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Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire

Historical Description

Leighton Buzzard, a union town and a parish in Beds. The town stands on the river Ouse, at the boundary with Backs, adjacent to the Grand Junction Canal, and on the L. & N.W.R., 19 miles SW by S of Bedford, and 40¼ NW of London. The railway station is half a mile from the town, and is in the adjoining parish of Linslade, in Buckinghamshire. The town is thought by some writers, but without good evidence, to be the Lygeanburg, mentioned in the Saxon Chronicle as having been taken in 571 by Cuthwulf, brother of the King of Wessex; and it derives its suffix name, according to some, from corruption of the name Beaudesert, according to others from the Bozards or Basarts, an ancient family, one of whom was knight of the shire in the time of Edward III. A Cistercian monastery, a cell to Woburn Abbey, was founded at the town in the time of Henry II., and an alien priory, a cell to Fontevrault Abbey in Normandy, stood within the parish at Grovebury. A very ancient pentangular Gothic cross, supposed to have had some connection with the Cistercian monastery, stands in the market-place; appears to have been erected about 1330; was repaired in 1650, and restored in 1852; is about 40 feet high, and consists of five steps and a surmounting arch, supporting five niches, occupied by hagiological statues. The town consists chiefly of one long wide street, extending N and S from the market-place. The town-hall, which was rebuilt in 1851, stands near the centre of the market-place, and is adorned at its western entrance, and also on the south wall, with ancient statues removed from the Market Cross on its restoration. The corn exchange, situated in the corn market, was built in 1862 on the site of the old George Inn, at a cost, including site, of £7500. It is a building of stone in a modern Italian style, has a two-storey front with Venetian windows and open balustrade, surmounted by an ornate tower about 85 feet high, and contains a hall with accommodation for about 800 persons, and an assembly-room with accommodation for about 325. The temperance hall, in Lake Street, erected in 1845, will seat about 480 persons. The working men's club and institute, in North Street, contains a good library and reading-room, has been acquired by the town, and is managed by a body of trustees.

The parish church, or Church of All Saints, is spacious, cruciform, and chiefly Early English; consists of chancel, nave, aisles, transepts, north, south, and west porches; and has a central massive tower, with an octagonal spire 193 feet high, with chimes which were restored in 1865; and contains an ancient font, stalls, and some ancient monuments. It was restored at a cost of upwards of £3000 in 1885-86, and contains several beautiful stained glass windows. St Andrew's Church, at the N end of the town, was built in 1866 at a cost of about £4000; is in the Early Decorated style, with a spire upwards of 100 feet high; and measures, within walls, 110 feet by 50. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Ely; net yearly value, £224 with residence, in the gift of the Bishop of Ely, or the Prebendary of Leighton Buzzard in Lincoln Cathedral. There are also two Baptist, Primitive Methodist, and Wesleyan chapels, and a Friends' meeting-house. There are almshouses for ten poor widows and several useful charities. The cemetery, in Miletree Road, was formed in 1882, has a mortuary chapel of stone and brick, and covers an area of 8 acres. The town has a head post office, two banks, a police station, several good inns, and is the head of a petty sessional division and county court district. A weekly market is held on Tuesday for corn, cattle, and provisions, and there is a general market for provisions on Saturday. Fairs for horses and cattle are held on 5 Feb., second Tuesday in April, Whit-Tuesday, 26 July, 24 Oct., and the Tuesday following 10 Dec. There are also a large wool fair, which is held on the first Friday in July, and a statute (pleasure) fair on the first Tuesday after 11 Oct. The manufacture of straw-plait is carried on, and much transit traffic is conducted both by railway and by canal.

The parish proper includes Billington, Eggington, Heath and Reach, and Stanbridge, all of which are noticed under these headings, and has a total area of 8911 acres; population, 8814. The area of the township of Leighton Buzzard is 2426 acres; population, 6704.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Administration

The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyBedfordshire 
DioceseEly 
Ecclesiastical parishLeighton-Buzzard All Saints 
HundredManshead 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.


