It was first inhabited in Paleolithic times as well as there were Saxon and Roman towns in the near vacitiny. Accoring to the Domesday Book at the time, the population of Luton was only 700 people.
The area was settled as early as Paleolithic times, and there were Roman and Saxon towns here as well.
Much of Luton's prosperity was based on its regular livestock markets, though by the 17th Century these were being challenged by an emerging industry in straw plaiting.
The straw was often worked into straw hats, and the hat-making and brewing industries bolstered Luton's economy for many years. It was not until the 1930s that hat making ceased to be a major employer in Luton. More recently Luton is best known as the home of London Luton Airport, which is a major employer for the area.
St. Mary's Church was originally built in 931 AD, but the early Saxon church was replaced by the present one in the 12th Century. Large sections of the exterior were remodeled in the 15th Century in a chequer pattern of flint and stone. Cardinal Wolsey was a patron of the church, and the west door (1530) is named after him.
The interior is notable for its wonderful screens, especially the double-arched "Wenlock screen" on the north side, which came from Luton Hoo. Beneath the screen are the tombs of William Wenlock (d. 1392) and Lady Alice Rotherham. The 14th Century baptistery was presented by Queen Phillippa, wife of Edward III, when the crown held the living of St. Mary's.
Stockwood Park and conservatory is home to the Luton Craft Museum, Period Gardens, and the Mossman Collection of horse-drawn vehicles.
The Luton area is set near the Chiltern Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Icknield Way long distance path runs through Luton on its way from Warden and Gallery Hills to Dunstable.
A riverside walk to London is waymarked through Luton town centre with tiles showing a swan motif.
The Luton Museum and Art Gallery is located in a Victorian mansion, and showcases lace, costume, local and natural history and a special childhood exhibit. As metioned earlier Luton has a long history of hat making, which is celebrated in a special hat gallery.
Stockwood Craft Museum explores life in rural Bedfordshire, with displays of country life, crafts and trades. The Period Gardens portray 900 years of English gardening history. As part of the same complex, the Mossman Collection displays over 70 varieties of horse-drawn vehicles. In the same building, the Luton Transport Gallery brings the history of transport into the 20th Century.
Just north of Luton is Sharpenhoe Clappers, an Iron Age hill fort with excellent views.
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