The White Hart, Bow Brickhill (now Dropshort Farm, Fenny Stratford)
The White Hart Inn 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 catalogue of Bucks Archives (BA) at Aylesbury, Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service (BARS) at Bedford, the Bow Brickhill History Society, local trade directories, the census and parish registers etc.
Dropshort farmhouse was once used as an inn known as the White Hart, from before 1753 to c.1862. This is not to be confused with another local White Hart, which operated later, beside the canal bridge on the Simpson Road from Fenny Stratford. The Dropshort farmhouse is on the right as Watling Street rises into Fenny Stratford from Little Brickhill, but the building actually once stood in Bow Brickhill parish. The fields on the other side of the road were in Little Brickhill parish and the closeness of the three parish boundaries made researching the history complex. The whole area is now in the Bletchley and Fenny Stratford Civil Parish. The only provincial newspaper currently scanned and indexed that covers this area for the period 1770-1828 is the Northants Mercury. After that, other Bucks. and Beds. newspapers become available too.
The following deeds are stored at BA:
1765-1823 – Deeds and papers relating to cottage in two tenements adjoining the White Hart to the east, common of pasture (1765), land (1½ acres) adjoining the road to Great Brickhill to the east (1812,1818), allotment (1a. 14p.) in Hassocks Field (1818,1823), and cottage and garden adjoining the turnpike road to the west and south (1823), all in Little Brickhill. Conveyed to Sarah Wickham of West Street, Soho, Middlesex, widow of John Wickham, in 1823 (D 167/21. See also D 167/22) (Still to see at Bucks Archives – may not be correct site?)
The majority of other early records come from the Northants Mercury. In the earliest mention, Mr. J. Day and Son were conducting public auctions there at the end of the 18th century, but the house seems to have had other names before settling on the White Hart. From 7th January 1771:
“TO be Sold Auction, in separate Lots, on Thursday the 10th of this inst. January, at Mr. Thomas Clark’s the Sign of the Harmless-Hare, in the parish of Bow-Brickhill, in the County of Bucks between the Hours of Two and Six, pursuant to the Conditions of Sale then to be produced Six Freehold MESSUAGES, or Tenements, in the Parish of Bow-Brickhill aforesaid, with all the Out-Offices, Gardens, Orchards, Pightles, &c. together with the wood growing on the same, and belonging to each Lot. Likewise five MESSUAGES or Tenements, at Fenny Stratford, with the Out-Offices belonging the same, let at under Rents to old Tenants. For a View of those Bow-Brickhill apply to Mr. John Cooke; and those at Fenny Stratford, to John Day, Auctioneer.”
This is the only Harmless Hare inn name reference in the old newspapers, so it may or may not be the same inn. When the Bucks Alehouse Register (Bucks Archives – still to see) opens in 1753, there was a Hare Inn listed under Fenny Stratford as being run by a Thomas Ward. Clark is certainly the landlord of the White Hart later, meaning either he changed the inn name at some point between 1771 and 1787, or moved sites.
An advert published 21st December 1778 has a 155-acre estate in Bow Brickhill for sale, tenanted by William Cowley, as well as “a Freehold Messuage, with Barns, Stablings, &c. situate in Bow Brickhill aforesaid; with 140 Acres, by Estimation, of exceeding rich Arable, Pasture, Ley, and Meadow Ground, in high Cultivation, and well timbered; in Tenure of Thomas Clarke, at Will.” I presume this was the same Thomas Clark as at the inn, but was it also for his inn? I think it would have said so if it were. Clark seems to have rented a great deal of land around the inn.
By January 1784, either Clark had given up the name Harmless Hare or moved, as there is an advert for an auction of a variety of land and buildings (including another inn in Fenny Stratford, called the Wool-Pack, “at the Bridge-foot”), which auctioneer Day advertised as being held at “the house of Mr Tho. Clark, near Fenny Stratford, Bucks, known by the name of Dropshort House”. Three years later, in June 1787, is an advert with the sale location as “on the premises of Thomas Clarke, the White Hart Inn, near Fenny Stratford, Bucks”, when the Bow Brickhill residence of the late John Cooke was being sold. This is the earliest reference to the use of the name White Hart.
The London Metropolitan Archives has a fire insurance record for the house, dated 13th July 1791. Thomas Cooke, of Dunstable, esq. insured it as “Drop Short, Bow Brickhill”, with Thos. Clarke, a victualler, named as the tenant. (MS 11936/378/585793: There may be additional information of the actual document). This is the same year as the enclosure of Bow Brickhill, and the fields immediately behind the inn were owned by a Thomas Cook too.
