For centuries, The Square has been the traditional venue for open-air events in Dunstable. At one time known as Tattle Square, it was the scene of the annual Statty fun fair on the fourth Monday of every September...an event guaranteed by a bye-law passed in 1871.
In modern times, crowds have gathered here every year for a Christmas carol concert.
In the past, there have been vigorous assemblies during General Elections. Prime Ministers Harold Macmillan and Sir Alec Douglas-Home spoke to crowds here in 1959 and 1964.
A mass rally was held here in June 1915 during the First World War to demonstrate public support for the British army leader Lord Kitchener, whose abilities had been under attack in the Press.
It was a favourite venue for open-air tea parties for children during times of great celebration, such as the Coronation Day of King George V in 1911. And there would often be a mass party here during the annual Empire Day celebrations, held every year on May 24 (Queen Victoria's birthday) until 1958.
Hundreds of people from the Midlands gathered here in 1934 to hear speeches about the attractions of Dunstable. They had been invited to move here to work in a new factory for AC Sphinx (later AC-Delco) which was transferring from Birmingham to Dunstable. A new housing estate was built in Northfields to accommodate them.
The south end of The Square was reserved for a cattle market, held every Wednesday. There were permanent enclosures in which the animals could be kept and horses were sold here three times a year. Every August a herd of wild ponies from an annual round-up at Exmoor would be brought by train to the railway sidings in High Street North. They would be trotted through the streets and kept for a few days in a field at the end of Garden Road before being auctioned. They would then be trained for riding or to pull small carriages. Horse auctions ceased in the 1920s and the cattle market closed in August 1955.
The market clock now stands on part of the old site. The clock was erected in 2000 to commemorate the start of a new millennium. The clock's design, by Frank Porthouse, is an image of the clock tower on the old town hall in High Street North.
Text: John Buckledee of Dunstable and District Local History Society. ©
Design: David Turner.
Narration: Rosemary O'Toole of Dunstable Repertory Company.
Recording: David Hornsey.
Website developer: Joshua Buckledee.