Bedford Borough Council logo Central Bedfordshire Council logo

The Virtual Library

Follow us on Pinterest Follow us on Twitter Contact us on Facebook Home Page What's On Contact Us Help


Places > Dunstable

Neolithic (New Stone Age): The Icknield Way, an ancient roadway constructed by prehistoric people, as well as a series of barrows - now known as the Five Knolls - on Dunstable Downs

AD44: The beginning of Roman Dunstable (Durocobrivis). Around this period, construction of the Roman road (now known at Watling Street) would have taken place. The place where it crosses the Icknield Way is now known as the crossroads

c410: The last of the Romans leave the area

571: The Saxons raid and destroy Durocobrivis

921: The Danes raid and destroy the Saxon village built on the site of Durocobrivis

1086: The enumerators sent by William the Conqueror find nothing but burnt ruins on the site of the present Dunstable so do not mention it in the Domesday Book

1109: Probably around this time, Henry I establishes a town here

1110: Dunstable is cited as being the place of the earliest performance of a play in England, given at the Priory by the pupils of Geoffrey. The 'miracle play' told the story of St. Katherine who had the unfortunate distinction of being martyred on a wheel

1123: King Henry I and his full court keep Christmas at Kingsbury, Dunstable

1131: King Henry I grants the first Charter to the town

1132: The Priory Church of St Peter is built by Augustinian Canons (monks) under the patronage of Henry I. It included a 'hospitium' (guest house) for travellers to the Priory Church, the remains of which are now known as Priory House. King Henry keeps Christmas at Dunstable

1137: King Stephen keeps Christmas at Dunstable

1154: King Stephen and Henry, the Duke of Normandy, hold a meeting at Dunstable. King Stephen died the same year

1164: The burgesses are summoned by King Henry II to send members to Parliament, which they refused to do

1202: Richard de Morins made Prior by King John. He held office for 40 years

1203: A three-day fair in May is granted by King John, who also gave the whole of the Manor of Houghton with its rights and profits to the Priory. The body of St. Fremund is brought from Oxfordshire to Dunstable Priory. Fremund was said to have been a prince, the son of the Mercian King Offa, and to have fought against the Danes. He was perhaps murdered by Oswy, an officer of his father, possibly on the instigation of Cenwulf, but there is no certainty about this.  Fremund is not mentioned by any chroniclers.  His feast day is May 11th

1204: The Palace at Kingsbury granted to the Prior and Convent by King John

1210: Great storm. Many houses destroyed

1213: Dunstable Priory consecrated by Hugh II, Bishop of Lincoln

1215: King John passes a night at Dunstable on his way to the north. The barons under the Earl of Perche pass through the town, sparing neither churches nor windows

1217: Itinerant justices come to Dunstable to take the people's oath of allegiance to Henry III. Lewis the Dauphin, with the English barons, in arms against the king, halt for a night in Dunstable, after their defeat at Lincoln. They do great damage to the church

1219: Court of Assizes held at Dunstable. The town is partially destroyed by fire

1220: Robert, Bishop of Lismore, and Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln visit Dunstable

1221: Mossy, a Jew, sues the Prior for 700. His friends pay the king a mark of gold and 100 to save him from being hanged for forgery

1222: A great storm. One of the two church towers are blown down

1224: At the siege of Bedford Castle the people of Dunstable helped to storm the outer bail, and received a great number of horses with harness, arms, engines, live cattle, hogs, pigs and houses filled with hay and corn

1227: The Priory obtains a confirmation of the charters of Henry I and Richard I

1228: First court held for Weights and Measures

1229: Henry III, passing through Dunstable, lodges at the Priory. There is a quarrel between townsmen and Canons

1232: First tournament at Dunstable takes place

1244: Numerous discontented barons and knights assemble at Dunstable and Luton under the pretence of holding a tournament, which was banned by the king

1247: Henry III, his Queen, Prince Edward and Princess Margaret stay in Dunstable. On being informed that the waste lands proved a temptation to squatters to make encroachments, a suit was entered at the Assizes to effect their dislodgment. This took place the same year

1249: Bishop of Lincoln at Dunstable. A general chapter of Augustinians held

1250: Bishop of Lincoln at Dunstable

1254: A cup of silver gilt worth 100 shillings sent to the king. A tournament was prohibited at Dunstable

1256: A tournament was prohibited at Dunstable

1258: Boniface, Archbishop of Canterbury, visits Dunstable

1259: Convent of Dominican Black Friars was established opposite the Priory. This was the only house of the order in Bedfordshire

1263: Simon de Montfort visited Dunstable and became a brother of the Priory

1264: Two men were hanged on the top of Pascombe Pit for sheep stealing. A tournament was prohibited at Dunstable

1265: King Henry III, his queen, legate and Simon de Montfort at Dunstable. A tournament was prohibited

1266: King Henry III and Richard, King of Germany, visited Dunstable

1267: Two Welshmen were beheaded for robbery

1272: Four marks paid by the Priory for Prince Edward's crusade in the Holy Land. A blind man was taken into the Priory "for his soul"

1274: Eudo la Suche throws down the Prior's gallows at Edessuthe (Blow's Downs) and sets up a gallows below Pudele, now Gibbet Arch beyond Puddle Hill

1275: Five thieves hanged. A sixth turns evidence and as a result 13 more are hanged. The royal family lodge at the Priory and King Edward I gives one "rich banddekyne" (valuable cloth). Richard, bishop of Lincoln visits Dunstable

1276: Edward 1 visited the town.

