Mr Henry Impey Mayor 1918-19

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Impey Mayor 1918-19

Henry Impey (1865-1930) was Mayor of Luton in the fateful year of 1919, when the Town Hall was burned down during riots that broke out amid Peace Day celebrations.

At the end of his term of office and following his resignation from the Town Council, a fellow councillor said: “The Mayor, as the responsible head of the town, had to accept all the blame for what occurred on Peace Day, but taking that blame had shattered his health. Whatever might have been Mr Impey's shortcomings, the penalty he had had to suffer was out of all proportion to whatever he might or might not have done.”

Although it is often suggested that Henry Impey never came back to Luton other than for two funerals, including his own, he in fact returned on the Thursday following the riots when he had a meeting with Town Clerk William Smith and gave an interview to two rival Luton newspapers. He also chaired a meeting of the Luton Board of Guardians on September 1st, 1919, and a meeting of the Town Council on September 2nd, 1919.

Below are links to other items on this site related to Henry Impey.

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Mayor Henry Impey

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

1919: How Mayor Impey was got out of Luton

Mayor Henry Impey and Comrades of the Great War

  • Mayor Henry Impey reading the King's proclamation on Peace Day.

It was not until ten years after the riotous events in Luton on Peace Day that 1919 Chief Constable, Charles Griffin, revealed some added details of how Mayor Henry Impey was got away from the blazing Town Hall, and how an attack aimed at also burning down the police station was thwarted.

The man who was Luton police chief from 1917 to 1920 was in 1929 about to be elected President of the Chief Constables Association after being for eight years the Chief Constable of Brighton.

Luton Chief Constable Charles Griffin 1917-20Mr Griffin (pictured right) confirmed to a newspaper reporter that it was in a police uniform that the Mayor was smuggled through the crowds away from the burning Town Hall, and Union House - the Workhouse - became his place of refuge. There he spent the rest of the night, not in sleep but in waiting until, acting on advice, he could be got away from the town.

This was effected at dawn, and if there were few who knew of where Mayor Impey had sought shelter there were still fewer who saw the manner of his going. An ordinary commercial lorry was driven into the Union House grounds, and in the seclusion the then Mayor took his seat in the lorry, along with an escort of police officers in civilian attire.

The passengers were kept in the background of the lorry until Luton was well behind, although few people were about at such an early hour. It was raining hard, and altogether it was a particularly cheerless Sunday morning.

In order that the Mayor's whereabouts should be kept a secret he was set down on the outskirts of London. This was at a tramway terminus and, on account of it being a Sunday, he had some hours to wait in the tramways shelter before there was a car available to take him to his destination.

Mr Griffin recalled his own experiences of the fateful July 19th, 1919, when "ex-soldiers stormed the Town Hall and burned it to the ground". When the battle began Mr Griffin had 60 policemen under him. When it ended at 2am, all but four were badly disabled.

The rioters threw tins of petrol through the Town Hall windows and fired the place. The horse which Mr Griffin was riding was stabbed and died.

The next day the rioters appeared with the intention to also burn down the police station, where it became known that the Town Council were holding a meeting that Sunday night. But they had something of a shock - they expected to see only four policemen and Mr Griffin, but during the night the Chief Constable had obtained help and was able to hide 200 extra police in the police station. The raiders had scarcely got assembled outside the police station when they had their surprise.

The reporter himself recalled: "I was in the station yard, and shall always remember how it filled with uniformed men and how, at a signal, the gates were flung wide open and the imported police dashed out with batons drawn and laid about those who were not quick enough to beat a retreat. It was an awesome experience and one that did not inspire one with with any desire to forsake the shelter of the station premises for the streets so hurriedly cleared."

[The Pictorial: Tuesday, July 9th, 1929]

Henry Impey's Mayoral year

Mayor Henry Impey and Frederick Rignall

Henry Impey's year of office was the most traumatic that any Mayor would not want to experience. From a high with the announcement of the signing of the November 1918 armistice after more than four years of war, his term reached a low with riots and the burning down of the Town Hall at the end of peace celebrations in July 1919.

Henry Impey, his health impaired, was smuggled out of Luton following the riots and made only a small number of return visits before resigning from the Town Council at the November 1919 elections. He died in Lincolnshire on April 17th, 1930, and is buried at the General Cemetery, Rothesay Road, Luton.

Below is the start of an evolving calendar (with much more to come) about some of the significant happenings and personalities during Henry Impey's Mayoral year (the links in yellow are to more in-depth related items based on reports in local newspapers):

 

1918

Saturday, November 9: Saturday Telegraph reports the abdication at 4.45pm of the Kaiser in Germany.

Saturday, November 9: Henry Impey invested with the insignia of office of Mayor of Luton in a public ceremony. He had been unanimously elected after previously winning nomination by 11 votes to 10 and one blank paper.

Monday, November 11: Armistice Day. At 11.10am Henry Impey announces to Luton from the Town Hall balcony that Great War hostilities had ceased at 11am.

Tuesday, November 12: Public holiday declared to celebrate the armistice.

Tuesday, November 12: Civic thanksgiving service held at St Mary's Parish Church.

Saturday, November 16: Rev J. L. Barkway inducted to the living of Christ Church by the Bishop of St Albans.

Wednesday, November 20: Mr Willet Ball formally adopted as Labour Parliamentary Candidate for the South Beds Division, including Luton, for the December 14 General Election.

Friday, November 22: Alderman Edwin Oakley resigns as long-term President of the Luton and South Beds Liberal Association in opposition to the Lloyd George Coalition (Lib-Con) Government.

Saturday, November 23: MP Cecil Harmsworth adopted as Liberal-Conservative Coalition Candidate for the South Beds Division for the December 14 General Election.

Saturday, November 23: Victory celebration party for 1,000 guests at George Kent's works at Chaul End.

Thursday, November 28: Souvenir last edition printed of the 'N-T-F' magazine, first published in June 1916 to raise funds to help prisoners of war.

Thursday, November 28: Farewell dance for girls of the Admiralty depot, Bute Street, at the Castle Street Hall.

Saturday, November 30: Vauxhall Motors Fuze Department farewell evening.

 

Tuesday, December 3: 'N-T-F' magazine acquired by the Luton News and published for the first time as the 'N-T-F & Tuesday Telegraph'.

Saturday, December 7: DS&S Ivy Leaf Club in Park Street officially opened.

Thursday, December 12: 100 Army horses sold at auction at Luton Cattle Market, including 23 to Messrs G. Powdrill & Son.

Saturday, December 14: General Election polling day – the quietest on record in Luton and South Beds, according to The Luton News.

Saturday, December 14: Davis Girls' Club at Davis Gas Stove Co (Diamond Foundry) entertained wounded soldiers from Wardown and Wheathampstead in works mess room.

Monday, December 23: Christmas party given by Luton branch of the Discharged Sailors and Soldiers Association at Winter Assembly Hall for 450 local children left fatherless by the war.

Saturday, December 28: Cecil Harmsworth (Lib-Con Coalition) retains the South Beds seat in General Election.

1919

Wednesday, January 1: Over 1,000 men of the Royal Field Artillery stationed at Biscot Camp entertained at a New Year party in the Princess Victoria YMCA Hut.

Tuesday, January 7: Eminent and controversial Russian violinist Edvard Soermus concert with Bolshevik speeches at the Winter Assembly Hall, sponsored by the Luton branch of the Independent Labour Party.

