The Plough Inn, Simpson

This history was compiled from documents at Buckinghamshire Archives, reports found in the newspapers available on the British Newspaper Archives website, genealogy details from Findmypast, entries in various Trade Directories and a 4-page document complied by then landlord Paul Buckle in 1995. [‘PB’ used to denote this source.]  I have also used the books “Simpson Though the Centuries” by Edward Legg, 2001 and “Simpson: People and Places” by the Simpson Association, 2003.

Peter Barnes of Simpson has provided many photos and clippings covering the last 30 years, as well as collecting memories from others.  I am indebted to him to be able to detail the most recent times which are the hardest to piece together.

N.B. Where the name of Simpson has fluctuated between ‘Simpson’ and ‘Sympson’, I have kept to whichever use was made at the time.

The Plough, Simpson 1970s 1980s
The Plough in Simpson, sometime 1970s-1980s. (Photo courtesy of P. Barnes)

When the Bucks Alehouse Register opens in 1753, there are six licenced houses listed under Simpson, but the boundaries of the parish are very different from those we would recognise today. It then included some of what we would regard as Fenny Stratford.  The inn signs of the houses were the “Plough”, the “Three Horse Shoes” (which later dropped the “Three”), the “Two Fighting Cocks”, the “Robin Hood”, the “White Hart” and the “White House & Punch Bowl”. As most people would have been illiterate at that time, an inn-sign was an important way of travellers recognising which buildings were licenced. The first recorded landlord of the Plough in 1753 was Arthur Lee.  The building would not have been the one you can see today, which probably dates from 1877.

PB says that Arthur Lee was married to Mary and they baptised six children between 1727 and 1745 (recorded as Lea in parish records) but the baptisms show that Arthur was first married to a Sarah, who died in 1736, (possibly in childbirth of son Arthur who also died at the same year, but no exact date in the year is given for either).  Arthur snr. must have then married to a Mary (but I cannot locate the marriage?) and from 1738, they were also baptising children in Simpson.

By the time of the Alehouse Register entry the next year, Arthur had already died (in September 1754) and his widow Mary had taken it over. She also appears again the next year before the landlord’s name changes to a William Lee in 1756 after her death, presumed to be her son. His name appears until 1762, but he died in May 1763 aged just 32. A Sarah Lee then appears for just one year. A Sarah Lee married Giles King in Simpson on 29th April 1764 and his name then appears as a landlord in the Alehouse Register for Simpson in 1764-65.

Annoyingly, the Simpson inn-sign names weren’t recorded in the Alehouse Register between 1758-72; it just had the landlords’ names, but when the inn-signs restart, it is John Plowman who appears as landlord of the Plough (appropriately…) His name had appeared as landlord at the Three Horseshoes / Horseshoes, also in Simpson, right back to 1753, so he must have switched pubs to the Plough sometime between 1765-73.  For 1769-71, he was the only landlord recorded for the village.

The inn is briefly covered in the published version of the “Bletcheley [sic] Diary of the Rev. William Cole” by F. G. Stokes (1931). Cole was rector of Bletchley and kept a brutally frank and scurrilous diary of his life.  From later reports, we know the Plough was part of the estate of Sir Walden Hanmer. Another innkeeper in Simpson had been buying malt to make his beer from a Mr. Goodman, who opposed the enclosure of Simpson which Mr. Hanmer supported.  So when it came to the Justices to give a licence to the man for his house, Hanmer objected, (although it seems that it was thought locally that Hanmer only objected as he had his own inn (the Plough) on his grounds and wanted to put the other inn out of business!) It was eventually sorted out after the other landlord apologised to Mr. Hanmer.

Cole’s Diary, 6th September 1766: “Mr. Reddall of Simpson brought me a present of a lobster which came from London alive yesterday. He complained much of Mr. Hanmer, who would not suffer a poor honest man to keep an ale house in his town, although Mr. Reddall and the chief inhabitants subscribed a character and petition for him to the Justices… The poor man has been in that way these 30 years is very old and by this means will be starved. He incurred Mr. Hanmer’s displeasure, though he was his Woodward before, by not leaving off to buy his malt of one Mr. Goodman, the chief opposer in the Inclosure for Simpson, tho’ Mr. Reddall supposes that another motive has weight with it for the only person who now keeps a public house in that village is a tenant to Mr. Hanmer and so will able to pay his rent the better.”