1277: Work is begun on a large room for Edward I, next to the Prior's chamber. The Archbishop of Canterbury stays for 5 days

1279-1293: Tournaments held at Dunstable

1283: Oliver, Bishop of Lincoln at Dunstable. The Prior dines with John Durrant, who makes a feast. The Prior owes him "much money, so he dares not offend him"

1284: Bishop Oliver Sutton and John, Archbishop of Canterbury, at Dunstable

1287: Bishop Oliver Sutton at Dunstable

1288: Bishop Oliver Sutton at Dunstable. General chapter of Augustinians at Dunstable

1290: Queen Eleanor, wife of Edward I, dies. The funeral cortege spends a night at Dunstable on its way back to Westminster Abbey

1293: A great cross painted in the church with images of St. Mary and St. John

1294: The pope's nuncio at Dunstable. King Edward I orders a search for wealth laid up by monasteries, cathedrals, etc. Although all the secret places were searched in the Priory, only 40 was found. This belonged to Walter Rudham and was later returned. Bishop Oliver Sutton and Archbishop Winchelsea visit the Priory

1295: Two robbers escape from the Borough Gaol. The gaol is rebuilt. Dunstable sends two members to Parliament until 1338

1311: Queen Eleanor Cross erected at Dunstable. It remained standing for 370 years until it was destroyed by the Roundheads

1312: Tournament prohibited at Dunstable

1319: Tournament prohibited at Dunstable

1341: Edward III and Queen Philippa attend a grand tournament at Dunstable. This was the final tournament in Dunstable. They were usually held in the flat fields at the base of Blow's Downs or in the flat fields near Bullpond Lane, the old Butts

1349: During an outbreak of the plague, the townsmen made themselves a new bell called Mary

1375: Confirmation of the liberties of the Priory by Edward III

1390: Birth of John of Dunstable, a famous musician and mathematician.

1414: William Murlie, a Dunstable brewer and Lollard was hanged at Harringay

1453: Death of John of Dunstable

1457: Henry VI and Queen Margaret at DunstableHenry VIII

1459: Henry VI at Dunstable. Proclamation to the townsmen

1533: A court sitting in the Priory annuls the marriage of Queen Catherine and King Henry VIII. The Queen is ordered by Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, to appear at Dunstable, but she refuses. The decision is read in her absence in the Lady Chapel of the Priory

1539: Dissolution of the Priory. Gervase Markham the last Prior. The Priory lands subsequently appropriated by the Crown

1540: Henry VIII visits Dunstable. It is reported in "Willis's Mitred Abbeys" that he wished to make Dunstable a cathedral city

1541: Henry VIII revisits Dunstable

1552: Edward VI grants the rectory and advowson of Dunstable to the Dean and Canons of Windsor

1561: Gervase Markham, the last Prior, dies in September and was buried at Dunstable. The site of the Priory granted by Queen Mary to Dr. Leonard, Chamberlain

1569: A primitive fire-engine made

1572: Visit by Queen Elizabeth I

1603: Serious cholera epidemic in the town

1607: The last Assize for the county held at Dunstable. Two malefactors executed on the Downs at Pascombe

1625: Serious cholera epidemic in the town

1638: Daniel Fossey's halfpenny token struck

1643: Eleanor Cross demolished

1644: Royalist soldiers plunder the town and commit great outrages in the church during divine service, shooting the minister in the pulpit and wounding several of the congregation

1645: Charles I and his army stop at Dunstable on their way to Naseby. The king sleeps at the Red Lion Inn

1648: Elkanah Settle, dramatist, poet and political writer born in Dunstable

1661: Cholera epidemic sweeps through Dunstable. Many die

1664: William Strange leaves 10 in his will for the poor of the parish, but none to be given to "Quakers or common beggars". Dunstable was the meeting place of Quakers from the surrounding towns until 1799

1667: Four Dunstable women accused of witchcraft.  The most serious charge being that of bewitching small children to death. William Chew's halfpenny struck

1668: Daniel Finche's halfpenny token struck

1708: Followers of John Bunyan establish themselves in St Mary's Street

1712: On a mural tablet in Dunstable Church is a curious epitaph to William Chew, who died on the 13th March 1712.  It reads: "Here lies the body of William Chew, That when alive was beloved by few; Now where he's gone, or how he fare, Nobody knows, nor nobody cares." (Bedfordshire Notes and Queries, Vol. 1)

1715: Chew's Charity School founded

1717: Sugar Loaf Hotel built

1722: The Cart Almshouses built.  They were named after Jane Cart, their founder, and were built to house six elderly women who did not have the funds to look after themselves. The sisters Cart and Ashton present a picture (now destroyed) to the church representing the Last Supper

1742: The first stage-coach runs through Dunstable from London to Litchfield

1743: Court Rolls commenced. Several persons fined for encroachment on open spaces in the streets

1751: Catherine Smith sentenced to be whipped at Dunstable

Mid to late 18th Century: Orange rolling started at Pascombe Pit on Good Friday

1770: Urn full of Roman coins of Antoninus and Constantine found near Whipsnade Turn on Dunstable Downs

1773: The manor leased to the Duke of Bedford for three lives

1776: Eight ancient bells taken from the Church belfry and recast

1781: Dunstable Church robbed

1782: New coach road is made on the west side of Chalk Hill, costing 16,000

1784: Road made from Dunstable to Luton, previously ran from Dunstable to Leagrave. Road made from Oxford to Cambridge passing through Dunstable

