffrey Peter Chamberlain;
1989-1990: Garry Cooley;
1990-1992: Robert Dudley Bell;
1992-1995: Ronald Gerard Dolan