The Anchor, Aspley Guise

The Anchor public house can be traced through various adverts and events recorded in the local newspapers now online from the British Newspapers Archives. Other information here comes from the excellent Bedfordshire Archives and Records Service (BARS) Community Pages, local trade directories, the census and parish registers etc.

BARS has the deeds to the Anchor as part of its Charles Wells Ltd brewery archive. These go back into the 17th century. The present site was originally two separate parcels of land.

The first piece of land was a freehold cottage first mentioned in 1649 in the ownership of the Hardinge family. After several transfers, it came into the possession of John Cole, and in 1824, he devised it to his daughter Sarah Woodin in his will and she in turn gave it to her son, Richard Waterman Woodin. It was this cottage which eventually became the Anchor.

A 1960’s private photo of the inn sign at the Anchor.

The second, a neighbouring site, was a leasehold cottage first mentioned in the creation of a 972-year lease in 1668.  This too transferred eventually to John Cole, who sold it to John and James Warr in 1824, and John Warr sold it to Richard Waterman Woodin in 1844, thus uniting the two sites into sole ownership.  Woodin must have converted the old cottage into a beerhouse sometime between 1844 and 1857.

The Woodin’s appear a few times in local press reports. Richard’s wife died in June 1837, aged just 33, and his mother in January 1851, aged 74. If his beer-selling began as a lower-class beerhouse, it may not even have had a name to start with, as they were often referred to by the landlord’s name rather than an inn-sign. There are references to John Bennett being a brewer in Aspley in 1839, a Thomas Bennett’s beerhouse or beershop in Aspley in 1840 & 1842 and a Mr Lett (who was bankrupt) as a “builder and retailer of beer” in 1847.  Sadly, the 1841 census for Aspley Guise is so feint that it is mostly illegible. There are some Woodin families, but that is all you can decipher.

The 1851 census is much better. Richard Woodin, widower, 49 of the High Street, Aspley, is described as a “Brewer & Cord Wainer (Master)” He is also shown in the 1852 Slater’s Trade Directory as a “Retailer of Beer, Aspley Guise” and this also appears in Craven’s of 1853 and Kelly’s of 1854.

At the Woburn Petty Sessions reported in the Bedfordshire Mercury of 5th September 1857, the Anchor name is used for the first time in the press. It was then in the hands of a Dennis Wooding, (probably a corruption of Woodin) and noted that the license had not been renewed for the following year. Listed alongside a handful of others, the reason given was for “allowing drunkenness and disorderly conduct” during the last year. More information comes to light a fortnight later, when the same paper reported that Wooding and James Burton, the licensee of the Bell across the Square, had both re-applied for their licenses.  The police had reported to the magistrates that Wooding and Burton had been fighting between themselves in September the year before, and Wooding had another incident where he obstructed a Police Constable in his duty!  They were both cautioned by the bench and then had their licenses renewed so they could trade again.  Local rivalry gone a bit too far perhaps?

The 1861 census does not mention the Anchor by name. Dennis W. Woodin, 35, is still in Church Street, but he is described as a boot and shoe maker. The landlord at the Anchor had now changed to a landlady, as nearby is the household of Charlotte Gostick:

Charlotte Gostick, widow, 44, “Publican”
Mary Gostick, daughter, 16
Henry Gostick, son, 9, Scholar
Thomas Gostick, son, 7, Scholar
Charlotte Gostick, daughter, 5, Scholar

All the Gostick children had been born in Carlton, Bedfordshire, where ten years before, in 1851, Charlotte had been an innkeeper’s wife.

James Childs of Aspley was fined £1 and 13s costs for an assault on Gostick at the Woburn Petty Sessions on April 25th 1862 and a month later, John Watson of Aspley and Frederick Mitchell of Crawley were fined for drunkenness and it was proved they had been in “Mrs Gostick’s public-house”. These instances would not have gone unnoticed, and she had her license suspended for gross misconduct at the annual licensing sessions. She too had to come back later and apply again, when Lord C. J. F. Russell (third son of John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford) was in the chair.  He gave her a “admonitory caution” but renewed the license. (Beds Times – 16th September 1862) Strangely, she was not worthy of inclusion on the Cassey’s 1862 Trade Directory, although all the other public houses in Aspley were. Craven’s Directory of 1863 are still showing Richard Waterman Woodin as a beer retailer, but I know that other entries in that Trade Directory are woefully out of date. (I think it was an early copy-and-paste production from someone else’s work, without much checking done!)  In May 1863, she was fined 40s and costs for having pint measures that were “deficient”.  Short-changing the customers of their beer would not have gone down well with locals!  The Bench remarked that they had inflicted a severe fine in Gostick’s case because she did not produce the jugs for checking along with the other measures, although they were clearly hanging in the bar.

