Dunstable Yesteryear - the wine bar on the site of a 13th century gaol

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Remember the times when wine bars were fashionable additions to the high street shopping experience? The trend didn’t last long, but here’s a reminder of Middle Row, Dunstable, when the Bubbles bar was installed in the shop next door to today’s Coffee Pod premises.

The photograph also features Pickfords Travel, Copyright and Penny’s Fashions, who were in business next to the new walkway through to Ashton Square. Today, Dunstable Phone Repairs are in the Copyright building and Top Cut Barbers are next to the walkway.

Dunstable Local History Society was asked last month if it could trace a photo to decorate the front and rear windows of Number 18 Middle Row (Bubbles), which is currently empty. That proved surprisingly difficult but this photo, taken in 1985, was eventually uncovered. It is now on display, giant-size, and has created a lot of interest on social media.

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The Bubbles building has a fascinating history. It is reputed to be the site of the town’s 13th century gaol. Two robbers escaped from the dungeon in 1295, after which the Prior of Dunstable ordered it to be rebuilt with stone and cement.

Middle Row in 1985Middle Row in 1985
Middle Row in 1985

Local historian Worthington Smith, writing in 1904, said that “dungeons may still be seen under a house in Middle Row now occupied by D. Janes. One cell extends a considerable distance under the Back Street where there is also a small gloomy apartment with a niche or seat in the wall…Another dungeon extends about eight feet under the High Road and is arched by masonry of immense thickness”. The premises had to be rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1893.

Yesteryear is compiled by John Buckledee, chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society.

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