12 to 16 George Street Luton
George Street in 1901 - to see a larger version, please click on the image
Blundell Brothers is first mentioned in a directory in 1876 when it was listed at 14 George Street. Henry Blundell is listed as a draper in George Street in 1871 and was probably at Number 14 by that stage.
In 1869 12 George Street was occupied by John Jordan, "chemist and druggist, manufacturer of dipping for sheep and lambs and of anti-smut composition for dressing wheat". The premises was also the Black Swan public house until it was acquired by Blundell Brothers in 1878. It has no separate mention in any directory again until 1903 when Number 16 is first mentioned, all as being part of Blundell Brothers.
The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every piece of land and building in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. Most of Bedfordshire was valued in 1927. Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service is lucky in having the valuer's notebook covering most of George Street. Evidence in the book shows that the survey of George Streettook place in 1928.
Blundell Brothers (Luton) Limited owned 12 to 16 as well as 30 George Street. They also had 8 and 10 George Street, 2-16 Cheapside and 9a Chapel Street. Their entry in Kelly's Directory for Bedfordshire in 1928 reads:
BLUNDELL BROTHERS (LUTON LTD).
General Drapers, Complete House Furnishers,
Removals and Storage.
THE LARGEST STORES IN THE COUNTY.
Phone: Luton 1110 (2 lines).
The entry for 12-16 George Street noted that it was the shop, offices, showrooms. The premises had a basement measuring 50 feet square. The ground floor was divided into four segments, lettered A-D by the valuer, beginning at the street and working back. The front shop measured 56 feet by 33 feet. Behind this was a second shop measuring 39 feet 6 inches by 43 feet. The third area lay directly behind and measured 38 feet by 32 feet 6 inches with a separate area to the left measuring 16 feet by 32 feet 6 inches. This area was a single storey lean-to building with a loft of the same size used for packing. Finally the back of the premises was used for "bedding" and measured 23 feet 6 inches by 90 feet, it formed the top stroke of an L compared to the rest of the premises and lay down five steps. A small covered yard stood outside.
Upstairs only contained the two areas at the front of the building, both used as showrooms. The one nearest the street measured 54 feet by 32 feet 6 inches and that behind 31 feet by 60 feet. Offices measuring 9 feet by 18 feet and called 7 and 8 Market Hill Chambers also stood on the first floor with more offices, 14 and 15 Market Hill Chambers, measuring 13 feet 6 inches by 18 feet on the floor above.
Next door, 12 George Street, had been the Black Swan Public House until Henry Blundell acquired it in 1878. By 1927 it was, along with Numbers 8 and 10, divided into a number of units called Market Hill Chambers. Numbers 7, 8, 14 and 15 were in the main Blundells building, as has already been noted. The occupiers of the rest were as follows:
- 1-2 Market Hill Chambers (1st floor): George Ernest Webb, solicitor and commissioner for oaths; measuring 12 feet 6 inches by 15 feet 6 inches and 10 feet by 15 feet 6 inches; rent £85;
- 3 Market Hill Chambers (1st floor): Luton Division Conservative Association, secretary and agent Reginald Chambers; measuring 22 feet by 15 feet 6 inches; rent £62;
- 4 and 5 Market Hill Chambers (1st floor front offices): Oscar Hart; measuring 13 feet 6 inches by 15 feet 6 inches and 9 feet by 19 feet 6 inches; rates £70;
- 6 Market Hill Chambers (1st floor back office): vacant; measuring 13 feet 6 inches by 13 feet;
- 9 Market Hill Chambers (2nd floor front office): Royal London Mutual Insurance Society; measuring 12 feet 3 inches by 15 feet 6 inches;
- 10 Market Hill Chambers (2nd floor front office): vacant; measuring 10 feet by 15 feet;
- 11 Market Hill Chambers (2nd floor front office): M. A. Hearn (this may by Margaret A. Hearn, ladies' hairdresser, who in Kelly's Directory for Bedfordshire of 1928 was at 3 Church Street); measuring 15 feet by 20 feet [see also 21-23];
- 12 Market Hill Chambers: Scottish Legal Life Assurance Society; measuring 13 feet by 15 feet; rent £35;
- 13 Market Hill Chambers (2nd floor back office): vacant; measuring 9 feet 6 inches by 20 feet;
- 16-17 Market Hill Chambers (2nd floor back offices): Bontall and Hall; each measuring 9 feet square; rent £47;
- 18 Market Hill Chambers (3rd floor front office): Alfred J. Cooke, corporate accountant; measuring 12 feet 3 inches by 14 feet 6 inches; rent £15;
- 19 Market Hill Chambers (3rd floor front office): National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children; measuring 10 feet by 14 feet 6 inches;
- 20 Market Hill Chambers (3rd floor front office): F. Meyer; measuring 11 feet by 14 feet 6 inches;
- 21-23 Market Hill Chambers: M. A. Hearn - kitchen measuring 9 feet 6 inches by 20 feet, bedroom measuring 13 feet 6 inches by 14 feet 6 inches and another bedroom measuring 9 feet by 14 feet 6 inches.
Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has a Borough of Luton Public Health Department Shops Act 1934 Section 10 inspection book [BorL/EH/14/1]. This book reveals that on 18th November 1936 Blundell Brothers shop was hrated by steam heated radiators which also heated the office. Two men's toilets stood in the yard and a women's toilet occupied part of the first floor. The premises had fair natural lighting but was also lighted by electricity. All meals were taken off the premises by the staff which comprised fifteen men, four women and five boys under eighteen. The inspector noted: "found male w. c.'s in dirty and unsanitary condition. Arranged with manager to clean same". A return visit on 26th November found: "Closets thoroughly cleansed".
Blundell Brothers continued to occupy the premises until their last mention in Kelly's Directory for Luton in 1968. The Directory for 1972 has no entry for the premises and it was demolished in 1978. The site is now  under another department store - Debenhams.