Campaign Success

16th Century Building Escapes Demolition


A local campaign in the 1970s succeeded in saving this building from demolition. Once known as Mentmore House, it dates back to the 16th century. It includes original timberwork - a so-called dragon beam - which supports the overhang into the neighbouring walkway. The architectural significance of this led the Environment Secretary in 1979, after two public inquiries, to refuse to allow the building to be pulled down.

For many years Mentmore House contained the showrooms of antiques dealer William Rixson, who also had a store in the town's old drill hall nearby. Mr Rixson was a member of a well-known Dunstable family - his parents ran the Plume of Feathers pub (now The Way) in West Street and his brother Harry had another antiques shop in High Street South.

After 1979 Mentmore House was renovated and converted into a restaurant. The group which led the campaign to save the building went on to form the Dunstable and District Local History Society.

William Rixson's son, Bill, was captured at Dunkirk in the Second World War and, famously, escaped during the Russian advance in 1945. He made his way to the Allied lines and an American transport aircraft flew him back to Dunstable. Many years later the same plane crashed in the Canadian Arctic and, even later, parts of its buried wreckage, containing graffiti written by Bill Rixson of Dunstable, were recovered by Innuit people.

Buildings next to the Rixson antinue shop being demolished.
On December the 1st 1980 the Church Street building reopens as a discount centre after the campaign to save it. It became the Il Millioflori restaurant and is now Chez Jerome. Photo by Joan Schneider.

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