Thursday, January 9: Order of the British Empire, for services in connection with the war, awarded to Mrs Nora Kathleen Durler, Joint Commandant, Wardown Auxiliary Hospital, Wardown.

Friday, January 10: Tramcars No 1 and No 11 collided head-on in darkness on Beech Hill with two passengers slightly injured. Tram No 11 was badly damaged at the front and underneath.

Saturday, January 11: Victory bonfire and fireworks display, Mr Arthur Panter's Meadow, Stockingstone Lane, Round Green, organised by Young Leaguers Union on behalf of Harpenden Sanitorium for Children (National Children's Home).

Monday, January 13: Mr Charles Mares unanimously re-elected President of Luton Chamber of Commerce at AGM at Franklin's Restaurant, George Street.

Tuesday, January 14: Tuesday Telegraph reports that Biscot windmill is about to lose its sails and be converted to gas power.

Wednesday, January 15: Death of Mr Alfred Thomas Loose, long-serving keeper of Luton Town Hall.

Wednesday, January 15: Annual meeting of local branches of the National Union of Women Workers at Luton Public Library unanimously passed the resolution: “The Luton Branches Nos 1 and 2 of the N.F.W.W. call upon the Government immediately to establish at a national factory a centre for the teaching of straw work, the local industry, to local girls desirous of learning the trade, and to pay them a minimum of 30 shillings per week whilst learning.”

Thursday, January 16: Roof of Messrs Balmforth's factory damaged by fire, presumed to have been caused by sparks from a core-drying stove.

Thursday, January 16: Winding up dance of hockey club formed while Chaul End munition works were in operation.

Saturday, January 18: Memorial to 2nd Lieut Alexander Pigott Wernher, youngest son of Lady Wernher, of Luton Hoo, unveiled at Luton Parish Church.

Saturday, January 18: Mr Albert E. Wray announced his resignation as Luton Tramways Manager.

Tuesday, January 21: Luton Town Council unanimously approved the use of Wardown House as a maternity home, an infants' hospital and home for neglected infants, heralding a blistering Press campaign against the scheme.

Saturday, January 25: Two captured German weapons – a 77mm field gun and a howitzer, towed by lorries - paid a visit to Park Square, Luton, as part of a tour of Bedfordshire. The guns arrived from Dunstable at 11.30am and departed for Hitchin at 2.30pm, but as a result a lack of advance publicity little interest was created.

Saturday, January 25: Mr Fred Mortimer, conductor of the Luton Red Cross Band, released from the Army and returned to Luton to resume his old duties. During his three years in France he became a corporal in the 36th Divisional Band.

Sunday, January 26: Founder Chairman Mr Herbert W. Booth elected first President at the annual meeting of the Luton and District branch of the Discharged Sailors and Soldiers Federation. Pending leaving the area, Mr Booth resigned as Treasurer to be replaced by Mr H. V. Hoy. Chairman Mr Frank Rudd, also leaving Luton, replaced by Vice-Chairman Mr W. B. Clay. Branch membership had reached 750.

Tuesday, January 28: Luton Borough War Prisoners Committee's fund to provide food parcels for POWs wound up following meeting at the Town Hall.

Tuesday, January 28: Snow lying seven to 11 inches deep fell on Luton, with 4ft drifts reported in some villages around the town.

Tuesday, January 28: Death of Mr James Martin, head of J. Martin & Sons, bleachers and dyers, Oxen Road, at his home, Belgrove, Crescent Road, aged 64.

Wednesday, January 29: 'A' Company, 2nd Volunteer Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, dinner for 140 at Luton Town Hall.

 

Tuesday, February 4: Winding up of POW committee that had sent life-saving food parcels to local prisoners in Germany.

Monday, February 10: Fifty surplus Army horses sold at Luton Sale Yard, averaging £31 9s each. One mare fetched 75 guineas.

Wednesday, February 12: Dinner for demobilised Special Constables, Winter Assembly Hall.

Thursday: February 13: At one of the largest gatherings of buyers seen in the town, 133 Army horses were sold at Luton Sale Yard, 86 heavy draught horses averaging £60 13s 6d each, one fetching 90 guineas.

Monday, February 17: Around 50 war refugees left Luton on the 8.57am train on the first leg of their repatriation to Belgium. About 120 other Belgians remained in the Luton area.

Tuesday, February 18: Luton Town Council's Peace Celebrations Committee presented its draft plans for eventual Peace Day festivities.

Tuesday, February 18: Demobilised Dr W. Archibald returned to Luton to resume his duties as Medical Officer of Health.

Thursday, February 27: 'C' Company, 2nd Volunteer Brigade, Beds Regiment, dinner for 130 members at Luton Town Hall.

Friday, February 28: Mr George Wistow Walker retired as headmaster of Old Bedford Road Boys' School after serving about 20 years. He was presented with an easy chair from staff and scholars. New headmaster Mr A. Mander later addressed the scholars.

Monday, March 3: 104 Army horses – the largest number to date – sold at market in Luton by Messrs Cumberland & Sons. Prices ranged up to 60 guineas.

Tuesday, March 4: Presentation to Mrs Hilda Hewlett at the Hewlett & Blondeau factory in Leagrave to mark her impending departure for New Zealand.

Tuesday, March 4: Luton Gas Company raised prices by 10d per 1,000 cubic ft, backdated to Christmas. At a meeting of Luton Town Council, Councillor Hawkes said there was a large amount of justifiable discontent in the town over the increase. The rise was put down to the higher cost of coal.

Tuesday, March 4: Messrs J. W. Green, proprietors of the Luton Brewery, bought the old-established Glovers' Brewery, Harpenden, that was put up for auction in London. Included were 14 fully licensed houses, five beerhouses and two off-licences, nearly all being in Luton, Dunstable and surrounding villages. The sale was negotiated privately.

Tuesday, March 4: Labour gained a first Luton seat on Beds County Council in elections in a 15 per cent turnout in Luton. The Party's successful candidate for a seat that attracted fewer than 250 votes was Dr John Birch, with a majority of 110.

Tuesday, March 4: Luton Town Council approved support for a recommendation from the Royal Commission on Decimal Coinage to adopt a decimal coinage system based on the pound.

Tuesday, March 4: Cinema treat for the Telegraph's League of Happy Children at the Gordon Street Picture Theatre postponed due to influenza epidemic.

Wednesday, March 5: 'B' Company, 2nd Volunteer Battalion Beds Regiment, dinner for 100 members at Luton Town Hall.

Thursday, March 6: Inspector Walter James Hagley, senior inspector of the Luton Borough Police Force, retired after more than 31 years service. He had joined the force as a constable on September 30th, 1887.

Thursday, March 6: Handley-Page bomber crashed at Barton. No-one seriously injured.

Saturday: March 8: A meeting of the Luton branch of the DS&S passed a resolution that a massed meeting be held to publicly demand greater representation of discharged men on the War Pensions Committee and other local civic bodies. The meeting also decided to take strong action against its own members involved in “irregular conduct” at the Ivy Leaf Club.

Monday, March 10: Another 100 surplus Army horses sold at Messrs J. Cumberland and Sons' market in Luton, including 78 draught horses, for which the highest price paid was 53 guineas. A further 100 horses were offered for sale on the following Thursday.

