[Transcribed and edited information from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868]
"LEIGHTON BUZZARD, a parish, post, and market town in the hundred of Manshead, county Bedford, 18 miles south west of Bedford, and 41 from London. It has a station on the London and North-Western railway, which here passes through a slightly carved tunnel 272 yards in length; there is also a branch here to Dunstable. It is situated on the east bank of the river Ouse, or Ousel, over which is a bridge leading into Buckinghamshire, and near the Grand Junction canal, which is navigable for vessels of eighty tons. The parish, which is of large extent, contains the chapelries of Billington, Eggington, Stanbridge, and Heath with Reach. The soil is in general fertile, but there is a considerable tract of common, now enclosed. The proper adjunct to its name is "Beau Desert," corrupted into Buzzard. It is supposed to be the Lygeanburg of the Saxon Chronicle, which Cuthwulph took from the Britons in 671." (There is more of this description).
The 1868 Gazetteer description of the following places in Leighton Buzzard is to be found on a supplementary page.
The church of All Saints, formerly Collegiate, is a spacious cruciform embattled structure, principally of the Early English period, and consisting of chancel with an ancient vestry on the north, nave, aisles, transepts, north, south and west porches, and a central tower with pinnacles and octagonal spire, containing 8 bells : the windows, nine of which are stained, are nearly all Perpendicular, and some have very good tracery : the chancel retains its stalls, and there is some good screen work, and an eagle lectern of wood, with traces of colour, and a chain for a padlock attached ; the western door is ornamented with wrought ironwork, the work of John de Leighton ; the font, an early example, has a circular bulging basin, on a short round columnar base, surrounded by four shafts, the capitals of which are level with the rim of the basin : there are monuments to William Jackman, gent. 1592; Francis Willis, gent 1646, and his wife Margaret (Saunders), and Catherine, wife of Richard Whitlock, gent. 1649: the church was thoroughly restored in 1842 and 1852, and again in 1885-6, at a cost of over £3,000, and was re-opened July 10th, 1886; in 1893 the spire was re-pointed, the vane repaired and a new lightning conductor erected. The register dates from the year 1562, and includes the earlier registers of Billington, Eggington, Heath and Roach, and some part of Stanbridge. The church of St. Andrew, erected in 1866-7 as a chapel of ease, at a cost of £3,800, and consecrated July 11, 1867, is a building in the Early Decorated style, with some French details, and consists of chancel, nave, aisles, vestry, organ chamber and a tower 110 feet high, with an octagonal belfry, surmounted by eight perforated gablets, terminating in trefoil heads : the church will seat 600 persons. [Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898]
The Baptist Chapel in Hockliffe street, was erected in 1892 at a cost of £4,000 and affords 700 sittings. The Primitive Methodist chapel in North street, an edifice of brick and stone in the Gothic style, was built in 1890 at a cost of £2,342, and will seat 500. The Wesleyan chapel in Hockliffe street, erected in 1864 at a cost of £5,000, has 1,500 sittings and two stained windows, one of which and six tablets are memorials to former ministers; there is mother Baptist chapel in Lake street and a meeting house, with cemetery attached, for the Society of Friends. [Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898]
Church of England (Billington)
The church of St. Michael is a small oblong building, of the Late Decorated period, with some Perpendicular portions, and consists of chancel, nave and a western turret containing 1 bell: the chancel retains a trefoil-headed piscina. The existing register dates from the year 1653; the earlier registers form part of those of Leighton Buzzard. [Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898]
There are Wesleyan and, Primitive .Methodist chapels here. [Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898]
Church of England (Eggington)
The church of St. Michael is a small building of the 13th century, in the Early English and Early Decorated styles, consisting of chancel and nave and a small western turret, containing 2 bells, and there is a trefoiled Decorated piscilla in the south wall : the church was entirely restored in 1883, at a cost of £1,200, when a beautiful stained east window was erected to the memory of the Rev. Thomas L. J. Sunderland M.A. formerly curate of the parish and rector of Tilsworth, 1833 : the font dates from the 12th century : the church will seat 140 persons. The earlier register is included in that of Leighton Buzzard and dates from the year 1653, but there is a separate register for the parish, of marriages from 1844; baptisms, 1813 and burials, 1835. [Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898]
Here are Congregational and Wesleyan chapels. [Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898]
Church of England (Heath and Reach)
The church of St. Leonard, rebuilt with the exception of the tower, in 1829, is a plain building in the Gothic style, consisting of chancel, nave, south porch, and a low embattled western tower containing one bell; the chancel was added, and the whole church newly seated in 1866. The earlier register is included in that of Leighton Buzzard, which dates from 1562: there is a separate register from the year 1813. [Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898]
Non-conformist (Heath and Reach)
There is a Baptist chapel, a Primitive Methodist chapel; built in 1863, and a Wesleyan chapel, built in 1877. [Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898]
Church of England (Stanbridge)
The church of St. John the Baptist is a building of the 13th century, in the Early English style, consisting of chancel, clerestoried nave of four bays, aisles, south porch and an embattled western tower containing 5 bells: the church was altered in the 19th century, the nave roof flattened and leaded, and Perpendicular windows inserted: there is an ancient stone font, of very early, possibly Saxon, date: in the north wall of the chancel is a low side window, and at the west end of the north aisle a curious quatrefoil window: the church was re-opened in 1893, after complete restoration, at a cost of £2,100. The register dates from the year 1360. [Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898]
Here is a Wesleyan chapel, built in 1870, and a Primitive Methodist chapel, built in 1860. [Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898]
The parish record transcripts for St. Leonard can be found in the registers of Leighton Buzzard and these are available on microfiche for the period 1562-1812 from the Bedfordshire Family History Society.
There is an index being compiled by Barbara Quick ( firstname.lastname@example.org), and is an on-going project. The index, so far, covers the first Leighton Buzzard Observer, published 1st January 1861, and covers the earliest surviving paper and is an ongoing project with the index being updated regularly.
The Leighton Buzzard & District Archaeological & Historical Society was formed in 2006 by a merger of the Leighton Buzzard & District Archaeological Society and the Leighton Linslade Local History Research Group, both groups having been involved in local research for a number of years. Their focus is on the local landscape, with research into how human activity has changed that landscape and the impact that local people and industries have made.