Then the Anchor was put up for sale in July 1870: “Aspley Guise, Beds. FREEHOLD PUBLIC HOUSE AND PREMISES, ALSO SIX LEASEHOLD COTTAGES ADJOINING, Situate in the centre of the pleasant and improving village of Aspley Guise. TO SOLD BY AUCTION, BY W. HIPWELL, On Friday, July 15th, 1870, At four for five o’clock the afternoon, in one lot, at the Bedford Arms Hotel, Woburn. A BRICK-BUILT and Slated PUBLIC-HOUSE known by the sign of the “Anchor,” containing cellar, passage, bar, tap room, and parlour, and three bedrooms. Large open yard in front and garden in rear, let to Mr. W. Hipwell, at £25 per annum, and SIX COTTAGES, with large yard and barns at back, adjoining to the public-house, let to Mr. John Burrell and others as weekly tenants, at rents amounting to £26 17s. 4d. per annum. The last-mentioned premises are leasehold for a term of 972 years, of which 769 years are unexpired. The above property, which will be offered in one lot, contains a frontage of 122 feet or thereabouts, to the main street, and adjoins on the North to premises of — Pain, Esq., and on the South to premises of Mr. George Goodman. May be viewed by applying on the premises and farther particulars obtained of J. T. Green, Esq., Woburn, and of the Auctioneer, Olney, Bucks.” (Beds Mercury) …but it appears not to have actually sold till the following year.

The involvement of Hipwell is interesting, as although he was here acting as an auctioneer, the family also had a brewery in Newport Pagnell since 1831, and expanded to Olney in about 1850.  Their brewery in Newport was based at the Anchor Hotel there. There has always been a question over why Aspley Guise had three pubs with a water-based names, (i.e. Steamer, Anchor and Swan) when there is no water nearby. We have no indication of how long Hipwell had been renting it, but could the name be related to the brewery?

BARS says it was Richard Waterman Woodin’s executors who were selling it, and it was Woburn brewers Henry and John Charles Fowler who purchased it, but not until 1871, so perhaps the first auction had no bids. They also say Woodin had already knocked down the adjoining cottages which were sold as a site-only in the same auction in 1871, but it appears they were still there in 1870, with tenants? The deed mentions the house was “formerly in occupation of Henry Byworth”, but that could have been before the cottage was turned into a public house. (BARS: WL1000/1/AG/1/24)

The census came around again, and the only candidate in Church Street that would have been running the Anchor at this time was a George Fisher:

George Fisher, 55, innkeeper, born North Crawley, Buckinghamshire
Edith Fisher, wife, 50, born Potton, Bedfordshire
Jane Fisher, daughter, 22, Stoke, Buckinghamshire
Emma Fisher, daughter, 18, Cranfield, Bedfordshire
Sarah Fisher, daughter, 15, scholar, Cranfield, Bedfordshire
William Fisher, son, 13, scholar, Cranfield, Bedfordshire

In October 1871, the license transferred to William Higgins, (Leighton Buzzard Observer). In July 1872, one Daniel Fleet of Husborne Crawley got himself into trouble by obtaining beer at local pubs and saying someone else would pay.  The “someone else” denied this was the case, and Fleet was prosecuted for taking beer from Daniel Juffs (at the Steamer) and William Higgins (at the Anchor).  He was cautioned not to do it again.

The Anchor was used for inquests into local death, such as that for George Heath of Aspley Guise who was run over and killed on the railway in August 1874. The body had been taken to the public house after the accident, and W. Wiseman, Deputy Coroner for the Honour of Ampthill attended to hear the circumstances with a jury of local men.  Heath was 74, and had recently given up work through old age.  He was crossing the line using the footpath, but did not see the train coming.

