Dunstable (/ˈdʌnstəbəl/ DUN-stə-bəl) is a market town and civil
parish located in Bedfordshire, England. It lies on the eastward tail
spurs of the Chiltern Hills, 30 miles (50 kilometres) north of London.
These geographical features form several steep chalk escarpments most
noticeable when approaching
Dunstable from the north.
Dunstable is the
largest settlement in Central
Bedfordshire and third largest in
Luton and Bedford.
2.1 Ancient history
2.2 Roman settlement
2.3 Medieval times
2.4 17th century
2.5 19th century
2.6 20th century and after
6.4 New developments
6.4.1 A5-M1 Link (
Dunstable Northern Bypass)
6.4.2 Woodside Link
7.2 Sport and leisure
9 Notable people
10 Twin towns
11 Local destinations
13 External links
In Roman times its name was Durocobrivis
. There was a general assumption that the nominative form of the name
had been Durocobrivae, so that is what appears on the map of 1944
illustrated below. But current thinking is that the form Durocobrivis,
which occurs in the Antonine Itinerary, is a fossilised locative that
was used all the time and
Ordnance Survey now uses this form.
There are several theories concerning its modern name:
Legend tells that the lawlessness of the time was personified in a
thief called Dun. Wishing to capture Dun, the King stapled his ring to
a post daring the robber to steal it. It was, and was subsequently
traced to the house of the widow Dun. Her son, the robber, was taken
and hanged to the final satisfaction that the new community bore his
It comes from the Anglo-Saxon for "the boundary post of Duna".
Derived from Dunum, or Dun, a hill, and Staple, a marketplace.
Relics of Palæolithic humans, including such relics as flint
implements and the bones of contemporary wild animals, suggest
settlement is prehistoric. At Maidenbower in the parish of Houghton
Regis to the north, there is an
Iron Age hill fort, which is clearly
marked on the
Ordnance survey maps. Maidenbower has some of the
ramparts showing through the edge of an old chalk quarry at Sewell
where there are
Bronze Age remains of an older fort. There are a lot
of prehistoric sites in this area and details can be found with the
Manshead Archaeological Society who are based in Winfield Street,
Dunstable is on the route of the Icknield Way, which is
claimed to be 'the oldest road in Britain’.
A map of
Dunstable from 1944
There was already some form of settlement by the AD 40s and 50s,
when the Romans arrived and paved the road now known as Watling Street
and its crossroad, the Icknield Way. Traces of Neolithic
activity are not in doubt but much of their mystery may be lost under
the surrounding Chiltern Hills.
The Romans built a posting station and probably named the settlement
Durocobrivae, but over time this may have shifted to Durocobrivis. The
area was occupied by
Saxons around AD 571.
Until the 11th century this area of the county is known to have been
uncultivated tract covered by woodlands. In 1109 Henry I started a
period of activity by responding to this danger to travellers. He
instructed areas to be cleared and encouraged settlers with offers of
royal favour. In 1123 a royal residence was built at what is now
called the Royal Palace Lodge Hotel on Church Street. The king used
the residence as a base to hunt on nearby lands.
Dunstable Priory was founded in 1131 by the King and was later
used for the divorce between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, which
led to the establishment of the Church of
England in opposition to the
Roman Catholic Church. The same year the town granted a town charter
to the power of the priors.
Dunstable was one of twelve sites to erect an Eleanor cross
recognising Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I, whose coffin was
laid close to the crossroads for the local people to mourn the dead
Queen. The coffin was then guarded inside the priory by the canons
overnight before continuing on to St. Albans. The original wooden
cross has long since perished but a modern memorial remains.
The Sugar Loaf coaching inn or public house, 2011.
Bedfordshire was one of the counties that largely supported the
Roundheads during the English Civil War. Nearby
St Albans in
Hertfordshire was the headquarters of the Roundheads, and troops were
occasionally stationed at Dunstable. The town was plundered by King
Charles I's soldiers when passing through in June 1644, and Essex's
men destroyed the Eleanor cross.
The town's prosperity, and the large number of inns or public houses
in the town, is partly because it is only one or two days' ride by
London (32 miles (51 km)), and therefore a place to
rest overnight. There are two pubs which still have coaching gates to
the side: the Sugar Loaf in High Street North, and the Saracen's Head
in High Street South. The Saracen's Head is a name often given to pubs
frequented by knights of the crusades. It is positioned considerably
lower than the road to its front, witness to the fact that the road
has been resurfaced a number of times during the lifetime of the pub.
