[From Samuel Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England 1831.]
LEIGHTON-BUZZARD, a parish in the hundred of MANSHEAD, county of BEDFORD, comprising the market town of Leighton-Buzzard, and the chapelries of Billington, Eggington, Heath with Reach, and Standbridge, and containing 4421 inhabitants, of which number, 2749 are in the town of Leighton-Buzzard, 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. It 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. The town 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, and neither paved nor lighted, the inhabitants are supplied with water from wells. Near the market house is an ancient and elegant cross of pentagonal form, and in the later style of English architecture; the entire height, from the base to the top of the vane, is thirty-eight feet: the upper story is divided into five niches, each of which contains a statue, the most perfect of which are a bishop, Christ and the virgin, and St. John the Evangelist: this structure, said to have been erected more than five hundred years, was repaired, in 1650, by means of a rate of fourpence levied upon each of the inhabitants.
Mentmore, Leighton Buzzard, early 20th century
A considerable trade is carried on in timber, iron, lime, brick, corn and &c.; and several females are employed in making lace and straw-plat The Grand Junction canal, which passes near the town, and is navigable for vessels of eighty tons, affords the means of communication with the northern counties. 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, straw-plat, &c. Fairs are held, February 5th, the second Tuesday in April, Whit-Tuesday, July 26th, October 24th, and the second Tuesday in December; the first of these 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 market-house. Courts leet and baron are held at Whitsuntide and Michaelmas, by the lessee of the manor, under the Dean and Canons of Windsor. The living is a vicarage, in the peculiar jurisdiction and patronage of the Prebendary of Leighton-Buzzard in the Cathedral Church of Lincoln, rated in the king's books at £15. The church, which is dedicated to All Saints, was formerly collegiate: it is a large cruciform structure, principally in the early style of English architecture; 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 church are several ancient monuments, and a portion of good screen-work. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, and Wesleyan Methodists. A Lancasterian school, for an unlimited number of children of both sexes, is supported by voluntary contributions. In 1704, the Hon. Charles Leigh bequeathed a rent-charge of £10 for the education of ten poor boys : this benefaction has been long discontinued; but instead of it a commodious brick building was erected, in 1790, at the expense of the Hon. Mrs. Leigh, for the use of a Sunday school to which she also gave an annual donation of £20, the charity being further supported by subscription. In 1630, almshouses for eight poor 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 this charity produce about a £200 per annum, from which the alms-women receive weekly stipends of four shillings each, besides money for firing and clothing; and the surplus is bestowed in premiums to poor children, on beginning their apprenticeship, or going to service. In the time of Henry II. there was an Alien priory at Grovebury, in this parish, subordinate to the abbey of Fontevralt in Normandy; also a house of Cistercian monks, a cell to Woburn abbey. About half a mile from the town are the remains of an extensive circular camp, supposed to be of Roman origin.
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Updated on: 21 May 2001
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