1789: James Oliver, licensee of the Sugar Loaf, acquires Kingsbury House

1790: A second Baptist chapel built

1793: Death of Nanny Burton. She established and taught in the first Sunday School in Dunstable, said to have been the second Sunday School in England

1801: A squatter named Peters built the first house on waste land in Church Street called "The Ringer's Hall". The house was built of wood and carried by the ringers and placed upon the waste in Church Street, Peters sitting on the top of the house whilst it was being moved

1802: Money left to establish the Church Sunday School in Dunstable

1803: The Old Gibbet Post at the corner of Gib Close, Chalk Hill, destroyed by Irish recruits. On this post a man from Sewell had been secured with chains for robbing the mail coach between Dunstable and Chalk Hill. Several houses removed from the middle of the road in the High Street, when the site of Queen Eleanor's Cross was discovered, set round with oak posts, in front of the Rose and Crown

1805: The Old Market House removed from the middle of the street, and rebuilt on the site of the old Town Hall

1807: Dunstable telegraph constructed on Dunstable Downs but abandoned in 1814 for a simpler system. The Bunyan meeting house or Old Baptists' Chapel in St. Mary's Street enlarged and a Sunday School founded

1809: A prize fight between John Gulley and Bob Grigson on Dunstable Downs suppressed by the Dunstable Volunteers, 120 strong

1810: Jubilee of George III celebrated with an ox roast on the square

1812: Wesleyan Methodists first appear in the town

1814: Encroachment in Church Street. Two cottages erected on waste land by Charles Bowstead. William Gutteridge finds a Palaeolithic implement near Caddington

1815: Fire at the Saracen's Head

1818: Hannah Sapwell of Dunstable charged with wilful murder. She was acquitted of murder but found guilty of concealing her child. She received two years in gaol

1831: First Wesleyan Methodist Chapel built

1833: The Liverpool Express Stage Coach overturns near Chalk Hill; a person named Stern is killed

1835: The site of the Friars Preachers' buildings excavated and examined in Spittle Close, opposite the Half Moon Inn

1836: Dunstable Workhouse, a comfortless and dilapidated structure of 14 rooms, on the north side of the Swan Inn, High Street South, is demolished and 42 paupers removed to the Union House in Luton

1837: Chalk Hill cutting made at a cost of 10,000. A man named Warner was accidentally killed by a bell in the church belfry. Gas introduced into the town, 7s per 1,000 ft.

1838: Regular stage-coaches cease running through the town on the opening of the London and Birmingham railway

1839: The Manor reverts to the Crown. The Temperance Hall built by Mr. R. Gutteridge. Church-Sunday and Day-Schools are erected on the south side of Church Street, on the former site of a former weekly plant market

1841: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visit the Sugar Loaf Hotel on their way to Woburn. A fire. 19 houses destroyed in the High Street and Church Street

1843: Dunstable made a Wesleyan circuit with local preachers. Bible Schools opened

1844: Wesleyan Chapel and farm buildings destroyed by fire. Cost of rebuilding the Chapel 2,000. Beating the Bounds by Free-School boys discontinued

1845: Nineteen portions of waste land leased to Dunstable residents. George Stephenson offers to extend the railway but was not welcomed by Luton and vowed never to return

1847: The Crown Inn posting house converted into a straw hat manufactory. Baptist Chapel, West Street erected costing 2,500

1848: Railway station in High Street North opens with trains running between Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard. Lease for 21 years granted to Alfred Oliver for two pieces of waste land in Church Street

1849: The Bunyan meeting house damaged when part of the roof collapsed. A new Chapel erected at a cost of 500

1850: Tumulus excavated on the Downs by the Bedfordshire Archaeological Society

1851: Restoration of Priory Church commenced in August

1853: Underground telegraph laid on the west side of the town. Smallpox epidemic in Church Street. Wesleyan Day School opened

1854: Primitive Methodist Chapel built, costing 1,400

1855: First local newspaper the 'Dunstable Chronicle and Monthly Local Reporter' published by James Tibbett, a Dunstable printer.  In 1856 he went on to publish 'The Dunstable Chronicle and Advertiser'. A savings bank was established at the Town Hall

1856: Festival in Commemoration of Peace for the end of the Crimean War, plus a dinner on the square for 1,000 people, and tea for 1,200 children. Lawson's Shooting Gallery for rifle and pistols opened in Saracen's Head Yard. The Fire Brigade was formed

1857: New fire engine for Dunstable. Services held in Iron Church while work continues on the Priory Church. Penny Savings Bank first accounts opened. Fire at the Priory House

1858: Railway station in Church Street opens with trains running from Dunstable to Luton

1859:  Priory House was purchased by Munt and Brown, straw hat manufacturers. Part of the house itself was used as the manager's residence. A third storey was added to the extension for the factory premises. Grand Wesleyan Bazaar in the Priory grounds opened by Lord Charles Russell. Dunstable Volunteer Corps established. All England cricket match in Dunstable Park

1860: First meeting of the Volunteer Rifle Corps. Priory Churchyard closed except for those with a family plot. Dunstable Cemetery in West Street opened at a cost of 3,000

1861: British Land Company purchased land from Mr. R. Gutteridge. New streets opened. Ashton Schools in Church Street erected

