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Shortmead Street

Looking back at the history of Shortmead Street, Biggleswade
by Ken Page

Starting on the east side - No 2 Shortmead Street ..... click here for the west side.

Number 2 and 4 Shortmead Street about 1900

2 and 4 Shortmead Street about 1900

This corner property was Montford Docwra’s brewery and bakery in 1813 complete with off-licence in 1851. He married Elizabeth Malden, widow of Ebenezer Malden brewer of Eaton Socon. By 1839 he was described as a brewer, cooper, corn, seed & hops merchant also a confectioner. After Elizabeth died c1855 their daughter Sarah Kingsley, already a widow traded as a confectioner and her sister was a tea dealer. Their son William was a brewer and cooper. A letter heading in 1865 described Montford Docwra as an ale & porter brewer.

By 1871 He was assisted by Sarah Kingsley as housekeeper and grandson James Kingsley was assistant brewer. James Kingsley opened his own brewery in Rose Lane see 5/4/07. After Montford Docwra died in 1876, his daughter, Elizabeth Woodham, took over the business as a baker & confectioner together with her son Montford Woodham who was a dairyman. Her husband Nodes Woodham a market gardener had already passed away two years earlier.

Montford Docwra had owned some beer houses in the town and the Hole in the Wall and former Grapes were included sold by auction in 1882 together with the spacious premises at No 2 described as, “A brick & tiled Dwelling House containing an excellent front shop with two sitting rooms, kitchen, staircase, 5 bedrooms and 2 attics also good cellarage. In the rear with an entrance from Brewery Lane is a Capital brick & timber built and tiled bakehouse fitted with a 6-bushel coal oven and having store chambers over a large yard with gateway entrance on either side of which are ranges of extensive and convenient out buildings, comprising stud and timber built and tiled stables storerooms and chaise house and pigsties, a private closet partly brick and timber built and pantiled. Brewhouse and other useful places having sunk cellar etc on ground floor and cooling floor above, brickwork for copper force pump and good well of water.  Now in the occupation of Mrs. Woodham at a rental of £60 per annum. The tenant is licensed to sell beer off the premises.”

Elizabeth Woodham still held the beer off licence in 1903 when Thomas Kinman owned the property. During May 1908 Montford Woodham moved his bakery & dairy to 64 Shortmead Street. Arthur Spiers who was a traveller for Wells & Winch at the nearby brewery ran the off licence in Church Street from 1910 and Mrs Spiers ran a temperance hotel on the Shortmead Street frontage. The property was later restyled as 'The Café Royal & Off-licence'. The couple continued for 9 years before selling the business to Mrs Janet Odell for £800 in 1919.  Arthur Spiers moved to The Anchor at Tempsford.

White Horse High Street Biggleswade

Here is the White Horse public house at No 1 High Street. The view is looking north into Shortmead Street, the southern end No 2 to 6 of which was called Church Street but the road to the right now carries that name. There was previously Back Way or Back Side, Back Lane, Brewery Lane and today Church Street

Mrs Odell was only there for a short time as Wells & Winch Ltd purchased 'The Cafe Royal and beer only Off-licence' in 1921 with Sydney Lancaster as licensee. He also sold cakes, confectionery and sweets, trading there for 17 years. The brewery also owned The White Horse directly opposite, which must have caused a conflict of interests.

The next licensee was Harry Albert Dalton, a farmer who produced Tuberculin Tested milk from his 36 pedigree cows at Bridge Farm Chawston.

He opened 'The TT Milk Bar' at The Café Royal a new venture for Biggleswade on the last Saturday in May 1938. The milk was delivered in churns. Customers enjoyed a range of milk shakes, sundaes, ices etc plus hot beverages, and a variety of soups at 4 pence per cup. But on 18th July 1938 the County Council Food & drugs officer found a sample pint of milk he took at the premises “deficient in milk fats” This was apparently caused by a faulty dispensing machine and Mr Dalton was fined a nominal £1 with costs. The Milk Bar was a success, but the opportunity arose for him to move to 18 Market Square where he opened in larger central premises on 8th July 1939.

Nos 2 and 4 Shortmead Street, Biggleswade in 1957

Number 2 and 4 Shortmead Street in 1957

Wells & Winch put the building comprising a front shop, confectionary, dining rooms, dwelling house and outbuildings up for sale by auction. The off-licence was transferred to the Brewery Office in High Street and not included in the sale. There were no bids, but there was a private sale to Gwen Warren the butcher who lived next door at No 6. 

The shop was let to R W (Reg) Young, ladies & gent’s hairdresser, whose family continued to rent the premises for a number of years.

