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Luton ( or locally ) is a town and unitary authority of Bedfordshire, Englandmarker, 32 miles (51 kilometres) north of Londonmarker. Luton, along with its near neighbours of Dunstablemarker and Houghton Regismarker, form the Luton/Dunstable Urban Areamarker with a population of over 230,000.

Luton is home to Blue Square Premier team Luton Town Football Club, whose history includes several spells in the top flight of the English league as well as a Football League Cup triumph. They play at Kenilworth Roadmarker stadium, which has been their home since 1905.

London Luton Airportmarker, opened in 1938, is one of England's major airports. During the Second World War it doubled as an RAF base.

The University of Bedfordshiremarker is based in the town.

The Luton Carnivalmarker, held on the late May bank holiday, is the largest one-day carnival in Europe.

The town was for many years famous for hat-making and was also home to a large Vauxhall Motors factory; the head office of Vauxhall Motors is still situated in the town. Car production at the plant began in 1905 and continued until 2002, but commercial vehicle production remains.


Early history

The earliest settlements in the Luton area were at Round Green and Mixes Hill, where Paleolithic encampments (about 250,000 years old) have been found. Settlements re-appeared after the ice had retreated in the Mesolithic period around 8000 BC. Traces of these settlements have been found in the Leagravemarker area of the modern town. Remains from the Neolithic period (4500-2500 BC in this area) are much more common. A particular concentration of Neolithic burials has been found at Galley Hill. The most prominent Neolithic structure is Waulud's Bankmarker - a henge dating from around 3000 BC. From the Neolithic onwards, the area seems to have been populated, but without any single large settlement.

The first urban settlement nearby was the small Roman town of Durocobrivis at Dunstablemarker, but Roman remains in Luton itself consist only of scattered farmsteads.

The foundation of Luton is usually dated to the 6th century when a Saxon outpost was founded on the River Lea, Lea tun. Luton is recorded in the Domesday Book as Loitone and also as Lintone. Agriculture dominated the local economy at that time, and the town's population was around 700-800.

The Wenlock chapel within St Marys
In 1121 Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester started work on St Mary's Churchmarker in the centre of the town. The work was completed by 1137. A motte and bailey type castle which gives its name to the modern Castle Street was built in 1139. The castle was demolished in 1154 and the site is now home to a Matalan store. During the Middle Ages Luton is recorded as being home to six watermills. Mill Street, in the town centre, takes its name from one of them.

King John (1166-1216) had hired a mercenary soldier, Falkes de Breauté, to act on his behalf. (Breauté is a small town near Le Havremarker in France.) When he married, Falkes de Breauté acquired his wife's house which came to be known as "Fawkes Hall", subsequently corrupted over the years to "Foxhall", then "Vauxhall". In return for his services, King John granted Falkes the manor of Luton. He was also granted the right to bear his own coat of arms and chose the mythical griffin as his heraldic emblem. The griffin thus became associated with both Vauxhall and Luton in the early 13th century.

By 1240 the town is recorded as Leueton. The town had a market for surrounding villages in August each year, and with the growth of the town a second fair was granted each October from 1338.

In 1336, much of Luton was destroyed by a great fire, however the town was soon rebuilt.

The agriculture base of the town changed in the 16th century with a brick making industry developing around Luton, many of the older wooden houses were rebuilt in brick.

17th century

During the English Civil War of the 17th century , in 1645, royalists entered the town and demanded money and goods. Parliamentary forces arrived and during the fighting four royalist soldiers were killed and a further twenty-two were captured. A second skirmish occurred three years later in 1648 when a royalist army passed through Luton. A number of royalists were attacked by parliamentary soldiers at an inn on the corner of the current Bridge Street. Most of the royalists escaped but nine were killed.

18th century

The hat making industry began in the 17th century and became synonymous with the town. By the 18th century the industry dominated the town. Hats are still produced in the town on a much smaller scale.

Luton Hoomarker, a nearby large country house was built in 1767 and substantially rebuilt after a fire in 1843. It is now a luxury hotel.