Cole’s Diary, 9th September 1766: “I went to dinner at the White Lion inn Little Brickhill to meet the Justices who were to sign the licences. They signed the poor man’s licence at Simpson though Mr. Hanmer made many Remonstrances to the contrary but to qualify it and make it go down better, he was made to ask Mr. Hanmer’s pardon and promised not to behave with insulting manners to him for the future.”

Enclosure finally came to Simpson in 1770 and the village was transformed, like the rest of the county, from large open fields farmed by many locals in individual strips to smaller fields belonging to powerful landowners.

Plowman stayed on running the Plough until 1777 (eventually dying in 1783), whereupon George Gibbs first appears. According to the Buckinghamshire Marriage Index (Archdeaconry of Buckingham), Gibbs had married one Christian Plowman, John’s daughter, in 1770 when they were both 24, so the inn had been handed over by Plowman to his son-in-law.

An extract of the Simpson enclosure estate map, 1781, showing position of the Plough, circled in blue. This predates the coming of the canal. (Courtesy of the book “Simpson: People and Places”.)

Gibbs was still there when the first newspaper reports begin to mention the pub, the first of these being in the Northampton Mercury of 1st March 1784, which also included his name:

The Plough was used for many timber auction sales as a place for buyers to meet the auctioneer and walk to the relevant woods. Gibbs also acted as a local person for auctioneers to direct prospective buyers to, for him to give access to buildings or plots that were coming up for sale. These appear into 1785, but after that, no landlords name is given in other auction adverts, like this from the Northampton Mercury again, on 5th January 1793:

George Gibbs died in Simpson and was buried 24th January 1793, with the Plough transferring to his widow, Christian. The next major event for the Plough (and indeed Simpson) was the arrival of the Grand Junction Canal.  It reached Fenny Stratford from London in 1800 and work speedily continued through Simpson northwards, although the course meanders somewhat to avoid contemporary earthworks and undulating countryside. With the means of transporting commodities around at a fraction of the cost and much greater speed, wharfs were built in and around Simpson to load and unload cargo. The entrance way into the Plough carpark today was once a lane leading to Groveway, a road which connected Watling Street to the main road from Simpson to Woughton.  This little lane was known as “Booby’s Lane”, but the canal blocked it off and it was therefore closed, but a line of trees on the 1881 OS map show the original path after the canal.

I cannot find any more details in the press about the inn until 1804, when the Plough was up for sale as part of the Manor of Sympson (Northampton Mercury – 27th October 1804):

“BUCKINGHAMSHIE. To be SOLD by PRIVATE CONTRACT, THE MANOR of SYMPSON, with Court Baron, Quit-Rents, Royalties, &c. and the MANSION-HOUSE and PREMISES, called Sympson-Place, together with two capital DAIRY FARMS…

… “Also, a PUBLIC-HOUSE, called the PLOUGH, and a CLOSE of LAND, in the village of Sympson, adjoining the Grand Junction Canal…

… The Whole is a desirable Residence for a Gentleman, lying in the Neighbourhood of Woburn and Whittlebury. The Manor adjoins the Chester Road, 45 Miles from London. This Residence is upon fine Land, beautifully wooded, and watered by the River Ouse, which forms a fine Head Water and Cascade in Front of the Mansion-House. The Grand Junction Canal passes through the Parish, by which Means there is Water Carriage to and from London. For further Particulars, enquire of Mr. Davis, Ampthill, Bedfordshire.”

The inn continued to be a base for local auctions, but the landlord was not named again. (Northampton Mercury – 1st June 1805).

It appears that despite the glowing description of the attractions of Sympson, they had not found a buyer for the Manor, as it was still up for sale nearly a year later in August 1805, with the advert now adding that it was the late estate of Sir Walden Hanmer (Northampton Mercury – 31st August 1805). The sale also now included the house next-door to the Plough, known as “Austin’s House and premises”.

Widow Gibbs died and was buried in Simpson on 15th June 1806. Whether she was still in charge at the Plough at the time of her death, we do not know.