Dunstable's Grove House
Dunstable Branch Lines
Dunstable's first railway opened in 1848. It was a branch joining the
West Coast Main Line
West Coast Main Line at Leighton Buzzard. A second line linking
Dunstable with Hatfield via
Luton opened in 1858. Passenger services
Dunstable were withdrawn in 1965, but the line between Dunstable
Luton remained open for freight traffic for many years.
Dunstable was a significant market town, but its importance diminished
as the neighbouring town of
20th century and after
The 19th century saw the straw hat making industry come to
Luton and a
subsequent decline in Dunstable, to be replaced in the early 20th
century by the printing and motor vehicle industries, with companies
such as Waterlow's and
Vauxhall Motors respectively. The new Bedford
Dunstable plant came into production in 1942 to support the British
Army in the Second World War. It continued commercial truck and bus
until 1992. The closure of the main factories and the decline of
manufacturing in the area has led to this distinctiveness being lost.
Shops were concentrated along High Street North/South (Watling Street)
and in 1966 the Quadrant Shopping Centre opened. By the 1980s,
Dunstable town centre was a successful shopping centre featuring major
retailers including Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose, Bejam/Iceland,
Co-op department store, Argos, Woolworths, Burton and
many independent specialist shops including Moore's of Dunstable.
These attracted shoppers from outlying villages resulting in a
thriving retail town centre larger than would be supportable by
Dunstable residents alone. So much so that in 1985 the Eleanor's
Cross retail area was developed to cater mainly for smaller shops.
As with many other market towns, the rise of out-of-town retail parks
caused a decline in town centre trade; Sainsbury's,
Tesco and Halfords
moved to newer larger premises out-of-town.
The Cottage Garden Flower Shop of Chiltern Road, established in 1898,
is believed to be the oldest independent retail business still
More recently, major retailers Asda, Wilko and
Aldi have opened stores
in the town centre. Costa Coffee, the world's second largest
coffeehouse chain, is headquartered here.
Local Government Act 1972
Local Government Act 1972 coming into force in 1974,
Dunstable was a municipal borough. It is now a civil parish in the
For council elections the town is divided into wards. Since 2002 these
have been called Chiltern,
Dunstable Central, Icknield, Manshead,
Northfields and Watling.
Dunstable is served by
Bedfordshire Police force where the Police and
Crime Commissioner is Kathryn Holloway.
The oldest part of the town is along the
Icknield Way and Watling
Street where they cross. These roads split the rest of the town into
four quadrants which have each been developed in stages.
The northwest quadrant started to be developed in the 19th century
British Land Company
British Land Company laid out the roads around Victoria
Street. The development of the Beecroft area began with the houses
around Worthington Road; after the
Second World War
Second World War the borough
council extended the estate up to Westfield Road with its shops, and
then up to Aldbanks. The war-time site of the Meteorological Office,
was then in Houghton Regis, and was situated where Cookfield Close and
Weatherby is now. That site was redeveloped by
George Wimpey and
others. At the north of the town there is an estate originally
marketed as French's Gate Estate, and at the west of the town there is
an area of houses on Lancot Hill.
The southwest quadrant has largely been developed since the Second
World War. There are three main estates. In the
Lake District Estate
all the streets are named after places in the
Lake District and
Cumbria; the estate includes a parade of shops on Langdale Road. It
was originally called the Croft Golf Course Estate and was built by
Laing Homes. Oldhill Down Estate around the Lowther Road shops was
developed by William Old Ltd., and the Stipers Hill Estate around
Seamons Close was initially created by the Land Settlement
In the southeast quadrant, the area around Great Northern Road was
developed at the end of the 19th century as Englands Close Estate and
Borough Farm Estate. The Downside Estate including the shops on
Mayfield Road was planned by the borough council in 1951.
The northeast quadrant is a mainly commercial and civic area, the
result of redevelopment in the early 1960s. But the site of Waterlow's
printing works around Printers Way is now occupied by houses built in
the 1990s. The Northfields Estate at the north of the town was
completed by the borough council in 1935.
Further east, near the boundary with Luton, there is another area that
has largely been developed since the Second World War. To the south of
Luton Road, Jeansway was completed after the war; to the north,
Poynters Estate and Hadrian Estate were built on either side of
Katherine Drive, where there is a parade of shops. The area also
includes the Woodside Estate which contains most of the factories and
warehouses that still exist in Dunstable.
The town lies in the parliamentary constituency of South West
Bedfordshire. Since June 2001
Leighton Buzzard based lawyer Andrew
Selous of the Conservative Party has represented the constituency.
