The first mention of this building as a public house appears in the Post Office Directory of Cambridgeshire for 1847, which lists a John Sheldrick as being a beer retailer . Again he is mentioned in 1851 in the History Gazetter of Cambridgeshire as a beer retailer. In the same year the Census tells us that he is the publican of the Red Lion and is 62 years old , with details of his wife, Elizabeth who is 63 years old . In the house with them is godson Edward Travis although his age is not mentioned .
The next time I find the Red Lion mentioned is in the Cambridge Chronicle on May 21st of 1853, which quotes the following:-
An Inquest was held at the Red Lion Inn, Thriplow, on Thursday last, before Mr J E Marshall. on the body of Alice the infant child of Mary Ann Hayden. The deceased had been suffering from an affliction of the chest and difficulty of the respiration, from the effects of which it expired on Wednesday last . Verdict, died from natural causes, [aged 6 months] C.I.P.In Kelly’s directory of 1858, Mrs Elizabeth Sheldrick is listed as being the beer retailer. The next time I find Elizabeth Sheldrick’s name is in the 1861 Census which quotes her as the head of the household and is the publican, but is a now a widow and is 73 years old.
Again her name is found in the Cassey’s directory of 1864 as being a beer retailer with the last entry of her status being quoted in the Kelly’s directory of 1867. This puts Elizabeth Sheldrick’s age at about 79 years old.
There is now a break of 9 years in which few beer retailers are quoted in the Kelly’s directories of 1869 and 1873 and of these individuals none can be linked to the Red Lion public house as there is no mention of the Red Lion in the 1871 Census.
In 1876 and 1879 the publican appears to be a person called William Smith who is listed as being a beer retailer. The Red Lion is next mentioned in the same year of 1879 in the Cambridge Chronicles and the Herts & Cambs Reporter quoted on the same subject . The following quote was taken from the latter newspaper:-
‘Last Tuesday, C. W. Palmer, Esq , deputy county coroner, held an inquest at the Red Lion public house, on the body of George Edmund infant son of Richard Fuller , corprolite digger, who was suffocated whilst in bed with it’s mother. The jury found that the death had been caused accidentally.’ (See ‘Researching the Registers’ Thriplow Journal Vol.1/3 1993)
The next landlord is a Benjamin Juniper. He is mentioned as being an occupation voter in the Red Lion public house from the Harston polling district,(Parish of Thriplow) records of 1885. By 1888 Benjamin Juniper is listed in the Kelly’s Directory as a Blacksmith/Beer retailer. Back in 1879 Benjamin is quoted in the Herts & Cambs Reporter under the Melbourn petty sessions as being appointed constable for Thriplow, and again in the H & C Reporter of 1883 where he is still a constable. In the 1891 Census he is quoted as still being a Blacksmith of 40 years old, but his wife Caroline is now quoted as Landlady of the Red Lion. He did have a large family which consisted of: William (son) 14 years, George (son) 12 years, Sarah (dau) 10 years, Gurtie (dau) 5 years, Rebecca (dau) 3 years, and last Benjamin (son) of 8 months. The last entry I found for Benjamin senior was in the Kelly’s Directory of 1892 still listed as a beer retailer.
Alfred Purkiss is then listed in the Directories of 1896 and 1900 as being a beer retailer. From the Arrington/Melbourn Petty Sessional Division records of 1903 under licensed houses, I can confirm that he is the Publican of the Red Lion. The document I found in the Records Office states that it is a tied beerhouse, the rateable value which was £13, the property had 5 bedrooms, 2 public rooms, 1 stable, 1 front entrance. 1 rear entrance and toilet. It also tells us that it was mainly used by labourers. Various Brewers owned the pub the first being J.Simpson who leased the property from J.I.Ellis in 1872, it was later sold to Lacon & Company Brewery of Yarmouth, and then to Wells and Winch of Biggleswade.
Alfred Purkiss is again mentioned in various Kelly’s Directories from 1904 to 1929, as being a beer retailer. In the 1933 Kelly’s Directory Mrs. Clara Anne Purkiss is quoted as being a beer retailer .This is the last time I find the name Purkiss mentioned in respect of the Red Lion. In the 1937 Kelly’s Directory is the last mention of Mr. Christopher Smith as publican of the Red Lion. From now on I can only find Christopher Smith’s name mentioned in the 1948 Civilian Residence Register of the parish of Thriplow in which it quotes the address of the Red Lion of Middle Street. The Records Office provided me with a letter reporting from the Arrington/Melbourn Petty Sessional Division for licensed houses which states the Brewery of Wells & Winch Limited of Biggleswade, Beds will cease trading from these premises on the 10th of Jan 1956.
As the photo shows the Red Lion was a lovely 17th century building. Geoffrey Vinter’s papers note “This, as a public house, was an innovation of nearly a hundred years ago. As a private house it dates back centuries. We mention it for the very interesting carving. When we remember the years upon years that this artistic piece of work has been exposed to the alternate buffeting of sun and rain, it is indeed remarkable that it still remains. In fact the house can be traced back to 1730 when Ambrose Benning, Lord of the Manor of Thriplow, in his will, bequeathed it to his grand daughter Susan Cooper as part of an estate which included Sawcers (The Murch’s), Savages (the School), Thoroughfare Close (now Eunice Twiss) and a house (now No 5 Middle Street). It descended through marriage to Elizabeth Clements widow who around 1811 remarried to Benjamin Prime. He died in 1822 and in 1830 she sold the estate to Joseph Ellis. Mr Vinter continues – “It has since burnt down. A load of straw was placed at the side of the house for thatching. It was said that the children of the innkeeper lighted it. As the roof was wired it was impossible to pull it off, and the place was gutted c1941. It was opposite the Post Office, the jetty was carved and hung over the road”.
Cuth Wenham recalls trying with other men to put the fire out with stirrup pumps before the fire brigades came from Whittlesford and Cambridge. His partner Herbert Parker offered a chicken shed that he had bought from St Dunstan’s Poultry Farm, Kings Langley in 1938 as a temporary replacement on the condition that it was returned when it was finished with! This shed had been offered him when he bought a much larger one, and it had been dismantled in sections by Cuth Wenham, Hodge Sheldrick, Arthur Flack, Frank Neeves and Harry Skillings and brought back to Thriplow and was still piled up in its sections when the Red Lion burnt down. In 1955 Wells and Winch obtained a demolition order for the remains of the Red Lion and in 1958 sold the building to Thriplow Parish Council for £250 for use as a Village Hall.