After opening chapters on the early history of the town, where incidentally the author makes the point several times that little of the early town survives to be seen above ground or in the archaeological record (the exception being the parish church, shown here), she focuses on the themes that contributed to modern day Luton with chapters on country houses, education, industry, wartime, migration, leisure and the town. Under these headings she has woven together hundreds of strands including
- brickmaking (with an account of how bricks used to be made)
- brewing and temperance
- Stattie fairs to the Luton carnival
- straw plaiting schools (where young children laboured and were denied an education) to the University of Bedfordshire
- a medieval gild, non-conformity, Quakers,
- the multi-ethnic composition of today's population and the Luton Council of Faiths
- the town's musical and theatrical activities
- roads, railways and the airport
- Vauxhall Motors and the connection with Vauxhall Bridge in London
.... and the list could go.... The book is a treasure house of information about Luton's past, often in the words of people who were there, and supplemented by wonderful photographs and maps.
This is a book for locals, who will revel in the memories of how Luton was - and is. For others who are curious about the towns and cities of this country, this book is more than just a history of Luton, it is also a record of how people worked and lived in a time not long gone.
Anne Allsopp A History of Luton from Conquerors to Carnival. Andover, Phillimore, 2010. ISBN 978-1-86077-621-2 £20
Photos: Parish Church © Barbara Tearle; Luton Airport © Jack Hill (Creative Commons); Wardown Park© Nigel Cox (Creative Commons)