Houghton Regis Straw plaiting FACTS: 

How far can straw plaiting in Houghton Regis be traced back?

Houghton Regis was mentioned in both the 1689 and 1719 Petitions to parliament as being a straw plaiting village.

Plaits made in Houghton Regis:

All kinds of Devon and fine split plaits

The Straw Trade 1871, page 18 Source: TG Austin

Employment in 1871

Employed in agriculture:

Farmers and their men        330

Farm boys                               42

Total                                        372

Employed in Straw Plait Trade:

Men                                         41

Women                                   354

Children                                  24

Total                                        571

This was the second highest total in the chart, only beaten by Western Rural Parishes – 594

Employed in Straw Hats and Bonnets:

Hats and Bonnets

Men                                         14

Women                                   214

Children                                   13

Total                                        241

Merchants, Warehousemen, Clerks, etc:

Men                                        6

Women                                   0

Children                                  0

Total                                        6

The major hat/bonnet company Vyse had workrooms in Houghton Regis

Employed in Food, Clothing, etc:

Men                                         101

Women                                   55

Total                                        156

Other Trades, etc:

Men                                         95

Women                                   42

Children under 15                 9

Total                                        146

Total traders not straw trade 674

Population of Houghton Regis 1871

Men                                         1119 (Adult male 632, boys 487)

Women                                   1293 (Adult female 806, girls 487)

Total                                        2412

Separate families (treating each lodger or set of lodgers boarding separately as a distinct family)

Total                                        560


Inhabited houses                   531*

Empty houses                          82

*This comprises 560 families living in the 531 houses

There are fifty houses to let.

Size of area (of Houghton Regis) in Statue Acres: 4500


Numbers of educated children:


Boys                                        205

Girls                                        182

Total                                        387     

Not Educated:

Boys                                        108

Girls                                        182

Total                                        273

Growth of Houghton Regis:

Today’s population is about 3 and a half times larger than in 1801 Source: TG Austin, The Straw Trade 1871

Straw Plait Schools:

In the 1890s through to the first few years of the 1900s there was a plaiting centre in Houghton Regis to try to revive the failing plaiting industry.

(Source: Various sources, inc. :

John Dony, A History of the Straw Hat Industry, page 94.)

1864 Second Report of The Commissioners with Appendix 1864