Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

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

The Wheelplough Public House Luton

The site of the Wheelplough July 2008
The site of the Wheelplough JUly 2008

The Wheelplough Public House: 71 Park Street, Luton

The first mention of a public house on this site is in a document of 1803 [BH20-21] but the deeds to the site go back much further - to 1655 when a messuage [that is, a dwelling house] and a malting in the South End of Luton was conveyed by William Wells and Valentine Lawrence to Edmund Jones for £120 [BH1]. This messuage had formerly been several cottages and had been purchased by Valentine Lawrence's father, also Valentine, from Richard Conesby and Robert Collyns. The property included a pump, cistern and lofts and lay next to the street leading from the market place to the Brache [today's Park Street] on one side and a thoroughfare called Blackwater Lane on the other. In his will of 1683 Jones devised the messuage and malting to his son Richard [BH2].

Richard Jones sold the messuage and malting in 1689 to Elizabeth Farey and John Pitkin for £220 [BH4-5] and they sold it in 1701 to Luton tailor William Day for £85 [BH6]. By that date the building was called The Porched House. In 1729 Day's widow, who had remarried and once more widowed and was now called Sarah Scott, sold four houses (presumably built on the site or, or converted from, this Porched House) in the South End near the Long Pond to Richard Surkitt [BH12-13]. These four houses were sold by Surkitt's daughter, Sarah Sale, to Wheathampstead [Hertfordshire] brewer James Wilkins in 1777 for £85 [BH16-17]. Wilkins knocked two of the four dwellings together to form the public house later called the Wheelplough, leaving the other two houses as separate dwellings [BH20-21]. Wilkins died intestate in 1786 leaving his son, also James, as his heir [BH18]. In 1803 the Plough public house was conveyed by Wilkins junior to Luton brewer Robert Parrott [BH20-21]. Wilkins also sold a public house called the Gibraltar in London Road, which had previously been called the Five Horse Shoes and was near the site of the murder of Joseph Adams by Thomas Crawley in 1833.

In 1820 Parrott sold the public house, now called the Wheel Plough, the two adjoining houses and a barn lying between the houses' gardens and Blackwater Lane for £995 to Luton brewer Solomon Burr, whose brewery was just a few doors up Park Street [BH23-24]. The Wheel Plough has entries in the first countywide licensing registers to have survived, those for 1822-1828 [CLP13]. Solomon Burr's brewery and its licensed houses eventually passed to his brother William, then to William's son Frederick, who died in 1856. Four years later Burr's executors and trustees sold his business to Luton brewer Thomas Sworder, whose Crown and Anchor Brewery was at the junction of New Bedford Road and Bridge Street [Z660/D/1/4].

A letter of 1862 states that the Wheelplough's annual trade was 110 barrels - substantially les than that of the Crown (the Heights in September 2009) at 200 barrels, but more than Half Moon at Pepperstock at 60 barrels [X95/292/41]. In 1864 the Wheelplough was valued £850 at with a rent to its licensee of £25 per annum [X95/292/55]. In 1870 Thomas Sworder's uncle, also Thomas Sworder, who was running the business due to his sizable financial stake in it, wrote to his agent Robert How [X95/292/232]: "Some short time since, a party waited on me to ask if I could give them the offer of the cottage fronting on to the Park Street part of the yard and building of the Wheel Plough with the mill house fronting on to the Lea Road.  I went down with Mr Thomas Sworder [i.e. his nephew] and looked over it and I informed the party if he was prepared to offer about £300 for the property I would consult you on the subject but he appeared to think that sum or anything like it would not be given and talked about a trifling amount.  I told him that I should not write you unless they were willing to pay a fair price for it as I knew you would not have the property cut up unless you got a fair value. I understand they are very shortly about to pull down the adjoining property and it is so mixed with yours that it will want carefully watching that you are not injured. If you please I will make a plan of the property as it now stands marking the part they would like to purchase and if you think I have talked about too much money I will make them any offer you may please to name". Interestingly a Robert How had been licensee at the Wheelplough between at least 1847 and at least 1850, the tenant in 1870 was James Janes. Presumably How owned buildings adjoining the Wheelplough at this date.

Sworder's business was never far from bankruptcy but managed to survive nearly half a century, being sold to his rival John William Green, whose Phoenix Brewery was in Park Street West, in 1897 [WB/Green4/1/VP1]. Luton Year Book 1906 states that the public house was "done away with" in 1902.

