Leighton Buzzard

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Leighton Buzzard is a town in Bedfordshire, England near the Chiltern Hills and lying between Luton and Milton Keynes. It adjoins Linslade and the name Leighton Buzzard is sometimes used to refer to the combination of the two towns; parts of this article also apply to Linslade as well as Leedon.

For local government purposes, the town is part of the Central Bedfordshire district and is administered jointly with Linslade as the civil parish of Leighton-Linslade.

There are a number of theories concerning the derivation of the town’s name, but the most likely is that “Leighton” came from Old English language Lēah-tūn, meaning ‘farm in a clearing in the woods’. The “Buzzard” was added by the Dean of Lincoln, in whose diocese the town lay in the 12th century. Having two communities called “Leighton” and seeking some means of differentiating them, he added the name of his local Prebendary or representative to that of the town. At that time it was a Theobald de Busar and so over the years the town became known as Leighton Buzzard. The other Leighton became Leighton Bromswold.

Leighton Buzzard is also famous as the Grand Union Canal was opened there. More recently, Leighton Buzzard station was the location for part of the film The Great Train Robbery (1963), while the actual robbery took place just outside of the town, at Bridego bridge, Ledburn. In the Domesday Book, Leighton Buzzard and Linslade were both called Leestone.

Leighton Buzzard contains All Saints Church, an Early English parish church dating from 1277. The church has a 190 ft spire and has been described as the cathedral of South Bedfordshire.The church was damaged by fire in the 1980s, but has since undergone restoration.

The town is also known for the Leighton Buzzard Light Railway, a narrow gauge heritage railway.

The town has a combined library and theatre (called the Library Theatre) where both live events and film screenings are regularly held.

Stockgrove Country Park is in nearby Heath and Reach.

After the Poor Law Act of 1834 Leighton Buzzard became the centre of a poor law union that consisted of 15 surrounding parishes with the union workhouse (still standing) being sited in Grovebury Road.

A network of historic tunnels exists under the High Street;these are believed to date from medieval times. The tunnels have not been investigated, but one is easily accessible from the cellarage of Wilkinson Estate Agents at the top of Market Square. The cellar, probably an ice house, extends under the road by some 16 feet and is in very good condition. The tunnel is sealed for safety reasons. It goes in a southerly direction towards the former Market Tavern (now Bell) public house some 100 yards and legend has it that other tunnels from the church and other public houses link up under the street in network that covers some 500 yards.

Leighton Buzzard is close to the M1 motorway and A5 road, and is served by London Midland services on the West Coast Main Line railway at Leighton Buzzard railway station (in Linslade). The Grand Union Canal runs through the town, alongside the River Ouzel.

The town is, or has at one time, been the home to various industries including B/E Aerospace (Aircraft Interiors), Polyformes, Lipton Tea which has now closed down, Gossard clothing, Lancer Boss (forklifts, etc.).

The town has a sizeable sand quarrying industry.

The first and only TXE1 telephone exchange was developed by the General Post Office and went into service in 1968. To meet the growing demand it was added to by two TXE2 exchanges and a TXE6 exchange on the night of 18 August 1971. A third TXE2 was added latter but everything was all replaced by a TXE4 exchange around 1977, some of the TXE2 equipment was used to provide a new TXE2 at West Mersea Island in Essex. The large building, built on the site of the former Lake House, that housed all these TXE exchanges and the current digital exchange can be found in Lake Street.

Countrywide and Connells/Sequence, the UK’s two largest estate agents’ chains, both have their head offices in the town, as does the UK branch of Tupperware.

Leighton Buzzard was twinned with Coulommiers in 1958. The twinning was renewed in 1982. It was also twinned with Titisee-Neustadt in 1991.

A ‘Leighton Beau-desart in Bedfordshire’ is mentioned in Chapter 4 of The Storm by Daniel Defoe.

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