The next report mentioning the inn was an auction of the next(?) landlord’s belongings when he left the Plough, from which we get an interesting insight into the workings of a country inn and brewhouse. (Northampton Mercury – 19th March 1808):

“To be SOLD by AUCTION, by ANDREW GARDNER on Thursday the 24th Day of March, 1808, on the Premises of Mr HALL, at the Sign of the Plough, Simpson, in the County of Buckingham, who is leaving the Premises,

The useful HOUSEHOLD – FURNITURE, BREWING UTENSILS, large sweet Iron-bound CASKS, about seven Hogsheads of capital old Home-brewed ALE, and other EFFECTS; consisting of Four-post and Stump Bedsteads, with Stuff Furnitures; Feather and Flock-Beds; Blankets, Quilts, and Counterpanes; Tables, Chairs, and Drawers; Dressing-Glasses; a large painted Buffet; Corner Cupboards; Oak Coffers; painted Bureau, a Quantity of Earthenware and Glass; Beer and Liquor-Measures; Kitchen-Range, Wind-up Jack, Copper and Brass Pottage-Pots, and Kitchen-Furniture in general; one 90-Gallon Brewing-Copper and Grate; Mash-Vat, Tubs, Pails, &c.; one Eight-hogshead Iron-bound Cask, one Five-hogshead ditto, one Four-hogshead Ditto, two Two-hogshead Ditto, Puncheons, and Pipes, with various Casks; a Pocket of excellent Hops, and Part of two Pockets; seven Hogsheads of prime old Ale, which will be sold in convenient Lots; Ladders, Hog-Troughs, with a great Number of other useful Articles. – The Sale to begin precisely at Eleven in the morning.”

Mr. Hall has proved elusive – there are no Parish register entries for a Hall family in Simpson at that time.

PB says that a Richard Rand was landlord between 1812-13 and he and his wife Sarah had a son, William, baptised August 13th 1813, whilst in charge here. He is listed as a publican in the Parish Register, but there is nothing to tie him specifically to the Plough. Then came Samuel Smith for 1814-1827. He died in Simpson in 1834, aged 73, his widow Hannah died a year later.

The next family to move in to the Plough was that of Richard Hazlewood, who stayed for at least 26 years. Richard may have been the son-in-law of landlord Samuel Smith, for he had married a Mary Ann Smith on 23rd December 1825. They had at least nine children. On the baptisms of the first four he was listed as just a labourer, but from when daughter Elizabeth was baptised in 1835, he was described as a Victualler.  A Sarah King, possibly a descendant of the Lee/King family who previously ran the inn, had married into the Hazlewood’s of Simpson in 1810. They were an extremely large local family – there were 26 Hazlewood’s on the first census of 1841 in Simpson alone!

This brings us to the first of the national censuses for England that recorded some details on individuals. Although the Plough is not specifically named, here is the household given as being there that night, 6th June 1841:

Richard Hazlewood, 35, Publican
Mary Ann Hazlewood, 35
George Hazlewood, 14
Hannah Hazlewood, 11
Mary Hazlewood, 9
Fredrick Hazlewood, 7
Elizabeth Hazlewood, 5
Joseph Hazlewood, 4
Harriet Hazlewood, 2
Jane Hazlewood, 6 months

[N.B. there was also another Richard Hazlewood living in Simpson at that time, who was 10 years older and lived next-door to another inn, run by William Webb.]

Simpson: People & Places” states that the Plough was bought by William Sipthorpe in 1843 and it was later inherited by his son John.  The Sipthorpe’s farmed 400 acres locally from Manor Farm, at Simpson, which was situated to the west of the pub, in the corner made by the canal.

