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The Bell Public House Westoning

The Bell August 2009
The Bell August 2009

The Bell Public House: the corner of High Street and Greenfield Road, Westoning

The Bell Public House was listed by the former Department of Environment in 1985 as Grade II, of special interest. The building dates to the early 17th century, though it was altered in the 19th century. It is a timber-framed structure with some exposed red brick infill, some of the timber-framing is encased and some rebuilt in brick. Most of the brick areas are colourwashed. The structure has clay tile roofs and a T-plan, the main block having two storeys and attics, the cross-wing two storeys.

Surprisingly for such an old building the public house| is a comparatively late development. Westoning had only one licensed premises, The Chequers|, between 1822 and 1828 when countywide lists of alehouses were drawn up [CLP13]. Thomas Short ran a beerhouse| in Westoning from at least 1839 to at least 1856 and this was called The Bell, but it was at 1 High Street|. This beerhouse was definitely closed by 1859 as in a conveyance of that year it is described as untenanted.

William Taylor is first noted as a beer retailer in Westoning in a directory of 1861. He was still a beer retailer in a directory of 1864. By 1869 he is shown as licensee of a fully-licensed public house called The Bell. All this indicates that the modern Bell Public House first opened as a beerhouse between 1854 and 1861 and became a public house between 1864 and 1869. At that date the property was owned by the Campion family as part of the Westoning Estate (Westoning Manor|) and was still owned by them in 1903. The Westoning estate was sold off in a number of lots through the 20th century and at some point the Estate presumably sold the property to its leaseholders (evidence suggests this happened between 1903 and 1927).

The Bedfordshire Times & Independent of 21 March 1871 reported on the sad demise of licensee William Taylor:

Fearful Accident on the Midland Line

Between six and seven o'clock on the evening of Friday the 17th inst., a man named William Taylor, a bricklayer by trade, and landlord of the Bell Inn at Westoning, after leaving work was returning homeward, and to save distance (although contrary to the regulations of the Railway Company) he walked upon the up line between Flitwick and Harlington, when hearing a goods train approaching behind him, in order to avoid it  he stepped backwards onto the down line, unconcious, no doubt, that the Manchester down passenger express was rapidly advancing towards him. He was seen by the driver of the express, who instantly slackened speed and put the danger whistle in operation, but the unfortunate man, either being prevented by the noise made by the passing goods train from hearing the whistle, or paralysed perhaps by the imminent danger threatening him, did not move, the result being that the express ran over him, and when the train was ultimately brought to a standstill it was found that he had been utterly cut to pieces ...his clothes being scattered all along the line; and when the express stopped at Bedford the deceased's braces...were discovered attached to the works of the engine. Taylor was about 55 years of age.

Charlotte Taylor, his widow, took over the licence of The Bell after his death.

In 1876 the Campions leased the property to Bedford brewer William Joseph Nash. He died in 1884 and his widow, Susan Cressy Nash continued the business, taking rival William Pritzler Newland of Newland & Company into partnership in 1890, the united business being known as Newland & Nash. Newland died in 1900 but the company continued, having been made a public company in 1897. In 1922 the failing company was bought out by Biggleswade rival Wells & Winch. This firm was itself taken over by the Bury Saint Edmunds [Suffolk] firm of Greene King in 1961. At the time of writing [2010] the Bell is still owned by Greene King and is one of only two public houses left in the village, along with the Chequers.

On 12th October 1888 Charlotte Taylor left the public house and the following is an inventory of her furniture made by Ampthill valuers and estate agents for an auction sale [SF71/63/3]