Thursday, March 13: The Luton News reported that Lady Wernher's Collecting and Forwarding Depot in Upper George Street had now closed. Since opening on August 31st, 1914, it had supplied more than 12,000 garments etc to men at the Front, including 6,243 articles to men of the Bedfordshire Regiment.

Thursday, March 13: Influenza in Luton was on the wane, according to Councillor W. J. Primett, Chairman of the Health Committee. One of the latest to be affected was the Rev W. E. Lewis, curate of St Matthew's Church.

Thursday, March 13: The Luton News reported that Mr J. H. Brown, a former employee of Commercial Cars Ltd, has just been released from Austria. He was studying labour conditions in Austria when war was declared, and he was interned as a civilian prisoner.

Thursday, March 13: Mr Willet Ball, who unsuccessfully contested the 1918 General Election in Luton and South Beds for Labour, was the new editor of the Railway Gazette, The Luton News reported.

Thursday, March 13: Luton record price of 93 guineas paid for a heavy draught horse in Messrs Cumberland & Sons sale of over 100 surplus Army horses.

Thursday, March 13: A letter writer in The Luton News advocated the use of the upper rooms of Wardown House for use as a museum to record the evolution of hat manufacture and straw braid plaiting. “It is difficult to realise that a town like Luton, with a unique industry, has no record of it,” said the writer.

Friday, March 14: Mr Thomas Keens elected as an alderman of Beds County Council.

Friday, March 14: Plans by the Osram-Robertson Lamp Company Ltd to create a factory employing up to 12,000 in Leagrave Road/Marsh Road revealed.

Saturday, March 15: Fire at Mr George Warren's straw hat factory at the rear of Castle Street. Attic floor and half of the roof of the 60ft x30ft four-storey building severely damaged, and water damage to lower floors. Damage estimated at £3,000 to £4,000.

Friday, March 21: Luton News staff reunion dinner, Town Hall Council Chamber.

Wednesday, March 24: Luton Town Council's Electricity Committee agrees a 100 per cent increase in consumer bills.

Wednesday, March 26: Luton Tradesmen's Association dinner, Town Hall.

Thursday, March 27: Davis Gas Stove Co Ltd, with a factory at Dallow Road, Luton, announced to shareholders a merger with John Wright and Eagle Range Ltd and the Richmond Gas Stove and Meter Co Ltd.

Thursday, March 27: Lydia Kyasht, famed dancer with the Imperial Russian Ballet, gave afternoon performances at the Grand Theatre.

Friday, March 28: Minister of Education, the Rt Hon H. A. L. Fisher MP, presented examination certificates to 24 scholars at the Luton Modern School speech day held at the Winter Assembly Hall.

Sunday, March 30: First post-war concert by the re-organised Luton Red Cross Band, Winter Assembly Hall, conductor F. Mortimer.

Monday, March 31: A new record price of 103 guineas paid for an Army heavy draught horse at Luton Market. Also, a buyer from Edinburgh bought 11 horses.

 

Wednesday, April 2: Death from pneumonia at his St Albans home of Mr Leigh Udall Kent, second son on Mr George Kent, Chairman of the directors of Kent's Works in Luton. He would have been aged 32 in May.

Friday, April 4: Final mass departure of Belgian war refugees from Luton (about 80), leaving Midland Railway station at 7.30am to return to their homeland.

Friday, April 4: Windsor Walk hat factory of Mr Sidney Farr extensively damaged by fire, damaged estimated at £3,000.

Friday, April 4: Mr George Wistow Walker, retired headmaster of Old Bedford Road School, elected to served on Beds County Council in a Luton North Ward bye-election caused by Mr Thomas Keens being appointed an alderman. He polled 643 votes against 316 for engineer Mr Thomas Knight (Labour). Of the 3,692 electors eligible to vote only 962 did so.

Saturday, April 5: Funeral at Stanmore of Mr Leigh Udall Kent, son of Mr George Kent, who died suddenly on April 2nd, at the age of 31.

Tuesday, April 8: Luton Education Committee paid tribute to Mr William Green, headmaster of Chapel Street Mixed School since 1895, and after 40 years in teaching in Luton and Leagrave.

Thursday, April 10: Lord John Sanger's Peace Year Circus and Menagerie, gave two performances in Dunstable Road, at 2.30pm and 8pm.

Friday, April 11: Mayor Henry Impey was the only Bedfordshire representative invited to attend the King's Conference on Housing held at Buckingham Palace. He and two other delegates had several minutes conversation with His Majesty, and later with the Prince of Wales.

Saturday, April 12: Luton conscientious objector Harry Edward, originally sentenced to death but then to ten years penal servitude in 1916, released from Maidstone Jail.

Friday, April 25: Meeting at the George Hotel to re-form the Luton & South Beds Motor Club.

Monday, April 28: 1st Battalion Beds Regiment “welcome home day” in Bedford.

Monday, April 28: Welcome home dinner for over 50 members and adherents of the Salvation Army on their return from military service, Park Street Temple.

Tuesday, April 29: Guildford Street plait store of Mr Herbert Brown severely damaged by fire.

Tuesday, April 29: Welcome home dinner at Chapel Street Wesleyan Church Lecture Hall for over 50 men who had returned from war service.

 

Friday, May 9: Boy aged three died in the Bute Hospital about six hours after being hit by the 5.20pm Hatfield-Luton train when he strayed on to the Great Northern Railway line near the Kimpton Road/Gipsy Lane bridge. A jury returned a verdict of accidental death at an inquest the following Monday.

Saturday, May 10: DS&S v Comrades of the Great War cricket match at Stockwood. DS&S 55 all out; Comrades 17 all out.

Saturday, May 10: Presentation at St Matthew's Parish Hall to Mr A. Burgess, church organist for 19 years.

Monday, May 12: Opening of three-day Synod of the Wesleyan Methodist Church for for Bedford and Northampton district, Chapel Street Wesleyan Church. About 160 ministers and others attended.

Monday, May 12: Medical Officer Mr D. Rollings reported to Luton Rural District Council an alarming increase in rats, especially at Leagrave and Limbury. He urged an organised attempt to control the problem in the interests of public health.

Wednesday, May 14: Welcome home supper for about 70 demobilised members of High Town Primitive Methodist Church.

Saturday, May 17: Fund raising for new parish church of All Saints launched with a bazaar at Beech Hill Schools.

Sunday, May 18: Thousands of people in Wardown Park for the first summer band concert of the year given by the Luton Red Cross Band.

Monday, May 19: Industrial dispute at Skefko, Leagrave Road, involving 600-700 workers.

Tuesday, May 20: Luton Town Council rescinded their January resolution to use Wardown House as a maternity hospital due to “public hostility”.

Tuesday, May 20: Breaking-up gathering at Wardown V.A.D. Hospital.

Tuesday, May 20: Plans approved for £2,000 improvements to the Town Hall. A new building was considered not to be financially feasible at that time.

Wednesday, May 21: Thanksgiving meeting for about 60 returned ex-servicemen, Wesleyan Central Mission, Midland Road.

Saturday, May 24: DS&S meeting unanimously agreed to hold an open-air service at Wardown on August 3rd, in memory of those who had fallen in the war. An appeal was to be made to local authorities, choirs and bands for assistance in making the event a representative one.

Saturday, May 24: Comrades of the Great War v DSS return cricket match at Stockwood. Comrades 21 all out; DS&S 114 all out.

Monday, May 26: Arrival of motor ambulance presented to Luton by the Red Cross. It was hoped it meant an end to use of the hand-trundling method of taking patients to hospital.

