The Station Hotel, Woburn Sands


Although the Station Hotel looks quite modern, it appears there was an earlier, smaller inn, probably catering for the local brickworkers, as well as passing train passengers.

Even the local historian Arthur Parker had difficulty in researching the early days of the Station Hotel, as he wrote:

“It is not easy to give a correct story of the property, as the documentary evidence is conflicting.  I have not seen the deeds, but the Brewers have supplied me with extracts and the information there does not entirely agree with the [Bucks] Ale House Register.

The site was sold by the Higgins Trustees at the time the railway was opened [1846], for a note to that effect appears in a mortgage deed of 1849.  There are no details there, not even the name of the purchaser, but it was Gregory Odell Clarke of Fenny Stratford, as another mortgage of 1860 quotes the name. He was a man of many parts; a wharfinger, he made and sold bricks and other building materials, and he was a coal and corn merchant.

Having experienced success with the opening of the Grand Junction Canal, he no doubt thought a depot at Woburn Sands, beside the new railway, would be profitable.  However, he let of most of the land he bought to John Goodall, of Aspley Heath, as a timber yard. I am of the opinion that it was Clarke who first started digging clay for bricks on the adjoining land of Higgins. He died in 1873 at the ripe old age of 90, but he must have established his son in Woburn Sands for there are various entries in directories - viz. 1870 Gregory Clarke, corn merchant; and W. E. Clarke, cornmill; 1877, W. E. Clarke, corn merchant.

The Bucks Ale House register of 1872 quotes the Station Inn, licensed for the sale of beer only, with the leaseholder as R. G. Ashdown of Leighton Buzzard, and clearly states it was first licensed in 1856. (Information from Bucks County Archives)  This establishes the builder as Gregory Clarke but later the Register quotes John Goodall of Aspley Guise as the owner and Thomas Brown as the tenant.

William Clarke took over his father's property and business, and in 1874 sold all the land to the tenant of the timber yard, John Goodall.  It is extraordinary that this conveyance does not mention any buildings when there was a public house, a saw-mill, various other buildings of many years standing.  Messrs. Chef & Brewer have also given me a plan, but I do not think it can belong to the 1874 conveyance. If it does, it supports the fact of the earlier building.

Another complication arises over the person of John Goodall. John senior was born on Aspley Heath in 1819; a sawyer by trade he became timber merchant and was known to be on the Station site in 1860 (Woburn Toll Road Minutes) By 1874 he would be 55 years of age. This would be a responsible time of life to be the purchaser.  He had three sons, George (1843), John (1846), and William (1848).  With the deeds however is a declaration by Henry Hall who describes himself as an accountant, but who was previously a clerk in office of the Woburn lawyer, Green. There he states he was informed by John, the elder that his second son was baptised "William", but later was always known as "John"; and that this John the younger was adjudicated bankrupt in June 1889   Again contradictory statements.  Was it father or son who bought the property?”

Here, I can add in a newspaper clipping from The Bucks Herald of 3rd October, 1874, which records what I think is the death of the old inn and the birth of the Station Hotel as we know it today.  I imagine Goodall pulled down much of the buildings on the site when he bought it, and set about arranging a new prominent Hotel to go beside the station.

“Mr Henry Pettit, of Leighton Buzzard, again attended on behalf of Mr Goodall, builder, Woburn Sands, who is about to build a small hotel near Woburn Sands station, the estimated cost of which is stated to be £800, to apply for a provisional license.  The plans were handed to the Justices, and also a memorial signed by his Grace the Duke of Bedford, eight Bedfordshire magistrates, and others resident in the neighbourhood.  It was also stated that stabling had been built for seven horses, which, if found insufficient, would be increased.  There was no public house within a quarter of a mile, (?? Ed.) and persons going to or coming by train are greatly inconvenienced, having no place to leave their horses and carriages. The provisional license was granted, subject to confirmation by the county licensing committee.”

This was just at the beginning of Woburn Sands boom time.  Victorian tourists were visiting the village to take the airs and see the Duke of Bedford’s woods. Somewhere, I recall seeing a newspaper article where some local pub landlords were bemoaning the fact that large works outings were arriving at the railway station, and certain inns in the village were employing men to block them from entering other inns until they reached the one they had booked refreshments at!

It had certainly been opened by January 1876, as a labourers jacket that had gone missing in Moulsoe was found on the back of one of his workmates in the Tap Room of "the new Hotel" at Woburn Sands!

