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The Cross Keys Public House Luton

34 (closest to the picture) to 48 George Street about 1910 [Z1306/75]
34 (closest to the picture) to 48 George Street about 1910 [Z1306/75]

The Cross Keys Public House, 40 George Street, Luton.

Earlier Inns Called the Cross Keys

Because of the chance survival of older documents the early history of this public house is difficult to piece together. It looks as if at least three separate buildings, perhaps more, around Market Hill were known as the Cross Keys at different times between the early 17th and early 18th centuries.

An inn called the Cross Keys is first recorded in 1627 when a cottage at Chippinge Hill, or Market Hill, was conveyed, the cottage is described as being near the Cross Keys [AD806]. In 1650 the inn itself was conveyed by David Gough, one of the Yeoman Warders of the Tower of London and Anne Bludworth to Jane Crawley of London, widow, along with other property nearby. Six years before Anne Bludworth (then Anne Willis) and Jane Crawley had fined the inn to Gough to act as trustee for them. The inn was described as a messuage tenement or inn and one garden plot with appurtenances "common-called The Sign of the Cross Keys" in Luton near the market place.

In 1665 two cottages on Chippinge Hill were mortgaged [AD827]. They are described as being near the Markyate [Market] House between the "Brotherhood House alias the Lyon" and the "Crosse Keyes Inn". The Brotherhood House was a meeting place for a gild of brotherhood which would have been dissolved in the mid 16th century during King Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries; clearly the building later became an inn called the Lion.

By 1693 the inn was in the hands of Walter Peacock of Hemel Hempstead [Hertfordshire] and in that year he settled it upon his son-in-law and daughter Richard Tuffneyle of Lilley [Hertfordshire], yeoman, and Sarah, his wife [AD 3782]. The description notes that the inn fronted Chippinge Hill to the east. The later Cross Keys stood on the east side of George Street and so fronted it to the west. This clearly suggests that the Cross Keys of the 17th century was in a different place to its later namesake.

About 1700 John Horne drew up his will in which he devised to Roger Weeden of Luton, collarmaker, and John Rowley of Luton, scrivener, as trustees, "a messuage in Luton heretofore called the Crosse Keys being on Chipping Hill, now in his own occupation". This clearly cannot be the same building as that owned by Walter Peacock, unless the Tuffnayles had rather quickly sold it. It may, perhaps, be the Cross Keys owned by Jane Crawley in 1650 or even neither of these!

Another will was drawn up in 1726, this one for Francis Hopkins, who also owned the house which would later become the Bell. He devised two tenements in Luton called the Cross Keys to his daughter Elizabeth after the death of her mother [WB/B4/1/Lu/Bell5]. The will was proved in 1729. How this Cross Keys relates to those that have been described above is not manifest.

The Cross Keys at 40 George Street

From this point the story becomes easier because Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has a packet of deeds to the Cross Keys, deposited by Marks and Spencer in 1987. The first of these dates to 1747 [X776/1] and records the conveyance of a number of pieces of land and a messuage in the occupation of Thomas Kirk, basket maker, in the North End of Luton from Elizabeth Chapman of Ware [Hertfordshire], widow to John Gunell of Saint Paul's Walden [Hertfordshire], yeoman for £80. The house is described as being bounded on one side of property of James Crawley, cordwainer [shoemaker] and on the other by John Punter, now George Freeman, occupied by John Turney, whitesmith. The house fronted the common street leading from Luton to Horsepool. It had been purchased by Stephen and Elizabeth Chapman from James Crawley. It looks as if this house bears no relationship to any previous Cross Keys. Later deeds, however, make it clear that this property later became the Cross Keys Public House.

The next deed in the packet is the will of William Day the elder of Chilwick Green, Saint Albans [Hertfordshire] [X776/3] who devised a number of his properties to his wife Susan, including the Cross Keys in Luton. Susan Day died on 26th November 1821 [X776/4] and her daughter Mary Hooker inherited the Cross Keys. In 1827 she mortgaged it to Walter Scott of Luton, gentleman, for £200 [X776/9]. This deed is important because it proves that the Cross Keys is the house conveyed in 1747 because it describes the public house as once in the occupation of Thomas Kirk but now Mary Hooker and Cornelia Young and that it bounded property once of James Crawley, now James Gutteridge, on one side and of John Punter, then George Freeman, now John Pedder on the other. The deed also notes that Mary Hooker was daughter of William Day and that Day was the grandson of the John Gunell who bought the property in 1747.