Another local estate was up for sale in June 1794, which was rented by Thomas Clark at Dropshort:
“BUCKS. To be SOLD by AUCTION, By JOHN DAY and SON, At the Sign of the White-Hart, at Dropshort. near Fenny-Stratford, Bucks, the 26th June, at Twelve o’Clock. AN Eligible Freehold ESTATE, Tithe free, consisting of four Closes or very rich Meadow Land, late the Property of Mr. John Stevens, deceased; situate in the parish of BOW BRICKHILL, in the County of Bucks, containing about 22 Acres, be the same more or less. These Premises are very desirably situated, lying near the Town of Fenny-Stratford, and adjoining the Great Chester Road, and are lett to Thomas Clark, Dropshort, tenant at Will, a low Rent of THIRTY-FIVE POUNDS per Annum. The Tenant will shew the Estate; and printed Particulars may be had, at the Place of Sale; the Auctioneers, at Fenny and Stony Stratford; at the Sugar-Loaf Dunstable; Swan, Leighton; Swan, Newport; George, Woburn; Bell, Winslow; George, Aylesbury – and Mr. Peacock, Attorney at Law, Stony-Stratford.”
Thomas Clark also appears named in two documents at BARS. His sister, Ann Twydell, has lands in Totternhoe, Bedfordshire. She died prior to 1795, and willed these to him and Thomas Pratt of Totternhoe as trustees for her children. They sold the property when the children became 21. Thomas Clark, was described as “of Dropshort, Bow Brickhill, innholder”. (X472/7 & X472/9)
[As an aside here, Mr. Joseph Salmons was born at Dropshort in about 1797, although the record states ‘Derp Short.’ He later went on to found a coachbuilder’s business in Newport Pagnell in 1830, which eventually became Salmons & Son, then Tickfords, then Aston Martin and still operates in Newport Pagnell today.]
Another local estate was put up for sale in November 1798, with Clark as tenant:
“Freehold Estate. To be SOLD by PRIVATE CONTRACT, A Truly eligible Freehold ESTATE, Tithe-free, situate in BOW – BRICKHILL in the County of Bucks: Consisting of four Closes of very rich Meadow Land, containing 26A. 2R. 30P. now in the Occupation of Thomas Clarke, of Dropshort, at an easy clear Rent of 42l. per Ann. These Grounds are most desirably situated near the Town of Fenny-Stratford, and adjoins the Great Chester Road. The Tenant will shew the Premises; and for further Particulars, and to treat for the Purchase, apply Mr. Hodson, Attorney at Law, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.”
Into the 19th century, and the first record is the sale of the inn itself, on 18th June 1803. This was just after the canal had arrived at Fenny Stratford and added water-borne traffic to that of horse-drawn coaches on Watling Street:
“Freehold Public House and Land. To be SOLD by AUCTION, By JOHN DAY, On the Premises, on Wednesday the 29th of this instant June, 1803, between the Hours of Three and Five o’Clock in the Afternoon, under such Conditions of Sale as will then there produced, THAT old-established and good-accustomed PUBLIC-HOUSE, now in full Trade, the WHITE-HART, at DROPSHORT, in the Parish of Bow-Brickhill, near Fenny-Stratford Bridge, in the County of Bucks, in the Occupation of Mr. Clarke, Tenant at Will; comprising a good Dwelling-House, with convenient Apartments, Stables, Barns, and necessary Out-buildings, large Yards and Gardens; also 44 ACRES of very rich old-inclosed SWEARD and ARABLE LAND, adjoining the House, and divided into convenient Allotments, by fine thriving Hedges, with a great Number of Timber Trees growing in the same. This estate is peculiarly situated for the Public Business, having been occupied as such upwards of fifty Years, on the West Chester Road, within a few Yards the Grand Junction Canal, and within 41 Miles of London; or, for a private Residence, it is truly desirable, the Situation remarkably pleasant, and bounded on one Side by the River, within a few Yards of the House. For a View of the Estate, apply on the Premises; and for further Particulars, the Auctioneer, in Stony Stratford.”
Whoever the new owner was, tenant Thomas Clark was moving on a year later. Perhaps he was just retiring, or perhaps the new owner had raised the rent, so another auction was arranged for September 1804 of all his effects on his departure, but note that the White Hart name is not used. The volume of his brewing equipment gives some idea of the beer-making operation he had. This advert from 15th September 1804:
“To be SOLD by AUCTION, By JOHN DAY, On Thursday the 27th September, 1804, on the Premises, at DROPSHORT, near Fenny-Stratford, PART of the HOUSEHOLD-FURNITURE, and sundry other EFFECTS, of Mr. Thomas Clarke, who is leaving the said House; comprising Bedsteads, Feather and Flock Beds, Chairs, Tables, Drawers, Clock and Case, Butler; a capital Kitchen Grate, lately new, and Pewter and Brass, stout 15-Bushel Mash-Vat, two excellent Beer Casks, of seven Hogsheads each, several Puncheons and other Casks; Cream-Cistern and Milk-Leads; ten Dozen of stout Hurdles, Ladders, Ploughs, Wind-Fan, and Corn-Sieves, with various other Effects. The Sale to begin exactly at Eleven o’Clock.”
