The Wheatsheaf, Aspley Guise

The Wheatsheaf public house, which once stood in Mount Pleasant, started out as a common beerhouse and 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, census and parish registers etc. [N.B., I have copied the text of the news articles exactly, so some refer to “Wheatsheaf” and some to “Wheat Sheaf”.]

The story of the Wheatsheaf was closely interwoven with the Britten family for 60 years, and unusual as having been run by women for more than 50 years at a time when that was uncommon. Beerhouses were generally just known by the landlord’s name and the name “Wheatsheaf” is not used until a Trade Directory of 1864. It is likely that it was just before this date that it first became a full public house with a sign.

The Britten’s had a long history of trading in the Aspley area. The Northants Mercury of 6th November 1813 reports a marriage “at Wavendon, of Mr. William Britten, baker, of Aspley Guise, to Miss Elizabeth Lee, eldest daughter of Mr. Lee of the former place.” This was possibly Edward Lee of the Fir Tree Inn, then based further up the Woburn Road from where it is now sited.

Another local Britten was in the building trade, as the Northants Mercury of 28th November 1818 advertised “Mr James Britten, carpenter of Aspley Guise”, as the contact for the sale a newly-built house at Husborne Crawley.  I presume it was his son, “Thomas Britten, carpenter”, in the Northants Mercury again, on 4th November 1837, being married at Aspley Guise, to a Sarah King.

The Wheatsheaf as it was… looking up Mount Pleasant, Aspley Guise. (Photo courtesy of WSDS)

BARS states: “The original set of buildings were probably built shortly after the land was purchased by Thomas Britten, yeoman, in April 1810. He died the following year leaving all his goods and land to his widow, Anne, who herself died in 1836. She left the Wheatsheaf to her executors in trust to raise £180 for her daughter-in-law, Kitty. The following mortgage deed of 1838 refers to the premises simply as a cottage in Kitty’s occupation with three adjoining cottages and two ploughed closes totalling seven acres. Clearly Kitty ran the place as a beerhouse from at least 1847 but at what point it became so cannot be determined.”

Kitty Odell had been married to Thomas and Anne’s son James in 1815. He died in 1834, aged 45, leaving her with four children to bring up. Perhaps this was the event that triggered her opening her house as a beerhouse to support the family?

We know that the Britten family had opened a beerhouse in Mount Pleasant (originally known as New Town) in Aspley Guise by 1841, as that is the year of the first census with personal data on, and gives us the occupants of the household of Kitty Britten, listed under New Town, Aspley Guise. She and all her children and maids(?) were born in Bedfordshire:

Kitty Britten, 45, Beer Retailer
Alfred Britten, 22
Lucy Britten, 20
James Britten, 15
Catherine Britten, 14
Ruth Berridge,  25
Elizabeth Stanbridge, 25

The owner of the beerhouse then appears as Kitty Britten (or variations of that surname) in trade directories for the next 14 years. In 1847, “Mrs. Kitty Britten, beerseller” is in a directory and in 1850 “Kitty Brittin, beerseller” appears in Slater’s trade directory.

The household was listed again, without a pub name, in the 1851 census, which give:

Kitty Britten, Widow, 59, Brewer & retailer of beer, owner & occupier of 10 acres of land employing 1 man & 2 boys. Born Aspley.
Alfred Britten, Son, Married, 32, Brewer &c., Born Aspley

There is nothing in the press during this time that I can find online, but in 1852 “Kitty Brittin, Aspley Guise” appears in Slaters trade directory and as “Kitty Britten, beerseller” in the 1853 Musson & Craven trade directory.  She died in 1855, and the beerhouse/pub was passed to her son, James, who appeared as “James Brittain, beerseller” in 1861.

In the 1861 census, the whole of Mount Pleasant is listed as “Chapel Street, Aspley Guise”. No inn sign was used:

James B. Britten, 37, Farmer and Inn Keeper, born Aspley
Elizabeth Britten, 40, wife, born Sawtry, Huntingdonshire [Marked as “Blind or Deaf and Dumb”]

“Kitty Britten, beerseller” is still listed in the Cassey’s trade directory of 1862, but I think they had not checked their entries properly. A name for the house finally appeared in a directory two years later in 1864 as “James Britten, The Wheatsheaf”.

The Leighton Buzzard Observer of 26th June 1866 contains the following advert: “For Sale – A QUANTITY of Seasoned ASH PLANK. For price & c., enquire of J. B. Britten, the Wheat Sheaf Inn, Aspley Guise, near Woburn, Beds.”

