Luton (/ˈltən/ LOOT-ən,[3] local /ˈlʔən/) is a large Town, borough and unitary authority area of Bedfordshire, England. Luton and its near neighbours, Dunstable and Houghton Regis, form the Luton/Dunstable Urban Area with a population of about 258,000.[4][5] It is located 20 miles (30 km) east of Aylesbury, 14 miles (20 km) west of Stevenage, 30 miles (50 km) north-northwest of London, and 22 miles (40 km) southeast of Milton Keynes.

Luton is home to League Two team Luton Town Football Club, whose history includes several spells in the top flight of the English league as well as a Football League Cup triumph in 1988. They play at Kenilworth Road stadium, which has been their home after 1905.

London Luton Airport, opened in 1938, is one of England's major airports. During the Second World War it doubled as an RAF base.

The University of Bedfordshire is based in the town.

The Luton Carnival, which was traditionally been held on the Whitsun May bank holiday, is the largest one-day carnival in Europe.[6] In 2012, it was moved to July to coincide with the Olympic Torch Relay and celebrations. Luton Carnival was transferred from Luton Borough Council to UK Centre for Carnival Arts in 2013, and after then has been held on the Bank Holiday Sunday instead in order to save the enhanced costs of operating on a bank holiday.

The town was for a large number of years famous for hat-making, and was additionally home to a large Vauxhall Motors factory; the head office of Vauxhall Motors is still situated in the town. Car production at the plant began in 1905 and continued until 2002, where commercial vehicle production remains.

History

Early history

The earliest settlements in the Luton area were at Round Green and Mixes Hill, where Paleolithic encampments (about 250,000 years old) have been found. Settlements re-appeared after the ice had retreated in the Mesolithic period around 8000 BC. Traces of these settlements have been found in the Leagrave area of the modern town. Remains from the Neolithic period (4500–2500 BC in this area) are much more common. A particular concentration of Neolithic burials occurs at Galley Hill. The most prominent Neolithic structure is Waulud's Bank – a henge dating from around 3000 BC. From the Neolithic onwards, the area seems to have been populated, but without any single large settlement.

The first urban settlement nearby was the small Roman town of Durocobrivis at Dunstable, but Roman remains in Luton itself consist only of scattered farmsteads.

The foundation of Luton is most of the time dated to the sixth century when a Saxon outpost was founded on the River Lea, Lea tun.[7]

After the establishment of the Danelaw in the east of England and the unification of the remaining English kingdoms in the west, Luton stood on the border between Christendom and Heathenism which ran up the River Lea from London through to Bedford.[8]

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle for the year 913 mentions Luton because locals fought off a Viking raiding band: "In this year the [Danish] army from Northampton and Leicester rode out after Easter [28th March] and broke the peace, and killed a large number of men at Hook Norton [Oxfordshire] and round about there. And then quite soon after that, as the one force came home, they met another raiding band which rode out against Luton. And then the people of the district became aware of it and fought against them and reduced them to full flight and rescued all that they had captured and additionally a great part of their horses and their weapons".[8]

Archaeological finds for this genesis of Lutonian history include 50 burials, 8 cremations, 16 spears, 22 knives (seax), a sword, 8 shield bosses, a pair of iron shears, a single bone comb, countless examples of brooches, pendants and additional jewellery of bronze and amber and shards of pottery.[9]

The Domesday Book records Luton as Loitone and additionally as Lintone.[10] Agriculture dominated the local economy at that time, and the town's population was around 700 to 800. But this number could represent a recently reduced population as a direct result of the Norman Invasion and the English resistance that followed. The Domesday Book records the value of King William's English possessions 20 years after his victory at Hastings, throughout which period, as the book would suggest, much destruction and death took place. Besides Luton, Biscot and Caddington additionally have entries in the Domesday Book for the surrounding area and in both these cases the value of the lands are much lower than their pre-invasion state, indicating a loss of households, livestock and crops.[11][12]

In 1121 Robert, first Earl of Gloucester started work on St Mary's Church in the centre of the town. The work was completed by 1137.[13] A motte-and-bailey castle which gives its name to the modern Castle Street was built in 1139. The castle was demolished in 1154[14] and the site is now home to a Matalan store. During the Middle Ages Luton is recorded as being home to six watermills. Mill Street, in the town centre, takes its name from one of them.