By November, Clark had gone, a new tenant was installed and the auction sales were continuing. The next sale advertised as at the inn was selling land that Clark was the still tenant of, so perhaps he was still local, but had decided to concentrate of farming rather than brewing. Helpfully, the advert, from 10th November 1804, gives the new innkeepers name:
”FREEHOLD LAND, Near FENNY-STRATFORD, Bucks. To be SOLD by AUCTION, By JOHN DAY, At the House of Mr. John Hill, the White-Hart Inn, at Dropshort, near Fenny-Stratford, Wednesday November, exactly Three o’Clock in the Afternoon, in one Lot, under such Conditions of Sale as will then and there be produced, A VERY desirable ESTATE; comprising four Closes of rich Sweard Land, containing twenty-two Acres, more or less, adjoining each other, well fenced and watered, adjoining the said White-Hart Inn, near Fenny-Stratford Bridge, in the Occupation of Mr. Thomas Clarke, at the low Rent of £.50 per Annum. Possession will be given at Lady-Day next. For a View of the Land, apply at the said Inn; and for further Particulars, the Auctioneer, Stony-Stratford.”
Another sale by Day, of a “new-erected Messuage or Tenement, part unfinished, situate near the Church, on the Brow of Brickhill Hill”, took place at “Mr. John Hill’s, the White-Hart Inn, at Dropshort, near Fenny-Stratford,” on Christmas Eve 1806. The next mention after that was when the inn itself was for sale again in September 1808. Advert 27th August:
“A Desirable Situation as an Inn or for a Private Residence, With immediate Possession, if required. To be SOLD by AUCTION, By JOHN DAY, On Monday the 12th of September, 1808, on the Premises, at Three o’Clock in the Afternoon, in one Lot, All those capital Freehold new-erected PREMISES, known by the Name the WHITE HART INN, situate at DROPSHORT, near Fenny Stratford, Bucks, on the West Chester Road. 44 Miles from London, in Possession of the Proprietor, Mr. John Hill, who is removing to the Cross-Keys Inn, St. Johns-Street, West-Smithfield, London. The Premises comprise a new-erected Brick and Tile-built House, Sashed, &c. with a roomy Kitchen, Bar, and Parlour, seven good Bed-Chambers, excellent Cellaring, Brewhouse, and Dairy, large Yards, two Gardens, well planted with choice Fruit Trees, &c. Stabling for 30 Horses, large Barns, with Cart-Sheds, Stack-Yards. &c., also 45 Acres of SWARD and ARABLE LAND, adjoining the House, and divided into convenient Allotments by live Fences, in which are a Number of thriving timber Trees, &c. The Premises are in a delightful Situation, have been occupied In the Public Line of Business upwards of 80 Years, and may, at a trifling Expense, be converted into a Residence tor a small genteel Family. Part of the Land bounded by the River, and the Grand Junction Canal passes within a Quarter Mile of the House. For a View of the same, apply on the Premises and for further Particulars, at the Bar of the Cross-Keys Inn aforesaid; of Messrs. WORLEYS, Solicitors, of the Auctioneers, in Stony-Stratford, Bucks.”
“In possession of the Proprietor” would seem to indicate that John Hill owned it as well as ran it. Once he was installed at the Cross Keys, Smithfield, he advertised that he had previously run the Saracen’s Head at Newport Pagnell (1799-1802, according to ‘One More for the Road’, Hurst & Maynard, 1999), as well as the White Hart. The Cross Keys looks as if it was quite a major inn, with six different coach routes departing from it and John Hill was still there is in 1825, according to Pigot’s Directory. It is now no.16 St. John Street, West Smithfield. Hill’s possessions at the White Hart were sold in September by auction, as was often the case when landlords moved on:
“Hay, Corn, Farming-Stock, Household-Furniture, &c. be SOLD AUCTION, By JOHN DAY, On Monday the 26th of September, 1808, on the Premises at the White-Hart Inn, Dropshort, near Fenny-Stratford, Bucks, the Property of Mr. JOHN HILL; who has removed to the Cross-Keys Inn, St. John-Street, London; COMPRISING two Ricks of excellent Hay (about 50 Tons), one Rick of Oats and Beans, two Cart Horses, one Mare and Foal, eight useful Dairy Cows, one Bacon Hog, one Six-inch and one Narrow-wheel Carts, Harness; new Wind Fan, and Barn Tackle in general; one Three-dozen and one smaller Churns, Milk-Leads, Tabs, and Buckets. Household-Furniture, as Four-post and other Bedsteads, with Cotton and Stuff Furnitures; six Feather Beds, and two Flock Ditto; Quilts, Blankets, and 16 Pair of Sheets; Mahogany Dining, Tea, and other Tables; Pier and Swing Glasses; Mahogany and Windsor Chairs; a capital Kitchen-Range, with Boilers, &c. lately new; and Kitchen Furniture general; Plated Beer-Mugs, 50 Dozen of Glass Bottles; Beer-Pipes, Puncheons, and smaller Casks; Tubs, Dough-Trough, and various other Articles. The Hay and Corn to be taken off the premises and three Months’ Credit will be given for the same, on approved Security. The Sale to commence at Ten o’Clock precisely with the Stock, the Whole is intended be sold in one Day.”
There is no note in the press of who had bought the inn, but the next auction advert in October 1812 gives “Mr. Hutchins, White Hart Inn, Dropshort” as contact details for with whom to arrange a viewing. The land being sold was Gravel Pit Close, Dropshort Close, Lane Close and Several Piece Close, all beside the west Chester Road (Watling Street).