From 1910 until the late 1960s a family business, variously styled M. P. Rudd, Rudd and Sons, W. P. Rudd and William Rudd, beginning as confectioners and changing in the late 1930s to bakers, occupied the building. Interestingly the property seems to have remained in the hands of John William Green's firm, styled J. W. Green Limited from 1897. It merged with Flowers Breweries in 1954, the new firm adopting the latter name as it was better known, only to be taken over by Whitbread in 1962. Lists of deed to premises owned by the firm at the time of the 1954 merger include the Wheelplough. All the buildings in this part of Park Street were demolished to make way for Luton College, now the Luton campus of the University of Bedfordshire, in the 1970s.


  • BH1: conveyance of a messuage and malting: 1655;
  • BH2: messuage and malting devised in a will: 1683;
  • BH4-5: conveyance of messuage and malting: 1689;
  • BH6: conveyance of The Porched House: 1701;
  • BH12-13: conveyance of four messuages in the South End of Luton: 1729;
  • BH16-17: conveyance of four messuages in the South End of Luton: 1777;
  • BH18: abstracted death of James Wilkins: 1786;
  • BH20-21: Plough conveyed by James Wilkins to Robert Parrott of Luton, common brewer: 1803;
  • BH23-24: Wheel Plough and two adjoining cottages, abutting Park Street and Blackwater Lane conveyed by Robert Parrott to William and Solomon Burr for £995: 1820;
  • CLP13: register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
  • Z660/D/1/4: conveyance of brewery and licensed premises from executors of Frederick Burr to Thomas Sworder: 1860;
  • X95/292/41: trade, in barrels, of the Wheelplough: 1862;
  • X95/240/1/4: letter to Thomas Sworder of Hertford from his agent regarding rent arrears at the Wheelplough: 1864;
  • X95/292/55: rent and value of the Wheelplough: 1864;
  • X95/292/67: value of the Wheelplough: 1864;
  • X95/283: account of rents of Thomas Sworder's properties: 1867;
  • X95/292/232: letter to Thomas Sworder of Hertford from his agent regarding request to buy a cottage in Wheelplough yard: 1870;
  • Z660/D/1/6: conveyance of brewery and licensed premises from executors of Frederick Burr and Thomas Joseph Sworder to Thomas Sworder: 1878;
  • X95/240: copy agreement between Thomas Sworder and William Anstee, John Cook and Benjamin Bennett: 1878;
  • X95/270: copy mortgage from Thomas Sworder to William Anstee and Benjamin Bennett secured on brewery and licensed premises: 1878;
  • X95/309: Abstract of title of Thomas Sworder to brewery, public houses and premises at Luton: 1889;
  • X95/287: proposed arrangement of loans of Thomas Sworder & Company: 1889;
  • X95/322/20: draft mortgage from Thomas Sworder to William Anstee secured on brewery and licensed premises: 1889;
  • X95/296: schedule of deeds of properties held by William Anstee as security for £14,000 loan to Thomas Sworder: 1889;
  • X95/322/33: draft reconveyance of properties from William Anstee to Thomas Sworder: 1897;
  • X95/332: abstract of title: 1897;
  • X95/313-314 and Z210/84: sale catalogue: 1897;
  • X95/315: copy draft conveyance of brewery and public houses from Thomas Sworder to John William Green: 1897;
  • WB/Green4/1/VP1: photocopy conveyance of brewery and public houses from Thomas Sworder to John William Green: 1897;
  • WB/Green1/1/1: J.W.Green Limited articles of association, trust deeds etc.: 1897-1936;
  • WB/Green4/2/10: schedule of J.W.Green Limited deeds and documents: c.1949?;
  • WB/Green4/2/14: List of deeds held by J.W.Green Limited, but not referred to on 1936 Trust Deed: c.1949?;
  • WB/Green4/2/19: various loose J.W.Green Limited schedules of deeds and documents: c.1954;
  • WB/Green7/7/1: LutonTown centre Historic Pubs and Breweries Trail pamphlet: 1990s

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list; entries in italics refer to licensees where either beginning or end, or both, dates are not known: 

1806-1828: George Bigg(s);
1839: Thomas Brown;
1847-1850: Richard How;
1850-1854: Thomas Brown;
1864-1876: James Janes;
1889-1890: Mrs Tabitha Field;
1894-1903: Mrs. Tabitha Brown