DUNSTABLE: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1750.
[Transcribed information from Stephen Whatley's Gazetteer of England - 1750]
(unless otherwise stated)
"DUNSTABLE, (Bedfordshire) 30 cm. 34 mm. from London, stands on a chalky hill at the entrance of the Chiltern, where the old Roman way, Watling-Street, is crossed by Ickneld-Street; and Roman coins have been sometimes picked up near it, which the country-folks called Madning Money. Not far from it also, on the very descent of the Chiltern-Hills, is an area of 9 acres, with a deep ditch and rampart round it, which is called Maiden-Bour. This T. having been ruined by the Danes, was rebuilt by Hen. I. who made it a royal Bor. but it never sent members to Pt. though once summoned in the R. of Edw. II. In 1214 a council was held here by the Abp. of Canterbury. K. Edw. I. erected a cross here, with the arms of England, &c. in memory of his Q. Eleanor, but it was demolished in the civil wars by the Pt. army. Here several of the Lollards were martyred, in the Rs. of Hen. V. and VII. The Ch. is part of a priory, built by Hen. I. and opposite to it is a farm-house, called Kingsbury, once a royal palace. An epitaph in its Ch. mentions a woman here, who had 3 children each at 3 several births, and 3 each at 2 others. The larks taken hereabouts are said to be the largest and best in the Km. The road here, being broad, well-beaten and plain, it being the centre of many roads to London, has given rise to the proverb, " As plain as Dunstable road." Here are 4 streets, answering to the 4 cardinal winds; and, for want of springs here, they have each a publick pond, which, though only supplied by rainwater, are never dry. 'Tis a populous T. and has several good inns; some of which are like palaces, it being a great thoroughfare to the Cos. in the N. and N.W. and consequently to Scotland and Ireland. Its Mt. is W. Fairs Ash-Wed. May 1, and Aug. 1. This place seems, in former times, to have been famous for brewing; and, at this time, the women hereabouts carry on a great mf. of hats, and other conveniencies and utensils made of straw; in which, it is said, they excel all the world. This part of the Co. was formerly very woody, and, together with the fastnesses in the Chiltern-Hills, was a harbour for great gangs of highwaymen; to curb whom, K. Hen. I. built Kingsbury abovementioned, after the T. had been ruined by the Danes, and then re-peopled the place, by promising great privileges to such of his subjects, as were willing to come and settle here."
[Description(s) transcribed by Mel Lockie ©2011]