1862: Three miles of new streets with houses are laid out by the British Land Company, mostly in West Street. However no piped water or proper sewers in place

1863: Telegraph posts erected through the town

1864: Dunstable incorporated by Royal Charter on December 8th. The Corporation consisted of a Mayor, four Alderman and 12 Councillors and a new coat of arms

1865: 'The Dunstable Borough Gazette' established by Daniel Tibbett, the son of James Tibbett, a prominent Dunstable printer. First Borough Council elections. Dunstable Police Force established

1866: Old market hall converted into Town Hall by the Corporation

1867: The only sewer in town runs into an open ditch which flows down the side of Church Street

1869: Services held in a building known as the Iron Church while the Priory Church was being restored. Town Clock erected on the first Town Hall. Borough Council names streets and numbers houses

1870: Market tolls and Crown lands purchased by the Corporation. Sale of Temperance Hotel in West Street. Fire destroys much of the railway station in Church Street. Statute Fair "Statty" dates back to approximately this date. According to the charter the fair can be held on the fourth Monday of every September

1872: Wesleyan bazaar in Priory grounds raises 672. Postmen are granted uniforms. Gas lighting available for homes. Priory Church restored at a cost of 10,000. New fire engine house at the back of the Town Hall completed

1873: Sale of land in front of Kingsbury by the Corporation. Water Works opened. Foresters' Fete in the Park. Bedfordshire Volunteers encamped on Dunstable Park. Serious accident on the railway between Dunstable and Leighton where several people are injured. The Turnpike between Dunstable and Hockliffe known as the Puddlehill Gate abolished. The Red Lion Hotel will provide 2 horses and a driver for each fire engine at a cost of 19s 6d. Quoits Club formed at the Sugar Loaf Hotel. The Iron Church vacated. Old Fire Station and Lockup, South Street, were purchased by William Marshall for 65. New Plait Hall opened

1875: A ballad was composed to shame the the rector of Dunstable into repairing the Priory Churchyard.  It was about a fictional character called Sally the Witch. Trees planted in the public streets.

1877: Volunteer Review in valley at foot of the Downs, Easter Monday. Ashton Charities public enquiry by Mr. Fearton. Tenancies under the Crown expire. Sale of England Estate (around England Lane). Last toll taken at the Toll Gate, south Dunstable. Vandals demolish house and toll gate. Sale of the Star public house

1878: The Old Fire Engine House and Lock-up sold to the Saracen's Head Friendly Society for 40

1879: Town Hall destroyed by fire. Churchyard wall rebuilt by public subscriptions of 300

1880: Town Hall rebuilt. Commemoration to mark the Sunday School centenary. Sudden death of Dr. William Forbes Laurie by poison. Extension of Free Schools

1882: Bell "Big Paul" passed through the town

1883: The Chew Trustees open a second school, next door to Chew's Charity School, as education of children aged five to ten years becomes compulsory. King Street, new road. Death of Rev. Frederick Hose, rector of Dunstable for 38 years

1885: Tramp ward closed. Salvation Army arrives in Dunstable

1886: Dunstable's ancient fire engine, 317 years old, was sold to Messrs. Shand and Mason, London. (When Shand and Mason ceased business the engine passed into the possession of Merryweather, the well known fire engine constructors, who handed it to the London Museum in 1928). New Mayoral robes. Great Northern Road, new road

1887: Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Free tea for 400 poor children. West Street road improvements

1888: Ashton Grammar school opens (now the Ashton Middle School). Public rights on the Downs established and extended.

1891: Waterlow's Printing Works established

1892: Brewer's Hill Road formally opened to the public after public controversy. New sewage van and pump

1893: Fire at Middle Row

1894: Seats placed on the Downs and 100 trees planted. New well, 175 feet deep, and pumping station near Half Moon Hill. Harrison Carter's Iron Works established in Bull Pond Lane

1896: Horse and carts purchased by the Corporation. Four new bells cast and new fittings for Priory Church

1897: Private telephone exchange connection at the Gazette office. Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, including a procession, tea, illuminations and a beacon fire. Sewer re-laid High Street North. Renovation of the Town Hall. Electric Light first introduced into business premises by the Mayor Alderman Garrett. Work begins on a sewage system for the town

1898: Gold Mayoral Chain and Badge of Office provided by the Mayor

1899: Clock face for Priory Church to commemorate Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee

1900: Salvation Army Barracks for sale, 2 Market Hill, High Street North. Houses renumbered

1901: Drainage of Dunstable complete. Sewerage scheme started

1902: Riots lasted for two days after Coronation festivities postponed due to the King's illness

1903: Worthington George Smith presented with 1st Honorary Freedom of the Borough

1904: Communion plate stolen from the Priory Church. Burr Street made up under Public Health Act

1905: Priory Middle School opens as Britain Street Council School. Dunstable police station connected to telephone network. Rifle Club established. Isolation Hospital (later Priory Hospital) opens in Beech Road. Purchase of 2 cottages at Chalk Hill. Purchase of Council Chamber furniture. Bennett's Brewery destroyed by fire

1906: Enquiry re extension of boundaries. Bagshawe & Co. Ltd engineering works established in Church Street

1907: Land north of Union Street (known then as Upper Houghton) transferred to Dunstable. Burr Street School building work commenced. Grammar School laboratory opened. Dog Kennel path diverted

1908: Mr Charles Moore opens Moore's Department Store, which at its closure in 2008 was the oldest family business in Dunstable. Icknield Lower School opens as Burr Street Council School. Dunstable Town Animal Pound dismantled. Wesleyan Church and school destroyed by fire. Royal visit of Prince Francis of Teck to the Grammar School. Death of Squire Brandreth. He was carried to his grave on a wreath-covered fire engine. Bowling Club formed

1909: Dunstable Reading Room closed. Fire brigade reorganised. Foundation stone of the Wesleyan Methodist Church laid. Workmen dig foundations for Cross & Co.