BARS records that David Giltrow was installed as landlord for the period 1877-1880. His name also appears in the 1876 Harrods Trade Directory for Aspley Guise, but has no trade listed beside it. Giltrow was there when a National Agricultural Labourers’ Union meeting was held at the Anchor in August 1878.  There was a large crowd to hear several speakers, led by George Chanor of Wavendon, explain why joining the union was a good idea and how the union could “make Jack as good as his Master.”  The local clergyman had come to hear the speakers and was encouraged to speak himself and quite endorsed all that he had heard, saying unions were a good thing for the labouring classes.

The Anchor name is not used in the report, but Giltrow was sued Arthur Whitlock of Woburn in December 1878.  A deal on buying a cow for 50s had gone sour when the cow died before Giltrow had even received it.

Charles Gilkes of Aspley Heath was convicted of stealing plums belonging to David Giltrow (Anchor name not used) in October 1879. Giltrow said he had no wish to injure the lad, but had lost 25s worth of fruit.  Gilkes was fined 6d with 10s 2d costs or 14 days. He paid.  Sad to say, it does not seem to have been much of a deterrent, as he was also fined again in November for theft of apples from William Sturgess at Wavendon and fined 1s 3d!

The next item shows a change of landlord, as a birth was recorded of a son to Mr. G. T. Brandon of the Anchor Inn in the Leighton Buzzard Observer of 7th December 1880. Giltrow had moved on to other local public houses.  After the Anchor in Aspley Guise, he transferred to the Fir Tree Hotel in Woburn Sands where he lasted 3 years, before moving to the Royal Oak in Woburn for 1884-1889. Then it was on to the Fox & Hounds at Potsgrove until 1914, making him a local landlord for 33 years.

It was Brandon who saw the Anchor through to new owners, as the Woburn Brewery was put up for sale in March 1881. The Fowler brothers had fallen on hard times, and one of them ended up in the Bedford Lunatic Asylum, for which payment was required.

Mr Alfred Thomas, auctioneer, first tried to sell Grove House in Aspley Guise, but there were no adequate bids. “The next property put up consisted of the Woburn Brewery and twelve leasehold public and beer houses – the White Bear, Woburn; Rose and Crown, Ridgmount; George and Dragon, Little Brickhill; White Hart, Fenny Stratford; Swan and White Horse, Stewkley; a beerhouse in New Town Street, Luton; Fleur-de-Lys, Hockliffe; Bell, Toddington; Cock, Tebworth; Red Lion, Sundon; and a beerhouse at Ivinghoe. The sale was subject to reserve bidding fixed by the Masters in Lunacy. This property also failed to meet with a buyer, doubtless from the condition that the plant &c should be taken over by valuation, although Mr Thomas stated that it would probably be found the cheapest lot in the day’s sale.

He next put up the following twenty-four freehold houses – Malt House, Woburn, and the Birchmoor Arms; King’s Arms, Little Brickhill; Spinning Wheel, Great Brickhill; Wheatsheaf, Bow Brickhill; Chequers, Fenny Stratford; George, Water Eaton; Red Lion, Newton Longville; Plough, Shenley; Stag, Leighton Buzzard; Bell Inn, Hockliffe; Victoria, Dunstable; Fountain, Luton (Wellington Street): Marquis of Bute, Luton (Alma Street); Bell, Totternhoe; Fountain, Eaton Bray; Prince of Wales, Eddlesborough; Red Lion, Eversholt; Nag’s Head, Westoning; Drovers’ Arms, Steppingley; Anchor, Aspley Guise; May Pole, Aspley Guise; Queen’s Head, Ampthill; Carpenter’s Arms, Cranfield; and Bricklayers’ Arms, Bedford (St. John Street).

The description of the Anchor read “Anchor Public House, Aspley Guise; – tap room, bar parlour, parlour with bay window, cellar under kitchen, store room, four bedrooms; – garden at rear and large open yard in front; detached stable, cart lodge and loose box; – stabling and ground adjoining held on a 972 year lease from 1668; – let to G. Brandon at £312 per annum.”

