After it closed, the premises have housed various businesses including a china shop and a greengrocer’s. Thanks to the research of local historian Joan Curran, we can now be reasonably certain that the whole building (now the home of Robinson, the estate agent, and the Dressmaker gowns shop next door) was once a public house called the Maypole.
The yard at the back, approached through the alleyway seen on the right of the photo, is still called the Maypole Yard. Joan has combed through numerous deeds and documents to trace much of the building’s history.
At one stage it belonged to the wealthy distiller William Chew, whose estate after his death provided the money to found the charity school in High Street South bearing his name. The charity trustees held their meetings at various inns which he had owned, including the Sugar Loaf, which he had bought in the 1690s, and the Maypole.
Buildings in this area of West Street, apart from the present HSBC bank, are very old. The building on the far left, now the home of the Knowles Benning legal firm, was once a farmhouse owned by the Gutteridge family (the road alongside is named Matthew Street, in honour of Matthew Gutteridge).
There are blocks of Totternhoe stone clearly visible between its exposed timber framework. These were almost certainly taken from the rubble of the old Priory monastery after it was knocked down in around 1540. Oliver Cromwell had banned maypole dancing after the English Civil War.
After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 there was a rush to return to the old ways and the names of many Maypole pubs date back to those times.
> Yesteryear is compiled by John Buckledee, chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society.