At the time of the 1851 census (on 30th March) there were still eight Hazlewood children living at the Plough, together with one visitor.  Still no inn-sign was mentioned, it is just listed under “Simpson”:

Richard Hazlewood, 46, Publican, born Simpson
Mary Ann Hazlewood, wife, 44, Publican, Walton
George Hazlewood, son, single, 24, Publican, Simpson
Hanah Hazlewood, daughter, single, 22, at home, Simpson
Joseph Hazlewood, son, 14, scholar, Simpson
Harriett Hazlewood, daughter, 12, scholar, Simpson
Jane Hazlewood, daughter, 10, scholar, Simpson
Martha Hazlewood, daughter, 8, scholar, Simpson
Julia Hazlewood, daughter, 6, scholar, Simpson
Laura Hazlewood, daughter, 3, scholar, Simpson
Elizabeth Loxley, visitor, single, 20, Dressmaker, Newport Pagnell

The 1861 Census (on 7th April) finally uses the inn name.  Described as “Plough Inn”, the Hazlewoods were still there, but by now most of their children had moved out:

Richard Hazzlewood, 55, Publican, born Simpson
Mary A. Hazzlewood, wife, 53, Walton
Jane Hazzlewood, daughter, Unmarried, 20, Assistant on Ivy Farm, Simpson
Laura Hazzlewood, daughter, 13, Scholar, Simpson

This event, from the Croydon’s Weekly Standard, 27th July 1861, looks like a very well attended festival for the village, as further down the piece it describes that there were 600 served in Mr. Warren’s yard for the afternoon tea.  Thank goodness Hazlewood only had to feed the Band!

PB believed the Hazlewood’s left that same year, as when the next landlord baptised a child in Simpson in December 1861, he described himself as a Publican, although this could have been at a different inn. Hazlewood must have run a very quiet upstanding inn – there are hardly any news stories about it throughout the 1860s, barre a couple of auction sales gatherings. In March 1869, Widow Haynes was knocked down by a baker’s cart in Simpson when returning from “the public house” where she had been “to get a can of beer”. She was laid up for eight weeks afterwards. The Judge said the baker, Stevens, had left 3ft 6in. space and that should have been enough room!

The 1871 census did not use the inn name, but thanks to a survey of Buckinghamshire Beerhouse survey conducted in 1872, we know the landlord was by then William Bodley. So on 2nd April 1871, the household of the Plough was:

William Bodley, 37, Innkeeper, born Simpson
Caroline Bodley, wife, 32, Wavendon
William G. Bodley, son, 11, Tingewick
David Bodley, son, 5, Simpson
Mary Ann Bodley, daughter, 3, Simpson
Kate Bodley, daughter, 1, Simpson

William may have been the son of John Bodley, a local chemist operating from Simpson. The 1872 Beerhouse survey recorded that, although it was run by William Bodley, the Plough was still owned by John Sipthorpe.  At this time, all the licensed houses on the east-side of Watling Street through Fenny were classed as Simpson.

This appeared in the Bucks Herald of 17th January 1874:

Bodley appears listed as an agent for the Licensed Victuallers Tea Association from July 1874 to July 1875.  The LVA were hitting back at the number of grocers who had started selling beers and wine as an off-license to the public by selling tea in their pubs!  I can’t imagine it had much impact.

Bodley is listed as still at the Plough in 1876 in the Harrod’s trade directory in that year, but I have often found these directories to be a year or so out of date.  He actually left in October 1875, according to the report of the Petty Sessions in the Croydon’s Weekly Standard, when the license was transferred to James Lightbourne.   [The Post Office directory of 1877 gives a John Lightfoot, but this is an error all together, as the Lightfoot family ran the Pine Tree Inn nearby in Walton.]

Then comes a major day in the history of the Plough – the rebuilding.  I believe this was the start of the project to rebuild the pub as we know it today. A small notice appeared in Croydon’s Weekly Standard on 16th June 1877 asking for tenders for the work. I cannot imagine Wilmer & Sons commissioning this level of work for an inn they only rented, so it is logical that the Sipthorpe family had now sold the inn into the world of commercial breweries. The old house is understood to have faced the old Boobys Lane-side rather than the main road through Simpson that we know.

