Leighton Buzzard

Coordinates: 51°54′59″N 0°39′42″W / 51.9165°N 0.6617°W / 51.9165; -0.6617
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Leighton Buzzard
Market Square
Leighton Buzzard is located in Bedfordshire
Leighton Buzzard
Leighton Buzzard
Location within Bedfordshire
Population42,727 [1]
OS grid referenceSP921250
Civil parish
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtLU7
Dialling code01525
FireBedfordshire and Luton
AmbulanceEast of England
UK Parliament
List of places
51°54′59″N 0°39′42″W / 51.9165°N 0.6617°W / 51.9165; -0.6617

Leighton Buzzard (/ˈltən ˈbʌzərd/ LAY-tən BUZ-ərd) is a market town in Bedfordshire, England, in the southwest of the county and close to the Buckinghamshire border. It lies between Aylesbury, Tring, Luton/Dunstable and Milton Keynes, near the Chiltern Hills.

It is 36 miles (58 km) northwest of Central London and linked to the capital by the Grand Union Canal and the West Coast Main Line. The built-up area extends on either side of the River Ouzel (here about 2 metres wide) to include its historically separate neighbour Linslade,[2] and is administered by Leighton-Linslade Town Council.


Foundation and development[edit]

The Old Town Hall

It is unclear when the town was initially founded, although some historians believe that there may have been settlement in the area from as early as 571.[3] There are a number of theories concerning the derivation of the town's name: ‘Leighton’ came from Old English Lēah-tūn, meaning 'farm in a clearing in the woods', and one version of the addition of ‘Buzzard’ was that it was added by the Dean of Lincoln, in whose diocese the town lay in the 12th century, from Beau-desert.[4] Another version is that having two communities called ‘Leighton’ and seeking some means of differentiating them the Dean added the name of his local Prebendary or representative to that of the town. At that time it was Theobald de Busar and so over the years the town became known as Leighton Buzzard. The other Leighton became Leighton Bromswold.[5] In the Domesday Book of 1086, Leighton Buzzard and Linslade were both called Leestone. A further variation may be seen in a legal record of 1424, where "William Dagenale of Leytun Busherd, Beds" appears as a defendant.[6] Leighton Buzzard developed into a thriving market town supported by good road, canal and, later, rail links to the agricultural hinterland and London. The town's market charter was granted in 1086 and is still active today.[7] The town's high street is home to numerous historical buildings, more than 70 of which are listed.[8] They include the notable Bank Building on the Market Square (now home to Barclays Bank),[9] designed by the eminent architect Alfred Waterhouse, designer of London's Natural History Museum, London. They also include the Old Town Hall, later used as a fire station and now as a restaurant.[10]

Rothschild family[edit]

The town has had a long association with the Rothschild family, since Lionel de Rothschild bought neighbouring farmlands to the west of the town in 1873.[11] Over time the farm developed into the Ascott House estate located less than 2 miles (3 km) from the town. In the late 19th century, Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild used the now demolished Leighton House and its stabling, on the High Street, as a hunting box. The family still maintain links with the town through their ownership of Southcourt Stud in Southcote.


The town has a strong history of dissenters and is home to one of the oldest Friends meeting houses in the region. Established in the 18th century, local Quakers continue to meet in the Meeting House on North Street.[12]

Poor law union[edit]

After the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 Leighton Buzzard became the centre of a poor law union that consisted of 15 surrounding parishes with the union workhouse (still standing) being sited in Grovebury Road.[13]

Leighton Buzzard Isolation Hospital[edit]

In 1847, additional land was obtained adjacent to the workhouse on which to build an isolation hospital. It had twenty beds over three wards, one each for patients with Diphtheria, Scarlet Fever and Typhoid.[14] Jane Sarah Downer was appointed Nurse-Matron of the Isolation Hospital in 1899, and worked there until at least 1911.[15][16][17] Downer had trained under Eva Luckes at The London Hospital between 1895 and 1897,[18] and then worked on the Private Nursing Staff for one year,[19] before her appointment as Matron in Leighton Buzzard.[15]