Wednesday, May 28: Contents of Wardown V.A.D. Hospital sold at auction by Messrs J. Cumberland & Sons. A considerable number of the lots were bought on behalf of the Bute Hospital.

Wednesday, May 28: First edition of the DS&S Journal published.

Wednesday, May 28: Mayor Henry Impey suffered a badly strained ankle when hurrying from the Town Hall to preside at the Magistrates' Court. He was later able to walk only with the aid of a stout stick.

Wednesday, May 28: Boating fatality at Wardown lake.

 

Sunday, June 1: Roof of an old building opposite the Fire Station, on the corner of Church Street, collapsed at around 9.20pm. The former premises of a bleaching and dyeing firm had fallen into disrepair and was about to be reconstructed.

Tuesday, June 3: Luton Town Council agreed programme for Peace Day celebrations.

Tuesday, June 10: Train taking King George V and Queen Mary to Leicester passed through Luton at 9.50am. Platforms at the Midland Road station were cleared and the station closed while the royal train passed through.

Tuesday, June 10: For two years a V.A.D. worker at Wardown Hospital, Miss Edith Mary Cain married Albert Ogden Gill, of Shipley, Yorks, in a ceremony performed by her uncle, the Rev W. A. Findlay, at Park Street Baptist Church.

Tuesday, June 10: A second-hand Commer Cars Army motor lorry fetched 550 Guineas at auction in London.

Wednesday, June 11: Considerable damage caused by fire at the hat factory of J. Saunders and Co, 61 Cheapside, due to a defective boiler flue. The machine and blocking rooms were damaged by fire, smoke and water.

Wednesday, June 11: Tram services temporarily halted when a tram on the Dunstable line jumped the tracks near the junction at the Town Hall.

Friday, June 13: Body of Luton hat manufacturer's daughter Annie Winifred Mary Smith found on a beach below cliffs at Dieppe in France. She was aged 25 and served as a baker and cook with Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps in France.

Friday, June 13: Annual meeting of the Luton General Cemetery Company Ltd report revealed 430 interments at Rothesay Road during the past year – an increase of 111, attributed largely to the influenza epidemic.

Saturday, June 14: Procession through the main streets of Luton celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Salvation Army. The arrival of the Salvation Army in Luton in October 1887 had been greeted with riots.

Tuesday, June 17: Roof of the steamroller shed at the highways depot, Church Street, destroyed after sparks from a traction engine ignited joists.

Tuesday, June 17: Coroner Mark Whyley recorded a verdict of accidental death on a 53-year-old navvy ganger who died after being buried by several tons of earth caving in during excavation work at the rear of the Langley Garage, Holly Street.

Monday, June 23: Crowds assembled in front of the Town Hall in anticipation of an announcement that the Germans had agreed to sign the peace treaty. The crowd was eventually disillusioned.

Monday, June 23: Farewell service for Rev W. Curry, superintendent minister of Luton No 1 Circuit Primitive Methodists. His next church was to be at Willesden, London.

Wednesday, June 25: Miss H. K. Sheldon, from Birmingham, appointed first headmistress of the Luton Modern Girls' School. Five candidates were interviewed for the post following the school being divided in boys' and girls' sections.

Saturday, June 28: Mayor Impey announces to Luton at 3.45pm that the Versailles Peace Treaty formally ending the Great War had been signed at 3.12 that day. There were accidents due to youths letting off fireworks, and a performance by the Luton Red Cross Band was brought to a premature end.

Monday, June 30: Luton branch of the DS&S unanimously agrees to take no official part in the town's Peace Day Celebrations, in line with national policy.

Monday, June 30: Leagrave Hall, formerly the residence of the late Mr Walter Thomas Lye, withdrawn from sale by executors at £3,400 at an auction at the George Hotel, Luton.

Monday, June 30: Concert and meal to celebrate the signing of the peace treaty held at the Royal Army Veterinary Corps camp in London Road, Luton.

 

Thursday, July 3: Luton Town Council agree final programme of activities to commemorate Peace Day in the town. It was also agreed to hold children's festivities at a later date.

Saturday, July 5: Luton branch of the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers (DS&S) inform Town Clerk Mr William Smith in a letter that, in accordance with the organisation's policy nationally, they will play no part in official Peace celebrations as a protest against the unemployment existing among discharged and demobilised men, and the inadequate compensation of widows and orphans.

Saturday, July 5: DS&S make a formal application to hold a public drumhead memorial service at Wardown Park on July 20.

Saturday, July 5: Chief Scout Sir Robert Baden-Powell at Bedfordshire Scout rally at Luton Hoo Park.

Monday, July 7: Six members of the Tolls and Public Buildings Committee who also belonged to the nine-member Parks Committee held a hastily-constituted meeting and decided, on the advice of the Town Clerk, not to allow the DS&S to use Wardown Park for their drumhead service on 1905 by-law grounds. [As there was no meeting of the full Council planned, the sub-committee decision was given silent approval by the Watch Committee.]

Monday, July 7: Women members of Luton Board of Guardians protest at their exclusion from a 15 shillings-a-head, all-male Peace Banquet planned to be held at the Plait Halls on Monday, July 21.

Tuesday, July 8: Town Clerk William Smith informs DS&S that the Town Council are unable to permit the use of Wardown Park for a drumhead memorial service, offering the Moor or Pope's Meadow as an alternative. The Council also regretted that it was not practical for them to take part in a DS&S procession.

Tuesday, July 8: Nearly 4,000 racing pigeons liberated from the Midland Station, Luton, as the Northern Pigeon Flying Associations re-commenced their races from Luton to the North. The birds had arrived by special train on Friday but their release was delayed due to detrimental weather conditions.

Saturday, July 12: Story appeared in the Saturday Telegraph revealing the Town Council's refusal to allow the use of Wardown for DS&S memorial service. Lady Wernher quickly responded with the offer of the use of Luton Hoo Park for the service.

Tuesday, July 15: DS&S informed the Town Clerk that Lady Wernher had offered use of Luton Hoo Park for the drumhead memorial service on July 20. [This was finally held on July 27, with the Mayor and Town Clerk absent but other councillors present in non-Council capacities.]

Wednesday, July 16: Entertainment and tea for Workhouse aged poor and Children's Home youngsters provided by management of the Palace Theatre, Mill Street, at the theatre.

Wednesday, July 16: Mr William Austin congratulated on completing 25 years as Luton's Clerk to the Justices. He was appointed in June 1894.

Wednesday, July 16: Rev G. A. Lucas welcomed as pastor of Mount Tabor Primitive Methodist Church at a garden party at the London Road home of Mayor Henry Impey.

Thursday, July 17: Widespread public outrage reflected in the correspondence column of The Luton News over the Wardown decision.

Thursday, July 17: Without further explanation, the Luton News published one sentence saying that the Peace festival would conclude on Monday evening, when an invitational Mayoral banquet would be held at the Town Hall. [The previously advertised men-only 15 shilling subscription banquet for 500 had been due to be held at the Plait Hall on July 21, but presumably did not attract enough support from husbands, with the DS&S ex-servicemen having in any case decided in June to take no part in official celebrations.]

Thursday, July 17: DS&S members met Hoo Steward Mr James Baker to discuss details for the holding of a memorial service for the fallen in the grounds of Luton Hoo on July 20th. [This date was subsequently changed to July 27th.]

