A White Rose by any other name...

THE White Rose Catering Company had been running for many years, with cafes, bakers’ shops and stalls all over Luton, before this photo was taken in June 1951.

The restaurant on Market Hill in George Street was the company’s most successful outlet and the one most fondly remembered by Lutonians.

It occupied the 1869 Corn Exchange and the upper floor was hired out for wedding functions and as a dance hall.

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As you entered on the ground floor, to your left was the workmen’s bar where you could buy a cup of tea and a ‘wad’, slang at that time for a sandwich, cake or bun.

To the right was the tea shop offering more dainty sandwiches and cakes from waitresses dressed in smart white pinafore aprons and headbands, who would serve you at your table with tea services bearing the White Rose crest.

All types of meal were available, with roast beef or pork with vegetables costing 2s 6d – and an extra 6d for your pudding. And you could always have a fry-up.

During the Second World War, the White Rose was a favourite with the American GIs stationed locally, often forming queues outside. But this flourishing business began to slow down in the 1950s and the Market Hill premises closed in 1953 when the lease was not made available for renewal.

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In 1951, the council warned the roof was unsafe. Shortly before this picture was published in the Luton News, the clock tower and upper storey were removed and final demolition took place in April 1953.

Gardens were laid out in time for the Coronation celebrations and later the underground toilets were demolished and it is now an open seating area.

Behind the restaurant are Duberly & White chemists, who also had shops in Park Street, Dunstable Road, New Bedford Road and Cheapside, and the Crown pub, which later changed its name to the Nickel Bag, then the Heights and the Dog and Donut before it went back to the Heights, its current name, in 2007.

> The full story of the White Rose Catering Company is in Bob Norman’s book Were You Also Being Served?, featuring 50 Luton shops of yesteryear.

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