The Red House, Wavendon

By the side of the ex-Methodist Chapel in the centre of Church End, Wavendon is the entrance to Phoebe Lane, now a cul-de-sac for traffic, but once a country lane eventually leading to the road from Woburn Sands to Bow Brickhill before the railway line cut through it in 1846. The Old Red House Inn building still stands on the right, just after you enter the lane, but it is now a private house. The last inn sign that hung outside has been preserved and can be seen on the wall still.

The Old Red House, Phoebe Lane, Wavendon. March 2009 (Google images)

On a main supporting beam in this house is clearly carved the date “1556”. The earliest deeds for the property are from more than a century later than that, and make no mention of it being an inn. Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service (BARS) holds a conveyance of a cottage in Wavendon from 14th October 1681 which is presumed to be the correct site, and another from 23-24th October 1700 for a cottage in Wavendon, naming Charles Perry of Woburn, labourer, and Richard Bush of Wavendon, blacksmith. [BARS: WL271-3].

In the Wavendon church baptism register is an entry under 1708 that William, son of Samuel and Catherine Walton, was baptised. Samuel was a soldier in Flanders, and his wife was going from Newport Pagnell to Woburn when the baby came unexpectedly. She gave birth in a hedge by Mr Wells wain close, and as the child was in danger of death, it was baptised at 10pm at the house of William Higgs, presumably the Red House.

At the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies (CBS) there is a will for William Higgs of Wavendon, victualler, proved in 1726, although the will was written 1724. He left his two brothers, Richard and Edward Higgs a shilling each, and all the rest of his property, and personal estate whatsoever to his servant Mary Loe, also his executrix. John Ashwell, Richard Busk & John Leach witnesses. Sadly, there is no mention of an inn or sign name for one.

It seems the Bush family sold to the Higgs in 1753: 31st August – 1 Sept 1753 – a cottage in Wavendon, Luke Bush of Wavendon, baker & Richard Bush, to John Higgs of Wavendon, mason, then there was a sale within the Higgs family: 1-2nd March 1771 – Conveyance of a cottage in Wavendon. John Higgs of Little Woolstone, Bucks., mason, to William Higgs of Wavendon, also a mason. [BARS: WL274-7]

Then, on 26th May 1780 one which finally mentions the inn. The will of William Higgs of Wavendon, bricklayer, devises property to trustees to be sold, including the dwelling house in his own occupation known as The Red House. [BARS: WL278]

However, as with other inns on the Bucks-side of the local county boundary, this inn can be traced back to the start of the Bucks Alehouse Register in 1753. In eight large volumes, now stored at CBS, it can be seen that the Higgs family ran the inn from 1753 to when the Register ends in 1827. Their name first appears in the Church registers of Wavendon in 1608, so they could have been running this inn for several generations before the Alehouse register even started. The CBS also holds a 12-year lease from 1721/1722 for a cottage in Wavendon and the adjoining one acre of pasture, let from Richard Bush, blacksmith, Henry Wilson, yeoman and John Harvey, yeoman, all of Wavendon, to William Higgs of Wavendon, described as a husbandman. [CBS: PR220/28/5-6]

Richard Higgs can be found as the landlord of a public house called The Brickwall at Wavendon when the Register opens. The last use of The Brickwall name is in 1757, after that, the names of inns were not recorded again until 1773, but Richard Higgs continues to be listed as a landlord in Wavendon during that time. When inn names reappear, he is recorded as the landlord of The Red House. Unless he moved inns in the meantime, this would indicate the inn had changed name sometime between 1757 & 1773.

A Richard Higgs, bricklayer & wife Elizabeth, of Wavendon are mentioned in a parish Indemnity Certificate of 1778. These were issued by a ‘home’ parish to another parish, guaranteeing to pay any welfare or subsistence which needed to be granted to the individual. [BARS: P72/13/1/2/132]

In 1774, William Higgs takes over the inn, presumably the son of Richard. His tenure continues till 1787, during which time the inn name is entered as The Red Lyon for just the year 1782; has no sign recorded 1783-1785; and then as The Roebuck for 1786. There is always the possibility that these changes in the Register were clerical errors in reading the handwriting of the person who collected information locally, as quite often the personal names of other inn-holders varies! By 1787, the Red House name was back and remained from that point.

