The Birchmoor Arms, Woburn

The Birchmoor Arms public house, which once operated at Birchmoor on the road to Woburn Sands from Woburn, can be traced through various adverts and events recorded in the local newspapers now online from the British Newspapers Archives. It is unique among local pubs as having been operated as a brewery in the 1870’s, supplying other pubs. Other information here comes from the Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service (BARS) at Bedford, the Woburn Heritage Centre, local trade directories, the census and parish registers etc.
[N.B. Where some early references use the spelling “Birchmore”, this has been retained.]

Birchmoor was once the site of a parish church, while Woburn only had a Chapel of ease. Gradually, Woburn became the more important settlement. No-one is quite sure when Birchmoor church was demolished, and Woburn became the parish centre, but you can understand why buildings and businesses would have fared much better at a main crossroads than further north where Birchmoor is.  All that remains now are some estate cottages, a few farm buildings and several residences fronting Newport Road, along with the Birch Restaurant.

The census of June 1841 records a family as living in a pub at Birchmoor, but the name of the house was not recorded. They were:

Susan Croudass, 30, Publican, not born in Bedfordshire
Thomas Croudass, 4, born in Bedfordshire
Isabella Croudass, 2, born in Bedfordshire
Charles Croudass, 11m, born in Bedfordshire
Charlotte Smith, 15, born in Bedfordshire
(The 1841 census only recorded if the person was born in the same county as their residence.) gives the details above, however, have transcribed the name as CROUDALL. Neither name appears in any stories about Woburn at that period in the local newspapers online. It is not known how long they were there, but by November 1842, it had a new licensee. Samuel and Sarah Foxley had been living in Woburn in 1841, but were listed under “Chapel Street” in a house shared with Thomas & Mary Hinde. By October 1842, they were running the Birchmoor Arms. Another Foxley, Thomas, was landlord of the Sow and Pigs in Toddington in 1841, when he was charged with selling wine without a license in April that year.  I wonder if he was part of the same extended family? He was still there in 1849.

The earliest story in the old newspapers currently available online is that in the Northants Mercury of 8th October 1842. It reports that George Edmunds, a butcher of Woburn, had entered the Birchmore Arms already drunk, and demanded more beer. The local policeman, P.C. Parrott, was already present in the house, and saw the landlord (unnamed) and a young man called Hollams force Edmunds back outside. A struggled ensued and the policeman stepped in and had to drag Edmunds half-a-mile to the Woburn lock-up. The policeman admitted having said to the defendant that if it were not for the clothes [his police uniform] he wore, “…he would have beat his head flat as the table”! Edmunds was fined 6d. with 12s. 6s. costs.

The earliest reference to the Birchmoor Arms in a document at BARS is from a month later, on 7th November 1842, when a felony occurred there. In the evidence given, the Birchmoor Arms is specifically stated to be a beerhouse at that time. Sarah Foxley, described as wife of the licensee, stated that on Saturday 29th October, John Odell and William Grover, a butcher from Bow Brickhill, were in the public house. They were there two or three hours and left about 5p.m. They were not tipsy but had had a good deal of beer. About five minutes after they left, she missed a pair of candle snuffers from the tap room mantel shelf. She also missed a drinking glass with her initials on. She gave this information to P.C. Parrott. P.C. James Parrott gave evidence that he went to John Odell’s house and saw the snuffers hanging over the mantelpiece. He asked where Odell had got them – he said he bought them the previous Saturday from “some chap on the road”. Parrott took the snuffers and showed them to Mrs. Foxley who identified them as hers. They were hanging openly. There was no one in the room besides Odell and a child. John Odell stated that he did not take the snuffers out of the house. He had been very tipsy and could not say if anyone put them anywhere about him. He gave 4d. for the snuffers. He bought them as he was going to work and did not know the person that he had bought them from, only that it was a travelling man going down the road. He was found guilty of larceny and received three months’ hard labour. [BARS: QSR1843/1/5/55].

Images of the Birchmoor are quite hard to find… This one, c.1983, comes from “The Book of Woburn”, by K. & A. Spavin.

A reference to the pub appears in the report of the death of one John Jones, who collapsed after feeling unwell whilst working locally in Mr Heighington’s field.  He was carried to the Birchmoor Arms, where the inquest was later held on his death. (Northants Mercury, 5th July 1845)

A few years later, the 1851 census occurred. The entry for the Birchmoor Arms reads:

Samuel Foxley, aged 50, Beer House Keeper, born in Woburn
Sarah Foxley, wife, 45, also born in Woburn
James Smith, lodger, widower, 70, Servant, Leighton
Matthew Barker, lodger, married, 60, Wheelwright, Bedford
Martha  Barker, lodger, married, 64, Lace Maker, Olney

The wider Foxley family had a chequered history in Woburn.  There was a complicated court case in March 1839, about the seizure of Foxley’s goods by a bailiff which turned out to belong to his mother-in-law.  A James Foxley was imprisoned for a year for stealing bank notes in Woburn in 1840 and another Foxley (no forename given) had accidently shot and killed a youth in 1842.