Church Records

The parish register dates from the year 1562, and includes the earlier registers of Billington, Eggington, Heath and Reach, and some part of Stanbridge.


Churches

Church of England

All Saints (parish church)

The church of All-Saints, formerly collegiate, is a spacious cruciform embattled structure, principally of the Early English period, and consisting of chancel with an ancient vestry on the north, nave, aisles, transepts, north, south and west porches, and a central tower with pinnacles and octagonal spire containing 8 bells: the windows, twelve of which are stained, are nearly all Perpendicular, and some have very good tracery: the chancel retains its stalls, and there is some good screen work and an eagle lectern of wood, with traces of colour, and a chain for a padlock attached: the western door is ornamented with wrought ironwork, the work of John de Leighton: the font, an early example, has a circular bulging basin, on a short round columnar base, surrounded by four shafts, the capitals of which are level with the rim of the basin: there are monuments to William Jackman, gent. 1592; Francis Willis, gent. 1646, and his wife Margaret (Saunders), and Catherine, wife of Richard Whitlock, gent. 1649: the church was thoroughly restored in 1842 and 1852, and again in 1885-6, at a cost of over £3,000, and was re-opened July 10th, 1886: in 1893 the spire was re-pointed, the vane repaired and a new lightning conductor erected: in 1906 a new organ was erected at a cost of £1,070, a choir vestry built and the reredos (begun in 1900) completed by Mrs. Swire, of Leighton House, under the direction of Mr. G. F. Bodley R.A.

St. Andrew

The church of St. Andrew, erected in 1866-7 as a chapel of ease, at a cost of £3,800, and consecrated July 11, 1867, is a building in the Early Decorated style, with some French details, and consists of chancel, nave, aisles, vestry, organ chamber and a tower 110 feet high, with an octagonal belfry, surmounted by eight perforated gables, terminating in trefoil heads: the church will seat 600 persons.

Baptist

Baptist Chapel, Rockliffe Street

The Baptist chapel, in Rockliffe street, was erected in 1892 at a cost of £4,000, and affords 700 sittings.

Baptist Chapel, Lake Street

There is a Baptist chapel in Lake street, founded in 1775, with 450 sittings.

Methodist

Primitive Methodist Chapel, North Street

The Primitive Methodist chapel, in North street, an edifice of brick and stone in the Gothic style, was built in 1890 at a cost of £2,342, and will seat 500.

Wesleyan Chapel, Hockliffe Street

The Wesleyan chapel, in Hockliffe street, erected in 1864 at a cost of £5,000, has 1,500 sittings and two stained windows, one of which and six tablets are memorials to former ministers.

Society of Friends

Society of Friends Meeting House

There is a meeting house, with cemetery attached, for the Society of Friends.

Roman Catholic

The Sacred Heart

There is a Catholic church in Beaudesert, opened in 1895 and dedicated to the Sacred Heart.


Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

Leighton Buzzard was in Leighton Buzzard Registration District from 1837 to 1965


Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Leighton Buzzard from the following:


Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Bedfordshire is available to browse.


Maps

Online maps of Leighton Buzzard are available from a number of sites:


Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Bedfordshire papers online:


Poor Law

Leighton Buzzard was the head of a Poor Law Union, formed in 1835, which initially comprised the following parishes: Billington, Cheddington (Bucks), Eddlesborough (Bucks), Eggington, Grove (Bucks), Heath and Reach, Ivinghoe (Bucks), Leighton Buzzard, Mentmore (Bucks), Slapton (Bucks), Soulbury (Bucks), Stanbridge, Stoke Hammond (Bucks), and Wing (Bucks). Chalgrave, Eaton Bray, Hockliffe, Pitstone (Bucks), and Tilsworth were all added to the Union at a later date.
For further detailed history of the Leighton Buzzard Union see Peter Higginbotham's excellent resource: Leighton Buzzard Poor Law Union and Workhouse.


Visitations Heraldic

A full transcript of the Visitations of Bedfordshire 1566, 1582, and 1634 is available online.

CountyCentral Bedfordshire
RegionEastern
CountryEngland
Postal districtLU7
Post TownLeighton Buzzard