These houses realised collectively the sum of £14,560. One of them (the Fountain, Luton), let at only £15 a year, sold for £1,500, being 100 years’ purchase on the rental. The collective rentals amounted to £285 year.” (Leighton Buzzard Observer – 8th March 1881)

Charles Wells, brewers of Bedford, bought nine of the lots, for a total of £4,480.  This included the Anchor at Aspley Guise. (BARS: WL1000/10/1/1)  A month later, it was census time again. There is no mention of the licensed trade in the occupation of the occupant, but this census was the first to record the Anchor Inn by name.

George T. Brandon, 27, Plumber & Painter, born Wavendon, Buckinghamshire
Helen S. Brandon, Wife, 26, born Middlesex
Harry T. Brandon Son, 6, Scholar
Herbert C. Brandon, Son, 4, Scholar
Frank Brandon, Son, 2
Ben B. Brandon, Son, not yet 1

The last four Brandon children had all been born in Aspley Guise, so they must have been around in the village for some time, but they did not stay long at the Anchor. In June 1881, the license transferred again to a Mrs Ivett. (Leighton Buzzard Observer) to which they helpfully added a few weeks later the full name of Emily Rebecca Ivett.  Earlier that year, she had been a housekeeper to the teacher at Keysoe school.  She was widowed and 58 years old. By October, she had been introduced to local resident Alfred Hirdle, who was on his way to clocking up 82 convictions, mostly for Drunk and Disorderly Conduct.  He had been drinking in the Anchor on 8th October, and refused to leave when asked, so Mrs Ivett called the police.  Hirdle assaulted the officer when he arrived, and had to be conveyed by force to the lock-up at Woburn.  He received two weeks for the drunken behaviour and two months for the assault. Then John Higgins was charged with being drunk on the premises in November. Mrs Ivett had to call the police again to have him removed.  Higgins went, but used very bad language. He was fined 13s including the costs, or 14 days hard labour.

Another Labourers’ Union meeting was held at the Anchor on December 13th, to see if there was interest in forming a local branch for Aspley Guise. About 20 labourers came to hear the impassioned speeches and were impressed enough to decide to form their own branch.

Mrs Ivett had an uneventful next year, until November when she had trouble with another drunk. David Spreckley, a butcher of Wavendon, was fined £1 with 14s 6d costs for being drunk and refusing to leave. (Leighton Buzzard Observer – 21st November 1882) and there were very similar circumstances with Joseph Wigglesworth, of the local print works, in March 1883.  He was trying to start a fight outside the Anchor and police had to be called.  It was noted he had been wearing the blue ribbon of the Abstinence Society for some time, but had ‘fallen off the waggon’ and been drinking for a week. He too was fined.

An inquest was held at the Anchor on the body of George Hartwell, an 8-year-old who had drowned in Vandyke pond. His friend Arthur Hebbes, seven, had to give evidence on what had happened to the Jury. They had been in the water about two hours when Hartwell went under and did not come back up.  His young friends had to go to his house and tell his parents.  The body was dragged up a few hours later.  The verdict was Accidental death. (Leighton Buzzard Observer – 10th July 1883)

Mrs Ivett had letting rooms at the Anchor, and let one to John Burke, an Irish groom.  In July 1884, once she had gone downstairs to open the pub, he entered her room and stole a sovereign.  He used it in another public House in Woburn Sands, and the theft was soon traced. He got two months hard labour. (Leighton Buzzard Observer – 12th August 1884) BARS says Mrs Ivett left the year after, and indeed, an advert appeared in the 24th February 1885 Leighton Buzzard Observer: “To Be Let. With early possession, the ANCHOR PUBLIC-HOUSE, situate at Aspley Guise. For particulars, apply to Charles Wells, Horne Lane Brewery, Bedford.”  BARS records a Robert John Crampton as the next landlord in 1885, but there are no stories about him at all.  He may not have stayed long as in July 1886 the license was transferred from a different landlord, Frederick W. Dickens, to E. Woodhams.  (Leighton Buzzard Observer) The E was for Eusebius, and according to the trade directories, he was also a boot-maker. His family appeared in the next census of 1891, although the Anchor name was missing again:

Eusebius Woodhams, 39, Shoe Maker & Publican, born Wollaston, Northamptonshire
Laura Woodhams, Wife, 40, born Wollaston, Northamptonshire

He stayed for six years before leaving in February 1892 to take the White Bear beerhouse at Woburn. He passed the Anchor on to Thomas H. Hayter. (Beds Times)