19th century

A map of Luton from 1888
The town grew strongly in the 19th century. In 1801 the population was 3,095. By 1850 it was over 10,000 and by 1901 it was almost 39,000. Such rapid growth demanded a railway connection but the town had to wait a long time for one. The London and Birmingham Railway (L&BR) had been built through Tringmarker in 1838, and the Great Northern Railway was built through Hitchinmarker in 1852, both bypassing Luton, the largest town in the area. A branch line connecting with the L&BR at Leighton Buzzardmarker was proposed, but because of objections to release of land, construction terminated at Dunstable in 1848. It was another ten years before the branch was extended to Bute Street Stationmarker, and the first train to Dunstable ran on 3 May, 1858. The line was later extended to Welwyn and from 1860 direct trains to King's Crossmarker ran. The Midland Railway was extended from Bedford to St Pancrasmarker through Leagravemarker and Midland Road stationmarker and opened on 9 September 1867.

Luton received a gas supply in 1834. Gas street lights were erected and the first town hall was opened in 1847.

Newspaper printing arrived in the town in 1854. The first public cemetery was opened in the same year. Following a cholera epidemic in 1848 Luton formed a water company and had a complete water and sewerage system by the late 1860s. The first covered market was built (the Plait Halls - now demolished) in 1869. Luton was made a borough in 1876. A professional football club - the first in the south of England - was founded in 1885 following a resolution at the Town Hall that a 'Luton Town Club be formed'.

The crest also includes a hand holding a bunch of wheat, either taken as a symbol of the straw-plaiting industry, or from the arms of John Whethamsteade, Abbott of St Albansmarker, who rebuilt the chancel of St Mary's Churchmarker in the 15th century.

20th century

In the 20th century, the hat trade severely declined and was replaced by other industries. In 1905, Vauxhall Motors opened the largest car plant in the United Kingdommarker in Luton. Electrolux built a household appliances plant which was followed by other light engineering businesses.

In 1904 councillors Asher Hucklesby and Edwin Oakley purchased the estate at Wardown Parkmarker and donated it to the people of Luton. Hucklesby went on to become Mayor of Luton. The main house in the park became Luton Museum & Art Gallerymarker.

The town had a tram system from 1908 until 1932 and the first cinema was opened in 1909. By 1914 the population had reached 50,000.

The original town hall was destroyed in 1919 during Peace Day celebrations at the end of World War I. Local people including many ex-servicemen were unhappy with unemployment and had been refused the use of a local park to hold celebratory events. They stormed the town hall setting it alight (see Luton Town Hallmarker). A replacement building was completed in 1936. London Luton Airportmarker opened in 1938, owned and operated by the council.
In World War II, the Vauxhall Factory built Churchill tanks as part of the war effort. Despite heavy camouflage, the factory made Luton a target for the Luftwaffe and the town suffered a number of air raid. One hundred and seven died and there was extensive damage to the town (over 1,500 homes were damaged or destroyed). Other industry in the town, such as SKF which produced ball bearings, made a vital contribution to the war effort. Although a bomb landed at the SKF Factory no major damage was caused.

Post-war, the slum clearance continued and a number of substantial estates of council housing were built, notably at Farley Hillmarker, Stopsleymarker, Limburymarker, Marsh Farmmarker and Leagravemarker (Hockwell Ringmarker). The M1 motorway passed just to the west of the town in 1959. In 1962 a new library (to replace the cramped Carnegie Library) was opened by the Queen in the corner of St George's Square.

In the late 1960s a large part of the town centre was cleared to build a large covered shopping centre, the Arndale Centre, which was opened in 1972., becoming the first shopping mall in Europe. It was refurbished and given a glass roof in the 1990s.
The town centre still has some of the old hat factories
In 2000, Vauxhall announced the end of car production in Luton; the plant closed in March 2002. At its peak it had employed in excess of 30,000 people. Vauxhall's headquarters remain in the town, as does its van and light commercial vehicle factory.

21st century

A major regeneration programme for the town centre is underway, which will include upgrades to the town's bus and train stations as well as improvements to the town's urban environment. St George's Square has been rebuilt and reopened in 2007. The new design won a Gold Standard Award for the Town Centre Environment from the annual British Council of Shopping Centres awards.

