There is evidence that people have been living in and around the area currently occupied by Leighton Buzzard since Saxon times. Pottery and jewellery from the sixth century have been excavated in the town and earthworks have been found which are believed to date back to Roman times.
The town is also mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086 where it is called Lestone. This is interesting as it mentions that Lestone had a market which is still held in Leighton Buzzard to this day.
Over the years there have been many references to the town and surrounding villages. For example Tiddenfoot on the edge of the town is referred to in documents dating from 906 and in 1645 a petition was sent asking the Government for financial help after a fire in the High Street.
The coming of the Canal and the Railway in the early 1800’s established the town still further and the population, industry and commerce continued to increase.
The Leighton Buzzard Railway is a very popular narrow gauge railway that is enjoyed by visitors from all over the world. Originally opened in 1919 to transport sand from the local quarries to the canal and mainline station. During the first world war, narrow gauge railways were used to supply the front lines. Steam engines were used at first but were not practical under fire, they were slower and easier to spot so these were replaced by armour plated, petrol engined locomotives. After the war many of these were sold to industry including the Leighton Buzzard sand companies where they were used to transport sand until the 1950’s. There are still a number of these in the Leighton Buzzard Railway collection today.
Many businesses moved to Leighton Buzzard and provided employment for the rising population producing all types of products. During the Second World War, even bomber aircraft were produced in the town to help the war effort. Many well known international businesses came such as Gossards the lingerie company and Lancer Boss who manufactured lift trucks.
The town boasts many old buildings each with its own stories to tell that, together, make up the history of Leighton Buzzard.
The Leighton Buzzard & District Archaeological & Historical Society is a great place for further research into the history of Leighton Buzzard. They produce a range of books and publications and present a programme of events and talks. Their web site contains information about their current research projects and you can also subscribe to receive more information about their work and activities.