A Walk Around Luton in 1804

In 1804, Luton contained just over 600 houses and slightly over 3000 people, just one third of the average attendance at a Luton Town home football match in 2020. Trade was confined mainly to malting, straw plaiting, straw hat manufacture and agriculture. The buildings were chiefly public houses, farm houses, maltings and old thatched cottages. The few shops had small low windows and the frontages of a few of the more respectable dwellings were paved with pebbles. Other parts were unpaved. Buildings projected far out into the roadway, which was further encroached upon by banks of earth, so that carts could pass each other only with some difficulty. Grass and weeds were much in evidence. The channels along both sides of the roadway were the receptacles of refuse, and planks were placed across these channels, opposite each front door, for the residents to get into the road. Sanitation was unheard of; the drainage and liquid refuse was conveyed down into the river Lea from the surface of the streets.

Who were the people who lived in Luton those days? Were your ancestors amongst them? The directory that follows is taken from an article that appeared in the “Luton Times and Advertiser” in 1883. The origin was unquoted and its author unrecognised. The original text is in italics, to which I’ve attached my comments. The map below is not to scale and its only purpose is to assist with the location of the residents and their properties.

Map of Luton

1. The George Inn

Our walk around Luton begins at The George Inn, on the east side of the George Street, shown in the centre of the map (no. 1). We head northwards and travel round Luton in an anti-clockwise direction:

The George Inn

“We begin at the George Inn, kept by Mr. Thomas Cook. The sign hangs from a beam of timber which crosses over the street and is often set swinging by a waggon loaded high. On the same side of the street as the George are four lime trees. Adjoining the gateway of the George is the house of Mr. Leonard Hampson. Next to this is the cottage of a wool sorter named Bear, and next the residence of Miss Fossey. Then comes Fossey’s maltings and farm yard.”

The George was one of the most ancient inns in the town and eventually closed in 1965. Leonard Hampson was a lawyer and banker and took into partnership with John Griffiths, who lived at the other side of Fossey’s farm. Fossey’s farm is where Bute Street would be laid down circa 1840.

2. Lawyer Griffiths

Then Lawyer Griffiths house. Next to Mr. Griffiths’s garden lives Mr. Squires, who formerly kept the Workhouse, and next to him Thomas Falkner, shoe-maker“.

Mr Griffiths’s garden extended to what is now Guildford Street, with the river Lea running through the garden. His house would later become the site of The Free Library in 1883 followed by the Carnegie Library in 1910. The Workhouse was in Park Square at this time – see 18 below.

3. The Horse and Jockey

“The Horse and Jockey tavern, Mr. Edward Smith lives at, but he is also a farmer of a good deal of land in the township. Down the Horse and Jockey yard are three cottages, but continuing along the main street the traveller comes to Green, the miller’s, and then Mr. John Field’s; next to him Mr. Joseph Wren’s, the wheelwright who has a yard called by his name which containeth four cottages and which reacheth down to the river”.

The Horse and Jockey tavern had occupied this site since the 1700’s when it was known as the Horse and Groom. The pub closed for business in 1960 and became Chelsea Girl boutique until demolition in 1976.

4. Northern Boundary

“Between Mr. Wren’s and the Duke’s Head, kept by Mr. William Sandon, is a garden. The town here endeth northward, but there is a pleasant walk to Luton Downs over Horsepool Bridge by Mr. Robert Barton’s tan-yard, the watermill of Mr. Daniel Freeman and the windmill belonging to Mr Francis Cook”.