Lightbourne was in charge when there was a small disturbance at the inn in February 1878. Croydon’s Weekly Standard again, 16th February 1878:

What the drinkers at the Plough may have seen behind the bar…

Lightbourne was charged with keeping his house open for the sale of liquors after 10pm on December 28th 1878 by Police Inspector Hall.  He pleaded guilty and was fined 5s. with 9s. 6d. costs. (Bucks Herald – 25th January 1879) The 1881 census listed residents of the Plough Inn as:

Ann Lightbourne, wife, head, married, 51, wife of occupier, born in West Bromwich
Mary J. Lightbourne, daughter, 28, invalid daughter, Leckhampstead
Lora Lightbourne, daughter, single, 12, Invalid daughter, Bradwell
Susan Hill, servant, 13, domestic servant, Simpson

So where was Mr. Lightbourne?  Without having any other details about him, it is impossible to find him elsewhere on the census. By the next year, all the Lightbourne’s had moved on. The following advert appeared in the Croydon’s Weekly Standard of 2nd September 1882:

PB says that a Joseph Willett had been installed as landlord by 1883.  He was certainly in charge by Christmas that year, as he was charged for having the house open at 10.30pm on Christmas Day, against the permitted licensing hours. P.c. Lorton said he heard voices coming from inside and then heard beer being served and money taken.  Willett maintained the people had been invited by him for supper and no money was taken.  The Bench thought there was some doubt to the case and therefore dismissed it. (Bucks Herald – 19th January 1884)

OS map, surveyed 1885, published 1885.

Like the last census, Willett was not present for the night it was taken in 1891. Under the Plough Inn in Simpson we find:

Mary Willett, married, 36, Manageress, born in Newton Longville
Gertrude Atkins, sister, single, 16, Bletchley
Thomas Dewick, lodger, single, 35, General labourer, Walton

… but I found Joseph Willett staying at no.67 Gungate Street in Tamworth that night.  He was born in 1851 in Loughton and described as a Groom.  With him were Elizabeth Saunders, a married visitor, aged 59, described as a laundress of Walton, Buckinghamshire and her son, Henry G. Saunders, 6, born in Simpson.  Had he left his wife or was he just travelling on business? Whether he ever came back or not is not known.  The Croydon’s Weekly Standard of 11th October 1890 had said the license had transferred from Willett to Wilmers & Co. of Newport Pagnell, the brewery and owners.  Perhaps they allowed Mrs. Willett to stay on managing the inn until a replacement landlord could be found.

One Thomas Jennings was charged with being drunk and refusing to quit the house on Boxing Day 1892, but the case was dismissed.

At some point the inn was transferred to a William Kimble.  (He might have been just a local man willing to take on the license to keep the inn open while new publicans were sought by the brewery as he is referred to in 1896 in Simpson when his wheelwright’s business burned to the ground.)  The license was transferred from him to Oliver Davies according to the Buckingham Advertiser & Free Press – of 15th October 1892.

Davies was there for about 18 years. The North Bucks Times & County Observer of 29th April 1893 has a long report on the theft of some tobacco from the pub by two men.  Davies is mentioned and he gave his testimony.  The same men, Noah Kemp and Henry Webb, were tried at the same time for stealing a tin of biscuits from the Swan at Woughton and assaulting the landlord there.  They were convicted and sentenced to a total of four months imprisonment with hard labour and a fine of £5 or another month if they could not pay.

As well as auction sales, another use for a local public house was that a place to hold Inquests into local deaths, like that covered in the Croydon’s Weekly Standard of 7th October 1893. John William Bramley, a three-year-old boy had drowned in the canal whilst chasing a kitten. He had accompanied his father to work at the local limekilns. When he was missed, his hat was found floating on the canal with the drowned kitten. The canal was dragged and his body eventually found.

An advert from the Buckingham Advertiser & Free Press, 15th September 1894:

Oliver Davies was also involved with the Simpson Cricket team.  This from the Buckingham Advertiser & Free Press – 19th October 1895:

The Simpson Cricket Club, obviously hadn’t got very far, as they were trying to restart it again in 1899. From the North Bucks Times & County Observer on 20th May:

“SIMPSON. For the purposes of reforming the village cricket club, a meeting was held at the Plough Inn on Saturday evening, when Mr W. Tuffrey was elected captain, Mr Harry Turner, vice-captain, Mr J. Goodman secretary, and Mr O. Davies treasurer. It is hoped that a ground will be obtained in the immediate vicinity, and that a good number of matches will be arranged.”

Davies and his wife appeared in the census of 1901:
Oliver Davies, Head, 44, Licensed victualler, born Wilmington, Sussex
Mariah Davies, Wife, 42, Quarndon, Leicestershire

The Bucks Herald of 27th August 1910 reported that the Petty Sessions had granted a holdover of the license of the Plough Inn Sympson from Oliver Davies to John Gibbs, and that Davies was excused from attending when the license was transferred.

