Retreating back into the past

CUSTOMERS have to descend a couple of steps to reach the bar of the Saracen’s Head, seen here in this early photo of High Street South, Dunstable.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 15th April 2012, 3:09 pm

That’s because the road has been resurfaced so many times over the years that the street level is now considerably higher than the pub floor.

The Saracen’s Head dates back to at least the 16th century, although most of today’s building is newer – the result of a disastrous fire in 1815.

The blaze revealed a hoard of gold and silver coins hidden under the floor of the pub’s old stables.

Most were minted during the reign of Charles I, although there were earlier coins dating back to Edward VI.

So a reasonable assumption is that they were left there during the Civil War by someone who was never able to return.

Almost next door can be seen Harry Rixson’s antiques shop, “Ye Olde Retreat”, in which a Tudor fireplace was uncovered during renovation work, and the garage and motor works owned by Councillor Ben Scott.

There are newer buildings on the site today, seen in the colour photo.

These were built in the 1960s, mainly to accommodate the town’s first Tesco supermarket, but at present occupied by businesses including the KFC fast-food outlet, Cash Converters and Baileys the hairdresser.

The low wall further down the road adjoins the entrance to Priory Gardens.

The large hat-making factory of Munt and Brown once stood there, but the firm ceased business in 1908 and its premises were demolished.

The closure was a huge shock to the town, but one advantage was that it opened up the attractive view of the Priory Church from the high street which still exists today.

This undated photo belongs to Miss Christina Scott, daughter of Councillor Scott.

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