This Mr. Hutchins was George Hutchins, named in an auction advert when Gravel Pit Close and Lane Close were put up for sale again in June 1815. Hutchins was the tenant of them, year on year, but they were owned by George Rogers of Fenny Stratford. Yet they were back up for sale again, with the addition of Dropshort Close, in February 1817, only this time it was “at the house of Mrs. Hutchins, known by the Name of Dropshort, near Fenny Stratford”. Had George died? I cannot find a matching local death around that time, but nor can I find a marriage for George either. According to the Bishop’s Transcripts, used when parish registers are not available, there was a marriage between a Sarah Hutchings and a Robert Flack in Bow Brickhill in December 1817, with John Day as a witness, the local auctioneer? I surmise that George Hutchins had died, and his widow married Flack, who then took on the inn.
The 69-acre estate and house of Staple Hall in Fenny was for sale at the White Hart, in May 1819, but no inn landlord was named in that advert, but in another advert the next year, it was called Dropshort Inn. This was at an auction of property in Fenny in June 1820, which included the newly built brick house in Fenny High Street, in occupation of Mr Squirrell and three acres of sward land near Dropshort, which was sold “at the house of Mr. Flack, near Fenny Stratford aforesaid and known by the name of Dropshort Inn”.
Here is a puzzle. A George Hutchins dies in 1826 in Bow Brickhill, and his executor is Robert Flack. (TNA IR27/197) Was this George and Sarah’s son? The families were obviously closely connected somehow.
The next mention was of it being sold again, in 1829, by which time it had reverted to the name of the White Hart. From the 6th June issue of the Northampton Mercury:
“Valuable Freehold Estate, In the Parishes of BOW BRICKHILL and LITTLE BRICKHILL, In the County of Buckingham. To SOLD by AUCTION, by Thomas Coles, At the White Hart Inn, near Fenny Stratford (being Part the Premises Sold), on Tuesday the 23d Day of June, 1829, at Five in the Afternoon, by order of the Devisees in Trust of the late Mr. HARROLD, subject to such Conditions as will then and there produced,
A Capital MESSUAGE or INN, called the White Hart Inn, with suitable Stabling for upwards of 30 Horses; Yards, Barns, Gardens, and other Conveniences, situate in the Parish of BOW BRICKHILL, on the Side the Great West Chester Road, and within a short Distance of the Town of Fenny Stratford, in the Occupation of Robert Flack. And also about 49 Acres of very superior ARABLE, MEADOW, and PASTURE LAND, divided into nine Closes or Inclosures, eight of which are in the Parish of BOW BRICKHILL, and one in the Parish LITTLE BRICKHILL, in the Occupation of John Morris and the said Robert Flack.
In BOW BRICKHILL: (A. R. P.)
The White Hart Inn, with the Yards, Gardens, and Suite of the Out-buildings 0 2 20
Home Close, adjoining the Inn, Pasture 1 2 26
The Close at the End House, Ditto 2 3 22
Long Close, Meadow, 6 1 9
Four Leys, Ditto, 1 2 32
Great Meadow, Ditto, 14 2 24
Chester’s Piece, Arable, 4 2 22
The Fallow Close, Ditto, 6 3 12
Black-acre, Ditto, 7 2 9
[total] 46 3 16
The above Premises are on the North Side of the Turnpike Road, and are within a ring fence.
In LITTLE BRICKHILL:
River Close, on the South Side the Turn-Road, Meadow, 2 0 24
[Total] 49 0 0
The Estate is subject to a Land Tax of 2s. 6d only. The Property is most desirably situate within a few Hundred Yards of the Grand Junction Canal at Fenny Stratford, and is distant about six Miles from Leighton Buzzard, to which Place the Canal opens a direct Communication; twelve from Dunstable, fifteen from Towcester, sixteen from Aylesbury, five from Woburn, six from Newport Pagnel, and seven from Stony Stratford. The Land is of superior Quality, and in a good State of Cultivation, and the entire Estate presents an advantageous Opportunity of Investment, either for Occupation as a Posting Coaching House or for Mercantile Purposes. Part of the Purchase Money may remain on Security of the Estate, if required.
The Tenants are directed to show the Premises. Particulars and further Information may be obtained on Application to the AUCTIONEER, or to Mr HARROLD, both of Olney, Bucks; or to Mr. ILIFFE, solicitor, Olney, Bucks., at whose Office a Plan of the Estate may be seen.” BA has an original sale catalogue from this sale (D-GA/Sc/5/2).
Bow Brickhill is fortunate in having access to a census taken in 1831 with family names on, unlike most of the rest of the country. “Dropshort & Wooll Pack” are shown as one entry, with the first family named as Mr. & Mrs. Morris, who had a child, and female and male servants. Was he the buyer at the 1829 sale? Very close by lived Mr. & Mrs. Hutchins, along with Sarah Ann and Edward Hutchins and a female servant. These must have been descendants of George Hutchins.