Northants Mercury 6th February 1869 – “Woburn Petty Sessions. Aspley – Luke Dickens, Frederick Billington and Edward Cook, three lads of Aspley Guise were charged with stealing a quantity of apples, value 6d., from the premises of Mr Britten at Aspley on the 22nd of January. The case being proved the prisoners were convicted. Dickens 3 months; Billington and Cook 14 days each.” [This was obviously no deterrent for their behaviour.  Cook and Dickins were involved a year later in putting ironware on the railway tracks in an attempt to derail a train.]

The later building o the same site. 

James Britten died at a young age in 1870, as reported in the Beds Mercury of 19th November 1870: “Deaths – November 9th, at Mount Pleasant, Aspley Guise, Mr James Brown Britten, of paralysis, aged 46.”

There was a sale by Swaffield & Son on 20-21st December: “The Wheatsheaf Inn, Aspley Guise. Sale of furniture, farm implements, harness horse, fat pig, 2 in pig sows, 6 store pigs, gig, clover hay, 100 bushels of potatoes, 2 tons of mangel wurzels, 2 acres of swede turnips, carpenters and coach builders tools and other effects. Sale on the premises, lately occupied by Mr James Britten, deceased.” (BARS SF2/30)

It seems the pub passed to his brother, Alfred Britten, as six months later he was named in court. Beds Times 9th May 1871: “Petty Sessions. John Cooper of Crawley was charged by Superintendent Shepherd with being disorderly and refusing to leave the Pheasant* public-house at Aspley, on the 1st inst. Alfred Britten, the landlord, proved that the defendant came to the house and stopped three of four hours, abusing him and his family all the time. He repeatedly requested him to go, but he refused. Police-constable Armstrong went to the house, and the defendant went away on being requested by the policeman. Fined 5s. and 8s. costs or 14 days.”

[* The very next item is about the Pheasant public house at Toddington, and I think the use of the Pheasant name here is just a reporter’s mistake or printer’s typo.]

The 1871 census actually uses the name Wheatsheaf.  In the house were:

Alfred Britten, 52, Farmer 10 acres, born Aspley
Mary Britten, Wife, 48, Lidlington
Elizabeth Britten, Daughter, 22, Dressmaker, Aspley
Jane Britten, Daughter, 21, Waitress, Aspley
George Britten, Son, 15, Marston, Works on Land
Sarah Britten, Daughter, 9, Marston, Scholar
Catherine Britten, Daughter, 7, Scholar, Marston

In January 1874, Alfred Britten, victualler, was an executor for a local widow, Ann Adkins, who had died in October 1873. J. T. Green, the solicitor of Woburn, was asking for all debtors or creditors to make contact, but Britten himself died the very next month, on February 3rd, aged 55, and his widow Mary took over the house.

BARS says that Alfred Britten left the public house to his wife Mary, with their son George to inherit after her death. George, however, sold his interest in the pub to his uncle George during his mother’s lifetime. When George the elder died, his widow Ann then sold that interest back to Mary!

The Wheatsheaf name was not used when an accident befell Mrs. Line of Lidlington in February 1879. She had visited “Mrs Brittan’s, Mount Pleasant, Aspley Guise” upon business.  As she was leaving, her house bolted and took her cart away down the hill at a tremendous speed. Mrs. Line tried to turn left at the junction, but the horse wanted to go home and turned right.  The shaft of the cart broke and Mrs. Line was thrown out and broke her collarbone and sprained her neck (Luton Reporter). In June the same year, the Wheat Sheaf Inn was used for the inquest into the death of Robert Windmill, a labourer who worked for Dr. Veasey. He had died in bed at home aged 69. Natural Causes was recorded.

A case brought at the Newport Pagnell Sessions was reported in the Northampton Mercury of 18th October 1879. James Roach was charged by Inspector Hall with stealing a spade, the property of Benjamin Roford, at Wavendon, on October 10th. Prosecutor gave him a job and lent him a spade, which he sold for 1s. 6d. to James Gowan, of Aspley Guise, at the Wheatsheaf. He was sentenced to 21 days’ hard labour. As there was also a Wheatsheaf in Wavendon, I’m not sure which one is being referred to here.

