Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for LUTON

LUTON, a town, a township, a parish, a sub-district, and a district, in Beds. The town stands on the river Lea, and on the Hatfield and Leighton-Buzzard branch of the Great Northern railway, 2¼ miles SE of Icknieldstreet, and 19 S by E of Bedford. Its site is a valley, surrounded by hills. Its name is a corruption either of Leatown or of Lowtown. The ground on which it stands was given by Offa, king of Mercia, in the 8th century, to the abbey of St. Albans; belonged, at Domesday, to the Crown; went, in 1216, to Fulke de Brent, who built a castle on it; and passed to the Wenlocks. The town acquired importance in the time of James I., by being made the seat of a straw-hat manufacture, which Mary, Queen of Scots, had introduced from France; it suffered a check to its prosperity, by the transference of that manufacture, in a considerable degree and for some time, to Dunstable; it eventually recovered its status as the largest seat of that manufacture in Great Britain; and it so throve upon it in the decade from 1851 till 1861 as then to increase its population, on account of it, nearly 50 per cent. It consists chiefly of streets diverging from a central market-place; but has, of late years, been greatly extended. The plait-hall stands in Cheapside and Waller-street; and was built in 1869, at a cost of about £8,000. The corn-exchange is on the site of the old hall-hall; was built in 1869, at a cost of about £8,000; and is in the Venetian-Gothic style. The town hall stands at the junction of the Bedford and the Dunstable roads; and is a handsome edifice. The courthouse was built by the county; stands in Stuart-street; and includes some prison cells. St. Mary's church is partly decorated English, partly later English; comprises nave, aisles, transepts, and choir; has a Wembattled tower in chequerwork 90 feet high, surmounted at the corners by hexagonal turrets; includes, in the S transept, a lofty stone baptistry, with groined roof and pinnacles, standing over a famous baptismal font supported by five pillars, and said to have been presented by Queen Anne Boleyn; includes also, on the N side of the chancel, an elegant chapel, built prior to 1461 by Sir John Wenlock; and contains four richly ornamented sedilia, several royal armorial bearings, several arched altar-tombs, some very ancient brasses, and a number of handsome modern monuments and cenotaphs. Christ Church was built in 1856; and was improved at a cost of £3,500 in 1865. The Independent chapel in King-street was built in 1866, at a cost of about £6,000; is in the pointed style, with a spire; contains about 1,200 sittings; and includes a basement-school, capable of accommodating 1,200 children. The Union Congregational chapel is in London-road. The Baptist chapel in Park-street was rebuilt in 1867; and that in Wellington-street is recent. The Ebenezer Baptist chapel is in Dumfries-street; the Ebenezer Calvinist chapel is in Hastings-street; and the Quakers' chapel is in Castle-street. Two Wesleyan chapels are in Waller-street and Chapel-street; the one built in 1863, the other also recent; and one of them is a handsome edifice, cost upwards of £3,000, and contains about 1,700 sittings. A Primitive Methodist chapel is in Hightown. There are a literary institution and news-rooms, a young women's literary institute, a national school, a British school, a school endowment of £30 a year, almshouses with £43, other charities £74, and a workhouse. The town has a head post office,‡ a railway station with telegraph, two banking offices, a county police station, a fire-brigade establishment, and four chief inns; is a seat of petty-sessions and county courts, and a polling-place; and publishes two weekly newspapers. A weekly market for corn and straw-plait is held on Monday; a weekly market for provisions, on Saturday; fairs for cattle, on the third Monday of April and the third Monday of October; and a hiring-fair, on the Friday after the third Monday of September. The straw-hat and bonnet manufmcture is carried on in large and handsome buildings, and exports its produce to all parts of the world. There is an iron-foundry. Pomfret, the poet, was a native. Real property, of the town, in 1860, £44,433; of which £554 were in the railway, and £526 in gas-works. Pop. in 1851,10,648; in 1861,15,329. Houses, 2,724. The township is conterminate with the town. The parish contains also the hamlets of East Hyde, West Hyde, Stopsley, Leegrave, and Limbury-cum-Biscott. Acres, 15,750. Real property, £62,350. Pop. in 1851, 12,787; in 1861,17,821. Houses, 3,196. Summeries Tower, 1¾ mile ESE of the town, formed part of an ancient mansion of the Wenlocks, now all destroyed ex.ept the portico. Luton Hoo, 1¾ mile SSE of the town, was built by the Earl of Bute, prime minister of George III.; was the seat of the late Marquis of Bute; had a splendid chapel of richly carved wood; suffered vast damage by fire, with total destruction of the chapel, in 1843; passed to John Shaw Leigh, Esq.; has been completely restored; and stands in a very fine park of 1,670 acres. Stockwood, 1 mile SSW of the town, is the seat of J. S. Crawley, Esq. The parish is ecclesiastically cut into the sections of St. Mary, Christchurch, East Hyde, Stopsley, and Biscott. East Hyde was made a separate charge in 1859; Christchurch and Stopsley, in 1861; and Biscott, in 1866. Pop. of the Christchurch section, in 1861,6,658. Houses, 1,150. The livings of St. Mary and Christchurch are vicarages in the diocese of Ely. Value of St. Mary, £1,350.* Patron, the Rev. A. King. Value and patron of Christchurch, not reported. East Hyde and Stopsley are separately noticed.—The sub-district contains also the parishes of SundonStreatley, Barton-in-the-Clay, and Caddington,-part of the last electorally in Herts. Acres, 26,967. Pop., 21,419. Houses, 3,967.—The district comprehends also the sub-district of Dunstable, containing the parishes of Dunstable, Honghton-Regis, Totternhoe, Whip, snade, Studham, and Kensworth,-all the last and part of the preceding electorally in Herts. Acres of the district, 40,836. Poor rates in 1863, £13,206. Pop. in 1851,25,087; in 1861,30,712. Houses, 5,865. Marriages in 1863,297; births, 1,144,-of which 92 were illegitimate; deaths, 631,-of which 282 were at ages under 5 years, and 6 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60,2,213; births, 9,876; deaths, 5,662. The places of worship, in 1851, were 12 of the Church of England, with 4,841 sittings; 13 of Baptists, with 3,956 s.; 1 of Quakers, with 220 s.; 18 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 4,705 s.; 2 of Primitive Methodists, with 530 s.; 3 undefined, with 1,142 s.; and 2 of Latter Day Saints, with 130 s. The schools were 13 public day schools, with 1,386 scholars; 50 private day schools, with 1,018 s.; 41 Sunday schools, with 5,688 s.; and 1 evening school for adults, with 31 s. The workhouse, at the census of 1861, had 150 inmates.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town, a township, a parish, a sub-district, and a district"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Luton CP       Luton AP/CP       Luton Borough       Luton SubD       Luton PLU/RegD       Bedfordshire AncC
Place: Luton

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