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The Chequers Public House Westoning

The High Street looking north-east with the Chequers in the left foreground about 1900 [Z50/130/9]
The High Street looking north-east with the Chequers in the left foreground about 1900 [Z50/130/9]

The Chequers Public House: 3 Park Street, Westoning (formerly The Griffin).

The Chequers is clearly an ancient building and it is no surprise to discover that it was listed by the former Department of Environment in 1952 as Grade II, of special interest. The listing dates the building to the 17th or 18th century. It has a timber-framed structure with colourwashed brick infilling, though the ground floor has been partially rebuilt in brick. The building has a single storey with attics at the front with two storeys to the rear which is actually earlier. The public house has a thatched roof.

The first reference to the public house is in the will of John Woodward of 1797 [ABP/W1797/40] in which he devised his house, formerly called The Griffin, now The Chequer to his son William. In the countywide register of ale house licenses of 1822 to 1828, The Chequers is the only licensed premises in Westoning [CLP13].

In 1697 Robert Hanscombe mortgaged the former Bell Inn|, which we know stood at 1 High Street, opposite the Chequers, to Francis Prudden of Westoning, victualler, for £5. A victualler meant a licensee of an inn or public house and it seems a possibility that Francis Prudden was licensee of The Chequers (perhaps then called The Griffin) on just the other side of Church Road, though this can only be pure speculation until other evidence is found

In 1826 the Westoning Amicable and Brotherly Society |was founded [HA33] and the rules of the society explicitly state that the Chequers was to be their club house, where they met each month and indulged in a feast once per year. Records suggest that William Woodward sold The Chequers to Ampthill brewer John Morris because in 1831 "a cottage called The Griffin, now Chequers, Westoning, with barns, stables, brewhouse, yards and garden adjoining in occupation of William Woodward" was one of the properties mortgaged by John Morris to spinsters Catherine, Mary Ann and Jane Morris  [WB/M/4/1/VP1].

In 1897 Susan Abbis left the public house and her possessions in the licensed premises were valued for an auction sale [SF71/51/1] on 19th May. They comprised:

  • Bar: 9 tumblers, 11 ginger beer glasses, 5 pint glasses, 9 nip glasses, 6 wine glasses, 12 earthen pints, 1 quart, 2 large jugs, 1 smaller ditto, deal shelves, short shelf, 2 shelves, rail & hooks, dresser and drawers, shelf in corner, end to settle;
  • Old tap room: Deal table, copper, furnace, beer warmer, plate rack.
  • Club room: 3 tables and 5 trestles, 18 Windsor chairs, 2 arm chairs, 2 boxes dominoes, draughtboard & men.
  • Cellar: large meat safe, 2 wooden forms.
  • Second bar: 19 pewter pints, 6 pewter pint lips, 12 ditto; 3 quart lips, 7 quarts, 3 ½ pint, 4 spirit measures, 1 funnel, painted corner cupboard, larger corner cupboard.
  • Cellar: 2 knife chaffcutter
  • Tap room: Deal table, round table, partition door, end of settle, 12 iron spittoons.
  • Outdoors: 2 long forms, 2 short forms, sheep trough, hen coop, drinking fountain, iron pig trough, fork & broom, corn bin, iron trough.

Morris & Company (Ampthill) Limited became a public company in 1907 but in 1926 was taken over by Luton rivals J. W. Green Limited. 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 Chequers [DV1/C135/4] noted that it was owned by J. W. Green Limited and occupied by Edwin Burrows, who paid £18 per annum in rent.

The property comprised a tap room, bar, reception room used as a club room, kitchen and box room ("smells") downstairs, with five bedrooms upstairs ("but 2 have no way up"!). Outside stood a brick and slate stable for four horses, two brick and tile stalls, two open coach houses and a harness room. The valuer commented: "Awkward place". He also opined: "Dirty now, not nearly so good as when Pine had it" [Frederick Sidney Pine had been licensee from 1905 to 1923]. The valuer noted that Pine "used to take £15 a week".

Business comprised a barrel of beer per week and "a small trade for wines, spirits, tobacco and minerals". A small orchard and vegetable garden lay next to the pub and was included in the rent. The valuer summed up: "Farm buildings, Neglect".

J. W. Green Limited merged with Flowers Breweries in 1954 and the new firm took the Flowers name. The new firm did not last long as it was taken over by Whitbread in 1962. In 2001 Whitbread withdrew from brewing and sold all its public houses. The Chequers remains [2010] one of Westoning's two public houses, along with The Bell|.

The Chequers August 2009
The Chequers August 2009

References:

  • CLP13: Register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
  • HA33: Articles of agreement (embodying regulations) by the Amicable and Brotherly Society to be held at house of William Woodward at The Chequers in Westoning: 1826-1828;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP1: mortgage by John Morris of his Ampthill brewery business: 1831-1907;
  • ST260-261: auction sale at the Chequers: 1851;
  • SF23/6: auction sale held at the Chequers: 1864-1865;
  • SF23/14: auction sale held at the Chequers: 1866-1867;
  • SF23/15: auction sale held at the Chequers: 1867;
  • PSA5/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1927;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP2: mortgage from John Thomas Green to Susanna, Mary Jane and Sophia Morris: 1882
  • SF71/32/3: auction sale held at the Chequers: 1883;
  • SF71/51/1: inventory of the contents of the Chequers: 1897;
  • SF71/52/1: poster for sale of contents of the Chequers: 1897;
  • SF71/52/2: auctioneer's priced catalogue: 1897;
  • Z50/130/9: postcard: c. 1905;
  • CCE5304/1: conveyed to Morris & Company (Ampthill) Limited: 1907;
  • WB/M/4/2/1: list of Morris & Company (Ampthill) properties: 1926;
  • WB/M/4/2/2: particulars of Morris & Company (Ampthill) properties: 1926;
  • WB/M/4/1/VP8: abstract of title of Morris & Company (Ampthill) to its houses: 1926;
  • CCE5304/3: conveyed to J. W. Green Limited: 1926;
  • Z149/10: photograph: 1930s;
  • PSA5/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: 1934-1959;
  • SF85/1/226: auction sale held at the Chequers: 1936;
  • WB/Green6/4/1: trade analysis ledger for each J. W. Green house: 1936-1947;
  • WB/Green4/2/4: certificate of title of J. W. Green to its houses: 1936-1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/10: schedule of deeds to J. W. Green houses: c. 1949;
  • PSA5/4: list of licensed premises in Ampthill Petty Sessional Division: c.1950s;
  • WB/Green4/2/20: list of J. W. Green Limited listed buildings: c. 1950;
  • WB/Green4/2/5: list of J. W. Green Limited houses: c. 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/17: J. W. Green Limited trust deed: 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/16: letter regarding J. W. Green Limited titles: 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/19: schedule of deeds to J. W. Green properties: 1954;
  • WB/W4/5/Wes/C1-3: photographs: 1966;
  • Z1022/1/5: Liberal Democrat dinner held at the Chequers: 1996

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:

1697: Francis Prudden?
1797 John Woodward;
1797-1831: William Woodward;
1839: James Jackson;
1847-1850: Samuel Palmer;
1853-1854: Samuel Pilgrim;
1861-1885: Thomas Abbis, blacksmith;
1885-1897: Susan Abbis;
1897-1905: George Frederick Warren;
1905-1923: Frederick Sidney Pine;
1923-1935: Edwin Burrows;
1935-1968: Arthur James Bone;
1968-1971: Kenneth Broadbent;
1971-1979: Eric George Brown;
1979-1989: Thomas Birkinshaw Rainey;
1989-1995: Paul Julian Wallman