The London Metropolitan Archives hold a Sun Insurance policy ledger, which contains an entry dated 4th August 1789, for property in Wavendon insured by John Pike and Edward Bennett, The properties were to be held in trust for the children of a Mr. Higgs, deceased. It covered three houses adjoining in the tenure of Mr. Burch, John Toppin and William Plowman, insured for £20 each, and also The Red House, in the tenure of Thomas Higgs, insured for £40. [MLA: CLC/B/192/F/001/MS11936/361/559820]

This fits perfectly, as Thomas Higgs appears in the Alehouse Register from 1788 until 1797 (but there is no entry for the inn in 1792). After this possible third generation of the Higgs’ family, the landlord changes to William Burgess from 1796 to 1800. According to Audrey O’Dell in the book “The People Called Methodists in the Village of Wavendon”, (privately published, c.1988), Burgess had married Maria Higgs, the sister of Thomas Higgs. It then reverts to the proper Higgs’ family again, with a Thomas, but I do not know if this was the same Thomas as before. His name appears all the way until the Register ceases in 1827. There should be records for 1828, but the entries for the whole of the Newport Hundred area are missing from the last volume.

William Burgess is mentioned in the history of the Methodists in Wavendon as being a class leader in 1816. I cannot imagine an innkeeper being a natural choice as a religious leader at that time; perhaps he had a very substantial change of character in the intervening years.

Before the end of the Alehouse Register, local newspapers had started to appear, which sometimes featured The Red House. “The house of Mr Higgs, known by the name of the Red-House” is recorded in an auction advert in the Northampton Mercury of 19th May, 1792, as the location of the sale, when Mr King was selling some land, cottages and crops in Wavendon.

Another auction reported in the Northampton Mercury that was staged at “Mr. William Burgess’s, called the Red-House at Wandon-Church-End” during June 1798 was for a freehold estate consisting of 4-acre field and three cottages near the Red House, in tenure of Mr. Sibthorpe, Ashley Mercy and William Plowman, and widow Facer.

Two fire insurance policy certificates for the inn are stored at Bedford, for 1805 & 1811, both times arranged with the Sun Assurance company. Thomas Higgs, described as a victualler and tailor, insured the inn for £70. [BARS: WL279-80]

The next mention I can find is from 24th September 1814, again in the Northampton Mercury; another auction sale at “the Red House, Church-End, Wavendon” for a slaughter house and butchers shop, the premises of the late Mr Pike in Wavendon.

A Mrs Pike, possibly the widow of the above butcher, is mentioned in the third auction sale advertised at the Red House, on 13th October 1821. She lived in one of two cottages sold (the other occupied by Ann Facer), along with a substantial house previously used as a grocers and drapers shop, now in occupation of William Shouler. The sale was held at “…Mr. Higgs’, the sign of the Red House, in Wavendon…” Thomas and Sarah Higgs christened their child Edward on 25th August, 1822.

Landlords needed to supply a surety for their business. Often they did so as a reciprocal agreement with another landlord locally. If there was any trouble at the inn, and the landlord had to be removed, the authorities would keep the landlord’s deposit and that of their guarantor. In 1827, Thomas Higgs had an agreement with William Rogers of the Leathern Bottle Inn just down the road.

BARS holds a conveyance by lease and release, for a cottage in nearby Walton, which changed hands for £45. The parties to the transfer were Richard Bedford of Walton, yeoman; George Bird of Aspley Guise, gentleman; Thomas Higgs of Wavendon, victualler; and Thomas King of Wavendon, maltster. [BARS: X138/23]

Thomas Higgs, described as a victualler, transferred a cottage in Ampthill in November 1831, as the only brother and heir and sole executor of Henrietta Yates [BARS: WE773-774] and a brief mention of Thomas Higgs of Wavendon being an Overseer for the parish appears in a letter from Wavendon parish, to the Poor Law Commission, concerning making and levying the rates for the relief of the poor in October 1837, on which Thomas signed his own name. This is in the National Archives at Kew. [TNA: MH 12/487/216]

Signature of Thomas Higgs, 1837

The Walton cottage, which Higgs had been party to the sale of in 1827, appears again 1834. Higgs still had an involvement in it. Conveyance, by lease and release) for £160. Parties Thomas Higgs of Wavendon, victualler; Emily Ellis of Walton, esq.; Rev. Francis Rose of Woughton-on-the-Green, clerk. “A cottage and pightle in Walton in occupation Hester Parrott and then Richard Bedford”. [BARS: X138/25]

1841 saw the first Census useable for family or local research. There had been previous censuses taken, but they collected statistical information only, with no data on individuals. The Red House wasn’t listed by name, but the residents in the household were:

Thomas Higgs, aged 63, Publican
Thomas Higgs, 21.
George Higgs, 20
William Higgs, 34, a Tailor
Elizabeth Higgs, 23
Elizabeth Higgs, 8
Ann Higgs, 6
Charles Higgs, 3

All stated they were born in the county of Buckinghamshire, and there were no other Higgs’ in the parish.

Trade directories, the forerunner of the telephone book, had been around for a century or more for large towns and cities, but they had begun spreading out to cover smaller villages too. Wavendon parish gets its own entry in the Kellys Directory of 1847, where Thomas Higgs is listed with his Red House. Again, the Red House again wasn’t listed by name, but the 1851 census records:

Thomas Higgs, aged 73, Victualler
William Higgs, 44, son of Thomas, a Tailor
Ann Higgs, 16 (Daughter in law of Thomas)
Charles Higgs, 13, son, “schollar”. [sic]
Maria Higgs, 29, Thomas’ daughter-in-law, a housekeeper, born in Woolaston.

By the time of the 1853 Musson & Craven’s Directory, he has added “Victualler” to his entry, but Kellys didn’t include this word in 1854.

In July 1856, Higgs found himself up before the Newport Pagnell Petty Sessions. The district had been visited by Mr Rudland and Mr Whadcoat, who were official Weights and Measures Inspectors, and three publicans of Wavendon found themselves in trouble. He was fined £1. 2. 6d. for having three unjust measures, whilst Mary Lee at the Fir Tree had five, and so was fined an extra 5s. more. Richard Deverell had two as well. People relied on business measures for foodstuffs and drink being accurate and fair, just as they do now, and a local business being proved not to have been dealing so would have been very bad for business.

Another census occurred in 1861, and this time the inn appears by the name “Old Red House”:

Thomas Higgs, widower, 83, innkeeper
William Higgs, widower, 54, Tailor
Ann Higgs, second cousin(?) unmarried, 26, housekeeper.

“Thomas Higgs, Red House” appears in Duttons Directory in 1863, and the 1864 Kellys, but this must have been issued before the summer that year, as Thomas had died by that August (although Directories cannot always be trusted not to have just copied entries from the year before without checking on the actual status of their advertisers.)

There may well have been younger family members interested and willing to take on the inn, but Thomas’ will was set up as a Trust to divide his assets between two or more inheritors, so it had to be sold, and this took place at the Leathern Bottle inn just down the road. The Higgs family had built up a small estate of cottages and land, as well as their inn, and it was all put to auction.

Northampton Mercury, 13th August 1864:
“VALUABLE FREEHOLD PASTURE LAND, FREE PUBLIC HOUSE, and COTTAGES, At WAVENDON Bucks, TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION, by William Hipwell, At the Leathern Bottle, Wavendon, on Tuesday, the 30th day of August, 1864, at Five o’clock in the Afternoon, by order of the Devisees in Trust under the Will of Mr Thomas Higgs, deceased (subject to such conditions as will be then and there produced), in five Lots.
Lot 1. ALL that old-established Free PUBLIC HOUSE in the centre of the village of Wavendon, called “The Old Red House,” for more than 60 years last past in the occupation of Mr. Higgs. The house is brick-built and slated, and contains a good taproom, parlour, three bedrooms, two other rooms, good cellar, two-quarter brewhouse, pump, and well of excellent water therein, yard, three barns, piggeries, &c.
Lot 2. TWO substantial brick and slated COTTAGES (facing Walton road), each containing two rooms below and two above, with a double barn to each cottage, a small garden enclosed with wall and paled fence at the back, and small gardens in front, in the occupation of William Paine and Alfred Plowman, weekly tenants, at rents producing £7 7s. 4d.
Lot 3. FOUR brick-built and thatched COTTAGES, near to Lot 2, with yard enclosed, two barns, and well of excellent water; one cottage in the occupation of Hannah Butcher, the other three unoccupied.
Lot 4. ONE substantial brick-built and slated new cottage containing two large rooms below and one above, late in the occupation of George Lane; and ONE brick-built and thatched COTTAGE, with garden, in the occupation of Richard Turney.
Lot 5. TWO CLOSES of exceedingly rich PASTURE LAND, well fenced and watered, containing by estimation 11a. 2r. 20p. (more or less), with two convenient hovels, in CHURCH-END in Wavendon, adjoining the bridle path to Bow Brickhill, and within a very short distance of the Woburn Sands Station of the London and North-Western Railway.
The above Closes were late in the occupation of Mr. Thomas Higgs.
To view the Property, apply to Mr. William Higgs, at the Old Red House, Wavendon; and for further particulars, to the Auctioneer, Olney, or to Mr. Cooch, Solicitor, Newport Pagnell.”

