Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Luton > LicensedinLuton > The Plough Public House Luton

The Plough Public House Luton

The Plough in 1977 [Z50/75/159]
The Plough in 1977 [Z50/75/159]

The Plough Public House: 18 George Street [earlier the Foot Plough]

The first reference to the Plough is in 1725 when a neighbouring house was part of a marriage settlement. The house was described as "near the Market Place" abutting east on a "messuage known as the Plow in the occupation of Thomas Harryman" [X448/14]. William Austin in his 1928 volume The History of Luton and Its Hamlets relates the following story: "Davis relates a story of Thomas Pyke, that he was a woolsorter, on tramp in search of work; resting at the foor of Rye hill, on the Old Bedford Road, and reviewing his situation Pyke found himself reduced to the small sum of fourpence, the price of a night's lodging. He thereupon made his way to the "Plough Inn", that being the Woolsorters' house of call, and succeeded in obtaining employment with Mr. John Hay, a "woolstapler", whose warehouse stood in "Spencer's Yard"...Pyke, it appears, subsequently married, and having saved money was able in 1771 to purchase the premises already alluded to, starting business as a mealman on Market Hill".

The Plough of the 20th century looks like a later, 19th century building. The 18th century Plough was presumably either demolished and rebuilt or very substantially altered.

Sign at the Plough Public House 1977 [Z50-75-162]
Sign at the Plough Public House 1977 [Z50/75/162]

By the time of the earliest surviving countywide register of alehouse recognizances of 1822 [CLP13] the name had changed to the Footplough, probably to further distinguish it from the nearby Wheelplough, which seems to have first opened for business at the beginning of the 19th century. Luton brewer Thomas Sworder was interested in buying the premises in 1864 [X95/292/73] but nothing came of this as the countywide register of licensed premises of 1876 gives the owner as Anna Maria How, who was also the licensee.

In 1901 Emma le Clair conveyed the Footplough to Luton brewer J. W. Green Limited [WB/Green4/2/13]. In 1954 Green merged with Midlands brewer Flowers, the new firm taking the Flowers name. The new Flowers Breweries Limited only lasted eight years, being taken over by Whitbread in 1962.

At that point the Footplough had less than ten years' life left itself. It closed for the last time on 2nd January 1972. After closure the old building was demolished; though it was still there in 1977 when it was photographed by Bedfordshire County Council photographic unit [Z50/75/159-162 etc]. The demolition was to clear the site for the Arndale Centre. The bar fittings were saved and are now on display in Wardown Park Museum.

The bar of the Plough at Wardown Museum May 2010
The bar of the Plough at Wardown Museum May 2010


  • X448/14: reference in a deed: 1725;
  • X448/15, 17: references in deeds: 1765;
  • X95/292/73: letter about possible purchase: 1864;
  • WBGreen5/5/1: register of successive tenants to J.W.Green Limited licensed premises: 1887-1926;
  • 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/Green4/2/13: schedule of W. B. Green Limited deeds and documents: 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/Plough1-3: photographs: 1960s;
  • Z50/75: photographs: 1977;
  • WB/Green7/7/1: LutonTown centre Historic Pubs and Breweries Trail pamphlet: 1990s.

Licensees: Note that this is not a complete list; italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known 

1725: Thomas Harryman;
1765: Thomas Smith;
1811: Richard How;
1822: Mary How;
1847: Richard How;
1872: Ann Maria How;
1885: Frederick Cain;
1894: William Dale;
1898: William Phillips;
1903: Samuel Nicholson;
1906: Richard Shepherd;
1910: Philip C. Fowler;
1925: A. C. Godfrey;
1925: Hopkins;
1926: William Clarence Swinyard;
1932: Frederick William Johnson;
1933: George Charles Cribben;
1934: Alexander Charles Hilton;
1937: Herman Stockey;
1938: Ernest Graham;
1940: Francis Joseph Dolan;
1940: William Leigh;
1949: Christopher Walter Hattan;
1963: Nellie Mary Hattan;
1965: Robert William Allen;
1967: Norman Arthur Hards;
1969: Norman Arthur Hards and James Fahey;
1970: Norman Arthur Hards.
Public house closed 2nd January 1972

Debenhams is on the site of both the Plough and the Black Swan August 2009
Debenhams is on the site of both the Plough and the Black Swan August 2009