Parker continues:- “A local directory of 1877 gives the licensee as J. T. Luttman, and he was there until his death in July 1912. On Goodall's bankruptcy the property (hotel and timber works) went to David Williams, the Leighton solicitor (he was possibly the mortgagee). In November 1895 he sold the hotel away from the rest of the property to P. Phipps & Co. the Towcester brewers, and the conveyance says "formerly in the occupation John Goodall and now, and for many years past, of John Taylor Luttman"

In an usually emotional piece, the Northampton Mercury said on 22nd December, 1888:

"Commotion. Without the doors of the Station Hotel on Thursday night, December 13, there was scene of no ordinary excitement, in consequence of the proprietor, Mr. J. Luttman, having been compelled to clear his house. It is sad, but it is most true, that there is band in this district who feel themselves privileged to go into the hotels and inns to ventilate their grievances to the discomfort of travellers or tradesmen, who find it necessary to avail themselves of such houses for appointments or refreshment. The scene was one of the most disgusting character as to language and general conduct. Some of this district have already been before the Newport Pagnell and Woburn magistrates, and have been distinctly informed that they will be well remembered on any future occasion. Fines and costs are of little punishment. To be bound over to keep the peace for 12 months with heavy sureties, if not imprisonment, would have a salutary effect. The perpetrators of these unseemly acts are destitute of all manly qualities."

Luttman was a keen supporter of the Liberal movement, and was even elected as Vice President of the “North Bucks Liberal 200” at Winslow in 1901, and had the ad opposite in a local guide book about Woburn Sands and district in 1904.

He had some similar adverts running in the Beds Times of May 1905. It seems to want to promote his cab and carriage business above that of the Hotel:

“Orders Requested - J.T. Luttman, Cab and Carriage Proprietor, Station Hotel and Posting House, Woburn Sands Station.”

A slightly shaky photo used as a postcard, taken from the north side of the railway line, with The Station Hotel on the left.
[Image courtasy of Ian Inwood]

From the Luton Times and Advertiser,11th January, 1907:

"WOBURN SANDS. At Fenny Stratford Sessions, Mr. G. T. Lutman, of the Railway Hotel, Woburn Sands, was fined 10s. for using glasses that had not been stamped by the Government."

The above piece was in the same year that Woburn Sands officially split-off from Wavendon, and set up their own Parish (later Town) Council. Luttman was voted onto the Council at its inception and was elected by the members as their first Chairman of Woburn Sands Parish Council.

The Luton Times and Advertiser reported on 29th January, 1909, that several cases of dog poisoning had been reported from Woburn Sands, and a valuable greyhound at the Station Hotel and a dog belonging to Mr. Dudley both died.

In July 1910, Luttman was taken to court by the RSPCA, who said that a horse he was keeping in a nearby field was lame and in pain. Luttman explained to Court that he had been a jobmaster for 54 years and had had the amimal looked at by a vet, who recommended rest for it. He had therefore moved the horse from his brick-floored stabling at the Hotel to the field, so it was softer for his feet. The Bench had no hesitation in dismissing the case.

The next month, Luttman handed over the Hotel to his son-in-law, Walter Bailey, but continued to live there. His son, Hampden Shore Luttman, was knocked down and killed by an express train near Woburn Sands Station in January 1911, aged 45. Although he had been ill for some time, the Inquest, which was also held at the Station Hotel, considered it an Accidental Death. John Taylor Luttman died the next year, still living at the Station Hotel, aged 77.

Walter Bailey was the son of Robert Bailey, the Baileys who had run The Weathercock Inn for over 40 years. He was only there three years, as in the Beds Times is an advert for a sale in November 1915 by local auctioneers, Foll and Bawden.

“Removal to the Homestead adjoining the Weathercock Inn - Foll and Bawden will sell by auction on Friday November 12th 1915, at One o'clock precisely, by direction of Mr W. Bailey, (who is giving up the Station Hotel), and Mr J. Hines (who is leaving Aspley Guise). Furniture, including a Piano and outside effects, 3 horses, viz., a useful Bus or Van horse, thick set Cob, and a Bay Pony, all good workers; Two Broughams, two wheeled mail cart, two dog-carts, harness, pulper and miscellanea. No catalogues. On view morning of sale."