Work is beginning on an extension to the Mall shopping centre facing St Georges Square, The Mall has already let the largest of the new units to TK Maxx. Planning applications for a much larger extension to The Mall Arndale shopping centre (In the Northern gateway area - Bute Stret, Silver Street and Guildford Street) and also for a new centre in Power Court (close to St Marys Churchmarker) have been submitted. On the edge of Luton at Putteridge Burymarker a high-technology office park, Butterfield Green, is under construction. The former Vauxhall site is also to be re-developed as a mixed use site called Napier Park. It will feature housing, retail and entertainment use, including a new casino.


Logo of Luton Unitary Authority
The town is situated within the historic county of Bedfordshire, but since 1997 Luton has been an administratively independent unitary authority. The town remains part of Bedfordshire for ceremonial purposes.

Parliamentary representation

Luton is represented by two Members of Parliament. The constituency of Luton Northmarker has been held by Kelvin Hopkins (Labour) since 1997. Luton South has been held by Margaret Moran (Labour) also since 1997. Luton is within the East of England .

Local council

Lutonians are governed by Luton Borough Council. The town is split into 19 wards, represented by 48 councillors. Elections are held for all seats every four years, with the most recent local elections held in May 2007 and the next due in May 2011. The Council is controlled by the Labour group, who have 26 Local Councillors (a majority of 5). The next largest party is the Liberal Democrats with 17 seats, followed by the Conservative Party with 5 seats.
Position Current Representatives
Members of Parliament
Kelvin Hopkins, Labour, elected 1997 Margaret Moran, Labour, elected 1997
Borough Council Members
Waheed Akbar, Labour Mohammed Ashrad, Labour Mohammad Ayub, Labour Joan Bailey, Labour Morel Benard, Labour Norris Bullock, Labour Jacqui Burnett, Labour Gilbert Campbell, Conservative Peter Champman, Liberal Democrats Jenny Davies, Liberal Democrats Roy Davies, Liberal Democrats Roy J Davis, Labour Michael Dooling, Liberal Democrats Mohammed Farooq, Labour Katie Foord, Conservatives David Franks, Liberal Democrats Michael Garrett, Conservatives Robin Harris, Labour Doris Hinkley, Liberal Democrats Mahmood Hussain, Labour Qurban Hussain, Liberal Democrats Lynda Ireland, Labour Tahir Khan, Labour Michelle Kiansumba, Labour Khtija Malik, Labour Clive Mead, Liberal Democrats Barry Neale, Liberal Democrats Martin Pantling, Liberal Democrats Lawrence Patterson, Liberal Democrats Anna Pedersen, Liberal Democrats Abdur Raquib, Labour Mohammed Riaz, Labour Sheila Roden, Labour Sid Rutstein, Liberal Democrats Raja Saleem, Labour Tom Shaw, Labour Mick Siederer, Liberal Democrats Hazel Simmons, Labour Margaret Simons, Conservative Lakhbir Singh, Labour Alan Skepelhorn, Liberal Democrats Chris Smith, Liberal Democrats Desline Stewart, Labour Andy Strange, Liberal Democrats Dave Taylor, Labour Sian Timoney, Labour John Titmuss, Conservatives Don Worlding, Labour

Town Crest

The town crest: granted 25th July 1876.
In 1876 the town was granted its own coat of arms. The wheat sheaf was used on the crest to represent agriculture and the supply of wheat straw used in the local hatting industry (the straw-plaiting industry was brought to Luton by a group of Scots under the protection of Sir John Napier of Luton Hoomarker). The bee is traditionally the emblem of industry and the hive represents the straw-plaiting industry for which Luton was famous. The rose is from the arms of the Napier family, whereas the thistle is a symbol for Scotlandmarker. An alternative suggestion is that the rose was a national emblem, and the thistle represents the Marquess of Bute, who formerly owned the Manor of Luton Hoo.


Luton is located in a break in the Eastern part of the Chiltern Hillsmarker. The Chilterns are a mixture of chalk from the Cretaceous period (about 65-146 million years ago) and deposits laid at the southernmost points of the ice sheet during the last ice age (the Warden Hillsmarker area can be seen from much of the town).

Bedfordshire had a reputation for brick making but the industry is now significantly reduced. The brickworks at Stopsleymarker took advantage of the clay deposits in the east of the town.

