Mayor's mysterious leaving of Luton

Luton Union House 1906

  • Union House (pictured in 1906) - Henry Impey's overnight refuge before leaving Luton.

[The Luton Reporter: Tuesday, August 12th, 1919]

The whereabouts of the Mayor during his sojourn away from Luton under medical advice are being kept a close secret, but little by little there is leaking our another secret – the story of his mysterious departure from the town. It is not exactly what would be described as an illuminating story of heroics, but it is one that is bound to come out sooner or later, and we cannot conceive why it should be necessary to surround it with such an air of mystery.

That the story should have taken on something of the character of a serial is not our fault. We happen to have been on the right scent from the start, but it required something of the tactics of a Sherlock Holmes to establish without any possibility of contradiction that the Mayor and Mayoress found what little rest and sleep that memorable night of July 19th in some part of the Union House premises, and even then it was only by the merest chance that we gained a clue to the manner of their departure for their next haven of refuge.

A motor at the Union House somewhere about five or six o'clock in the morning – it would be just about the time the armed soldiers arrived from Bedford to take over from the police and the voluntary helpers in khaki from the Beech Hill Remount Depot temporary charge of the town – was enough to excite suspicion. It was raining torrents at the time, so it was clearly not intended for the purpose of a joy ride, and a lynx-eyes observer proves to have been correct in his surmise that it was for the Mayor and Mayoress.

Not that the motor was the Mayor's private car. It was quite the reverse of the type of vehicle one might have expected the civic head of an important borough to use, either for pleasure or for the steadying of shattered nerves.

The popular rumour that it was the police motor ambulance is altogether incorrect; on the contrary it was what one might, for the want of a better definition, describe as being in the nature of a motor van. And a strange sort of Mayoral party the accounts made up.

The Mayor had apparently recovered the use of the clothes he temporarily discarded before leaving the Town Hall as a special, but he had to borrow a hat. And it was not a silk 'topper,' but rather had the appearance of being something similar to what inmates of the house are sometimes seen wearing.

The Mayor and Mayoress were not alone but whether they were accompanied by friends or an escort in not quite clear, neither is the extent of their journey in the motor van. Everyone knows that Harringay was their destination, and there are varying stories of a greater or less part of the journey being made by either train or tram. We have an idea which is the correct version, but as we cannot definitely establish it we prefer to make no conjectures.

[In 1929, by then Chief Constable of Brighton and about to be elected President of the Chief Constables Association, Charles Griffin gave his story of how Henry Impey left Luton. Click here.]