World War II[edit]

During World War II, RAF Leighton Buzzard, a secret communications facility described as "the largest telephone exchange in the world", was located to the south of Stanbridge Road. Also the headquarters of No. 60 Group RAF, which controlled the air defence radar network across Britain, operated from Oxenden House (now demolished) off Plantation Road. [20][21]

The Great Train Robbery[edit]

The Great Train Robbery took place in 1963 at Bridego Bridge just outside Leighton Buzzard. The robbers were held at the Old Police Station on Wing Road Linslade while waiting to be seen by the local magistrate after being captured a month after the robbery.[22]

Leighton Buzzard station was the location for part of the film Robbery, which is based on the ‘Great Train Robbery’.

Telephone exchange[edit]

The UK's first and only TXE1 electronic telephone exchange went into service here in 1968.[citation needed] The large building, built on the site of the former Lake House, that housed this and later exchanges, can be found in Lake Street.


The population of Leighton-Linslade was originally recorded in the 2001 census as 32,417.[23] Part of Billington parish was transferred in 2003 to Leighton-Linslade, and the revised census result including this area was 32,753.[24] At the 2011 census, the population of the Leighton-Linslade built-up area was recorded by the Office for National Statistics as 37,469,[2] and was estimated to have reached 43,203 in 2020.[25]

The town is expanding southwards, with the development of sites in southern Leighton Buzzard[26] through the Southern Leighton Buzzard Development Brief.[27] It is also expanding eastwards, with several developments forming the Eastern Leighton Linslade Urban Extension Scheme.[28]

Places of interest[edit]

The town is home to the Leighton Buzzard Light Railway, a narrow gauge heritage railway, one of England's longest at just under 3 miles (4.8 km) long and oldest narrow-gauge lines, with an extensive collection of locomotives and rolling stock.[29]

The Grand Union Canal runs through the town, alongside the River Ouzel.

All Saints' Church, an Early English parish church dating from 1277. The church is the starting point for the annual Wilkes Walk, described as "a curious procession of the church choir, clergy, and churchwardens across town to the alms houses in North Street."[30] The church was damaged by fire in the 1980s, but has since undergone restoration.

The town has a combined library and theatre (called the Library Theatre) where both live events and film screenings are regularly held.[31]

Rushmere Country Park and Stockgrove Country Park are in nearby Heath and Reach. The National Trust-operated country home Ascott House is located 2 miles (3 km) from the town in neighbouring Buckinghamshire.


The NatWest bank at Leighton Buzzard in the style of an Italian palazzo is an example of Neo-Renaissance architecture.
High Street, Leighton Buzzard. The former "Bassett's Bank" (now Barclays) designed by Alfred Waterhouse.

Leighton Buzzard is close to the M1 motorway and A5 road, and is served by London Northwestern Railway services on the West Coast Main Line railway at Leighton Buzzard railway station (in Linslade). The railway operates non-stop commuting services to Euston railway station, with the fastest journey times less than 30 minutes.

The majority of Leighton Buzzard's bus services are operated by Arriva Shires & Essex. Services F70 and F77 provide a direct bus rapid transit service to Milton Keynes and Luton via the Luton to Dunstable Busway, with an onward connection to Luton Airport[32] Arriva also operate the X4 service through the town between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes, as well as several local town services. Z&S and Red Rose also operate bus services into Leighton Buzzard which serve local estates and surrounding villages.[33][34][35]


Leighton Buzzard is now home to several UK head offices for national and international firms. Connells Group, the estate agents' chains, have their head offices in the town, as do the UK operations of Tupperware and Grundfos. FTSE 250 company Rightmove had their first ever office in the town, which at the time consisted of just 25 employees. Leighton Buzzard is also home to the Vinci SA Technology Centre, where technology for London's new Crossrail stations was tested.[36] Since 2014, the town has had its own brewery.[37]

The town has a sizeable sand quarrying industry, with good enough quality building sand to export to Egypt. The town is, or has at one time been, the home to various other industries including B/E Aerospace (Aircraft Interiors), Polyformes, Lipton Tea which has now closed down, Gossard clothing, and Lancer Boss (forklifts, etc.).