Mr & Mrs Hayter catered for many suppers and annual events at the Anchor, and had a reputation as genial hosts. He also listed himself as a florist, gardener and carpenter in Kelly’s Trade Directory.  In June 1893, the Permanent Way Department from the LNWR Company had a day trip to Aspley, with dinner at the Anchor for 27 men. (Ampthill & District News) These were popular times for works outings, before the annual leave system came in.  The employees of an entire works would travel somewhere to spend a day socialising with each other, with games and sports and catering provided; the historic equivalent of the office Away Day!  He also got the lucrative business of the Judge’s dinner for the Aspley Guise Flower Show in 1893, as well as the Chrysanthemum Show, highlights of the local social calendar. (Hayter being on the committee of some of these probably helped!) These tended to alternate between the Anchor and the Bell, to whichever landlord was offering the best deal on catering.

There was also the annual supper for the Aspley Guise Bell Ringers, held at the Anchor Inn. (Ampthill & District News – 20th January 1894) and the Aspley Guise Benefit Society (May 1894), to which labourers paid small subscriptions every week, and could draw from if they were off work sick or injured in the times when there was no statutory sick pay available. Aspley’s had been going for more than 50 years at this point. Many of the events were held in a tent in Mr Hayter’s yard.  There was a company in Aspley Guise that rented these marquees out for social gatherings all over the district at a time when even the largest of village halls was comparatively quite small.

The last meeting of the ‘old’ Council in Aspley Guise took place in March 1896.  They had had a letter from Charles Wells, stating the brewery would not object to the placing of a community notice board on their property at the Anchor, as long as the Council were prepared to remove it again if the Brewery so asked.  The Council thought this condition was too onerous and made alternative arrangements to have it erected inside the rail under the lamp on the Green. An auction took place at the Anchor in October 1897 of the shop fittings of Mr Turney of Dove House Close, which included all his furniture, carts and even his 8ft. long glazed shop window!  I presume the house was being turned over to residential use, and the new owners had no need of a large shop window, and had demanded its removal.

“LICENSE EXTENSION. Mr. Thos. Hayter, of the Anchor Inn, Aspley Guise, applied for and was granted extension of time for keeping open his premises on the occasion of the Working Men’s Jubilee Club annual supper.” (Leighton Buzzard Observer – 15th May 1900)

Another inquest was held at the Anchor in January 1901 of a female tramp found drowned in a flooded ditch near Wavendon.  No-one even knew her name, although she had been seen around the village, usually intoxicated, for the last few days. Hayter was called as a witness as he had seen her in Luttman’s Railway Motel (The Station Tavern) at Woburn Sands. He was specifically asked if he had seen anyone there supply her with a drink, but he said he could not say so. I wonder if he was protecting them, as the licensing magistrates would take a dim view of any house if they were serving an already drunken tramp at the next license renewals.

Hayter was on the wrong side of the law when he was charged at the Woburn Sessions in March 1901 with selling diluted whiskey. This was long before our modern percentage measuring system, but a Dr Stevenson for the prosecution produced a report that the whiskey was 3¼% below the 25 degrees under proof standard, making its strength 28¼ under.  Hayter said he would only be making 3 farthings on the sale, which was not really an adequate excuse.  He was fined 5s with 13s 6d costs. (Luton Times)

The 1901 census took place on 31st March. Again, the Anchor was not named, it is just an entry on “Main Road, Aspley Guise”.

Henry T. Hayter, 50, Inn Keeper, born Hampstead, Middlesex
Elizabeth Hayter, Wife, 52, born Aspley Guise
Henry B. Hayter, Son, 14, born Aspley Guise
Jane Britten, Boarder, 51, born Aspley Guise

The Aspley Benefit Society again had their annual feats at the Anchor in May 1901, it being their 62nd such event.  The Newport Pagnell Prize Band paraded around the village, visiting the houses of the well-to-do who gave funds to the club. (Luton Times)

On 24th June 1903, there was an auction on the same day at the Wheatsheaf, Aspley Guise, of livestock and another at the Anchor, of all its contents. This advert appeared in the Beds Times of 19th June: “SWAFFIELD & SON. THE WHEATSHEAF INN, ASPLEY GUISE. PIGS, 26 pigs viz. 6 in-pig Sows and Yelts, and Strong Store Pigs, 90 head of Poultry, a small quantity of Hay, Straw, and Manure, IMPLEMENTS, and a few Lots HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, to be Sold by Auction, by SWAFFIELD & SON On Wednesday, June 24th, 1903, at 11.30 o’clock punctually, by direction of Mr. H. Lawson, who is leaving. May be viewed morning of Sale. Auction and Estate Offices, Ampthill.