The Dukes Head, anciently The Prince’s Head, stood on the corner of what was to become Manchester Street and Bridge Street, the eventual site of W G Durrant, butcher. Horsepool Bridge passed over the River Lea. In 1795 there was only a timber footbridge by a ford and all the carriages had to pass through the ford or “horse-pool”. This was replaced in 1797 by two brick bridges and the overall road level was built up 7ft. Mr Barton was known as a “Fellmonger”, a dealer in hides or skins and his place was near the present day Mill Street, as was north watermill belonging to Mr Freeman. There was a windmill on Rye Hill (now Cromwell Hill) and this was eventually sold  to Mr. Thomas Lye, who used it as a store for his bleaching and dyeing works. Beyond the bridge was the toll-gate and the road to Scourge End (Round Green). Turning immediately to the left after the bridge was the Old Bedford Road heading north towards the “Luton Downs” which was the open area to the north of Luton which became known as Stopsley Common.

5. The Moor

The Moor reached from the north side of Bridge Street across to the Dunstable Road, which had opened in 1784 and then north towards the Stockingstone Road area. It was used by the public at fair times and on special occasions. Note that the New Bedford Road did not exist in 1804 and the river Lea ran through the length of the Moor. In 1808, as part of “The Luton Enclosure Act”, a small part of the Moor around Bridge Street (the “Little Moor”) was given to the Marquis of Bute and was eventually covered by the cattle market, T. Sworder’s brewery and H. O. William’s timber yard. Even later, this area was covered by the Co-op department store.

6. The Red Cow

“Almost opposite the Duke’s Head is a stile called Red Cow Stile, being next to a public house so called, now in the occupation of William Gray, adjoining to which are cottages occupied by Tenant, Corby, Fensome, Giles, Jeffs, Cherry, and Glenister. On Tower Hill is William Cherry’s malting and the house of Mr. Joseph Williamson”


The Red Cow

The Red Cow stile stood at the entrance to Lancrets Lane, which still exists today as Lancrets Path. Tower Hill was the sloping land rising to the west of Manchester Street as it is known today and as late as 1842 Manchester Street was still known as Tower Hill. The origin of the name Tower Hill has been lost in obscurity. The Red Cow was demolished around the time that the “New” Bedford Road was built in 1832.

7. Before the First Town Hall …

“At the corner of Dunstable Lane are the farm buildings and stables of Mr. John Pryor”. On the present site of the Town Hall in 1804 were the farm buildings of John Pryor. For many years afterwards the land between present-day Alma Street and Collingdon Street was open and later became brickfields. “In the lane leading to Dunstable dwelleth Job Foxley, Mary Squires, Thomas Odell, Mr. Wm. Inwards, and Mr. Joseph Paine. Mr. Paine’s wife and daughters are considered the best plaiters of straw in the town and neighbourhood. In the yard adjoining the house are three cottages now empty, and four cottages in front occupied by Wingrave, Bull, Isaacs, and Philpotts. Then cometh the house of Mr. Maurice Jones, lately from Ireland, and the farmhouse and buildings belonging to Mr. Charles Butcher”. Beyond which is the top end of Lancret’s Mead, and there is no other house but The Fox with this inscription:

I am a Fox, you plainly see,
There can no harm be found in me,
For Laurence Clarke hath set me here,
To let you know he sells Good Beer.

All the buildings mentioned above at the lower end of Dunstable Lane have now become the site of the Luton Town Hall. The Fox was formed by three thatched cottages standing well back from the junction of Dunstable Lane and the track to Dallow Farm. It was sufficiently removed from the middle of town to make it a destination for an evening stroll. An annual fair used to be held in front of this inn called the “Fox Fair” noted for its buns, called “wigs”. The Fox was rebuilt in the mid-1920’s.

8. Duke of Clarence

“Almost opposite to Mr. Butcher’s is the extensive malting of Mr. Thomas Wood, and next to that is the very ancient farm house and the large rick-yard of Mr. Thomas Brett, then the old cottage tenanted by Mr. Joseph Garner. A garden separates Mr. Brett’s premises from the Two Brewers public-house, kept by Mr. John Hill”.


The Clarence Hotel

I believe that the name of Thomas Brett above is wrong and should be John Brett. The top floor of his farmhouse used to project out over the street. In later years the Two Brewers became “The Clarence” and then “The Duke of Clarence“.