King John (1166–1216) had hired a mercenary soldier, Falkes de Breauté, to act on his behalf. (Breauté is a small town near Le Havre in France.) When he married, Falkes de Breauté acquired his wife's house which came to be known as "Fawkes Hall", subsequently corrupted over the years to "Foxhall", then to "Vauxhall". In return for his services, King John granted Falkes the manor of Luton, where he built a castle alongside St Mary's Church. He was additionally granted the right to bear his own coat of arms and chose the mythical griffin as his heraldic emblem. The gryphon thus became associated with both Vauxhall and Luton in the early thirteenth century.[2]

By 1240 the town is recorded as "Leueton". One "Simon of Luton" was Abbot of Bury St Edmunds from 1257 to 1279. The town had a market for surrounding villages in August each year, and with the growth of the town a second fair was granted each October from 1338.

In 1336 a large fire destroyed much of Luton; however, the town was soon rebuilt.

The agriculture base of the town changed in the sixteenth century with a brick-making industry developing around Luton; a large number of of the older wooden houses were rebuilt in brick.

17th century

During the English Civil War of the seventeenth century, in 1645, royalists entered the town and demanded money and goods. Parliamentary forces arrived and throughout the fighting four royalist soldiers were killed and a further twenty-two were captured. A second skirmish occurred three years later in 1648 when a royalist army passed through Luton. A number of royalists were attacked by parliamentary soldiers at an inn on the corner of the current Bridge Street. Most of the royalists escaped but nine were killed.

18th century

The hat making industry began in the seventeenth century and became synonymous with the town.[2] By the eighteenth century the industry dominated the town. Hats are still produced in the town but on a much smaller scale.

The first Luton Workhouse was constructed in the town in 1722.[2]

Luton Hoo, a nearby large country house was built in 1767 and substantially rebuilt after a fire in 1843. It is now a luxury hotel.[2]

19th century

The town grew strongly in the nineteenth century. In 1801 the population was 3,095.[2] By 1850 it was over 10,000 and by 1901 it was almost 39,000. Such rapid growth demanded a railway connexion but the town had to wait a long time for one. The London and Birmingham Railway (L&BR) had been built through Tring in 1838, and the Great Northern Railway was built through Hitchin in 1852, both bypassing Luton, the largest town in the area. A branch line connecting with the L&BR at Leighton Buzzard was proposed, but because of objections to release of land, construction terminated at Dunstable in 1848. It was another ten years before the branch was extended to Bute Street Station, and the first train to Dunstable ran on 3 May 1858.[2] The line was later extended to Welwyn and from 1860 direct trains to King's Cross ran. The Midland Railway was extended from Bedford to St Pancras through Leagrave and Midland Road station and opened on 9 September 1867.[2]

Luton received a gas supply in 1834. Gas street lights were erected and the first town hall was opened in 1847.[2]

Following a cholera epidemic in 1848 Luton formed a water company and had a complete water and sewerage system by the late 1860s. Newspaper printing arrived in the town in 1854. The first public cemetery was opened in the same year. The first covered market was built (the Plait Halls – now demolished) in 1869. Luton was made a borough in 1876.[2] A professional football club – the first in the South of England – was founded in 1885 following a resolution at the town hall that a 'Luton Town Club be formed'.[2]

The crest additionally includes a hand holding a bunch of wheat, either taken as a symbol of the straw-plaiting industry, or from the arms of John Whethamsteade, Abbott of St Albans, who rebuilt the chancel of St Mary's Church in the fifteenth century.

