The Cross Keys

Pub which became a jeweller's


Number 14 Middle Row was a public house called the Cross Keys in the 1800s but the old building has housed a wide variety of shops in its time.

The archway next door is quite new. It was created in 1978 when the shop at number12 was pulled down.

Number 14 was best-known as a jeweller's, run by Percy Lester from 1911. Previously, his business had been in a shop on the corner of Middle Row but this was demolished to make the road wider and Mr Lester had to move. He then stayed at number 14 until the start of the Second World War when he sold the shop to the James Walker chain of jewellers. They transferred to the new Quadrant shopping centre in 1966.

Percy Lester's father, Walter, had started the family business in around 1876.

The shop in Middle Row was once one of a series of properties owned by a wealthy widow, Mrs Frances Ashton. After her death, her trustees sold it to a carpenter in 1796.

There were numerous businesses in the premises after that, including a corn dealer and a fishmonger. It had become a pub called the Cross Keys by 1869, although it is possible that an earlier pub called the Magpie, run by Mary Pratt, was in the building in 1840, perhaps sharing the building with a butcher named William Arnold.

The Cross Keys did not remain in business for long. By 1881 the occupier of the building, William Turney, was describing himself as a grocer.

The Cross Keys building (on the left) c1890. The pub signs are The Swan Wifh Two Necks (today's Ladbrokes) and the Rose and Crown (today's Keep's Corner).

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.