THE “ANCHOR INN,” ASPLEY GUISE. ABOUT 200 LOTS of Useful HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, a quantity of Oak Boards, Ash Planks, and Deal Battens, Boards, and Match Boarding. 4-wheel Chaise, strong Spring Cart, and numerous other Effects, to be Sold by Auction, by SWAFFIELD & SON. On Wednesday, June 24th, 1903, at One o’clock punctually, by direction of Mr. H. Hayter, who is leaving. May be viewed morning of Sale. Auction and Estate Offices, Ampthill.”

The Leighton Buzzard Observer reported both landlords were leaving, but it was the license session in September that finally told the whole story.  Hayter was moving from the Anchor to take on the Wheatsheaf in Mount Pleasant, Aspley Guise. Harry Lawson had moved on from the Wheatsheaf, although it doesn’t say to where. Hayter transferred the Anchor to Charles M. Tomkins, late of Rushdon, Northants.

Tomkins could not have settled in very well at the Anchor, as Charles Wells were trying to let their house again in the 23rd June 1905 Beds Times: “TO LET, the ANCHOR INN (fully licensed) Aspley Guise, Beds., wit outbuildings and yard. Apply, Mr Charles Wells, Horne Lane Brewery Bedford.”  A month later, there was a Quoits match against the Emberton Woodbine team, and a C. Tomkins was playing for the Aspley team. He must have been waiting for them to find a new landlord still.  (Emberton won 167-160).  He didn’t have long to wait, as another license transfer took place at the Woburn Sessions in July 1905.  The Anchor was transferred from Charles M. Tomkins to William Cooper, according to the Luton Times and they repeated the news a month later, but stated it was to William Copeley. Yet both times they were wrong, it was actually William Coopey.  It appears he had just left the Royal Navy after about 30 years’ service (I’m sure an Anchor would have appealed to him.) His family appears on the next census of 1911.

William Coopey, 52, Publican (Pensioner Naval), born Blaisdon, Glostershire
Harriet Coopey, Wife, 48, born Huntingdon, Sussex
Katie Coopey, Daughter, 22, born Huntingdon, Sussex

Coopey had postcards made of his public house.

The First World War interrupted everyday pleasant village life, and as a naval reservist, Coopey was immediately called-up. Noted as being a “popular sailor landlord” he received his official Navy order in August 1914, and left for London but returned six weeks later as his eye sight was found to be impaired. (Beds Times – 7th August & 30th October 1914) The village felt the effects of war almost immediately with the deaths of Lieutenant Villiers Chernocke Downes on 18th October 1914 and his brother Second Lieutenant Archer Chernocke Downes on 20th November 1914. This was a whole generation of the family at Aspley House wiped-out in little more than a month, right at the start of the war.

Coopey was back in Aspley in time for his only daughter’s wedding to Thomas Wilson in April 1915 and gave her away.  After the war, Coopey seems to have suffered badly from depression, and in February 1923, he took his own life, aged 66 years old. He had gone out to one of the outbuildings to bring in some coal but did not return.  He was found by his wife with his throat cut. He was remembered as being very well-liked and respected by the villagers. He could often be found dressed as a minstrel, playing his banjo for local children and throwing pennies for them to chase. An inquest was held in his own public house and the Coroner decided on Suicide while of Unsound Mind. (Beds Times – 2nd March 1923) His will left just £97 10s.