20th century

In the twentieth century, the hat trade severely declined and was replaced by additional industries. In 1905, Vauxhall Motors opened the largest car plant in the United Kingdom in Luton. In 1914 Hewlett & Blondeau aviation entrepreneurs built a factory in Leagrave which began aircraft production built under licence for the war effort; the site was purchased in 1920 by new proprietors Electrolux domestic appliances, and this was followed by additional light engineering businesses.

In 1901 the Bailey Water Tower was built[21] on the edge of what was to become Luton Hoo memorial park. It is now a private residence.

In 1904 councillors Asher Hucklesby and Edwin Oakley purchased the estate at Wardown Park and donated it to the people of Luton. Hucklesby went on to become Mayor of Luton. The main house in the park became Wardown Park Museum.

The town had a tram system from 1908 until 1932, and the first cinema was opened in 1909. By 1914 the population had reached 50,000.

The original town hall was destroyed in 1919 throughout Peace Day celebrations at the end of the First World War. Local people, including a large number of ex-servicemen, were unhappy with unemployment and had been refused the use of a local park to hold celebratory events. They stormed the town hall, setting it alight (see Luton Town Hall). A replacement building was completed in 1936. Luton Airport opened in 1938, owned and operated by the council.

In the Second World War, the Vauxhall Factory built Churchill tanks[22] as part of the war effort. Despite heavy camouflage, the factory made Luton a target for the Luftwaffe and the town suffered a number of air raids. 107 died and there was extensive damage to the town (over 1,500 homes were damaged or destroyed). Other industry in the town, like SKF, which produced ball bearings, made a vital contribution to the war effort. Although a bomb landed at the SKF Factory, no major damage was caused.

The pre-war years, even at the turn of the 1930s when a Great Depression saw unemployment reach record levels nationally, were something of an economic boom for Luton, as new industries grew and prospered. New private and council housing was built in the 1920s and 1930s, with Luton growing as a town to incorporate nearby villages Leagrave, Limbury and Stopsley between 1928 and 1933.

Post-war, the slum clearance continued, and a number of substantial estates of council housing were built, notably at Farley Hill, Stopsley, Limbury, Marsh Farm and Leagrave (Hockwell Ring). The M1 motorway passed just to the west of the town, opening in 1959 and giving it a direct motorway link with London and – eventually – the Midlands and the North. In 1962 a new library (to replace the cramped Carnegie Library) was opened by the Queen in the corner of St George's Square.

In the late 1960s a large part of the town centre was cleared to build a large covered shopping centre, the Arndale Centre, which was opened in 1972. It was refurbished and given a glass roof in the 1990s.

In 2000, Vauxhall announced the end of car production in Luton; the plant closed in March 2002.[23] At its peak it had employed in excess of 30,000 people. Vauxhall's headquarters remain in the town, as does its van and light commercial vehicle factory.

21st century

A major regeneration programme for the town centre is under way, which will include upgrades to the town's bus and railway stations as well as improvements to the town's urban environment. St George's Square has been rebuilt[25] and reopened in 2007. The new design won a Gold Standard Award for the Town Centre Environment from the annual British Council of Shopping Centres awards.[26]

Work was completed on an extension to the Mall Shopping Centre facing St George's Square, the largest of the new units to was taken by TK Maxx. Planning applications for a much larger extension to the Mall Arndale Shopping Centre (In the Northern Gateway area – Bute Street, Silver Street and Guildford Street) and additionally for a new centre in Power Court[27] (close to St Mary's Church) have been submitted. On the edge of Luton at Putteridge Bury a high-technology office park, Butterfield Green, is under construction. The former Vauxhall site is additionally to be re-developed as a mixed use site called Napier Park.[3] It will feature housing, retail and entertainment use, including a new casino.

