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Dunstable Borough records

Dunstable municipal boroughs was created in 1864, largely as the result of rapid population increase, urban development, and the construction of railways in the nineteenth century.

This article looks at the records created Dunstable boroughs up until 1974. This will chiefly cover material which is held here at the Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service, but substantial quantities of records are still retained by the respective authorities. It is often incorrectly claimed that the records were totally destroyed in the fire at the Town Hall during the Peace Riots of 1919.

In early times Dunstable was a royal borough,refounded by Henry I in the early 12th century as a new town on the site of the former Roman settlement at the junction of Watling Street and Icknield Way. The royal borough was under the control of the Priory until 1540, but after the Dissolution the townsmen did not succeed in retaining independent borough status. The town became a manorial borough, held with the Honour of Ampthill and by other owners - who received the market tolls and other dues - until 1839 when it reverted to the Crown. Dunstable finally became a municipal borough in 1864.

We hold the main minutes of the Borough Council [Refs: BorDM/1-3 and BorDMC1] as well as its committees, the financial records, correspondence, and a range of other records. The Dunstable Borough charter of 1864 is held here [Ref: BorDV11/1] together with the registration document for the Borough Arms [Ref: BorDV11/7] and other papers dealing with the extension of the Borough boundaries.

The records of the various sub-committees demonstrate the increasing scope of the work of the Borough, particularly after the First World War. Separate housing committee minutes were kept from 1920 [Ref: BorDMC] followed by separate minutes for rating (1927), public health (1937), highways (1939), general purposes (1939), parks and allotments (1940) and horticulture (1942).

Another important class of records is the collection of building plans for the period 1864-1945, which has not only been listed in detail, but also has indexes of streets, places, builders and architects [Ref: BorDP series]. There is an accompanying set of registers of building plans, 1864-1974 [Ref: BorDPR series].

The records of the Manor of Dunstable in the Borough collection include Court books for 1743-1799 [Ref: BorDV5/1] and 1814-1845 [Ref: BorDV5/3] and deeds to Priory House for 1694-1839 [Ref: BorDV13 series].