The Dukes Arms

Dukes Arms InnThe Duke’s Arms Public House is certainly the longest licensed premise in Woodford and most probably the oldest. Woodford juxta Thrapston book suggests it could have originally been called “The Queen’s Head” in its early days. The property was classed as an “Inn” which by definition would have offered food, alcohol and stabling. The stables were on the right hand side of the present car park entrance and can be seen on the photograph of the War Memorial unveiling, between the car park entrance, and the three cottages next to the manse (chapel house).

During the mid / late 1700’s it was known as “The Falcon Inn” and from the late part of the 18th century it was known formally as “The Lord St John’s Arms”, or informally as “The Lord’s Arms”. The Inn was frequently used for the Lord of the Manor’s business, and his agent could be contacted care of The Lord’s Arms. Public auctions were also held on these premises. As late as 1836 the premises were known as The Lord St John’s Arms, but by 1839 it was known as “The Duke’s Arms”. (See selection of articles below.)

There is a strong suggestion that The Duke’s Arms is named after the Duke of Wellington who had frequented Woodford House following the Battle of Waterloo to visit his great friends Charles and Harriet Arbuthnot. Following Harriet’s untimely death in 1834 the Duke spent most of his time at Apsley House in London and Charles Arbuthnot joined him there soon after. Consequently, it is likely that the Lord’s Arms became the Duke’s Arms as a “memorial” to the Duke and his many visits to Woodford.

Some of the village organisations also used the pub for meetings etc including sports clubs and Friendly Societies and the premises was frequently used for annual celebrations. Licensed premises were also used for Coroner’s Inquests, and The Duke was no exception.

Throughout much of the 20th century the pub was known as The Duke’s Arms or “The Duke” and a sign with a heraldic shield stood on the small village green in front of the pub.

Landlords have included

1849 George Fisher

1874 Charles Gibson

1891 William Barfield

1901 Thomas Smith

1903 F A White

1904 Walter Pendered

1924 William Henry White

1930 Thomas Mawson

1940 Samuel Pendered

1943 Ernest Goodman

Dates above are when these landlords were recorded as being resident, not the date they took over.

Selected newspaper articles mentioning the Inn

14 April 1777 Northampton Mercury

"Lost on Monday 7th April between Irthlingborough Stanwick and Chelston (Chelveston), A white bitch of the Pomeranian breed. Answers to the name of Sonp. Whoever brings her to the Falcon at Woodford shall receive five shillings reward"

(Sonp could well be a printer’s error i.e. the “u” had been inverted, Soup)

4 July 1795 Northampton Mercury

To be sold by auction by Richard Smith. On Thursday the 9th day of July 1795 at the house of Mr. Fisher, the Lord St John's Arms at Woodford, near Thrapston, Northamptonshire.

The following wheels and other articles...

28 May 1836 Northampton Mercury

To Butchers and others, to be let... For further particulars enquire at the Lord St. John’s Arms Inn, Woodford.

9 October 1839 Northampton Mercury

... will be sold by auction by William Smith at Six O Clock at the Duke’s Arms Inn Woodford subject to such conditions as will be then produced.

9 May 1840 Northampton Mercury

Foot Steeple Chase – The Woodford Friendly Society, held at the Duke’s Arms Inn, their annual meeting on Monday, May 4th and after business of the day was over a subscription was entered into for a foot steeple chase, which was contended for by the following five active young men; Eaton Tiney, James Manning, Thomas Riddle, George Abbot and George Riddle. The race took place at half past six o’clock and at the word “off” being given, away went George Riddle, the others well up with him, clearing the first six or seven fences in beautiful style, with the exception of George Abbott, who showed good courage, but fell at most of his fences....

21 December 1867 Northampton Mercury

Woodford – An Inquest was held at the Duke’s Arms Inn Woodford, on Monday last, the 16th inst before William Marshall County Coroner, on the body of a male child, three weeks old, son of Thomas Russell.

24 July 1903 Northampton Mercury

A Walking Match was arranged on Saturday by Mr Mayes and others. The Competitors started from the Duke’s Arms and walked to Thrapston, passing through Denford, Ringstead, and Great Addington. There were 37 entries, of which number, 15 started. The following were successful: Mr Booth, of Thrapston, first prize, value 30s; Mr Tilley, Ringstead, second prize, value 10s; Mr Guess of Lowick, third prize, value 5s. The distance was between eight and nine miles, and was walked by the winner in an hour and 20 minutes.

28 August 1903 Northampton Mercury

On Tuesday evening a wheelbarrow race was held. Starting from the Duke’s Arms Inn, the route was by Woodford House through Great Addington, the distance being about four miles. There were ten competitors, the following being successful: 1 (silvercup) Mr Coles; 2(marble clock), Mr Blank; 3 (clock and vases); 4 (leather bag and a quarter’s free shaves and haircut) Mr Reed. The race was accomplished by the first man in 31 minutes. Large numbers of spectators gathered to witness the race.

Northampton Mercury 9 September 1904

Licensing. The following licences were transferred.... the Duke’s Arms, Woodford from F A White to Walter Pendred.

10 May 1907 Northampton Mercury

Free Gardeners. The first Lodge in connection with the above friendly society was held at the Duke’s Arms on Monday. Members of the Lilac Lodge, Raunds were present to explain the benefits of the Order and to initiate the members. Mr T Croft was elected Lodge Master of the Lodge to be called the Firdale Lodge of Woodford and Twywell; Mr W Wood, Deputy Lodge Master; Mr F Howlett, treasurer; W Pendered, secretary; with Mr W Robb LRCP, JP etc Medical Officer. It was decided to hold Lodge meetings on the first Tuesday in each month at the Duke’s Arms Inn.

19 November 1909 Northampton Mercury

Conservative Association The committee celebrated the King’s birthday with a dinner at the Duke’s Arms on Tuesday. Mr J Bonsor the President was in the chair. Mr W Solesbury presided at the piano and contributed several sons. Mr J Bonsor and Mr B Perritt also assisted with the programme.

10 October 1924 Northampton Mercury

Petty Sessions. Tuesday Full transfers of Licences were granted as follows: Duke’s Arms, Woodford, to William Henry White, from Walter Pendered.

19 October 1951 Northampton Mercury

Woodford Inquest. A verdict of accidental death was recorded by the East Northamptonshire Coroner (Captain J S Parker), at the inquest held at the Dukes Arms Woodford on Mrs Elizabeth Ann Gunn (85), a widow of The Green, Woodford who died following a fall at her home.

Footnote. In the 21st Century it is now known simply as “The Dukes” - no possessive apostrophe - suggesting it is named after more than one Duke.