Governance

The town is situated within the historic county of Bedfordshire, but after 1997 Luton has been an administratively independent unitary authority. The town remains part of Bedfordshire for ceremonial purposes.

Luton Borough Council applied for city status at the Millennium in 2000, Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2002 and Diamond Jubilee in 2012.[3] The latest bid was rejected in March 2012.[3]

Parliamentary representation

Luton is represented by two Members of Parliament. The constituency of Luton North has been held by Kelvin Hopkins (Labour) after 1997. Luton South has been held by Gavin Shuker (Labour) after 2010. Luton is within the East of England European Parliament constituency.

Police and crime commissioner

Luton is served by the Bedfordshire police. The Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner is Kathryn Holloway who lives in the High Town area of the town.

Local council

Lutonians are governed by Luton Borough Council. The town is split into 19 wards, represented by 48 councillors. Elections are held for all seats every four years, with the most recent local elections held in May 2011 and the next due in May 2015. The Council is controlled by the Labour group, who have 36 Local Councillors (a majority of 24). The next largest party is the Liberal Democrats with 8 seats, followed by the Conservative Party with 4 seats.[3]

PositionCurrent representatives
Members of Parliament
Kelvin Hopkins, Labour, elected 1997 · Gavin Shuker, Labour, elected 2010

Luton Council coat of arms

In 1876 the town council was granted its own coat of arms. The wheatsheaf was used on the crest to represent agriculture and the supply of straw used in the local hatting industry (the straw-plaiting industry was brought to Luton by a group of Scots under the protection of Sir John Napier of Luton Hoo). The bee is traditionally the emblem of industry and the hive represents the straw-plaiting industry for which Luton was famous. The rose is from the arms of the Napier family, whereas the thistle is a symbol for Scotland. An alternative suggestion is that the rose was a national emblem, and the thistle represents the Marquess of Bute, who formerly owned the Manor of Luton Hoo.[3][3]

Geography

Luton is located in a break in the Eastern part of the Chiltern Hills. The Chilterns are a mixture of chalk from the Cretaceous period[3] (about 66 – 145 million years ago) and deposits laid at the southernmost points of the ice sheet throughout the last ice age (the Warden Hills area can be seen from much of the town).

Bedfordshire had a reputation for brick making but the industry is now significantly reduced. The brickworks[3] at Stopsley took advantage of the clay deposits in the east of the town.

The source of the River Lea, part of the Thames Valley drainage basin, is in the Leagrave area of the town. The Great Bramingham Wood surrounds this area. It is classified as ancient woodland; records mention the wood at least 400 years ago.

There are few routes through the hilly area for a few miles, this has led to several major roads (including the M1 and the A6) and a major rail-link being constructed through the town.

Climate

Luton has a temperate marine climate, like much of the British Isles, with generally light precipitation throughout the year. The weather is quite changeable from day to day and the warming influence of the Gulf Stream makes the region mild for its latitude. The average total annual rainfall is 698 mm (27.5 in) with rain falling on 117 days of the year.

The local climate around Luton is differentiated somewhat from much of South East England due to its position in the Chiltern Hills, meaning it tends to be 1–2 degrees Celsius cooler than the surrounding towns – most often flights at Luton airport, lying 160 m (525 ft) above sea level, will be suspended when marginal snow events occur, while airports at lower elevations, like Heathrow, at 25 m (82 ft) above sea level, continue to function. An example of this is shown in the photograph to the right, the snowline being about 100 m (328 ft) above sea level. Absolute temperature extremes recorded at Rothamsted Research Station, 5 miles (8 km) south south east of Luton town centre and at a similar elevation range from −17.0 °C (1.4 °F)[3] in December 1981 and −16.7 °C (1.9 °F) in January 1963[3] to 36.0 °C (96.8 °F) in August 2003[38] and 33.8 °C (92.8 °F) in August 1990[39] and July 2006.[40] Records for Rothamsted date back to 1901.

