See also: Dunnstable Township, Pennsylvania.
Dunstable (/dʌn'stəbəl/) is a market town in Bedfordshire, England. It lies on the eastward tail spurs of the Chiltern Hills, 30 miles north of London. These geographical features form several steep chalk escarpments most noticeable when approaching Dunstable from the north.
Relics of Palæolithic man, such as flint implements and the bones of contemporary wild animals suggest that when the Romans paved the ancient Celtic road later known as Watling Street (the modern A5 trunk road) at the cross roads with the ancient British Icknield Way - there was already some form of settlement.  Traces of Neolithic activity are not in doubt but much of their mystery may be lost under the surrounding Chiltern Hills.
The Romans built a posting station at the site and named the settlement Durocobrivis, which would have survived until their departure from Britain. The area is most likely to have been swarmed by the Saxons, who overran this part of Bedfordshire in about 571.
Up until the 11th century this area of the county is known to have been uncultivated tract covered by woodlands. In 1109 Henry I kick started the next period of activity by responding to this danger to travellers. He instructed areas to be cleared and encouraged settlers with offers of royal favour.
In 1123 a royal residence was built at what is now called the Royal Palace Lodge Hotel on Church Street. The King used the residence to take advantage of the nearby hunting lands.
The Dunstable Priory Church of Saint Peter was founded in 1131 by the King and was later featured as the setting for the divorce between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, which led to the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. The town's charter was granted to the power of the priors in this year.
In 1290 Dunstable was one of twelve sites to erect an Eleanor cross in recognition of Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I, whose coffin was laid close to the crossroads for the local people to mourn the dead Queen. The coffin was then guarded inside the Priory by the Canons overnight before continuing on to St Albans. . The original wooden cross has long perished but a modern memorial remains.
Bedfordshire was one of the counties that supported Parliament during the civil war - nearby St Albans was the head quarters of the Parliamentary party, and troops were occasionally stationed at Dunstable. The town was plundered by King Charles I's soldiers when passing through in June 1644, and Essex's men destroyed the Eleanor Cross.
One of the reasons for the town's prosperity, and the large number of Inns or public houses in the town, is the fact that it was one or two day's ride (approx 32 miles) from London, and therefore a place to rest and spend the night. There are two Pubs which still have coaching gates to the side that show this: the Sugar Loaf in High Street North, and the Saracens Head in High Street South. The Saracens Head, normally a name given to pubs frequented by Knights of the crusades, can be seen to be considerably lower than the road to its front, witness to the fact that the road has been resurfaced a number of times during the lifetime of the pub.
Dunstable's first railway opened in 1848: it was a branch joining the West Coast Main Line at Leighton Buzzard (see Dunstable Branch Lines). A second railway linking Dunstable with Hatfield via Luton opened in 1858. Passenger services to Dunstable were withdrawn in 1965, but the line between Dunstable and Luton remained open for freight traffic for many years.
The nineteenth century saw the straw hat making industry come to the fore and subsequently decline to be replaced in the early twentieth century by the printing and motor vehicle industries with companies such as Waterlows and Vauxhall respectively. But with the closure of the main factories and the decline of manufacturing in the area, this distinctiveness has been lost.
Retail trade was traditionally concentrated along the main North-South High Street (Watling Street) but in 1966 The Quadrant shopping centre was constructed and became the main retail centre of Dunstable. Additionally in 1985 the Eleanor's Cross retail area was developed to cater mainly for smaller independent shops.
With the advent of out of town retail parks Dunstable Town Centre, along with many other market towns has suffered a decline in overall retail trade. Few original independent shops remain, of the oldest Moore's Of Dunstable, Dunstable's original department store since 1908 closed in 2008, leaving The Cottage Garden Flower Shop of Chiltern Road, established in 1898 as the oldest independent retail business still trading.
In Roman times its name was Durocobrivis. There are three theories concerning its modern name. Legend tells us the lawlessness of the time was personified in a thief called Dun. Wishing to capture Dun, the King stapled his ring to a post daring the robber to steal it. It was, and was subsequently traced to the house of the widow Dun. Her son, the robber, was taken and hanged to the final satisfaction that the new community bore his name. The second is that it comes from Anglo-Saxon Dunstaple, meaning "Hill Market". The third is that it derives from the Saxon for "the boundary post of Duna".
The oldest part of the town is along the Icknield Way and Watling Street where they cross. These roads split the rest of the town into four quadrants which have each been developed in stages.
The north-west quadrant started to be developed in the nineteenth century when the British Land Company laid out the roads around Victoria Street. The development of the Beecroft area began with the houses around Worthington Road; after World War II the borough council extended the estate up to Westfield Road with its shops, and then up to Aldbanks. The war-time site of the Meteorological Office, where the road Weatherby is now, was redeveloped by George Wimpey and others. At the north of the town there is an estate originally marketed as French's Gate Estate, and at the west of the town there is an area of houses on Lancot Hill.