In 1835 Cornelia Young of Luton, widow, and her sons William, Richard, Thomas and Amos leased the Cross Keys for six years to Luton brewer Frederick Burr [X776/11]. The deed makes clear that Cornelia Young was Mary Hooker's daughter and had been left the Cross Keys in her mother's will. After the six years expired a further ninety nine year term was to begin. The rent was £50 per annum and Burr covenanted to insure the public house for not less than £300.

Cornelia borrowed further money on mortgage and in 1844 the mortgage and further advance was assigned to Richard How of Luton following the death of Walter Scott [X776/15]. Cornelia Young died in 1860 and the following year her five sons William, bleacher, Richard, bricklayer, Thomas, dealer, Amos, brickmaker and Matthew, blocker, conveyed the Cross Keys to Thomas Deacon of Luton, the licensee of the public house, for £1,260. The premises was then described as having a frontage to George Street of 20 feet 3 inches [X776/16].

Deacon immediately mortgaged the Cross Keys for £850 [X776/17]. He died in 1868 [X776/18] after making a will in which he devised all his real estate to his wife Sarah. In 1880 Sarah, with her two sons William, coal merchant and Alfred, carman, conveyed the Cross Keys to Luton brewer Thomas Sworder who, in 1860, had purchased Frederick Burr's brewery and so held the leasehold of the property created in 1835. Sworder's business had been in a financially weak state ever since he had purchased Burr's brewery and he immediately mortgaged the Cross Keys for £1,000 [X776/21].

When Thomas Sworder retired in 1897 his brewery, with its licensed premises, was purchased by Luton rival John William Green [WB/Green4/1/VP1]. His new, larger, business was immediately floated as J. W. Green Limited.

The sale particulars for Sworder's business [X95/313] include the following description of the Cross Keys:

known as
"The Cross Keys"
With a Frontage of about 20 feet 5 inches to this main thoroughfare 

It has a stucco front with tiled roof and contains: - Bar and Parlour, Sitting Room, Small Conservatory and Entrance to Yard, Kitchen with copper, Scullery and sink, Three Bed Rooms, Cellar with cask entrance and extending under a portion of the boot shop adjoining. Yard with 2 w. c.'s, Urinal, Dustbin and Corrugated Iron Coal Shed.

N. B. - This House has only a Six Days' License. 

Tenant, Mr. P. W. Margetts. Rent £25 per annum. Land Tax 15s. 7d.

J. W. Green Limited's record of estates [WB/Green1/1/1] has an annotation beside the Cross Keys reading: "sold to Rudd, Irons and J.W.Green, with the Wheel Plough 12 Dec 1904". Luton Year Book 1906 states that the Cross Keys was "done away with" in 1902. Kelly's Directory for Bedfordshire of 1910 shows that Marks and Spencer was already at 40 George Street and this leads to the assumption that they demolished the old inn to build their "bazaar", as it was then called, shortly after 1904.

Interestingly the Whitbread Archive (which incorporates documents of J. W. Green Limited] contains a deeds relating to a former Cross Keys. It is conveyance of 1841 [WB/Green4/1/Lu/CK1] in which trustees for the bankruptcy of Richard Waring, grocer, tallow chandler and ironmonger, conveyed the premises to George Waring of London, artist's colourman for £232/15/2. The property was described as a messuage (formerly two messuages) in Market Hill, Luton formerly known as Chipping Hill, fronting on the Market House and formerly known as the Cross Keys formerly in the occupation of James Crawley and Andrew Furrian, then Matthew Coles, then Joseph Mead, then Frances Mead, then Richard Waring, but now unoccupied; bounded on one side by messuage formerly of Thomas Chapman in occupation of Thomas Waller, surgeon and on other side by messuage formerly in occupation of Sheppard. Recitals in the deed show that Richard Waring had had the property via the will of his mother-in-law Frances Mead. Whether this was the Cross Keys of Jane Crawley, Richard Tuffneyle or John Horne, or indeed none of these, it is impossible to say. In 1843 George Waring sold the former Cross Keys to Daniel Brown of Park Street, Luton [WB/Green4/1/Lu/CK1].

The site was occupied by Marks and Spencer from 1904 until 2010, at which point the store moved into the Arndale Centre. 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 on 25th July 1939 Marks and Spencer employed 121 men, 100 women, 2 boys and 6 girls udner eighteen. They all took their meals in a canteen and rest room and had two men's toilets and six women's toilets on a second floor toilet suite.