Climate data for Rothamsted 1971–2000 (Weather station 5 miles (8 km) to the south of Luton)
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Average high °C (°F)6.3
(43.3)
6.7
(44.1)
9.5
(49.1)
11.9
(53.4)
15.7
(60.3)
18.6
(65.5)
21.4
(70.5)
21.4
(70.5)
18.0
(64.4)
13.8
(56.8)
9.4
(48.9)
7.2
(45)
13.4
(56.1)
Average low °C (°F)0.9
(33.6)
0.7
(33.3)
2.3
(36.1)
3.6
(38.5)
6.3
(43.3)
9.2
(48.6)
11.4
(52.5)
11.4
(52.5)
9.5
(49.1)
6.7
(44.1)
3.3
(37.9)
1.9
(35.4)
5.6
(42.1)
Average precipitation mm (inches)69.5
(2.736)
47.3
(1.862)
54.0
(2.126)
53.1
(2.091)
49.8
(1.961)
60.4
(2.378)
41.2
(1.622)
53.6
(2.11)
60.9
(2.398)
74.4
(2.929)
66.0
(2.598)
67.6
(2.661)
697.8
(27.472)
Mean monthly sunshine hours55.270.6107.3146.7194.7190.2203.4196.5142.2112.270.248.11,537.2
Source: Met Office[41]

Areas

The Victorian expansion of Luton focused on areas close to the existing town centre and railways. In the 1920s and 1930s growth typically was though absorbing neighbouring villages and hamlets(an example being Leagrave) and infill construction between them and Luton. After the Second World War there were several estates and developments constructed both by the local council like Farley Hill or Marsh Farm, or privately like Bushmead.

  1. Barnfield
  2. Biscot
  3. Bramingham
  4. Challney
  5. Crawley
  6. Dallow
  7. Farley Hill
  8. High Town
  9. Icknield
  10. Leagrave
  1. Lewsey
  2. Limbury-cum-Biscot
  3. Northwell
  4. Round Green
  5. Saints
  6. South ward
  7. Stopsley
  8. Sundon Park
  9. Wigmore

More about Places within Luton

Demography

The United Kingdom Census 2011 showed that the borough had a population of 203,201,[42] a 10.2% increase from the previous census in 2001, when Luton was the 27th[44] largest settlement in the United Kingdom. In 2011, 46,756 were aged under 16, 145,208 were 16 to 74, and 11,237 were 75 or over.[45] The latest population figure for the borough is 210,962 (mid-2014 est.).[4]

Population after 1801 – Source: A Vision of Britain through Time[47]
Year18011851190119111921193119411951196119711981199120012011
Population Luton2,98511,06731,98149,31557,37866,76284,516106,999132,017162,928163,208174,567184,390203,201

Local inhabitants are known as Lutonians.

Ethnicity

Luton has seen several waves of immigration. In the early part of the twentieth century Irish and Scottish people arrived in the town – these were followed by Afro-Caribbean and Asian immigrants. More recently immigrants from additional European Union countries have made Luton their home. As a result of this Luton has a diverse ethnic mix, with a significant population of Asian descent, mainly Pakistani 29,353 (14.4%), Indian 10,625 (5.2%) and Bangladeshi 13,606 (6.7%).[2]

Since the 2011 census, Luton has become one of three white British-minority towns in the United Kingdom. It was announced in a report based on the census figures that along with Leicester and Slough, Luton was one of three towns outside London where the white British were now a minority, making up only 45 percent of Luton's population. Notwithstanding the town still has a white majority when non-British whites like the Irish and Eastern Europeans are included,[2] and 81 percent of the population of Luton still define themselves as British, notwithstanding the majority of its residents being from a foreign ethnic background.[49]

Luton: Ethnicity: 2011 Census[2]
Ethnic groupPopulation %
White111,07954.6
Mixed8,2814.1
Asian or Asian British60,95230.0
Black or Black British19,9099.8
Other Ethnic Group2.9801.5
Total203,201100

