The Plough PH, Ashwell Road, also known as the Corner House

This property, constructed in 1841/2, stands on the corner of Ashwell Road and Station Road, although in the past you would have said the corner of Mill Street and Odsey Way. It was built as a home for a smallholder and his family and was also a beerhouse, which it remained until 1956. In 1957 it became a private house, known as 1 Ashwell Road and in 2019-2020 new owners extended it on the west side and to the rear, approximately doubling the accommodation.

The road junction became known as Plough Corner or Rob’s Corner after Alfred William Robinson, generally know as Rob, the tenant from 1924-1956 and owner of the house 1957-1959.

Going back in time, prior to the Parliamentary Enclosure of 1808/1816, both sides of Ashwell Road were open fields. As part of the Enclosure, the whole of the land on the south side of Ashwell Road was allotted to Sarah Janeway, as one entire new field. Later, this passed to John Mabbott, who died in 1825, leaving a life interest in his estate to his nephew John Craft, who lived until 1834. It was not until 29 June 1841 that the Mabbott estate was sold and his executors decided to split the field on the south side of Ashwell Road and sell it as five plots. The buyer of the first plot, extending to 4 acres, on the corner of Ashwell Road and Station Road was John Cooper. He proceeded to build a house, in the north-east corner of the plot at the junction of the two roads, which with his wife Elizabeth, he opened as a beerhouse and farmed the land as a small holder.

In late 1850 or early 1851, Cooper sold the property to E K & H Fordham, brewers of Ashwell and moved to Church Street. The Fordham’s first tenant was Thomas Gentle, with his wife Eliza, who both came from Ashwell. A feature of their time at this property was the number of occupants. In the 1851 Census there are Thomas and Eliza Gentle, their six children, two other family members, plus two adult lodgers. In the 1881 Census a lodger is described as “lodger barn” and his occupation as pauper.

When Thomas died in 1865 his Eliza wife took over the tenancy, remaining until 1896, when bowing to official pressure she retired and moved out. This followed an event in 1895, which was fully reported in local newspapers and here is the story:

The Sad Demise of Catherine Jane Izzard

In summary: Catherine Jane Izzard was served drink at Eliza Gentle’s beerhouse on the evening of Saturday 26 October 1895 and later early on the Sunday morning was found at home with her clothes on fire. Izzard was age 54 and widow of David Izzard, labourer. She had no family and lived on parish relief. Her home was 5 minutes’ walk or quarter of a mile from the beerhouse.

Eliza Gentle by then aged age 78, was extremely deaf and had been publican of the beerhouse for 45 years, assisted for the last two years, by her granddaughter Mary Gentle, age 12 of Royston, where her father George Gentle lived.

Kate Pateman single woman, with Charles Bunn, visited the beerhouse at same time as Izzard. John Wilkins lodger with Eliza Gentle was also present.

Susannah Clark elderly widow was due to move into cottage next to Izzard on Saturday 26 October, but as it was damp slept at Izzard’s house. She was woken by noise downstairs early Sunday and found Izzard on fire.

Ernest Jarman son of Mr Samuel Jarman butcher of Steeple Morden knew Izzard well and lived close to her. Having received news of the fire, his mother woke him early Sunday morning and he went to Izzard’s house.

Her clothes were on fire and he threw water over her. She asked to see Mr Ernest Fordham and the vicar Mr Green. Jarman and Mrs Loughton took Izzard to Royston Hospital by trap arriving 10am Sunday. Izzard lingered until the following Saturday, when she died.

PC Arthur Ernest Utteridge stationed at Steeple Morden said that the beerhouse had no sign (i.e. no name), although it was known as the Corner House and was on Ashwell Road.

Inquest held at Royston Police Station evening of Monday 4 November. Verdict accidental death.

Following Inquest Eliza Gentle charged with unlawfully selling three pints and a half of beer to a drunken person to wit, Catherine Jane Izzard on 26th October last and case heard before Melbourn Petty Sessions  Monday 25 November 1895.

Case dismissed, although the justices expressed the view that Eliza was no longer fit to run a beerhouse and the assistance of a 12 year old child was not appropriate.

For Gentle Family History

The Robinson Era and Land Sales

Moving from Ashwell, Charles Robinson took the beerhouse over from Eliza in 1896 and he also farmed the land that went with it. Married to Georgina, they had three children: Alfred William born 1877, who had already left home in 1893, Elizabeth Jane born 1878, who married Noah Philpott in 1900 and Ethel May born 1887, who married William Cosson in 1919.

Charles and Georgina retired from the pub in 1923 and moved to Guilden Morden. They were succeeded by their son Alfred William Robinson (known as Alf or Rob) and his wife Sarah Ann (known as Sally). Alfred had been a long term soldier and subsequently a bank nightwatchman in the City of London.

It was during Alfred’s tenancy that the Fordham Brewery sold off, probably in 1925 or 26, a plot of land to Melbourn RDC for four council houses. Subsequently, on 13 July 1940, they sold further land that lay behind the Council houses together with an access road, to Eric Charles Jarman. Later the Fordhams sold another plot to the District Council for four more council houses.

The E K & H Fordham Ltd brewing empire of Ashwell was taken over in 1952 by J W Green Ltd brewers of Luton, which became Flowers Breweries in 1954. They closed the public house in 1956 and Alfred William Robinson bought the freehold of the remaining plot on 1 January 1957 from E K & H Fordham Ltd, which still held the freehold. When it came to land acquisition Robinson appears to have had foresight, although he may not have anticipated his death only two years later in 1959. His widow Sarah Ann, known as Sally, continued to live there and its name reverted to The Corner House. She died early in 1966.

For Robinson Family History

Origin of name The Plough?

It is not known when the beerhouse was first called The Plough. It would be tempting to think that John Cooper as a small farmer thought The Plough an ideal name for his beerhouse. Or would the broader business experience of Fordhams have introduced the name? The evidence given by the local policeman in court in 1895 was the beerhouse had no sign i.e no name, although it was known locally as the Corner House. The photograph below taken 1943-4 shows a traditional inn sign on a pole, with the wording” Fordhams, The Plough, Ashwell, Ales” and the earliest written record of it named “The Plough” is dated 1925. The fact it was not called the Plough in the 1800s, explains why the public house in Cheyney Street was known as the Plough in the 1860s. It would have been unusual to have two pubs with the same name in a village.

Later the spot was also known locally as Rob’s Corner, after the landlord and also Plough Corner. Since 1957 it has been a private house and find that history here.

Tenants and Licensees of the Beerhouse

Dates Tenants or Licensees Notes
1842-1850 John Cooper owner, sold to Fordhams
1851-1865 Thomas Gentle died 1865
1866-1896 Eliza Gentle born Baldock
1896-1924 Charles Robinson
1924-1956 Alfred William Robinson owner from 1957



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Last Updated on April 26, 2022