The next three mentions of Dropshort in the papers are not really about the inn, but tell us something of the coach trade it had. They are all from the Morning Advertiser rather than the Northampton Mercury, as all the previous press reports and adverts have been. In July 1835 “…21 very useful, short-legged, fast, seasoned Coach Horses” were offered for sale by auction at Mr. Robinson’s Repository, Little Britain, London, the property of Mr. J. Clare, of Stoney Stratford, which had been working the “Nimrod” coach from Dropshort to Foster’s Booth, Towcester, as part of the 16-hour trip from London to Shrewsbury and sold in consequence of his discontinuing the business. The next is a sale advertised in October 1836 of “fourteen sets of Machiners, three sets of excellent four-horse harness, cloths, and headstalls, the property of Mr. E. Hutchins, of Fenny Stratford. These had been used on the “Antelope” coach, from Dropshort to Heathencote near Towcester, “in consequence of his entirely declining the coach business”. (Was this E. Hutchins the son of George?) Lastly, a month later, an advert for Mr. Dixon, at his Barbican Repository, for “Ten very superior, well-known, fast, strong horses, and two sets of four-horse harness, the genuine property of Mr. J. Morrice, of Dunstable-gate, have been working those old-established superior conducted coaches, the Birmingham Independent and Emerald, from Hockliffe to Dropshort… in consequence of his having disposed of the ground. Colours – bays and browns.” Why were so many people desperate to get out of the coach and horse trade so suddenly? The railways had arrived. Every train carrying 200 people could replace more than a dozen coaches on the road and took just a few hours of smooth travel on rail to arrive at destinations that would have taken a whole day or more on bumpy, ill-repaired roads. The coach-owners and horse-suppliers were going broke.
Railways were also seen as much safer, not only from highwaymen and cut-throats, but also crashes due to the state of the roads. The Bucks Gazette 5th May 1838:
“On Tuesday last, a serious accident happened to Mr. John Morris, of the White Hart Inn, Dropshort, near Fenny Stratford, as he was returning from London by the Tally-ho! Coach, the horses in consequence of some fault in the harness, ran the coach against a bank, between Hockliffe and Little Brickhill, when Mr Morris who was sitting on the box with the coachmen, being apprehensive that the coach would be overturned jumped down, and unfortunately fractured his leg near the ankle, in a very serious manner.”
The Tallyho! Coach would have left London from the Saracen’s Head at Snow Hill and taken 11 hours to get to Birmingham, going through St. Albans, Dunstable, Fenny, Towcester and Coventry. Four passengers could sit inside, with 8 clinging to the top.
This is just before the first census to include personal data in 1841. Registered at “Dropshort, Bow Brickhill” are:
John Morris, 35
Alice Morris, 35
John Morris, 9
Henry Morris, 5
Sarah Morris, not yet 1
William Goodman, 30
Grace Taylor, 20
Caroline King, 15
Martha Witch, 60
George Beeson, 40
In this census, only the birth county was recorded, and everyone was noted as ‘Born in County’, apart from King and Beeson who had nothing entered against their names. Morris ran the inn well enough to attract some local business to it. The Northampton Mercury 14th May 1842:
FENNY STRATFORD ASSOCIATION, For the Protection of Persons & Property. THE ANNUAL MEETING of the Members of the above Association will be held at Mr. Morris’s, White Hart Inn, Dropshot, on Wednesday the 25th May, 1842, for the purpose of examining the Treasurer’s accounts, receiving subscriptions, admitting new members, and transacting the general business of the Association. Any one having a claim upon this Association for rewards or expenses, is required to attend personally and give in a statement of such claims, or they will not be allowed. The punctual attendance of the Committee for the past year is particularly requested, in order that all business may be disposed of before Dinner, which will be on the table at Two o’clock precisely. T. P. ANDREWS, Secretary & Treasurer, C. R. DAY, Solicitor. The Blood-hounds will throw off Eleven o’clock.”
This was a local group which started out as the “Fenny Stratford Association for the Prosecution Robbers”, at a time when there was no organised national Police force and travellers on the Watling Street road attracted highwaymen and other criminals.