Religion

In the ten-year period after the United Kingdom Census 2001, the percentage of inhabitants in Luton reporting being Christian fell from 60 to 47%. Meanwhile, those reporting being Muslim increased from 15 to 25%.[5][5]

ReligionPopulation %
Christian96,27147.4
Muslim49,99224.6
Hindu6,7493.3
Sikh2,3471.1
Buddhist6520.3
Jewish3260.2
Other8980.4
No religion33,59416.5
Religion not stated12,3736.1

Luton has been identified in the media as a home of people with extremist social and religious viewpoints. The Muslim group Al-Muhajiroun was based there before it was banned, and the founder of the English Defence League is from Luton. A Muslim protest in March 2009 against soldiers returning from the Iraq War was followed by a counter-demonstration opposing sharia law in the United Kingdom. Notwithstanding a large number of residents say that the numbers of extremists, both Muslims and far-right, are small.[52] Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain lives in Luton, and a local representative of Churches Together described "the reality of life in the town" as "a healthy interaction between people of different faiths".[52]

Economic activity

Of the town's working population (classified 16–74 years of age by the Office for National Statistics), 63 percent are employed. This figure includes students, the self-employed and those who're in part-time employment. eleven percent are retired, eight percent look after the family or take care of the home and five percent are unemployed.[5]

Economy

Luton's economy has, traditionally been focused on several different areas of industry including Car Manufacture, engineering and millinery. Notwithstanding today, Luton is moving towards a service based economy mainly in the retail and the airport sectors, although there's still a focus on light industry in the town.

Notable firms with headquarters in Luton include:

Notable firms with offices in Luton include:

Shopping

The main shopping area in Luton is centred on the Mall Luton. Built in the 1960s/1970s and opened as an Arndale Centre, construction of the shopping centre led to the demolition of a number of the older buildings in the town centre including the Plait Halls (a Victorian covered market building with an iron and glass roof). Shops and businesses in the remaining streets, particularly in the roads around Cheapside and in High Town, have been in decline ever since. George Street, on the south side of the Arndale, was pedestrianised in the 1990s.

The shopping centre had a few construction and re-design work done to it over the 2011/12 period and now has a new square used for leisure events, as well as numerous new food restaurants like Toby's Carvery and Costa Coffee.

Contained within the main shopping centre is the market, which contains butchers, fishmongers, fruit and veg, hairdressers, tattoo parlours, ice cream, flower stall, T-shirt printing and the markets original sewing shop for clothes alterations and repairs as well as eating places.

Another major shopping area is Bury Park where there are shops catering to Luton's ethnic minorities.

Food and drink

Luton has a diverse selection of restaurants – English, Italian, Chinese, Indian, Caribbean, Thai and Malaysian to name a few. No area of the town is specifically restaurant-orientated, but in a few areas (such as Bury Park) there's a concentration of Asian restaurants.

There are pubs and clubs in the town centre, a number of which cater for the student population; however, a number of traditional pubs remain.

Principal employers

According to the Luton Borough Council,[6] the principal employers in the town are:

#Employer# of Employees
1Luton Borough Council8,000+
2Luton and Dunstable University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust4,000+
3Aircraft Service International Group1,000-1,999
3Carlisle Security Services1,000-1,999
5EasyJet1,000-1,999
6Menzies Aviation1,000-1,999
7Randstad1,000-1,999
8TUI1,000-1,999
9University of Bedfordshire1,000-1,999

Transport

Luton is situated less than 30 miles north of the centre of London, giving it good links with the City and additional parts of the country via the motorway network and the National Rail system. Luton is additionally home to London Luton Airport, one of the major feeder airports for London and the southeast. Luton is additionally served by bus services run by Arriva and Centrebus and a large taxi network. As a Unitary Authority, Luton Borough Council is responsible for the local highways and public transport in the Borough and licencing of Taxis.

