Luton (/ˈltən/ (listen))[7] is a large town, borough and unitary authority situated in Bedfordshire, south east England, but in the East of England region for administrative purposes. It has a population of 213,052 (mid-2019 est.)[5][8] and is one of the most populous towns without city status in the United Kingdom. It is also the most populous town in Bedfordshire. The town is situated on the River Lea, about 29 miles (50 km) northwest of London. The town's foundation dates to the sixth century as a Saxon outpost on the River Lea, from which Luton derives its name. Luton is recorded in the Domesday Book as Loitone and Lintone[9] and one of the largest churches in Bedfordshire, St Mary's Church, was built in the 12th century.[10] There are local museums which explore Luton's history in Wardown Park[11] and Stockwood Park.[12]

Top to bottom, left to right: Luton Town Hall, Luton Hoo, St Mary's Church, Luton Airport and Luton Town's stadium Kenilworth Road
Scientiæ et labori detur (Latin)[1][2]
"May it be given to skill and industry"[3]
Luton shown within Bedfordshire
Location within England
Coordinates: 51°52′42″N 00°24′53″W
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country England
RegionEast of England
Ceremonial countyBedfordshire
Settlementc. 6th century
Unitary authority1997
Administrative HQLuton Town Hall
  TypeUnitary authority
  BodyLuton Borough Council
  MayorMahmood Hussain
  MPsSarah Owen (Labour)
Rachel Hopkins (Labour)
  Total16.74 sq mi (43.35 km2)
Area rank275th
 (mid-2019 est.)[5]
  Density12,790/sq mi (4,939/km2)
  Mixed race4.2%
Time zoneUTC+0 (GMT)
  Summer (DST)UTC+1 (BST)
Postcode Area
Dialling code01582
ISO 3166 codeGB-LUT
International airportLondon Luton Airport (LTN)
Railway stationsLuton (B)
Luton Airport Parkway (D)
Leagrave (D)
OS grid referenceTL0896521763
GSS codeE06000032
ONS code00KA

Luton was for many years famous for hatmaking, and also had a large Vauxhall Motors factory. Car production at the plant began in 1905 and continued until the plant's closure in 2002.[13] Production of commercial vehicles continues, and the head office of Vauxhall Motors was for many years in the town, but has now relocated in 2019 to the village of Chalton, Bedfordshire on the northern border of the Borough of Luton.[14] London Luton Airport opened in 1938, and is now one of Britain's major airports,[15] with three railway stations also in the town. The University of Bedfordshire was created from a merger with the University of Luton,[16] and two of its campuses are in Luton.[17]

Luton Town Football Club, nicknamed "the Hatters" due to the town's connection to hatmaking, has had several spells in the top flight of the English league as well as a Football League Cup triumph in 1988. They play at Kenilworth Road, their home since 1905, and planning permission for a new larger stadium was approved in 2019.[18] Luton International Carnival, the largest one-day carnival in Europe, is held on the day before the last Monday in May,[19][n 1] and the Saint Patrick's festival is held on the weekend nearest to Saint Patrick's Day[20] as there is a large Irish community in Luton. The town also has a large Pakistani community, which along with the Irish were attracted to employment at the Vauxhall car plant.[21][22] Luton Hoo is an English country house, estate and Grade I listed building designed by Scottish architect Robert Adam.