Counting the cost of Peace riots

Riot bill headline

[Beds & Herts Wednesday Telegraph: October 1st, 1919]

Last night part of Luton's bill for the damage done during the rioting in July last, and for the cost of additional police drafted into the town to restore order, came before the Town Council, and will reach the ratepayers through the considerably increased rate [an additional 1s 6½d in the £ on top of estimates already agreed] which is to be levied for the next half year.

The Mayor, Councillor Impey, was not present at the meeting of the Council. Instead he sent a letter that his health was such as would not permit him to attend.

The Watch Committee submitted detailed statements with reference to the cost of the outside police, and reported that they had authorised the payment of the various amounts.

In connection with the claims for compensation for damage to private property, they recommended the Council to pay certain of the claims in full; that in the case of other claims reductions should be made in the amount allowed; and that still others should be deferred for further consideration.

The claims recommended by the Watch Committee for payment in full were (for personal property destroyed in the Town Hall):

Archibald Dr W.: £6 11s.

Brightman J, Building Inspector: £9 17s 6d.

Beasley Miss O. W. (Town Clerk's Department): £1 10s.

Camm (Borough Engineer's Department):£16 16s 3d.

Greenwood W. (Borough Engineer's Department): £13 2s 9d.

Jackson Miss M. (Health Visitor): £9 7s 4d.

Jackson Miss S. (Health Visitor): £9 5s 2d.

Keens T.: £2 11s.

Middle E. A. (Engineer's Department): £7 7s.

Nuttall Miss M. E. (Municipal Midwife): £3 4s 6d.

Newbury A. W. (Engineer's Department): 10s.

Pugh A. R. (Engineer's Department): £5 5s.

Rignall F. J. (Tolls Collector): £9 19s.

Smith A. (Engineer's Department): £9 14s 9d.


Caterers' and entertainers' property which was at the Town Hall and which was destroyed:

Dudney & Johnston Ltd £22 1s.

Stearn R. J.: £11.

Webdale J. & Sons Ltd: £17.


Plate glass and other windows broken with cost of boarding up etc:

Brandon J, 47 Chapel Street: £1 13s.

Breadsell T. E., 78 Chapel Street: £9 2s.

Burgess J., 57 Castle Street: 5s 6d.

Cherry & Son, 31 Guildford Street: £17 11s 8d.

Cooper T. W., 14 Hastings Street: £17 2s 9d.

Day A., 13 Chapel Street: £7 14s 5d.

Dillingham C., 87 George Street: £61 4s.

Gibbons H., George Street and Park Street: £11 7s 6d.

Gibbs & Dandy, Chapel Street: £14 18s 2d.

Herts Motors Ltd, George Street: £19 3s 10d.

Impey E. W., Manchester Street: £8 6s.

Partridge H. G. & Co, 10 Chapel Street: £13 12 6d.

Prosser T. W., 24 Wellington Street: £13 13s 5d.

Rose M., 35 Chapel Street: £12 13s 6d.

Sanders W. N., 43 Chapel Street: 11s 6d.

Stern H., 5 Bute Street: £7 17s 10d.


Other property destroyed or stolen:

Cartoons damaged and boarding up windows, Dillingham C. & Sons: £9 6s 6d

Telephone apparatus damaged and destroyed, Post Office telephones: £40 13s 6d.

For property destroyed in Manchester Street Hall, Salvation Army: £8 10s.

Ten silver tea spoons and three jugs, Wright Miss E. W., Midland Hotel: £1 10s.


In the claims given below the Committee did not recommend full payment, and the amounts given in brackets indicate the total of the claim for compensation, those set out being the amount recommended by the Committee for payment:

Bottoms S. (Engineer's Department), personal property (£17 13s): £5.

Brown J. N. & Co Ltd, 9 Manchester Street, including £128 9s 9d for stock stolen and £100 for loss of business (£285 5s 10d): £185 10s 5d.

Caspers C., 4 Bute Street, including £182 good stolen or destroyed (£232 8s 10d): £201 16s 1d.

Clark W. S., George Street, for damage to property and fittings, stock stolen and damaged, and £66 loss of profits (£874 4s 3d): £726 10s.

Long, Matthew, 6 Upper George Street (£10 7s 9d): £5.

Payne W. O., Manchester Street (£44 15s 3d): £35 17s.

Messrs S. Farmer & Co's total claim was £531 8s 9d. The Committee recommended payment of £424 19s 6d, and also the maker's charges for renovating two damaged pianos estimated at £81. Total £519 19s 6d.