It closed in 2015.


9. A Fine Old Chestnut Tree

“Then come Mr. Thomas Cook’s farm buildings, which brings the traveller again to the west end of George-street, called Cross Hill. But here let it be noted that there are two cottages at the back of Mr. Cook’s yard, and there are two more fronting George-street, inhabited by Fensome and Brown. Mr. Brett has another yard of farm buildings next to them and next comes Gardner’s grocery shop.”

Cross Hill was at the junction of George Street, Dunstable Lane and Tower Hill, near where the War Memorial is now.  “A fine old chestnut tree” was growing here in 1804. In 1818, the Marquess of Bute demolished Mr Brett’s farm buildings in preparation for the development of Wellington Street. John Brett moved to the newly built Bury farmhouse along Dunstable Road. It wasn’t until 1882 that the first portion of the “Bury Park” estate was offered for sale.

10. West side of George St.

“The first house (back in George Street) is that belonging to Mrs. Sarah Nash. The next is Mr. George King’s baker’s shop. The houses of Miss Frayley and Smith the schoolmaster, then the mansion of Richard Parkes, Esq., Justice of the Peace. Next to that the house of Mr. William Dyer, who has set up as a surgeon after being some years assistant to Dr. Chase. Then come the dwelling houses of Jerry Freeman, Copleston, and Clark. Then a yard containing four cottages, lived in by Gutteridge, Lamb, Goodman, and Green.”

The above section mentions Smith, the schoolmaster. It is not known when the first school in Luton began. Charitably minded townsmen made provision in their wills for the education of children. There was a school held at the parish church of St. Mary in 1776 in a room above the vestry and this was eventually discontinued on the establishment of the National School in 1835. The Methodists, who had recently withdrawn from the Church, started their first Sunday School in a cottage in Park Street in 1803. The Baptists of The Park Street Meeting also had a school at this time. Richard Parkes was Steward at Luton Hoo and Justice of the Peace for the County. The yard mentioned above would later become Adelaide Terrace.

11. Hog Lane

“But keeping along George Street, next to Clark’s, is Stephen Taylor’s carpenter’s shop. Then Henry Cain’s the watchmaker; Thomas Foster, cooper; Mrs. Cain, whitesmith; Madame Barnet’s school; Edward Cain, tailor; Clarke, wood stainer; Olney, butcher; Mr. Richard Brown, maltster; Peregrine Nash, weaver; corner of Hog lane, up which are five cottages and Dame Henson’s school. There are also three cottages on the way to Farley Green”.

This little colony of trades-people speaks eloquently of life at this time. It was unusual to find a woman carrying on the business of a Whitesmith, a metalworker who does finishing work on iron and steel such as filing, lathing, burnishing or polishing, now called a silversmith. Mr Richard Brown’s malting was on the site of “The Old Bell” public house, not to be confused with the Bell Inn on the eastern side of George St (see no.28). Hog Lane would be re-named to Chapel Street in 1814, in consequence of a new Wesleyan chapel being built there. The schools mentioned above were probably Plait schools where young girls and boys would have to produce so many yards of plait as set by the parents. Conditions were deplorable and the rooms densely overcrowded.

12. The Shoulder of Mutton

The Old Shoulder of Mutton

“At the corner of Hog Lane in the Market Place, dwelleth William Coupees, upholsterer, and James Day keepeth the Shoulder of Mutton next to him. As the traveller goes up the Market Hill he passes the Shambles under the “Shoulder of Mutton” against which is Mr. Thomas Kimpton’s baker. Then Mr. Mead’s wholesale grocer and tallow candle maker, and the house of Mr. Francis Coupees, farmer.”

The old Shoulder of Mutton was demolished and then rebuilt in 1837.