The 1851 census recorded more detailed information about the residents at “Dropshort, Bow Brickhill”. The farm work was obviously quite substantial, and I wonder if the public house business was taking a secondary role:
John Morris, married, 49, Farmer & Publican (of 236 acres) employing 16 men & 3 boys, born Potsgrove
Alice Morris, wife, 45, Farmer’s Wife, Hoggston
Andrew Morris, son, 12, Farmer’s Son, Bow Brickhill
Sarah Morris, daughter, 10, Farmer’s Daughter, Bow Brickhill
Elizabeth West, servant, unmarried, 20, Farm Servant, Wellingborough
Henry Gurney, servant, widower, 53, Farm Servant, Tebworth
Thomas Wright, lodger, unmarried, 18, Blacksmith, Newcastle
John Hobson, lodger, unmarried, 19, Blacksmith, Newcastle
Sadly, Sarah Morris died the same year. In the ‘Deaths’ notice in the Bucks Chronicle, she was noted as being the third daughter of Mr. John Morris of the White Hart Inn, Dropshort. Another daughter, Mary Ann, was married to Mr. Jonathan Adams of Simpson Wharf in January 1857. Mary Ann is listed as “daughter of Mr John Morris, of Dropshort and Eaton Leys Farm”, with no mention of an inn. (Bucks Herald)
In 1854, the Dropshort servant, Henry Gurney, accused Richard Nicholls of robbing him of a velveteen jacket, one waistcoat, a pair of breeches, a new smock, a pair of shoes, a silk handkerchief and two cotton handkerchiefs whilst travelling back to the house. He stayed overnight at the Bell at Hockliffe on 18th October, where another traveller, Nicholls, befriended him. After stopping at three(!) other inns on route, Gurney was asked by someone to carry a flower pot, so Nicholls said he would carry Gurney’s bundle of belongings for him. Gurney stopped to talk to someone, but Nicholls kept on walking and soon disappeared. Gurney found a witness who had seen Nicholls go across some fields in Potsgrove, so they gave chase and soon caught up with him. Nicholls immediately admitted it had been his idea to steal the bundle all along. They took him to Sheep lane and handed him over to the Police. With the confession, it seemed a fairly simple open-and-shut case to me, but at trial, Richard Nicholls, 50, was acquitted! (BARS: QSR1855/1/5/2)
Morris was still the landlord when the White Hart was put up for sale again. The Bucks Herald, 19th January 1859:
“BUCKINGHAMSHIRE. VERY DESIRABLE FREEHOLD PROPERTY, In the Parishes of BOW BRICKHILL AND LITTLE BRICKHILL. CAPITAL INN and FARM PREMISES, “The White Hart, Dropshort,” near Fenny Stratford, and 49 Acres of excellent PASTURE and FERTILE ARABLE LAND, TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION, BY T. & G. GREENE, AT THREE O’CLOCK THE AFTERNOON, On FRIDAY, MARCH the 11th, 1859, At the WHITE HART INN, DROPSHORT, near Fenny Stratford aforesaid, by direction of Trustees, under their powers of sale; Comprising the WHITE HART INN, situate as above; with the Stables, Outbuildings, Farmyard, and Premises thereto belonging, and several Fields of superior Pasture and very excellent Arable Land, divided into nine inclosures adjoining to the said premises, and now in the occupation of Mr. John Morris, yearly tenant: the whole containing forty-nine acres (more or less) high state of cultivation. Tithe Free. Outgoings very Trifling. May be viewed by applying on the Premises; and further particulars had of J. T. Green, Esq., Solicitor, Woburn; or of the Auctioneers, Ampthill, of whom also printed particulars may be had, and at the Place of Sale.”
BA has a sale poster and particulars for this sale, with associated papers (D 41/3). This is the last mention of an inn being operated on the site. Despite John Morris remaining as tenant farmer, did the new owner have something to do with the White Hart closing? As stated, the name White Hart was later adopted by another small public house on the Simpson Road, which had opened by 1869. Mr. Morris is noted to have attended a testimonial dinner and reception for Rev. T. P. Williamson, on his transfer from Fenny Stratford to Little Brickhill and even sang a song at the proceedings, although it was not named. (Bucks Herald – 16th March 1861)
The 1861 census lists the property as just “Dropshort” under Bow Brickhill, with no mention of an inn under occupation either:
John Morris, married, 59, Farmer of 240 Acres, employing 7 men and 4 boys, born Potsgrove
Alice Morris, wife, married, 57, Farmers Wife, Hoggston
Edward Morris, son, unmarried, 25, Farmer’s Son, Bow Brickhill
Henry Morris, son, unmarried, 2,3 Farmer’s Son, Bow Brickhill
Emma S. Morris, daughter, unmarried, 18, Farmer’s Daughter, Bow Brickhill
Robert Adams, servant, widower, 73, Ostler, Lathbury
Elizabeth Bamber, servant, unmarried, 22, General Servant, Broughton[?], Northamptonshire
Yet within a year, Morris had committed suicide. From Croydon’s Weekly Standard, 29th March 1862:
“Bow Brickhill. SUICIDE. On Saturday the 22nd instant, Mr. John Morris, of Dropshort, in the parish of Bow Brickhill, farmer, put an end to his existence by hanging himself by the neck to a beam in a hovel near his dwelling house, where he was found by one of his labourers. It would appear that he had been in a melancholy and depressed state of mind for some time, and fears were entertained that something would happen to him, as he attempted self-destruction some few years since.”
