Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Luton > LicensedinLuton > The Compasses Public House Luton

The Compasses Public House Luton

 The Compasses June 2010
The Compasses June 2010

The Compasses Public House: 11 Farley Hill (formerly Chapel Street), Luton

The Compasses was built by a Luton carpenter, William Thoroughgood, at some time between 1829 and 1840. Deeds from the Charles Wells archive show that in July 1829 Thoroughgood bought land adjoining the road from Luton to Market Street [Markyate], together with a cottage recently built on the site, from Robert Witting of Luton for £51. William Thoroughgood died on 27th December 1853, leaving his real and personal estate to be divided between his six surviving children: Eliza, Charles, James, Samuel, Thomas and Emma. In February 1854 these six, together with Eliza’s husband William Ellerd and Emma’s husband John Cooper, sold the Compasses Inn with shops, sheds, washhouse, barns etc., with a yard, well, and frame and tackle, to William Fisher of Inons Farm, Caddington, gamekeeper, for £475. It was now described as situated at the top of Chapel Street.

In 1870 William Fisher mortgaged the Compasses, together with a cottage built by Fisher on part of the yard, to John Gates of Hemel Hempstead, Henry Gates of Luton, and Sarah Ann Gates of Luton for a total of £700. By 1872 the mortgages were in arrears and the properties were sold by the three mortgagees at auction at the Crown Inn, Luton to Thomas Rogers Parsons of Whilteleaf, Monks Risborough [Buckinghamshire] for £500. The Compasses was later purchased by the Charles Wells Brewery.

While still in William Thorogood’s ownership the Compasses was mentioned on two separate occasions in depositions at the Bedfordshire Quarter Sessions. In 1840 William Herron of Luton was convicted at the Midsummer Sessions of obtaining money from Hannah Thorogood, wife of William, by false pretences. Herron had masqueraded as a corporal of the 46th Regiment of Infantry, claiming he had a billet for two men and horses at the Compasses; Mrs.Thorogood was informed that if she did not have room for them she must pay him seven shillings, which she duly did. Herron had tried the same trick at the Crown, the Vine, the White Hart, and John Smith’s beershop, and had also succeeded in extorting money from Ann Ellerd of the Vine and from John Smith. Herron was found guilty and sentenced to six months imprisonment with hard labour.

At the Midsummer Quarter Sessions of 1853 evidence was given that four men had met at the Compasses to agree the sale of three swans stolen from Richard Marks Brown, a Luton miller. William Thorogood’s daughter Emma gave evidence that the men had talked together in “low, whispering voices” and left before 11 p.m. She was certain about the timing as her mother had fallen ill that same night. One man was found guilty of stealing the swans and the other three of receiving stolen goods; all were sentenced to six months imprisonment.

In his history of Luton breweries and licensed premises, Pubs and Pints, Stuart Smith states that in its early years the Compasses was also known as the Mariners Compass, but was renamed the Compasses by 1876. Smith also states that in 1912 the Compasses was partly demolished, rebuilt and extended.

On Sunday 30th March 1986 a fire broke out above The Compasses, gutting a bedroom and causing over £1000 worth of damage. According to licensee Stuart Robertson “It was spotted by a passer-by, and fortunately the fire brigade were here within minutes, but it could have been much worse”. The Compasses closed in 2015


  • WL/1000/1/LUT/2/1-9: deeds and related documents relating to the Compasses, 1829-1872
  • QSR1840/3/5/16c: deposition against William Herron, charged with obtaining money by false pretences,1840
  • QSR1853/3/5/3-6/a: depositions in case of stolen swans, 1853
  • WL800/1: photograph: c.1925;
  • FSD/PC31: newspaper report of fire: 1986

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list; entries in italics refer to licensees where either beginning or end, or both, dates are not known:

1840-1853: William Thorogood [or Thoroughgood]
1872-1874: William Fisher;
1874-1876: George Pollard;
1929-1930: Caroline Meadows;
1930-1933: Nelson Tompkins;
1933-1954: Guy Hodge;
1954: Rupert George Moss;
1959: Stanley Dixie Gregory;
1961: David John Roberts
1964: David John Roberts [died 31st July 1972];
1972: John McGarrigle Hagan;
1979: Richard Rawson Wolstenholme Hancock and Patrick Brennan;
1979: Richard Rawson Wolstenholme Hancock and Michael Joseph Brennan;
1983: Edward Raymond Johnson, Michael Joseph Brennan and Malcolm Angle White;
1985: Edward Raymond Johnson and Stuart Robertson;
1988: Stuart Robertson and Kenneth Frank Martin;
1988: Barry Warner and John Gerald Berry;
1989: Leslie Henry Elsworth and Raymond Reginald Wheldal;
1989: Brian Cyril William Hunt and Leslie Henry Elsworth;
1992: Brian Cyril William Hunt and Richard William Turner;
1992: Christopher James McCarthy
1996-2015: John Tennyson