“Shambles” is an obsolete term for an open-air slaughterhouse and meat market. The Shambles of Luton were originally quite extensive, surrounding the Market House and were used for selling butter, eggs, poultry etc. Francis Coupees gave his name to “Coupees Place”.

13. The Red Lion

 “Then the Red Lion Inn and premises, which are very extensive, having stabling for more than 40 horses, and which reach to what is called Coupees Place, where there are ten cottages lived in by Patrick, shoemaker; Thomas Spilsbury, flax dresser; Samuel Hooker and others. The Red Lion is kept by William Green, and formerly by Hopkins, who was the last to issue a Token at Luton during the Commonwealth period”.

The Red Lion is one of the most ancient Inns in the town and is still trading today. The lack of regal copper coin in the middle part of the 17th century and the need for small change set many traders issuing their own tokens. Records show only three Luton men have done so, including Richard Hopkins.

14. Pyke’s Close

“At the corner of Coupees’ Place, turning back into Castle Street, liveth John Day, tailor; next William Butterfield, whip maker; John Hawkes, builder; Edward Wilson, blacksmith; and the Misses Field. Then Pyke’s malting, which is parted from Castle Ditches Close by a very ancient church path leading from Someries to the Dallow Farm”.

Thomas Pyke (or Pike) was a woolsorter (sorted wool into coarser and finer grades) when he came to Luton. He spent his last fourpence on a night’s lodging at the Foot Plough Inn (see 27),  where the men of his trade gathered and he got a job with John Hay, a fellow woolsorter. He made good and he bought the above property in Castle Street. The conveyance to Pyke describes the land as “all that close of meadow called Castle Ditch Close”. The path through his land became known as Pykes Close, which ran from Castle Street to Chapel Street and is today called Victoria Street. Mention of the church path is interesting; it was called a church path not because it gave access to the church but because it traversed through original church lands. Parts of it became Langley Street and Stuart Street in later years.

15. Castle Street

“Opposite Pyke’s Malting is the Talbot or Dog Tavern kept by Mr. Mark Pates, and next in Castle Street as we return to the Market Place (as the town reacheth no higher up the road to London) there followeth Ellerd, Pratt, Teaton, Wood, Turner, Coles, Branton, Sherlock, J. Bigg, sen., J. Bigg, jun., Mr. Francis Cook, mealman; Mary Hill; Hooker, collar maker; and Mr. Carter”.

The Dog public house mentioned above was not one of the ancient inns and has no such place in the history of the town. It lasted until 1967 when it was swept away for the Inner Ring Road. A “Talbot” was a type of hunting hound common in England during the Middle Ages. It was along this stretch of Castle Street that the Friends Meeting House had just been built in 1800 and was used by The Society of Friends and other Protestant dissenters, called “Quakers”, as a place of divine worship. It was the first slate-roofed building in Luton. Mr. Francis Cook had built his house and warehouse here only the year before and in doing so pulled down parts of the remaining walls of the old Langley mansion.

16. Corn Market House

The Corn Market House (centre) in 1835

“Opposite the Corn Market House, in the Market Place, is the house and warehouse of Mr. Francis Coupees, jun., straw plait merchant, and next to him that of Mr. Thomas Coupees, straw bonnet maker. Then three cottages in Middle Row, opposite to which is Mr. Cawdell’s harness shop, and Mr. Matthew Field’s butcher shop”.

The Corn Market-House was an ancient building, built partly on wood and partly on brick pillars; it was tiled and had a loft with bins for the storing of corn. On its roof was the fire-alarm bell and suspended from the ceiling were the fire ladders and drags. The stocks were there as well. Middle Row was a block of tenements and shops flanking the Market House and facing East. There was also an inn known as the “Kings Arms” among the buildings. The western side of Middle Row was cleared in 1867 in preparation for the building of the new Corn Exchange.

