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The Black Bull Inn Luton

The Black Bull in the 1960s [WB/Flow4/5/Lu/BB1]
The Black Bull in the 1960s [WB/Flow4/5/Lu/BB1]

The Black Bull Public House: 62 Park Street on the corner of Cumberland Street, Luton

The earliest mention of this public house held by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service is in a severely water damaged deed in which the date has been destroyed but is probably about 1800 [WB/Green4/1/Lu/Bull1]. The deed describes the conveyance of a cottage in the south end of Luton by Alexander Deacon to Richard Stone. A deed poll of 1802 [WB/Green4/1/Lu/Bull2] notes that Stone mortgaged the cottage to raise £70 and that this was a second mortgage on the property, the first, still outstanding, being for £130. A year later Stone leased the cottage to Luton brewers William and Jonathan Burr [WB/Green4/1/Lu/Bull3]. At that date the property is described as: a messuage in the occupation of Mary Cain, then Henry Cain, then Richard Sinfield, then Thomas Crawley, then John Day, then Richard Stone, now a public house called the Bull in the South End of Luton bounding a messuage of Thomas Harton to the south and a messuage of the Marquis of Bute to the north with the common street east.

The Burr brothers' brewery and its licensed house business continued in the family's ownership until 1860 when it was sold by the executors of Frederick Burr to Thomas Sworder [Z660/D/14]. This purchase, along with subsequent unwise speculation in malt caused Sworder to overstretch himself and he was, for some years, constantly on the edge of bankruptcy, despite the aid of his uncle from Hertford, also called Thomas Sworder. Eventually, an arrangement was reached with his creditors (Burr's executors), and he continued trading, though it cost him his relationship with his uncle who subsequently brought a Chancery action against him, continued by his cousin after his uncle's death. The business was not finally his until 1878 [X95/270]

In 1867 it was reckoned that the Bull sold 1,400 barrels of beer per annum [X95/304], making it the fifth most lucrative house of over fifty owned by the business. In 1897 Sworder sold his business to his rival John Thomas Green and in the sale catalogue [X95/313] and conveyance [X95/315] the public house was still described as the Bull. It was not renamed the Black Bull until some time between 1940 and 1950.

The site of The Black Bull July 2008
The site of the Black Bull July 2008

In 1954 J. W. Green Limited merged with Flowers Breweries and, though Green's were the senior partner, the business took the Flowers name. In 1962 Flowers was taken over by Whitbread and the public house remained under this ownership until it was demolished for road widening purposes in 1969.

A new Black Bull public house was built near the site, at 4 Cumberland Street, which opened on 9th April 1969 was called, successively, the Grapevine (from 1975) then the Grapes then the Parks then the Cumberland then the Luton Pier then the Cork & Bull and as of July 2008 was called Manhattans. By August 2009 the bar had again been renamed - to MVP.

