The Britannia

Scene of a great fire 1893


This section of Middle Row was devastated by a great fire on Boxing Day 1893.

A large crowd watched as three buildings were almost completely destroyed.

These were the Britannia Inn, at number 22, and the neighbouring shops of Mr Barcock, a grocer, and Mr Janes, a greengrocer.

Firemen fought for many hours to prevent the blaze from spreading further. They had some fortunate escapes when walls and a chimney stack came crashing down.

The premises at either side, belonging to Mr Percival and Mr Thompson Smallwood were badly damaged.

Mr Smallwood had a double-fronted shop at number 24 where boots were made and sold. In 1923 his premises became the home of Buckles, the gents' outfitter.

Three replacement shops were erected in Middle Row. Mr Cornelius Vater opened a furniture shop on the old Britannia Inn site. But the building caught fire again in 1890 when his wife accidentally overturned an oil lamp.

This time the building had to have a new roof but some of the seriously scorched timber remained in place. Mr Albert Stott's furniture business moved into the premises in 1935 and they were the home of the F.L. Moore record shop in the 1960s.

The Britannia had opened in around 1841, in what had been a hat factory started by William Waterfield.

An early description of the gaol in in the Dunstapelogia, 1859.
An early description of the gaol in in the Dunstapelogia, 1859.

Text: John Buckledee of Dunstable and District Local History Society. ©
Design: David Turner.
Narration: Veronica Yates of Dunstable Repertory Company.
Recording: David Hornsey.
Website developer: Joshua Buckledee.