Derbyshire on Dunstable

Posted on 16th September 2021 by simonbeattie

The town of Dunstable is not too far away from here in Chesham, just over half an hour’s pleasant drive through the northern part of the Chilterns, near where I grew up and past the wonderful Ivinghoe Beacon (the name of which is the source for Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe). While not a Buckinghamshire book, I was pleased to come across the following recently:

It’s a copy of the first edition of a celebration of the town from 1830, written by an enthusiastic local historian, who offers a long narrative poem about the town’s history, going back to the days of Roman occupation. The most well-known local legend relates to Dun/Dunne the Robber, a legendary highwayman who stalked the crossroads where the Icknield Way meets Watling Street (now the A5).  The legend goes that Dun so terrorised travellers that they appealed to King Henry I, who travelled to Dunstable and ordered a stake placed in the ground, upon which he tacked a valuable ring.  The plan was to capture Dun in the act of theft, but he somehow managed to evade the trap, stealing the ring from under soldiers’ noses. The king was supposedly flummoxed by this, and having no other strategies in his arsenal, decided to clear the area and found a town on the spot. In Derbyshire’s version Dun is brought to justice, and executed.

For more details of the book, see my recent e-list The Romantic Background.

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