BARS states that the license had transferred to Francis Tomkins in 1861, although there is no notification in the press.  This must have happened by April, as the Tomkins family appear on the census of 1861 at an unnamed public house at Birchmoor.

Francis Tompkins, 41, Licensed Victualler and Seedsman, born Heath and Reach
Ann Tompkins, wife, 42, born in Woburn
Elizabeth Tompkins, daughter, unmarried, 20, milliner and dressmaker, born in Potsgrove
Edward H. Tompkins, son, 5, born in Woburn

The 13th May 1864 saw the first of three adverts (one per year) in the Stamford Mercury.  It read “WANTED, by a young Person, a re-engagement as Barmaid on or before the 30th May. Would not object to assist in housework. Good references. Address E. M., Birchmoor Arms, Woburn, Beds.” Whether this had been run in a local newspaper, then syndicated out to others I do not know. Who was E.M.?

Landlord Francis Tomkins passed away “very suddenly” on 4th December 1864. (Beds Times). The Northants Mercury (11th February 1865) reported that Mrs. Tomkins had applied to have the licence of the Birchmoor Arms transferred to her from her late husband. Mr. Pettit of Woburn appeared on her behalf, and the application was granted.  The Bedfordshire Mercury was far more detailed.  She had come to the court previously with the request, but as her husband had died without making a will, the Court pointed out that only heirs, executors or administrators could get a licence transferred to them if the holder died. Mrs. Tomkins had now come back with Letters of Administration, to carry on the business until the next transfer day. Police Superintendent Young then interjected, saying Mrs. Tomkins had carried on selling beer anyway, and had published a handbill stating she had been ordered to do so by the “Supervisor of Excise”.  Her solicitor, Mr. Pettit, replied that her son had had these printed without her knowledge.  The Bench told Superintendent Young that they would have to convict her if he brought the case forward.  The license was then indorsed, but the handbill matter would be looked into further.

The next advert in the Stamford Mercury of 3rd March 1865 read: “WANTED, a re-engagement as Barmaid. Good reference. Address E. H. T., Birchmoor Arms, Woburn, Beds.” This was followed by “WANTED, by two sisters, Re-engagements – one as Barmaid, the other in a Confectioner’s or Baker’s Shop. Good references. Address E. & A., Birchmoor Arms, Woburn, Beds.” in the same paper of 13th July 1866.

A County Court case reported in the Beds Times of 12th February 1867 concerned Thomas Tomkins, listed as of the Birchmoor Arms, Woburn, suing John Butterfield of Woburn Sands for a debt of 11s. 8½d. Tomkins won and Butterfield was ordered to pay 2s. monthly. The very next month, Tompkins was in court again, dealing with a claim for £1 12s. against Mr Marriot of Leighton Buzzard over a short weight of goods in another business deal.  There was a long argument about the calibration of the weighing machines at Woburn Sands and Camden stations!  Tompkins was described as an innkeeper and seedsman of Woburn.  BARS has him down as a landlord only for 1869.

When the licence of the Birchmoor Arms was transferred in February 1870, Tompkins wasn’t mentioned. The Beds Times of 1st March 1870 said it went from a John Newton to William Stonhill, who was late of Stewkley, Bucks.  Newton was a solicitor in Leighton Buzzard, who may have been acting as an Executor. The Bicester Herald had a marriage notification on 5th April 1872 of Annie, second daughter of the late Thomas Tomkins, Birchmoor Arms Inn, Woburn, to Charles Ault Powell, of The Old Peacock and Sandhouse Inn, Heath and Reach.

Helpfully, another census was just about to take place. The 1871 census for “Station Road (Birchmore Arms)” gives:

William Stonhill, 31, Streatley Buckinghamshire, England
Emma Victoria Stonhill, Wife, 31, Buckinghamshire, England
Mary Stonhill, Daughter, 9, Buckinghamshire, England

Stonhill only ran the pub for three years before passing away.  The Leighton Buzzard Observer noted the transfer of license to Emma Stonhill, “widow of the late landlord”, at the end of September 1874.  She stayed on, with help from her daughter and later son-in-law, for another 28 years.

