The Star, Baldock,

and the Pale Ale Brewery,

19-20 century

August, 2010



This answer has been answered  to demonstrate the many sources that may be used in researching the history of any public house or beer retailer during the 19th century.


Keith Daniells (beedan @t  Australia writes: I have attached a snap of the Star pub in Church St, Baldock, which I believe was taken in 1934. My grandfather Willoughby Henwood was the licensed victualler from sometime prior to 1934 through to sometime after WW2.  My hope is that one of your many readers may have come across a history on it and can advise me.

While public houses are often quite well recorded by name The Star is more difficult to find as it started life as a beer house (no wine license) originally attached to a brewery perhaps even with a piped connection,  As a beer house the landlord would only be listed in the trade directories as one of many "beer retailers" and is perhaps less likely to be listed in census returns. A run through the check list of more accessible resources is relevant.

  • Hertfordshire Inns: This book records it was the tap of the brewery brought by John Steed in 1831, later known as the Pale Ale Brewery, and now (circa 1960 selling Wells and Winch beer.) While not very clear in the picture the long sign over the door reads "Wells and Winch" - which helps confirm the photograph is of the right public house

  • Hertfordshire Inns & Public Houses: This book records no more than that The Star closed down, along with four other pubs between 1962 and 1992.

  • Brewers in Hertfordshire: While this book concentrates on breweries, it lists the names of public houses associated with the breweries. In the case of The Star, Baldock, it is particularly informative (for details see below)

  • Dead Pubs web site: This records Thomas Bass as the licensed Victualler in 1901 - from 1901 census. The absence of any other information probably indicates it was not identified as The Star in other sources examined. The site also lists (as a separate pub) The Brewery Tap in the 1861 census (see below).

  • Baldock Museum & Local History Society: There appears to be nothing on their web site which mentions The Star. However the museum/society might be worth contacting to see if anyone can provide further information.

  • Kelly's Directories: I was able to trace Willoughby Henwood, beer retailer, 3 Norton Street in the directories for 1922, 1926 and 1929., but not 1912. In 1934 he was a beer retailer at 25 Church Street. In none of the cases was the pub named. I did a spot check on three earlier directories and in none of these was The Star mentioned by name, and as there were several beer retailers in Norton Street it is not clear which (if any) were the landlord of The Star.

So did Willoughby Heywood change pubs between 1929 and 1934. Actually no. It is important to realise that sometimes roads are renamed - and buildings renumbered. On the web is a file "CHANGES OF STREET NAME IN BALDOCK," produced in 2009 by the Baldock Museum and Local History Society which explains the name changes.

  • Census returns: The 1851 census records that John Steer (57) was living in Norton Street and describes him as a Brewer & Maltster employing 9 persons. It is not possible to identify The Star for certain but Thomas Pate may have been the landlord. The 1861 census lists Joseph Harvey, victualler & coach builder at the Brewery Tap - which may be an alternative name for The Star., which was a brewery tap - with a direct connection with the brewery. I have not checked the other censuses.

  • Access to Archives: This turns up some references to The Star, Baldock, which were not in HALS, apparently in connection with sales of brewery property. The detailed information is not easily accessible - but as the online search of the index is easy it is alway worth looking here.

  • [Local Books]: Baldock does not seem to be well supplied by local history books - but for many towns there will be a number which might contain relevant pictures, etc., and some larger towns have local history booklets specifically on the local public houses.

The following history is based mainly on the information from Brewers in Hertfordshire, plus the census information.

The Pale Ale Brewery in Norton Street (see Brewers & Maltsters of Baldock for map showing it's location in Baldock) was probably founded early in the 19th century by William Oliver. In 1823 Oliver leased the brewery to John Steed, who purchased the property in 1831 and started a major rebuilding program in 1840. John Steed remained active as a brewer/ owner until at least 1867,  when he was succeeded by his son Oliver, who died in 1888, when the plan on the right was drawn up.

The date at which the Star was opened is not certain but as it was a "brewery tap" serving beer directly from the brewery it could well have been there in 1840 and probably even earlier.  In 1851 one of the beersellers in Norton Street was Thomas Pate who is described as a "publican & drayman"  and it is possible that he ran the brewery tap  and also worked as a drayman delivering beer to other pubs tied to the Pale Ale Brewery. The reference to Joseph Harvey as a victualler at the Brewery Tap in the 1861 census would appear to refer to The Star. The brewery and the associated public houses were sold off to other brewers and the brewery closed. In 1901 Thomas Bass was the landlord and three years later the brewery site, including the Star was sold to the Wells & Winch brewery of Biggleswade. Willoughby Henwood had became landlord by 1922 and the picture shows the words "Wells & Winch" on the front of the building. The Star later became a Greene King pub, and was closed in 1980, a director reporting that the toilets were archaic and there was no car parking.

I have one observation about the photograph. It looks very much like the kind of mock Tudor style that was being built at the start of the 20th century - and I suggest that the building shown is a rebuild or a major restoration of the building there in the early 19th century.

Andy later pointed out that the Star Inn building can be viewed, at 25 Church Street, using Google Street view.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

August 2010   Page created