The 1911 Census:

John Gibbs, 56, Publican, born Beachampton
Dinah Gibbs Wife, 63, Beachampton

Buckinghamshire Archives has three copies of the sale catalogue produced for the inn [D-BM/L/6/62, D-WIG/2/7/1911/21 & D-WIG/2/2/70] – Sale particulars for property including Bridge House, farm (c73 acres), 4 cottages, The Plough Public House in Simpson, and land in Simpson and Fenny Stratford (around 313 acres), 9th November 1911.

Yet the Gibbs were soon on their way too, as the license was noted to have transferred in the Bucks Herald, 6th April 1912, from Mr. Gibbs to Mr. Cooper, which was followed by the information that the Denbigh Hall Inn on Watling Street had transferred from Mr. Cooper to Mr. Gibbs!  They seems they had swopped houses. (George Cooper had only run the Denbigh Hall for a year and Gibbs left it before the year was out.)

An undated postcard view of the corner, with the Plough, left. (Photo courtesy of P. Barnes)

Cooper only stayed 18 months or so. The Fenny Petty Sessions of 6th November 1913 transferred the Plough from Mr. Cooper to a Mr. Jones, (Buckingham Advertiser & Free Press – 8th November 1913) with the North Bucks Times adding that it was Frank Jones.  It had changed again by mid-War, as Samuel Ford is recorded in the Kellys Directory of 1915, who probably had to pay extra for his entry as is stated “Plough inn, Good accommodation & stabling, parties catered for.

North Bucks Times & County Observer – Tuesday 8th June 1915:

“SOLDIERS WARNED: CASE DISMISSED Albert Eldridge, sapper, Royal Engineers, and Ernest Albert Jordan, also sapper, both quartered in Fenny Stratford, were summoned for having been on licensed premises, i.e. the Plough Inn, Sympson, on May 16th, during prohibited hours. Defendants pleaded not guilty. P c. Snelling said that on Sunday, May 16th, he visited “The Plough” in plain clothes. The front door was locked but looking through the glass panel he saw Eldridge leaving the house…”

Jordan said he had been at the Front for four months and should have been on the Sick List that morning.  He went out for a walk and felt ill when he got to Simpson so went in and asked for a drink. The Magistrates said there was no doubt the case was proved but thought they should dismiss the case under the circumstances and hoped it served as a severe warning to others.  A conviction would have meant an almost certain loss of job for the landlord, as Magistrates took any offences into account during the year at the annual relicensing sessions. Immediately following that case, Samuel Ford, now the licensee of the Plough, was charged with “Permitting Drinking during Prohibited Hours”.  He explained that he was absent from the house when his wife served the men.  They had thought the men came from Far Bletchley, which was far enough away to allow the men to claim to be travellers and access the inn outside of the time restraints that local people had to abide by. He urged the Court not to record a conviction against him.  The Justices bound him over for £10 for 12 months to conduct the house properly and ordered him to pay 8s. 6d. costs.

…but it looks like the landlord was soon on his way anyway.

From the North Bucks Times & County Observer – 28th August 1917:

…which is the first indication that Charles Wells Ltd of Bedford were now the owners.  When they had bought it from Wilmer & Sons of Newport Pagnell is not known, but John Robert Wilmer (one of the “& Sons”) had died in 1904 so their business was sold July 1906 to Edgar Warman.  He only lasted until 1909 before selling out to ABC of Aylesbury, so the Plough must have been sold off before that. Charles Wells Ltd produced a collection of photographs of all their pubs c.1925, the glass-plate negatives of which are now deposited at Bedfordshire Archives. [BARS: WL801/88].

The 1918-1919 Register of Electors list shows a Thomas & Beatrice Bayley as living at the Plough. In 1923, the canal was renamed to “Grand Union Canal”.  Then the 1924-1925 Register of Electors shows a Walter Tullett as living at the Plough.

The Plough in c.1925.