1910: Gary Cooper enrols as a pupil at Dunstable Grammar School. West Street corner widened

1912: New Post Office built

1913: New organ dedicated by the Bishop of Ely to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Church consecration. Waterlow & Sons Ltd works sports ground and pavilion instituted

1914: First company of Dunstable Girl Guides registered. London to Birmingham underground telegraph laid through the town. Dunstable transferred from the Diocese of Ely to St Albans. New well sunk at Waterworks. Council purchased allotments at French's Gate. Dunstable Company of the 5th Beds Regiment & Dunstable Squadron of the Beds Yeomanry leave for France. Food riots outside Ernest Mowse grocer shop, 81 High Street North. Thousands of troops billeted in Dunstable. Town Hall used as Soldiers' Institute. Death of Canon Macaulay, a former rector

1915: Dunstable Volunteer Training Corps formed. "Canvas City" for troops near Brewers Hill Farm. Bedfordshire regiment sustains heavy casualties at Gallipoli

1917: Bomb dropped from German Zeppelin on Harrison Carter Works. Death of Worthington Smith

1918: Dunstable hears about the end of the war when train arrives from Luton crowded with cheering people

1919: Peace Day celebrations. First Dunstable Brownie pack formed. Lord Cavan, Commander of the British Forces in Italy, welcomed  home at a dinner at the Town Hall. Beds Agricultural Show held at Dunstable for the first time

1920: Bennett Memorial Recreation Ground bequeathed to the Town

1921: First council houses completed in Garden Road at a weekly rent of 13/4d. Excavations of barrows on Dunstable Downs begins. Wesleyan Church war memorial unveiled. Mr F T Garrett made Freeman of the Borough. Mr L C R Thring retired as Headmaster of the Grammar School

1922: The Dunstable branch of the British Legion founded. Priory Church War Memorial unveiled. Waterlow & Sons Ltd's war memorial unveiled. United Services Club opened on High Street South

1923: Lloyds Bank opens in High Street North. Mayoress's Gold Chain and badge of office provided

1924: Sir William Waterlow of Waterlow's banknote printing firm is unwittingly drawn into a currency swindle to print false Portuguese banknotes. New Council offices erected. Sir Herbert Hambling and Mr C Boskett made Freemen of the Borough. Resignation of Canon W W C Baker, who had been rector for 21 years. Death of Mr C C S Benning, Town Clerk for 32 years. Excavations at Scott's Garage on the site of the Dominican Friary of Dunstable. Parts of 4 Saxon skeletons found at the Rifle Volunteer Inn in West Street

1925: First motor fire engine purchased. First Lady Mayor, Councillor Miss Lucy Dales elected. Dunstable Library & Museum opened at the Town Hall. Luton Electricity Extension order approved for supply to Dunstable and other places. Council houses erected at Watling Street site. Memorial altar in Priory Church dedicated in memory of the late Town Clerk, Mr C C S Benning

1926: Portland Cement Company works opened. Church Hall, Church Street, opened. Cemetery enlarged in West Street. Council houses erected in West Street

1927: Kingsbury Stables become town museum. The British Archaeological Association visit Dunstable

1928: Dunstable Free Library opened. Dunstable's ancient fire engine, the oldest known, presented to the London Museum by Messrs Merryweather.

1929: New police station in High Street South costs 8,755. Sir Mortimer Wheeler leads excavation of one of the barrows in the Five Knolls, revealing nearly 100 skeletons. 126th Beds Agricultural Show held at Dunstable. Contingent of foreign Boy Scouts from the Jamboree at Birkenhead entertained by the town. Airship R101 passed over the town on her first trial flight

1930: Council houses erected at Chiltern Road. Death of Canon W W C Baker, former rector

1931: London Gliding Club starts operating from Dunstable Downs. Whipsnade Zoo opens. Restoration of the Priory Church Tower completed. Tombstone of Alice Durant (late 13th century) found built into a buttress in the west front of the Priory Church. Messrs Benjamin Bennett, the last hat factory in Dunstable, closed. Blow's Downs leased to Dunstable Town Council for 21 years as a recreation space by Mrs Crawley Ross Skinner

1932: Sir Herbert Hambling, banker, Freeman of the Town died. First Dunstable Eisteddfod. The Thorn "Meeting", the parent church of Dunstable and Houghton Regis Baptist Churches, repaired and its church yard improved. Headquarters of the Luton Division of the County Police transferred from Luton to Dunstable

1933: First electric street lamps erected in High Street North. Borough boundaries enlarged. Civic Week pageant held

1934: Fayrey Pall returned from Victoria & Albert Museum. A C Sphinx Sparking Plug Co's Works transferred to Dunstable from Birmingham. New Dossal at Priory Church dedicated in memory of Canon W W C Baker, former rector

1935: California Swimming Pool opened at Dunstable Downs. Improved street lighting adopted for the centre of town

