EVERTON’S PUBS AND BEERHOUSES
It was the tradition in the past for farmers to provide their labourers with beer as part of their wages, especially at harvest time. There is evidence that a number of farmers in Everton and Tetworth brewed their own beer in one of their farm buildings. Whether any of the locals brewed their own and sold it in their front rooms is not known. Donkeys were used to deliver malt to the brewhouses in the locality. It was a valuable commodity in the 17th century, so much so that people used to leave quantities of it in their wills. "To my eldest son my feather-bed and a peck of malt", "To my second son my armchair and a peck of malt".
At one time, according to a record in the church, there were seven pubs in the village. (Mrs Brooker’s notes) The ‘Live and Let Live’ was next to the Methodist chapel on Everton Heath. ‘The Vulcan’ was in one of the thatched cottages on Sandy Road. ‘The Black Horse’ was on the corner of Church Road with Potton Road, opposite Manor Farm. The landlord, James Brewer, advertised in the 1842 and 1847 Kelly’s Post Office Directory.
In 1852 the Thornton Arms was built on the corner plot beside the Black Horse. It is not known whether it replaced an existing pub on the same site. It was named after Stephen Thornton, of Moggerhanger, who was the Lord of the Manor at the time. It is likely that the first tenant was John Brashier as he advertised in Kelly’s Post Office Directory as a landlord and farmer in 1864 and 1869. (Kelly’s Post Office Directory, 1864, 1869) What acreage went with the pub is not known. It is thought that the field was behind the Blacksmith’s Cottages on the top of Everton Hill.
Many of the women and girls of the village went to a plaiting school. It was in a large upstairs room in the Thornton Arms. Several patterns of straw plait were made with 3, 5 and 7 straws. Mrs Brooker recalled how “they had to split the straws and put them through what looked like a small mangle to flatten them. On Saturday evenings they took the plait to Potton market where they it was sold to a man who came from Luton who had it made into hats. They were paid a farthing a yard (£0.00125) for 3 straw plait, a halfpenny for 5 straw plait, and three farthings for 7 straw or fancy patterned plait. They then used to walk home with a joint of meat for Sunday dinner they had bought with the money. The rest of the week they ate home produced pork that had been preserved in brine as every housewife had a pork pot in her kitchen.”
For how long the Black Horse remained open is unknown but, faced with competition from the new pub, it changed use to the old Post Office. Earlier this century it was kept by Mr & Mrs John Giles. It was demolished in the 1960s for the erection of row of detached houses on Potton Road opposite Manor Farm.
Analysis of the 19th century censuses will shed more detail on the Brashier family. The tenancy appeared to pass onto James Brashier by 1876 when he advertised as a victualler and farmer. Maybe he was John’s son. John was still advertising as a farmer that year. James advertised as a farmer again in 1888 and 1892. Another John Brashier advertised as a farmer in 1894. (KPOD)
The tenancy had changed hands by Autumn 1883 from the Brashiers to Charles Clark. He is referred to in the 1880s cricket articles from the Bedfordshire Mercury.
When the pub was taken over by John Edward Barnett is not known. There is a photograph of a group of villagers standing in front of a haystack. It is said to be the harvest being collected on Mr Barnett’s field. It was probably taken during the First World War as in the middle there is a young soldier in military uniform. Mr Barnett had other occupations. He advertised in 1920 as the parish’s assistant overseer and rate collector. Mrs Brooker narrated how The Thornton Arms used to be red with red curtains when Mr Barnett was the landlord. He was a very good publican as he rarely disagreed with his customers. He used to say "Yes, indeed", and "Is that so" when there was someone telling a tall story. Consequently he was very well liked.
By 1931 there had been another change in tenancy as John W. Whymark started advertising as the landlord. (KPOD) The pub was owned at this time by Aylesbury Brewery Company. It is thought that they had bought it from Mr Pym who owned much of the parish at this time.
During the Second World War, following the completion of the secret airfield at the bottom of the hill, trade must have boomed. The customers were very cosmopolitan. Not only were there RAF pilots and crew, ground staff, secret agents and WAAF from all over the country there were also visitors from Poland, France, Belgium, Norway, Canada, United States, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and India. It is said to have had a reputation for riot and debauchery. The floor was said to swim with beer and there were all sorts of goings on in the yard round the back. The WAAFery on the Lawns had many what were termed “hand picked” young ladies and was said to be the best defended site in the area. The Poles were particularly persistent.