In the 1881 census, the inn was not named, but consisted of:

Mary Britten, Widow, 59, Innkeeper & Farmer of 13½  acres employing 1 man, born Lidlington
Jane Britten, Daughter, 31, Aspley Guise
Catherine M. Britten, Daughter, 17, Marston, Bedfordshire

The field behind the inn was used for livestock, as well as an orchard. The Leighton Buzzard Observer, 10th May 1881, reported “Aspley Guise. Accident – On Sunday the 30th ult., a little fellow named Smith, while out with his father, who was milking cows at the Wheat Sheaf Inn, Mount Pleasant, by some means obtained possession of a blank-loaded pistol, used for the purpose of bird scaring, and it is supposed was playing with the trigger, when it struck the cap, causing the contents to explode and inflict severe injury to the child’s hand. The boy was at once taken to Dr Mahon, who bound up the injured limb, and on Monday morning he was conveyed to the Bedford Infirmary, where it is reported he is progressing favourably.”

Mrs. Britten was sued at Leighton Buzzard by the local well digger. The Northants Mercury, 8th November 1884: “Leighton Buzzard County Court – Giles v. Britten. The plaintiff in this case, a well-sinker at Aspley Guise, sued Mrs Britten of the Wheat Sheaf Inn, at the same place, to recover a sum of £1 18s. 11d., claimed as a balance for taking bricks out of an old well. The plaintiff agreed to sink a new well for defendant, as he alleged, for £5 for that alone, but the bricks were taken from an old one, and used instead of new, and for this he claimed £2 6s. less 7s. 1d. owing for beer. Defendant, on the other hand, declared that £5 was to cover the whole cost of the new well. Judgement for the defendant.”

Census time again, and the house was not listed by name in 1891:

Mary Britten, Widow, 69, Farmer & Inn Keeper, Lidlington
Jane Britten, Daughter, 41, Aspley Guise
Catherine Mary Britten, Daughter, 26, Marston Mortayne

Beds Mercury reported on 5th March 1892: “Petty Sessions – George Labrum, labourer, charged with stealing a live fence (the property of Mary Britten, and committing damage estimated at 1s. at Aspley Guise on Feb 8, was ordered to pay 1s. fine, 1s. damage and 13s. 6d. costs. P.c. Andrew met him in the wood.”  The Beds Times added that the thief had been stopped by the police and claimed he had bought the fence from a Mr Hobbs’, but his story was checked and found to be false.  It was part of a fence which bordered Crawley Park, so was presumably at the rear of the field behind the Wheatsheaf.

There are two stories mentioning the Wheatsheaf in the 10th March 1896 Leighton Buzzard Observer, and neither on them is good. Firstly, the Petty Sessions report said that Frederick Giles, a carpenter of Woburn Sands, had not appeared to a summons for assaulting William Cook on February 25th outside the Wheat Sheaf. Cook was just passing by when Giles came out of the inn and demanded to know if Cook had anything to say to him.  Cook replied he didn’t, whereupon Giles asked him to go into a field and fight, which Cook declined to do. Cook sought sanctuary inside the inn, but Giles followed him in and punched him.  The magistrates heard Cook had had no quarrel previously with Giles, who had come to him after the altercation and asked him to drop the charge.  The court imposed a fine of 10s. with 10s. 6d. costs.

The very next report is of Alfred Jenkins of Aspley Heath, Henry Crute, William Robinson and William Fossey of Aspley Guise, all labourers, being drunk and refusing to quit the What Sheaf on February 29th. Once removed, they continued their behaviour and were therefore charged with being drunk on the public highway also.  All pleaded not guilty.  Mary Britten testified that they had only been in her house half an hour before becoming rowdy and “wortling” (quarrelling). They said they would leave if she gave them one more drink, so she served them another quart, they having had two or three quarts already. Her daughter Jane Britten then went for the police. Frederick Giles (from the above story) was also in the house and said he was there with friends to kick up a row and was looking for “Clayton”. When the police man arrived, they were out in the street, and Jenkins was offering to fight any man in the village for a sovereign. They only left after Giles told them he didn’t need them there anymore. In their statements, the men denied being drunk, said they did not hear any requests to leave the pub and that the quarrelling was caused by a man named Hayter (landlord of the Anchor?) coming into the inn. It seems very much like Giles had organised a disturbance as revenge for the events earlier in the week.  Each was fined 5s. and 7s. 6d. costs for being drunk and refusing to leave the inn, and 2s. 6d. with 10s. 6d. costs for being drunk on the road. The alternative was two stints of 14 days’ hard labour each. The money was paid.

