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Home > Bedfordshire > Toddington > Sow & Pigs

Sow & Pigs

Picture source: Allan Friswell

The Sow & Pigs was situated at 19 Church Square. It was built in the mid-19th century on the site of an earlier, 16th century, pub.
A truly great, off the wall, eccentric pub run by the inimitable, unforgettable Roger and his long-suffering wife Sue. Roger would arbitrarily ban anyone for anything. But if you turned up next night he’d welcome you back affably as if nothing had happened. No food, just sarnies sometimes. Greene King ales of the very best presentation. It remains the only pub I’ve ever entered, mid-afternoon, into a bar empty of all but one customer, sitting reading his paper with a brown paper bag with holes on over his head. It stayed in place for the length of my two pints... It was also memorable for having Roger, in his coffin, taken out through a downstairs window from the back bar post-wake.
So very very sad to see it closed. Sue, I suspect, wasn’t up to running it alone. But that it wasn’t snapped up by another manager amazes me. It was one of, I think, only half a dozen pubs countrywide to have appeared in the GBG from the first edition till it (the pub) closed.
Allan Friswell (November 2014)
Before Roger took over the Sow and Pigs was run by another eccentric. I first went in about 1975 when living in Dunstable. I walked in to a pub that looked as if it had last been decorated before the war, possibly WWI. There was one person there plu the landlord. I asked for a pint of GK bitter. The landlord turned round without uttering a word and disappeared. Some minutes later he appeared with a superb pint. This was at a time when virtually the only beer available in the area was Whitbread Trophy of equivalent swill. (although Youngs was available in the Vauxhall Motors Recreation Club. Two or three pints later I asked why he did not use the hand pumps ‘It spoils the beer’. Later he got in Abbot Ale too but refused to serve it in thundery weather.
There was a small but diverse set of regulars ranging from the auctioneer to a character with mental issues, harmless but possibly the person with the paper bag over his head. I well remember one evening when that character came in. Someone asked ‘Where’ve you been Jed (or some similar name). ‘I been lurking’ ‘Where you been lurking’ ‘In the churchyard’ The churchyard was opposite and like many old church yards the level is a couple of metres above street level. ‘Jed’ liked to lurk there and jump out at unsuspecting passersby. Innocent fun - by standards at that time.
When Roger came in he painted the place in a warm colour (probably fire brick) and introduced food even if only sarnies and horror of horrors brought the pumps back into use. Revolutionary stuff that brought the punters in. The Sow and Pigs was a welcome contrast to the fancy fairy light festooned pubs on the green.
Given its position opposite the church it must have an old history despite its 19th C brick exterior.
A sad loss. It’s 40 years since I left the district and I have lived overseas for most of that time. I often fondly recall a great pub. I had been thinking of paying a visit next time I’m back.
Neil Thomson (February 2018)
In 1978 I was a graduate Commercial Trainee with George Wimpey Construction Ltd, then a multi national contracting group, and I was posted to their Toddington Road, Sundon, Luton office for six months. Every Friday lunchtime the buying department would head for a pub in Toddington for an extended lunch. Mostly outside of the summer we would go to the Sow and Pigs and get locked in until five or so! The landlord and his wife would serve us steak sandwiches on the house. We would then stagger back to the office just as it was closing. Other than that in the summer it would be the Bedford Arms, also sadly gone I believe? At one time it was said that Toddington had the highest density of pubs per head of population than any village in England. Happy days
Garry Cuddon (April 2019)

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