Luton Visitor information
Luton is a large town situated in Bedfordshire, England, 30 miles north of London. Luton is home to League 2 team Luton Town Football Club, whose history includes several spells in the top flight of the English league as well as a Football League Cup triumph in 1988. They play at Kenilworth Road stadium, which has been their home since 1905.
London Luton Airport, opened in 1938, is one of England's major airports. During the Second World War it doubled as an RAF base. The University of Bedfordshire is based in the town.
The Luton Carnival, which has traditionally been held on the Whitsun May bank holiday, is the largest one-day carnival in Europe. It has for the past two years been held on the Sunday instead. In 2012, it was moved to July to coincide with the Olympic Torch Relay and celebrations.
The town was for many years famous for hat-making, and was also home to a large Vauxhall Motors factory; the head office of Vauxhall Motors is still situated in the town. Car production at the plant began in 1905 and continued until 2002, where commercial vehicle production remains.
Local attractions include the Chiltern Hills, Someries Castle, Whipsnade Zoo and Wrest Park.
Luton has good links with the City and other parts of the country via the motorway network and the National Rail system. Luton is also home to London Luton Airport, one of the major feeder airports for London and the southeast of the UK. Luton is also served by bus services run by Arriva and Centrebus and a large taxi network.
The earliest settlements in the Luton area were at Round Green and Mixes Hill, where Paleolithic encampments (about 250,000 years old) have been found. Settlements re-appeared after the ice had retreated in the Mesolithic period around 8000 BC. Traces of these settlements have been found in the Leagrave area of the modern town. A particular concentration of Neolithic burials has been found at Galley Hill, but the most prominent Neolithic structure is Waulud's Bank which dates from around 3000 BC. From the Neolithic onwards, the area seems to have been populated, but without any single large settlement.
In 1645, during the English Civil War, royalists entered the town and demanded money and goods. Parliamentary forces arrived and during the fighting four royalist soldiers were killed and a further twenty-two were captured. A second skirmish occurred three years later in 1648 when a royalist army passed through Luton. A number of royalists were attacked by parliamentary soldiers at an inn on the corner of the current Bridge Street. Most of the royalists escaped but nine were killed.
In World War II, the Vauxhall Factory in the town built Churchill tanks as part of the war effort. Despite heavy camouflage, the factory made Luton a target for the Luftwaffe and the town suffered a number of air raids. 107 died and there was extensive damage to the town with over 1,500 homes being damaged or destroyed. Other industry in the town, such as SKF, which produced ball bearings, made a vital contribution to the war effort. Although a bomb landed at the SKF Factory, no major damage was caused.
The pre-war years, even at the turn of the 1930s when a Great Depression saw unemployment reach record levels nationally, were something of an economic boom for Luton, as new industries grew and prospered. New private and council housing was built in the 1920s and 1930s, with Luton growing as a town to incorporate nearby villages Leagrave, Limbury and Stopsley between 1928 and 1933.
In 2000, Vauxhall announced the end of car production in Luton; the plant closed in March 2002. At its peak it had employed in excess of 30,000 people. Vauxhall's headquarters remain in the town, as does its van and light commercial vehicle factory.