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The Painters Arms Public House Luton

The Painter's Arms about 1900 [Z1130/35]
The Painter's Arms about 1900 [Z1130/35]

The Painter’s Arms Public House: 79 High Town Road, Luton.

The Painter's Arms was listed by the former Department of Environment in October 1988. The listing notes that the building was revbuilt in 1913. It has green glazed bricks to the ground storey, with red brick above.

The listing describes the interior thus: Retains most of its early 20th century planning and furnishings. Small central entrance lobby with patterned tile floor and leading to three bars. That in the centre, small and described in etched glass on its door as 'Jug Bar'. Between the three bars wooden screenwork with Art Nouveau-style glazing. To the right is the public bar with original fixed seating with a bare timber back. A further lobby is on left, with a tiled floor. Early 20th century bar counter and back. In the left-hand parts the counter carries a superstructure on twinned columns and with a shelf; above this are glazed lunettes which repeat a pattern in the screenwork between the bars. A tiled dado runs round several walls with a frieze above in brown and green with fern and scallop shell ornament. Several contemporary fireplaces, one with pictorial green tiles. Doors with etched glass and good brass door furniture. Plaster modillion cornice at the front.

The listing sums up: "An early 20th century public house with distinctive exterior detailing and an increasingly rare, and substantially complete compartmentailsed plan retaining a coherent ensemble of contemporary screenwork, bar counter and back, decorative tiling, doors and fireplaces, all of high quality".

The countywide licensing register of 1876 states that the Painter’s Arms was first licensed in 1865 and that it states the premises was owned by John Steed, a brewer from Baldock [Hertfordshire]. In 1823 William Oliver had purchased the Baldock brewery of John Brett [GK165/1]. Oliver then sold to John Steed in 1831 [GK165/1]. The widow of Steed’s son Oliver sold the business to Burton-on-Trent [Staffordshire] brewer William Pickering in 1889 [GK165/4] and Pickering immediately mortgaged the brewery and its licensed premises including the Painters Arms [GK165/5].

This document was transferred to Hertfordshire Archives Service though Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service retains the catalogue description. It looks, from this, as if the Painter’s was not actually owned by Steed, the Pickering, but was held on a lease, the register is often misleading on this point, frequently quoting breweries holding leases from private individuals as being the owners.

In 1921 the Painters Arms, along with four other public houses was conveyed by Colonel Harvey Alexander and others to Benskins Watford Brewery Limited [Z1211/3/12]. This confirms that the pub was in private ownership at this point. The Alexander family also owned the Cardinal Public House in Brache Street. Benskins was taken over by Ind Coope in 1957. That firm merged with two other breweries to form Allied Breweries in 1961. At the time of writing [2011] the Painters Arms remains a public house, one of three left in the lower part of High Town Road.

The Painters Arms June 2011
The Painters Arms June 2011


  • PSL6/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Luton Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1876;
  • Z1211/3/12: photocopy of the front page of a conveyance by Colonel Harvey Alexander and others to Benskins Watford Brewery: 1921
  • 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.

The entrance to the Painters Arms High Town Road August 2011
The entrance to the Painters Arms High Town Road 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:

1869-1877: John Smith;
1885: Peter Whiting;
1889-1890: Charles Thomas Reeve;
1894: Robert Elford;
1898: Arthur Gage;
1903: Robert Benjamin Hornby;
1906-1910: John Hull;
1914: Thomas William Ivins;
1920-1924: Mrs. Ethel May Smith;
1928-1948: Francis Henry Swainson;
1948-1951: Leslie Holdstock;
1951-1955: Henry Reginald Turner;
1955-1970: Jesse William Hannell;
1970-1980: Patrick James Lenehan;
1980-1981: James Brooks;
1981-1982: James Cameron McQueens;
1982-1984: Alexander Hamilton;
1984: David Cyril Sparrow and David Hearn;
1984-1988: John Joseph Walsh;
1988-1989: Catherine Walsh;
1989-1990: Alan Cole and Eamonn Murray;
1990-1992: Alan Cole and Connell Vincent Sammon;
1992: Connell Sammon and Richard Charles Phillips