Leagrave is a village and which has now become a suburb of Luton in Bedfordshire. It is in the northwest of the town. It is well connected to transport networks; by train from Leagrave station into London and Bedford and close to the M1 motorway and to Luton Airport.
The River Lea rises in Leagrave, and appears to give the village its name.
The largest church in the parish is St Lukes on Leagrave High Street, which was consecrated by the Bishop of Saint Albans in June 1956. and was designed by John Seely and Paul Paget.
Leagrave Methodist Church is also on Leagrave High Street. The first Methodist Church in Leagrave opened on 3 June 1824, and a gallery was added 5 years later in 1829. This Church was rebuilt in 1880.
The first settlement in the area was Waulud's Bank which is a Neolithic D-shaped enclosure in Leagrave Park at the source of the River Lea and is now a protected monument. Waulud's bank consists of a bank and external ditch of around 17 acres with a turf reveted chalk and gravel bank (built from the excavated ditch material). The ditch itself is about 9 m wide and 2 m deep. Finds at the site have included neolithic Grooved Ware and flint arrow heads. It is a similar site to Durrington Walls and Marden and the site was later re-used in the Iron Age and during the Roman occupation.
The Icknield Way, an arguably pre-Roman road, passes though Leagrave. Local road names give away its location, 'Roman Road' runs from Oakley Road to Marsh Road. On the other side of Marsh Road as the road enters Limbury it continues as 'Icknield Road' where there is a gap before the road continues as Icknield Way.
The River Lea rises in Leagrave before making its way eventually to the Thames, forming the border between Middlesex and Essex and entering the Thames at Leamouth - thus the river names the places both at its start and its end. The Lee crosses Leagrave Common and receives a tributary called Knapps Brook which joins from culverts under the railway embankment and Toddington Road. Napps Brook is a combination of brooks from East End, Houghton Regis and from the Lewsey Estate near the old Lewsey Farm. Leagrave Marsh used to be a popular place for the Luton hatters on their (rare) days off and was, consequently, known as "Blockers' Seaside". The hatmaking industry originally relied on straw plaits, made by farmers' wives, bought and collected by a "plaitman" and brought into the Luton hat factories to be made into straw hats. A new artwork has been unveiled in the area, reflecting on this former use of the area.
The manor of Leagrave was held by the Lucy family from 1305 to 1455. The Lucys gave their name to the area of Luton known as Lewsey.
Leagrave station was built by the Midland Railway company in 1868 on its extension to St Pancras. The old Midland station buildings still exist, having been carefully restored in the 1980s.
In 1914 Hewlett & Blondeau Limited, an aircraft manufacturing business, opened a factory at Leagrave called The Omnia Works. The company was managed by Hilda Hewlett who lived on site. During the First World War the factory produced more than 800 aircraft and employed up to 700 people. The business closed in 1920 and in 1926 the factory site was sold to Electrolux.
The area grew significantly in between the wars and in 1928 the parish was abolished when the boundaries of Luton were extended to include Leagrave, as well as Limbury and Stopsley. Further expansion of the area took place during the 1930s; much of the housing stock of the area dates from the 1920s and 1930s. Further large scale construction continued post-war with the construction of the Hockwell Ring estate and nearby Marsh farm. Some of the old farm names live on in the modern road names, Strangers Farm lends its name to the current Strangers Way, Grange Avenue (Grange Road until the 1920s) takes its name from The Grange Farm, and at the edge of Leagrave Marsh was Marsh Farm, which gives its name to the 1960s estate, Marsh Farm.
Until recently Electrolux was one of the larger employers in the area, however much of the old factory site was sold off over the last ten years or so for re-development into housing. The most recent development on the site was Saxon-Gate.
Leagrave is increasingly a commuter area with many people taking advantage of the train and motorway connections into London and to the North. There have been many smaller developments of former industrial land creating many new apartment blocks and also infil housing.
Following Leagrave becoming part of Luton in 1928, many local roads were renamed to avoid confusion with existing Luton road names. For example, Oak Road became Oakley Road, Cumberland Avenue became Compton Avenue and Salisbury Road became Sarum Road.
Sport and leisure
- Football: Kent Athletic FC, who play at Kent Athletic Park.
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