Odds-on that Dunstable betting shop sold groceries and furniture

Francis shop in High Street South, Dunstable
Francis shop in High Street South, Dunstable

Albion House in High Street South, Dunstable, now the home of the William Hill betting business, was for many years a branch of the International Stores grocery chain.

Yesteryear has already published photos of the shop in its grocery guise, but now we go back even further, to around 1899, with a view of the W. Francis home furnishing store.

William Hill in High Street South, Dunstable

William Hill in High Street South, Dunstable

It flourished alongside the alleyway leading to the Priory, proudly promising to kit out houses at the shortest notice.

The shop could even provide a baby’s cradle ­­– note the basket hanging from the gas lamp near the horse..

Walter Francis is seen in the photo with his wife and (in the centre of the group) Walter Baker who later, with his brother Joseph, started his own furniture business in Church Street.

Holding the horse’s head is Alf Parrott, who later became an experimental engineer with the old Vauxhall Motors racing team.

The colour photo shows the scene today, with ‘Albion Buildings’ displayed in concrete on the roof.

Photos taken early in the 20th century show the name ‘Albion House’ carved on the skyline and it would be interesting to know when and why it was altered.

In 1855 Dunstable’s first newspaper, the Dunstable Chronicle, was started by James Tibbett in a building at the rear which he called the Albion Press.

This grew into Index Printers. Mr Tibbett’s son Daniel founded the Dunstable Gazette (in another part of the town) in 1865.

The J & W Baker store was a famous part of the Dunstable scene until the shop in Church Street was demolished in the 1960s.

The photo has been loaned to Yesteryear by Stephen Janes, whose great-great uncle was Walter Baker.

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