There was a sale in May of the family effects at the Anchor: “THE ANCHOR INN. ASPLEY GUISE BEDFORDSHIRE. W. & H. PEACOCK Have received instructions from Mrs. Coopey, who is leaving, to Sell by Auction, at above, on WEDNESDAY. MAY 23. 1923. at TWO p.m. prompt, the Useful HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, comprising Walnut Suite in Saddlebags, Oak Pembroke Table, Easy Chairs, Occasional Tables, Toilet Pair, Wardrobe, Dressing Tables, Washstands and Chests of Drawers. Toilet Glasses. Mahogany Commode. Brass-rail and Combination Bedsteads. Spring, Hair and Wool Mattresses, Feather Bolsters and Pillows. Quantity of Household Linen, 6¾ Oct. PIANOFORTE in Rosewood by Lenas T. Purday. Outside: Deal Forms and Tables. Capital Mangle, Flag Staffs, etc. Other Entries may be included in this Sale. On view morning of Sale. No Catalogues.”

The license was transferred at the Petty Sessions of June 1st 1923 from Harriet Coopey to Thomas Wilson, presumably Coopey’s son-in-law(?). (Beds Times)

Anchor, Aspley Guise
His son-in-law also had his photo taken outside the pub. Photo courtesy of WSDS.

In March 1927, the Anchor came very close to being closed down.  There was a drive nationally to close-up smaller pubs and beerhouses, especially where there were a number very close to each other.  At the renewal of licenses that year, the Aspley Guise Steamer, Duke’s Head and Anchor were all looked at and comment sought from theor respective breweries.  Col. Jarvis of Chas. Wells, said they woulod not object to the closure of the Steamer, therefore that public house wes referred for compensation. (Beds Times) It could very easily have been the Anchor. The Dukes Head survived until 1953.

The opening of the Guise Lodge of the RAOB took place at the Anchor inn on 23rd September 1927. (Beds Times)

In 1927 this part of Bedfordshire was valued under the terms of the Rating Valuation Act 1925; which BARS have helpfully transcribed. Every piece of land and property was inspected to determine the rates to be paid on it. The valuer found that the property consisted of “a tap room, smoke room and jug room on the ground floor, with a private lounge and kitchen and a cellar containing three eighteen-gallon barrels of beer; upstairs were four bedrooms; outside were a stable for two horses and a coach house”. The premises were described as “rather small but clear”. Business was stated as one barrel of beer sold per week and one gill of spirits per month, the assessor adding a marginal note “don’t believe it. I think outside capability 1½ barrels per week”. Rent was £12 per annum.

Just into 1928, the Beds Times reported on the death of Mrs Hayter, who had run the house from 1892-1903. She was in her 80th year and now lived on Aspley Hill. It was noted that she was originally Miss Brittain, who had run the Wheatsheaf in Mount Pleasant. Hence the Jane Britten that was lodging with them in 1901 was probably her mother. Mr Hayter survived his wife.

The Guise Lodge of the RAOB, who met at the Anchor.

At the Woburn Petty Sessions of 20th September 1929, the Anchor was transferred from Thomas Wilson to Robert Walter Simms. (Beds Times) but before they had been in charge a year, his wife Willamina Simms passed away, having been ill for nine months.  They had three daughters and a son and had run the Ark Inn at Aylesbury before coming to Aspley Guise, until it had been shut down by the Licensing Authority under the drive to close small public houses. The inhabitants of Aspley Guise organised a wreath in the shape of an Anchor.  Mr Simms had also been in the Navy. (Bucks Herald – 29th August 1930)

Widower Simms soon struck up a relationship with widow Robinson who ran the Bell opposite. She had lost her husband in 1918 after taking on the Bell in 1915. In April 1932, they were married at St Botolph’s, and so Simms moved across to the Bell, and the Anchor was taken by Florence Elizabeth Brettell.

News reached the village that Mrs Coopey, who had run the house with her husband from 1905 to  1927, had died in November 1932, at home in Bournemouth, aged 69. (Beds Times)

The 1939 Register taken for ID cards shows two occupants of the Anchor. Florence E. Brettell, 63, a Licensed Victualler and Arthur Gibbons, 64, a Long Service Army Pensioner.

There is quite along gap till the next time the Anchor was mentioned in the papers, in 1943. The Beds Times reported that the landlady of the Anchor Inn for the past 12 years, Mrs Florence Brettell had passed away. Her cremation was to be at Golders Green. (Beds Times 19th March) It was probably harder than ever to find new licensees during war time and the official records show Talbot Jarvis as licensee for 1943-1946, but he was a manager from Charles Wells Ltd.