Leighton Buzzard is in the civil parish of Leighton-Linslade, in the Central Bedfordshire district. Historically, Leighton Buzzard was a civil parish in its own right: in 1961, its parish had a population of 11,745.[38] On 1 April 1965 the parish was merged with Linslade to form "Leighton Linslade".[39]


Leighton Buzzard is represented by the sporting teams of Leighton Town F.C. who play football in the Spartan South Midlands Football League. Also at the Bell Close Site are Leighton Buzzard Tennis Club who have been a part of the town since the 1930s. Leighton Buzzard Hockey Club[40] established in 1901, play field hockey and run 4 Men's and 4 Ladies teams of all ability. The Men's teams play in the South Hockey League[41] and the Ladies teams play in the 5 Counties Hockey League.[42] Leighton Buzzard Hockey Club[43] also have junior sides; starting age of 5. Leighton Buzzard R.F.C. play rugby union in South West 1 East and the Ladies rugby team play in NC South East North 2.[44]

Leighton Buzzard Golf Club was established in 1925 and there is also an active running club, Leighton Buzzard Athletics Club. Established in 2011 Leighton Buzzard Road Cycling Club is a cycling club for riders of all abilities. Their race team LBRCC-Solgar compete in local, as well as national, cycling events.[45] Established in 2000, Leighton Linslade Croquet Club, a member of the Croquet Association, have three croquet lawns in Pages Park next to the pavilion.

A greyhound racing track was opened by the Leighton Buzzard Greyhound Racing Association. The track which was located on Bridge Meadows, a flood plain and wharfage between the Grand Union Canal and the River Ouze, south of Bridge Street and is believed to have opened during 1931. The racing was independent (not affiliated to the sports governing body the National Greyhound Racing Club) known as a flapping track, which was the nickname given to independent tracks.[46][47] The date of closure is not known.


Local news and television programmes are provided by BBC East and ITV Anglia.

Local radio stations are BBC Three Counties Radio on 103.8 FM, Heart East on 97.6 FM, Greatest Hits Radio Bucks, Beds and Herts (formerly Mix 96) on 96.2 FM.

The Leighton Buzzard Observer is the town's local newspaper.[48]


Lower schools[edit]

  • Beaudesert Lower School – Apennine Way
  • Clipstone Brook Lower School – Brooklands Drive
  • Greenleas School – Derwent Road
  • Greenleas School, Sandhills – Kestrel Way
  • Dovery Down Lower School – Heath Road
  • Heathwood Lower School – Heath Road
  • Leedon Lower School – Highfield Road
  • Linslade Lower School – Leopold Road
  • Mary Bassett Lower School – Bassett Road
  • Pulford VA C of E Lower School – Pulford Road
  • The Rushmere Park Academy – East Street
  • St Leonard's (Heath & Reach) V A Lower School – Thrift Road
  • Southcott Lower School – Bideford Green

Middle schools[edit]

  • Brooklands Middle School – a school near the south east edge of the town.
  • Gilbert Inglefield Academy – next door to Vandyke Upper School.
  • Leighton Middle School[49] – in the centre of the town, Mary Norton, who wrote 'The Borrowers' books, lived there in her childhood.
  • Linslade School (Middle) – Situated over the road from Cedars.

Upper schools[edit]

  • Cedars Upper School – Located on the west edge of town, in Linslade, adjoined to Tiddenfoot Leisure Centre. Cedars was once a grammar school.
  • Vandyke Upper School – Situated on the east edge of town, on Vandyke Road.

Other schools[edit]

  • Oak Bank School – located on Sandy Lane.

Further education[edit]

Twin towns[edit]

Leighton Buzzard was twinned with Coulommiers in France in 1958. The twinning was renewed in 1982. It was also twinned with Titisee-Neustadt in Germany in 1991.

