The Square

Town's traditional meeting place


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 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.

Cattle market on the square
Cattle market on the Square around 1957.
coaches on the square
Coaches on the Square around Easter 1949.
Newspaper cutting of empire day taking place in the square, large crowd.
Empire day in the square during 1923 as shown in the Tuesday Telegraph.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home addressing a crowd
Sir Alec Douglas-Home at an election meeting on The Square 1964.
Stalls with lights at night with church shadow in background
Statty fair on The Square
A photo much degraded showing a few people milling about in the square looking in direction of the camera.
Very old photo of the Square
A photo much degraded showing a few people milling about in the square looking in direction of the camera.
A boy scouts band in procession alongside the Square. The Clifton Arms is in the background

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.