The turn of the century saw the sale of the Wheatsheaf, after Mary Britten passed away on 26th April, aged 78.  Her probate was carried out by Charles Matthews Turney, a retired grocer, and she left £1360 5s. but this was later re-sworn at £1818 9s. 6d.  The pub was advertised in the Luton Times of 10th August 1900. “ASPLEY GUISE. To Brewers, Builders, Land Speculators, and Others. Messrs. CUMBERLAND & HOPKINS Have received instructions from the Trustee of the late Mr. Alfred Britten, to Sell by Auction on the premises, on FRIDAY, the 24th of August, 1900, at Four o’clock. a SMALL FREEHOLD ESTATE, comprising the old-established and fully-licensed FREE PUBLIC HOUSE, known the “Wheatsheaf,” together with COTTAGE, FARM HOMESTEAD, and ORCHARD adjoining, situate at Mount Pleasant, Aspley Guise; also about nine Acres of highly valuable BUILDING and ACCOMMODATION LAND, with extensive frontages to Mount Pleasant Road, having a southerly aspect and of good elevation. May be viewed any time on application to Miss Britten, the “Wheatsheaf Inn”, of whom Particulars and Conditions of Sale, with Plan, can be obtained, and also of C. M. Turney, Esq., Mount Pleasant, Aspley Guise; Mr. W. H. Smith, Solicitor, Woburn; or of the Auctioneers, Leighton Buzzard.”  Perhaps Alfred Britten’s will stipulated that Mary Britten could stay there as long as she wished, then it must be sold.

BARS holds an auction poster for the event, which reads: “Lot 1: – “old established” public house called Wheatsheaf, Mount Pleasant, Aspley Guise, with two cellars in basement, bar, tap room and parlour on ground floor, four bedrooms and two attics above; with brewhouse and two cottages adjoining, the latter being used as washhouse and dairy with two store rooms over, with, on opposite side of entrance, a three roomed cottage let to Amos Bowler at 1/3 a week and coachhouse with rear enclosed farm yard with ranges of timber and thatched buildings including thrashing barn, 2 corn barns, stable, cowhouse, piggeries, poultry house and workshop; also orchard, open cattle shed, garden of one and a half acres; well of water; – the whole on a frontage of 178ft to Mount Pleasant; – “this property has been in occupation of members of the same family for many years”; – Land tax at 5/- in the pound – timber valued at £12/14/6 Lot 2: – three enclosures of freehold building land adjoining Lot 1 with frontage of 330ft to Mount Pleasant and measuring 8.25 acres; two fields being arable and one pasture bounded by properties of Dr.White, Mrs. Orlebar, George Handscomb and Lot 1; – tithes 10/-; – Land Tax at 5/- in the pound; – timber and iron hurdles valued at £16/10/-; – “one of the few remaining properties that can be acquired in this salubrious and beautiful village and to a Land Company or Building Society must prove a very profitable speculation”. (BARS WL1000/1/AG/2/5)

Looking down Mount Pleasant, with the Wheatsheaf on the right.

The Beds Times of 31st August 1900 reported on the sale. “SALE OF PROPERTY. The sale of “The Wheat Sheaf” public house, which is the only free house in the district, caused a great deal of interest among brewers and others in the county and a large number gathered to meet Messrs. Cumberland and Hopkins on Friday. Lot 1 comprised the public house situated in Mount Pleasant (for many years the property of Mrs Britten, the late landlady, who died some weeks ago), together with an old cottage and farm homestead. A spirited bidding took place and the lot was eventually knocked down to Messrs. Jarvis, of Bedford, for £980. Lot 2 comprised about 9 acres of valuable building ground and the purchaser was Mr C. Sinfield, builder, the price being £560.”

Jarvis lost no time in recruiting a new landlord for their inn. The Beds Times, 7th September 1900: “To Let “Wheatsheaf Inn,” Aspley Guise, fully licensed, large garden, paddock, orchard and out buildings. – For particulars apply, Phoenix Brewery, Bedford.”