The south-west quadrant has largely been developed since World War II. There are three main estates. In the Lake District Estate all the streets are named after places in the Lake District and Cumbria; the estate includes a parade of shops on Langdale Road. It was originally called the Croft Golf Course Estate and was built by Laing Homes. Oldhill Down Estate around the Lowther Road shops was developed by William Old Ltd, and the Stipers Hill Estate around Seamons Close was initially created by the Land Settlement Association.
In the south-east quadrant, the area around Great Northern Road was developed at the end of the nineteenth century as Englands Close Estate and Borough Farm Estate. The Downside Estate including the shops on Mayfield Road was planned by the borough council in 1951.
The north-east quadrant is a mainly commercial and civic area, the result of redevelopment in the early 1960s. But the site of the Waterlows printing works around Printers Way is now occupied by houses built in the 1990s. The Northfields Estate at the north of the town was completed by the borough council in 1935.
Further east, near the border with Luton, there is another area that has largely been developed since World War II. To the south of Luton Road, Jeansway was completed after the war; to the north, Poynters Estate and Hadrian Estate were built on either side of Katherine Drive, where there is a parade of shops. The area also includes the Woodside Estate which contains most of the factories and warehouses that still exist in Dunstable.
The town lies in the parliamentary constituency of South West Bedfordshire. Since June 2001 Leighton Buzzard based lawyer Andrew Selous has won election to representation on behalf of the Conservative party . For many years previous David Madel was MP for the district.
Dunstable is now one of the largest towns in England without a railway connection. Without access to a rail station Dunstable's inhabitants and visitors rely almost solely on the motor car for transportation. Although congested, the town's roads provide the means to connect to the country's motorways systems with ease.
The A5 trunk road lies at the heart of Dunstable's transport infrastructure, directing movement north and south. This movement is additionally complemented by the M1 motorway which is located east of the town in Luton. The nearest motorway junction is J11, which is about two miles to the east of the town centre via the A505.
As part of a solution to Dunstable's growing traffic problems proposals for a Northern Bypass A5 - M1 Link road have been submitted. These comprise of a two-lane dual carriageway running east from the A5 north of Dunstable to join the M1 at a new Junction 11a south of Chalton. The proposal is currently awaiting the results of an ongoing review of the M1 widening scheme as any changes to this scheme could potentially affect the bypass proposals. Until these results are released plans for the Dunstable Northern Bypass cannot proceed . Following the Highways Agencies decision to drop claims for the Dunstable Eastern Bypass, the Woodside Connection is also currently under scrutiny.
Several bus routes operate throughout the town and link with the larger terminals in Luton. There have been a number of campaigns for the re-establishment of a passenger railway; although none of them has proved to be successful, plans are now going ahead for a guided bus service, "The Luton to Dunstable Busway", between central Dunstable and London Luton Airport via Luton town centre, much of which will run along the lines of the old track. This project too has been steeped in delays and problems.
Since its opening in April 2007 the Grove Theatre has replaced the Queensway Hall as the town's premier arts centre, located within the council owned Grove Gardens.
National and local productions take place regularly at this cornerstone of Dunstable's cultural exploits. Additional facilities include units fit for six bars or restaurants along with a 1,000 seated auditorium. (Currently a Wetherspoons entitled The Gary Cooper, an Italian, and a Dim Sum restaurant have opened.)
One of the town's little gems is that of the Little Theatre, home of the Dunstable Rep Theatre Group that also hosts dramatic performances throughout the year. The auditorium, once part of the Chews Trust was fully opened in 1964 by Bernard Bresslaw. It sits next to the historic Chews House on High Street South. The town also has numerous amateur dramatics societies that perform several shows a year. These include 'The Square Drama Circle' and 'Dunstable Amateur Operatics Society'.
Along with several parks and open spaces kept by South Bedfordshire District Council, Dunstable Leisure Centre is operated by Leisure Connection Ltd on the council's behalf. It houses a 25-metre swimming pool, squash courts, a large hall, extensive fitness studio, indoor bowling green and multi-use outdoor pitch. It is situated next door to the newly-built Grove Theatre, a modern 24-lane ten-pin bowling centre and Dunstable College.
The town is home to Dunstable Town Football Club, former club of such names as George Best, Jeff Astle, Barry Fry and Kerry Dixon, who are currently in Southern Football League Division One Midlands (Step 4). . There is also a Rugby Union team that plays in RFU Midlands 1 (level 5) called Dunstablians.
Within the town, there is the modern Grove Theatre, newly refurbished Priory House Heritage Centre (free to the public), and the Priory Church where Henry VIII formalised his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. There is shopping in the heart of the town at the Quadrant Shopping Centre; across High Street North there is a secondary area called Eleanor's Cross Shopping Precinct with a modern statue commemorating the original cross. Nearby Luton has the Waulud's Bank prehistoric henge and Luton Museum & Art Gallery.
Dunstable Downs, a chalky escarpment outside the town, is a popular site for kite flying, paragliding, and hang gliding, while the London Gliding Club provides a base for conventional gliding and other air activities at the bottom of the Downs. Further into the countryside are the open-range Whipsnade Zoo, a garden laid out in the form of a cathedral at Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, and the Totternhoe Knolls motte-and-bailey castle.
Upper schools include:
Dunstable is twinned with: