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The Engine Public House Luton

The Engine Hotel about 1950 [WB/Green4/5/Lu/Eng1]
The Engine Hotel about 1950 [WB/Green4/5/Lu/Eng1]

The Engine Public House: 43 Bute Street, Luton.

The Engine was probably first licensed around the 1860s, it was certainly extant in 1869 as it occurs in a directory of that year. The countywide licensing register of 1876 states that it was owned by Luton brewer Thomas Sworder.

Sworder sold his business to rival Luton brewer John William Green in 1897 [WB/Green1/1/1] the new owner immediately floating his newly enlarged company on the Stock Exchange as J. W. Green Limited.

A hat factory lay next door to the public house, that of Vyse, Sons & Company Limited. It was gutted by fire in February 1930 and eight people died as a result. The Engine was evacuated but, remarkably, suffered little damage.

J. W. Green Limited merged with Midlands brewery Flowers in 1954 and although Green was the senior partner the Flowers name was adopted for the new firm. Flowers was taken over by multi-national brewer (founded by a Bedfordshire man in the 18th century) Whitbread.

This firm divested itself of its public houses in 2001. At the time of writing [2011] the premises is vacant and boarded up. In 1917 Arthur Walker Merry carried out inspections of a number of Luton public houses for the licensing magistrates [BML10/45/10]. He wrote of the Engine: “This is a modern, well constructed and capacious house well adapted for the trade with Private Bar, Public Bar, Large Smoke Room and Snug. Refreshments are also supplied”.

The Engine Public House June 2011
The Engine Public House June 2011


  • Bedfordshire Inns & Pubs in Old Picture Postcards;
  • PSL6/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Luton Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1876;
  • Z210/81: in draft agreement between Thomas Sworder of Luton and Thomas Sworder of Hertford: 1873;
  • WBGreen5/5/1: register of successive tenants to J.W.Green Limited licensed premises: 1887-1926;
  • WB/Green1/1/1: record of articles of association and licensed houses owned by J.W.Green Limited: 1897-1936;
  • Z508/15/1-7: account books of landlord with J.W.Green Limited: 1898-1926;
  • BML10/45/10: report on public house: 1917;
  • Z508/17/1: Engine Slate and Savings Club: 1927-1929;
  • Z508/16/1-5: account books of landlord with J. W. Green Limited: 1930-1939;
  • 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.GreenLimited licensed premises: c.1949;
  • WB/Green4/2/11: schedule of deeds to J.W.Green Limited licensed premises: c.1949;
  • WB/Green4/5/Lu/Eng1: exterior photograph: 1950s;
  • 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/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:

1869: S. Allen;
1872-1876: James Parrott;
1876-1877: Richard Sealy Mills;
1885: George James Guppy;
1890: Alfred Freeman;
1894: Mrs. Annie Freeman;
1897-1898: John Thompson;
1898-1929: Thomas Thorne;
1929-1953: Joseph Frank Surtees;
1953: Richard James Gooch;
1953-1954: Roderick Kenneth Tew;
1954: Herbert Frederick Davis;
1956: Norman Kempton;
1959: James Soper;
1966: Ashley Alexander Moss;
1969: Norman Arthur Hards;
1969: Norman Arthur Hards and Leonard James Varnals;
1979: Richard Owen West and George Dearie Adams;
1981: Richard Owen West and Ian David Haldane;
1983: Roger George Ernest Coomber and Albert Alexander Black;
1984: John Martin Fitzgerald and Roger George Ernest Coomber;
1985: Keith Budd and John Martin Fitzgerald;
1986: Graham Dunscombe and John Martin Fitzgerald;
1987: Graham Dunscombe and Derek Fletcher;
1989: David Evans and Derek Fletcher;
1991: Martin Peter Darby and Derek Fletcher;
1992: Daniel Thompson and Derek Fletcher.