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The Melson Arms Public House Luton

The Melson Arms about 1960 [WB/Flow4/5/Lu/MA4]
The Melson Arms about 1960 [WB/Flow4/5/Lu/MA4]

The Melson Arms Public House: 65 John Street, Luton

The site of the Melson Arms was conveyed by John Barritt Melson (hence the name of the pub and of Melson Street) and John Vanes to Charles Lawford in 1863 [X95/300]. Notes held by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service [CRT130Lut41] state that Melson was a scientist and lived from 1812 to 1890. He was an executor of John Waller whose estate included this area of Luton so it seems clear that he and Vanes were acting as executors for the Waller estate when they sold the land on which the pub would be build to Charles Lawford in 1863. A John Barritt Melson, born in Ayrshire, Scotland, is listed on the 1851 census as residing in Birmingham.

The countywide licensing register of 1876 states that the Melson Arms was first licensed in 1866 and was owned by Luton brewer Thomas Sworder & Company. This is an error. Sworder leased the establishment from Charles Lawford. Lawford mortgaged the public house in 1864 [X95/300] and then conveyed the equity of redemption of the mortgage, and thus the Melson Arms itself, to Thomas Sworder in 1879 [X95/300].

Sworder sold his company to Luton rival John William Green in 1897. The sale particulars [X95/313-314, WB/S4/1/1/5 and Z210/84], described the Melson Arms as follows:


At the Corner of Church Street and John Street, Luton

It is brick-built and slated and contains: - Bar with entrance at corner and two large windows, Smoking Room communicating with Tap Room, Sitting Room, Scullery with sink and copper, entrance to Yard, Larder, Cellar with cask entrance and 5 Bed Rooms, Yard with carriage gates from Church Street, urinal, lean-to Shed with corrugated iron roof. Brick erection of 2-stall Stable with loft over. Dustbin and w. c.
Tenant, Mr. C. Girardet. Rent £25 per annum.

Let to Mr. Carrington on a weekly tenancy at a Rental of 2s. 6d. per week. Landlord paying Rates and Taxes.

Special Condition – The title shall commence with a conveyance of 31st December 1863 made between John Barritt Melson and John Vanes of the one part and Charles Lawford of the other part.

On taking over Sworder’s business Green immediately floated his greatly expanded company on the Stock Exchange as J. W. Green Limited. Green bought up a number of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire breweries in the following years and in 1954 merged with Midlands brewer Flowers. Although Green was the dominant partner the new company took the Flowers name. Flowers was taken over by multinational brewer Whitbread (founded by a Bedfordshire man in the 18th century). Whitbread divested itself of its public houses in 2001 to concentrate on other lines of business but the Melson Arms remains a public house at the time of writing [2011].

The Melson Arms seen from Church Road August 2011
The Melson Arms seen from Church Road August 2011


  • CRT130Lut41: notes on the public house: 1812-1898;
  • X95/300: 31 Dec 1863: conveyance from John Barritt Melson and Rev.John Vanes to Charles Lawford: 1863;
  • X95/300 and X95/322/3: Mortgage of the Melson Arms: 1864;
  • 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;
  • X95/300: notice of conveyance of equity of redemption from Charles Lawford to Thomas Sworder: 1879;
  • WBGreen5/5/1: register of successive tenants to J.W.Green Limited licensed premises: 1887-1926;
  • X95/245: Draft reassignment and release: 1889;
  • X95/287: Proposed arrangement of loans of Thomas Sworder & Company: 1889;
  • X95/322/24: draft Reconveyance to Thomas Sworder on expected redemption of mortgage: 1896;
  • X95/322/30: draft Reconveyance to Thomas Sworder on redemption of mortgage: 1897;
  • Z210/84 Particulars, plans and conditions of sale of Thomas Sworder & Company properties: 1897;
  • X95/332-333: abstract of title: 1897;
  • X95/313-314, WB/S4/1/1/5 and Z210/84: sale catalogue: 1897;
  • WB/Green4/1/VP1: conveyance of brewery and licensed properties of Thomas Sworder to J. W. Green Limited: 1897;
  • WB/Green1/1/1: record of articles of association and licensed houses owned by J. W. Green Limited: 1897-1936;
  • 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/Flow4/5/Lu/MA1-4: exterior photographs: 1950s;
  • WB/Green8/1/1: Article: "The Friendly Inn" by Mrs. H. M. Johnson of Melson Arms, Luton in the J. W. Green First Annual Convention souvenir: 1951;
  • 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: Luton Town Centre Historic Pubs and Breweries Trail pamphlet produced by Luton Borough Council Planning & Development Department: 1998.

The Melson Arms August 2011
The Melson Arms August 2011

Licencees: note that this is not a complete list and that dates in italics are not necessarily beginning or end dates, merely the first/last date which can be confirmed from sources such as directories and deeds: 

1872: Richard Pepper;
1872: Edward Powell;
1873-1874: Peter Johnson;
1874-1875: Henry Higgs;
1875-1876: John George Marshall;
1876-1877: John Janes;
1886: Nickells;
1894-1897: Constant Girardet;
1903-1906: Sarah Ann Girardet;
1910-1914: Mrs. Constance Ethel Girardet;
1916-1932: Frederick William Toseland;
1932-1946: Harold Stanley Russell;
1946-1956: Eric Rupert Johnson;
1956-1957: Walter Ashley Penfold;
1957: Reginald Bernal Peters;
1957-1962: John Robert Harvey Humphries;
1962-1963: Ronald Henry Hammocks;
1963: Robert William Allen and Donald Wilson;
1963-1964: Robert William Allen;
1964-1986: Edmund Feeney;
1986-1991: Brendan Peter Ferris;
1991: Brendan Peter Ferris and Linda Denise Ferris;
1991: Linda Denise Ferris (Linda Denise Twort from 1992)