42 George Street Luton
George Street in 1901 - for a larger version, please click on the image
42 George Street is first mentioned in a directory of 1877 when Alfred William Linsell, "English and Chinese plait warehouse" was in occupation. A commercial catalogue for Bedfordshire from about 1890 has an entry for A. W. Linsell: "Formerly Luton and its vicinity employed thousands of persons, chiefly women and children, in plaiting straw for the manufacture of hats, bonnets, etc. This number is annually decreasing, although the trade is still advancing both in importance and extent. The reason is that vast quantities of the requisite plait are now imported from Shanghai and Chefoo, the principal centres of collection in China, which supplies us with immense quantities of well-made plait at a cheap rate. Some kinds of English plait are always in fair demand both for home and America, and the plaiters are paid from 3d. to 2s. per score for ordinary qualities and occasionally much higher prices for superior grades. Mr. A. W. Linsell, who is a merchant and also a manufacturer of straw goods, for both home and export, has, for many years, occupied a prominent place amongt he plait merchants and manufacturers of the town of Luton. This gentleman occupied spacious three-storied premises at the corner of George Street and Bond Street, which have a very large total frontage, and include two chief departments, one of which is devoted to straw plait in all its various grades of size, texture, colour, or quality, while the other is for goods manufactured therefrom, a good number of outworkers depending upon Mr. Linsell to take their produce. A very extensive trade is done by Mr. Linsell, who is always well to the front in all markets. He holds large and vaulable stocks of merchandise, and is in every way deserving of a conspicuous place in these pages".
By 1903 the business had become J. J. Linsell and Company. The firm remained there until at least 1928. 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.
34 (nearest camera) to 48 George Street about 1910 [Z1306/75]
The valuer discovered that 42 George Street was owned as well as occupied by J. J. Linsell & Company, which also occupied part of 44 George Street. The basement, which was 8 feet high, with a tiled floor, had two store rooms measuring 16 feet by 23 feet and 10 feet by 12 feet. The ground floor store measured 16 feet 6 inches by 22 feet at the front and 10 feet 6 inches by 12 feet 6 inches at the back. A covered yard with a high, glass roof measured 18 feet by 18 feet 6 inches and had an entrance to Bond Street.
The first floor had an oak floor and oak panelled walls and measured 9 feet by 13 feet 9 inches and a store room measuring 9 feet by 13 feet 9 inches. The second floor measured 15 feet 3 inches by 39 feet. The valuer commented: "Old, good buildings".
Kelly's Directory for 1928 is the last to list J. J. Linsell and Company at 42 George Street. The directory for 1939 notes Marks and Spencer, which owned and occupied next door 40 George Street, as occupier. Marks and Spencer continued in occupation until 2010 when they moved into the Arndale Centre.
40 to 44 George Street June 2010