Every Pub In Bedford


I’ve lived in and around Bedford for pretty much my whole life of forty-something years, living in a handful of locations around the town during that time. My family was never the pub-going type, so I didn’t really start going to pubs until my university years (my only brief spell away from this town). So, after university, I returned to Bedford to enter the world of work … and brought back with me a newly-developed student’s taste for beer.

When I first arrived at uni, the cheapest beer available in the student bar was Webster’s, at 60p a pint – although the prices quickly rose to £1. Bitter, Guinness, and Fosters were staples of my drinking career, with Newcastle Brown Ale a particular treat. Within a few years of my return to Bedford, girlfriend in tow, our tastes in beer had moved on to include Kronenbourg and Caffrey’s, as well as the local staples of Charles Wells Eagle or Bombardier, and Greene King IPA or Abbot. As the years passed, we learnt more about Real Ale, and developed our taste for it. The Bedford Beer Festival in the Corn Exchange became an annual must-go event, instead of “if I feel like it” or “might not get round to it” or “oh, did I miss it?”. And eventually, at a different beer festival out of town one day, we joined CAMRA.

Recently I’ve been enjoying the Every Pub In Cambridge blog series, and started thinking about doing something similar: there are many pubs in Bedford that neither of us have ever been to, and some that we’ve only ever visited maybe once. So, should we aim to visit every pub in Bedford, say, within a year?

Of course, all the same questions that pintsandpubs came across, are there for us too: What is a “visit”? What is a “pub”? Geographically, where do we draw the limits of Bedford?

For “visit”, I think we’re going to follow a very similar model to that used in the Cambridge series: at least have a pint, and try to get a feel of the place. However, having said that, we’re reserving the right to bail if we need to. We’re two women, and without giving too many details about our appearance (because safety & anonymity), let’s just say that in many places, we don’t exactly blend in. Therefore, there are some pubs – the ones that ooze testosterone, spilling over onto the street outside, dribbling down the window-frames and onto the pavement – that we’re really not looking forward to visiting, and will probably be carefully picking the quietest, least-blokey time to pop in for a quick one. And believe you me, I think it will be a quick one, in some of these places.

I’m looking at you, Cross Keys. You too, Sportsman. Don’t look so surprised.

But maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised, who knows?

So, on to the phrase “every pub”: armed with a list of licensed premises, which includes off-licences, supermarkets, hotels, pubs, clubs, churches, and all sorts besides, we sat down and tried to agree on a useful definition of “pub”, that felt right. Broadly speaking, we settled on: must be primarily for the selling and on-site consumption of alcohol; i.e. you can go there for a drink, without being asked to dine too; and entry must be free (no members-only, no fees). Still, some of the choices do feel subjective, especially the dismissal of places from the starting list of 550 or so, as we try to work out, without ever visiting the place, if it sounds like it meets our arbitrary criteria.

And finally: “Bedford”. Initially we were thinking the MK40, MK41 and MK42 postcodes. But it turns out that includes Clapham too, and that feels wrong for now. So instead we’ve gone for places within / on the boundary as defined by the bypass (both southern and western), up to Tyne Crescent / Wentworth Drive / Norse Road.

Which basically gives us this:

Map of bedford, with a pin added for each pub
Every pub in Bedford? What does that even mean?

which is about 59 pubs. But: we believe that several of these are in fact already closed, so the actual list is probably going to be more like 56. And of those 56, we think we’ve each visited about 21 – mostly, but not quite, the same 21 as each other.

So, the list we came up with is this:

but I’ve included the closed ones in there. But who knows, our information may be inaccurate: other pubs might already be closed but we just don’t know it yet. Maybe we’ll pop along for a pint one day, and be disappointed. (Unless it was the Sportsman, in which case probably we wouldn’t).

So: that’s the plan. Visit; sample; write. We’re expecting to share the writing between us, according to our strengths, and we’ll work out what specifically to mention as we get there.

As we drew up the list, a number of places ended up on side lists, and those we might come back to another time, or maybe just as bonus entries (such as hotels, or pubs in the villages surrounding Bedford). But for now, we have a list to work through.

Best get cracking soon, right?

GirlMeetsPint and RealAleRocks

Update: the premises formerly known as St Peter’s Alehouse is now open as The Third Place.

Update: The Swan closed some years ago.

Update: Also, The Nag’s Head. Not sure about The Gardeners Arms.

Update: Added in The Anchor, Cardington Road; and we added Clapham.

Bonus entry: The Auction Room (not a pub, but I don’t care)

Update: The Gardners Arms is open. As, probably, is The Queen.


Cover image by Jim, licence: CC-BY-2.0. Map by Google Maps.

2 thoughts on “Every Pub In Bedford

  1. Shame to see Saint Peter’s Ale House has closed, I never got the chance to visit but it looked quite nice when I went past last year – any idea if it’s replacement is up to much? (I guess you’ll find out soon enough).

    The last time I had a drink in Bedford it was at Danny’s Bar in Esquires – did that not make the list?


    1. St Peter’s was a good place for a quiet pint – very quiet – but its main problem, in RealAleRocks and my assessment, was that the selection didn’t change enough. Good for a few visits, but then … not so much.

      No idea what the Third Place is like yet – looks a bit wine-bar-ish, but it’s still on the list. We didn’t include Danny’s Bar, though it’s definitely an edge case, somewhat like hotel bars perhaps. Maybe that’ll make an addendum / errata list 🙂


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