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The Chequers Public House Luton

The Chequers in the 1960s
The Chequers in the 1960s [WB/Flow4/5/Lu/Cheq2]

The Chequers Public House: 112 Park Street, Luton

There has been a Chequers public house on or near this site in Park Street for over two hundred years, though today's building dates only from 1867. The first reference to the public house, then called the Chequer, is in 1782 when Richard Barton a peruke, or wig, maker of Luton sold it to Luton brewer Thomas Godfrey Burr for £160 [WB/B4/1/Lu/C8]. It was then described as being in the South End of Luton fronting the street from Luton to the Brach and in the occupation of John Tenant, with three cottages adjoining in occupation of William White, William Raymont and John Dickens and bounded by a cottage of Samuel Haydon on one side and a cottage of William Cookson on the other.

The first reference to the building is in 1724 when it was two adjoining cottages conveyed by William Chapman of Biscot, yeoman, to Jonathan Slade of Saint Sepulchre's, London for £110 [WB/B4/1/Lu/C1]. Elizabeth Slade, John's widow, mortgaged the building in 1739 [WB/B4/1/Lu/C2] and that mortgage was assigned to Thomas Harryman later in the year [WB/B4/1/Lu/C3]. By 1754 Harryman was the owner and mortgaging the property in his turn [WB/B4/1/Lu/C4]. The two cottages were now divided into four, presumably very small, dwellings. By 1766 Harryman was dead and Richard Barton, his executor, to whom he had left the property. mortgaged the building further [WB/B4/1/Lu/C5].

Thomas Godfrey Burr's 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, Thomas Sworder the elder, who subsequently brought a Chancery action against him, continued by his son after his older Sworder's death. The business was not finally Thomas Sworder the younger's until 1878 [X95/270]

By 1865 Thomas Sworder the elder was unhappy with the Chequers, describing it in a letter to his uncle [X95/292/124] as "a very old inconvenient house". He later noted [X95/292/147] a "proposed new road to go through the Chequers public House and garden". In subsequent correspondence with his agent, Richard Howe, Sworder arranged for the demolition of the old house and alteration of two cottages to form a new one, as confirmed by Howe on 16th December 1865: "You to give up the whole of property comprised in the Chequers Burr's trustees to give you the two Cottages and the Garden remaining up to the right of way as dotted on plan they Burr's trustees taking the old materials of the Chequers and making the two Cottages with a Public House I think this would be a fair exchange" and 9th February 1867 [X95/290/1/47]: "I have arranged with Mr. Cumberland for the pulling down the Old Chequers and takeing [sic] in exchange the new or altered House as in plan enclosed. I have no doubt but that you will perceive you will have a much more valuable property in the new than in the old premises". The property was still being built in October 1867. These references in the letters seem to indicate that the new Chequers stood not far from the old and the name of the road running from Park Street, on which today's Chequers has a frontage, Chequer Street, suggests that the old house stood where that road now runs. The size of business at the Chequers, as calculated in 1867, was 400 barrels a year, making it one of Sworder's smaller houses [X95/304].

The Chequer Street frontage of the Chequers in the 1960s
The Chequer Street frontage of the Chequers in the 1960s

In 1897 Sworder sold his business to his rival John Thomas Green [X95/313 and 315]. 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 Whitbread divested themselves of their brewing and licensed houses interests in 2001. The Chequers remains a public house at the time of writing [2009].

The Chequers July 2008
The Chequers July 2008


  • WB/B4/1/Lu/C1: two cottages in South End of Luton conveyed by William Chapman to Jonathan Slade for £110: 1724;
  • WB/B4/1/Lu/C2: mortgage of two cottages from Elizabeth Slade, widow of Jonathan to Anthony Barton: 1739;
  • WB/B4/1/Lu/C3: assignment of mortgage on two cottages from Anthony Barton to Thomas Harryman: between 1739 and 1754;
  • WB/B4/1/Lu/C4: mortgage of two cottages, now divided into four tenements, by Thomas Harryman to Philip Field: 1754;
  • WB/B4/1/Lu/C5: mortgage of two cottages divided into four tenements by Thomas Harryman's devisee Richard Barton to Philip Field: 1766;
  • WB/B4/1/Lu/C6: assignment of mortgage on two cottages divided into four tenements by Philip Field to Daniel Brown: 1766;
  • WB/B4/1/Lu/C8: Chequer conveyed by Richard Barton to Thomas Godfrey Burr for £160: 1782;
  • CLP13: register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
  • 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;
  • X95/292/124: letter from Thomas Sworder of Luton to Thomas Sworder of Hertford describing the Chequers: 1865;
  • X95/292/147: letter from Thomas Sworder of Luton to Thomas Sworder of Hertford regarding a proposed new road: 1865;
  • X95/290/1/30-32, 40, 42, 47-48 and 52: letters to Thomas Sworder from his agent regarding demolition of old Chequers and combination with other property of  the Burr family to make a new public house: 1865-1867;
  • X95/283: account of rents of Thomas Sworder's properties: 1867;
  • X95/304: rent share in barrels of public house belonging to Luton Brewery: 1867;
  • 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;
  • X95/312: plans of Thomas Sworder & Company public houses: 1897;
  • X95/298: schedule of deeds of Thomas Sworder & Company property: 1897;
  • X95/332: abstract of title 1897;
  • X956/332: Abstract of Title Number 1 of Thomas Sworder to maltings, public houses and premises: 1897;
  • X95/322/33: draft reconveyance of properties from William Anstee to Thomas Sworder: 1897;
  • X95/313-314 and Z210/84: sale catalogue: 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/Green4/1/VP14: agreements and wayleaves on J.W.Green premises: 1928-1961;
  • WB/Green4/2/4: certificate of title to properties belonging to J.W.Green Limited: 1936-1952;
  • WB/Green6/4/1: J.W.Green Limited trade analysis ledger for individual licensed premises: 1936-1947;
  • 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/Green4/2/17: 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/Green4/2/5: list of licensed houses of J.W.Green Limited: c.1952;
  • WB/Flow4/5/Lu/Cheq1-3: photographs: 1960s;
  • WB/Green7/7/1: LutonTown centre Historic Pubs and Breweries Trail pamphlet: 1990s  

The Chequer Street frontage of The Chequers July 2008
The Chequer Street frontage of the Chequers July 2008

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:

1782: John Tenant;
1806: William Clark(e);
1839: John Clark;
1841: William Dorrington;
1850: George Odell;
1853: John Peacock;
1871: William Arnold Law
1873: John Edward Biband;
1873: William Brown;
1873: David Hall;
1874: Frederick Button;
1875: John Marsden;
1885: Charles Hutchinson;
1909: Sidney Forknall;
1910: William George Cooper;
1921: Charles Creasey;
1932: Bertie Custance; [convicted on 26 Sep 1941 of permitting betting - fined £8 with £3/19/8 special costs];
1942: Jesse Alexander Johnson;
1953: William John Sampson;
1955: George Raymond Wilding;
1963: William George Preece;
1965: Ronald Henry Lobb;
1968: Edward Morrow Holmes;
1973: Keith Gibbon Scott-Farnie and James McCallion;
1977: Keith Gibbon Scott-Farnie and Henry John Harvey;
1980: Richard Owen West and Henry John Harvey;
1980: David Ronald Gudgin.