1936: Northfields Upper School is created. In 1946 it becomes a Secondary Modern School and in 1972 an Upper School. Grove House and Gardens purchased by the Corporation. Ashton School reconstructed. Extension of street lighting in High Street. Laying of safety crossings

1937: Grove House becomes Dunstable's new Civic Centre

1938: Dunstable Library opens at Chew's School, High Street South (now Little Theatre). Air Raid Shelters dug in Grove House Gardens. Evelyn Road junior and infants school opened. Jubilee of Dunstable Grammar School. British National Gliding contests at the London Gliding Club. New world record endurance flight in a two seater glider. Alderman Alfred William Webb made a Freeman of the Borough. Empire Rubber Company factory built in London Road

1939: 4,000 evacuees 'invade' Dunstable. (listen to a reminiscence about the evacuees, 660 KB MP3 File - part of the Dunstable Time Travellers project)Queen Mary opens Luton & Dunstable Hospital. First season of car parking fees on the Downs - net income 136.16.4. Lord Luke opened new Fire Station and the Memorial Gates and Pleasure Grounds of Grove House Gardens. Big air raid precautions exercises. Dunstable Museum closes

1940: A German air raider guns Dunstable High Street. (listen to a reminiscence about this attack, 1.5 MB MP3 File - part of the Dunstable Time Travellers project) Spitfire 5,000 Fund launched

1941: War suspends Good Friday custom of Orange Rolling. Compulsory Fire Watching introduced. ARP mock enemy attack on town

1942: Vauxhall Motors plant in Boscombe Road opens. Admiralty grant official recognition of Dunstable Sea Cadet Unit 115. Scout VC (the Cornwall Badge) awarded to Troop Leader Alfred Gurney of the 58th St Peter's, Dunstable Troop. He died before receiving the award. Kingsway Health Centre opened. Town Council prepare post-war plan for a Greater Dunstable

1943: First news of Dunstable prisoners of war in Japan after the fall of Singapore. Book Recovery Drive a big success. Town council report a loss of 1,317 on their farming scheme - decision to discontinue.

1944: German bomb dropped in grounds of Northfield School. Hospital Sunday held at Dunstable for the first time. Town Council bought remainder of Beecroft Estate as a site for housing scheme at cost of 11,900 for 35,348 acres. Chief Guide Lady Baden-Powell visited Dunstable in course of her tour of South Beds. Inaugural luncheon of Dunstable Rotary Club. Col. Mary Booth, granddaughter of the founder of the Salvation Army, visited the Methodist Church, The Square.

1945: Farm stock perished in fire at Brewers Hill Farm. Dunstable Rotary Club receives its Charter. V.E. Day Thanksgiving Service in Grove House Gardens. V.J. Day Thanksgiving Service in Grove House Gardens. Waiting list for council houses opened. Thanksgiving Savings Week. First meeting to discuss War Memorial.

1947: Italian prisoners of war, based at the London Gliding Club, dig the footings for the Beecroft Estate. (listen to a reminiscence about the Italian POWs, 1.9 MB MP3 File - part of the Dunstable Time Travellers project) Town Council acquire Priory House and Gardens for the town. First prefabs arrive. War Memorial Fund launched.

1948: Green Lanes controversy begins. Windmill at West Street commissioned as the Training Ship Lionel Preston for the Dunstable Sea Cadets.

1949: Minister of Town & Country Planning banned further building development in the area to the west of Dunstable "with the exception of certain rounding off of the borough". New headquarters of Dunstable Pioneer Boys' Club opened. Dunstable Inner Wheel received Charter. South Beds Preservation Society contest in the High Court power of the Minister of Transport to make the Order permitting the closure of some of the Green Lanes for quarrying extension.

1950: Clean Food Conference at Health Centre, Kingsway - then Exhibition Week at the Town Hall. Preservation Society wins the Green Lanes issue. Court of Appeal allowed the appeals by the Ministry of Transport and Rugby Portland Cement Co. Ltd for authority to close parts of Totternhoe green ways to permit extension of chalk workings. The town's war memorial to be an inscribed plaque in an alcove in Priory House Gardens. Jack Smith appointed as Dunstable town clerk. Land purchased for Kingsbury School. Dunstable Cricket Club opens in Bull Pond Lane. Beecroft housing estate established. Dunstable Civil Defence formed.

1951: Cordova officially opened in West Street as an "old people's welfare centre". Ludun factory for disabled workers is opened. Festival of Britain exhibition in the town hall.

1952: The war memorial in memory of those who died during World War II unveiled.  The ceremony was led by the then Mayor of Dunstable, Ald. T. Sandland

1952: Beecroft Primary School opened. An increase to 9d per week to rent a typical council house. An 80ft well discovered 50yds from the town hall. The war memorial in Priory Gardens unveiled. The ceremony was led by the then Mayor of Dunstable, Ald. Tommy Sandland. Down Your Way radio team visit. Road islands completed in the High Street. AC Sphinx Spark Plug Co. changes its name to A C Delco Division of General Motors Ltd. Miss E Boyes retires as headmistress of Burr Street School after 26 years.

1953: Clarkes of Dunstable were offering a 25 piece dinner service for 95p. Average wage at Dunstable Vauxhall reaches 10 per week. Population reaches 17,000. Dunstable Girls' Choir appeared on television on Caroll Levis and His Discoveries show. Work starts on new Commer Cars factory in Boscombe Road. Manshead Archaeological Society formed.