Whoever they had found to take it on, they didn’t want the existing furniture etc., and it all had to be sold. The Beds Times 19th October 1900: “THE WHEATSHEAF INN, ASPLEY GUISE Messrs. CUMBERLAND & HOPKINS Have received instructions from the Trustee of the late Mrs. Mary Britten, to Sell by Auction on Wednesday. October 24th, 1900, at Half-past Ten o’clock. THE Whole of the Live and Dead FARMING STOCK, Including two Milking Cows, useful Cart Horse, in-pig Sow, 10 strong Store Pigs, and about 35 head Poultry, the Capital AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENTS, Three Stacks of CORN with the Straw, about 15 Tons of CARROTS, and Half-an-acre of MANGOLDS: the Genuine Old HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, comprising mahogany dining, card and Leo tables, oak and deal ditto, mahogany arm chairs, 18 Windsor ditto, mahogany couches in leather, antique chimney glasses, Brussels and other carpets, grandfather’s clock, old oak mahogany chests of drawers, old carved oak and other linen chests, mahogany gents and other wardrobes, bedsteads and bedding, commodes, washstands, toilet tables and glasses, cottage mangle, the kitchen and culinary requisites, dairy utensils, including a nearly new churn, the TRADE UTENSILS, and various other effects. May be viewed the Day of Sale, and Catalogues may be had at the place the Sale, and of the Auctioneers, Leighton Buzzard.”

Yet when the transfer came, according to the Luton Times of 9th November 1900, it looked as if it was staying in the family. “Woburn Petty Sessions. Transfer – The license of the Wheatsheaf Inn, at Aspley Guise, was, on the application of Mr W. H. Smith, solicitor, transferred from Mr C. M. Turney (executor of the late Mrs Mary Britten), to Mr. George W. Britten, late of Little Barford.” However, the Luton Times had made a mistake, and the name was actually George W. Norman. Just over a year later, the Leighton Buzzard Observer reported on 8th January 1901 that there had been a marriage on 24th December 1900 at Aspley Guise between Ezra John Norman and Catherine Mary Britten, the youngest daughter of the late Alfred & Mary Britten.  There does not seem to be a connection between this Norman family, who were local to Aspley Guise, and the Norman family who had taken the Wheatsheaf, who was a timber dealer from Woburn.

The 1901 census listed the Wheatsheaf Public House and gives:

George W. Norman, 57, Publican Inn Keeper, born Woburn
Sarah A. Norman, Wife, 58, Ampthill
Edith Large, Servant, 12 , General Servant Domestic, Woburn

Mr. Labrum was still causing trouble at the house, 10 years after his conviction for stealing their fence. The Bedford Record, 25th March 1902: “George Labrum, of Aspley, general labourer, was charged with being disorderly and refusing to quit the Wheatsheaf Inn at Aspley Guise, on 3rd March. Defendant pleaded guilty and was fined 5s. and 10s. 6d costs.” The Leighton Buzzard Observer of the same day was much more informative.  Labrum had pleaded guilty, but said he had acted under great provocation.  Mr Norman said he had heard a commotion from upstairs and came down to see what was happening. Labrum came in drunk and had been refused beer. After an argument, Norman physically removed Labrum from his inn, so Labrum attacked him once outside. He found Norman “was the best man of the two” and Labrum ranted obscenely outside for half an hour.  Labrum stated he had been in the house for some time, and Norman was just as drunk as he was, and hadn’t asked him to leave, he just picked him up by the collar and threw him out. Ben Garrett, landlord of the Fir Tree in Woburn Sands, had arrived at the house at the time of the disturbance and backed up Norman’s story. Labrum said to Garrett that “I didn’t say anything to you. Didn’t I give you a flower?” Garrett- “You were very noisy, you did give me a flower as I was going away, but you told me that if I didn’t take it you would give me (using a strong expression) a good tanning as you had done with Norman.”! Labrum was fined 5s. with 10s. 6d. costs.

On the 17th October 1902, the Luton Times reported on the Woburn Petty Sessions. The license of the Wheat Sheaf Inn at Aspley Guise was transferred from G. E. Norman to H. Lawson, late of the Black Swan Inn, Bedford.

On 24th June 1903, there was an auction on the same day at the Wheatsheaf of livestock and another at the Anchor, off Aspley Guise Square, 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 Licensing Session in September that finally told the whole story.  Hayter was moving from the Anchor after 11 years there to take on the Wheatsheaf. Harry Lawson had moved on from the Wheatsheaf, although it doesn’t say to where. The new landlord did not stop the age-old problem. Leighton Buzzard Observer, 15th November 1904: “Woburn Petty Sessions. William Lovesay, labourer, of Aspley Guise, was charged with having been drunk and refusing to quit the licensed premises of the Wheat Sheaf Inn, at Aspley Guise on the 5th of November. Defendant pleaded guilty, and, the evidence of the innkeeper having been taken, defendant was fined 2s. 6d. and 8s. costs.”