1881 was an eventful year for the pub. The building at the rear had been used as a malthouse for the brewery behind the Greyhound, owned by the Woburn Fowler brothers. “Accident. Mr. Cheeseman, of the Brewery, in this town, was accidently shot in the eye while out rabbit-shooting a few days ago with some gentlemen. He was at once conveyed home, and is progressing favourably.” (Leighton Buzzard Observer – 15th February 1881)

In the same newspaper was this piece: “Threats. Alfred Norman, residing with his father at Woburn, and who had the misfortune to lose his legs some time ago, was charged with using threats to Mary Stonhill, a young woman residing with her mother at the Birchmoor Arms, Woburn. The case excited much interest, and the court was crowded during the hearing. Mary Stonhill sworn, deposed that she knew the accused, and met him by appointment on Tuesday last, and they proceeded towards her home. After they had proceeded some distance, she noticed a pistol drop under the tricycle accused was riding in, which she picked up and threw into a hedge. When near the Birchmoor turn he asked her if she would agree to his proposal to marry him. She answered that she could not think of so doing; he then felt in his pocket for something, and, taking hold of her, said “Polly will you agree to have me.” then said, “I have lost something.’’ Next day she received a letter from him (letter handed to the magistrates) asking her to go to Bedford with him and get married privately. She was afraid to meet him. On the 13th December she received a letter from him in which he said that if she would not have him, he would have his revenge. In consequence of what he had said and done witness went in fear of her life. lnspector Smith, sworn, deposed that on Wednesday evening last he was sent for to Mrs. Stonhill’s. He went down, and when he entered, Mrs. Stonhill bolted the door. He told her she need not do that, as he was there, but she, being afraid, insisted on doing so. After he had been there five minutes someone rapped on the door. Witness went and opened it, and the moment did so the accused sprang in and began to crawl along the passage, calling out, ‘I want to speak to Mrs. Stonhill.’ Witness caught hold of him, and called for a light, and a man named Garrett helped to carry the accused into the tap-room. Witness searched him. and found the pistol (produced) which was loaded, and a box of cartridges. He was very excited state, and stated that he did not want to hurt Mrs. Stonhill, but had bought the pistol to shoot himself. Witness then took him into custody. Afterwards he said had been to Bedford and bought the pistol, but he did not want hurt Polly; he loved her too much. He further said he had altered his mind, and did not intend to shoot himself. The accused then addressed the Bench, stating that for a long time he had kept company with the complainant, that he had travelled miles to see her, and she had said that she would marry him, but her mother objected. He never intended to hurt her but did think at one time of shooting himself, but had now altered his mind. The Chairman said the Bench must give the girl protection, and the accused would be bound over to keep the peace for six months himself in £50 and one surety in £25. and pay the costs, 13s. 2d. Surety having been found, the accused was liberated.”

The census also occurred in April 1881. The entry for “Newport Road (Birchmoor Arms)” reads:

Emma Stonhill, Widow, 42, Publican, born Stewkley
Mary Stonhill, Daughter, Single, 18, Dressmaker, Stewkley

The Woburn Brewery, which had been using the buildings behind the Birchmoor for some years as a malting and possibly even a brewery, was put up for sale in March 1881, and the pub with it. Owners, 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).

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)

From the original sale catalogue:

“Lot 1. Brick and slate malthouse in Newport Road, Woburn; with 35 quarter steep, two cemented working floors, double kiln with wire plates, stokeholes and malt lofts; maltster’s cottage and piece of ground; yard; detached two floor malt chamber; cottage occupied by brewery servant; Birchmoor Arms public house fronting Newport Road; tap room, bar, parlour, cellar under, kitchen, four bedrooms, yard opening to road, washhouse, stabling for four horses, brick and slate skittle shed used as stabling; walled garden at rear; let to Mrs. Stonhill at £13 per annum.” [BARS: WL1000/10/11]

It appears the pub and malting did not sell at this auction, as Mr. Thomas was still trying to sell them later the same year, with an advert in the Daily Telegraph & Courier on 22nd August: “MESSRS. ALFRED THOMAS, PEYER and MILES have received directions to SELL by AUCTION at the GEORGE HOTEL, Luton, on WEDNESDAY, Aug. 31, the following FREEHOLD PRPERTIES: Lot 1. Consisting of the excellent Malthouse (steeping 35 quarters) with two cottages, and the Birchmoor Arms Public House, situate at Woburn.” Lot 2 was Dew Drop Inn at Luton.

Again, there were no takers, and the pub and malting were put up to let instead. The Leighton Buzzard Observer, 4th October 1881: “To Be Let of Sold, An excellent FREEHOLD MALTING; 35 qrs. Steep; with TWO COTTAGES, and BIRCHMOOR ARMS PUBLIC HOUSE adjoining, situate at Woburn, Beds. For particulars apply to J. T. Green, Esq., Solicitor, Woburn; or Messrs. Alfred Thomas, Peyer and Miles, 2, Adelaide Place, London Bridge, E.C.”