1954: Bell from cemetery chapel sold for 22. Five bus shelters erected in town at cost of 336. Chade Razor Blade Co. in High Street South closes down. Dunstable Young People's Club opens using the premises of the Pioneer Boys Club. Meat rationing ends.

1955: Tornado hits Dunstable but no damage sustained. Cattle Market on the Square closes. 300 chairs destroyed by fire at Grove House. Road beneath the railway bridge at High Street North lowered by 14 1/2 inches. Orange Rolling revived. Cross Paperware factory almost gutted by fire, but work carries on.

1956: Duke of Edinburgh opens Luden Works in Liscombe Road. First Premium Bond issued in Dunstable. First open air service in the Tree Cathedral, Whipsnade.

1957: Sixth century Saxon burial ground unearthed at Marina Drive by Manshead Archaeological Society.

1958: Vauxhall Motors present the Mayor of Dunstable with a Mayoral car. New Eight Bells opens in Westfield Road after the old Eight Bells had been demolished in Ashton Street. A 2000 year old bread roll excavated at Puddle Hill. Demolition of empty shops in Church Street begins, ready for road widening scheme.

1959: Traffic through Dunstable decreases by fifty per cent with the opening of the M1. Queen Eleanor's School for Girls opens in Langdale Road with Miss Christina Scott headmistress. Rt. Hon. Harold MacMillan visits Dunstable to give an election speech. Have a Go Wilfred Pickles radio show broadcast from Town Hall. Dunstable Excelsior Band appears on BBC Tonight programme. St Augustine's Church, Downside, opens. Downside Lower School opens. Highwayman Hotel opens in London Road. Citizens' Advice Bureau opens in Priory House.

1960: California Ballroom opens. (listen to reminiscences about the Cali - part of the Dunstable Time Travellers project)New pavilion at Bennetts Recreation Ground. Cross Paperware gutted by fire again. Telephone exchange goes automatic. Old Palace Lodge opens as 5-bedroom hotel. Scotland Yard called in to investigate the murder of a man whose body was found in a shed on part of the Dunstable Downs.

1961: Census shows the population of Dunstable to be 25,618. Dunstable College opens. Church Street road widening starts.

1962: Brewer's Hill Middle School opens as a County Secondary School. Becomes a Middle School in 1973. Old Palace Lodge granted a full licence. Young People's Club and Pioneer Boys Club open next door to each other in Manchester Place. Foundation stone laid for new Roman Catholic Church, West Street. New Railway Bridge in Church Street completed.

1963: The Red Lion (parts of which were over 400 years old) and The White Lion (dating back some six centuries) were pulled down to facilitate the widening of Church Street. New Post Office opens in High Street North. Pageant performed at Priory Meadow. New Court House opens. Priory Church Service televised on ATV.

1964: The Rolling Stones perform at the California Ballroom. 3rd East Anglia Regiment receives the Freedom of the Borough. Sir Alec Douglas-Hume gives an election speech in the Square. Mill Vale Middle School opens as a County Secondary School. Becomes a middle school in 1973. Roman Catholic Church completed at a cost of 75,000 (Bedfordshire Magazine, Vol 14, No 108) . Civic Hall opened. Later renamed Queensway Hall. Market in High Street moves to Queensway car park. Dunstable courthouse opens. (Bedfordshire Magazine, Vol.14 no 108). Dunstable Amateur Operatic Society formed.

1965: The last train 'The Skimpot Flyer' left Dunstable North Station at 7.25pm on 24th April for Welwyn. The Swan Jewel is found in Friary Field by Manshead Archaeological Society. The Winston Churchill Public House opens in Church Street. The White Hart in High Street North closes. New Fire Station at Brewers Hill Road. Town Hall sold to Pearl Assurance Co Ltd for 35,000.

1966: Bob Monkhouse opens the Quadrant shopping centre. The centre was designed by Willoughby Fletcher and Associates. The mural was designed by William Mitchell and Associates and the three sided clock by the Scottish designer Robin Cameron Don. (Bedfordshire Magazine, Vol.14 no 108). Jack Smith resigned from his office after serving nearly 16 years as the Borough Of Dunstable Clerk. Demolition of Town Hall.

1967: Dunstable North Station demolished following its closure in 1965. New library opened at Vernon Place. Rt. Hon Edward heath visits Dunstable.

1968: The Little Theatre opened by actor Bernard Bresslaw. Anglican Church of St. Fremund the Martyr completed. Orange Rolling ends after concerns about safety concerns and lack of sponsorship. 11,000 wages snatch at the Empire Rubber Co. Empire Rubber Co. becomes Miles Redfern Ltd.

1969: Ardley Hill Lower School opens as Lowther Road New Lower School. Named Ardley Hill School in July of that year. Rifle Volunteer, West Street demolished.

1970: The Windsock opens at the foot of the Downs.

1971: The population of Dunstable rises to 31,828. Dunstable changes to natural gas from the North Sea. Barclays Bank opens in High Street North. Chemical toilets erected at the top of the Downs. Dunstable Grammar School closes to make way for Ashton Middle School. More than 300 boys move to Southern Campus Site near Caddington Turn, now known as Manshead School.

1972: Average house price in Dunstable is 10,000 (from: 25 Years of Dunstable by B. Turvey). Queensbury Upper School is formed from the amalgamation of Kinsgbury Secondary Technical School for Boys (est. c1957) and Queen Eleanor's School (est. 4 May 1961). Bagshawe's announces closure of factory in Church Street.

