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6 George Street Luton

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

Until 1876 the Grapes Inn was at 6 George Street. A directory of 1877 lists Robert Smith, upholsterer, at 6 George Street. Subsequent directories list the occupier as John Smith, builder, in 1894 and 1898.

In a directory in 1885 6 George Street is also listed, along with 8 and 10 George Street, as occupied by Mrs. Mary Mares, "gentleman's outfitter, hatter, hosier, boot warehouse, clothier and tailor". She is also listed in a directory of 1877 as an outfitter simply in George Street. In a directory of 1869 John Mares is listed as an outfitter in George Street. It seems a reasonable guess that both entries indicate the use of 6 to 10 George Street and that the premises was shared with the Grapes and later Robert Smith.

In 1898 William Smith shared the premises with W. Barratt Limited, boot and shoe manufacturer. Directories of 1910 and 1914 list Mary Mares, outfitter, at 6 and 8 George Street, and Charles Mares as occupier of both premises in 1924

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.

The valuer discovered that 6 George Street was owned and occupied by W. Barratt & Company, boot and shoe manufacturers [DV1/R65/21]. This is the first mention of the company since the directory of 1898 and it may simply be coincidence that they returned to 6 George Street, or they may have been there all along, sharing with Elizabeth, then Charles Mares, and simply not listed in directories. The valuer noted that the shop was 12 feet 6 inches high and contained three areas, measuring 19 feet by 15 feet, 18 feet by 35 feet and 17 feet by 6 feet. On the first floor was a stock room measuring 19 feet 6 inches by 34 feet and a w. c. A new w. c. stood outside. The valuer commented: "Very good well lighted shop".

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 6 George Street had a fanlight over the door and opening skylights. The building was heated by gas fires in the shop and staff mess room. There was a toilet for men in the yard and for women off the staff room. Natural lighting was "very good" and electric light was installed. A sink stood in a passage way. On 9th November 1936 two men, two women and a girl under eighteen were employed. The visit showed that "washing facilities provided but in unsuitable position". On 3rd March 1937 the inspector: "interviewed District Manager on site and arranged for wash basin to be fitted in messroom. A visit on 29th June 1937 showed: "wash basin installed. Everything in order".

Barratts were still listed at 6 George Street in the last Kelly's Directory for Luton in 1975. Today [2010], the site of the shop lies beneath Debenhams Department Store.