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The Freeholder Public House Luton

The Freeholder about 1950 [WB/Green4/5/Lu/Free1]
The Freeholder about 1950 [WB/Green4/5/Lu/Free1]

The Freeholder Public House: 45 York Street, Luton

The first probable reference to the Freeholder is in 1854 when a directory lists Thomas Glenister as a beer retailer in York Street. Glenister is listed as the licensee of the Freeholder in the conveyance of the brewery business of the late Frederick Burr to rival Luton brewer Thomas Sworder in 1860 [Z660/D/1/4]. The Freeholder is now stated to be a public house which had been “built by Frederick Burr on part of Donkey Hall Field”. Frederick had succeeded to the brewery business on the death of his father in 1828 but only reached the age of majority (21) in 1832. He died in 1856.

The rent paid by the licensee of the Freeholder to Thomas Sworder in 1867 was £20 [X95/283] and it was estimated that 400 barrels of beer per annum were sold [X95/304], making it quite a small concern. The greatest sales were by the Crown & Anchor, next door to Sworder’s brewery (1,600) and the smallest (150) by the Cock Inn, Dunstable. In 1889 the rent was still the same and the pub was valued at £1,200 [X95/287].

Sworder sold his business to rival Luton brewer John William Green in 1897. the sale particulars detail the Freeholder as follows[X95/313-314, WB/S4/1/1/5 and Z210/84]:


At the Corner of York Street, and High Town Road, Luton.

It has a long corner frontage to the two Roads, is brick built and slated and contains: - Bar, Bar Parlor [sic], Tap Room, Sitting Room, Passage, 2 Cellars with cask entrance and 5 Bed Rooms, Yard at the Rear with carriage gates, Scullery with Room over, Coal Shed, w. c., urinal and Dust Bin.

Tenant, Miss S. A. Clements. Rent, £20 per annum 

Thus the rent of the property had not changed for at least 37 years! As soon as he bought out Sworder Green floated his newly enlarged business on the Stock Exchange as J. W. Green Limited. This company merged with Midlands brewer Flowers in 1954 and, although Green was the senior partner, took the Flowers name. Flowers was taken over by multinational company (founded by a Bedfordshire man in the 18th century) Whitbread.

The Freeholder was still trading in the late 1990s. Whitbread divested itself of all its public houses in 2001 to concentrate on other areas of its business. At the time of writing [2011] the former public house is an Indian restaurant called Empress of India. It is a coincidence that Queen Victoria was Empress of India and a beerhouse called the Victoria used to stand of the opposite corner of High Town Road and York Street.

45 York Street formerly the Freeholder June 2011
45 York Street formerly the Freeholder June 2011


  • X95/296: Thomas Sworder’s title to the Freeholder: 1860;
  • Z660/D/1/4, X95/332a and b and X95/309: conveyance and mortgage: 1860;
  • BS2234: lease from the trustees of Edward Burr to Thomas Sworder and his trustees: 1862;
  • X95/283: account of rents: 1867;
  • PSL6/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Luton Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1876;
  • X95/270: copy mortgage of Thomas Sworder & Company: 1878;
  • WBGreen5/5/1: register of successive tenants to J.W.Green Limited licensed premises: 1887-1926;
  • X95/287: proposed arrangement of loans of Thomas Sworder & Company: 1889;
  • X95/322/20: draft mortgage of Thomas Sworder & Company: 1889;
  • X95/322/33: draft Reconveyance of Thomas Sworder & Company on redemption of mortgage: 1897;
  • X95/332: abstract of title: 1897;
  • X95/313-314, WB/S4/1/1/5 and Z210/84: sale catalogue: 1897;
  • WB/Green4/5/Lu/Free1: exterior photograph: 1935;
  • 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/Green4/2/16: 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/Green7/7/4: Luton Hat Trail 2 - High Town-Old Bedford Road, a pamphlet on the hat trade and buildings connected with it produced by Luton Borough Council Planning & Development Department: 1998.

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

1854-1860 Thomas Glenister
1864-1876: Edward Snoxall;
1889-1890: Enoch Clayton;
1894: Mrs. Alice Mead;
1897-1905: Miss Sarah Ann Clements;
1905-1906: Soper;
1906-1907: George Ruskin;
1907-1939: William Charles Dawson;
1939: Frederick Thomas Scriven;
1957: Jack Mallet;
1970: Edwin Mayes;
1973: Norman Arthur Hards and Derrick Frank Fletcher;
1978: Norman Leslie Anthony Staples and Desmond Francis Perry;
1978: Norman Leslie Anthony Staples and Robert Huw Bendall;
1981: Richard Owen West and Vincent Macartan Clerkin;
1983: Roger George Ernest Coomber and Vincent Macartan Clerkin;
1984: Barry Stanford and Kenneth Thomas Varnals;
1985: Keith Thomas Budd and Stephen Magi;
1986: Graham William Dunscombe and Stanley Innes;
1987: Graham Dunscombe and Thomas Joseph Crampton;
1988: Graham William Dunscombe and Henry James Cox;
1989: David Evans and John McCormack;
1991: Martin Peter Darby and John Joseph McCormack;
1992: Daniel Thompson and Paul Ronald Carlin.