BEER STORES
Church Street Biggleswade
ARTHUR SPIERS

Agent for the Best and Best only

BEER & STOUT

Single bottles 2 ½d each. Dozen Bottles 2/6
Small Casks at 1/- per gallon
* * * * * *

CAFÉ ROYAL

Temperance Hotel

Opposite St Andrews Church, Biggleswade
BEDS, TEAS, LUNCHEONS

COMMERCIAL HOUSE
Bath & Lavatory
All up to date

Facsimile advertisement 1909

In 1949 the shop at No 2 became D J Clarke’s radio and television store. They added No 4 newly built in 1951 as D J Clarke (Biggleswade) Ltd. Following a serious fire at No 2 in 1955 Clarke’s moved to Hitchin Street. Mrs Young was still occupying the house with her family and had to live with relatives until the Council could rehouse her. The property was rebuilt soon afterwards as a shop and offices occupied by The Co-operative Funeral Service. Then it was adapted for G A Wilderspin & Company selling motorcycles, scooters & mopeds from 1972 to 1979.

Wilderspin 1973 at No 2 Shortmead Street

Wilderspin & Co - Motorcycles in 1973

Later, in 1993, Savage & Son electrical contractors took over the Church Street premises. They started with four employees relocating to Stratton Business Park in August 2005 when staff numbers increased to 40. Duncan Strachan solicitor occupied the first floor as offices from about 1990 to until 1999. The last occupants were RATS animal charity taking over the empty shop on a temporary basis in 2002.

The shop was demolished in August 2005 to widen the road for heavy vehicles delivering to the new ASDA supermarket.

4
The shop at No 4 was a grocers in 1841, occupied by Richard Dalton. His widow Jane Dalton, continued as a grocer in the 1851 census. Also resident was her eldest daughter Mary, husband Isaac Moseley a shoemaker together with their children; John, James, Richard and Emma. The Moseley family were still there with her in 1861.
  Conditions changed in 1871 when she became a confectioner assisted by her daughter Rebecca.  Thereafter, Rebecca Dalton ran the confectionery business assisted by Elizabeth Cousins, right through to 1916 when she died. Then the property belonging to Miss Rebecca Dalton was sold by auction at the Swan Hotel on 26th February 1919 by George Wagg.  It consisted of a Shop, Sitting room, Kitchen and Scullery, Working Bakehouse and Large Cellar, plus 3 Bedrooms and a Box-room on the First floor. Mrs Charles Warren the butchers’ wife next door at No 6 purchased the premises for £360. The furniture and effects had been sold on site, two days earlier.

The shop was then rented to John Burnage who with his wife ran The Dainty Confectionary Shop with Mrs Burnage’s Devonshire Cream Ices.  They opened a spacious new tearoom in 1922, this continuing into the mid 1930’s.  There was a complete change of use by 1940 when Repetition Tyre & Accessories Ltd tyre dealers took the tenancy.

Mrs Warren had bought No 4 in 1919. As mentioned above D J Clarke’s radio and television store added No 4 to No 2 in 1951 and it was rebuilt separately and occupied by H T Boutall bookmaker by 1974. 'Biggles Tandoori Restaurant' opened about 1990 and have considerably altered the building in recent years, enlarging their original premises by taking in No 6. 

4-6 Shortmead St 1957

6 Shortmead St 1957
Circuit on the right and Aldis in the centre

6
The premises here appear to have been cottages until Harry Squires took over as a butcher as listed in the 1881 census. Thomas Charles Warren (known as Charles) who had been apprenticed to Abraham Roberts in Stratton Street; took over the butchery with a slaughterhouse at the rear approached from Church Street in 1884. There was a temporary bankruptcy in 1909, but the business continued until his death in 1929. His son Jack and daughter Gwen Warren continued in the same premises until 1948 when the property was demolished and replaced by two new shops. E. B. Circuit butcher occupied one and H R Aldis gentleman's clothiers took the other. They both remained there for some years.

6a
The current occupants of No 6a, N R Daws Insurance Consultants Ltd, have been trading at these premises from about 1980.

2-8 Shortmead Street 2008
2-8 Shortmead Street 2008

 

8-10
By 1881Austin Bemrose, plumber painter glazier occupied the shop at 8-10, which had a large yard, and storage building at the rear. It later became Miss Hercocks Fancy Repository and toyshop. The double fronted shop was sold by the owner, Miss Hillyard to George Witty Stokes for £465.10.s in 1894. He was a paperhanger, decorator, painter, plumber & glazier.  He operated there until 1922 when aged 71, he had a fatal fall in the street and the whole site was for sale.