  • a quantity of old iron;
  • two water butts;
  • a grindstone as fixed and a small pig trough;
  • an iron pig trough;
  • a bench and wash tray;
  • a large boiler and zinc tub;
  • three small earthenware bowls and a quantity of jars;
  • sundry jars;
  • a large wooden tub;
  • a pickling lead, and bench;
  • two sets of quoits;
  • a coffee pot & lamp;
  • three candlesticks and a ladle;
  • eight spitoons and a beer warmer;
  • a dresser with three drawers;
  • a plate rack and cupboard as fixed;
  • a cocoa mat;
  • a small register stove, fender, and fire irons;
  • a quilting machine;
  • two wooden taps, two beer taps and a hand lamp;
  • two funnels and four beer taps;
  • a screen seat;
  • two forms and two forms with backs;
  • a round deal table;
  • an oak pedestal table;
  • a deal table;
  • a small round dining table; 
  • three stained tables;
  • six Windsor chairs and one armchair;
  • Seven armchairs;
  • a couch with cushions;
  • three pieces of cocoa matting, a chessboard and clock;
  • two tablecloths and chimney ornaments; 
  • two table cloths and a mirror;
  • a mantel border and four prints;
  • a corner cupboard and form;
  • a corner cupboard and six prints;
  • two window blinds, curtains and lamps;
  • a sewing machine;
  • a painted table;
  • a mangle;
  • two iron French bedsteads;
  • a straw mattress;
  • a flock bed, bolster, and pillow;
  • a stained chest of drawers;
  • a dressing table and cover;
  • a washstand and fittings;
  • sundry pieces of carpet, window blind, and curtain;
  • a painted chest of drawers;
  • a dressing table with a cover and small looking glass;
  • a looking glass in mahogany;
  • a painted washstand and service;
  • a night commode;
  • two window blinds, curtains and three cheese cloths;
  • a dressing table cover, two pincushions and a large print;
  • two bed quilts, two pairs of sheets and two pairs of blankets;
  • one bed quilt, two pairs of sheets and two pairs of blankets;
  • three window blinds and two pairs of curtains;
  • six cane seat chairs;
  • two four-post wooden bedsteads;
  • three straw mattresses;
  • four flock bed and bolsters;
  • a flower stand and piece of carpet;
  • a dressing table and glass;
  • a knife box, two pairs of carvers and two spoons;
  • one dozen black handled knives and forks;
  • a willow-pattern dinner service, about thirty three pieces;
  • a set of six jugs;
  • sundry jugs;
  • four glass dishes and a potted meat taste;
  • a glass butter dish, cream jug, and sugar basin;
  • two salts, three egg cups and a cruet stand;
  • a tea pot, sugar basin, three cups and saucers and four salts;
  • two large decanters;
  • two small decanters and a water-bottle and glass;
  • sundry chimney ornaments; 
  • twelve tumblers and six wine glasses; 
  • twelve tumblers and seven wine glasses; 
  • thirteen tumblers and two soda water glasses;
  • twelve pewter pints, five pewter quarte and two beer tins;
  • three spirit jars;
  • three small spirit jars;
  • two waiters, nine wine glasses and a lamp;
  • a mirror and eight day clock;
  • a set of six spirit measures; 
  • two Windsor chairs and sundries; 
  • twenty head of poultry; ten ducks;
  • an in-pig sow; 
  • one sow with eight pigs;
  • one sow with seven pigs;
  • s small rick of well-gotten hay;
  • a chaff cutter; 
  • ten Windsor chairs and an arm chair;
  • a kettle and a frying pan;
  • a corner cupboard;
  • a chest of drawers;
  • a dresser;
  • a bedstead;
  • a warming pan, clock etc;
  • two lace pillows
  • a wheelbarrow.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every piece of land and building in the country was to be assessed to determine the rates to be paid on it. Westoning, like most of Bedfordshire, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting The Bell [DV1/C135/85] noted that it was owned by Wells and Winch and occupied by Mrs. Annie Fasey, who paid rent of £20 per annum.

The brick and tiled building comprised three public bars ("small"), a living room, kitchen and cellar with five bedrooms and two large attics above. Outside stood a brick and tiled stable for three horses ("gone"), a brick and tiled coach house ("gone"), a coal barn and earth closet. The references "gone" apply to the hearing a year later in November 1928 when an appeal was made against the valuer's valuation - an appeal which was withdrawn.

Trade consisted of one and a half barrels of beer per week with "small trade" for wines, spirits, tobacco and minerals. The valuer commented: "Good pull up. Clean place".

References: 

  • PSA5/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1927;
  • ST483: valuation: c. 1886;
  • SF71/63/1: poster advertising auction sale of licensee's furniture etc. at the Bell: 1888
  • SF71/63/2: inventory of items at the Bell: 1888;
  • SF71/63/3: auctioneers' priced catalogue: 1888;
  • SF71/63/4: balance sheet from the auction sale: 1888;
  • SF71/47/1: inventory of licensee's furniture etc. at the Bell: 1892;
  • SF71/47/3: draft catalogue of contents: 1894;
  • SF71/47/4: poster advertising auction sale: 1894;
  • SF71/47/5: auctioneer's priced catalogue: 1894;
  • GK3/1a: conveyance of premises to Newland and Nash: 1897;
  • PSA5/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1934-1959;
  • PSA5/3: list of premises taken over by Wells & Winch on voluntary liquidation of Newland & Nash: 1936;
  • GK3/3: schedule of Newland and Nash deeds including the Bell: 1894;
  • GK3/1b: Newland and Nash trust deed: 1897;
  • GK297/2: conveyance of Newland and Nash properties to Wells and Winch: 1938
  • PSA5/4: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: c.1950s

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list; entries in italics refer to licensees where either beginning or end, or both, dates are not known:
1861-1871: William Taylor
1871-88: Charlotte Taylor
1888-1892: Thomas Anderson
1892-1894: James Watts
1894-1896: Clara Lucy Anderson
1896-1899: John Walton
1899-1900: Joseph Perry
1900: John Burbidge
1900: George Cave
1900-1901: William Millbank
1901-1904: Leonard Northwood
1904-1926: Joseph Fasey
1926-1936: Annie Fasey
1936-1947: William Miller
1947-1972: Helene Elizabeth Miller;
1972-1983: William Jude Caddis;
1983-1986: Roger Cotgreave;
1987-1995: Richard Paul Roberts