 The previous incumbent for several parliaments was Conservative
backbencher David Madel.
The Police and Crime Commissioner is Conservative Kathryn Holloway.
Aerial photograph of Northern Dunstable, showing the
Dunstable Busway and the A5 road
The A5 trunk road lies at the heart of Dunstable's transport
infrastructure, directing movement north and south. This movement is
additionally complemented by the
M1 motorway which is located east of
the town in Luton. The nearest motorway junction is J11, which is
about 2 mi (3 km) to the east of the town centre via the
A505. Although congested, the town's roads provide the means to
connect to the country's motorways systems.
Dunstable is served by two main operators, Arriva and Centrebus.
Arriva runs the interurban services to
Luton (direct and via Houghton
Leighton Buzzard and Aylesbury, but other routes have been
steadily taken over from Arriva by Centrebus in recent years, which
now provides services to St Albans, Harpenden,
Luton (direct and via
Caddington), Toddington and Milton Keynes. Centrebus also operates
three local services within
Dunstable to Beecroft/Weatherby, Downside
and the Langdale Road estate. Many bus services are financially
supported by Central
Construction of the
Dunstable Busway between Houghton Regis,
Luton Airport was completed in September 2013.
Much of the busway runs along the lines of the old railway which has
been converted into a guided busway and dedicated roadway. Buses
travel on ordinary roads around Dunstable,
Houghton Regis and at the
airport, but benefit from fast transit (up to 50MPH) with few stops on
the busway itself between these centres. Multiple companies operate
different routes which run on the busway.
Dunstable was once served by the
Dunstable Branch Lines
Dunstable Branch Lines to Leighton
Buzzard and to
Dunstable Town railway station. There have
been a number of campaigns for the re-establishment of a passenger
railway, but these have been superseded by the
which uses the former rail route (see Bus Transport above). Dunstable
is one of the largest towns south of the Midlands conurbations without
its own rail service. But as part of the small Luton-Dunstable
conurbation it is 3 mi (5 km) from Leagrave station, and
5 mi (8 km) from Luton, which both provide fast rail links
to central London.
A5-M1 Link (
Dunstable Northern Bypass)
A5-M1 Link (
Dunstable Northern Bypass)
The route of the
Dunstable Northern Bypass proposal and route options
for the connecting
Luton Northern Bypass.
£171 million to £217 million
The A5-M1 Link (
Dunstable Northern Bypass), which opened in May 2017,
is a two-lane dual carriageway running east from the A5 north of
Dunstable to join the M1 at a new Junction 11a south of Chalton.
Here, it is intended to join with a proposed
Luton Northern Bypass to
form a northern bypass for the wider conurbation. The A5-M1 Link aims
to alleviate traffic congestion in
Houghton Regis and Dunstable,
reduce journey times for long-distance traffic travelling through
Dunstable and improve the regional economy. The Highways Agency
detrunked the A5 through Dunstable, renumbering it A5183, when the
A5-M1 Link opened to the public in May 2017.
The 2.9 km A5505 Woodside Link connects the industrial areas of
Houghton Regis to the new junction 11a of the M1
motorway. This road takes traffic out of the town centres, reduced
congestion and improves air quality. Forming part of Central
Dunstable Town Centre Masterplan, the
Woodside Link improves job opportunities and quality of life for
people living and working in
Dunstable and neighbouring towns and
villages. It will also provide access to a new development area north
of Houghton Regis, where 5,150 new homes are to be built and 30
hectares of employment land are to be developed by 2031. Central
Bedfordshire Council is delivered the £38.3m scheme with
contributions of £20m from SEMLEP’s Local Growth Deal, £5m
from the UK government’s Local Pinch Point Fund  and £1m of
Since opening in April 2007 the Grove Theatre has replaced the
Queensway Hall as the town's premier arts centre, it is located within
the town centre on the council owned Grove Gardens.