The buyer was Horace Matthews grocer and provision dealer who had learned his trade at Richard Swift’s Market Square grocery shop. His mother was Rose Matthews, fishmonger & fruiterer at no 118.  He had traded wholesale & retail successfully for 46 years when the site with a large storage building at the rear was sold to Stapleton’s Tyre Services Ltd.

Sidney Stapleton, who opened his first depot at Watford in 1936, founded the business.  The company’s 9th operation at Biggleswade was opened in November 1968. The premises are now completely converted into a tyre dealer with a large workshop facility at the rear.

 

2-30 Shortmead Street  1930's

 

Millers Court Shortmead Street July 1991

 

12-30
This extensive site is now Millers Court retirement Flats extending back into Chapel Fields. The photograph on the right was taken in July 1991; compare the street scene with that on the left from the 1930s.

12 This may have been the entrance to Haynes Yard.

14-24  These were 6 cottages

26 Weston & Powers Brewery & Maltings
James Weston opened a brewery & Maltings in 1834, built on the site of his wool warehouse and owned the Henlow brewery for a short time. James died in 1850, as his son James Joseph Weston was only 5 years old, his wife Elizabeth continued business. She soon formed a partnership with her son-in-law George Powers the miller as Weston & Powers. James Joseph came into the business on his own account when he was 21. He mortgaged the property to Edmund Powers, George Race & Thomas James Hooper in 1874.

In 1875 James Joseph Weston was the sole owner of a newly built 5-quarter brewery when the whole business was put up for sale by auction on 28th May 1875 comprising the Brewery on 3 floors, counting house & offices, and two 25-quarter Maltings and a suite of rooms with billiard and reading rooms let to the Biggleswade Club (for gentlemen) who remained there until 1903. Also included were 17 freehold and 5 leased pubs in Biggleswade and the surrounding district; plus 6 cottages (14 to 24 Shortmead Street). Wells & Co whose brewery was close by in Brewery Lane (now Church Street) purchased the brewery, maltings and cottages, plus 4 licensed premises in the town; Bridge House, Cross Keys, Golden Lion & Greyhound. The remaining 13 went to other brewers.

Glenfield No 7 Shortmead Street in 2008

James Joseph Weston had a new house opposite (Glenfield), built by 1871 next to the Vicarage at no 10. In 1881 it was also occupied Ann Francis aged 64, his housekeeper and his valet Edward Arnold aged 15.  His mother Elizabeth sold all her properties in 1883 and moved in with her son at Glenfield. James died in December 1888 at the early age of 43 and his mother Elizabeth passed away in December 1890 aged 85.  Here is Glenfield in May 2008.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The 'Half Moon' in 1910

28 'Half Moon'
Samuel Wells the Biggleswade brewer purchased The Half Moon public house before his death in 1831 and his successors Wells & Co continued until 1899 when they became Wells & Winch Ltd. The pub comprised a Tap Room, Parlour, Kitchen scullery and Club Room with 4 rooms over and good arched Cellar in the basement. Outside was a range of Stables an Outhouse and a Garden.

30
A four-roomed Cottage adjoined No 28 with Timber yard, Sheds, Workshops, lofts and garden. James Dean was a long-standing licensee from 1838 to 1853. Robert Willson was the last licensee having been there for at least 17 years when it was referred for closure in 1918 and trading ceased in 1920.

Wells & Winch Ltd owned the block continuing right back into Chapel Fields. They auctioned the whole property in 1922 apparently purchased by a Mrs Kidman. The Eastern National Omnibus Company leased it in 1931 for a ticket office and staff room eventually purchasing in 1937 together with the extensive Maltings behind and built Bus Shelters. Charles Wright the builder owned the six cottages 14-24 and sold them to Eastern National in April 1943 for £5,000.

Following Nationalisation in 1848 all Eastern National assets were transferred to the United Counties Omnibus Company Ltd on 1st May 1952. The old public house, corrugated iron garages and cottages were all demolished in 1957. A new single story building for booking and administrative offices was erected together with buildings for bus garaging and maintenance.

The next change followed privatisation of the National Bus Company in 1985 when Stagecoach Holdings Ltd of Perth took over United Counties Omnibus Company Ltd in November 1987. They moved their local operation to the former Nags Head in Hitchin Street in 1990.

This resulted in the redevelopment of the whole site between Shortmead Street and Chapel Fields in 1991 by Abbey National Homes Ltd as Millers Court. They described it as “Your Retirement Haven in the Heart of Biggleswade”.  There are 42 one and two bedroom retirement flats numbered 1-43, (as there is no number 13), also a resident’s lounge and a guest suite.

32 including outbuildings
Robert Phipps wheelwright was there from 1871 to about 1900 when he moved to No 28, The Half Moon public house.  Ralph Newman a market gardener & florist was there in 1901 (possibly when the present house was built) staying until 1913. John Thomas Huckle followed him in 1914 and then by 1925 Redvers Buller Huckle whose family of Market Gardeners have been here ever since.

