Houghton Regis field became a quarry and now a haven for butterflies and orchids

Houghton Regis windmill

Houghton Regis windmill

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Dunstable photographer Charles Smy took this view in around 1920 of a horse-drawn plough in front of the windmill in Houghton Regis.

He was standing on top of the Watling Street cutting at Chalk Hill looking over a huge field which has now completely disappeared.

Houghton Regis quarry

Houghton Regis quarry

The field was remarkable at the time because of its size – more common in the countryside today after the period when many hedges were uprooted to make way for mechanised farming.

The field became the site for the massive quarry which, from 1926 to 1971, supplied chalk to the nearby cement works in Dunstable Road. This, too, has also vanished, replaced by modern industrial units.

The old chalk pit has become a haven for orchids and butterflies, and is now being looking after by the Wildlife Trust which has recently formed a local group of volunteers. The windmill stood in Mill Road, whose name still survives although the mill has been demolished and the area is now a modern housing estate. More houses are beingbuilt on the edge of the nature reserve, in an attractive location overlooking one of the quarry’s lagoons.

The colour photo of the chalk pit was taken in 2009 from the top of the chalk cutting. The tower of Houghton Regis church can be seen faintly in the distance in both pictures.

> Yesteryear is compiled by John Buckledee, chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society, and the scan of the Charles Smy photo was made by Pat Lovering, whose vast collection of Houghton pictures is now kept at Houghton library