Tall Tales Of Dunstable Life


Alfred George Headey who originally established the Cottage Garden Flower Shop and Nurseries was very much a larger than life character about whom many tales were told by his contemporaries.

One concerned a drinking bout in the Red Lion (top of Church street, now demolished) with the landlord, Johnny Crute, and Alfred, who fell to arguing as to their physical fitness and strength. It was thus agreed that he who could carry a sack of coal from the Red Lion to the Rifle Volunteer (foot of the Downs, now demolished) and give it to the landlord Bill Dennett in the shortest time should be acknowledged “The Man”!

Courtyard Of The Red Lion

There was great anticipation among the pub population as the race drew near and bets were laid, silver changing hands and even it was rumoured a ten shilling note!  Ten o’clock on the morning the two competitors and a dozen or so supporters set ot with half 100cwt bags of coal supplied by Dobin Holt the local bookmaker.  Suitably primed with mild and bitter they crossed the road to the Nags Head where they had another drink, weary after over 50 yards of travel, and collected a few supporters, the next door, round the corner to the Plume of Feathers where the performance was repeated.

The party then headed up West St, crossed the road to the Victoria, again a little refreshment during which some dastard person slipped a few big lumps into Alfred’s bag, but he was not that far gone, and made his own arrangements for the next stop which was the Pheasant next to the Primrose Laundry at the top of Chiltern Road.

By now it was half past twelve and the whole company, now said to number over thirty, was fed with bread and cheese by the landlady, and during the frivolity two or three large bricks found their way into Johnny Crute’s bag. It was mid afternoon before the whole caravan hit the road again, nothing before the bottom of the Downs apart from hedges and ditches, into one of which Tammy Barber, who was indeed the local barber, fell and had to be rescued.

Dunstable Rifle Volunteer
The Rifle Volunteer

There were other unruly incidents along the way sorted out by the local bobby, who I think was called Denton, who had been fetched to control the crowd, but in fact joined the revelry. Bill Dennett opened the Rifleman early to avoid a riot, and the serious drinking began, until that is, Crute discovered the bricks and challenged Alfred to a fight. The fight never took place, and nobody ever knew who won the race!!

Featured in the above photograph but not necessarily the aforementioned revelry.

Alfred George Headey of ‘Westleigh’ West Street, nurseryman and florist.

Edgar Franklin of Church Street, local carpenter, builder and undertaker and bellringer at the Priory Church.

Dobin Holt also of Church Street, councillor, game dealer and book maker.

Hugh Woods, straw hat manufacturer.

Walter Summerfield of High Street South.

Billy Gibbard, corn merchant in High Steet North.

Frankie Anderson, gents outfitter.