BARS holds a number of documents relating to this sale. A very basic “Inventory of Fixtures at the Red House” was drawn up, which states only “Tap Room: Dresser and shelves & fixed cupboard in Tap Room. Brew House: Iron furnace & steamer. Sign Board & ironwork at front of house. Above valued at £3.”. A one-page abstract of vendor’s title covering back to 1780; Sale catalogues of the public house and cottages at Wavendon. A poster for advertising the sale and a legal declaration of Benjamin Taylor of Newport Pagnell as to the possession by Thomas Higgs of the Red House, stating that he had known him for over 60 years and the Red House had belonged to him all that time [BARS: WL281-6]

Helpfully, the sale catalogue and the poster have been marked with the hammer prices at the auction. Lot 1, the inn, raised £260. Lot 2, 2 cottages £114, Lot 3, four cottages, £64, Lot 4, one new house, £75, and Lot 5, two fields, £1020. Lots 2 and 3 were likely to have been very poor housing, in need of substantial repairs. The agricultural land commanded a large premium, especially in an area where most land was owned by the large farms.

There is then the actual conveyance drawn up after the sale for the successful bidder, dated 9th November 1864. This transferred the inn from Thomas King & Josiah Spreckley, the executors in Trust for Thomas Higgs, and both local Wavendon family names, to Mr. J. A. Piggott. [BARS: WL287] (N.B. I have standardised with two “t”’s at the end of Piggott, as there are a variety of spellings.)

There is no news report of the sale itself, (there seldom is, unless the property is exceptional) but an advert in Croydon’s Weekly Standard of 22nd October that year confirms who had bought the inn: “To Be Let. The “OLD RED HOUSE” INN, at Wavendon, Bucks. Apply to Mr. Piggott, Brewery, Bedford.”

Joseph Piggott had purchased an existing brewery in Horne Lane, Bedford, in 1851. He bought it from Messrs. Johnstone & Redden for £23,375. Initially, he had a partnership with a Mr. H. C. Wells, but bought him out in 1862. This brewery expanded along the river frontage, meaning supplies could be brought in by river, and beer dispatched easily. Obviously Piggott did not want the very small-scale brewing equipment from the Red House (or the pig) which came with the inn, or perhaps no acceptable price could be agreed on, so another auction had to be hastily organised by the Higgs family.

Bedfordshire Times and Independent, 25th October 1864:
“The Old Red House, Wavendon BUCKINGHAMSHIRE. THE USEFUL BREWING PLANT, About 100-gallon Copper, quantity of sweet Iron-bound Ale Casks, Good Berkshire Sow, a few articles of household Furniture, and other effects. TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION BY W. HIPWELL, on Thursday next, OCTOBER 27th, 1864, On the Premises, by order of the Executors of the late Mr. Thomas Higgs; Comprising good 6-hogshead bell cask, 7 hogs-head ditto, six sweet 2 hogs-head ditto, wine pipe, rum puncheon, 3 old ale casks, about 100-gallon copper, with brick-work, furnace &c; two-quarter mash-tub, with false bottom &c.; cooler, hop sieve, 2 underbacks, sundry other brewing vessels, and the usual implements; 2 iron pig troughs, new ditto, 2 very large copper boilers, 2 salting leads, large brass pot and boiler, 6-dozen churn, oak linin chest, two bureaus, four-post and tent bedsteads and various other effects. Sale to commence at One o’clock.”

…yet it was almost another two months before their solicitor, Cooch of Newport, advertised for any debtors or claims to the estate of Thomas Higgs so the finances could be settled and the division of inheritance made. His advert in December mentions that Thomas Higgs had been a tailor as well as victualler.

