Luton is a town in the Borough of Luton, in the ceremonial county of Bedfordshire, south east England, but in the East of England region for administrative purposes. At the 2011 census, the Luton built-up area subdivision had a population of 211,228 and its built-up area (including the adjacent towns of Dunstable and Houghton Regis) had a population of 258,018. It is also the most populous town in Bedfordshire. The town is situated on the River Lea, about 30 miles (50 km) north-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 and one of the largest churches in Bedfordshire, St Mary’s Church, was built in the 12th century. There are local museums which explore Luton’s history in Wardown Park and Stockwood Park.
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. 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. London Luton Airport opened in 1938, and is now one of Britain’s major airports, with three railway stations also in the town. The University of Bedfordshire was created from a merger with the University of Luton, and two of its campuses are in Luton.