Quirky and funny stories in the Dunstable area
I had to smile at the story of a wacky escapade involving five boys “remanded at Dunstable”, reported in The Times in 1886. Rita Swift recounts this in Dunstable & District Local History Society’s February newsletter, and I thought I’d share it with you.
I don’t have room to repeat it all word for word, but I can give you the gist of it. Five boys were remanded in Dunstable, charged with stealing “from shop doors”. But someone delivering dinner left the key in the cell door. Oops.
And the youngest boy, “very small and thin”, managed to squeeze through the opening used to hand food through to prisoners. The little lad unlocked the door – and the boys were off.
Some time went by before their escape was discovered. Supt George, two fellow officers and other volunteers headed off hither and thither, in search of the runaways.
The lads made their way to Skimpot Farm, where they caught and dispatched a fowl, took it to the farmhouse and told the mistress they had found it run over by a train. Praising their honesty, she gave them tea and sixpence.
Off they went and then, near Houghton Regis, they were chased in vain “for a considerable distance” by a police sergeant. Determined not to be caught, the lads quietly headed back to the station.
The superintendent’s wife answered a knock on the station door and found the runaways before her. They told her they had been “out for a run and had come back to tea”.
And The Times reported: “When her husband returned late in the evening, he was not a little astonished to hear that the boys to whom he had been in quest were ‘at home and had been in bed for hours’.” Sounds like an episode of the Keystone Kops!
> Teams at Whipsnade Zoo and The Bell, Studham, must have been glued to the screen for episode two in the latest series of BBC2’s The Fixer.
Why? Well, for one thing, it brought back memories of when the TV crew dropped in at the village pub restaurant while they filmed that episode.
And there was footage of a visit by presenter Alex Polizzi and her team to the zoo. It wasn’t that The Bell or Whipsnade Zoo needed the troubleshooting services of business guru Alex, who is also a hit in TV’s The Hotel Inspector.
Alex was actually lending a helping hand to an Aylesbury photographic studio, run by a mum and her three daughters.
So the TV crew took them to the zoo to spread the word to families about what the photographic team had to offer. There were great shots of the zoo and the animals in the programme.
What you didn’t see was that the team from The Fixer rang The Bell (no joke intended) while they were in the area. Landlady Nikki Fuller and landlord Phil Belding were happy to let them use part of the premises to film Alex talking things through with the photographic studio family.
I did tell you this last summer, but it’s been a while, so I thought I’d remind you. It doesn’t look like the film team’s footage from the pub restaurant made it onto the small screen. But never mind, we all know they were there.
History records that Alex enjoyed a pint of Guinness and a packet of crisps at the venue. There’s a permanent reminder in the shape of a menu signed by Alex, saying what a lovely place it is and thanking the team. Any time she wants to “ring the changes”, she knows where to find The Bell...
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