Yesteryear: Opposite view of Dunstable’s Nag’s Head and Keep’s Corner

Nag's Head engraving.
Nag's Head engraving.
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The Nag’s Head, mentioned in the Dunstable Gazette a few weeks ago as being the birthplace in 1648 of the playwright Elkhana Settle, has not always been the corner building on the crossroads.

There was formerly a small shop there, next to the Nag’s Head, which can be seen in old photos and engravings.

Nag's Head today.

Nag's Head today.

Joan Curran, in her researches for the history society’s contribution to the Jacobean displays planned for May 16 at Priory House and gardens, has found references to the little shop being called Keep’s Corner.

That will confuse older Dunstablians who used to give that name to the newsagent’s shop on the other side of the road (now Taylor’s estate agents). The Nag’s Head enlarged its premises in 1908, when it expanded into the corner building, and the guess is that Mr Keep simply moved his business over to the other side of the crossroads.

There’s a reference to the Nag’s Head in the history of the Quaker movement, which formed a Dunstable group in about 1654. A baker named Edward Chester was one of the founders, and his shop was said to be next to the pub.

The expansion in both directions of the Nag’s Head can be worked out by comparing the scene today (in the colour photo) to an engraving of a very busy Dunstable marketplace published in the old Queen magazine in 1861.

This, very usefully, shows the sign of the Crow public house, just a little way down the road, as well as the Nag’s Head sign. The Crow changed its name to its present (very similar) title, the Crown, in 1869. We know this because Mrs Curran has found an announcement of the alteration in the Dunstable Gazette of that year.

> Yesteryear is compiled by John Buckledee, chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society.