40 to 44 George Street June 2010
40 to 44 George Street June 2010


  • AD806: feoffment a cottage near the Cross Keys: 1627;
  • AD3253: feoffment: 1650;
  • AD827: mortgage of two properties adjoining the Cross Keys: 1665;
  • AD 3782: marriage settlement: 1693;
  • BO1039: bequeathed in the draft will of John Horne: c. 1700;
  • WB/B4/1/Lu/Bell5: Will of Francis Hopkins: 1726, proved 1729;
  • X776/1: conveyance: 1747;
  • X776/3 and LHE72: devise of the Cross Keys: 1793, proved 1795;
  • X776/4: death of Susan Day: 1821;
  • CLP13: register of alehouse licences: 1822-1829;
  • X776/9: mortgage: 1827;
  • X776/11: lease for six years: 1835;
  • X776/14: further advance:1835;
  • WB/Green4/1/Lu/CK1: The former Cross Keys conveyed: 1841;
  • WB/Green4/1/Lu/CK1: the former Cross Keys released: 1843;
  • X776/15: Assignment of mortgage: 1844;
  • X776/16: conveyance: 1861;
  • X776/17: mortgage: 1861;
  • Z210/81: draft agreement between Thomas Sworder junior and Thomas Sworder senior for a partnership: 1873;
  • X776/18: transfer of mortgage: 1875;
  • X776/19: conveyance: 1880;
  • X95/322/6: copy mortgage from Thomas Sworder to William Anstee and Benjamin Bennett the younger: 1880;
  • X776/21: mortgage: 1889;
  • X95/300: schedule of Thomas Sworder's licensed premises: 1889;
  • X95/287: proposed arrangement of loans for Thomas Sworder & Company: 1889;
  • X95/322/9: list of licensed premises mortgaged by Thomas Sworder: 1889;
  • X95/322/19: draft mortgage from Thomas Sworder to Thomas Joseph Sworder and Charles Elton Longmore: 1889;
  • WB/S4/1/1/2: mortgage from Thomas Sworder to Thomas Joseph Sworder and Charles Elton Longmore: 1889;
  • X95/322/21: valuation of some of Thomas Sworder's licensed premises: 1889;
  • X95/245: draft reassignment and release of licensed premises to Thomas Sworder from his creditors: 1889;
  • X95/322/22: draft transfer of mortgage and further charge from Thomas Joseph Sworder and Charles Elton Longmore to Samuel Henry Woodhouse and Charles Elton Longmore: 1890;
  • WB/S4/1/1/3: transfer of mortgage from Thomas Joseph Sworder and Charles Elton Longmore to Samuel Henry Woodhouse and Charles Elton Longmore: 1890;
  • X95/299: schedule of deeds of Thomas Sworder's licensed premises: 1897;
  • X95/322/28: draft reconveyance from Thomas Joseph Sworder and Charles Elton Longmore to Thomas Sworder: 1897;
  • X95/322/31: draft reconveyance from Samuel Henry Woodhouse and Charles Elton Longmore to Thomas Sworder: 1897;
  • X95/313-314, Z210/84 and WB/S4/1/1/5: sale catalogues of Thomas Sworder's brewery and licensed premises: 1897;
  • X95/315 and WB/Green4/1/VP1: draft conveyances of licensed premises from Thomas Sworder to J. W. Green Limited: 1897;
  • X95/312: file of Thomas Sworder's public house plans: 1897;
  • WB/Green1/1/1: record of articles of association and licensed houses owned by J.W.Green Limited: 1897-1936;
  • WB/Green4/2/10: schedule of deeds to J.W.Green Limited licensed premises: c.1949;
  • WB/Green4/2/14: List of deeds held by J. W. Green Limited, but not referred to on 1936 Trust Deed: c. 1949;
  • WB/Green4/2/19: Various loose schedules of deeds and documents: c.1954;
  • WB/Green7/7/1: LutonTown centre Historic Pubs and Breweries Trail pamphlet: 1990s.

Licensees: Note that this is not a complete list; italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known

Earlier Inns

1644: Thomas Brother;
after 1644 and before 1693: Richard Parchmore; 

The later Cross Keys

1822-1824: William Young;
1824-1835: Cornelia Young;
1839-1854: James Hawkes;
1861-1868: Thomas Deacon;
1868-1871: Sarah Deacon;
1872-1876: Septimus Abbott;
1880: George Tuck;
1885: Charles Smith;
1889-1890: Albert John Kenney;
1894: George B. Smith;
1897: P. W. Margetts;
1898: Robert James Veasey;
1903: James Joseph Woolmington.
Public house closed 1904.