Education

Luton is one of the main locations of the University of Bedfordshire. A large campus of the university is in Luton town centre, with a smaller campus based on the edge of town in Putteridge Bury, an old Victorian manor house. The additional main campus of the university is located in Bedford.

The town is home to Luton Sixth Form College and Barnfield College. Both have been awarded Learning & Skills Beacon Status by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.[6][6]

Luton's schools and colleges had additionally been earmarked for major investment in the government scheme Building Schools for the Future programme, which intends to renew and refit buildings in institutes across the country. Luton is in the third wave of this long term programme with work intending to start in 2009.[6] Some schools were rebuilt before the programme was scrapped by the coalition government.

There are 98 educational institutes in Luton – seven nurseries, 56 primary schools (9 voluntary-aided, 2 Special Requirements), 13 secondary schools (1 voluntary-aided, 1 Special Requirements), four further educational institutes and four additional educational institutes.[6]

Culture and leisure

Sport

Luton is the home town of Luton Town Football Club who currently play in the Football League 2,[70] Their nickname, "The Hatters", dates back to when Luton had a substantial millinery industry. The club began the 2008/09 season with a thirty-point deficit, and were consequently relegated from the Football League to the Conference Premier on 13 April 2009.[4] Notwithstanding Luton did win the Football League Trophy that year in front of 42,000 Luton fans at Wembley, notwithstanding being the lowest placed team in the competition for the whole season, Conference Premier after failing to win automatic promotion to Football League Two throughout the 2009–10, 2010–11 and 2011–12 seasons. Luton were beaten 2–0 on aggregate by York City in the semi finals of the playoffs, and therefore failed to progress to the final at Wembley Stadium. The following season Luton progressed to the final of the playoffs, losing to Wimbledon on penalties. In 2011–12 once again the team reached the final of the play-offs, only to lose 2–1 to York. Luton were promoted back to the football league as champions of the Conference in 2014

Bedfordshire County Cricket Club is based at Wardown Park and is one of the county clubs which make up the Minor Counties in the English domestic cricket structure, representing the historic county of Bedfordshire and competing in the Minor Counties Championship and the MCCA Knockout Trophy.

Speedway racing was staged in Luton in the mid-1930s.

The town has three rugby union clubs – Stockwood Park Rugby Club who play in Midlands 3 SE, Luton Rugby Club who play in London 1 North, and Vauxhall Motors RFC who don't currently play in the RFU league structure.

Wardown Park

Wardown Park is situated on the River Lea in Luton. The park has sporting facilities, is home to the Wardown Park Museum and contains formal gardens. The park is located between Old Bedford Road and the A6, New Bedford Road and is within walking distance of the town centre.[71]

Stockwood Park

Stockwood Park is a large municipal park near Junction 10 of the M1. Located in the park is Stockwood Discovery Centre a free museum that houses the Mossman Collection and Luton local social history, archaeology and geology. There is an athletics track, an 18-hole golf course, several rugby pitches and areas of open space.

The park was originally the estate and grounds to Stockwood house, which was demolished in 1964.

Carnival

Luton International Carnival is the largest one-day carnival in Europe. It most of the time takes place on the late May Bank Holiday. Crowds can reach 150,000[72] on each occasion.

The procession starts at Wardown Park and makes its way down New Bedford Road, around the town centre via St George's Square, back down New Bedford Road and finishes back at Wardown Park. There are music stages and stalls around the town centre and at Wardown Park.