There is one grainy photo of the Wheatsheaf as it used to be under the Britten’s. Jarvis must have had plans of what they would do to the old inn when they bought it in 1900. Now, in February 1906, their plan was put into action. “Aspley Guise. A NEW INN. At Woburn Sessions on Friday, plans were submitted for the re-erection of the Wheat Sheaf Inn, at Aspley Heath[?], owned by Messrs. Jarvis & Co., of Bedford, the tenant of the existing house being Mr. H. Hayter.  The magistrates approved the plan.” (Luton Times)

The Beds Times 2nd March 1906: “Mount Pleasant is becoming one of the most populous portions of the parish. “San Remo” Avenue has been completed, and now the old “Wheatsheaf” the recently acquired property of Messrs. Jarvis of Bedford, has to come down to make room for a large and more imposing structure. Mr Sinfield has secured the contract, and the work has been commenced this week. The new road being made for Dr. White in a field near the Crawly-road is finding employment for a number of villagers.

A freshly built new Wheatsheaf.

A week later, the Luton Times also commented: “Improvements. Mount Pleasant has seen many changes during the past decade, most of the houses erected in the village having been built in that locality, and fresh landmarks set-up. An old landmark which has stood for anything between one and two centuries, and known far and wide as the Wheatsheaf Inn, is now in course of demolition, Messrs. Jarvis intending to erect a modern and up-to-date hotel on the site. As the new building will stand further back from the road than the old one, a very welcome addition will be made to the width of the highway at that particular part of the village.”

Whilst the Britten’s had gone from the inn, they were still well-known locally. The Luton Reporter of 25th May 1906, under a heading of “Sensational Charges”, ran a story of a case at Manchester City Police Court. Richard Willis, alias Ball alias David Foxton Williams was charged with bigamy and forgery on several Manchester Banks. The well-dressed, respectable-looking, accused had married Sarah Ann, daughter of Mary Britten while posing as David Foxton Williams at Aspley Guise in 1882. They had had three children together whilst living in Liverpool. Yet in 1905, he moved to Redhill in Surrey and married the landlady of the boarding house he was staying at.  The new couple travelled around the Mediterranean for months, but when they arrived back on British soil in Jersey, he was arrested.  The case was pretty clear-cut, but Willis/Ball/Williams pleaded Not Guilty and asked for the £6 that had been confiscated from him when he was arrested so he could engage a solicitor. This was refused as no-one could be sure to whom the money belonged.  When it came to trial, he was sentenced to five years for Bigamy and Forgery.

The building work of the new Wheatsheaf must have been completed swiftly, as by November 1906, it was in full use. “Aspley Guise. The diamond jubilee of the Working Men’s Club was celebrated on Wednesday evening by a dinner at the Wheatsheaf Inn.” (Luton Times)

Mr Hayter didn’t stay long at his new pub; he was on his way in March 1909. The license of the Wheatsheaf Inn, was transferred from Mr T. H. Hayter to Mr J. E. Jerham, (Luton Times) Jerham was the son of a painter at Wolverton Works, where he had also worked.

The 1911 census, listed as the Wheatsheaf Inn, Aspley Guise:

John Edwards Jerham, 43, Licensed Victualler, born Bradwell, Bucks
Minnie Jerham, Wife, 38 , Ravenstone, Bucks
Dorothy Jerham, Daughter, 13, School, Bradwell, Bucks

He, too, moved on quickly. The Beds Times 28th July 1911: “Short Notice of Sale. THE WHEATSHEAF, ASPLEY GUISE. STONEBRIDGE & FOLL Will Sell by Auction, on the Premises, as above, on WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 2nd, 1911, at One o’clock precisely, by order of Mr. J. E. Jerham (who is leaving). CAPITAL HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, including old Oak Bureau, and three-quarter sized Billiard Table in good order. Outdoor Effects, 4-wheeled Dog Cart, Battlesden Cart, valuable Bay Nag Mare, 3 years (unbroken), 110 Head of PURE-BRED POULTRY, including White Leghorn, and White and Buff Orpington, this year’s birds, an exceptionally fine lot. Black SOW, Down-pigging SOW. No Catalogues. Auction Offices: Woburn Sands and Newport Pagnell.”  His replacement, although not noted in the press, was Thomas Lack.

