Final function at the old Town Hall


Luton old Town Hall in 1914

The last formal event held before the burning down of Luton Town Hall was a public dance, admission two shillings. An advert appeared in the Luton News of July 10th, 1919, to publicise the weekly Saturday dance at the Town Hall - the next on July 12th - and explaining that the following dance would be brought forward to the Friday [July 18th].

Town Hall dances advertIn view of the Peace Celebrations, there was to be no dance the following Saturday night, said the advert [no event at all was was scheduled to be held inside the Town Hall on July 19th].

The Friday 18th event was billed as a Grand Victory Peace Dance from 7pm to 1am. As with the usual Saturday dances, it was a public event but with the normal admission price of 1s 6d raised to two shillings.

The event was not part of the "official" Peace celebrations programme. Dance MC Mr E. Bass, of 54 Stanley Street, Luton, was probably an organiser, claiming over £45 in compensation for lost instruments and other musical items and £7 in Treasury notes.

In the Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph (July 26th, 1919) a correspondent wrote: “Apropos of the dance held at the Town Hall on the eve of Peace Celebration Day. An historic dance indeed! Of that gay assembly, and amid so much light and colour, who dreamed that in a few hours hence a building echoing with so much music and laughter would stand blackened against the sky in ruins?

“To the dancers it will probably remain for ever in their memories; not altogether for its nearness to such a deplorable event for its own sake, since the orchestra, the peace decorations of red, white and blue, the smoothness of the floor, the arrangement of the dances and the dancing surpassed anything the Town Hall had ever seen.

“The Hall, viewed from the outside that night, in its victory garb, with strains of happy music and a blaze of light issuing from it, promised a glorious morrow. Those who saw this happy, festive touch and the stark grimness of the Town Hall presented 24 hours later will remember both vividly as a set-off one against the other.”

Riot compensation claims

Reproduced above is one of the pages of compensation claims resulting from the riots. Listed second from the bottom is the claim for £22 1s from caterer A. M. Dudeney, of 54 George Street [Dujon Restaurant], for bowls, jugs, dishes, towels etc provided for the dance and lost in the Town Hall fire. J. Webdale & Sons Ltd., of Wellington Street, also claimed £17 for mirrors and bunting destroyed in the blaze.