The source of the River Lea, part of the Thames Valleymarker drainage basin, is in the Leagravemarker area of the town. The Great Bramingham Wood surrounds this area. It is classified as ancient woodland; records mention the wood at least 400 years ago.

There are few routes through the hilly area for some miles, this has led to several major roads (including the M1 and the A6) and a major rail-link being constructed through the town.


Luton has a temperate marine climate, like much of the British Islesmarker, with generally light precipitation throughout the year. The weather is very changeable from day to day and the warming influence of the Gulf Stream makes the region mild for its latitude. The average total annual rainfall is 584 millimetres (23 in) with rain falling on 109 days of the year.


The Victorian expansion of Luton focused on areas close to the existing town centre and railways. In the 1920s and 1930s growth typically was though absorbing neighbouring villages and hamlets and infill construction between them and Luton. After the Second World War there were several estates and developments constructed both by the local authority such as Farley Hill or Marsh Farm, or privately such as Bushmead.

    'More about Places within Luton


    The United Kingdom Census 2001 showed that Luton had a population of 184,371, a 5.8% increase from the last census meaning that Luton is the 27th largest settlement in the UK. Of this, 43,324 were under 15, 131,660 were between 16 and 74 and 9387 were over 74. The Office for National Statistics mid-year estimate of the 2007 population is 188,800. However, the Luton Borough Council Research and Intelligence Team criticise this figure as understating the recent immigration from Eastern Europe, and they estimate the true figure to be in the region of 203,800.

    Population since 1801 - Source: A Vision of Britain through Time
    Year 1801 1851 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001
    Population Luton 2,985 11,067 31,981 49,315 57,378 66,762 84,516 106,999 132,017 162,928 163,208 174,567 184,390

    Local inhabitants are known as Lutonians.


    Luton has seen several waves of immigration. In the early part of the 20th century Irish and Scottish people arrived in the town - these were followed by Afro-Caribbean and Asian immigrants. More recently immigrants from Eastern Europe have made Luton their home. As a result of this Luton has a diverse ethnic mix, with a significant population of Asian descent, mainly Pakistani (9.8%), Bangladeshi (4.3%) and Indian (4.2%). The 2005 Office of National Statistics figures revealed that town had a white population of 68% (of which white British amounted to 61.3%).

    Luton: Ethnicity: 2005 Office of National Statistics estimates
    Luton % East of England % England %
    White 68.0 92.8 89.1
    Mixed 2.8 1.4 1.6
    Asian or Asian British 19.3 3.1 5.3
    Black or Black British 7.9 1.6 2.7
    Chinese or Other Ethnic Group 2.0 1.1 1.3
    Total 100.0 100.0 100.0


    According to the United Kingdom Census 2001, 60% of the inhabitants in Luton are Christian and 15% are Muslim.

    The full statistics are as follows:

    Religion Luton % National %
    Christian 59.6% 71.7%
    Muslim 14.6% 3.0%
    Hindu 2.7% 1.1%
    Sikh 0.8% 0.6%
    Jewish 0.3% 0.5%
    Buddhist 0.2% 0.3%
    Other 0.3% 0.3%
    No religion 14.1% 14.8%
    Religion not stated 7.2% 7.7%

    Economic activity

    Of the town's working population (classified 16–74 years of age by the Office for National Statistics), 63% are employed. This figure includes students, the self-employed and those who are in part-time employment. 11% are retired, 8% look after the family or take care of the home and 5% are unemployed.


    Luton's economy has, traditionally been focused on several different areas of industry including Car Manufacture, engineering and millinery. However, today, Luton is moving towards a service based economy mainly in the retail and the airport sectors, although there is still a focus on light industry in the town.

    Notable firms with headquarters in Luton include:

    Notable firms with offices in Luton include:


    The main shopping area in Luton is centred around The Mall Arndalemarker. Built in the 1960s/1970s and opened as an Arndale Centre, construction of the shopping centre led to the demolition of a number of the older buildings in the town centre including the Plait Halls (a Victorian covered market building with an iron and glass roof). Shops and businesses in the remaining streets, particularly in the roads around Cheapside and in High Town, have been in decline ever since. George Street, on the south side of the Arndale, was pedestrianised in the 1990s.

