N.W. View of Dustable Priory, 1730
Artist: Buck, Samuel and Nethaniel
Dunstable was the first staging post north of London on the road to Chester. Coaches stopped here for a change of horses. The small market town was built around the ancient Priory of St Peter, shown in this engraving by Samuel and Nethaniel Buck. Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders finds herself here at several turning points in her marital career. On the last occasion her husband is revealed as a highwayman:
"About six a Clock at Night we were alarm’d with the great uproar in the Street, and People riding as if they had been out of their Wits, and what was it but a Hue and Cry after three Highway Men, that had rob’d two Coaches, and some other Travellers near Dunstable Hill... and £560 in Money taken, besides some of the Lace Merchants that always Travel that way had been visited too."
Lace making was a local industry dating back to the 16th century. In his ‘Guide through the Whole Island of Great Britain’, Defoe mentions recent improvements made in bone-lace manufacture in Bedfordshire.
Find out much about Defoe and Moll Flanders in our Literary Landscapes virtual exhibition.