It has changed again by the 1927 Register of Electors, which shows a Herbert, Nellie and Frederick Eaton as living at the Plough, but by 1928, only Herbert and Nellie were in residence and then only Herbert was listed for 1929. The Registers were updated a couple of times a year, so also for 1929, a George & Lily Benny are also shown. In 1930-1931 it gives William Henry Abraham, Julia Sulman and Dorothy Hubbard at the Plough.

Another postcard view, showing the Plough, left, with Post Office shop which stood next door. (Photo courtesy of P. Barnes)

The 1920s and 1930s were a time of great depression in the pub trade.  More and more grocers were being licensed and people’s homes were becoming better, it was cheaper to stay at home and drink! Abraham was summoned for not paying his rates in March 1932 (Northampton Mercury):

Robert Budd ran the Plough from 1952-1958. Before this Robert (b. 1898, in India) lived and worked at Bletchley Park. According to a memoir (Bletchley Park Family) published in 2014 by his son, Neville, the family moved into Bletchley Park in February 1940, taking up residence in Cottage No. 2 in the Stable Yard. The Bletchley Park Roll of Honour describes Robert as “Chief Groundsman, Quartermaster, driver, and Head of Refreshment (Hut 2)”. He was there until 1950.

Robert and his wife Emma had four children by the time they moved to Bletchley Park.  Their twin daughters, Faye and Jean (b.1934), were both married in St. Thomas’s Church.  On both occasions they walked from The Plough to the church. After the Budds left The Plough in 1958, they spent time in Singapore. Robert died in 1969.

Bedfordshire Archives hold a Liquor Licence Traders Survey Form from 1958 [BARS: Z1105/1] compiled by the Bletchley Office of Customs & Excise for premises of persons licensed to sell beer, wines and spirits.  When Paul Buckle researched the pub in the mid-1990s, he asked Charles Wells Ltd for a list of previous landlords.  They supplied the names: George Brown (1958-1970); Frank Giddings (1970-1972); Herbert Bunn (1972-1978).

This description of the pub in the late 60s – early 70s comes from “A Journey in Time – The Early Years” the autobiography of local man Melvin Higgs, published in 2008:

“The main activity at the Plough besides drinking Charles Wells bitter was the playing of skittles. The old leathered table saw good service, especially on Sunday lunchtimes. It was quite normal for the womenfolk to be at home preparing the roast in anticipation that the menfolk wouldn’t be too late. I did spend a lot of my leave leisure time there and was quite a good skittle player. Being quite good wasn’t good enough, not when I played against the masters, Ted Clark, Wally Odell, Johnnie Biggs, Harold Coles and my father. They had the skill to down ninepins with one or two cheeses, a feat I rarely performed. Ted Clarke’s daughter, Phyllis, was a brave lady who went to the pub and took on the men. She was quite a good player to the annoyance of many a chauvinist… the landlord came across as a dry sort of character; his wife Nancy was a powerful force that guided him from behind the scenes. They did have a pub team, probably through compulsion rather than desire, which competed in the brewery skittle league… Some cribbage was also played where very small amounts of money changed hands.”

Arthur and Alma Clough were in residence from 1978 to 1989. Local memory recalls Arthur Clough ruled with a rod of iron!  He would sit at the end of the bar (then the lounge bar) in a swivelling captain’s chair from which he would issue instructions – often, banning orders!

Simpson resident John Napleton provided the following memories in 2012:

“Between 1978 and 1982, a team of architects and planners was located at The Mount, Simpson, with a brief to design and plan the first developments of a new capital city for Nigeria – Abuja. The Plough, three minutes’ walk away, became the favourite meeting place of members of the team and the many high-ranking Nigerians who visited The Mount. Frequently over this period, The Plough would provide lunch and drinks for three or four Nigerians in full robes, much to the surprise of the landlord, Arthur Clough, who could not quite believe his eyes.  He warmed to his new customers when they purchased large numbers of double brandies to wash down their food.”

A c.1980s? matchbox label commissioned for the Plough

I met landlord Paul Buckle in the late 1990s, who had been researching the history of the pub and he kindly printed me off a copy of what he had found. Paul and wife Brona were there from 1995 to about 1999. A regular recalls:

“The era of the public bar versus the restaurant, with a lively back bar showing football, with shuffleboard, darts and pool.  There was a strong Scottish contingent, which led to a famously ‘no holds barred’ football match in the Linear Park next to the old play area.”