17. The Crown Inn

“Then the Crown Inn, kept by Mr. Henry Taylor, who is the carrier to London. Next Mr. William Anstee, draper; Dr. John Chase; John Wesley, shoemaker; John Gardner, tailor; Mr. John Knowles, haberdasher; Mr. Robert Hill, auctioneer; Mr. Daniel Brown, the houses of the two latter being situated on Cross Pond. Mr. Daniel Brown, sen., is a baker and maltster, and next is Samuel Chase, surgeon”.

The Crown was yet another ancient hostelry, dating from the 16th century or before. The building still exists today and after a number of name changes is still The Crown. Cross Pond was the area now known as Park Square. The pond, which was of considerable size, lay at the corner of Church Street. It was enclosed with brick walls, except on the south-west side, which was left open for cattle, and freely used by children in summer for bathing, and for sliding when frozen over in winter.

At the south-east end of this pond stood the “Round House” and fire-engine house. The “Round House” was a lock-up for the temporary accommodation of malefactors pending their removal to Bedford prison. The pond was condemned at the Court Leet in 1836, and was filled up within two days therefrom, and the lock-up and fire-engine house taken down.

18. Park Street

“Then come the Hospital, the Workhouse, known as “the house with the three steps,” Workhouse Yard, the Tythe Barn and Tythe Barn Yard. These may now be said to be fronting Park Street, formerly called Sheep Street or South End. Down this street are Mr. Anthony Sherlock, painter and glazier; Mr. J. Woodward at the Cock; Mr. Richard Haselgrove, builder; Mr. Thomas Mead, grocer; Mr. Daniel Brown, Jnr., flour and pig dealer; Mr. John Wood, butcher; Thomas Battams, basket maker; Robert Whitting, Bland, Coleman, J. Sherlock, Jackson, Flitton, Richard Stone, Bull Inn, Horton, Wright, Glenister, Newman, and Prudden”.

View of Park St

The drawing  shows Park Street as it was in 1821 looking south from Park Square. Going from right to left, we see the workhouse, the Tithe Barn and the Cock inn further down. On the left we see the Cross Pond and the lock-up. As mentioned above, “Hospital” signified a place or building erected out of charity for the reception and support of the poor, aged, sick, and otherwise helpless.

Until 1766, part of a large house in Castle Street called Langleys was used for this purpose. In 1836, after the workhouse was transferred to Dunstable Road, this building was converted to a private dwelling, but later this became “The Brewery Tap“. The Cock Inn was trading till a few years ago but is now closed. The Bull later became “The Black Bull” in the 1940’s and was demolished in 1969 for road widening purposes.

19. Long Pond

“There are three houses in Old Yard. F. Newman lives at the corner of the street, opposite Long Pond. Next to him are three cottages (empty) and three more occupied by Mead, Buckthorpe, and Master Crawley, who sees after Burr’s farm-yard adjoining. Next to which is Mr. Samuel Ainsworth’s house with a cottage, and then a passage called Ainsworth’s passage, up which are three cottages and. a barn. There are three Church charity cottages between Mr. Ainsworth’s shop and The Chequers public-house, kept by Mr. Clarke, next to which lives Cookson, carpenter, and in the yard, Pates. Fronting the street there are four cottages, before the meadow which is in West Hyde hamlet. Carter and Jacob Chad live at the last two. Beyond is the Breache Mill, occupied by Mr. Brown”.

Long Pond was as insanitary as was Cross Pond. This can be guessed from the fact that today’s Lea Road bore the unsavory name of Blackwater Lane for the overflow from the pond ran through its ditches down to the river.

20. The Wheelplough Inn

“Crossing over the other side of the road opposite to Long Pond there liveth Mead, the schoolmaster; Anderson, J. Crew, Emmington and Bent. Then there are three cottages and the Old Wheel Plough, kept by Mr. George Bigg ; Mrs. Flitton lives next door, and there are two cottages fronting the Pond, now empty. Down Havering’s lane live Hill, Crawley, Day, Conquest, Lowen, Toyer, Harris, and Wheeler”.
The Wheelplough Inn was the inn that started the long chain of brewers that was to lead to the J W Green brewing concern. I feel sure that “Haverings Lane” was a preferred name for “Blackwater Lane”. It lead to the old manor of Havering in Stopsley.