Whether there was another landlord first is not recorded in the press, but by October 1866, a Mr. William Green was installed at the inn. His name appears when James Foulks was charged with stealing a purse and contents of £2 1s. from William Woodward at Wavendon. Woodward, a labourer from Bow Brickhill, had been to Wavendon Feast on 2nd September. He had been drinking in the Leathern Bottle with Foulks first, then they went to the Red House. Mr Green the landlord said Woodward had ordered beer, but had gone outside immediately after as he didn’t feel well. Foulks followed him outside and leaned against him. Afterwards, Woodward noticed his purse had gone. The local police constable P.C. Emmerton was fetched, and despite Foulks denying any responsibility, the purse and money was found tucked inside his boot! He claimed Woodward had given him the purse to look after, and had then forgotten. The Court did not believe this far-fetched story, and Foulks got three months hard labour.

Green was not to be around for long. The local Croydon’s Weekly Standard paper ran an advert in March 1868:  “To be Let, with immediate possession, THE OLD RED HOUSE, WAVENDON. Apply to Mr. William Green on the premises.”

Whether it changed hands then is unknown, but brewer Piggott was advertising the Old Red House to let again in the Beds. Times in May 1870, pointing out it was suitable for a shopkeeper, butcher or dealer and was available immediately. It does not get an entry in the 1871 Mercer & Crockers Trade Directory, although the Leathern Bottle, Plough and Wheatsheaf inns in Wavendon all did. However, there is an entry for Josiah Spreckley, listed as just a “Beer Retailer”, with no inn-sign given. Presumably the same Josiah Spreckley, Higgs’ executor, who sold the inn to Piggott in 1864. This unnamed beerhouse was transferred in November the same year, from the executors of the late Josiah Spreckley to David Spreckley, as Josiah had died 25th September. Was the inn being run without a name, or was this another house?

The census for 1871 gives the “Old Red House Inn” and these occupants:

Thomas Brittain, 34, Publican and Painter, born Farndish, Beds.
Ann Brittain, 43, Publicans Wife, born Houghton Conquest, Beds.
William R. Brittain, 15, Publican’s Son, born Luton, Beds.
John Brittain, 13, Scholar, born Little Horwood, Bucks.
Elizabeth A. Brittain, 10, Scholar, born Elstow, Beds.
Catherine Brittain, 8, Scholar, born Bedford
Charles F. Brittain, 6, scholar, born Bedford.

From the birthplaces of their children, the Brittain’s had certainly moved around. I wonder if they had run inns in all these places?

A survey of licenced premises in Bucks was taken in 1872, where both the owners and occupiers of each inn were recorded. Interestingly, Piggott is recorded as both for The Red House. He would not have been running the inn himself, so perhaps it was a clerical decision if there was no landlord present at the time?

The Higgs family name reappears in 1871, when William Higgs sold two cottages and the remaining land between the inn and the centre of the village for £80, to be used to build the Methodist chapel which finally opened in 1878. The two cottages had been let to the local Methodists for many years, and O’Dell states that the Higgs family were Methodists themselves. William is described as a Tailor in the legal documents. The details of being next-door to licenced premises are firmly kept out of the Methodists legal paperwork, as the site is described as being “…bounded on the south by property lately belonging to Thomas Higgs and now to Joseph Allen Piggott,,.” without mentioning that it was an inn!

William Haynes had been installed as landlord by June 1874, as he was called as a minor witness in a local assault case, as reported in the Croydon’s Weekly Standard.

Brewer Piggott of Bedford had had enough of the trade by 1875, and sold out to Charles Wells, (apparently no relation to his earlier partner of the same surname) another local man, who was newly returned from a successful naval career, and looking for an existing brewery premises near his home in Bedford. He snapped up the Horne Lane brewery, said to be producing 3,500 barrels of beer annually, and the estate of 35 pubs for £16,700 (a substantial loss for Piggott on his original investment and expenditure since.)

Wells were advertising for a landlord for the Red House in the Bedfordshire Mercury in October 1876. They too pointed out the possibilities of using the premises for another trade as well as brewing, saying it contained a lofty blacksmith’s shop and forge, but it appears Haynes stayed on for four more years after this advert, but it ended badly for him when he was fined 10s. with 14s. 8d. costs or 14 days imprisonment for being drunk on his own premises in January 1880; a very silly mistake and one that would cost him his job and home, as breweries took a very dim view of their employees and establishments coming to the attention of the local Justices. He pleaded guilty, so The Old Red House was available to let again in February. In June, Croydon’s Weekly Standard reported that the licence was transferred from William Haynes to Thomas Wildman.