After all these failed sales, the next event was a happier one – the marriage of Mary Stonhill. She had found someone a little more sensible than the last suitor. The Leighton Buzzard Observer, 27th October 1885: “Wedding. A marriage was solemnised in the Parish Church on Wednesday last, between Mr. James Facer, of Turvey, and Miss Mary Ann Stonhill, only daughter of the late Mr. W. and Mrs. Stonhill, of the Birchmoor Arms, Woburn. The presents were both ornamental and useful. The church bells were rung at intervals during the day.”

Frederick Brown, a labourer of Woburn, took a tame rabbit belonging to William Nursall, killed it and sold it to Emma Stonhill for 1s. 5d.  Despite Nursall’s parents, Charles and Sarah, saying he had come home with nothing and knew nothing about it, the Bench was not convinced and fined him, with costs, £1. (Leighton Buzzard Observer – 28th September 1886)

A strange story was reported in the Northants Mercury of 19th January 1889. “Woburn. A Shameful Audacity. If there be a kind-hearted woman whose misfortune it is to keep an inn, she will be found in the person of Mrs. Stonhill, of the Birchmoor Arms, Woburn. A widow for many years, she has lived with her only daughter and child. On Sunday morning the congregation at the church were surprised on hearing the Banns of marriage put up between a blacksmith named Thomas Martindale of Milton Bryan, and the lady in question. Those knowing the respective parties will hardly require telling that the banns were put up entirely without Mrs Stonhill’s consent or consultation. Naturally the lady is much incensed at the shameful trick.”  Despite this, FindMyPast & Ancestry still show that the wedding took place on 13th January 1889!

Another felony occurred at the Birchmoor in 1890. On 8th September James Fossey and Edward Cook came to the pub at 3p.m. and asked for beer. Emma refused to draw it and told them to go to work as they had had quite enough. They refused to leave and kept asking for beer so eventually she gave them a pint but refused to draw them another. She went into the bar and put the two pence they had given her into the till. She then noticed that there were eleven to twelve shillings in the drawer, then she went upstairs and left them in the bar alone.

Whilst upstairs Emma heard her bar door rattle. She went down as quickly as possible and saw Fossey just sitting down again in his seat. She said to him “Fossey, you have been in my bar?”. He said he had not. She asked Cook if Fossey had left the house since she had been out. Cook said he had, but did not know where he had been. She went to the till and saw that half a crown and a two-shilling piece had gone. She accused Fossey of taking them and told him that if he did not give them back, she should send for the police. After a time he handed her the coins which he took from is pocket. He left the house and she sent for the police. She had noticed the half crown and florin among the silver in the drawer before she had gone upstairs.

George Smith, the Inspector of Police for the Woburn division stated that Fossey was delivered into his custody next day and he charged him with stealing the money. The prisoner said he did not steal it. The day of the theft Smith saw the defendant at 12.30 midday and asked him for three shillings. The prisoner said he did not have any money. Edward Cook had told him that Fossey had his money and asked him to ask for it. Fossey said he had given it to Cook’s mother. [BARS: QSR1890/4/5/3].

The 1891 census for the Birchmoor Arms gives:

Emma Stonhill, Widow, 52, Publican, Stewkley
Albert Facer, Grandson, 4, Woburn

Another Court case occurred in October 1894, reported in the Beds Times. A young lady had obtained £1 from Mrs. Stonhill under false pretences. A young woman went to Mrs Stonhill and asked if she would lend Mr Clarke, a basket weaver of Longslade, a sovereign to pay a bill. She said that Clarke was her uncle. Having obtained the money, she ran away. Eliza Young of Aspley Heath was charged with the offence and several witnesses said they saw her enter the inn at the right time.  But Eliza denied it and said she had not even been to Woburn that day, and did not know Mr Clarke. Young brought her own witnesses to Court who placed her near St Michael’s church on Aspley Heath at the time she was supposed to have been at the Birchmoor. She had several character witnesses too. Despite some arguments about the various witness’s time evidence, the Jury found her Not Guilty, to applause from the Court audience!

The 1901 census entry for the “Birchmoor Arms Inn” reads:

Emma Stonhill, Widow, 62, Inn Keeper, Stewkley
Mary Jane Perry, Visitor, Married, 34, Eversholt

Emma Victoria Stonhill died on 3rd April 1902, leaving £550 1s. 8d. Administration of her effects was granted to James Facer, her son in law, described as a retired innkeeper.  The license was transferred to him, as the Luton Times of 2nd May 1902 says “…the Birchmoor Arms Inn, recently held by James Facer, executor of Mrs Stonhill, was endorsed to Mr. John Greeves, late manager of the Eight Bells Inn, Bletchley.” Greeves held it for only a year, then it transferred again in 1903 to Frederick Summers. In December 1905, it went from Frederick Summers to William Brook. (Luton Times – 15th December 1905) He stayed four years, then in August 1909, the Woburn Sessions confirmed the licence to William Linney. (Luton Times – 20th August 1909) He managed a bit longer and stayed for eight years.

