Leighton-Buzzard (All Saints)

LEIGHTON-BUZZARD (All Saints), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Manshead, county of Bedford; comprising the chapelries of Billington, Eggington, Heath with Reach, and Standbridge; and containing 6053 inhabitants, of whom 3965 are in the town, 20 miles (W. S. W.) from Bedford, and 42 (N. W.) from London. The adjunct to the name is either derived from Bosard, the name of a family in the county, who were knights of the shire in the reign of Edward III., or from Beau desert; the prevailing opinion being in favour of the latter. The town is believed to be the Lygean burgh of the Saxon Chronicle, which was taken from the ancient Britons in 571, by Cuthwulph, the brother of Ceawlin, King of Wessex. It is situated on the eastern bank of the river Ouse, and consists of one wide street, branching off to the right and left at its upper extremity; the inhabitants are supplied with water from wells. Near the market-house is an elegant cross of pentagonal form, in the later English style, said to have been erected more than 500 years: the entire height, from the base to the top of the vane, is 38 feet; the upper story is divided into five niches, each of which contains a statue. A considerable trade is carried on in timber, iron, lime, brick, corn, &c.; and several females are employed in making lace and straw-plat. The Grand Junction canal, which is navigable for vessels of 80 tons, passes near the town; and at a short distance on the western side of the Ouse is a station of the London and Birmingham railway, which in this part runs through a slightly curved tunnel 272 yards in length: the Dunstable branch quits the line here. The market, which is one of the oldest in the county, is on Tuesday, and is amply supplied with cattle, corn (which is toll free), lace, strawplat, &c. Fairs are held on February 5th, the second Tuesday in April, Whit-Tuesday, July 26th, October 24th, and the second Tuesday in December; the first is remarkable for an extensive sale of horses. The town is under the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, who meet on the market-day, in a room over the markethouse; and courts leet and baron are held at Whitsuntide and Michaelmas, by the lessee of the manor, under the Dean and Canons of Windsor. The powers of the county debt-court of Leighton-Buzzard, established in 1847, extend over the registration-districts of Leighton-Buzzard and Woburn.

The parish comprises about 8990 acres, of which 2355a. 2r. 28p., are in the township of Leighton: an act for inclosing lands was passed in 1843. The living is a vicarage, in the patronage of the Prebendary of Leighton in the Cathedral of Lincoln, valued in the king's books at £15; net income, £193. The church, which was formerly collegiate, is a large cruciform structure, principally in the early English style, with various additions and insertions of a later character, and has north, south, and west porches, together with a fine massive tower, surmounted by an octagonal stone spire, rising from the intersection; the western door is a curious specimen of iron-work: within the edifice are several ancient monuments, and a portion of good screen-work. There are chapels in all the four hamlets of the parish; and the Baptists, Society of Friends, and Wesleyans have meeting-houses. In 1630, almshouses for eight women were founded and endowed by Edward Wilkes, Esq., and an additional endowment was bequeathed by Matthew Wilkes, Esq., in 1692; the estates belonging to the charity produce about £200 per annum. The poor-law union comprises 15 parishes or places, 10 of which are in the county of Buckingham, and 5 in that of Bedford; and contains a population of 13,945. In the time of Henry II. there was an alien priory at Grovebury, subordinate to the abbey of Fontevrault, in Normandy; also a house of Cistercian monks in the parish, a cell to Woburn Abbey. About half a mile from the town are the remains of an extensive circular camp.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.