In the days before legislation regulated the selling of alcohol, anyone could make and sell beer although laws regarding the purity of beer and ale were in use by the twelfth century. The Lord of the Manor had ‘Assise of Bread and Ale’ that is, he was responsible for ensuring that both bread and ale were not adulterated, or sold underweight. The Lords of both Barentons and the Bury Manors had this responsibility (Hundred Rolls 1279).

Most people brewed ale and beer for home consumption – water not being very safe to drink – It did not keep and so was made on a regular basis. Small ale was weaker than strong ale, being more dilute and therefore suitable for children. In addition to home brewed ale, the Medieval Gilds also held ‘Church Ales’ on high days and holidays to raise funds for the upkeep of the church or sometimes for the special purchase of a statue or other item of church furniture. They also held ‘Bride ales’ and ‘Funer ales’.

In Bassingbourn in 1511 a play ‘The Holy Martyr of St George’ was performed to raise money for a large statue of St George. Twenty eight surrounding villages were canvassed to contribute towards the cost of food, stage props, ‘the book’ and ‘the waits from Cambridge’. Ninety-one bushels of malt and 19 bushels of wheat were purchased, enough to produce about 1,000 gallons of beer and ale; eighty persons are mentioned by name, brewing, malting and cooking. Even then they ran out of beer and had to go to Wimpole for more. The churchwarden’s accounts give a detailed account of the whole three day event, the play was probably a great social success but was not a financial one as it was not until ten years later that the statue was finally bought.

Kelly’s Directories show five beer retailers in Thriplow in the 1850s and 1860s. In the 1870s the number goes down to four and reduces by one each decade until there are only two mentioned in 1904, The Green Man and the Red Lion.

I thought it would be interesting to delve into the history of Thriplow’s Public Houses, and the first of them is:-


In 1838 William Pearce, a Cordwainer (shoemaker) from Barrington acquired the copyhold of a piece of land called ‘Shoulder of Mutton Close’ in Little Thriplow. The close (No.14 on the Inclosure Map) was probably named for its shape, a triangle of land where Flack’s Garage was situated (closed recently), and the houses near it. The plot of land was held of the Manor of Barenton, Middle Street, then owned by St John’s College, Cambridge.William Pearce borrowed £830 from three different people using his property as security and by 1840 had built a Public House called ‘The Shoulder of Mutton’, also a Farmhouse, Cottage and Barns. In 1839 he is known as a Publican. He must have had high hopes of catching the passing trade on both roads as well as the custom of the people living in Little Thriplow.

William Pearce was obviously something of an entrepreneur; the Barenton Manor Court Rolls record him repaying some of his debts, but the Inclosure of the common fields in 1840, depriving many smallholders of their land and the agricultural slump at that time must have seriously reduced Pearce’s income. By 1861 William Pearce is described as a Horsedealer and his property had passed into the hands of Phillip Meyer, ‘Common Brewer’ for the sum of £725. In 1865 the Manor Court rolls note that the Pub was in the hands of Henry Perkins of the Bury for the price of £190 with Thomas Lodge as his tenant. Thomas Lodge is listed as ‘beer retailer’ in Kelly’s and other Directories from 1851 until 1867, although the 1861 census lists him as a ‘labourer’.

So it seems that one of Thriplow’s Public Houses, The Shoulder of Mutton had a short life of only 27years.



Geoffrey Axe has found more evidence regarding the Shoulder of Mutton Public House, William Lodge was the son of Thomas Lodge and had taken over as publican in 1871, he is also noted as being a Blacksmith in Little Thriplow. He had a wife called Mary aged 29 and a daughter called Alberta. He is mentioned again in 1872 – “Parish of Thriplow record as being a voter qualified as a ratepayer (house and land), The Shoulder of Mutton.The next entry is in Kelly’s Directory of 1873 and shows Mr Henry Course as Coal Merchant and Victualler, S of M. The Kelly’s of 1876 and 1879 quotes him as beer retailer. The 1881 census shows him as Publican and Coal Merchant aged 41, his wife Sophia as 38 and daughters Marcia 14, Julia 12, Alice 3 and sons Harry 10, and Frank 2 months. He is not mentioned in Kelly’s again but his name comes up in 1885 under Harston Polling District, Parish of Thriplow, as an occupation voter, public house Shoulder of Mutton. By 1891 only his wife and daughter Julia is living with him. He is mentioned in the Petty Sessional divisional document of Arrington\Melbourn for licensed houses as a farmer also. The type of user is mentioned as ‘on Saturday and Sunday nights, labourers’, the ratable value is £16, the brewers are Phillips and Co. Of Royston and the house is noted as having 4 bedrooms, 2 public rooms, 1 stable, 1 front entrance, 1 back entrance and no urinal. The polling district records mention the Shoulder of Mutton twice more in 1913 and 1915. Maybe the First World War put an end to it.

Geoffrey Axe