The local name for this part of Dunstable is Keep's Corner. Frederick Keep ran a newsagent's here for many years, hence the name. The daily newspaper placards outside the open-fronted shop, advertising the latest news, became a local landmark.
Previously, a building on this site was a pub called the Rose and Crown. It was in business from at least Victorian times until a few years before the First World War. Dunstable's street directories in 1909 and 1911 record a shop here run by Charles Welch and then a women's clothes shop owned by Ernest Edwards.
In those days the shop had a gabled roof. It became the corner building of Middle Row in 1911 when shops alongside were demolished to make West Street wider. A public toilet for men was provided on the open area behind the Edwards shop. It had no roof...just a castellated wall facing West Street which became known as “the breezy battlements”. It was the object of much criticism and Dunstable Council decided to sell the site in 1935. The redevelopment of the West Street end of Middle Row then followed.
Frederick Keep, whose newsagent's shop stood on the corner for so many years, came to Dunstable from Newbury in 1904 to work at Waterlow's printing company. He joined the army in the First World War and fought at the battle of the Somme and at Ypres, where he was wounded by shrapnel.
He started his newsagent's and printing business in 1924 and became prominent local personality. He was a lay preacher at Dunstable's Victoria Street Methodist Church and was elected to Dunstable Council in 1933. He was Mayor of Dunstable between 1937 and 1940.
Mr H. W. Burton became proprietor of Keep's just before the Second World War, with Mr Keep's son Reginald running a newspaper wholesale business from the same building. In 1985 it became a sports equipment shop.
Behind it, for many years, was Korn's draper's shop owned by Mr Herschkorn, and (on the Ashton Street corner) the Warwick's fresh-fish shop where it was even possible to buy live eels, kept in buckets behind the counter.
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.