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The Eight Bells Public House Luton

The Eight Bells about 1960 [WB/Flow4/5/Lu/EB2]
The Eight Bells about 1960 [WB/Flow4/5/Lu/EB2]

The Eight Bells Public House: 43 Church Street, Luton

In his History of Luton and Its Hamlets published in 1928, William Austin states [page 317]: “Five Bells: As early as the 15th century, was in Church Street. It was later changed to “Eight Bells”. It is mentioned in 1740”. The reason for the name change is given in Volume I of the history, page 177: “One of the old public-houses in Luton was called the “Five Bells”. Later, when the church had eight bells the public-house which was in Church Street was called “The Eight Bells””. It is known that here were five bells in the church by 1707. The number of bells increased to eight in 1775.

Looking at a surviving photograph of the Eight Bells it does not appear to be a late medieval building or, indeed, a building of the 18th century. Rather, its appearance is typical of the mid 19th century. The countywide licensing registers from 1822 to 1828 do not include a public house in Luton called either Five or Eight Bells. It seems likely, therefore, that the later Eight Bells simply used the name of another inn which had existed in the neighbourhood and was remembered but which gone out of business years before.

The countywide licensing register of 1876 states that this public house was then owned by Hitchin [Hertfordshire] brewers Lucas Brothers. This firm dated from 1709. The Eight Bells was sold by auction in 1889 [RR14/1] and, although we cannot be sure who bought it, it seems likely that the purchaser was Luton brewer John William Green because it is known that he owned the Eight Bells in 1897 when he conveyed it and his other licensed premises to his newly floated company J. W. Green Limited [WB/Green/4/2/10]. The description of the pub in the sale particulars is as follows:

VIZ: -
Comprising the Substantial principally Brick-built Commodious semi-detached
and FRONT COTTAGE adjoining.

The House contains Front Entrance Passage extending through the House, a portion of which is arranged for a Bar;

A Tap-Room with paved floor, a front Sitting-Room, back Sitting-Room, and Store-Room with entrance from Yard, Wash-house and Cellar; 5 Bed-Rooms with separate Staircases;

Also adjoining the House is a Cottage, now used for Stores.

These were formerly 4 Cottages, 3 of which are under the same roof, now utilized by the present Tenant as Store Rooms.

Underlet to Henry Enfield, containing 3 Bed-Rooms, front Sitting-Room, and Passage with Side Entrance.


(With joint right of Carriage Way from Church Street) in which is a Brick, Timber and Slated Wood Barn, W. C., &c.

The whole of the above is in the occupation (and has been for some years) of Mr. Joseph Shaw, and has a frontage of about 46 feet 6 inches and a depth of about 62 feet to Church Street, one of the principal thoroughfares of the town.

Well placed near to the Market Place and Park Street, and is well worth the attention of Brewers, Wine and Spirit Merchants, and others.

The Fixtures belonging to the Vendor will be included in the purchase.

Green’s merged with Midlands brewer Flowers in 1954 and although Green was the senior partner the new firm took the Flowers name. Flowers was taken over by multinational brewer (founded by a Bedfordshire man in the 18th century) Whitbread in 1962. The Eight Bells probably closed in 1967 and was certainly closed by 1969 and was subsequently demolished, the site now lying underneath the former Arndale shopping centre, now called The Mall, Luton.


  • PSL6/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Luton Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1876;
  • WBGreen5/5/1: register of successive tenants to J. W. Green Limited licensed premises: 1887-1926;
  • RR14/1: sale catalogue: 1889;
  • WB/Green1/1/1: record of articles of association and licensed houses owned by J. W. Green Limited: 1897-1936;
  • BH/2/355/48: sale particular of 1-5 Eight Bells Yard: 1907;
  • WB/Green6/4/1: trade analysis ledger of J. W. Green Limited licensed premises: 1936-1947;
  • WB/Green4/2/4: certificate of title to licensed properties of J. W. Green Limited: 1936-1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/5: list of licensed properties of J. W. Green Limited: c.1936;
  • WB/Green4/2/10: schedule of deeds to J. W. Green Limited licensed premises: c.1949;
  • WB/Green4/2/11: schedule of deeds to J. W. Green Limited licensed premises: c.1949;
  • WB/Green4/2/16: letter from J. W. Green to solicitors Lawrance, Messer & Company asking which licensed properties had been in continuous occupation: 24 Jul 1952;
  • WB/Green4/2/17: Trust Deed of J. W. Green Limited with list of licensed premises: 1952-1972;
  • WB/Green4/2/19: Various loose schedules of deeds and documents: c.1954;
  • WB/Flow4/5/Lu/EB1-2: exterior photographs: c. 1960;
  • WB/Green7/7/1: LutonTown centre Historic Pubs and Breweries Trail pamphlet: 1998.

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list. Italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known: 

1864: Richard Allen;
1869: George William Hammond;
1872-1890: Joseph Shaw;
1891: Morley;
1891-1897: Thomas K. Tustin;
1897-1901: George L. Paget;
1901-1907: Richard March;
1907-1913: William Ralley senior;
1913-1919: William Ralley junior;
1919-1921: Mrs. Susan Ralley;
1921-1925: Frederick Barrett;
1925-1943: Walter James David Potter;
1943-1952: Herbert Charles Stone;
1962-1963: Robert William Allen and Dermot Mooney;
1963-1964: Robert William Allen and Dennis Herbert Huckle;
1964-1967: Robert William Allen;
1967-1969: Norman Arthur Hards;
Public house license revoked 28th April 1969.