21. Towards St. Ann’s Lane

“Returning to Park Street by Mr. Bunn’s meadow, opposite the Baptist Meeting Burial Ground, live Nehemiah Munn, grave-digger, and pew-opener Dorrington, Whitley, Deamer, the watchman and lamp-lighter. Hunt, Harris, Crawley, and Godfrey, then Dr. Robert Kerby’s, “the Diel House”, Limbury the carrier, and next to him Quick and Pollie Knight. Next to her is Mr. Joseph Brown, and opposite to him is St. Ann’s Lane, down which dwelleth Walker, Brown, and Clark”.

No reference can be traced to Mr. Bunn and it is possible that it was a mistake for Mr. Burr. There remains the need for an explanation to “the Diel House”.

22. William Burr’s Brewery, Park Street

“But keeping up Park Street, the traveller now cometh to the Brewery of Mr. William Burr, and adjoining is the residence of his mother. Then the houses and shops of Welch, Smith, Swan, Sherlock and Mr. Burr, then Gamby, the blacksmith on Cross Pond, and Post-Office”.

Mr. William Burr’s mother was the widow of Thomas Godfrey Burr, who died in 1798. She lived in “The White House”, which was built in 1767 and stood where what is now the entrance to the University of Bedfordshire. It would appear that a Post-Office existed at the top of Church Street at this time.

23. Church Street

“So down Church Street we will come to Thomas Hawkes, bricklayer, Emmerton, Hayward, J. Norris, S. Norris, Bailey, Barrett, and Dawson. Past the entrance to Burr’s garden to How’s yard, thence to cottages inhabited by Belshaw Fensom, Leeper, the carpenter, and Dobbs, and so to Mr. Jackson, parish clerk, at the church gate, near the Buxom Tree”.

The Buxom tree was a fine specimen of elm, eighty feet high. On May day, youths and maidens danced round it. The tree would be felled in 1866. There is no mention above of The Wheatsheaf, which was recorded elsewhere as being in Church Street in 1798. It was managed by a James Barrett and this must be the Barrett mentioned in the extract above. The old inn was demolished in 1907 and the new building was only 50 years old when it was demolished in 1957 to make way for the new Luton College of Technology.

24. Amen Corner

“At the Hitchin road end of the churchyard is a cottage where lived Thorogood, and there are three cottages at Pondwicks inhabited by Bennett, Conquest and Conquest. We now reach Morris’s Tan Yard. At Amen Corner is the house built by Mr. Jackson, and at the Vicarage resideth the Rev. Daniel Basley”.

Pondwicks was the site of the old Church Mill or Abbey Mill, recalling the dominion of St. Albans over the church properties of Luton. The Rev. Charles Henry Hall was inducted as the Vicar of Luton in 1804 but he never appeared again in Luton Church after reading himself in. The work of the church was carried on by one of his curates, Rev. Daniel Basley, for 18 years.

25. The Birth of Methodism in Luton

“Returning up Church Street, are Young, Barton, Carter, and the gateway leading to Mr. Hay’s house and grounds. Next to which liveth Babbington, Haydon, Adams, Ellard, W. Underwood, J. Brown, Shortland, Miller; Cooper, Lazenby, Wesleyan Methodist preacher; Mrs. Lawford, G. Lawford, and three cottages up yard; Mr. Davis’s house and farmyard; W. Haydon, S. Haydon, Everett, Gutteridge, Barrett, Kingham, the Rev. T. Blundel, Baptist Minister; J. Barrett, carpenter; Alsop, grocer; Dr. Hutchins, Wainwright, and Weston. And in the yard, Humphrey (Quaker), F. Butterfield, shoemaker; F. Butterfield, maltster”.

