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The Crown Hotel

Read about the Great Fire of Biggleswade.

23 High Street, Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, SG18 0JE
Thought to have dated from before 1672, the former inn on this site burned down in the Great Fire of Biggleswade – which started at the hotel on 16 June 1785. According to the Biggleswade History Society, this was (in 1700) one of the town’s 11 inns. In 1732, it is recorded in the will of Richard Hide – who left the inn to his family. The hotel was grade II listed in 1978 and closed in 2013.

A plaque for The Great Fire of Biggleswade, which started in The Crown Inn yard on 16 June 1785 destroying half the town.

In 2014, the local newspaper reprinted an article from 1985 when it reported that 'hordes of people turned out the unveiling of the plaque on the wall of the Crown Hotel to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Great Fire of Biggleswade... which started in the Crown's yard. Town Mayor Mrs Pat Rouse was there to do the honours'.

This pub has an open cellar, which depicts the history of brewing.

The text reads: The earliest record of brewing beer goes back almost 500 years to Mesopotamian writings describing daily rations of beer and bread to workers.

Production of beer in Europe began in the home as women’s work alongside baking. Beer was most people’s staple drink. Water could be heated over an open fire in a cottage and the beer brewed in the kitchen.

Specialised brewing facilities began with monasteries. They started producing beer both for their own consumption and to use as payment. This shifted the responsibility for making beer to men. By the 16th century the dedicated brew house was becoming commonplace. By the 18th century purpose-built brew houses had become part of the typical country house.

Commercial brewing began at inns, taverns and alehouses, whose licensing was controlled from around the 1550s by magistrates. Early breweries were usually multi-story buildings, so that gravity could assist with the transfer of product form one stage to the next, with equipment for the earlier stages of production on the upper floors.

Industrial-scale breweries were first seen during the early 1700’s. Large brewing vessels replaced small, and steam powered pumps and mills were brought in. Mechanical rakes and mashers were invented, and the brewery engineer came into being.

In provincial towns, large common or commercial breweries began to appear from the 1790s.

In the 1820s and 1830s the Government decided to promote beer drinking instead of spirits, especially gin. Gin ships were a major social problem and led to the rise of the Temperance Society. Beer, the former drink of the working man, was taxed and expensive, despite the fact that at this time beer was safer to drink than water.

The Beerhouse Act abolished the beer tax, and extended the opening hours of public houses, taverns and alehouses. The Act introduced the Beerhouse. For a small fee of 2 guineas anyone could brew and sell beer. Beerhouses were also known by the name small beer or Tom and Jerry shops.

Licensing of the Beerhouses was brought back under control of the local justices in 1869. Many then closed, or changed to fully licensed public houses.

A painting entitled Welcome to Biggleswade, part of J D Wetherspoon Art in Schools project. 

A painting entitled Potton, part of J D Wetherspoon Art in Schools project.

A wall sculpture entitled An Inventive Man.

External photograph of the building – main entrance.

If you have information on the history of this pub, then we’d like you to share it with us. Please e-mail all information to: