Duxford Pubs and Beer Houses

In 1900 there were eight places that supplied alcohol to the village, which at that time had a total population of 685 people, i.e. one establishment for every 86 people. A similar ratio today would be equivalent to there being 33 pubs in the village: something to think about.

There were four public houses, The Red Lion, The King’s Head, The Three Horseshoes and The Plough, as well as four beer houses, The Wheatsheaf, The Flowerpot, The Butcher’s Arms and The John Barleycorn. The Flower Pot was a beerhouse from at least 1851. It was owned by the Chesterford Brewery (Great Chesterford) for a time until the brewery and its pubs were sold in 1913. It was purchased by Hudson’s Cambridge and Pampisford Brewery and finally closed its doors in 1966.

Beer houses were set up from earlier in the 19th century to provide beer, regarded as healthy and nutritious at the time, to the working population. This was when water was sometimes of dubious quality and best used for washing or if it had to be drunk, boiled. Beer was also thought to be a healthy alternative to the evils of cheap gin. Hence from 1830 onwards it became relatively easy and in some places even encouraged, to pay a 2 guinea (£2.10) sum for a licence to sell beer. Homes or businesses with a spare front room or space soon developed into beer houses and over time into what we know as pubs today. Some brewed their own beer and some bought from the growing number of local and regional breweries. It became a relatively easy business to get into for someone of some little means and an additional trade for existing businesses to add on. Brewery Field is named for its association with one of the beer houses in the village. There is some evidence that at various times there were other beer houses in the village, which by 1900 had come and gone.

Agricultural labouring or working in the Birds chemical and fertilizer factories must have been hard and thirsty work and no doubt there was a ready demand for liquid to quench the thirst both during and at the end of the working day.

This postcard shows the Butcher’s Arms and sign to the left of the Green, probably taken in the 1920s. Courtesy of Jim Longstaff.

Page kindly contributed by Mr Tim Chudleigh of Duxford