The next month, the Northampton Scouts were using the Wheatsheaf field as part of a large local event. Beds Times: “Scouts from various companies in Northampton are presently at camp in strong force this week. There are three camps – one is situated in the Common Fuzzen; a second is near the near the motor Railway Crossings and a third in the Wheat Sheaf orchard at Mount Pleasant. Two of the companies joined the Church Lads’ Brigade in a parade on Sunday, under the command of Lieut. Downes and the Scout Officers. They met in the Square, and from thence marched to St Botolph’s headed by the Church Lads’ Brigade Bugle Band.”

In September 1912, there was a small fire at the pub, but it was spotted and put out in time. “Some excitement was caused by rumours of a fire at the Wheatsheaf Inn on Monday evening. Happily someone passing saw the flames from the road through a bedroom window, and gave the alarm. A rush was made for the room and it was found that the bedding and clothes on one bedstead were aflame. The room was full of smoke and flame, but a number of helpers soon put out the fire and, save for the bed and linen, little damage was done. It is thought that the fire occurred through something catching alight while one of the household was passing through the room.” (Beds Times)

The landlord’s daughter was married in January 1913, with the notable addition of motorcars to the proceedings: “The marriage of Miss Lack, daughter of the “Wheatsheaf’s” landlord to Mr W. Wardle of Burton-on-Trent drew a number of friends to St Botolph’s Church on Thursday during the dinner hour. The bridegroom is an enthusiastic motorist and cars were engaged for conveying the bridal party to and from the church. The Rev. J. C. Maltby officiated.” (Beds Times)

In 1917, owners Jarvis & Co. went into liquidation, and it was Charles Wells Ltd., also of Bedford, who bought up all their pubs.

The pub was still being used for inquests as late as June 1922. “Mrs. E. Sibley, of Mount Pleasant, died on Friday from the effect of burns sustained some time ago. She was 66 years of age and has been an invalid for a long period. Mr. Hobourn, of Woburn conducted an inquest at the Wheatsheaf on Saturday, and after hearing the evidence of a daughter, Miss M. E. Sibley. Mr. Bowler and Dr. Philips returned a verdict of death as a result of burns received in April last, accidentally caused by the deceased falling on the fire while in a fit. The funeral was held on Tuesday afternoon.” (Beds Times)

Lack had done 12 years in charge by the time he left in December 1923. The Beds Times ran an advert for his sale on leaving the pub: “THE WHEAT SHEAF INN, ASPLEY GUISE, BEDS. W. H. PEACOCK have been instructed by Mr. T. Lack to Sell by Auction at the above, NEXT WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 12th 1923 at ONE o’clock, 15 PORKETS, PONY, GOVERNESS CAR AND HARNESS, about 130 Head of POULTRY. DEAD STOCK comprises Dog Cart, Spring Cart, 2 Chaff Cutters, Riding Saddle and Bridle, Harness and Rugs, 2 Dog Kennels, Iron Pig Troughs, Garden Frame, Lawn Mower, Corn Bin, Cart Jacks, Chicken Coops, Quantity of Garden Tools, etc., and a large Portable Shed suitable for Motor Shed, and a lean-to Fowl House; quantity of HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE. including Bagatelle Table, Mahogany Bedstead, Organ, Easy Chair, 2 Salting Leads, and numerous other Effects. N.B. No Catalogues. Auctioneers’ Offices: 84, High-street, and 10, Lime-street, Bedford.”

John Harris was the next landlord.  He advertised in the Beds Times, June 1924: “ASPLEY GUISE Holiday Aparts., Board Res., moderate terms. Luncheons and Teas provided. Charabanc Parties catered for at shortest notice. Apply J. Harris, The Wheatsheaf, Mount Pleasant.”

Harris was in charge when the pub was examined and valued in 1927 under the Rating Valuation Act of 1925. BARS has helpfully transcribed these records for pubs: “In 1927 this part of Bedfordshire was valued under the terms of the Rating Valuation Act 1925; every piece of land and property was inspected to determine the rates to be paid on it. At this time the building consisted of a tap room, bar, kitchen, scullery, larder and pantry downstairs, with a cellar containing 3 eighteen-gallon barrels of beer beneath. Upstairs were four bedrooms and outside a stable, coachhouse and trap house. Trade consisted of selling one eighteen-gallon barrel of beer per week and a gallon of spirits a month. Four dozen bottle of beer were also sold in a week. The valuer noted “House very good but trade does not warrant more than £24”. Rent was then £12 per annum. The valuer noted that the Wheatsheaf was the only public house at this end of the village. Intriguingly, he also noted that the tenant was “not so good as might be” and he left next year.”