During this time it was run by Mr and Mrs Geaves and many of the agents were said to drink there. When some of these regulars hadn't been seen for two to three weeks the landlady assumed they'd been posted. They almost always got back within a month of coming down. The resistance movement got them out through Switzerland, Spain, and Gibraltar. On return they said such things as “Oh! We've just swam the Channel.” or “Got a lift.”
For the V.E. Day celebration they would have had good trade as a bonfire was lit on the recreation ground at which airmen let off a variety of “pyrotechnics.” On the evening a dance and social was held in the Rectory grounds. For those on the base another celebration was held. One WAAF member penned a poem commemorating the celebrations held on the airfield and in the Thornton Arms.
I was a W.A.A.F who loved to jive,
Way back at TEMPSFORD in ‘45,
When news came through on that GREAT DAY,
OH! How we cheered - A PUBLIC HOLIDAY.
We jumped on our bikes to CELEBRATE,
At our local Pub, a mile from the Gate,
The singing and dancing - the kissing and fun -
(My chain coming off on the homeward run).
A kip for an hour, and a freshen up,
Then a good drink of CHAR from a NAAFI cup,
Then back on our bikes, for a ride DOWN the Hill,
To the main R.A.F. Camp for a Beer Drinking swill.
We backed our winners and shouted “ENCORE”
As the lads fell out when they could drink no more,
Then back to the WAAFERY walking up the big hill,
And into the Cookhouse to eat of our fill.
We stoked up the fires with scuttles of coke,
Then off to Ablutions to have a good soak.
On with best blues and our faces to fuss -
We go back DOWN the hill, this time ON A BUS,
Provided especially by the powers that be,
For a Bonfire with a HITLER effigy.
The Cheers that rang out as that guy burned,
(Relaxation for Aircrew was very well earned).
A Dance in the Hangar with the Palais Glide,
The Tango, Jitterbug and the Jive,
The weave of the Conga - ALL IN LINE,
The laughter, the shouting and the wine,
Then transport back to complete our day,
When we went back home to “HIT THE HAY”.
They probably also danced to the recordings of Glenn Miller, the Ink Spots and the Andrew Sisters. It is said that there were regular deliveries of beer and spirits from Greene King brewery in Biggleswade. The bars in the Officers’ and Sergeants’ Mess must have done well. Cards, darts and a snooker table helped while away the hours. Up the hill there was also a canteen for the forces in Everton Village Hall which was open every evening as an alternative to the pub. It was run voluntarily by local villagers and was especially popular with the WAAFs who enjoyed going in for a cup of tea and a bun.
After the war the pub was run by Howard Whitfield and his wife. In those days many locals worked on the land and they used to go in after work in wellies, bibs and brace overalls. It must have been quite a chore to clean the white tiled floor in the bar. There were two rooms at the front, a public bar and a snug. The “Jug and Bottle” was served through the hatch. There was still an outside toilet.
In the late-1960s Alex and Lena Brodie took over as landlords and extensive alterations took place. The old kitchen became the public bar with an entrance door on Church Road which led into a porch. A new kitchen was built onto the back of the pub and the front bars were knocked into one. The present toilets were added and, to satisfy the youth at the time, they installed a juke box. The cribbage, darts and card players had a new kind of music to listen to.
In 1973 Wally and Paula Thompson took over as licencees. They introduced soft music and a TV but eventually reinstalled the juke box. In 1975 a pool table was put in and carpets and fitted furniture installed. The old fire places were removed and central heating put in. During the 1970s and 80s it was quite a pub. A golf syndicate of fifteen used to regularly play at the John o ’Gaunt golf course in Potton. They had a 14 cover dining area. It was “an amazing place”. Sundays were “an absolute riot”. There were the darts team, the cricket team, two football clubs, the Everton Spartans, the Tempsford Fliers, a model aeroplane club who practices on the airfield as well as the Thornton Arms gun club that also used to practice down the hill. Dances with live bands were common.
In 1992, when Wally and Paula retired through ill health, Fred and Kath Green took over the pub. Charles Wells then sold them the freehold. The pub was then redecorated and modernised. Very popular all-in trips to Ascot Races for Ladies’ Day were organised. The pool team, darts team and cribbage team have been revived and an annual cricket match between the over and under-35’s was set up on the Recreation Ground. Quiz nights, karaoke, live bands and theme nights have proved very successful The back bar has been converted to a very popular dining room which is doing a thriving trade. The rear garden has recently been enclosed with a wooden fence and garden furniture put in to make a nice sitting out area in summer.
It changed hands recently and is now run by “Chunk” Hall. More details from www.the-thornton-arms.co.uk