The next landlord was John Smith (a good beer name..)  He was possibly followed by his wife, as a Mrs Elizabeth Smith is recorded in a trade directory of 1924.  While they were there, their daughter married into the Rice family. Beds Times 5th May 1922:

INTERESTING WEDDING A quiet and interesting wedding was solemnised at S. Michael’s Church on Monday, between Miss Elizabeth (Betty) Smith, youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. Smith, of the Station Hotel, and Mr. Leonard J. B. Rice, only son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Rice, of the Hardwick-road Garage. The ceremony conducted by the Vicar (the Rev. J. Shelton. The bride, who was given away her brother, Mr. Harry Smith, (owing to the illness of her father) was dressed in a costume of navy blue coating serge, with a brown hat and shoes and stockings to match, and carried a bouquet of Marechal Neil roses. She was attended by Miss A. Smith (sister), who wore a grey costume, Mr. S. R. Collins (friend) best man. During the service, the hymns, “Heavenly Father, lead us.” and “The voice that breathed o’er Eden.” were sung, Mr. H. Seabrook being the organist, also playing Mendelssohns Wedding March at the conclusion. The wedding breakfast was served at the Station Hotel, where the guests included Mrs J. Smith, Mrs. J. Rice. Mr. and Mrs L. J. Sears (Bedford), Mr. and Mrs. E. Beesley, Master W. Beesley, Miss Gurnev. Mr. H. Bulmer, Miss Bowder, and Miss Elsie Bowers. Owing to the exigencies of business the bridegroom's father was unable to be present. Later Mr. and Mrs. Rice left for London where the honeymoon is being spent.

By May 1928, a Mr Hinde had taken over and advertised the Hotel in the Beds Times as:

“Station Hotel, Woburn Sands: Good Accommodation for visitors; parties (any number) catered for - Proprietor A Hinde. Phone: Woburn Sands 36.”

I found a mention in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, of 31st May, 1941, that Henry Sanders, the ex-landlord ofThe Swan at Woburn Sands, had died, and a Mr & Mrs J Smith and family of the Station Hotel Woburn Sands had sent a condolences card, but there is no way to determine if these Smiths are the same as those who ran the Hotel in the 1920's.

In the 1960’s, the landlord was Norman ‘Sonny’ Jenkinson, who during WWII was part of the famous radio show ITMA (It's That Man Again). This article first appeared in the “Red Barrel”, the magazine for Watney Mann Ltd., in December 1968. (Watney had bought out Phipps & Co. in 1960.)

“The attic room in The Station Hotel, a Watney Mann (Midlands) pub at Woburn Sands, must be just about the most intriguing and exotic attic of any licensed premises in the country. For it is in this long, narrow room that Mr Norman Jenkinson, landlord of The Station Hotel, keeps his wigs and costumes - not to mention a few grotesque masks, fur stoles, immense diamond' necklaces and ear-rings. Not that the commuters from the nearby station, and the weekend visitors popping in for a pint after visiting Woburn Abbey, would think there was anything unusual about the wiry, 56-year-old Mr Jenkinson who serves them with their beer. Nor would Mr Jenkinson be likely to don his 'props' for their amusement - he'd consider it most unprofessional to mix his present day duties as a licensee with his previous career as one of the best known ‘dames’ in pantomime.  And if there is one label that you can pin on ‘Sonny Jenks' - sorry, Norman - it is that of being a real professional.

Born in Birmingham in 1912, Norman Jenkinson first gleaned the idea of a stage career when he went to a birthday party where there was a conjuror. The conjuror thought that his dressing up was ‘most professional', and he was invited to perform at a bowling club in a pub. He soon discovered he could play a pantomime dame though he admits that once he proved himself at it he wasn’t given the chance to play much else!

During the war, Sonny Jenks (as he called himself on stage) was invited to join the famous radio show ITMA (It's That Man Again) and played the part of charwoman Lola Tickle, whose catch phrase was 'I always do my best for h'all me gentleman’.  The part was later revived as Mrs Mopp, but by that time Sonny had got another engagement.

Norman Jenkinson and wife.

For 25 years Sonny toured the country giving joy to millions of children, and their parents. He met his wife, Barbara, 14 years ago, while appearing in 'Goody Two Shoes' at Hanley. She was one of the girls who had to balance on a 2 foot high globe, rolling it with her feet. After they were married and toured together, Barbara Jenkinson was always ready backstage to help with Sonny's changes of costume, sometimes as many as 30 in a day. Barbara also helped enormously with Sonny's characterisations of the 'dame'. 'He used to watch every movement I made when we were not on the stage - copying them and exaggerating feminine gestures. And if I saw him eyeing some dishy blonde in the street I could never complain!' she grinned.

Sonny Jenks came into the trade about 10 years ago, but still kept on his Christmas pantomime appearances. He took The Station Hotel in April 1966 and finds that he does not have very much time for the 'boards' these days. But his desk drawer is filled with a memory of cuttings and in that attic is just about every variety of costume that he has ever worn. For a few brief moments he took me up there, donned a wig and fur stole and was 'Sonny Jenks - Pantomime Dame'. Then we went for tea in the lounge downstairs and I was talking to Norman Jenkinson again.”

The Station Hotel was taken by Kevin Brewer in November 1986, who is still there in 2014, successfully running it today. He also took the Fir Tree Hotel in May 1999, which is now run by his son.