It was also used for a few auction sales, as this shows from 1903.

The 1911 census entry for “Birchmoor Arms, Woburn”:

William Linney, 40, Licensed Victualler, London Kings Cross
Rhoda Linney, Wife, 34, Assisting in the Business, Essex, Epping
George William Linney, Son, 11, School, London, Stepney
Percy Walter Linney, Son, 9, London, Stepney
Florence May Linney, Daughter, 8, London, Stepney

There was a theft of lead from the site in 1912. George Harris of Woburn, labourer, was given two years’ probation and a fine £1 10s. 11d. for stealing a hundredweight of lead, worth £1, from “…the works at the Birchmore Arms Inn…”, property of J. S. Cowley & Sons.  He had sold it on to a marine stores dealer. (Luton Times – 4th October 1912)

It was also the Luton Times that reported, “Woburn. New Cottages. Two new villas are being built near the Birchmoor Arms for Messrs. Phipps, of Northampton, and the Duke of Bedford is also having four good cottages built near, commanding lovely views of the fields and woods.” (12th September 1913) and then “Housing Plans shown to Ampthill Rural District Council including …alterations to the Birchmoor Arms Woburn, for Messrs. Phipps & co. (27th March 1914)

Another new landlord took over from Linney in 1917, John Thomas Turrell.  A Canadian soldier, Sidney Roland Poole of the 52nd Battalion, Canadian Infantry gave his next of kin details as “Mrs. W.B. Poole c/o Mrs. J. Turrell of Birchmoor Arms, Woburn, Beds, England”. Poole was born 26th February 1897 in Northampton but had joined up in Edmonton, Alberta in 1915.  He was killed in action on 28th September 1918.  This appears to have been the brother or cousin of Mrs. Turrell.

Beds Times, 22nd December 1922: “WOBURN. The Birchmoor Arms Club members held their annual share-out on Tuesday night at headquarters. The year has been most successful financially, only £6 7s. 4d. having been paid out in sick pay among 83 members. The total receipts were £112 2s. 10d., with expenses at £9 9s. 10d. and members received £1 4s. 8d. The affair was made an occasion for a jolly evening, several members contributing songs, with two eminent local gentlemen at the piano. Mr. J. H. Timms, the President, was in the chair, supported by the Treasurer, Mr. J. T. Turrell; the Secretary. Mr. W. H. Turrell. and the trustee, Mr. T. Birch. All these officers were thanked, and the toast of Mr. and Mrs. Turrell was received with musical honours.”

The next report is of the death of Mrs. Turrell’s father, who had come to live with them at the Birchmoor. William Benjamin Poole was 84 and his funeral was held at Northampton. (Beds Times – 20th July 1923). In September the same year, a Barracks outing of Warrant Officers and Sergeants of the Beds & Herts Depot at Kempston, along with their wives and families, 50 adults 20 children, filled two buses. They had dinner in a large marquee behind the Birchmoor and enjoyed a trip round the Woburn Abbey grounds.

In December 1923, Turrell applied for a licence extension for an hour on the occasion of a club dinner.  The local police objected and said drinking up to 10pm was enough. Turrell replied that it wasn’t for drinking, it was for the supper and business, but it was still refused! (Beds Times)

The Uxbridge & West Drayton Gazette ran a story that an outing of 30 pub regulars from the Kingfield Arms in Harrow had come to the Birchmoor for their annual summer outing lunch in July 1926.

Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service has helpfully transcribed the entries in the books compiled for the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925. It stated that every property and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. Woburn, like much of the county, was assessed in 1927. The valuer visiting the Birchmoor Arms found the owner was Phipps & Company and the tenant John Thomas Turrell. The rent was £16 per annum. The building consisted of a bar parlour (“fair”), tap room (“fair”), bar (“small”), smoke room (“fair”), lounge (“tiled floors”), kitchen and pantry and scullery (“used as workroom”) downstairs, with no cellar. Upstairs were six bedrooms and a bathroom. Outside were two barns, 2 W.C.’s, a trap shelter and old malt store. Trade consisted of selling 1½ barrels of beer per week, a dozen bottles of beer per week and a dozen bottles of spirits per month. The valuer noted “Seems a house of call for lorries. Cement rendered. Fairly modern. Good pull up”. He also noted that the tenant’s brother used a small portion of the buildings outside as a boot repair shop, otherwise the buildings outside were practically unused.

