4 Northbridge Street January 2012
4 Northbridge Street stands on the east side of the road between the White Hart and 6 Northbridge Street also called The Porch House. Though overshadowed by those to buildings it is a handsome enough structure.
The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county's historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The entry for 4 Northbridge Street [HER 13217] reads: "A post medieval shop. It is a red brick construction with yellow brick decoration. It has a gabled tiled roof with decorative ridge tiles. There is also cornicing under the eaves. On the front of the shop the original name is still visible as it has been written into the building ["W. Caton & Sons, Wine, Spirit & Ale Merchants"]. The ground floor has two large shop windows. On the right hand side is an extension that appears to have been built fairly soon after the original construction was completed [no longer there – 2012]. It has a half hipped roof. To the rear of the building is decoratively rendered wall".
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. Shefford, like most of the county, was assessed in 1927. The valuer visiting 4 Northbridge Street [DV1/C289/13] found that Caton no longer owned the place, its new owner being W. B. Moss, who also owned 2 and 4 High Street opposite.
The tenant was Ralph John Whitbread, motor engineer, who paid rent of £45 per annum. Accommodation comprised a kitchen, an upstairs reception room, and two bedrooms ("Big rooms"). The shop and showroom measured 16 feet by 15 feet, an office measured 5 feet by 7 feet 6 inches, another shop 15 feet by 14 feet, and a repair shop 13 feet 6 inches by 31 feet 6 inches, ("dark & bad. Down 3 steps"). Outside stood a petrol pump and tank for 300 gallons. There was also a store, a stable for two horses used as a store and a garage and a store with a loft over the whole ("all very dark"), a corrugated iron paraffin store and a brick, asbestos and corrugated iron garage for two vans measuring 18 feet 6 inches by 20 feet ("good, fairly new").
Directories for Bedfordshire were not published every year but every few years. Ralph Whitbread was listed as an ironmonger in directories of 1914 and 1920 and as a motor engineer in 1924, 1928, 1931, 1936 and the last county directory of 1940. His ironmonger's business continued at 6 Southbridge Street). William Whitbread & Son, cycle makers were listed in Northbridge Street in directories of 1903, 1906 and 1910, presumably at this address. The firm also had a blacksmith's business in Southbridge Street. W. Caton, a draper as well as selling wine, spirits and ale, is listed at the premises in directories of 1894, 1896, 1903 and 1906 and so it looks as if there was an overlap with Whitbread & Son. Caton also had a premises in the High Street. His firm is just listed as being in the High Street in directories of 1847, 1852, 1853, 1862, 1864, 1869, 1871, 1877, 188 and 1890. This suggests that Caton was not the original owner of 4 Northbridge Street as he did not move there until the early 1890s but the property is shown on an Ordnance Survey map of 1883.