1973: Ashton C of E Middle School opens. It occupies premises of the old Dunstable Grammar School which shut in 1972. Prince William of Gloucester opened the European Gliding Championship of Dunstable Downs. California swimming pool closed. Old Railway Hotel, bottom of Westfield Road, closed down same day the Chiltern opened 300 yards further up from the Railway at the bottom of Chiltern Road on the old brewery site.

1974: George Best plays for Dunstable Town against Manchester United and Dublin Celtic. End of Borough status. Town becomes part of South Bedfordshire District Council.

1975: First Town Carnival for 14 years. Mary Peters OBE at the opening of the Recreation Centre in Court Drive. Queen's Head, St. Mary's Street, demolished. Midland Bank, West Street, raid of 196,000.

1976: Streetfield Middle School opens. Second and final phase of construction of the school is completed in 1980. Priory Gardens purchased. A new visitors' block and permanent toilets planned for the Downs. New Health Centre opens, near Priory Church.

1977: Dunstable firemen preparing for strikes. Woolwich Building Society opens in Dunstable.

1980: Book Castle opens in Church Street. California Ballroom demolished. Fire at Cross Paperware, High Street South. Dunstable Cricket Club opens new pavilion at Bull Pond Lane ground. "Down Your Way" popular BBC Radio show with Bryan Johnston features Dunstable. Short-time working at Vauxhall.

1981: A 25 foot high bonfire built on the Downs, for the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer. 1,000 jobs shed at Vauxhall. Sewell Cutting Nature Reserve opened.

1982: Princess Anne opens new offices of ABC Travel Guides Ltd. in Church Street. 200 embroidered hassocks produced for the Priory Church to mark its 850th anniversary. The Miles Redfern Rubber Factory in London Road becomes BTR.

1983: The 78 year old Town Hall clock overhauled for the first time in 20 years. Buckle's in Middle Row, one of the oldest menswear specialists, closes after 60 years. Dunstable Round Table celebrates its 30th anniversary with TV personality Lance Percival as guest of honour. 75th anniversary of Dunstable Town Bowling Club.

1984: Demolition of the Windsock, West Street. Miss Christina Scott, headmistress of Queensbury School, retires after more than 40 years in teaching. Princess Anne visits the Queensway Hall.

1985: The shopping precinct in High Street North, Dunstable, is named after Queen Eleanor and a modern statue of the queen is built. Dunstable Town Council formed. "Darkie" - Amos Cameron _ retires after selling newspapers in High Street North for over 40 years. He died in 1986. Priory Hospital closes. The Old Sugar Loaf, High Street North, is refurbished. Les Matthews, founder of the Manshead Archaeological Society, made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquarians.

1986: Rear of the Post Office in High Street North demolished leaving only the facade. Start of South Beds Dial-a-Ride service for the disabled.

1987: Vauxhall Motors plant in Boscombe Road closes. Hoppenstopper buses introduced. Tourist Information Centre opens in Dunstable Library. Herington's, in town for 100 years, opens new pharmacy in Ashton Square.

1988: Beacon on Dunstable Downs lit to mark the 400th anniversary of the sighting of the Armada. DHSS moves into renovated "Old Post Office". Dunstable Arts Festival. Modernisation of Dunstable Telephone Exchange.

1989: Tesco superstore opens at Skimpot. Dunstable Town Council moves to Grove House. South Beds District Council opens new office in High Street North. Pavilion at Skimpot opens, dedicated to Peter Newton, twice Mayor of Dunstable. Marchioness of Tavistock opens victim support suite at Dunstable police station.

1999: White Lion Retail Park opens. Market Cross and Clock built in time for Millennium celebrations

2000: Queensway Hall, Vernon Place, is demolished. Post Office in High Street South is closed. Five public telephone boxes in Dunstable are taken away. Announcement that Vauxhall car plant in Luton is to close in 2007.

2001: Asda opens in Vernon Place. The population of Dunstable now stands at 33,805

2002: In December the 'Green Wave' traffic scheme comes into operation. Royal Golden Jubilee celebrations. BRT factory (formerly the Empire Rubber Company) closes.

2005: Work starts on the 2.5 million Chilterns Gateway project on Dunstable Downs.  The project is managed by Bedfordshire County Council, the National Trust, South Bedfordshire District Council, Luton Borough Council, the North Chilterns Trust and the Chilterns Conservation Board (Leighton Buzzard on Sunday, 13th November 2005). Sally the Dunstable Witch (1875 poem) reprinted by Town Council. Priory House Heritage Centre opened. Work begins on building the Grove Theatre. Demolition of water tower on former Bedford truck factory site in Boscombe Road.

2007: The Chilterns Gateway Centre on Dunstable Downs opens in February. (Dunstable Gazette, 31st January 2007). Ashton St Peter's Lower School moves from Church Street to Leighton Court. 

2008: Long established Moore's Department Store in High Street South is closed.

2009: Woolworth's Store in High Street South is closed. New fire station opened in Brewers Hill Road, near previous station, by the Princess Royal.

2010: Dunstable branch of the British Legion closed. Disused Renault Trucks factory demolished in Boscombe Road. Railway bridge in Church Street removed.

2011: The Norman King Pub is destroyed by fire on Wednesday 10th August. New bridge built in Church Street.


Page last updated: 23rd January 2017