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20 George Street Luton

George Street in 1901
George Street in 1901 - for a arger version, please click on the image

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has a packet of deeds to 20 George Street, forming part of the archive of Austin of Luton. The packet begins with the sale of the property by Robert Steppinge of Luton to Michael Burre of Sharpenhoe and his sister Joan Eversley of Great Wycombe [Buckinghamshire] in 1596 [A174]. In 1849 the premises was leased to chemist Peter Wootton [A217]. By 1869 the business was known as Wootton and Sons, "chemists and druggists" and by 1894 it had become Wootton and Webb.

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 Street took place in 1928.

Wootton & Webb Limited, chemists and opticians, were still the occupiers of 20 George Street in 1928. The owner was J. R. Webb who charged the business £250 per annum in rent. The shop had a frontage of 16 feet to George Street.

The basement measured 14 feet by 28 feet 3 inches. The shop was divided into three areas measuring 14 feet by 21 feet 3 inches, 15 feet 9 inches by 8 feet 3 inches and 11 feet 6 inches by 16 feet 6 inches respectively. A store and office measured 10 feet 6 inches by 15 feet. An old store measured 14 feet by 17 feet 6 inches, a new rear store 17 feet 6 inches by 8 feet and a photographic dark room 17 feet 6 inches by 20 feet.

The first floor comprised: a front store measuring 14 feet by 15 feet; a back store measuring 10 feet 6 inches by 12 feet; a dispensing room measuring 8 feet 6 inches by 22 feet and a consulting room measuring 13 feet 6 inches by 15  feet. A second floor store measured 13 feet 6 inches by 15 feet. The valuer commented: "ordinary front".

Directories show that by 1936 the shop had a number of occupiers at the rear of the premises: Thomas Bates, fruiterer; Cyril Harris, draper; Isaac Sherman, hosier and John Toberman, gown maker. Wootton and Webb continued to occupy the main shop at least as late as 1950. 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 30th September 1937 the premises was heated by a gas radiator. Separate men's and women's toilets stood on a first floor passage. The premises had good natural light and was also provided with electric lighting. All meals were taken off the premises by the staff which comprised one boy and three girls, all under eighteen (Presumably that must be in addition to a trained chemist),

By 1960 the occupiers were the clothiers, Milletts, who remained until at least 1972. The final Kelly's Directory for Luton, in 1975, does not list 20 George Street and it now [2010] lies beneath Debenhams department store.