National and local productions take place regularly at this
cornerstone of Dunstable's cultural exploits. Additional facilities
include units fit for six bars or restaurants along with a 1,000
seated auditorium. Currently a
Wetherspoons entitled The Gary
Cooper, and "Club Cookies" night club have opened. A unit is also
currently occupied by
Bedfordshire University, as part of Dunstable
College. The other units are occupied by HQ Sports Bar and BBC 3
One of the town's little gems is that of the Little Theatre, home of
Dunstable Rep Theatre Group that also hosts dramatic performances
throughout the year. The auditorium, once part of the Chews Trust was
fully opened in 1964 by Bernard Bresslaw. It sits next to the historic
Chews House on High Street South. The town also has numerous
amateur dramatics societies that perform several shows a year. These
include 'The Square Drama Circle' and '
Dunstable Amateur Operatics
Sport and leisure
Several parks and open spaces are kept by Central
Dunstable Leisure Centre, operated by Leisure Connection
Ltd on the council's behalf. It houses a 25-metre swimming pool,
squash courts, a large hall, fitness studio, indoor bowling green and
a multi-use outdoor pitch. It is situated next door to the Grove
Theatre, a modern 32-lane ten-pin bowling centre and the main campus
The town is home to two senior football clubs,
Dunstable Town F.C.
Dunstable Town F.C. and
AFC Dunstable who both play at the Creasey Park Stadium. Dunstable
Town F.C. play in the Southern League Premier and
AFC Dunstable play
in the Spartan South Mildlands League.
Dunstable Town famously
George Best to ply his trade in the town and defeated
Manchester United 3-2 in the process.
A Rugby Union team that plays in RFU Midlands 2 (level 6) called
Dunstablians play their matches in nearby
Houghton Regis at Bidwell
Lancot Meadow (51°53′07″N 0°32′36″W / 51.8853°N
0.5434°W / 51.8853; -0.5434 (Lancot Meadow)) is a small nature
reserve managed by the local Wildlife Trust.
Dunstable Downs Golf Club, founded in 1906 and designed by James
Braid, is located on the top of the Downs.
Within the town centre is the Grove Theatre, Priory House Heritage
Centre and the Priory Church where Henry VIII formalised his divorce
from Catherine of Aragon. At the heart of the town sits the Quadrant
Shopping Centre, whilst across High Street North a secondary shopping
community named the Eleanor's Cross Shopping Precinct hosts a modern
statue commemorating the original cross. Nearby
Luton has the Waulud's
Bank prehistoric henge and
Luton Museum & Art Gallery.
Dunstable Downs, a chalky escarpment outside the town, is a popular
site for kite flying, paragliding and hang gliding, while the London
Gliding Club provides a base for conventional gliding and other air
activities at the bottom of the Downs. Further into the countryside
are the open-range
Whipsnade Zoo, a garden laid out in the form of a
Whipsnade Tree Cathedral
Whipsnade Tree Cathedral and the
Icknield Way Path passes through the town on its 110-mile journey
Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire to
Knettishall Heath in
Icknield Way Trail, a multi-user route for walkers, horse
riders and off-road cyclists also passes through the town. The route
of these now leisure routes now go to the west and north of the main
conurbation rather than following the road which still bears its name.
Secondary schools in the town include:
All Saints' Academy, formerly the Northfields Technology College
Queensbury Academy, formerly Queensbury Upper School.
Manshead School, which holds Specialist
Science College status and an
All secondary schools within the town have attached sixth forms.
The Chiltern School
The Chiltern School and
Weatherfield Academy are coeducational special
schools located in Dunstable. These schools educate pupils from the
Bedfordshire College is a further education college located in
the town. The college serves students from
Dunstable and the
surrounding rural area.
Monumental inscription on the Chew almshouses, commemorating their
endowment in 1723.
Mick Abrahams, founder member of Jethro Tull
Thomas Aynscombe, (died 1740), son of Elizabeth (died 1711), daughter
and co-heiress of Thomas Chew,
Nigel Benson, author and illustrator
Spike Breakwell, comedian
Clark Brothers, African-American tap dancers who settled in Dunstable
after World War II
Paul Clayton, footballer
Gary Cooper, Hollywood film actor, went to
Dunstable Grammar School
from 1910 to 1913.
Kerry Dixon, footballer
John Dunstaple (or Dunstable), 15th-century composer who was probably
born in the town
Don Gilet, actor, best known for playing Lucas in EastEnders
Geoffrey de Gorham, born circa 1100 in Maine,
France became master of
a school in
Dunstable and later Abbot of St Albans.
Damon Gough, musician known as Badly Drawn Boy
Nikki Iles, musician
Rob Keogh, cricketer
Kevin McCloud, designer, writer and television presenter. Attended
Dunstable Grammar School
Dunstable Grammar School and
Manshead Upper School
Khawaja Nazimuddin, former prime minister of Pakistan
Alexander Neckam, scientist and teacher
Bernard O'Mahoney, crime author (was born there in 1960 but moved to
Wolverhampton as a child)
Elkanah Settle, poet and playwright
Faye Tozer, member of the pop group Steps
Dunstable is twinned with:
Porz-Am-Rhein, Germany. This is now part of Köln
France since 2005
Dunstable is also unofficially twinned with Dunstable, MA.[citation
Destinations from Dunstable
^ 2001 UK census
^ "Town population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for
National Statistics. Retrieved 7 November 2016.
