For those that want to know a bit out our fascinating building – The part facing the High Street dates from 1620 although the central porch, tiled roof and ground floor extension at the rear are all 20th century additions. The oldest part is L shaped and consists of a ground floor, a first floor reached by a very steep staircase, and a cellar. The roof was originally thatched, proven by odd bits of thatch found in the roof space by the present landlord Peter Meads. The filling between the timbers was originally wattle and daub, some of which remains, but the building has been considerably altered and extended over 388 years, and the wattle and daub have been replaced by brick infill.
The original house was of timber box-frame construction. The main timbers would have been fabricated to a standard size by a house-wright before building commenced.
These main members had to be assembled together to stop the building falling down during construction. There were no foundations, and the ground floor – the only floor at this stage- would have been strewn with straw or rushes. The two-floor gable end which contains the steep staircase may have been original, added soon after the first part, together with an outshed behind, which was used as a buttery in the northwest corner, where butteries were usually placed.
The first 200 years of ownership are a bit of a mystery. The first documented reference to the property puts the house and its 6 to 7 acres of land in the possession of a family of wealthy merchants from London, window glass manufacturers who had little to do with this small Pulloxhill inn, except to receive the rents and pay taxes on the property. From the early 1700’s the property remained with the Youngs, managed by trustees and in 1804 they leased the Cross Keys to a Bedford brewer, Sir William Young. When the last trustee died, an order was passed in the High Court of Chancery that the trusteeship should end.
On Thursday 5th July 1883 The Cross Keys with its six acres, one rood and fourteen perches of land were put up for auction at the White Hart Hotel in Ampthill, where Mr Charles Wells bought this ‘Old Licensed Public House’ for £600. In 1891 Charles Wells was collecting £12 a year rent from the Cross Keys, and by 1903 this had gone up to £16. Charles Wells has owned the Cross Keys from 1883 to the present day.
The Previous Managers
Daniel Day 1774 to 1786, Daniel Day junior and wife Fanny until 1832, and their family until the 1870s. Laurence Chapman 1871 to 1890s. George Cook and wife Barbara ran the Cross Keys for many years, and at the end of the First World War Charles Cook and wife Amy were the occupiers for 6 or 7 years, and were replaced by William Samuel Davenport for 4 years. In 1931 William George Horne was the publican, succeeded by William John Horne who remained for 20 years and was the first landlord to have the use of a telephone here. He left in 1956/7 and the new occupants were Francis & Kathleen Hartley. Vic and Norah Clapton moved in, in 1962 and began to serve hot snacks. The pub quickly became renowned for serving good food at low cost, and a dining room was built by Peter Meads on the ground floor to accommodate 55 people along with an extension on the upper level.