Indeed, Harris stayed five years and left in 1928.  The next, Edward Walter Long, lived up to his name and ran the pub for 15 years. Sadly, his son died at a very young age in October 1931.  The Beds Times: “The death has taken place of Mr Edward Gordon Long, elder son of Mr. and Mrs. W. Long, of the “Wheatsheaf” inn. He was under 21 years of age, had a successful scholastic career, and was a shipping clerk in London. When home for his holiday he was taken ill and was unable to return. Later the illness developed and he was taken to the County Hospital on 29th October, but died the same evening. The funeral was on Tuesday afternoon. The Rev. Alan Matheson officiated and a number of villagers were present. The mourners were: Mr. and Mrs. W. Long (parents), Mr. Leslie Long (brother), Mr. George Roberts, Mrs. Taylor, Mr. J. Bowler, Mr. Gregory and son, Mrs. Horsfield, and Sergt. Potton, London Cadet Corp.”

As War loomed again, an extra census was taken of the population to gather ID information. In this 1939 Register, staying at the Wheatsheaf was:

Edward W. Long, born 3rd December 1882, General Worker at Brickworks (no mention of being a licensee)
Amy Long, born 6th October 1885, Unpaid Domestic Duties
Felix (Phillip) McCrory, born 10th January 1914, a Public Works Contractor Labourer
Patrick (B) Powell, born 24th August 1914, a Public Works Contractor Labourer

Yet Long did not see the end of the War. The Beds Times 11th June 1943: “The death of Mr. Walter Long took place on Sunday. He took over the license of the “Wheatsheaf” inn some years ago, coming from the north west of London, and won the esteem of many friends. The funeral was at the church cemetery on Thursday.” His widow Amy took the Wheatsheaf on, and stayed another 10 years, to 1953.

The Wheatsheaf in 2010. (Courtesy of Google images)

From here, the local press reported much less on local public houses and the coverage on British Newspaper Archives is not great for our area.  There are a few mentions of darts teams but not much else. Leslie Basil Martin was holding the licence in 1976, when it transferred it to Derek Laurence Hird from Luton that year.  From c.1977-c.2005, it was run by Bill & Ann Cox and I went there many times with my Dad. In their time, Bill and Anne raised huge amounts of money for the Guide Dogs charity, one memorable event was ‘The Brook Run’. Sponsored participants started in the brook at Crawley and ran through it to Horsepool Lane in Aspley Guise, where they left the brook and ran back to the pub for a well-deserved drink (after being hosed down by the landlord!). They also had a lovely garden for families to use with swings, a slide and aviaries. There were also car-based treasure hunts around the local area on a Sunday morning.

Bill and Ann Cox behind the bar at the Wheatsheaf.

There were three more licensees,  Sue Manning (with Jayne Clark as Manager), Bob & Annette France
and Lesley Carruthers & Pat O’Dowd from 2004 before the final closure in 2011.  It was boarded up for a while then demolished in 2013 and now three houses stand in its place, although some of the original outbuildings have survived.



1841-1853:       Kitty Britten
1861-1870:       James Britten (son of the above) 1864 – First use of “Wheatsheaf”.
1871-1874:        Alfred Britten (brother of the above)
1874-1900:       Mary Britten (widow of the above)
1900-1900:      Charles Matthews Turney (executor of above)
1900-1902:       George William Norman
1902-1903:       Harry Lawson
1903-1909:       Thomas Henry Hayter
1909-1911:        John Edwards Jerham
1911-1923:        Thomas Lack
1923-1928:       John Harris
1928-1943:       Edward Walter Long
1943-1958:       Amy Long (widow of above)
1958-1976:       Leslie Basil & Lucy Martin
1976-1978:       Derek Laurence Hird
1978-2004:      Bill & Ann Cox
2004-2005:      Sue Manning (Jayne Clark as Manager)
2005-2009:      Bob & Annette France
2009-2011:       Lesley Carruthers & Pat O’Dowd
2011:                  Closed
2013:                Demolished

c.1841-1900      Beerhouse, then Public Free House
1900-1917         Jarvis & Co., Bedford
1917-2011         Charles Wells Ltd, Bedford (but was leased out to the Aylesbury Brewery Company for some years)


Lat updated April 2020.