||THE BELL INN
All villages had lots of public houses in those days. I don't know whether people drank more or whether its just that they had to drink locally because there was no transport. The Bell was a strange building. A three storey building with an arched roof, a sort of a semi-circular roof.
The landlord there was a Mr. Holt. When he retired, he came to live in a little cottage next to what I still refer to as the old Co-Op. Eventually, he left property to a charity, known as the Holt Charity. It was started as a Holt-Coal charity, to help the very poorest of the poor with coal at Christmas. The Holt charity still exists. The piece of land which was originally rented out, for an yearly income, was eventually sold to build houses on. The funds from the sale was invested in a charity-commission. I have been a trustee(one of three) on the whole charity for many, many years. We distribute money to the poorer people.
The Bell gave it's name to the Bell field, and now to the Old Bell Lane. The Bell was a public house, of which I knew almost nothing about. We knew a bit about the Fountain, because we lived opposite. We knew a bit about the Plough(another public house), because that was just down the road. We knew a bit about the Talbot, because we had to pass it everyday to go to school. The bell was knocked down some years ago and now has two bungalows built on that area.
On a little recording which I have got, Mr. Stevens talks about being privileged as quite a youngster, of taking the ballot-boxes from the first proper National Election that was held in the village. He had been allowed to use a horse of one of the aristocrats of Shenley, to take the Ballot-boxes on horse-back to Stony Stratford. He picked them up at Shenley School, and when he was going past the Bell with Ballot-boxes strapped to his back, the men had just come out and tried to get him off his horse. He says quite distinctly, "They won't gonna let me give up my ballot-boxes".
Going on from the Bell, where Portway is now, there were a couple of wooden houses built - almost like terrapins. That was a Transport Cafe. After my early days, very soon between the wars, transport was becoming much more popular. Transport Cafes used to be where the "riffraff" congregated. Lorry drivers didn't have a very good name in my young days, partly because they were dirty and covered in smoke. I can remember it to be quite an achievement, when we were considered to be old enough to go into the Transport Cafe for a cup of tea.
There was quite a sharp little hill there, which is now being flattened out, on the Watling Street. I think it was known as the Crabtree Hill. It was quite a common-place for accidents there.