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The Railway Tavern Luton

The Railway Tavern June 2010
The Railway Tavern June 2011

The Railway Tavern: 2 High Town Road, Luton [previously The Mitre, then the George IV then the William IV then the Jolly Butchers then the Railway Inn, then the Mitre again]

This public house has a long history under a multitude of names. It seems to be one of Luton’s oldest continuous licensed premises surviving to the present day.

A copy conveyance of properties from Hatfield [Hertfordshire] brewer Pryor, Reid & Company to J. W. Green Limited of Luton in 1919 mentions the Railway Arms in High Town Road as having been the George IV, afterwards the William IV, afterwards the Three Jolly Butchers, now the Railway Inn, at Donkey Hall otherwise Mount Pleasant, Luton with outbuildings, yard and carpenter's shop formerly in occupation of William John Matthews, now Walter Morris [WB/Green4/1/VP5].

A public house called the George IV is first mentioned in a series of countywide licensing registers stretching from 1822 to 1828 [CLP13]. The George IV is first mentioned in 1825 showing that it opened in that year or late the preceding year. It seems reasonable to assume that this is the pub now known as the Railway Tavern. Pigot & Company’s Directory of 1839 lists the George IV as being in North Place, Donkey Hall.

A directory of 1847 shows William Conisby as licensee of the George IV. A directory of 1850 does not list a George IV but does list a Three Jolly Butchers, of which William Conisbee is given as licensee. This seems to back up the statement in the deed about the change of name, though the pub’s life as the William IV must have been very short indeed! In a directory of 1864 Conisby/Conisbee is still at the Three Jolly Butchers and is described as being a butcher, hence, obviously, the change of name. The next directory, that of 1869, simply lists him as a butcher in Burr Street. It is, perhaps not surprising, that no Three Jolly Butchers is listed in the directory. Neither is there a George IV or William IV and the only Railway Tavern listed is the one in Bute Street.

The 1869 directory does list a new public house in High Town Road, the Mitre, licensee William Walter Wilmin. It is quite likely that this is the renamed Three Jolly Butchers. Evidence for this comes from the fact that the Railway Tavern was owned by Pryor, Reid & Company in 1919. Pryor, Reid & Company had its genesis in Alfred Pryor buying the brewery of James Spurrell in Hatfield in 1837. He ran it until his death in 1876 when his son Edward bought it entering partnership with his brother-in-law Percy Reid in 1881. By 1902 the firm had 133 public houses and in that year merged with Glover & Sons to form Hatfield & Harpenden Breweries Limited though trading under separate names continued. The business was sold to Benskins Watford Brewery in 1920 with all remaining 107 public houses, a number having been sold to J. W. Green the previous year.

The countywide licensing register of 1876 only shows two public houses in Luton owned by Alfred Pryor of Hatfield, the Vine (in Castle Street) and the Mitre. There is no mention of a public house or beerhouse called the George IV, William IV or Three Jolly Butchers. The best working supposition, therefore, seems to be that the Three Jolly Butchers became the Mitre. Mercer & Crocker’s Directory of 1871 gives William Walter Wilmin as a fishmonger in High Town Road so he evidently not stay long at the Mitre which was now run by George Pollard.

The last directory to list the Mitre is in 1877. By 1885 the pub had become the Railway Inn, the reason for this name,s elf-evidently, being its proximity to the Luton Midland railway station in Midland Road. J. W. Green owned the establishment from its purchase from Pryor, Reid & Company in 1919 until 1954 when the firm merged with Midlands brewer Flowers. Despite Green being the dominant partner the new firm took the Flowers name. Flowers was taken over in 1962 by multinational brewer Whitbread (created by a Bedfordshire man in the18th century). Whitbread divested itself of its public houses in 2001 to concentrate on other lines of business. Despite this the Railway Tavern is still open for business at the time of writing [2011].


  • CLP13: register of alehouse licences: 1825-1828;
  • 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
  • WB/Green4/2/4 Negative photocopy certificate of title to properties belonging to J.W.Green Limited, listing properties owned by that firm as well as those of Adey & White Limited taken over by J.W.Green in 1936, with a schedule of properties purchased between 1936 and 1952; the list comprises the following properties (those with an asterisk being former Adey & White properties):- Railway Inn, 2 High Town Road;- Railway, 32 High Town Road;1936-1952
  • WB/Green4/1/VP5 Conveyance(a) George IV, afterwards William IV, afterwards Jolly Butchers, now Railway Inn, Donkey Hall otherwise Mount Pleasant, Luton with outbuildings, yard and carpenter's shop formerly in occupation of William John Matthews, now Walter Morris;9 May 1919
  • WB/Green5/5/1 Register of successive tenants of following licensed houses (with alphabetical index at front): 1887-1926
  • WB/Green6/4/1 Trade Analysis ledger of each licensed premises, giving amounts sold, with alphabetical index at front, 1936-1947
  • WB/Green4/2/5 List of licensed houses of J.W.Green Limited as follows; note that former Adey & White houses are marked with an asterisk; the list comprises: property - address - tenant:Railway Inn - 2 High Town Road - R.H.Dyer;c.1952
  • WB/Green4/2/8 Schedule of Deeds and Documents,c.1949?
  • WB/Green4/2/13 Schedule of Deeds and Documents c.1949?
  • WB/Green4/2/16 Letter as to Titles - J.W.Green Limited to their solicitors Lawrance, Messer & Company listing properties of which J.W.Green (or Adey & White Limited, recently taken over) had been in continuous occupation, the premises include:24 Jul 1952
  • WB/Green4/2/17 Second Schedule of Trust Deed from J.W.Green Limited to London Assurance to secure 1,205,000 5% First Mortgage Debenture Stock 1967/72; drawn up by Lawrance, Messer & Company of 16 Coleman Street, London; showing properties owned as at 31 Jul 1952 with amendments in square brackets as of 1972 showing status; properties as follows: - Railway Inn, 2 High Town Road, Luton [now Mitre; tied];1952-1972
  • WB/Green4/2/19 Various loose schedules of deeds and documents including the following properties:c.1954

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: 

1825-1826: Elizabeth Hunt;
1827-1828: George Clarke;
1839: George Heywood;
1847-1864: William Conisby/Conisbee;
1869: William Walter Wilmin;
1871-1872: George Pollard;
1872-1874: Edward Dagger;
1874-1875: William Bryant;
1875: John Edward Jones;
1875-1877: Edward Peplow;
1885: George Kemp Jones;
1890: George Thomas Proctor;
1894: Frederick S. Maly;
1898: John Muddiman;
1903: Ernest Philip Sanders;
1906: Samuel Alvey;
1910-1935: Walter Morris;
1935-1941: Charles William Barnett;
1941-1943: Alan Smith;
1943-1944: Doris Evelyn Smith;
1944-1965: Robert Henry Dyer;
1965-1966: Ethel Elizabeth Dyer;
1966-1974: Thomas William Gudgin;
1974-1976: Norman Arthur Hards and Anthony Baber;
1976-1980: Norman Arthur Hards;
1980-1983: Richard Owen West and Michael Cassidy;
1983-1985: Roger George Ernest Coomber and Michael Cassidy;
1985-1990: Adrian Michael Taylor;
1990-1992: Paul Andrew Yorath;
1992-1993: Patricia Diane Rose Barnby and Patrick Bradley Thompson;
1993: Stefania Jane Giles and Brian Richard Johnson.