Thursday, July 17: Mutilated body of a well-dressed middle-aged unidentified man found beside the Great Northern Railway line at Gipsy Lane, near the Vauxhall Works. The body was spotted by the driver of a 6am goods train. The later identified former engineer's fitter at the Leagrave aeroplane works had been expecting the offer that never came of a job at the Diamond Foundry. A verdict of "suicide while temporarily of unsound mind" was recorded by the Coroner at an inquest. The deceased was the father of four children, one a six-months-old baby.

Friday, July 18: 'Grand Victory Peace Dance' 7pm-1am at the Town Hall. Open to the public with tickets costing two shillings, it was the last event held prior to the burning down of the Town Hall.

Saturday, July 19: Peace Day celebrations ended in the burning down of the Town Hall and rioting over three days.

Saturday, July 19: Ex-servicemen employees of Commercial Cars Ltd entertained to a Peace Day lunch in the firm's canteen.

Sunday, July 20: Henry Impey, accompanied by police in civilian clothing, leaves Union House at dawn in the back of a commercial lorry and is taken to a tram stop in London to complete his escape

Sunday, July 20: Rev G. H. C. Shorting preached his final service as Vicar of Stopsley before leaving to become Vicar of Kempston.

Monday, July 21: No mayoral Banquet. The event had been due to be a subscription event held at the Plait Hall but lacked support. A smaller revised banquet was to have been held at the Town Hall to end Luton's Peace Celebrations, but was cancelled due to the fire and was never held.

Monday, July 21: Meeting of Luton Board of Guardians held in the absence of the Chairman, Mayor Henry Impey.

Monday, July 21: Luton Town Council third private meeting over Sunday and Monday, in the magistrates' room at the Courthouse. Mayor Henry Impey not present.

Tuesday, July 22: Meeting of Luton Town Council heard a statement on the Peace Day riots given by Alderman Harry Arnold, in the absence of Mayor Henry Impey.

Wednesday, July 23: First six defendants appear before Luton magistrates charged with theft or receiving stolen goods during the Peace Day Riots.

Thursday, July 24: Henry Impey pays a surprise flying visit to Luton to meet Town Clerk William Smith and give an interview to local reporters.

Thursday, July 24: Seven more defendants appeared before Luton magistrates charged with riot offences.

Friday, July 25: A further 13 defendants appeared before Luton magistrates charged with offences following the Peace Day riots.

Saturday, July 26: Vauxhall Motors Athletic Club annual gymkhana and sports held at Luton Town football ground.

Saturday, July 26: Rev G. N. L. Hall, Curate of Christ Church, departed to become Vice-Principal of Ely Theological College.

Sunday, July 27: DS&S drumhead memorial service held at Luton Hoo Park in the presence of Lady Wernher and a crowd of thousands.

Monday, July 28: Farewell service for Canon H. Coate after 25 years as Vicar of St Matthew's Church, High Town. He was presented with a cheque for £112 2s 6d.

Monday, July 28: Public meeting organised by the Leagrave and Limbury Victory and Peace Celebrations Committee at Norton Road Schools, Leagrave, approved the holding of a welcome home dinner and other events for ex-servicemen of the two villages on September 20th.

Monday, July 28: Sports meeting at Luton Town FC ground for Luton police and outside colleagues brought in for riot duty.

Monday, July 28: Three police officers injured in rioting discharged from Bute Hospital.

Tuesday, July 29: Three more defendants appeared before Luton magistrates on riot charges.

Tuesday, July 29: Town Clerk William Smith explained that Mayor Henry Impey's absence from Town Council meeting was due to a health breakdown.

Wednesday, July 30: Luton began hearing charges against 39 defendants accused of Peace Day riot offences.

Wednesday, July 30: Outing to Brickets Wood for inmates of Union House and Luton's Children's Homes, courtesy of Luton Waste Paper Scheme.

Thursday, July 31: Mayor Henry Impey informed Luton Board of Guardians by letter that his enforced absence as Chairman was due to a health breakdown and he was not fit to attend to public duties at present.

 

Friday, August 1: Presentation to show appreciation of Chief Constable Charles Griffin from members of the six police forces who joined their Luton colleagues to quell rioting in Luton.

Friday, August 1: Ten workers at Luton Iron Foundry, High Town, gave notice of strike action in support of a national wage claim.

Saturday, August 2: Luton magistrates concluded hearings against 39 defendants accused of Peace Day riot offences. Eleven not accused of actively being involved in rioting were sentenced, 28 sent for trial at Beds Assizes in October.

Saturday. August 2: Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph reported that under an Army Order just issued, the Bedfordshire Regiment would in future be known as the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, in recognition of the splendid war service of Herts Territorials in the fighting line.

Saturday, August 9: Comrades of the Great War first annual sports meeting, Dunstable Grammar School grounds.

Saturday, August 9: Former RFA soldier from New Town Street jailed for six weeks in the second division at Luton Borough Court for obtaining out-of-work donations by false pretences. The sentence took into consideration the state of his health.

Monday, August 11: Mayor of Luton Henry Impey reported to have spent the day in Luton (his second recorded visit since the riots) but returned to London in the evening.

Monday, August 11: Striking pattern-makers at the Davis Gas Stove Co returned to work after the firm granted a seven shillings increase to the men.

Monday, August 11: Death in the USA of millionaire Andrew Carnegie, who was made a Freeman of Luton in October 1910 after providing £11,666 to build the town's Carnegie Library.

Tuesday, August 12: Former Dunstable soldier thought to be suffering from shell-shock was remanded in custody at a special Dunstable Borough Court charged with threatening his estranged wife with a revolver.

Wednesday, August 13: Maud Kitchener, who had been held in custody since August 2nd on Peace Day riot charges, had an application for bail approved at Luton Borough Court in her own surety of £5 and two others of £10 each. She was also bound over to keep the peace.

Wednesday, August 13: Woman from Tebworth admitted to the Bute Hospital, Luton, with a head injury and bruising after being hit by an aeroplane with engine trouble as it tried to land at Hockliffe. Her six-year-old daughter escaped with bruises and a finger injury.

Wednesday, August 13: Discarded cigarette end was believed to have resulted in a fire at the Black Swan pub, Limbury, in which some stock and furniture were damaged. The licensee had been awakened by smoke.

Saturday, August 16: Sports and tea for 5,800 ex-servicemen provided by Lady Wernher at Luton Hoo, followed by dancing and entertainment for the men and their wives/lady friends.

Monday, August 18: One-day strike by moulders at the Diamond Foundry over wages.

Monday, August 18: Iron grinder at George Kent Ltd received fatal injuries when the high-speed emery-wheel on which he was working broke into fragments, some of which struck him. A verdict of accidental death was recorded at a later inquest.

Thursday, August 21: Peace Celebration Committee placed an advertisement in the Luton News to launch a £1,000 fund-raising campaign to provide a peace tea and entertainment for the town's schoolchildren. The Luton Reporter later said Mayor Henry Impey had attended the meeting at which the fund was launched.

Thursday, August 21: Meeting of the Luton Labour Party chose five candidates to contest Town Council elections in November.

Thursday, August 21: Executive Committee of DS&S unanimously agreed at a meeting in favour of fielding candidates in November's Town Council elections.

Thursday, August 21: Miss Alice Green, a teacher at the Central Girls' School. Oxford, appointed headmistress of Chapel Street Girls' School, following the resignation and death of headmaster Mr William Green.