In June 1945 Beds Times comes the first mention of the Anchor as a location used by the Bedfordshire Road Cycling Club.  They would either leave from, or head to, the Anchor when out on their ‘runs’. There were many such reports over the next few years.

It is no secret now that Aspley Guise housed some very interesting characters in the Second World War.  With Bletchley Park nearby, and clandestine publishing and broadcasting in the area, some details only became known after the war about certain European ‘guests’ who had been staying locally. Some returning prisoners of war to Germany were found with contraband foodstuffs with them, and these were tracked back to Aspley Guise. Several local shopkeepers were interviewed by the Beds Times in February 1946, all of whom denied supplying the luxury articles in question. A Mrs Sturman, described as landlady at the Anchor, told the paper that she had had to ask some of the men not to talk German when they were using the bar. I can imagine that causing some bewilderment locally!

Edgar Henry Valentine is recorded at landlord for 1946-1951. The reports of Cycling Club events continue up to 1953, but soon after that, Darts took over as the sport of interest at the Anchor, and they played in the local league. Here, the local papers gradually talk less and less about local events, and the local coverage on the British Newspaper Archives website is not as good as for the years before. The Anchor chose not to advertise in any of the Charles Wells Guide books of the 1950s’ or 1970’s (which you had to pay for anyway, much to the disgust of my parents at the Fir Tree…)

Locals can recall Diana Dors drinking in the Anchor in the 1960’s, as her husband at that time had connections to Brogborough.  They may have lived in Aspley Hill for a while.

I can recall the licensee being Bill Hannigan in the late 1970’s early 1980’s.(?) He was a good friend of my father, and as another Charles Wells pub, we could borrow items off each other if needed. He was disturbed one night by some lads messing about in the Anchor carpark, so he opened the window and fired his shotgun into the air! Needless to say, the local constabulary took a very dim view of this, especially as it turned out the men were actually trying to change the wheel on their car as it had had a puncture.  His license was not renewed…

When Charles Wells published their business history book by Roger Protz and Ken Page in 2005, they featured the Anchor with a two-page spread.  It was then in the hands of Mike & Elaine Carpenter, who moved on to the Carpenters Arms (how appropriate!) in Cranfield.

Terry McLaren came from the Cock at North Crawley to run the Anchor from about 2005 to 2010. He was famous for his tasty selection of home-made “Aspley Pies”! He later took the Royal Oak at Woburn.

The Anchor as it was in May 2009. Courtesy of Google images.

In September 2016, the Anchor had a £600,000 refurbishment and was reopened by Epic Inns (although still serving Charles Wells ales) with space for 96 diners. It was shortlisted as a national finalist in the Great British Pub Awards 2017 in the ‘Best Turnaround Pub’ category. As at April 2020, the Anchor is part of the Copper Birch inns brand.


1847?-1854?:  Richard Waterman Woodin
1857:                Dennis Woodin(g)
1861-1863:      Charlotte Gostick
-1871:               George Fisher
1871-1872:      William Higgins
1877-1880:      David Giltrow
1880-1881:      Thomas George Brandon
1881-1885:      Emily Rebecca Ivett
1885:                Robert John Crampton
1885-1886:      Frederick William Dickens
1886-1892:      Eusebius Woodhams
1892-1903:      Thomas Henry Hayter
1903-1905:      Charles Minnie Tomkins
1905-1923:      William Coopey
1923-1927:      Harriett Coopey (widow of the above)
1923-1929:      Thomas Edward Wilson (son-in-law of the above)
1929-1932:      Robert Walter Sims
1932-1943:      Florence Elizabeth Brettell
1943-1946:      Talbot Jarvis (Charles Wells brewery manager)
1946:                Mrs Sturman
1946-1951:      Edgar Henry Valentine
1951-1953:      Frank Taylor
????-????:        Maurice & Daphne Hall
1980’s:             Bill Hannigan
????-????:        Gary & Debbie Murray
????-2005:      Mike & Elaine Carpenter
2005-2010:     Terry McLaren

1847-1870       Owned by Woodin, brewed on location?
?-1870              Let out to Hipwell, of Newport Pagnell
1871-1881        Fowler brother’s brewery, of Woburn
1881-present   Charles Wells, of Bedford


Page last updated April 2020.