Manhattans July 2008
Manhattans July 2008


  • WB/Green4/1/Lu/Bull1: messuage in South End of Luton conveyed by Alexander Deacon to Richard Stone: 1800?;
  • WB/Green4/1/Lu/Bull2: deed poll of mortgage from Richard Stone to Thomas Smith: 1802;
  • WB/Green4/1/Lu/Bull3: Messuage now called Bull Inn conveyed by Richard Stone to William and Jonathan Burr: 1803;
  • CLP13: register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
  • LHE39: demise from Frederick Burr to trustees: 1851: abuttal in deed: 1851;
  • Z660/D/1/4: conveyance of brewery and licensed premises from executors of Frederick Burr to Thomas Sworder: 1860;
  • BS2234: lease from the trustees of Edward Burr to Thomas Sworder and his trustees: 1862;
  • X95/283: account of rents of Thomas Sworder's properties: 1867;
  • X95/304: rent share in barrels of public houses belonging to Luton Brewery: 1867;
  • Z660/D/1/6: conveyance of brewery and licensed premises from executors of Frederick Burr and Thomas Joseph Sworder to Thomas Sworder: 1878;
  • X95/270: copy mortgage from Thomas Sworder to William Anstee and Benjamin Bennett secured on brewery and licensed premises: 1878;
  • WB/Green5/5/1: register of successive tenants of J.W.Green Limited licensed houses: 1887-1926;
  • X95/287: proposed arrangement of loans of Thomas Sworder & Company: 1889;
  • X95/309: Abstract of title of Thomas Sworder to brewery, public houses and premises at Luton: 1889;
  • X95/322/20: draft mortgage from Thomas Sworder to William Anstee secured on brewery and licensed premises: 1889;
  • X95/296: schedule of deeds of properties held by William Anstee as security for £14,000 loan to Thomas Sworder: 1889;
  • X95/332: abstract of title: 1897;
  • X95/313-314 and Z210/84: sale catalogue: 1897
  • X95/322/33: draft reconveyance of properties from William Anstee to Thomas Sworder: 1897;
  • X95/298: schedule of deeds of Thomas Sworder & Company property: 1897;
  • X95/315: copy draft conveyance of brewery and public houses from Thomas Sworder to John William Green: 1897;
  • WB/Green4/1/VP1: photocopy conveyance of brewery and public houses from Thomas Sworder to John William Green: 1897;
  • WB/Green1/1/1: J.W.Green Limited articles of association, trust deeds etc.: 1897-1936;
  • WB/Green6/4/1: J.W.Green Limited trade analysis ledger for individual licensed premises: 1936-1947;
  • WB/Green4/2/4: certificate of title to properties belonging to J.W.Green Limited: 1936-1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/10: schedule of J.W.Green Limited deeds and documents: c.1949?;
  • WB/Green4/2/5: list of licensed houses of J.W.Green Limited: c.1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/16: letter as to titles - J.W.Green Limited to their solicitors Lawrance, Messer & Company: 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/17: Second Schedule of Trust Deed from J.W.Green Limited to London Assurance to secure 1,205,000 5% First Mortgage Debenture Stock: 1952-1972;
  • WB/Green4/2/19: various loose J.W.Green Limited schedules of deeds and documents: c.1954;
  • WB/Flow4/5/Lu/BB1-2: photographs: 1960s;
  • WB/W7/1/1: Whitbread Luton Bulletin including mural of Black Bull: 1960s;
  • WB/Green7/7/1: LutonTown centre Historic Pubs and Breweries Trail pamphlet: 1990s

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:

1803: Richard Stone;
1822-1828: William Tyler;
1839-1854: Samuel Carter;
1861: Phoebe Carter;
1864: James Rumbles;
1869-1876: Frederick John Aske
1885: James Rumbles;
1889-1890: James Liddiard;
1890-1891: Henries;
1891: Elworthy;
1891-1893: Clark;
1893-1897: Edward Collinson Blow;
1897-1903: William Williams;
1903-1904: Hayter;
1904-1906: Monk;
1906-1910: Albert Munns;
1910-1915: Thompson;
1915-1920: Joseph Phillips;
1929: Joseph Sidney Phillips;
1929-1932: Bertie Frank Allen;
1932-1934: Fred Hathaway;
1934-1946: Percy Roland Abbott;
1946-1951: Percy Francis Gray;
1951-1953: Berkeley Edgar Moynihan;
1953: Frederick Thomas Lawson
1958: Alan Edward Watson;
1964: Robert William Allen;
1964: Robert William Allen and Dennis Herbert Huckle;
1967: Norman Arthur Hards and Dennis Herbert Huckle
The old Black Bull was closed and demolished 1969

The new Black Bull opened 1969
1969: Leslie Richardson and Norman Arthur Hards;
1970: Norman Arthur Hards;
1971: Norman Arthur Hards and Gaetano Roveri;
1972: Norman Arthur Hards;
1975: Richard John Morris and Philip George Arrowsmith;
1977: Norman Leslie Anthony Staples and George Dearie Adams;
1980: Richard Owen West and Anthony Robert Bryant