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The Shoulder of Mutton Inn Luton

The Shoulder of Mutton is on the right of this lithograph of 1835 [Z1130/75]
The Shoulder of Mutton is on the right of this lithograph of 1835 [Z1130/75]

The Shoulder of Mutton Public House: George Street, Luton

William Austin in his 1928 book The History of Luton and its Hamlets says of the year 1837: "This year saw the last of the old Shoulder of Mutton Public House, on Market Hill. This for some centuries had been a feature of the town at the foot of the Market or Chipping Hill". He also says: "it probably sated back at least to Tudor says. Beneath it were the last remains of the Shambles; it was pulled down August 1st, 1837, and the shop, later of Wren, the fishmonger, occupied the site. An earlier tenant about 1800 was Edward Wilson. In 1804 James Day". The countywide registers of alehouse recognizances from 1822 to 1828 [CLP13] note Edward Wilson as licensee.

The earliest mention of the establishment in documents in the custody of Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service is not until 1797 when a barn, formerly a slaughterhouse belonging to the Shoulder of Mutton, owned by John Crabb, was mortgaged [C980]. The barn stood in Hog Lane, later called Castle Street. This reference goes to show that the name was, indeed, a clue to the main occupation of the owner and/or licensee.

A witness statement recorded at the Quarter Sessions of 1827 reads as follows: "Examinations and depositions: Information of John Janson Waddington, Luton; apprentice to Mr. Bowles, linen draper. Two men came into his master's shop asking to see some needles; after they left he found about 20 yards of lace was missing. Informed his master and went on a general search of the public houses; found the men in the Shoulder of Mutton with another man; as he went for the constable George Clack, two of the men escaped, one of whom he again caught on the opposite side of the street but the third got away. On searching the two in custody no lace was found, but he was certain the lace was in the window when they came into the shop but missing when they went out" [QSR1827/304a].

If William Austin was correct then the Shoulder of Mutton mentioned in 1859 is another establishment. It appears in a list of public houses to be sold to Luton brewer Thomas Sworder as part of Burrs' brewery. The entry simply reads: "Shoulder of Mutton, Market Hill, Luton" [WB/B4/2/1]. It also appears on a list from the same year of premises Sworder wished to sell, with a value of £2,000 [X95/303]. Perhaps the building occupied the site of the old Shoulder and was also a public house or perhaps it was a later public house on a site near the old Shoulder of Mutton. Either way it was clearly failing by 1859 in that Sworder wished to sell it.

Through the 1860s the Shoulder of Mutton is listed in directories as in George Street and is, presumably, the same premises as Sworder wished to sell in 1859. A Shoulder of Mutton is last mentioned in a directory in 1871 when it is described as being in Bedford Road. If the address is correct, this seems to be a short-lived establishment with no relationship to the older Market Hill premises, although it is kept by the same man, Charles Swain, as had been keeping the George Street Shoulder in the previous decade. No Shoulder of Mutton in Luton appears on the countywide licensing register for 1876


  • C980: mortgage of a barn: 1797;
  • CLP13: register of alehouse licences: 1822-1829;
  • QSR1827/304a: escape from the Shoulder of Mutton of two men wanted for stealing lace: 1827;
  • Z1130/75: shown in a lithograph: 1835;
  • WB/B4/2/1: typescript list of properties to be sold by Frederick Burr to Thomas Sworder: 1859;
  • X95/303: list of public houses to be sold by Thomas Sworder with estimates of value: 1859;
  • 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 

1804: James Day;
1811: William Waller;
1822-1830: Edward Wilson;
1839: Elizabeth Wilson;
1847-1854: John Puddephatt;
1861-1871: Charles Swain.
Public house closed between 1871 and 1876