^ Rivet, A. L. F.; Smith, C. (1979), The Place Names of Roman Britain,
Batsford, p. 349
^ a b Adrian Room, ed. (1995), Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
(1st ed.), ISBN 0-304-34869-4
^ Sunday Times Travel, 6 January 2008, p. 46
^ Genuki entry for Dunstable, Accessed 26_12_09
^ May, Francis (20 June 1973). "Nearby
Dunstable Mass. Observes 300th
Anniversary". Nashua Telegraph. p. 30. Retrieved 18 May 2015 –
^ a b British History Online and William Page (editor),
“Parishes,” 29 August 2008
^ 'Parishes: Dunstable', A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3
(1912), pp. 349–368
^ British History on line –
Dunstable Retrieved, 30 June 2009
^ Evans V.; Schneider J. (2002),
Dunstable down the ages: an outline
history from prehistoric to modern times, Dunstable: Book Castle
^ Focus On: Dunstable, 1966, Anglia Television, Anglia Television
programme looking at life in the
Bedfordshire town of Dunstable.
^ cottagegardenflowershop.co.uk, History of the Cottage Garden Flower
^ The District of South
Bedfordshire (Electoral Changes) Order 2001
Archived 15 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine..
Dunstable Town Council, Meet The Councillors Archived 24 November
2007 at the Wayback Machine..
^ Walden, pp. 5–9
^ Walden, pp. 101, 112, 172, 190–191, 194, 199, 226.
^ Walden, pp. 266–268, 275, 282.
^ Walden, pp. 6, 136, 145–146.
^ Walden, pp. 91, 203, 205.
^ Walden, pp. 240, 241, 263–264.
^ "www.parliament.uk Home page".
Andrew Selous MP, South West
Bedfordshire - TheyWorkForYou".
^ Guides to Collections: British Railways Board Archived 29 September
2007 at the Wayback Machine. at the
and Records Service.
^ "A5-M1 Link (
Dunstable Northern Bypass)". Retrieved 25 November
^ a b "
Dunstable Town Centre Masterplan". Retrieved 25 November
^ "Woodside Link road". Retrieved 25 November 2014.
Houghton Regis North Site 1". Retrieved 25 November 2014.
^ "SEMLEP awarded £64.6 million Local Growth Deal". Retrieved 25
^ "Successful schemes to be funded in Tranche 2 of the Local Pinch
Point Fund" (PDF). Retrieved 25 November 2014.
^ "About the Grove Theatre". Archived from the original on 23 December
2008. Retrieved 26 March 2009.
^ "Little Theatre". Retrieved 26 March 2009.
^ "Leisure Connection". Archived from the original on 28 October 2007.
Retrieved 26 March 2009.
^ Wildlife Trust, Lancot Meadow
^ Benson, Nigel (1986).
Dunstable in Detail. Dunstable: The Book
Castle. pp. 191–195. ISBN 978-0-9509773-2-4.
^ ODNB Geoffrey de Gorham, Accessed 8 August 2011
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 October 2010.
Retrieved 11 September 2010.
^ "British towns twinned with French towns". Archant Community Media
Ltd. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 11 July
Prehistory: Matthews, C. L. (1989). (revised by) Schneider, J, ed.
Dunstable (2nd ed.).
Manshead Archaeological Society.
Historical town-centre locations: Benson, Nigel (1986).
Detail: An Illustrated Guide to the Town of Dunstable. Dunstable: Book
Castle. ISBN 0-9509773-2-2.
Street names: Walden, R. (1999). Streets Ahead: An Illustrated Guide
to the Street Names of Dunstable. Dunstable: Book Castle.
Second World War: Yates J. & King S. (2006).
District at War from Eyewitness Accounts. Dunstable: Book Castle.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Dunstable.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dunstable.
Dunstable Town Council
Animated and narrated legend of how
Dunstable got its name
Focus On: Dunstable, 1966 Anglia Television programme looking at life
in Dunstable, East Anglian Film Archive.
Ceremonial county of Bedfordshire
Borough of Bedford
Borough of Luton
See also: List of civil parishes in Bedfordshire
Grade I listed buildings
Grade II* listed buildings
Settlements in Central Bedfordshire
Haynes Church End
Heath and Reach
New Mill End