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Things to do in Luton, Bedfordshire

Luton is a large town in Bedfordshire with a population of around 240,000.

City hall © Nathalie Manghini
City Hall © Nathalie Manghini

It is 30 miles north of London and is best known for its airport.

Kenilworth Road Stadium is home to Luton Town Football Club which had some success in the past, winning the Football League Cup in 1988.

The University of Bedfordshire is based in Luton and the student population swells the town's population during term time.

One of the finest local buildings is Luton Hoo, a large country house that was built in 1767.

Downtown © Nathalie Manghini
Downtown © Nathalie Manghini


It now operates as a luxury hotel.

The town won a Gold Award for its town centre shopping development.

The Mall Shopping Centre has plans for an extension and a high-technology office park is also being built.

Napier Park, the former Vauxhall site, is being redeveloped for housing, retail and leisure entertainment with a casino.


Things to do in Luton

Luton Carnival is held on the late May bank holiday.

It is the largest one-day carnival in Europe.

The huge procession starts and finishes at Wardown Park and draws 150,000 spectators.

It started in 1976 and developed in 1988 with lottery funding.

Georges Street © Nathalie Manghini
Georges Street © Nathalie Manghini

Luton has several excellent museums such as the Luton Museum and Gallery, which shows the development of the town from pre-history to the present day.

The Craft Museum is at Stockwood Country Park in the 18th century stables.

This attraction also has the largest collection of horse-drawn vehicles in Britain and beautiful period gardens.

Woodside Animal Farm is a fun family day out or visitors can discover the cultural diversity of art at the Artezium in Bute Street.

Arndale Centre © Nathalie Manghini
Arndale Centre © Nathalie Manghini

History of Luton

Ancient Neolithic burial sites show that the Luton area has had a settlement for thousands of years, and Waulud's Bank is a henge dating back to 3000 BC.

By Roman times it was a collection of scattered homesteads.

By the 6th century a Saxon community known as "Lea Tun" existed on the banks of the River Lea.

By 1086 the Domesday Book showed "Loitone" had 700-800 people.

St Mary's Church was completed in 1137 by Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester.

The town also had a motte and bailey castle which was demolished in 1154.

Beginning of Georges St © Nathalie Manghini
Beginning of Georges St © Nathalie Manghini


By the Middle Ages the town had six watermills, hence the historic names of Mill Street and Castle Street.

In the late 12th century King John granted Falkes de Breaute the manor of Luton.

His home was known as Fawkes Hall, which derived into Vauxhall.

His heraldic emblem was the griffin and the name and his emblem became associated with the area and later with Vauxhall Motors who made their headquarters in Luton.

The factory employed locals from 1905 to 2002 but currently only commercial vehicles are built there.

Traditionally the town was famous for brick making in the 16th century and later for hat-making during the 17th century and 18th century.

Court © Nathalie Manghini
Court © Nathalie Manghini

A few hats are still produced in the town.

In 1919 the town hall was destroyed during protests about local unemployment, ironically during the Peace Day celebrations.

The Town Hall was set alight by ex-servicemen and a replacement was built in 1936.

London Luton Airport opened in 1938, just in time to be used as an RAF base during World War II.



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