The Craufurd Arms was only the fifth public house to be granted a licence in new Wolverton. Its predecessors were the Radcliffe Arms (1839), the Royal Engineer (1841), the North Western (1861) and the Victoria Hotel (1861). Despite Wolverton’s spectacular growth the magistrates were very reluctant to grant licences in Wolverton; in fact a condition was imposed on Wolverton by the Radcliffe Trustees that no licensed premises should be allowed on railway property, that is the original 22 acres that they sold to the London and Birmingham Railway Company. Both the Radcliffe Arms and the Royal Engineer were built on Radcliffe Trust land outside Wolverton as it then was.
Stony Stratford interests were paramount in this. Despite the spectacular growth of Wolverton, which outstripped the older town’s population with its first decade, Stony Stratford was awarded six new licences, apparently without objection. The original covenant was probably introduced by John Congreve, a Stony Stratford solicitor who did a lot of work for the Radcliffe Trust. He teamed up with Joseph Clare, the owner of the Cock, to build the Radcliffe Arms and the Royal Engineer, and were naturally anxious to rule out any competition. the situation was relaxed in 1860 when Wolverton was finally allowed to expand and licences were awarded to the North Western and the Victoria Hotel, but thereafter the embargo on new licences was once more instituted. An attempt to build a new public house on Green lane in the 1890s was firmly vetoed.
The People’s Refreshment House Association was a movement with temperance objectives, but rather than take a hard line against the sale of alcohol they decreed that they wold make no profit from the sale of alcohol and instead make their profit from hotel rooms, meals and the sale of non-alcoholic beverages. How they managed that is uncertain. If they made no profit on alcohol then the price would be cheaper, and, in theory ate any rate, encourage people to drink more. The chairman of this organisation was Lieutenant Colonel Henry Craufurd, who was to give his name to the new establishment when it was built.
The PRHA began to show an interest in Wolverton as a possible site in 1901. They first latched on to the Green Lane site which had been the objective of William Tarry a few years earlier and was still vacant. These negotiations came to nothing. Meanwhile the Radcliffe Trust had decided to open up new land to the west of Windsor Street for new housing, and unlike of previous occasions where they had sold land to the LNWR, they were advised to develop the land themselves. They now had full control of this development, which is why the new streets were named after Radcliffe Trustees.
They appeared to look kindly on the PRHA and no objections would be raised against a new licence. The PHRA hired an architect, mr. C.V. Cable of Hartley Wintney in Hampshire, and eventually the new house was built at a total cost of £7000. It was an elegant three storey brick building much in the style of the times. Apparently habitable attic space was part of the original design but this was eliminated to reduce the total cost.
A licence was approved in 1906 and the Craufurd arms celebrated its opening day on July 7th 1907. The first manager was Mr. H.C. Wood who was already an employee of the PRHA. In 1911 he was succeeded by Arthur O’Rourke, a Wolverton native, (and incidentally a friend, colleague in the railways accounts office and fellow Thespian of one of my great uncles) who worked there for five years until he volunteered for military service.
The building was much enlarged in 1936 with the addition of a large hall measuring 50 feet by 30 feet and an expansion of the dining room. The work was undertaken by the local builders Winsor and Glave. In the same year another building, separate from the main one, was erected in part of the garden for the use as a Masonic Lodge. This was paid for by the PRHA at a cost of £1000. The Masonic Lodges would have a prior claim to its use at an annual rental of £25. The building was completed in February 1936.
This arrangement fell apart in 1953 when one of the senior masons and the new tenant of the Craufurd Arms “had serious differences”, according to Percy Sykes History of the Scientific Lodge. The subtext of this was that the Craufurd Arms manager was having an affair with the mason’s wife. In these circumtances a continued business relationship was untenable and the masons departed, first for temporary accommodation in Haversham, and later for their own property on the Square.
1953 was also the year that the PHRA ceased to have any control over the Craufurd Arms. It was taken over in May 1953 by Wells and Winch, the Biggleswade brewing company. They brought in the new manager, above mentioned, who succeeded in ruffling more than a few feathers. He lasted just over a year and was replaced by Wally Odell in November 1954. He was a former Tottenham Hotspur footballer and he and his wife managed the Craufurd until February 1965 when they retired from pub life for the more conventional hour offered by the Green Lane stores.
They were not there for long. After only two months they decided that they were not cut out for the grocery business and returned to pub life at the Embankment Hotel in Bedford.
Wells and Winch were taken over by Charringtons in 1962 at the beginning of a series of acquisitions which reduced pub ownership to a handful of large companies. During this period the hotel went through a £60,000 re-fit which included a new sign. The new sign was mis-spelled “Crawford”. It was soon corrected.
Now, after over 100 years, the Craufurd Arms is still in operation but it remains the last pub in Wolverton to be granted a licence.