    Contained within the main shopping centre is the Market, which contains butchers, fishmongers, fruit and veg, hairdressers, tattoo parlours, ice cream, flower stall and T-shirt printing as well as eating places.

    Another major shopping area is Bury Parkmarker where there are shops catering to Luton's ethnic minorities.

    Food and drink

    Luton has a diverse selection of restaurants - English, Italian, Chinese, Indian, Caribbean, Thai and Malaysian to name a few. No area of the town is specifically restaurant-orientated, but in some areas (such as Bury Parkmarker) there is a concentration of Asian restaurants.

    There are pubs and clubs in the town centre. A number of these cater for the town's student population; however, there are still a number of traditional pubs in the town.


    Luton has excellent transport links and is situated less than 30 miles north of the centre of Londonmarker, giving it good links with the Citymarker and other parts of the country via the motorway network and the National Rail system. Luton is also home to London Luton Airportmarker, one of the major feeder airports for London and the southeast. Luton is also served by a bus service run by Arriva and a large taxi network. As a Unitary Authority, Luton Borough Council is responsible for the local highways and public transport in the Borough and licensing of Taxis.


    University of Bedfordshire - Luton

    Luton is one of the main locations of the University of Bedfordshiremarker. A large campus of the university is in Luton town centre, with a smaller campus based on the edge of town in Putteridge Burymarker, an old Victorian manor house. The other main campus of the university is located in Bedfordmarker.

    The town is home to Luton Sixth Form Collegemarker and Barnfield College. Both have been awarded Learning & Skills Beacon Status by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

    Luton's schools and colleges have also been earmarked for major investment in the government scheme Building Schools for the Future programme, which intends to renew and refit buildings in institutes across the country. Luton is in the 3rd wave of this long term programme with work intending to start in 2009.

    There are 98 educational institutes in Luton - seven Nurseries, 70 Primary schools (9 Voluntary-Aided, 2 Special Requirements), 13 Secondary Schools (1 Voluntary-Aided, 1 Special Requirements), four Further Educational Institutes and four other Educational Institutes.

    Culture and leisure


    Sport In BedfordshiremarkerLuton is the home town of Luton Town Football Club who have recently been relegated from the football league, one below the 4th flight of the English league structure. Their nickname, "The Hatters", dates back to when Luton had a substantial millinery industry.

    Speedway racing was staged in Luton in the mid 1930s.

    The town has three rugby union clubs - Luton Rugby Club who play in National 3 Midlands, Vauxhall Motors RFC who play in London 3 NW and Stockwood Park who play in Midlands 4 SE.

    Wardown Park

    Wardown Park is situated on the River Lea in Luton. The park has sporting facilities, is home to the Luton Museum & Art Gallerymarker and contains formal gardens. The park is located between Old Bedford Road and the A6, New Bedford Road and is within walking distance of the town centre.

    Stockwood Park

    Stockwood Park is a large municipal park near Junction 10 of the M1. The park houses the craft museummarker, the Mossman Collectionmarker and the period formal gardens which are all free of charge for visitors. There is an athletics track, an 18-hole golf course, several rugby pitches and areas of open space.

    The park was originally the estate and grounds to Stockwood house, which was demolished in 1964.


    Luton Carnivalmarker is the largest one-day carnival in Europe. It usually takes place on the late May Bank Holiday. Crowds can reach 150,000 on each occasion.

    The procession starts at Wardown Parkmarker and makes its way down New Bedford Road, around the Town Centre via St George's Square, back down New Bedford Road and finishes back at Wardown Park. There are music stages and stalls around the town centre and at Wardown Park.

    St. Patrick's Day

    The festival celebrating the patron saint of Irelandmarker, St Patrick, is held on the weekend nearest to March 17. Now on its 9th year, the festival includes a parade, market stalls and music stands as well as Irish themed events.


    Luton is home to the Library Theatre, a 238 seat theatre located on the 3rd floor of the town's Central Library. The Theatre's programme consists of local amateur dramatic societies, pantomime, children's theatre (on Saturday mornings) and one night shows of touring theatre companies.