Turrell left the same year and the licence transferred to William Ingham, who was an ex-Grenadier Guardsman. (Beds Times – 28th October 1927).

Beds Times 17th April 1931: “Woburn Petty Sessions. Messrs Phipps and Co. Ltd., of Northampton, applied through their representative for permission to effect structural alterations to the “Birchmoor Arms” Inn, Woburn (licensee Mr. W. Ingham) by converting the existing parlour and tap room into a bar parlour. Supt. Marritt stated that he had inspected the premises and had no objection to the proposed alterations; there would be no more drinking accommodation involved.  The application was granted.”

In 1929, a club had started at the Birchmoor to save up weekly for an annual excursion to the coast and a trip on a boat. In its fourth year, a January 1933 Beds Times reported: “Woburn. The “Birchmoor Arms” Cork Club, now in its fourth year, held its annual supper as head-quarters on Saturday. Between the toasts, which included one to the club, songs were given by Messrs. Peacock, Haddon, and W. Payne.”

Having served seven years at the Birchmoor, Ingham moved on in 1934. From the Beds Times, March 1934: “Woburn Petty Sessions. Licensing Business. The License of the “Birchmoor Arms”, Woburn which was put back at the annual general Licensing Meeting a month ago, was now renewed and transferred from William Thomas Ingram to William Reginald Whitaker of Ashburnham Road, Bedford.” Yet BARS landlord’s list shows he had left before the end of the year and Frederick John Miles took over.

Many of the reports around this time are of the annual Cork Club events. Beds Times 31st August 1934: “Woburn. Ye Olde Cork Club, whose headquarters are at the “Birchmoor Arms” Inn, had their annual outing on Saturday, when an enjoyable motorcoach ride via London, Maidstone, and Canterbury, to Margate was made. Some of the party made the circular trip on the “Golden Eagle” boat round the Goodwin Lightship, while others spent the time on the beach and in patronising the many attraction of the town. All had a most enjoyable time. The day’s arrangements worked perfectly under the management of Mr Herbert Ball (chairman), assisted by Messrs E. Peacock, W. Haddon, W. Payne, and W. Harris (committee).” and again in January 1937: “Woburn. The eighth annual dinner of the Woburn Cork Club was held at the headquarters, “The Birchmoor Arms”, on Saturday. Mr H. Ball presided, supported by Mr. W. Haddon (vice-chair) An excellent meal was served by Host and Mrs. Miles.” and 1938: “CORK CLUB DINNER. The ninth annual dinner of the Woburn Cork Club held at headquarters, the “Birchmoor Arms”, on Saturday was equal in attendance and jollity to any of its predecessors. Mr. Herbert Ball (chairman of the Club) presided, and over thirty members and friends were present. The loyal toast was followed by that of “The Cork Club”. The Chairman, who is also secretary and treasurer, produced the financial statement, which showed a balance in hand at the end of 1937 of £5 1s. 0d. He said that the credit balance of the Club now stood at £13 17s. 6d. which was considered eminently satisfactory. The Chairman remarked that the main object of the Club was seaside outing once a year. At this juncture, Mr. E. Peacock, one of the committee, asked the Chairman’s acceptance of a handsome eight-day timepiece, which had been subscribed for by members as a token of appreciation of his long services to the Club. This was presented with musical honours.”

In 1939, an extension was sought for the event. Leighton Buzzard Observer, January: “License extension granted for the Cork Club Dinner, 10.30 to 11.30pm and in same paper, a report of the event: “CORK CLUB. At the 10th annual dinner in the Birchmoor Arms on Saturday thirty people sat down to a cold collation. Mr. Bert Ball (President) reviewed the year’s activities and proposed the visitors. Woburn and Little Brickhill visitors responded. “The Chairman” was given Host Miles, with musical honours. Mr. Ball was presented with a handsome brush set by Mr. E. Peacock. Our host and hostess was given from the chair. There was community singing, with Mr. George White at the piano.”

A Register of Britain’s population was taken in 1939 to assist with the issuing of ID cards. At the “Birchmoor Arms, Newport Road” were:

Frederick J. Miles, 63, Licensed Victualler
Dorothy A. Miles, 49, Unpaid Domestic Duties
Victor B. L. Miles, 13, At School

There was another Cork Club trip in August 1939: “The Cork Club’s annual outing on Saturday week covered a journey by motor coach to Maidstone, Canterbury, and Margate. Breakfast was served amid country scenery, and a five-hour sea trip to Ramsgate and Deal and round the lightship was followed by tea at Margate. The homeward journey was made through lovely country by way of Gillingham. Mr. Herbert Ball, chairman, secretary and treasurer, made all arrangements assisted Mr. F. Miles, landlord of the Birchmoor Arms, and a committee.” (Leighton Buzzard Observer)

I would have thought that would be the last one for a few years, but it continued through the war, albeit with one person fulfilling most of the committee posts. February 1941: “CORK CLUB. The Cork Club still continues to flourish, as was shown at the twelfth annual meeting, held at headquarters, the “Birchmoor Arms”, on Saturday. The veteran Chairman, Mr. Herbert Ball, presided, and out of the membership of twenty-seven, twenty-one were present. According to the balance sheet the financial standing of the Club is excellent, £27 standing to its credit. Congratulating the Club on its prosperity, the Chairman went on to propose the health of the host and hostess (Mr. and Mrs. F. Miles), who both responded and in return gave the toast the Chairman. This was thoroughly deserved, as Mr. Ball fills the offices of chairman, secretary, and treasurer, and it is mainly due to his organization that the Club continues to prosper. He is assisted in this by an efficient committee. Between the speeches, songs were given by Messrs. S. Cox, W. Brown, G. Hayes, E. Peacock, W. Payne, W. Litchfield, and Mr. and Mrs. Miles, the latter also acting as accompanist.” (Beds Times)

In December, the same paper reported on the various local hostelry dividend club benefits, and the Birchmoor’s club was the highest. “The following share-outs have taken place at the various thrift, sick benefit, and dividend clubs. “Bedford Arms” 19s. 6d. to each of 111 members; “Royal Oak” 15s. 6d. to 45 members, “Bell” 12s. to 48 members “Birchmoor Arms” £1 3s. 10d. to 50 members, Magpie Hotel 9s. 9d. to 58 members.”  The next year, Miles moved on and Leonard George Potter was in charge. He stayed till 1947, I believe being on Woburn Council and Chair of Woburn British Legion. Then the licence was transferred to Arthur Richard Kay Potter (Same family??)

Someone stole a gallon drum of gloss paint, valued at £2 2s., from a store at the rear of the pub in June 1950.  There was no ‘breaking and entering’ as entry was gained by finding a hidden key. Afterwards, the store was re-locked and the key replaced in its hiding place! (Beds Times)

The Cork Club continued after the war. August 1953: “CLUB MEMBERS ENJOY ANNUAL OUTING. Members of the “Birchmoor Arms” Cork Club held their annual outing on Saturday, 27 or so journeying by motor-coach to Yarmouth, where a full day was spent in sea-trips, tours around the town by horse-drawn four-wheeler, and carefree lounging in beach deck chairs. The weather was ideal.” and September 1954: “CORK CLUB CELEBRATES. Woburn “Birchmoor Arms” Cork Club annual supper took place at headquarters Friday evening. It was the 25th anniversary of the formation of the club, which numbers 23 members with Mr. William Haddon as Chairman and Mr. Sydney Osborn as Secretary and Treasurer. An excellent two-course meal was served by the host and hostess, Mr. and Mrs. A. Potter, who were warmly thanked by the Chairman. He also proposed the toast of “Success to the Club,” his remarks being supplemented by Mr. E. Peacock and the Secretary. The latter gave the financial statement, which showed receipts of £37 1s. 9d., leaving a balance in hand of £4 17s. 6d., which was expended in the night’s proceedings. The remainder of the time was spent in harmony, which included community singing, with songs by Messrs. J. Gilks, W. Haddon. W. Payne. E. Peacock and C. Purser, with Mr. S. Haddon as raconteur. In competitions run by Mr E. Peacock the winners were Mr. Purser (biscuits) and Mr. D. Cripps. of Husborne Crawley (chocolates). (Luton News)

Woburn Abbey grounds were the setting for a two-day pop festival in July 1968. The bill was, on 6th July: Pentangle, Roy Harper, Al Stewart, Alexis Korner, Shirley and Dolly Collins, Jimi Hendrix, Geno Washington, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Family, Little Women and New Formula, then 7th July: Donovan, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Champion Jack Dupree, Tim Rose, Taste and Duster Bennett. (Fleetwood Mac were also scheduled to play, but did not appear.) Woburn was swamped with young music fans, who camped out or slept where they liked, took milk off doorsteps and were generally rude to the sedate folk of Woburn!  The landlord of the Birchmoor took to the press to complain. “Mr. Woodward, the landlord of the Birchmoor Arms in Woburn told me: ‘Local residents have had enough of it. Strong complaints are mounting about the effect these weekend events at Woburn Park are having on the district. We have had flower people and motor-cycle rallies to put up with. This latest episode is the last straw. They left Woburn looking as though it had been bombed. The litter was absolutely disgusting – much of the mess was caused when the visitors were turned out of the park at midnight on Sunday.”  Sidney Woodward had been in charge since at least 1965, but left in 1969 to move to Wing.

His replacement was Nicholas Pinnock (known to all by his middle name of Gordon) and his wife, Daphne. Coming from a hotel in Devon, they had seven years hospitality experience, before which, Gordon had run a garage. Gordon died in 1971, aged just 62 and Daphne took over the pub until 1978.  She stayed living locally in the cottage at Birchmoor and would later drink at my parent’s pub, the Fir Tree.  She was a larger-than-life character, devoted to her springer spaniel, Dilly. She recalled how Gordon had come home one night from another pub, slightly worse for drink, and keeping the lights off so as not to disturb her, he had felt his way through the pub in darkness and upstairs to bed.  In the morning he discovered the pub had been freshly painted inside, and there were paint hand-marks all the way upstairs!

When she left in 1978, Robert Frederick Sheward took over for four years before Albert Philips and later Margaret Philips (1982-1991)

Matchbox from Robert Sheward’s time.

The Liverpool Echo reported a disappointing act committed by Liverpool FC fans on their way to a Cup game in April 1987: “LIVERPOOL soccer fans on their way to Wembley have been accused of stealing charity cash for a young cancer victim and boasting about it. The money, in a large charity bottle, went missing from a small village pub. And chalked on games room blackboard was: “Liverpool FC Was Here – You Better Check Your Till.” The till at the Birchmoor Arms in Woburn, near Milton Keynes, had been emptied the night before. But £80 was taken from the giant bottle kept on the bar to raise cash for a local five-year-old cancer victim. Rowdy. Heartbroken landlady Meg Phillips said: “We tried to make them welcome.” Eight of them arrived on Saturday night, saying they had been refused accommodation everywhere else. “They were a bit rowdy, but we did not mind high spirits.” The charity bottle had been emptied of £5 notes the only last week. “There were only £1 coins and change in the bottle, thank goodness, otherwise, they would have taken nearer £200.” We don’t think this says a lot for Liverpool.” The supporters left the pub for the 25-mile journey to Wembley early yesterday.”

The report stung other Liverpool fans into action and even shamed the thieves themselves into returning the money. “SCOUSERS – you are great! That was the message today from regulars at the Birchmoor Arms in Woburn, near Milton Keynes. For, in just one week, Scousers have turned from villains to heroes, after rallying round when they read how heartless Liverpool fans on their way to the Littlewoods Cup Final had stolen £80 from a bottle kept on the bar to raise money for five year old cancer victim… Merseysiders opened their hearts, and their wallets, after reading the Echo story… and the pub was inundated with phone calls, letters and more than £370 from upset Scousers.” D.J. Johnny Kennedy had run the story on Liverpool radio station Radio City and not only did the thieves return the money, they sent a letter begging forgiveness, and phoned the Birchmoor to apologise. Meg Philips went to Liverpool for a fundraising concert run at the Highland Home pub on Dock Road, but revealed that the boy they had been collecting for had sadly passed away at the weekend. Several groups in Liverpool also donated and the appeal soon reached £1000. The money would be used on researching cures for cancer. Meg said “Scousers will be welcome in our pub any time now. They really have showed how smashing they can be.”

The Birch Restaurant, 2010.

In 1988 the Birchmoor Arms was conveyed by Manns & Norwich Brewery Company Ltd (Watney Mann had purchased Phipps in 1960) to Heron International, a property development company [BARS: WL1000/7/GLIN/1/26]. It was later operated as an Indian restaurant for a while, under Mr. Anfor Faroque, but I cannot find any trace of what it was called at that time.  In May 1998, it became a restaurant called The Birch, and has undergone several extensions and continues as a successful restaurant today.


-1841-               Susan Croudass (Croudall)
-1842-1853-      Samuel Foxley
-1861-1864       Francis Tomkins
1864-                Ann Tomkins (wife of the above)
-1869-               Thomas Tomkins (son of the above)
????-1870         John Newton
1870-1874         William Stonehill
1874-1902        Emma Stonhill (widow of above)
1902                 James Facer
1902-1903        John Geeves
1903-1905        Frederick Summers
1905-1909        William Brook
1909-1917        William Linney
1917-1927        John Thomas Turrell
1927-1934        Thomas William Ingham
1934                 William Reginald Whittaker
1934-1942        Frederick John Miles
1942-1947        Leonard George Potter
-1947-1954-      Arthur Richard Kay Potter
-1965-1969-      Sidney Eric Woodward
1969-1971        Nicholas Gordon Pinnock
1971-1978        Daphne Katherine Pinnock (widow of above)
1978-1982        Robert Frederick Sheward
1982-1983        Albert Phillips
1983-1991        Margaret Jane Phillips
1991?               Closed as a pub
????-1998         Indian restaurant
1998                 Became “The Birch” restaurant

Page last updated March 2022.