O.S. Map, 1880 – Marked as “Old Red House (P.H.)”

Wildman was to stay for more than two decades. Helpfully, there was another census the next year. The inn is not named at all this time, and the entry just appears as a household along with all the others in Church End:

Thomas Wildman, 32, Blacksmith, born Clapham, Bedford.
Elizabeth Wildman, 29, lacemaker, born Lidlington, Beds.
William Wildman, 13, a Farm Labourer, born Lidlington, Beds.

…but it must have still been an inn, as Wildman helped prove a case against Job Bolton for refusing to leave (and being drunk, I presume) the inn in August 1881. As Bolton already had several convictions, he was fined £2 with 18s. 6d. costs, or 21 days imprisonment.

In September the next year, George Jackson was charged with a similar offence, along with creating a disturbance too. Wildman stated that Jackson had arrived and made a disturbance, wanting a row, so the policeman was called. Jackson was fined 10s. and 13s. 6d. costs or two weeks. At the next Petty Sessions, he was brought back to Court and charged with being drunk during the same incident, but the Justices dismissed the case.

1891 was census year again. For “The Red House Inn” in Church End, the names collected were:

Thomas Wildman, 43, Blacksmith (landlord not used?), born Clapham, Beds.
Elizabeth Wildman, 40, born Lidlington, Beds.
William Wildman, 23, Blacksmith, born Lidlington, Beds.

O.S. Map, 1898 – Not marked

Thomas Wildman appears in the Kellys Directory of 1899, and in the census two years later, by which time his son had left home, but a niece was staying with them. Their son, William, had married Ada Rhoda Jackson at Wavendon in November 1898.

Thomas Wildman, 23, Blacksmith & Publican.
Elizabeth Wildman, 49.
Annie Wildman, 11, niece, scholar, born Lidlington, Beds.

Yet Wildman must have gone by March 1903, as at the local Petty Sessions, George Denton asked for a holdover to the next sessions, which was granted. The next month, the licence was transferred successfully to him, but it does not state from whom.

It is interesting that the inn was still used for auction sales as late as February 1910, when two cottages at Wavendon were sold there, for £59, to Charles Brill of Fen Farm. This was the same year as the original brewery-owner Charles Wells died, and his sons set up a Limited Company to run their newly-inherited brewery.

Just seven years after taking over, Denton had passed away by October 1910, and his widow had the licence transferred to her. The 1911 census, the first to have a whole page per household, and count the number of substantial rooms in each property, shows:

Elizabeth Denton, 52, widow, trading in beer and spirits, born in Clapham, Beds.
Annie Denton, 14, scholar, born in Clapham, Beds.
Six rooms.

The Wildman family were still next door, running the blacksmiths and in August 1914, there is a Beds Times report of an auction of property belonging to the late Charles Tite at the Swan Hotel, Woburn Sands, where Mr Wildman bought three cottages in Phoebe Lane, one of which he was already the tenant of, for £50.

Mrs. E. Denton is recorded in the Kellys Trade Directory of 1915, but she had died too or moved away by January the next year, as the inn was back up to let by Chas. Wells Ltd, still with attached blacksmiths shop.

Once they found someone, in the person of a Mr. E. Cook, the Beds Times of 7th April 1916 reported that the licence was transferred to him from a Mr Wildman, presumably the landlord who had run the inn 1880-c.1903, or possibly his son?

I can only presume the Wildman’s lived locally and stepped in to run the inn between long-term tenants. However, they then decided to take it back into the family again as the 1919 Register of Electors (the earliest surviving for Wavendon in the CBS collection) gives William Read Wildman and Rhoda Wildman at The Old Red House, but there is also an Elizabeth Wildman in Phoebe Lane. This looks very much to me like Thomas Wildman’s son had now taken the inn, and had his widowed mother living in the blacksmith’s shop next door.

O.S. Map, 1924 – Marked as “P.H.”