BA holds a copy of the “Report upon Estates belonging to Sir Philip Pauncefort Duncombe Baronet, in the Counties of Bucks., Warks. and Staffs., surveyed by Joseph Snowball”, made in 1863. Sir Philip owned 3118 acres in Buckinghamshire alone, in parishes of Great Brickhill, Water Eaton, Bletchley, Fenny Stratford, Little Brickhill, Bow Brickhill, Soulbury and Leighton Buzzard (part-Bedfordshire). It gives particulars of acreages, state of cultivation, present and possible improved rents, and remarks on condition of buildings, with at the end brief “General Remarks”, making recommendations on rents, repairs, drainage, and an alphabetical summary or index by names of tenants. [Still to see at Bucks Archives: Bow Brickhill, Dropshort Farm p.30 (D-DU/6/29)]
The Morris family stayed on at Dropshort, with son Edward taking on the farm. The 1871 census for Dropshort:
Edward Morris, 35, Farmer of 50 acres 1 man 1 boy, born Bow Brickhill
Mary Ann Morris, wife, 25, Farmers, wife, Fenny Stratford
Emma Miller, relative, 15, Farmers daughter, Oxon, Ballscott
Ann Shepherd, servant, 14, Dairymaid, Bow Brickhill
The area around Dropshort was subject to detailed archaeological study when the city of Milton Keynes was laid out. However, it had been recognised as a Roman station of some importance long before that and a Dr Prior read a paper about the area of Magiovintum to the Bedfordshire Archaeological and Architectural Society in April 1871.
By 1874, the farm had new tenants, Richard Miles and his family. They altered and repaired the farm in September that year, asking for tenders for the work in the Leighton Buzzard Observer. There was a small sale of 13 elm trees in January 1877, (Bucks Advertiser), then the “Whole of Live & Dead Farm stock”, including 120 half-bread ewes and lambs, 47 Oxford Tegs, 4 heifers, 4 other cows and 7 cart horses in March 1877, noting that all implements were modern and new. This was swiftly followed by 72 acres of mowing grass & clover (Bucks Herald). It was almost as if Miles was asset-stripping the place…oh – Bucks Herald, 26th January 1878:
“FENNY STRATFORD, BUCKS. A HIGHLY ATTRACTIVE AND PARTICULARLY VALUABLE FREEHOLD ESTATE, COMPRISING delightfully situate RESIDENCE, known as Dropshort, with Gardens, Orchard, and rich grass Paddock, with other Closes of very valuable Land, containing 45 Acres, with capital Buildings and Yards, pre-eminently adapted for a hunting-box, cheerfully situate, adjoining the London and Holyhead turnpike-road, overlooking a richly wooded and charming expanse of country, within a mile of Bletchley junction, a first class station on the London and North-Western Railway, within an hour of London, Oxford, and Cambridge, and in the centre of the meets of Mr. Selby-Lowndes and the Oakley Foxhounds and Baron Rothschild’s Staghounds. Two fine Rich GRAZING GROUNDS, of 44 Acres, 32 Acres of splendid MARKET GARDEN LAND, of deep staple and great fertility. An ENCLOSURE of LAND, with inexhaustible beds of first-class brick earth, ripe for development, easy of access, and close to the Grand Junction Wharf and Railway Station. Several highly valuable accommodation Closes. The whole comprising 140 Acres of the finest Land the neighbourhood, in a high state of cultivation, and contiguous to the market town of Fenny Stratford. GEO. WIGLEY Is favoured with instructions from the Proprietor (Mr. Richard Miles), TO SELL BY AUCTION, Early in FEBRUARY, The above attractive Property, in eligible Lots. Winslow, January 24th, 1878.”
A report of the sale was printed in the Bucks Advertiser of 9th March 1878, but the actual house did not reach reserve:
“DROPSHORT. Land Sale. This small, excellent, historical estate was offered for sale by public auction, by Mr. G. Wigley, (of Winslow), on Thursday evening last, at the Bull Inn. The commodious room was completely packed. Mr. Wigley, in introducing the property, delivered an able descriptive speech on the peculiar advantages of the land offered. The estate, for the convenience of purchaser, was divided into 12 lots, although the whole of the lots were not sold, yet the sums bid indicated a great enhancement in the value of land in this neighbourhood. Lot 1. A small convenient close, 2a 19p, was bought for Mr. R. Holdom, for £310. Lot 2. A small meadow, running by the side of the river, containing 3r 15p, was bought by Mr. Pettit for £145 10s. Lot 3. A meadow, called “River Piece” was bought by Bell and Stuart, for Sir P. Duncomb, 1a 1r 3p, for £175. Lot 4. A piece of fine pasture land, 1a 19p, was purchased by Mr. Miller, for £125. Lot 5. A small estate, with Dropshort House, and excellent farm buildings thereon, consisting of 50a 26p of first-class land, not sold; £5,900 bid. Lot 6. A splendid grazing ground, known as little pasture, containing 21 acres 20 poles, did not sell; £2,800 was bid. Lot 7. Some fine feeding ground and capital arable land, 2r. 26p., was knocked down to Messrs. Bell and Stuart, for Sir P. Duncomb. for £4,250. Lot 8. A piece of splendid arable land, 5a. 1r. 4p., not sold, bid £640. The remainder of the lots were offered, and there was some keen competition for them, but as the bids did not reach the reserve they were not sold.”