    Luton Museum

    Luton Museum and Art Gallery is housed in a large Victorian mansion in Wardown Park on the outskirts of the town centre. The museum collection focusses on the traditional crafts of Bedfordshire, notably lace-making and hat-making. There are samples of local lace from as early as the 17th century.

    The Wenlock Jug, a rare example of a jug cast, was almost sold to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Artmarker for £750,000 but was export-stopped in October 2005 by culture minister, David Lammy, based on a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, run by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

    Stockwood Craft Museum

    Based in Stockwood Parkmarker, Luton, the collection of rural crafts and trades held at Stockwood Park Museum was amassed by Thomas Wyatt Bagshawe, who was a notable local historian and a leading authority on folk life. Bagshawe was born in Dunstablemarker in 1901 and became a director of the family engineering firm.
    The collection only contains examples from Bedfordshire and the borders of neighbouring counties, giving the collection a very strong regional identity.

    Mossman Collection

    The Mossman Carriage collection is held at Stockwood Parkmarker, Luton and is the largest and most significant vehicle collection of its kind in the country, including originals from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

    The Mossman collection of horse drawn vehicles was given to Luton Museum Service in 1991. It illustrates the development of horse-drawn road transportation in Britain from Roman times up until the 1930s.

    Local attractions

    Twin towns

    Luton participates in international town twinning; its partners are:

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    Rhône-Alpes 1956
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    Berlinmarker 1959
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    Lower Saxonymarker 1950

    Notable Lutonians

    People who were born in Luton or are associated with town.

    By birth

    By association



    Two weekly newspapers are delivered free to all the houses in Luton. They are:

    There are also two other newspapers in circulation around Luton:
    • Luton News, the Herald & Post's sister paper which is published every Wednesday.
    • Lutonline, a monthly newspaper produced by the local council. Usually delivered with the The Luton And Dunstable Express.



    • Local-News TV is a local news channel for Bedfordshire and Luton. The channel is broadcast solely over the internet with content available on-demand.
    • Anglia Television the ITV franchise holder for the East Anglia franchise region, which Luton is a part of.

    Media references

    In the TV series One Foot in the Grave there are often references to places within Luton. The script-writer David Renwick was brought up in the town.

    The town was mentioned several times in the seminal sketch show Monty Python's Flying Circus. In one sketch a rather half-hearted hijacker demands that a plane headed for Cuba be diverted to Luton. Luton is one of the constituencies returning a "Silly Party" victory in the famous sketch Election Night Special. In the Piranha Brothers sketch Spiny Norman lived in a hangar at Luton Airport. A 1976 episode of the sci-fi series "Space: 1999" was called the The Rules of Luton, inspired by the town name.


    1. Dyer J, Stygall F, Dony J, The Story of Luton, Luton, 1964, p 20
    2. Dyer ibid, p 23
    3. Dyer ibid, p 31
    4. Dyer, ibid, p 141
    5. Dyer, ibid, p 142
    6. Churchill Tanks at Vauxhall
    7. Deaths during WWII
    8. See book Luton at War volume II,compiled by The Luton News, 2001, ISBN 1-871199-49-2
    9. Arndale opened in 1972
    10. Vauxhall closure
    11. St Georges Square on Luton Council Site
    12. Award won by St Georges Square
    13. Website for the development of Power Court
    14. Map of soil distribution in Beds
    15. ISBN 1-871199-94-8
    16. KS01 Usual resident population: Census 2001, Key Statistics for urban areas
    17. 2001 Census
    18. Office for National Statistics, Table 8 Mid-2007 Population estimates (Excel spreadsheet within zip file).
    19. Luton Borough Council, Population Estimates and Forecasts, estimate for Bramingham ward in 2007.
    20. " New headquarters for easyJet at London Luton Airport." Easyjet. Retrieved on 27 September 2009.
    21. " customer services & other faqs." Monarch Airlines. Retrieved on 27 September 2009.
    22. " Luton." Thomson UK. Retrieved on 27 September 2009.
    23. " Corporate contact information." Vauxhall Motors. Retrieved on 2 September 2009.
    24. Barnfield Newsletter
    25. BBC - Beds Herts and Bucks - Why Don't You - Luton's turning green!
    26. St patrick's festival
    27. St Patrick's Day party is coming to Luton - Luton Today

    External links

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