Although only the licensee for Chas. Wells, Wildman had somehow come into possession of a small piece of ground in Phoebe Lane, which he sold on to the brewery in 1922. [BARS: WL288]

Wildman also appears in the 1924 & 1928 Kellys. During this time, Chas. Wells decided to photograph their whole estate of inns, and the original glass-plate negatives have survived at Bedfordshire Archives. [BARS: WL801/89]

The recollections of Margaret Jackson are included in the book, “Tales of Old Villagers”, by B. P. Martin, 1997. Born in 1913, she lived in the village her whole life, and could recall the village and local businesses from the mid-1920’s:
“In Wavendon there used to be four pubs: The Red House, The Plough, The Wheatsheaf and also The Leathern Bottle, just over the road where the Ancient Order of Oddfellows used to have a Whit Monday feast in the room attached. The carthorses used to be shod at The Red House, and it was wonderful watching the children help blow the bellows and seeing the sparks fly. We used to love singing that song: “Busy blacksmith, what are you doing at your smithy all day long…” I expect you know it, Handel wrote the tune. Now two of them [The Red House & The Wheatsheaf] are private houses. All the old chaps used to have their own special places and seats in the pubs. There was much drunkenness then – it was quite usual to see men staggering about the village, but people used to respect the policeman, and there was never much trouble.”

Wildman jnr. had gone by 1931, although I believe his son ran a taxi business in the village in the late 1940’s- early 50’s. The 1931 Kellys shows Joseph Jackman in charge. I presume this is the same Joseph Jackman that died in the village in August 1938. No mention of running the inn is made in his obituary, which states he had worked latterly at Wavendon Tower. Having been born in Cross End, Wavendon, to the blacksmith’s family, he left for some years to work in Derbyshire, before coming back to the village in about 1930. He was 65.

It is Kellys again which records the name of another landlord, John Strangwayes, in 1935. Just into the next year, there is a mention in the Northampton Mercury that a Henry Higgs had taken the licence, but again, not from whom. I wonder if he was related to the original Higgs family? It would be nice to think so, as having been at the inn from the earliest times we can find, they would have been there pretty much at the end too. The Annual Licencing Report later that year states that the licence of The Red House had been transferred twice in the last year, the only public house in the area to do so.

It was at the Licencing Committee meeting in February 1938 that the first moves to close the inn were made. As reported in the Northampton Mercury on 18th February: “Superintendent Calloway formally objected to the renewal of the licence of the Old Red House, Wavendon on the grounds of redundancy. He asked that the consideration of the renewal of that licence should be adjourned to the adjourned licences meeting. The justices agreed.”

In June, the inn was of 15 identified across the county for closure. The publican at this time is listed as Talbot Jarvis, so Higgs had already gone. Jarvis was one of the Directors of Charles Wells Ltd, and seems to have been the appointed person to hold licences when there was no actual landlord in place, as his name appears in connection with other Chas. Wells pubs in the same position. By the end of the month it was confirmed that the Old Red House would close.

The Bucks Herald reported that there had been no opposition to the refusal to renew the licence, and that there were two other fully licenced houses within 528 yards of the Old Red House, one being only 60 yards away, and that the house had been closed for almost a year anyway. However, it looks as if it may have survived, theoretically if not actually open, for another year, as in February 1939, the Leighton Buzzard Observer noted that although the licence had been referred to the Compensation Authority, a licence refused and the house ordered to be closed, an official closing day had still not yet been fixed. Probably for administrative proprietary, a provisional licence therefore had to be issued. They also gave some interesting statistics which showed that Wavendon had one licensed premises for every 180 persons in the parish. Woburn Sands had one for every 289, and Bletchley one for every 264.

There was one more matter to settle. By June 1939, the compensation for closing the inn had been negotiated. The brewery would have demanded maximum recompense for losing one of their inns, even if it was small and unmaintained. The Bucks Herald reported that Chas. Wells Ltd had claimed £346, but the Compensation Authority had offered just £32, and so the Inland Revenue had to decide the matter, and compromised at £153. The Licencing Committee then divided this between the brewery (£140) and the licensee (£13) (who, remember, was still Talbot Jarvis, a director of Charles Wells Ltd anyway). The article ends by saying the house had been closed since 1938 as being “unremunerative” to the brewers.

Talbot Jarvis was quite an interesting chap. Lt. Col. Talbot McLeavy Jarvis D.S.O & Bar, D.L., & J.P., was born and raised in Bedford, attending Bedford School. The son of another local brewer who owned the Phoenix Brewery, he saw service in the South African war, and on his return, organised the Bedfordshire National Reserve. At the outbreak of the First World War, he requested a return to a service battalion. With the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regt., he won the Distinguished Service Order on the Somme, being wounded in the chest. He recovered and soon returned to the Front, to command a battalion in the Kings Royal Rifles Corp. In the Battle of Menin Road, in the autumn of 1917, he was wounded four times. He carried on until blood loss forced him to retire from the actual battle, only to carry on organising the control of captured German troops. For this, he received his Bar to the D.S.O. already conferred.