In the meantime, another census was held in 1881, and we find that Miles was a local man:
Dropshort Farm, Bow Brickhill
Richard Miles, 66, Farmer of 90 acres, 4 men 1 boy, born Little Brickhill
Mary H. Miles, wife, 35, Farmers Wife, Monmouth, Wales
Elizabeth Miles, daughter, 10, Farmers Daughter, Little Brickhill
Agnes M. Miles, daughter, 6, Farmers Daughter, Fenny Stratford
Alice Burton, servant, 17, Domestic Servant, Fenny Stratford
Miles tried to sell the house again in 1881, as BA has auction sale particulars for “an Estate known as Dropshort” (90 acres, later amended to 140 acres) in Fenny Stratford, with correspondence and papers (BA: D-WIG/2/7/1881/7) and it sold this time, as there is also an entry in George Wigley’s General Sale and Valuation Book, for the six months covering May-November 1881 for a valuation of Dropshort Farm on the transfer from Miles to Thomas Garrett (BA: D-WIG/2/1/8)
This was the first in a series of tenants who were not at the farm long. There may even have been others in between these. Residents at “Dropshort” in the 1891 census were:
George Holland, 41, agricultural labourer, born Tottenhoe, Beds.
Elizabeth Holland, wife, 40, Newport Pagnell
William Holland, son, 10, scholar, Upper Houghton
George H. Holland, son, 6, scholar, Little Horwood
Mary J. Holland, daughter, 4, Upper Houghton
Annie Holland, daughter, 1, Upper Houghton
Herbert W. Heady, visitor, single, 16, farmers son, Linslade
“Dropshort” residents as listed in the 1901 census were:
Daniel Saunders, 66, Agricultural Labourer & Shepherd, born Simpson
Sarah Saunders, wife, 68, Northampton, Lower Boddington
The building was sold again in October 1905, on the death of then owner Henry Pettit. (BA: Sale Particulars D-WIG/2/7/1905/25) It was described as “The compact and Charming Little Estate or Pleasure Farm known as Dropshort”, containing 47a 2r 8p, with a “Pleasantly-situate Brick and Slated Residence, &c.”. The house contained “3 front sitting rooms, capital kitchen, ale cellar and 7 bedrooms, brick and tiled wash house and dairy. A neat flower garden in front with iron fence from road, walled kitchen garden with brick and thatched potato house”. Outside was a stables for 15 horses, a chaise house, poultry house and a cow house for 11 cows.
A William Marriott was there in 1906. The orchard which stood by the road just to the north of the building was still part of the house estate, and obviously producing good apples! The Bucks Advertiser 29th September:
“Henry Tarbox, drover, Fenny Stratford, pleaded not guilty to stealing a quantity of apples form the orchard at Dropshort Farm, Bow Brickhill, the property of William Marriott, on September 10th. William Marriott, farmer, gave evidence as to the loss of the apples, and identified those produced as his. P.C. Viccars proved finding defendant on the road near the orchard on the night of the 10th inst. searching him, and the apples produced were in his pockets. Fined 40s. or 14 days. Defendant: “I’ll do the fortnight.” Removed in custody. The Bench remitted the costs of the prosecution.”
That name Tarbox crops up again in the 1911 census details for the house. Must have been the same family surely?
Drop Short Farm
Garnett Goodwin, 26, Farmer, born Radnorshire
Emily Goodwin, wife, 27, Radnorshire
Gladys Goodwin, daughter, 2, Radnorshire
Maggie Goodwin, daughter, 6m, Buckinghamshire
Annie Goodwin, visitor, Widow, 58, Breconshire
Thomas Tarbox, servant, single, 38, Farm Labourer, Buckinghamshire
Bedfordshire Archives holds a 6″ Ordnance Survey map with the Dropshort estate plotted on it as part of the Russell (Duke of Bedford) papers, believed to have been drawn-up for a purchase of Dropshort Farm lands around this time. (BARS: R1/437) The Hammond family were tenants for Duncombe, the owner, around 1913-1930. (BA docs: D-BM/L/6/55, D-WIG/2/9/294, D-WIG/2/9/507) but in 1932, farm land was being transferred from a Mr Bloxham to a Mr Gurney (D-WIG/2/9/580 and D-WIG/2/1/95)
There was another national Register taken in 1939 to produce ID cards before the war. Dropshort had by then lost its name and become just “White House Farm”, but the Goodwin family were still living there:
Garnett L. Goodwin, 40, Farmer (Heavy Worker)
Emily A. Goodwin, 55, Housewife, unpaid assistance on farm, heavy worker
Laura E. Goodwin, 21, Assisting father on farm
Crissie R. Goodwin, 25, Parlourmaid – Chauffeuse
With the coming of Milton Keynes city in 1967, the historic A5 route along Watling Street through Fenny Stratford would have been much too narrow, so it was moved onto a new dual-carriageway, built just to the east of the farm. The farm survives and operates today from the house known as Dropshort, once the old White Hart Inn.
1753 Thomas Ward at the Hare (possibly same site?)
-1771-1804 Thomas Clark (Harmless Hare in 1771, Dropshort House in 1784, White Hart in 1794)
1804-1808 John Hill
-1812-1815- George Hutchins
-1817-1817 Mrs Hutchins (widow of the above?)
-1829- Robert Flack (New husband of the above?)
-1831-1862 John Morris
Page last updated July 2020.