Saturday, August 23: Plait salesman, aged 42, of Dumfries Street, found to have committed suicide because he was worried over losing weight since he was demobilised. He mistakenly believed he had cancer, an inquest heard two days later. The coroner recorded a verdict that the man died from strangulation, self-inflicted with a piece of cord, while temporarily insane.

Mayor Impey takes office for fateful year

Mayor Henry Impey

  • Henry Impey and Mayor's Sergeant Frederick Rignall.

Mayoral Day [Saturday, November 9th, 1918] was celebrated in Luton in an atmosphere of expectation. The possibility of a peace proclamation or the signing of the armistice by Germany attracted even a larger crowd than usual, and the ceremony was performed with due solemnity.

Punctually at noon the Council assembled, those present being the Mayor (Councillor Charles Dillingham in the chair), Aldermen E. Oakley, H. O. Williams, T. Cain and H. Arnold; Councillors G. Warren, A. B. Attwood, W. J. Primett, H. Impey, W. W. Merchant, R. F. Briggs, J. Unwin, J. H. Hawkes, C. W. Escott, S. Green, M. Barford, W. A. Rainbow and J. Bone, with the Town Clerk (Mr William Smith) in robes, Mr C. F. Fairfax (Assistant Town Clerk), Dr W. J. Cox (Medical Officer of Health), Messrs E. A. Mander (Borough Accountant), J. W. Tomlinson (Borough Engineer), Chief Constable C. Griffin, C. Wright and A. E, Slough (Inspectors), A. Cooper (Baths Manager), Mrs Hurry and Miss Beasley (Town Clerk's Department), F. J. Rignall (Mayor's Sergeant).

The public included the Mayoress and Miss Dillingham, Mrs and Miss Impey, Mrs Escott, Mrs William Smith, Mrs Needham, Mrs T. Keens, Miss Sear (Board of Guardians), Messrs Cyril Dillingham, G. E. Marten, Willet Ball, W. H. Cox, H. and W. Moody, C. Green, F. Thurston, H. Sell, W. Allen, Baxter Hart, H. Gregory, H. Shane, A. Firmin, Arnall, R. Gibbs, C. Hewitt and many others.

The Mayor at once called upon Councillor Yarrow, who said: “We meet today to perform a very important and interesting function, viz to elect the gentleman who shall discharge the duties of chief magistrate and occupy the civic chair for the coming year, and to invest him with the insignia of office. I have therefore the greatest pleasure in moving the resolution: -

“The Henry Impey Esquire, of Whitecroft, London Road, a Councillor of this Borough, be and he is hereby elected Mayor of the Borough of Luton for the ensuing year.

“I think it is very gratifying, Mr Mayor, that since the incorporation of the Borough the Council have always been able to find candidates able and public-spirited enough among those elected by the burgesses to transact the work of the town, to stand for this important position. The gentlemen who in the past have served the office of Mayor have invariably been selected on the ground of ability, couple with long and faithful service, and I am pleased to say that the subject of this resolution is no exception to the rule.”

Councillor Yarrow then detailed Councillor Impey's positions as a Corporation servant, and said he was presented by the Council with a certificate of merit testifying to the faithful and efficient service he had rendered for 12 and a half years.

“Seventeen years ago Councillor Impey was elected a member of this Council. Since then he has continuously represented the East Ward and assiduously attended to the duties of important committees to which he has ben annually elected.

“On the Parks Committee, to which he was relegated the carrying out of the Land Cultivation Order, Councillor Impey, as Chairman, by his valuable service and the aid of his colleagues and the Borough Surveyor, was successful in helping 1,780 persons to take up derelict or other land for allotment purposes – about 250 acres in addition to that cultivated before the war. The importance of this is obvious when one sees the plentiful supply of vegetables in the town and neighbourhood, and some weeks ago, the Minister of Agriculture, attending the exhibition of Luton Allotment Holders, paid a well-deserved compliment to Councillor Impey for his great part in this work.

“It has been repeatedly said that men are born to greatness, while others have greatness thrust upon them, but neither of these conditions apply to Councillor Impey. The high position in which he finds himself is the result of courage, perseverance and indomitable persistence, qualities we all admire in a man, especially if he aspires to a leading position, for we all know that Councillor Impey is a fighter and does not go round a corner to say what he means, but hits out straight, possibly too much so on occasion, to his own disadvantage.

“If I may use a paradox, his chief fault is a virtue all possess more or less – the liking to have one's own way, but if at times he oversteps the boundary line, his honesty of purpose is so apparent that he is freely forgiven; hence his exalted position today.

“I am glad to present another side of Councillor Impey, for behind a somewhat stern exterior is a warm and kindly heart, which few know better than some at this table who have worked with him so many years on the Board of Guardians. Few have championed the cause of the deserving poor or been more sympathetic and solicitous for the welfare of unfortunate little children under the care of the Poor Law. On the Bench, where he will preside as chief magistrate, I am sure he will lean on the side of mercy rather than mete out strict justice, and any extenuating circumstances will meet with his consideration in favour of the accused.

“For some years Councillor Impey has represented a division of this town on the County Council, thus being in the unique position of serving on three public authorities. He is also Chairman of the Committee of the Waste Paper Scheme, the willing workers of which have been so conspicuously successful. With a recognition of his religious work at his own particular church [Mount Tabor], I think I have said sufficient to justify a claim to the wisdom of the Council in their choice of the gentleman to preside over the destinies of the town during the ensuing year.

“Mr Mayor, we are entering on the most eventful year the town has ever experienced, and epoch in our history. Pre-war conditions will not suffice today; we must be prepared as a Council to adapt ourselves to new conditions, determined to do our share in the great work of reconstruction. Great and urgent questions have already been foreshadowed which will need most serious attention. Foremost is the question of a Housing and Town Planning Scheme which, is carried out on the lines suggested, will mean a large expenditure.

“I daresay there will be a difference of opinion as to whether the public authorities will be the most suitable to carry out the work, also whether the financial loss anticipated should not be borne by the State, knowing that the national dearth of houses is chiefly owing to war conditions, and whether the 25 per cent loss to be charged on the local rates will not seriously handicap arrears of other important social work.

“The Chairman of the Sewage Committee has asked us to prepare for a large and costly drainage scheme to meet the pre-war growth of the town, which abnormal conditions prevented being carried out. Then there is the £80,000 extension scheme of the Electricity Works which, happily, does not affect our financial burden; the proposed transference of Poor Law administration from the Guardians to this body; the all-important welfare scheme of nursing mothers and children.

“These and many other urgent matters which call for our immediate concern show that the incoming Mayor will have no small burden to carry during his year of office, and it will need the united and whole-hearted support of his colleagues, which I know will be forthcoming, to successfully carry out the onerous tasked which lie before him.

“May he and Mrs Impey be blessed with good health during the coming year, and may it be our national joy to soon hear the glorious Proclamation of Peace.”

Councillor Rainbow said he had the greatest pleasure in seconding the nomination, because Councillor Impey was a man of the people, and not only inside but outside would he be one of the most popular of recent years.

He had known Councillor Impey for over 30 years, and his character and conduct had been of the highest, and his public service stood out by reason of thoroughness. Councillor Impey was independent in his views, and he gave to matters that came before the Council enthusiastic support when he believed them right. He had every confidence that Councillor Impey would carry out the duties with credit to himself and his colleagues.

Great matters would have to be considered affecting the general welfare, and they were fortunate in having at the head of the Council a practical man with a great knowledge of the town. There was no necessity to enter into the work of Councillor Impey on the County Council and the Board of Guardians.

The speaker concluded with the hope that Councillor and Mrs Impey would enjoy good health and a happy term of office.

The Mayor read the resolution and, amid applause, declared it unanimously carried. The Mayor and Councillor Impey then retired to the Mayor's Parlour for the robing, and three minutes later returned. The new Mayor then took the oaths.

The newly-elected Mayor said: “On an ordinary occasion I should not feel nervous addressing my colleagues, but it is very difficult to control one's feelings at a time like this to sufficiently express what is in my mind to do justice to the occasion and position.

“I am deeply indebted to Councillors Yarrow and Rainbow for their too kindly remarks in submitting my name, and I can assure the Council that I feel very much the confidence shown by their unanimous vote which has placed me in this position.

“Some 38 years ago, through that principle I have repeated advocated as a member of the Council, of giving lads an opportunity to enter offices under the Corporation without a premium. I was elected out of 45 applicants as a pupil in the Surveyor's office. I served eight and a half years under the late Mr W. H. Leete and then, feeling that an outdoor life was necessary, I took the position of sanitary inspector, to which the Council added building and drainage inspection.

“I served in that department four years. The town had then a population of 20,000, and from 1880 to 1885 was growing as fast as at any time in its history. Only Alderman Oakley and Councillor Guilder are left of the members of the Council at that time.

“I have watched the progress of the town since then and it has been wonderful – having now an estimated population of 60,000. The Borough Accountant was at that time a lad under me.

“The present is overshadowed by the great world war, and most things have to stand on one side so that it can be successfully carried on. The events of the last two or three weeks have enabled us to see the dawn of the sun of peace rapidly rising, and very shortly, we confidently believe, it will be shining in full meridian splendour, and thus close a chapter of unparalleled tragedy and heroism in world history (applause). We wait with every confidence the announcement of final and complete victory over the powerful enemies to liberty and righteousness (applause).

“We acknowledge out gratitude to the great God of the Universe, and also to our leaders – civil, military and naval – and last, but no means least, to the unequalled heroism and determination of our brave soldiers and sailors, assisted by the helpful work of the men and women at home, the whole working together against a dastardly and barbarous foe whose principle has been that might is right.

“I shall be expected to say a few words as to the immediate future, which is pregnant with great possibilities. Locally, we have to deal fire and foremost with the great housing scheme. The thousand houses suggested by the Housing and Town Planning Committee, to my mind, are rather under than over the estimate. This will probably mean an expenditure of £250,000.

“Then there will be required a number of schools, and that will probably mean another £100,000. There is the sewerage and storm water scheme and the expansion of the sewage farm to cope with the growing needs of the town, and that is estimated to require about £100,000. Another large estimate is for road work about £50,000 - bringing us to an undertaking of work necessitating the expenditure of approximately £500,000.

“Other matters that must sooner or later engage the attention of the Council are the extension of the borough, the enlargement of the Council, the expansion of the electricity undertaking, and the taking over of the trams (hear, hear).”

In conclusion the Mayor said that with the assistance of his colleagues, the Town Clerk and other officials, he would endeavour to fulfil the office with honour and credit, and would try to remember he was not the Mayor of a sect or party but of the whole town. He loved his native town, and all his efforts would be directed towards the welfare of his fellow burgesses.

Councillor Attwood then proposed a vote of thanks to the outgoing Mayor, who was presented with a silver epergne bearing the borough coat of arms and the inscription 'Presented to Councillor Charles Dillingham JP by the Council and Officers of the Borough of Luton upon the conclusion of his Mayoralty - 9th November, 1918'.

Impey headline

[Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph: November 9th, 1918]

Mayor absent from Guardians' meeting

[From the Beds & Herts Tuesday Telegraph: July 22nd, 1919]

For practically, if not actually, the first time in the history of the Luton Board of Guardians, the proceedings of this public body were yesterday [Monday, July 21st] conducted under the presidency of a lady – Mrs A. Attwood, the Vice-Chairman. This was necessitated by the absence of the Mayor (Council Impey), who is Chairman of the Board.

In taking up the position, Mrs Attwood briefly alluded to te sad state of affairs prevailing in the town, stating that she deeply regretted the cause of the absence of the Chairman, but had great faith in the people of Luton, sincerely believing that the trouble was only very temporary and everything would soon be settled down again. She assumed the presidency without further comment.

 

[Henry Impey did chair a meeting of the Board of Guardians on September 1st, 1919, and a meeting of Luton Town Council the following evening]

Mayor in second post-riot visit

Having given interviews to two newspapers when he returned to Luton on the Thursday following the Peace Day riots, Mayor Henry Impey was recorded as having paid another visit on Monday, August 11th, 1919.

Mayor Henry ImpeyIn its editorial column the following day, the Beds & Herts Tuesday Telegraph wrote: “The Mayor of Luton, Councillor H. Impey, has paid another visit to the town of which he is the nominal head, but from which – for the sake of his health – he has found it desirable to be absent of late. He was in Luton yesterday, but went back to town [London] during the evening.

“We understand that his Worship anticipates that when this holiday month is over he will be well enough to return to his civic duties, and that he is quite prepared to ignore all the unpleasantness which arose in connection with the Peace Celebrations, and to carry on as though nothing had happened.

“His spirit of willingness to let bygones be bygones is very gracious, but it is possible that some other townspeople may not be so modest in their views as to what ought to be his course of action.”

Mr Henry Impey

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Henry

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Impey

Henry Impey was born in 1865, and served as Mayor of Luton from 1918 - 1919. He had the dubious honour of being Mayor during the Peace Day Riots, and when people began to attack the town hall, he was smuggled out of Luton, never to return to live and work here, although he paid a few brief visits.

Following his death in Lincolnshire on April 17th, 1930, at the age of 65, his body was finally brought back to Luton for a funeral service at his beloved Mount Tabor Church in Castle Street, followed by burial at the General Cemetery in Rothesay Road.

It was the tragedy of his life that his work in Luton should have been cut short by the unfortunate peace celebration happenings in 1919, said his obituary report in The Luton News. Broken in health, the then Mayor of the borough had to leave the scene of his many trials and many triumphs.

Born in Luton, Henry Impey, worked for 8½ years in the Borough Surveyor's office, then was for four years a sanitary, drainage and building inspector and ultimately a surveyor and estate agent.

He was first returned to Luton Town Council in November 1902 and was unanimously elected Mayor for his fateful year on November 9th, 1918. He lived at Whitecroft, London Road, Luton.

At the election of Mr Impey's successor as Mayor, Councillor Stewart Hubbard recorded the thanks of the Council. Mayor Impey had ruled the Council as a man of business in a most able and efficient manner, with perfect fairness to everyone, and with despatch, said Mr Hubbard. The Mayor, as the responsible head of the town, had to accept all the blame for what occurred on Peace Day, but taking that blame had shattered his health. Whatever might have been Mr Impey's shortcomings, the penalty he had had to suffer was out of all proportion to whatever he might or might not have done, and it was the duty of every member of the Council to extend their sympathy and every measure of support to a colleague who had to bear an indignity out of all proportion to his shortcomings.