Also in 1917, he recommended his adjutant for a Military Cross for rescuing a wounded soldier. The adjutant had organised a stretcher and bearers within sight of the enemy in No-Mans’ Land when his raiding party had come under fire, and helped carry the man back to safety. The adjutant was Anthony Eden, who later served as the British Foreign Secretary in the 1930’s, ‘40’s and ‘50’s, and was Prime Minister in 1957-59.

After the war, Jarvis chaired many local societies and institutions, including the local Conservative Club. His other passion was sport, and his name is remembered with The Talbot Jarvis Challenge Cup at the Bedford Regatta. He died 1949. Whether or not he ever actually set foot in the inn in Wavendon where he held the licence, I do not know…

Censuses later that 1911 are not yet available, but one other national index has been released, the 1939 National Registration index. Sadly, the entry for the “The Old Red House” Public House is just blank. It seems no-one was in when the official came to collect the data.

The now closed Red House was sold in 1939 by Charles Wells to Margaret Dumpleton. She only held it a year or so before selling to Frances Strang, who was married to Ian Strang. He was an internationally-known etcher and artist. They travelled around Europe sketching landscapes and building he saw, and he contributed illustrations to a book by his wife, “Town & Country in Southern France”. He also produced artworks of the First World War, (during which he saw service with the Middlesex and Royal Berkshire Regiments), which were purchased by the British War Memorials Committee. In the Second World War, he depicted bomb-damaged buildings in London. However, he also sketched extensively around Wavendon, and several of his detailed works of local inns, cottages and churches still hang proudly on walls around the village.

It wasn’t until after the Second World War had ended that another news article about the building appears. Bedfordshire Times & Independent, 25th June 1948:
“Wavendon. (1 mile Woburn Sands Station L.M.R. and 1½ miles from shopping centre; 4 mile Bletchley, 13 miles London). Foll & Parker are instructed by W. I. Strang, Esq., to sell by Auction at THE PLOUGH INN, WAVENDON, on 9th JULY 1948 at 6 o’clock, the brick and slated detached freehold Country Cottage with whitened exterior and exposed beams formerly an Inn and Smithy, known as THE OLD RED HOUSE, PHOEBE LANE: 4 bedrooms, Bathrooms (h. and c.) 3 sitting rooms, Lofty studio, Cellar and Offices, Double Garage, Yard, and small Garden. Main Water and Drainage, Electric Light and Heat. Vacant Possession. Solicitor, Ernest Marchant, Esq., 72 Bletchley Road, Bletchley. Auction Offices: 53 Station Road, Woburn Sands (Woburn Sands 2209), and 28 Bletchley Road, Bletchley. “

Sadly, the house had no takers at the auction, and it was up for sale in July the same year for £1,200, and was eventually sold to an Alexandrina White. The Strang’s moved on to the Old Manor in Wavendon, where Ian died in 1952.

O.S. Map, 1950 – Still marked as “P.H.”

White held for nine years, until it was sold to Maria Gould. After another decade, it was sold to Ivor Jones, and became the premises for Wavendon Post Office for a while, before being sold in the early 1980’s to the present owner.

1726 William Higgs, “victualler”
1753-1774 Richard Higgs
1774-1788 William Higgs
1788-1796 Thomas Higgs
1796-1800 William Burgess (married to Higgs)
1800-1864 Thomas Higgs
1866 Green
1871 Josiah Spreckley?
1871 Thomas Brittain
1872 Joseph Piggott (owner?)
1874-1880 William Haynes
1880-1901 Thomas Wildman
1903-1910 George Denton
1910-1915 Elizabeth Denton
1916 Wildman
1916 E. Cook
1919-1928 William Wildman
1931 Joseph Jackman
1935 John Strangewayes
1936 Henry Higgs
1938-Close Talbot Jarvis

????-1700 Charles Perry
1700-1753 Luke Bush
1753-1864 Higgs family
1864-1875 Joseph Piggott – brewery
1875-1939 Charles Wells – brewery
1939-1940 Margaret Dumpleton
1940-1948 Frances Strang
1948-1957 Alexandrina White
1957-1967 Maria Gould
1967-1982 Ivor Jones
1982- Present owner

My grateful thanks to the current owner of the Red House for assistance with this research.


Page last updated Feb. 2019.