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The Wheatsheaf Public House Luton

The Wheatsheaf - a painting in Luton Museum [Z50/75/128]
The Wheatsheaf - a painting in Luton Museum [Z50/75/128]

The Wheatsheaf Public House, 14-16 Church Street, Luton

The first reference to the Wheatsheaf in any document in the custody of Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service is in 1778 when the parish register for Saint Mary’s, Luton records that John Brown “from the Wheatsheaf” was buried. William Austin in his 1928 book The History of Luton and Its Hamlets notes that in 1798 the licensee was James Barrett. He does not give his source but, given that he was Steward to Luton Manor, it may have been a manorial court roll.

By 1850 the Wheatsheaf, described as having stables and a yard and in the occupation of Mrs. Dymock in Church Street fronting Highway Cross Pond towards the River Lea, was part of a demise by Frederick Burr to trustees to pay an annuity his wife and each of their daughters [LHE84]. Frederick Burr was then sole owner of the brewery business begun by Thomas Godfrey Burr in 1776.

After Frederick Burr’s death the business was purchased by Thomas Sworder in 1857. It was conveyed in 1860 in an arrangement with Sworder's uncle, also Thomas Sworder [Z660/D/1/4]. The purchase of Burr's business, together with unwise speculation in malt almost drove the Sworders into bankruptcy but the business did survive. Thomas Sworder the younger decided to sell up and retire in 1897 and the sale particulars for the business [X95/313] describe the Wheatsheaf as follows:

Known as
(Opposite Waller Street) 

It is brick-built with tile roof and contains: - Bar, tap Room, Sitting Room, Passage, Scullery with sink pump, Cellar with cask entrance and 3 Bed Rooms. Yard with carriage gates from Church Street, urinal, 2 w. c.'s. Brick and tiled Stable, affording standing for 4 horses, corrugated iron building with 2 mangers, affording standing for 6 horses, open workshop adjoining and wood erection of Coal Shed. There is a right of way across Yard to adjoining premises.

Tenant, Mr. J. Stewart. Rent £24 per annum.

The Wheatsheaf Public House about 1900 [Z50/75/189] 
The Wheatsheaf Public House about 1900 [Z50/75/189]

The Wheatsheaf, along with the rest of the business was purchased by Sworder's Luton rival John William Green, who immediately floated his newly enlarged company as J. W. Green Limited [WB/Green1/1/1]. The firm lasted until 1954 when it merged with Midlands brewer Flowers and took the Flowers name.

In his 1995 book Pubs & Pints charting the history of licensed premises in Luton (available on the searchroom library shelves) Stuart Smith notes that the Wheatsheaf was knocked down and rebuilt in 1907 and finally demolished in 1957. Certainly, licensing registers reveal that it closed its doors for the last time on 6th February 1957.


  • ABT: John Brown from the Wheatsheaf buried: 6 Sep 1778;
  • CLP13: register of alehouse licences: 1822-1829;
  • LHE84: demise for 1,000 years, with other properties, to secure a trust deed: 1850;
  • LHE39: demise for 1,000 years, with other properties, to secure a trust deed: 1851;
  • Z660/D/1/4: conveyance: 1860;
  • BS2234: lease: 1862;
  • X95/283: account of rents of Thomas Sworder's licensed premises: 1867;
  • X95/304: rent in barrels of Thomas Sworder licensed properties: 1867;
  • X95/270: copy mortgage from Thomas Sworder to William Anstee and Benjamin Bennett junior: 1878;
  • Z660/D/1/6: conveyance from Edward Burr and Thomas Joseph Sworder to Thomas Sworder: 1878;
  • WBGreen5/5/1: register of successive tenants to J.W.Green Limited licensed premises: 1887-1926;
  • X95/287: proposed arrangement of loans for Thomas Sworder & Company: 1889;
  • X95/322/20: draft mortgage from Thomas Sworder to William Anstee: 1889;
  • X95/309: abstract of title of Thomas Sworder: 1889;
  • Z50/75/189: photograph with cart and four horses outside: c. 1890s;
  • X95/346a: opinion on Thomas Sworder's title to licensed premises: 1897;
  • X95/313-314, Z210/84 and WB/S4/1/1/5: sale catalogues of Thomas Sworder's brewery and licensed premises: 1897;
  • X95/322/33: draft reconveyance of properties from William Anstee to Thomas Sworder: 1897;
  • X95/332a-b: abstracts of title of Thomas Sworder to licensed premises: 1897;
  • X95/315 and WB/Green4/1/VP1: draft conveyances of licensed premises from Thomas Sworder to J. W. Green Limited: 1897;
  • X95/312: file of Thomas Sworder's public house plans: 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/Green4/1/VP6: note of redemption of Land Tax on the Wheatsheaf: 1908;
  • WB/Green4/2/4: certificate of title to licensed properties of J.W.Green Limited: 1936-1952;
  • WB/Green6/4/1: trade analysis ledger of J.W.Green Limited licensed premises: 1936-1947;
  • 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/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: 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 

1778: John Brown;
1798: James Barrett;
1822: James Barrett;
1826: Sarah Barrett;
1839: Robert Dimock;
1850: Mary Dimock;
1854: John Booth;
1864: Samuel Haydon;
1885: William Haydon;
1897 Joseph Stewart;
1903: Mrs. Jesse Stewart;
1903: Perkins;
1904: James William Ferry;
1929: George Henry Weatherburn
Public house closed 6th February 1957.