The Robin Hood Public House Luton
The Robin Hood c.1960 [WB/Flow4/5/Lu/RH2]
The Robin Hood Public House: 81 New Town Street, Luton
The site on which the Robin Hood was built was purchased by John Chase from James Musson in 1831. In 1842 it was sold to Frederick and Charles Burr of Burr’s Brewery, Luton, with Frederick Burr subsequently buying out his brother Charles’ share in 1851. In a trade directory for 1853, the Robin Hood is shown as occupied by George Bowers, victualler. In 1860 it was sold, together with its garden, yard and outbuildings, to another Luton brewer, Thomas Sworder, along with the rest of Burr’s Brewery. At this time the tenant was James Mardell.
The Robin Hood was situated near the Chase Street area, notorious for criminals in the 19th century, and as a consequence appears regularly in magistrates records during its early years. The nature of its clientele led to the suspension of the pub’s licence on a number of occasions during the 1860s. In June 1864 John Pratt, the keeper of the Robin Hood public house, gave evidence at the Quarter Sessions at Bedford where Henry Johnston was accused of stealing two pairs of shoes from the shop of Luton shoemaker Joseph Bush at 2 Upper Bute Street a year earlier. Pratt told the Court that on 12th June 1863 Johnston had come into the Robin Hood with a pair of boots and had asked him to buy them. He refused, but lent Johnston five shillings, taking the boots as security. The next day Pratt returned with another man, William Dumpleton, who repaid the five shillings and left with the boots. Dumpleton said he had been at Peach’s beerhouse in New Town when Johnston asked if he wanted to buy a pair of boots. He went with Johnston to the Robin Hood and bought them for six shillings and a pint of beer. Later the same day he sold the boots at the Red Cap beerhouse to Joseph Wright for eight shillings and sixpence. Wright, who kept the Prince Albert beerhouse, wore the boots for two or three days before handing them to Police Constable James Haynes. Johnston was arrested by PC Haynes, though the policeman had to wait until April 1864 when the suspect, who was serving time in Northampton Gaol, was released. The prisoner said he knew nothing about the boots and although the shoemaker’s wife identified the boots shown to her by PC Haynes as one of the stolen pairs, he was found not guilty.
In 1897 the Thomas Sworder brewery was sold to J.W.Green Ltd. The sale catalogue describes The Robin Hood as a fully licensed public house situated at the corner of Albert Road and New Town Road. It was a brick-built, slated building containing a bar, a tap room, a sitting room, a scullery with sink and copper, a water closet, a cellar with a cask entrance and four bedrooms. Outside were a yard with a carriage entrance to Albert Road, a two-stall stable, coal shed, water closet, urinal, open shed and standing for two horses. The property also included an adjoining cottage at 83 New Town Road consisting of four rooms, a wash house with oven and sink, and a cellar. The tenant was Mr. C.P. Eaton and the rent £16 per annum.
The Robin Hood Public House 2010
According to Stuart Smith in Pubs and Pints: the Story of Luton’s Public Houses and Breweries, the Robin Hood was the scene of a riot in 1924 when a crowd of around sixty people singing and shouting outside the public house were asked to disperse by two policemen. One man attempted to hit one of the policemen and was arrested. The crowd was incited to rescue the man and the situation developed into a “large melée with cries of ‘knock them down’”. The crowd grew to over four hundred people, but fortunately for the two policemen reinforcements arrived in the shape of Sergeant Odell “a big powerful man known for his fearless approach to trouble” who managed to disperse the crowd.
The pub was held by J. W. Green Limited until 1954 when the company merged with Midlands brewers Flowers and took the Flowers name. Flowers was in turn taken over by Whitbread in 1962. During the late 1960s the Robin Hood was renovated and extended by incorporating the adjacent shop into the pub. Around 1980 it was sold by Whitbread to the Courage Brewery. The Robin Hood closed by 2014 when a planning application was submitted to convert the former public house into flats.
- Z660/D/1/4: conveyance and mortgage of Burr’s Brewery, 1860;
- BS2234: lease from the trustees of Edward Burr to Thomas Sworder and his trustees: 1862;
- QSR1864/3/5/2: depositions in case of Henry Johnston, charged with theft of shoes, 1864;
- X95/283: account of rents received by Thomas Sworder, 1867;
- X95/304: rent share in barrels of public houses belonging to Luton Brewery, 1867;
- X95/309: abstract of title of Thomas Sworder to brewery, public houses and premises at Luton, 1889;
- X95/299-300: schedules of deeds relating to Luton Brewery, 1897;
- X95/332: abstract of title: 1897;
- X95/313-314 and Z210/84: sale catalogue: 1897;
- WB/Green5/5/1: register of successive tenants of J.W.Green Limited licensed houses: 1887-1926;
- WB/Green4/2/5: list of licensed houses of J.W.Green Limited: c.1952;
- WB/Green4/2/10: schedule of J.W.Green Limited deeds and documents: c.1949?;
- WB/Green4/2/16: letter as to titles - J.W.Green Limited to their solicitors Lawrance, Messer & Company: 1952;
- WB/Green4/2/19: various loose J.W.Green Limited schedules of deeds and documents: c.1954;
- WB/Flow4/5/Lu/RH1-2: black and white photographs of Robin Hood, 1960s
Licensees: Note that this is not a complete list; italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known
1853: George Bowers;
1860: James Mardell;
1864: John Pratt;
1872-1876: Thomas Bivand;
1885: Thomas Armitage;
1894-1898: Charles Peter Eaton;
1902-1903: George T Wotton;
1903-1909: William P Clarke;
1909-1940: Amos Edward Barber;
1955: Eric Wallace;
1955-1969: William James Grainger;
1969-1991: William Wallis Marsh;
1992: Peter Whitehurst and Linda Jane Larman
Public house closed 2014