Wesley Methodism was introduced into Luton about the year 1770 by William Cole, Esq., who, being an admirer and friend of John Wesley, at his request, built and gave the society a chapel in Church Street. Mr Lazonby was the preacher at this time. Previous to the erection of this place, their religious services were conducted in a small upper room of a dwelling house in the Market Place  occupied by the family of the Cawdells, harness maker. The Church Street Chapel would eventually be sold in 1923 and would become the site of the Masonic Hall.

26. Louse Lane

“Louse Lane here intervenes where are five cottages and two houses belonging to Charles Fuller, sack weaver, and John Gutteridge. At the Market Place, end of George Street, are the shops of Rushmore, and Field, Gatward, and Wingrave, and Mr. Cookson is landlord of the King’s Arms. At the top of Louse Lane is Mr. Smith, and two cottages in yard”.

Louse Lane was also known as Park Lane and Pepper Lane and led down to the River Lea. As mentioned above, The Kings Arms stood at the George Street end of Middle Row (see 16) and was previously called The Half Moon.

27. The Plough Public House

“Then going down George Street, come Haggar, tinman; Higgins at the Black Swan; Freeth, ironmonger; Miss Freeth; Fuller and Gutteridge; How at the Foot Plough; Crawley (formerly Bull), grocer; Wingrave, draper; Dean Wells, barber; Mr. Hay’s mansion; George Bigg, butcher and Bingham, fishmonger”.

The Black Swan was still trading until 1892 when Blundells took over the site. The Foot Plough gradually became the Plough over the years and when it was demolished in 1977, some of the interior fittings were used by Luton Museum to form a public house display. About the year 1760 one William Hay lived in Luton, and carried on a prosperous business as a draper. He purchased much property, not merely in the town, but in the neighbouring hamlets, and was succeeded by John Hay, “draper and woolstapler.” John Hay’s mansion was located where Barclays Bank would later be established.

28. The Waller Family

“Down Barber’s Lane, Pates, shoemaker; Liberty, breeches-maker, and Turney, plait jobber. Top of Barber’s Lane, and in George Street is the straw warehouse of Mr. Edmund Waller and the shop of Mr. James Waller. Then Thomas Cooper, baker; Bell Inn kept by Townrow; Peddar, Sharp, Hooker at the Cross Keys, cottage empty next to Widow Colemans. Next Hay’s Yard, where are three cottages, Cook and Laidlaw’s wool shops, and the straw warehouses of Messrs. Waller, and next Mr. Brown, steward to Lord Bute”.

The Wallers were an old Luton family and were to become considerable men of business in Luton in later years. Mr. Edmund Waller was a leading manufacturer of straw hats and by 1824 the family were ascendant in this direction, having given Luton supremacy over Dunstable. The Ampthill coach stopped for the night at the Bell. It left at 6am the next morning and reached London 12 hours later. The name of the Bell is retained on the block of buildings now on the site. The Cross Keys was a very ancient Inn, said at one time to be a religious house.


This ends our walk around Luton in 1804. The town grew slowly during the following years until the 1840’s when it began to grow rapidly from a small country market town to a large industrial centre. Few reminders of old Luton remain. The Parish Church is the probably the only building a Lutonian from 1804 would now recognise. I would like to thank the Bedfordshire Archives and Records Service for helping me research this period of Luton’s history and Mr John Peck for the splendid map.

More information on Market Hill can be found in my article “The Buildings of Market Hill”.

Comments about this page

  • Many thanks Terry -have you any photos ?

    By Paul Hammond (28/12/2021)
  • Greg – what a fantastic piece of research. I have just been researching the Gatward family that are mentioned as being in Louse Lane. The son Samuel Gatward became a convict sent to Bermuda and then NSW.

    By Terry Gatward (19/12/2021)

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