Luton is an ancient English town with its roots going back to Paleolithic settlements made c250.000 years ago. From the Neolithic period onwards the area seems to have been populated. The first urban settlements were Roman remains of scattered farmhouses.Luton is recorded in the Domesday Book as Loitone or Lintone when agriculture dominated the local economy. In 1137 Robert 1st Earl of Gloucester completed work on St. Mary's Church. The castle built in 1139 was demolished in 1154 and is now the site of the Matalan Store! During the Middle Ages Luton had 6 windmills, Mill Street in the town centre takes its name from one of these. In 1240 the town is recorded as Leueton, and in 1336 it was totally destroyed by a great fire. An important brick industry was developed so that many of the older wooden houses were replaced and rebuilt in brick. The hat making industry was developed in the 17th century and this industry became synonymous with Luton, and dominated the town in the 18th century. Hats are still produced in Luton but on a small scale. In 1801 the population was c3.000, by 1850 it was over 10.000, and by 1901 it was 39.000. Now the population of Luton is c240.000. Utilities, railways, water, gas etc all came in the mid 19th century, and in 1885 the football club was founded. The hat trade went seriously into decline in the 20th century, but in 1905 Vauxhall Motors built the largest car plant in the United Kingdom there, and Electrolux built their household appliances plant in Luton. The original Town Hall was burnt down by the people in 1919 due to general dissatisfaction after the 1st World War and was rebuilt in 1938. The town suffered serious air raids by the Luftwaffe during the 2nd World War because they were involved in the building of the Churchill tank. Slum clearance continued after WW2, and sadly a large part of the ancient town was cleared to make way for the shopping Centre - The Arndal opened 1972. In 2000 Vauxhall announced the end of car production and the plant closed in 2002. At its peak Vauxhall employed 30.000 workers, but does at least continue to make light commercial vehicles. There is a major refurbishment of the town underway at the moment but Luton has become a largely service based economy with some light industry, it is a major location for the University of Bedfordshire.
Luton has had several waves of immigration. The Scottish and the Irish during the early part of the 20th century, followed by Afro-Caribbean and Asian immigrants, and more recently immigrants from Eastern Europe. Only 63% of the people are employed in Luton, and unfortunately Luton has now become renowned for its extreme polarisation of views. The English Defense League operate from Luton, and several terrorist incidents appear to have had their inception in the town.
This town from its apparently normal English beginnings has developed into a town now labelled 'a hot bed of terrorism.' How could it get that way, and who would have thought it?