The following claims were referred to a sub-committee:

Bass E., 54 Stanley Street, for property and money destroyed in the Town Hall: £45 17s.

Cheesums Ltd, boardings and two motors damaged in Guildford Street: £141 10s.

Green J. W. Ltd, windows broken at the Clarence Hotel: £13 10s.


Mr S. W. Skillman abandoned his claim for £4 in respect of damage at 85 George Street. Other out-of-date claims submitted to the Committee were:

Bowles G., 43 Stuart Street, broken fence: £4 5s.

Benskin's Brewery Ltd, damage at Midland Hotel: £10 19s 9d.

Whiting C. W., 38 Chapel Street, broken windows: £20 5s.

Sworder Dr H., George Street, broken windows: £1 10s.

Cumberland H., Hart Hill, Freemason's regalia and other articles: £400.


The claims total £3,100 15s 7d, and the total amounts so far recommended for payment are £2,137 11s 9d.


The amount passed for payment in respect of outside police assistance were:

St Albans City: £130 11s 4d.

Northampton Borough: £164.

Bedford Borough: £215 8s 4d.

Cambridge Borough: £86.

Bedford County: £145 17s 6d.

Herts County: £558 8s 8d.

Police meals at Ceylon Hall (W. Gillam): £722 14s 6d

Loss of horse stabbed (W. Gillam) £50.

Other small items for transport, catering etc brought the total bill in this connection to £2,164 1s 1d.


Alderman Oakley moved the adoption of the report, which was seconded by Alderman Cain, and agreed to without discussion.

A fuller idea of the cost of the riot was given in the estimates for the borough and district rates for the next half year. The riot items, including the totals of the sums already mentioned, were:

Special police expenses: £2,174.

Grant to local police: £245.

Grant to Fire Brigade: £100.

Compensation claims allowed: £2,140.

Claims yet to be settled: £593.

Office supplies and furniture: £1,245.

Cost of demolishing the Town Hall: £100.

Total: £6,597.


The Municipal Mutual Insurance Ltd, with regret, have stated that they are unable to make any payment to the Council in respect of the loss sustained by the destruction of the Town Hall during the riot. In formally reporting this, Alderman Cain, Chairman of the Finance Committee, said he did not think any of them expected the insurance people to pay anything.

The Finance Committee presented estimates for greatly increased borough and general district rates, the increase on the original estimates demanding a total advance of 1s 6½d in the £.

The initial estimate for the borough rate, approved on April 1, amounted to £15,231, and this has now risen to £28,202, included in which is the halfpenny rate for library purposes. Increases of teachers' salaries account for £3,925, and the new rate of police pay for another £2,980.

Labour for demolishing the Town Hall absorbs £100, and office requisites £713. There is another echo of the riots in an account of £5,252, including £2,174 for special police expenses and £2,140 for compensation for damage.

The original estimate for the general district rate of £20,140 has ascended to the sum of £27,122, made up of a variety of items, among which are £1,400 for new motors for the Highways Committee, and £600 for clinker crushing apparatus.

The estimate came before the Council on the report of the Finance Committee, the adoption of which Alderman Cain could not say that it was his pleasure to propose, but these things had to be met. Alderman Oakley seconded.

In its October 7th edition, the Luton Reporter said: “Rates of 6s 6d or more in the £ will give Lutonians cause for serious thinking this half-year. Last half-year they came to 4s 1d, so that Peace year will stand out memorable as the first in which the town's rates have exceeded 10s in the £.”


Riot claims1

Riot claim 2

Riot clai 3

Riot claim 4
Riot claims 5

  • Riot compensation forms from the Wardown House Museum collection.


Regarding the considerably bigger cost of replacing the burned-out Town Hall, The Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph of August 9th, 1919, had reported that a comprehensive figure had been current throughout the land, in which the sum was put at anything from £200,000 to £250,000. Council members had claimed that these statements had no justification, were wildly exaggerated, and were calculated to injure the borough.

Alderman Wilkinson – giving what he termed an “exceedingly generous estimate” - put the sum at £60,000. Subsequent speakers succeeded in bringing the amount far below this, and when the discussion ceased it had fallen to the neighbourhood of £20,000.

However, The Times on August 8th had published a list of the most serious fires in the United Kingdom during the month of July, together with the estimated loss incurred. Luton's Town Hall outbreak was the second largest recorded, and the figure placed against it was £100,000.

That estimate, said the Telegraph, presumably took no account of the valuable documents that have been lost, the labour cost which would be involved in preparing a large number of new plans for housing, drainage and other schemes, or of any other items of heavy expenditure incidental to the occurrence.