Pictures from the past: Living History Day exhibition

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Baskets were made in Leighton Buzzard during the First World War to hold shells for transportation to the front to prevent them exploding on route.

Robinson’s Basket Works in Lake Street, Leighton Buzzard used willow grown on the water meadows of the Ouzel and employed 40 men in 1914.

Our picture shows four of the workers using shell cases to get the correct size for the baskets they are weaving.

Behind them are hundreds of baskets already prepared to send to munitions factories.

This is one of a an exhibition of photographs showing Leighton Buzzard in the first 20 years of the last century to be displayed on Saturday (October 4) as part of Leighton Buzzard’s Living History Day.

The exhibition by Leighton Buzzard and District Archaeological and Historical Society is in All Saint’s Church as part of a number of events to commemorate the First World War.

The story of the town’s unique war memorial outside the church is told in a book – Leighton Buzzard’s Monolith – on sale on the stall for £3.

One of the many pictures in the book, taken immediately after the opening dedication ceremony on November 11, 1920 is shown here too.

The picture shows the soldiers leaving a packed Church Square. Five thousand people are said to have attended, 80 per cent of the town’s population.

Basket making in Leighton Buzzard is recorded as early as 1748 and Samuel Robinson set up in Lake Street in 1869.

His son James, who succeeded him, employed 72 people in 1906. The baskets were originally for transporting produce to London from the market gardens around Leighton Buzzard.

This including plums, apples, cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes and watercress depending on the season. They even made cradles for babies.

The firm continued in business until after the Second World War when the demand for their products gradually faded.

The willow trees, which formed the osier beds from which they harvested the material for making baskets, can still be seen along the river Ouzel.

Many are now old and in a state of collapse.