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.
Here was formerly a Cistercian cell to Woburn Abbey, founded in the reign of Henry III., also a priory cell at Grovebury, subordinate to Fontevrault Abbey in Normandy. The town of Leighton has considerably increased since the formation of the railway. It comprises one wide street branching off at the market-place to the right and left. It is paved and well lighted with gas. It contains many well-built houses and shops. There has lately been built by subscription a corn exchange with assembly rooms, &c., at a cost of £7,000. The market is considered the first in the county for corn, cattle, &c. Near the market-house, which was rebuilt in 1852, is an ancient stone cross of five sides, 27 feet in height, on a base of 7¼ feet. It is in the early English style of architecture, and is supposed to have been built in the 13th century. Near the summit are niched figures of a bishop, Virgin and Child, &c. In the town are two banks,' a savings-bank, temperance hall, union poorhouse, &c. The town is under the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, and is a polling place for the county elections. Courts leet and baron are held in Whitsun week, also on the last Thursday and Friday in October, by Colonel Hanmer, as lord of the manor. A considerable trade is carried on in timber, iron, lime, bricks, corn, &c. A portion of the female inhabitants are employed in the manufacture of lace and straw plait. Leighton Poor-law Union includes 16 parishes or townships, 10 in Buckinghamshire, and 6 in Bedfordshire. It is also the seat of a superintendent registry, and new County Court district. In the neighbourhood is a Roman encampment. The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Ely, value £400, in the patronage of the Prebendary of Leighton-Buzzard in the cathedral of Lincoln. The parish church, dedicated to All Saints, is an ancient cruciform structure, with a tower crowned by an octagonal spire 193 feet high. The interior of the church, which has been re-pewed, contains an old font, stalls, monuments, &c. In addition to the parish church, there are four district churches, at Stanbridge, Billington, Eggington, and Heath with Reach, the livings of all which are perpetual curacies, varying in value from £260 to £94. A new church, designed to be a chapel-of-ease, is now about to be built at the north end of the town; also National schools, which are much required. The parochial charities produce about £599 per annum, including £200, the endowment of Wilkes' almshouses, founded in 1630. There are grammar, Lancastrian, infant, and British schools, the last founded in 1813. The Baptists, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, and Society of Friends, have each a place of worship. Colonel Hanmer, K.H., of Stockgrove, is lord of the manor. Market day is Tuesday. Extensive horse and cattle fairs are held on 5th February, second Tuesday in April, Whit-Tuesday, 26th July, 24th October, and the second Tuesday prior to Christmas Day. The wool fair, which is the largest in the county, is held on the first Friday in July.