Notable people[edit]

Ferdinand de Rothschild, ca.1880
Charlotte Dujardin, 2012

Nearby places[edit]


Leighton Buzzard experiences an oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb) similar to almost all of the United Kingdom.

Climate data for Leighton Buzzard
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 6
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 3
Average precipitation mm (inches) 69.3
Source: [62]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Leighton Buzzard (Central Bedfordshire)". Retrieved 30 March 2024.
  2. ^ a b UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – Leighton Buzzard (built-up area) (E34003354)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics.
  3. ^ William Page, ed. (1912). "Parishes : Leighton Buzzard". A History of the County of Bedford. Victoria History of the Counties of England. Vol. 3. London: Constable & Co. Ltd. pp. 399–417.
  4. ^ Wedgwood, Hensleigh (1855). "On False Etymologies". Transactions of the Philological Society (6): 67.
  5. ^ "Our Building – All Saints Leighton Buzzard". allsaintslb.org.uk. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  6. ^ Plea Rolls of the Court of Common Pleas; National Archives; year: 1424;; image seen at: http://aalt.law.uh.edu/AALT1/H6/CP40no654/aCP40no654fronts/IMG_0378.htm; second entry, with William Judde as the plaintiff; His surname appears at the start of line 2.
  7. ^ "About | Leighton Buzzard Markets". Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  8. ^ "Listed Buildings in Leighton-Linslade, Central Bedfordshire". britishlistedbuildings.co.uk. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  9. ^ "Alfred Waterhouse". Leighton Linslade Town Council. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  10. ^ Historic England. "Fire Station, Market Square (South Island Site) (1114566)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 19 December 2021.
  11. ^ "Ascott, Buckinghamshire, England | Rothschild Family". family.rothschildarchive.org. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  12. ^ "The Society of Friends in Leighton Buzzard". bedsarchives.bedford.gov.uk. 21 June 2019. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  13. ^ "Leighton Buzzard Union Workhouse". bedsarchives.bedford.gov.uk. 21 June 2019. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  14. ^ "Leighton Buzzard Union Isolation Hospital". Bedfordshire Archives. 7 August 2023. Retrieved 8 August 2023.
  15. ^ a b Rogers, Sarah (2022). 'A Maker of Matrons’? A study of Eva Lückes’s influence on a generation of nurse leaders:1880–1919' (Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Huddersfield, April 2022)
  16. ^ Jane Sarah Downer, RG13/1507, 14; The General Record Office, The England and Wales census 1901 for Grove, Leighton Buzzard, Buckinghamshire; The National Archives, Kew [Available at: www.ancestry.co.uk, accessed on 21 January 2018]
  17. ^ Jane Downer, RG14/8971, 26; The General Record Office, The England and Wales Census 1911 for Grove, Leighton Buzzard, Buckinghamshire; The National Archives, Kew [Available at: www.ancestry.co.uk, accessed on 27 October 2017]
  18. ^ Jane Sarah Downer, Register of Probationers; RLHLH/N/1/5, 74; Barts Health NHS Trust Archives and Museums, London
  19. ^ Jane Sarah Downer, Register of Sisters and Nurses; RLHLH/N/4/1/207; Barts Health NHS Trust Archives and Museums, London
  20. ^ Paul Brown and Edwin Herbert (eds.), The Secrets of Q Central: How Leighton Buzzard Shortened the Second World War. The History Press, 2015. ISBN 0750960728
  21. ^ Oxenden House, Leighton Buzzard. 1962–1974.
  22. ^ "Leighton-Linslade Past Times - Tour". www.leighton-linslade.com. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  23. ^ Office for National Statistics, 2001 Census Parish Headcounts for Leighton-Linslade.
  24. ^ Bedfordshire County Council, Urban Area Profile for Leighton Linslade Archived 12 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  25. ^ "Leighton Buzzard". CityPopulation.de.
  26. ^ "Southern Leighton Buzzard -". slb.uk.com.
