A Brief History

Primitive tools and other implements as well as early coins found in and around the present district date from prehistoric times; but as the people were largely nomadic in those days, such discoveries only show that they passed this way.

Roman Arch - Watling StreetNearly two thousand years ago the great Roman Road of Watling Street, from Dover to London and on to the Midlands passed through Hockliffe close to the town and it is said that some earthworks in Pages Park date from that time.

Confirmation that Leighton was a Saxon township was provided when Anglo Saxon burial urns containing cremated bones, and later two brooches and a bead dating from the sixth century were discovered during excavation of a pit on Leighton Heath. (The area now bounded by Hillside Road and Adams Bottom).

The first documentary reference to the town was in 906 when it was recorded that the Danes made one of their peace treaties at Yttingaford, which has been identified as what is now known as Tiddenfoot , i.e. beside the River Ouzel between Leighton Buzzard and Linslade.Norman House

The manor is recorded as "Lestone" in the Domesday Survey compiled by the Normans in 1086, being described as "Terra Regis" - land belonging to the Crown - and it already had a weekly market, one of only three mentioned in Bedfordshire.

Seal of Henry IIIn 1164 Henry II gave the Manor of Leighton (apart from four hides held by the Bishop of Lincoln, the future Prebendal Manor) to the Abbey of Fontevrault in Anjou, France, and a priory was established at Grovebury which had a significant effect on the town during the 13th and 14th centuries.

 

 

In the 13th century St. Mary's Church, in what we now call Old Linslade, was the focus of a flourishing village. Pilgrims were visiting its holy well and in ,1251, it was granted a weekly market and yearly fair. In June 1299, however, the Bishop of Lincoln instructed "that it be announced in all churches of the archdeaconary on every Sunday and Feast day until the Feast of Assumption that veneration of, or pilgrimage to a so-called holy well at Linslade was forbidden on pain of excommunication, and to cite the vicar of Linslade, who was said to have encouraged the cult in the hope of gain, to appear before the Bishop"

During the reign of Elizabeth 1 (1558 - 1603) the Manors of Leighton were leased out to various London merchants. One of these, Christopher Hoddesdon, was not particularly popular with his tenants who resisted the changes he was trying to bring in by assembling "riotously rowteously and unlawfully with divers other disordered persons to ayde them in their lewd, wicked and unlawful purpose. They were not peaceful either, for they had armed themselves with "guns bows bills pikes staves and pitchforks".

The daughter of this Hoddesden married into the Leighs of Stoneleigh and it was her only son who inherited the manor which the Leighs were to keep for another 250 years.

During the Civil War (1642 - 1645) local historians tell us that the Leighs were staunch supporters of King Charles 1 who in 1644 was staying at Ascott House in Wing. There were also in that year ten thousand Roundhead soldiers with horses quartered in and around Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable and Sir Thomas Leigh's wife was forced to share accommodation at the Prebendal Mansion House with the family of the local Roundhead Commander.

Old photo of market - courtesy of Mr Tom LawsonWe also know there was a fire in the High Street in 1645 (origin unknown) and a petition was sent to the Government from the "distressed inhabitants of Leighton Buzzard" saying "by a fire which happened on 7th of March last, great damage was done to buildings and property in the town, amounting to 14,386.17s.0d. Petitioners, who have been forward in all payments for Parliament, and have in consequence been mercilessly plundered by the enemy, pray that the House will grant them a collection in London and elsewhere for their relief."

It is not known whether money was forthcoming but the High Street buildings were rebuilt and the town continued to grow throughout the 1700's.

Old photo of Curriers Arms Ale House, formally at 31 Market Sqaure - courtesy of Mr Tom LawsonIn the early 1800's traders took full advantage of the coming of the canal and the railway and the town continued to prosper and develop in to the market/ commuter town we know to day.

Local Map