David and Michelle Sapwell ran it from 1999 to 2003, running a carvery in the restaurant, when The Plough was leased by Jack Barkers (who also owned the carvery at Wavendon Golf Centre). They held many karaoke and quiz nights, alongside a very strong community spirit with sports teams and clubs playing darts, quiz, pool and golf across Milton Keynes.

The most radical change to the Plough happened between 2003 and 2004. Keith and Sharon Samuels were responsible for the short-lived conversion to the name “Trekkers”.  Matthew Napleton, who worked at the Trekkers, recalls:

“They refurbished the front bar, removing the bench seats and replacing them with tables and chairs and a handmade pew. They had full size Dalek and Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars, amongst lots of other memorabilia.  The aim was to serve decent food (including a wide range of burgers, named after the locals) while watching one of the TV screens showing your favourite shows. The cocktail menu proved popular amongst the younger crowd, and in the later days they put ‘pink’ pool tables in the back room.”  

They even adapted the inn-sign to show the star constellation of The Plough!  They served ET-Bone Steak and Dalek-Garlic Chicken! Sadly, it did not attract the crowds they thought it would and they moved on.

A Citizen article from when the Trekkers closed… (Clipping courtesy of P. Barnes)

Next were Ian and Claire Estick form 2004 to October 2011, who were formerly landlords at the well-respected Carrington Arms in Moulsoe. While they were in charge here it was famous for great food and brilliant community atmosphere, with quizzes, New Year’s Eve parties often in fancy dress and a pub football team. A team of five from the pub ran the London marathon in 2009, raising £15,000 for charity.

An Italian family were next, under Pietro Armieri from 2011 – 2017. It was Pietro’s children, Antonio and Gabriella, who ran it.

A view of the Plough in 2012. (Photo courtesy of P. Barnes)

After less than a year in the hands of Leslie Walker and his brother in law, Stephen, across 2017 – 2018, Richard and Neleta Winter operated The Plough in 2018-2019. Following an extensive exterior and interior makeover in the first half of 2018, the pub reopened as “The Organic Kitchen @ The Plough”. That business closed in January 2019.

The Plough remained closed for some time before it reopened as a partner of The Cross Keys at Woolstone, under Warren and Hannah Pike.  Like all hospitality businesses, it was closed during the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, but has now reopened as a successful dining venue with 270+ years of history behind it!

The Plough Inn, Simpson in 2019. (Photo courtesy of P. Barnes)


Known Landlords (Dates are of known occupation)

1753-1754         Arthur Lee
1754-1756         Mary Lee (widow of above)
1756-1762         William Lee (son? of above)
1763-????         Sarah Lee (??of above)
1764-1765         Giles King (who had married the above)
1773-1777         John Plowman
1778-1793         George Gibbs (son in law of above)
1793-1806         Christian Gibbs (widow of above)
????-1808        Mr. Hall
1812-1813         Richard Rand
1814-1827         Samuel Smith
1835-1861         Richard Hazlewood (son in law of above?)
1861-1875         William Bodley
1875-1881        James Lightbourne
1883-1890         Joseph Willett
1890-1891         Wilmers & Co. (Mrs. Willett managing?)
????-1892         William Kimble
1892-1910         Oliver Davies
1910-1911         John Gibbs
1912-1913         George Cooper
1913                 Frank Jones
1915                 Samuel Ford
1918-1919         Thomas Bayley
1924-1925        Walter Tullett
1927-1928         Herbert Eaton
1930-1933         William Abraham
1933-1939         Charles Tyler
1952-1958         Robert Budd
1958-1970         George Brown
1970-1972         Frank Giddings
1972-1978         Herbert Bunn
1978-1989         Arthur Clough
1989-1995         ??
1995-1999         Paul & Brona Buckle
1999-2003        David & Michelle Sapwell
2003-2004       Keith & Sharon Samuels
2004-2011         Ian & Claire Estick
2011-2017          Pietro Armieri
2017-2018         Leslie Walker & Stephen ??
2018-2019        Richard & Neleta Winter
2019-Now        Warren & Hannah Pike


Page last updated May 2022.