  27. ^ "CMIS Home". agendas.luton.gov.uk. Customer services, Town Hall, George Street, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU1 2BQ. Archived from the original on 11 August 2011. Retrieved 10 June 2010.
  28. ^ "East of Leighton Linslade Framework Plan" (PDF). centralbedfordshire.gov.uk. 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 November 2018. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  29. ^ Train site retrieved 7 August 2007
  30. ^ Express, Britain. "Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire". Britain Express. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  31. ^ Theatre Site retrieved 7 August 2007
  32. ^ "F70 Timetable". bustimes. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  33. ^ "F77 Timetable". bustimes. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  34. ^ "Routes & Timetables". Busway. Luton Borough Council. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  35. ^ "Bus timetables and bus routes". centralbedfordshire.gov.uk. Central Bedfordshire Council. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  36. ^ "Glimpse of the future as mock-up Crossrail station revealed". Crossrail. Archived from the original on 22 November 2014. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  37. ^ "Craft Beer | Bedfordshire | Leighton Buzzard Brewing Company". Leighton Buzzard Brewery. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  38. ^ "Population statistics Leighton Buzzard CP/AP through time". A Vision of Britain through Time. Retrieved 31 January 2023.
  39. ^ "Leighton Buzzard Registration District". UKBMD. Retrieved 31 January 2023.
  40. ^ "Leighton Buzzard Hockey Club". pitchero.com.
  41. ^ "South Hockey League - Welcome". south-league.com.
  42. ^ Administrator. "Welcome to the 5 Counties Women's Hockey League". 5counties.co.uk.
  43. ^ "Leighton Buzzard Hockey Club". pitchero.com.
  44. ^ http://www.buzzardrugby.co.uk/2011a/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=467:ladies-rugby&catid=21:ladies-rugby-news&Itemid=34 [dead link]
  45. ^ "LBRCC". Members.lbrcc.co.uk. Archived from the original on 18 April 2013. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
  46. ^ Barnes, Julia (1988). Daily Mirror Greyhound Fact File. Ringpress Books. ISBN 0-948955-15-5.
  47. ^ "Leighton Buzzard Greyhound Racing Association - 24 July". Bucks Herald - Aylesbury. 1931.
  48. ^ "Leighton Buzzard Observer". British Papers. 5 March 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2023.
  49. ^ "Ofsted – Leighton Middle School". ofsted.gov.uk. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  50. ^ Seccombe, Thomas (1897). "Sclater, William (1575-1626)" . Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 50. pp. 447–448.
  51. ^ Henderson, Thomas Finlayson (1885). "Backwell, Edward" . Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 2.
  52. ^ Seccombe, Thomas (1901). "Rothschild, Ferdinand James de" . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography (1st supplement). London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  53. ^ Leighton Buzzard at ESPNcricinfo
  54. ^ "FIRST OFFICER ERNEST ARTHUR DAVID KEMPSTER". Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.
  55. ^ "Mary Norton - Author - Leighton Buzzard , Beds - Blue Plaques on Waymarking.com". www.waymarking.com. Retrieved 5 December 2020.
  56. ^ 'Deaths', in The Times, 10 April 1980, p. 26
  57. ^ Andrew Barrow, "Obituary: Philip O'Connor", The Independent, 2 June 1998.
  58. ^ "Sir Nicholas Bonsor, Right-wing Eurosceptic MP who served under John Major – obituary". The Telegraph. 30 March 2023. Retrieved 30 March 2023.
  59. ^ "Trusty Rusty".
  60. ^ Dunn, Matthew (10 August 2012). "Charlotte Dujardin's lost days at school". Express.co.uk. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  61. ^ "Leighton Buzzard snooker player blasts pandemic risk takers who are putting lives in jeopardy". www.leightonbuzzardonline.co.uk. Retrieved 5 December 2020.
  62. ^ "Averages for Leighton Buzzard". Archived from the original on 29 January 2013.


External links[edit]