Luton is home to the UK Centre for Carnival Arts (UKCCA), the country's first purpose-built facility of its kind.[73]

Due to budget cuts, the most recent carnival was run on a significantly smaller scale, with approximately one third of the typical attendance – most of the attendees were residents of the Luton area.[74]

Luton St. Patrick's Festival

The festival celebrating the patron saint of Ireland and organised by Luton Irish Forum, St Patrick, is held on the weekend nearest to 17 March.[75] In its fifteenth year in 2014,[76] the festival includes a parade, market stalls and music stands as well as Irish themed events.[77]

Theatre

Luton is home to the Library Theatre, a 238-seat theatre located on the third floor of the town's Central Library. The theatre's programme consists of local amateur dramatic societies, pantomime, children's theatre (on Saturday mornings) and one night shows of touring theatre companies.[78]

Luton is additionally home to the Hat Factory, originally as its name suggests, this arts centre was in fact a real hat factory. The Hat Factory is a combined arts venue in the centre of Luton. It opened in 2003 and after then has been the area’s main provider of contemporary theatre, dance and music. The venue provides live music, club nights, theatre, dance, films, children's activities, workshops, classes and gallery exhibitions.

Museums

Luton Museum

Wardown Park Museum previously known as Luton Museum and Art Gallery, is housed in a large Victorian mansion in Wardown Park on the outskirts of the town centre. The museum collection focusses on the traditional crafts and industry of Luton and Bedfordshire, notably lace-making and hat-making. There are samples of local lace from as early as the seventeenth century.

Stockwood Craft Museum

Based in Stockwood Park, Luton, the collection of rural crafts and trades held at Stockwood Park Museum was amassed by Thomas Wyatt Bagshawe, who was a notable local historian and a leading authority on folk life. Bagshawe was born in Dunstable in 1901 and became a director of the family engineering firm.

The collection only contains examples from Bedfordshire and the borders of neighbouring counties, giving the collection a quite strong regional identity.

Mossman Collection

The Mossman Carriage collection is held at Stockwood Park, Luton and is the largest and most significant vehicle collection of its kind in the country, including originals from the 18th, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The Mossman collection of horse-drawn vehicles was given to Luton Museum Service in 1991. It illustrates the development of horse-drawn road transport in Britain from Roman times up until the 1930s.

Local attractions

Key
Abbey/Priory/Cathedral
Accessible open space
Amusement/Theme Park
Castle
Country Park
English Heritage
Forestry Commission
Heritage railway
Historic House

Museum (free/not free)
National Trust
Theatre
Zoo

Twin towns

Luton participates in international town twinning; its partners[80][81] are:

CountryPlaceCounty / District / Region / StateDate
GermanyBergisch GladbachNorth Rhine-Westphalia1956
FranceBourgoin-Jallieu[81]Rhône-Alpes1956
SwedenEskilstunaSödermanland1949
GermanyBerlin-SpandauBerlin1959
GermanyWolfsburgLower Saxony1950

Media

Newspapers

  • Luton News, published every Wednesday
  • Luton Herald & Post, a free weekly newspaper distributed every Thursday

Radio

Television

  • Television Luton falls at the cross over point between the two regions of Carlton/LWT (ITV London) and Anglia Television (ITV Anglia) which transmits from Norwich. Coverage for most Luton Town FC games and highlights is most of the time shown on BBC London news and on BBC 1 London's Football League show
  • Days Like These, the British re-make of the popular American sitcom That '70s Show, was set in Luton.

Media references

In the TV series One Foot in the Grave there are most often references to places within Luton. The script-writer David Renwick was brought up in the town.

The town was mentioned several times in the seminal sketch show Monty Python's Flying Circus. In one sketch a rather half-hearted hijacker demands that a plane headed for Cuba be diverted to Luton. Luton is one of the constituencies returning a "Silly Party" victory in the famous sketch Election Night Special. In the Piranha Brothers sketch Spiny Norman lived in a hangar at Luton Airport. A 1976 episode of the sci-fi series "Space: 1999" was called The Rules of Luton, inspired by the town name. The well known comedian Eric Morecambe frequently made references to Luton Town FC, due to him being a former chairman of the club, as well as living in close proximity to Luton in Harpenden.

Lutonians

People who were born in Luton or are associated with the town.

By birth

By association