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51 George Street Luton

George Street in 1901
George Street in 1901 - to see a larger version, pelase click on the image

51 George Street is first listed in a directory of 1869 when it was in the occupation of Henry Gates, ironmonger and grocer. Gates is first listed in George Street in 1864 and may well have been in the same premises. Henry is last listed in 1877 and by 1894 William Lee Gates, ironmonger, grocer and "agent for A. Gilbey Limited, wine and spirit merchants" is listed at the address. He was last listed in 1914 and by 1920 the occupier was F. W. Woolworth and Company, "bazaar".

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.

William Lee Gates still owned 51 George Street in 1928 and leased the building to F. W. Woolworth & Company, who paid rent of £350 per annum [DV1/R7/48]. The store had a frontage of 32 feet to George Street.

The basement had a block floor, measured 27 feet by 66 feet and was used for storage. There were two shop areas, measuring 39 feet by 15 feet and 29 feet by 65 feet respectively. A back shop measuring 27 feet 9 inches by 62 feet lay up four steps and a rear shop measuring 35 feet 6 inches by 60 feet lay up a further twenty steps with "light from roof". A lavatory completed the ground floor accommodation.

The first floor comprised: a back store measuring 23 feet by 45 feet; a [shop] girls' room at the front measuring 18 feet 6 inches by 13 feet 6 inches; a kitchen measuring 10 feet 6 inches by 13 feet 6 inches; a back stock room measuring 11 feet 6 inches by 13 feet and a lavatory. The second floor consisted of four stock rooms, two at the front and two at the back measuring, respectively: 18 feet 6 inches by 13 feet 6 inches; 10 feet by 13 feet 6 inches; 7 feet 6 inches by 10 feet and 11 feet 6 inches by 13 feet. The shop also used a small storage area at the rear of 47 George Street.

Woolworth is last listed in Kelly's Directory for the county of 1936. By 1939 the Savoy Cinema was at 51 George Street. By 1965 it had changed its name to the ABC. The building remains but is no longer a cinema.

51 George Street - former Savoy Cinema - June 2010
51 George Street - former Savoy Cinema - June 2010

C. G. peck in a 1981 booklet for Bedfordshire County Council on the history of Bedfordshire cinemas wrote that the Savoy opened on 17th October 1938, the same week as the Odeon Cinema at 127 Dunstable Road, Luton. The cinema seated about two thousand people and ABC Cinemas was the name of the owning company. It was still open at the time the booklet was written and then had three separate cinemas in one building. The first film shown was Test Pilot starring Spencer Tracey and Clark Gable. Midnight matinees were introduced in 1948 in an effort to bring in more customers.