Following his departure from Luton, Mr Impey went first to Milton, then to Northampton and eventually to Sutton-on-Sea, Lincolnshire, where he served on the Mablethorpe and Sutton Urban District Council, finally becoming its chairman.

 

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Luton
United Kingdom

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United Kingdom

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United Kingdom

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United Kingdom

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Mayor Impey on Peace Day

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1 865

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Saturday, July 19, 1919

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Thursday, April 24, 1930

Riot 1919: Mayor Impey back in Luton

Event Start and End Date: 

24th July 1919

It was popularly believed that after Mayor Henry Impey fled his seven-hour ordeal of being barricaded in Luton Town Hall during the Peace Day riots on July 19th, 1919, that he never returned to the town.

In fact he was back as early as the following Thursday, July 24th, albeit on a surprise flying visit lasting only about an hour. He briefly had talks with Town Clerk William Smith at the Carnegie Library before giving an interview to the Luton Reporter and Luton News newspapers. The Reporter article said:

Probably no topic has been so much discussed locally as the absence of the Mayor from the town during the most critical of times, and the story we have been able to piece together concerning this aspect of the matter is both unique and extraordinary.

In last week's Reporter was exclusively given a description of how the Mayor was got out of the Town Hall in the uniform of a special constable by the small bodyguard of aldermen and councillors who remained with him and the Mayoress in the doomed building right up to the last. Just as the crowd was getting excited and threatening and starting to rush and smash the building at the front on Saturday night, the Mayor quietly walked out by the back way into Upper George Street and was able to get away unobserved. A veil was drawn over his subsequent movements and they remained a complete mystery for two or three days. Few were in on the secret, and they kept it well for nearly 48 hours.

The Town Council had a trio of private meetings during the weekend prior to their customary public sitting on Tuesday evening, and the Mayor was not present at any of these, or at the Board of Guardians meeting on Monday morning. The Mayor's absence resulted in the Board being presided over by a lady, Mrs Attwood, for the first time in its history. [Mrs Attwood had also been inside the Town Hall when the Saturday afternoon rioting began.]

During Monday it became clearly established that the Mayor was away from the town altogether, and subsequently it leaked out that he and the Mayoress had gone to Harringay. Nothing more was heard concerning him until Thursday afternoon, when, to the surprise of pretty well everybody, he paid a flying visit to the town.

He arrived by a train just before half past twelve, had a brief consultation with the Town Clerk about local public affairs in the lecture hall of the Public Library that is temporarily serving as the administrative offices of the Town Clerk's department, and incidentally appended his signature to a notice now displayed in the vestibule at the Williamson Street entrance convening a special meeting of the Town Council for this Tuesday evening. He subsequently saw local newspaper representatives and returned by a train at about half past one.

A Luton Reporter representative met him in Manchester Street just as he had left the library, and he readily accompanied our representative back to the office and made a statement.

About the incidents precedent to the rioting, he intimated straight away he was not in a position to say anything.

"I am quite prepared to, and I have all along wanted to, make my position clear," he said, "but I have been advised it will be better to wait until things have quietened down. I have written and sent along a statement meant for the Press, but the Council thought it had better not go in at present, and I bow to their decision."

Time after time the Mayor emphasised that he only left the town and was staying away for a time because he was advised by the Town Clerk and Chief Constable that this course was advisable in the interests, not only of the health of the Mayoress and himself, but in the interests of the town generally.

"I should not have gone away if it had not been for the very definite opinion they expressed that it would be wise," he said. "I have never wanted to be out of it. I wanted to speak to the crowd on Saturday afternoon, after they had asked for the Mayor and Town Clerk and broken into the place. I was willing to go out - in fact I thought I ought to do so - but the colleagues left with me were all against it. They thought it would only exasperate the crowd more as they were not in a fit condition of mind to be talked to, and I thought there was a good deal in what they said.

"After we got away on Sunday I wrote and told the Town Clerk I was willing to come back on Monday morning if he and the Chief Constable thought it advisable, although I can tell you I felt nothing like fit, but the Town Clerk thought I had better stay away for a time.

"It has been a very trying ordeal for the Mayoress as well as myself," added the Mayor. "My wife was the only woman left in that building at the finish, and she was there until after ten o'clock on Saturday night. I stayed until just about half past ten when the crowd had started to smash the windows and were trying to get in again.

"We were in the Mayor's parlour until the last two or three hours, and then we moved into the Council Chamber. It was thought it would be only inciting the crowd if a light was shown in the parlour.

"My wife surprised me by the way she kept up all that time, but the strain was too much for her. At the finish she had become quite overwrought and cried every time she was spoken to. I think she stuck it remarkably well. After we got away from the Town Hall she had a bad collapse and she has since been suffering from the effects of a severe nervous breakdown. She was in bed all of Sunday and part of Monday, and is still far from well, although much better than she was.

"I fainted away four times on Sunday, and I can tell you neither of us has had two hours sleep at night since we have been away."

The Mayor added that he had to some extent been able to keep in touch with local affairs during his absence, as he had been in communication with the Town Clerk by telephone and letter the whole time.

"But I do feel it," he added. "It is enough to break a man's heart to feel compelled to keep away from a town he has lived in the whole of his life and served in public office the years I have when you know you have done nothing to deserve it. After all, as far as this is concerned, I am only one with the rest. It was not me and the Town Clerk only, and it is not right or fair we should have to shoulder the whole responsibility. Still, the Town Clerk tells me in a letter, public feeling is still strongly against me and himself, and perhaps it is as well to wait until things have calmed down a little."

The Mayor showed us a letter from the Town Clerk stating "The Council unanimously directed me to convey to the Mayoress and yourself their deep sympathy, their great regret at the whole occurrence, and their fervent hope that you may soon recover from the shock and trouble that has fallen upon you."

He also said he had received telegrams from the Mayors of Bedford, Dunstable, Folkestone and Newcastle, and scores of letters from residents and friends in all parts of the country expressing their sympathy.

Asked about his return to the town, the Mayor said he would say no more than that he was leaving himself in the hands of his colleagues, the Town Clerk and the Chief Constable.

"For myself I am ready to come back as soon as they think it advisable," he said, and he gave the impression that he was fully expecting to return to Luton and take up the threads of his public work within a very short time.

A brief newspaper report recorded Henry Impey visiting Luton again on August 11th, giving little detail other than he returned to London in the evening.

Mayor Impey did chair two meetings later, his first being that of the Board of Guardians on Monday, September 1st. Appearing to be suffering under considerable emotion, as the following day's Tuesday Telegraph reported, he said: "I should like to express my thanks to the Board for the very kind expression of sympathy with me in my illness. I am sorry to say that I am not better. I am not anything like what I ought to be, and I don't feel the slightest interest in public matters at present. My absence has been absolutely forced - through illness - and I don't expect that I shall be able to take part in public matters for a few years; at any rate unless there is a very strange alteration. Thank you all."

He also chaired a meeting of Luton Town Council the following night.

Henry Impey resigned from the Town Council at the time of the November 1919 council elections. He eventually returned to public life in Lincolnshire, where he died on April 17th, 1930, at the age of 65. He was finally brought home to be laid to rest at the Rothesay Road Cemetery following a funeral service at Mount Tabor Primitive Methodist Church, at the junction of Castle Street and Hibbert Street.

[The Luton Reporter, Tuesday, July 29th, 1919]

For the Mayor's statement to the Luton News on July 24th, click here.

 

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Mayor Henry Impey, macebearer Frederick Ringall

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