In the 19th century farm workers were very poorly paid and their wives could earn more than their men could by splitting straw and plaiting it into lengths.Even very young children were kept busy earning money at 'plait schools'. This extra income helped to relieve the poverty a little.
The plaits were sold in 20 yard pieces and were used locally, or sent to the markets at Luton or Berkhamstead to be made into hats.
To protect their straw plait trade the High Street traders had very strict laws about where and when the plaits could be sold.
Bundles of straw plaits on their way to Luton and completed hats and other products from Luton came through Cupid Green on the way to the Grand Union Canal for transport to London by narrow boat.
The Paper Mills
From 1841 when the old corn mills started to turn over to paper making they became main employers outside agriculture and earnings from straw plaiting started to decline. The two paper mills employed many people right up until their closing after 2000.