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The Balloon Public House Caddington

An Ordnance Survey map of 1880 - the red dot marks the approximate position of The Balloon
An Ordnance Survey map of 1880 - the red dot marks the approximate position of The Balloon

The Balloon Public House: Dunstable Road, Caddington [now Luton]

The Balloon is mentioned intermittently in directories for Bedfordshire between 1847 and 1869. Directories were not published every year but every few years and those mentioning The Balloon by name are those for 1847, 1864 and 1869. Only public houses were mentioned in directories, beerhouses simply being listed by the name of the licensee and the description "beerseller". Thus the fact that the Balloon is mentioned at all suggests it was a fully licensed public house.

The Balloon was a licensed premises by 1844 as the Macnamara Archive contains an abstract of title of James Warr, owner of Chaul End Farm, to "a public house called The Balloon, cottage and premises in Caddington" [MN42/2]. The abstract tells us that the site had been part of Chaul End Farm since at least 1765 when owned by Thomas and Elizabeth Birch. In 1844 Warr sold the Balloon to Dunstable brewer Benjamin Bennett. The public house is not listed in the countywide licensing registers of 1822-1828 [CLP13] and so must have opened after 1828. It is described as a "messuage or dwellinghouse, now a public house known by the name of The Balloon in the occupation of Henry Price". It stood on the south side of the road from Dunstable to Luton [MN42/3]. A later deed states that the Balloon had been erected by Benjamin Bennett, suggesting it was built shortly before it was sold to Bennett in 1844.

The first reference to the Balloon is in a directory of 1847. The next is two years later. A man named Meshach Goodwin was accused of stealing a pair of candle snuffers from the Balloon [QSR1849/3/5/17]. The landlord. Henry Buckels saw Goodwin take the snuffers and the constable, James Smith: "went to several public houses in Luton and found a man matching the description in the Shoulder of Mutton. On searching him he found the snuffers". Goodwin himself stated he was so drunk he did not know what he was doing. As no one named Goodwin appears in the Bedford Gaol register in this year Meshach was presumably either fined or bound over to keep the peace.

The house was owned by Luton brewer Thomas Sworder. In 1862 he included the Balloon in a series of properties he intended mortgaging to his uncle, also called Thomas Sworder, in order to raise money [X95/234]. Five years later it was estimated that the balloon got through four hundred barrels of beer per annum [X95/304].

By 1876 the Balloon was no longer a public house as it is not mentioned in the countywide register of alehouse licences. A schedule of deeds of 1878 belonging to The Balloon describes it as a former public house [MN42/5].

In 1897 is described as being [X95/333b] "a private house, built on a close of arable called Nine Acres, formerly part of an allotment of 41acres, 2 roods, 33 poles in Bottomfield, Caddington and awarded to Hanbury Potter Jones at inclosure and a cottage some time since erected on the ground bounded west by land of George James Sullivan, north by the road from Luton to Dunstable, east and south by the remainder of Nine Acres".

All evidence shows that The Balloon stood on the south side of today's Dunstable Road, Luton, just west of the junction with Chaul End Lane very close to The Halfway House which shown on the 1st edition 25 inches to the mile Ordnance Survey map of 1880. In fact it is possible that the two houses were one and the same because the 1861 and 1871 censuses give the licensee of The Balloon, described as "on Road from Luton to Dunstable" as George King. In 1870 a case brought before the Assizes featured evidence from George King of The Halfway House. The 1871 census states that King was from Great Gaddesden [Hertfordshire]. He was 31 and described as a dealer in hay and straw. His wife was Jane, aged 46, a bonnet sewer from Harpenden [Hertfordshire]. Their daughter was 11 year old Mary Jane born in Caddington. 16 year old Alfred Pratt, an agricultural labourer, was also living with them. He is described as King's son-in-law, a term often used to mean step-son, so he was presumably Jane's son by a previous marriage.


  • MN42/2: abstract of title to The Balloon: 1844;
  • QSR1849/3/5/17: Depositions of Henry Buckels, licensed victualler of Caddington, and James Smith, police constable of Luton, to give evidence in the case Meshach Godwin accused of stealing a pair of iron snuffers: 1849;
  • X95/234: agreement between Thomas Sworder to mortgage premises to his uncle, also Thomas Sworder: 1862;
  • X95/304: Rent share in barrels of public house belonging to Luton Brewery: 1867;
  • X95/305: Statement of case regarding potential partnership for Thomas Sworder of Luton: c. 1868;
  • MN42/5: schedule of deeds: 1878;
  • X95/333b: abstract of title of Thomas Sworder: 1897.

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list. Italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known:

  • 1844-1847: Henry Price;
  • 1849: Henry Buckels;
  • 1864-1869: John King;
  • 1871: George King.