 

Here are No 32 and 34 on the right and No 36 on the left.

The next two properties were built as town houses dating back to about 1840

34 Glebe House
Thomas Barratt a dealer had a house shop & yard there in 1838.  Charles Mackaness plumber & glazier was resident in 1851 where he also conducted his business.  Elizabeth Wright a lady of independent means with her sisters Mary and Fanny, plus a niece two nephews and 3 servants lived here in 1861. Then John Conquest the head of Mead House School spent a short retirement here from 1871 until his death in 1875.  His widow Sarah Pope Conquest stayed on until passing away in 1891. Charles Newberry former manager of The Capital & Counties Bank (now Lloyds TSB) in High Street had moved in by 1901.  He died in 1927 and his sister Miss Louisa Newberry continued in residence until her death in 1929. The house was sold by auction to Frederick Edwards who resided there until 1937 when The National Deposit Friendly Society took over the premises for their divisional office and remained there for many years. A chiropodist occupied the premises in recent years and Lawdata Ltd are the present occupants providing legal advice to the motor trade.  

36 Meadow View
Mary Busby a lady of independent means and her two sisters Elizabeth & Maria were there between 1838 and 1861. Another sister Sarah Burton a widow and also of independent means joined them by 1869 continuing to live there alone in 1871. Then Doctor John Emmerson MRCS was there for a short time until he moved his practice to Rylstone House in High Street. The next owner in 1891 was Martha Crouch a widow who had married William Carrington a draper in the High Street. After his early death she married James Crouch another draper on the Market Square. Two of her daughters married local millers, Henry Franklin married Alice Carrington and William Jordan married Alice Jane Crouch.  Following the death of James Crouch, Martha moved to Meadow View with her daughters Mary Ann Carrington & Martha Crouch. After their mother's death in 1898 her daughters continued to reside. Mary Ann Carrington died in 1914 after falling down the cellar and her sister Martha Crouch was still living there in 1940.

 

 

Compare the two views of No 38 and No 40; 1910 above and 2008 below, the buildings are little changed.

38 and 40 Was this ancient building the Earl Grey Inn?
This must have originated as one property and the building is reputed to date back to 1725 and to have been The Earl Grey a coaching inn on The Great North Road, which came though the town until by passed in 1961. If this is so it had closed by 1830.

38
William Chew, leather merchant with his wife Ann was there from 1830-1851 and then his son Ebenezer Chew continued the business with wife Rose & daughter Eva in 1861. Then from 1871 to 1894 Thomas Bray leather seller (who I have assumed was the manager) occupied the shop.  Following him until 1909 Charles Chew managed the shop for his father. The shop and business was sold in 1909 to William Albon, athletic outfitters and leather goods also boot & shoe repairs. Mr Albon retired in1946 and let it to Mr L Woodcock. It was sold in 1948 with Mr Murphy as manager and continued for many years. The shop was Kered Studios, photographers before Arthur Mitchell (former manager of Dodimead's furniture store in High Street) set up Michele Galleries in 1977 until 1994 then it became The Bike Shop. As Old Mother Hubbard, the shop sold antiques from 1999 to 2006 when the present occupants Freedom UK computers took over.

There were two cottages in Handley's yard behind the properties accessed through the central archway occupied in 1851 by Henry Lewis blacksmith and Harriett Mees who ran a Dames school with 12 children. There were three cottages in 1861 increasing to four in 1881 continuing into the 1920's.

40
Thomas Handley here in1838 was described as a publican in 1841 but he was also collector of Rates & Taxes. The pub licence may hark back to an earlier use of the building. But he was just a collector of rates & taxes until his death in March 1867 when his widow Mary continued as an annuitant to her death in 1880. Then Alfred Butler surgeon's assistant lived here. Henry Peacock a retired farmer was next and he died in 1898. Then followed by Albert Rowlett writer & painter also a Dairyman.  Mr Mantel was there in 1916 and Albert Lincoln, cycle repairer in 1935. Since then it has been occupied as a delightful private house with a 120 ft garden.

42-44 Victoria House
This is a distinctive and imposing Victorian building with original balustrades.  Samuel Lisney was trading here in 1861 as a draper, milliner, and outfitter also selling boots & shoes in great variety.  He held a drapery sale prior to rebuilding the premises in 1873. This dates the present premises although parts of earlier building could have been used. The property was sold by auction at The Swan Hotel in 1883.

Here are extracted some details from the sale particulars:
DOUBLE FRONTED SHOP 50 ft long with plate glass windows.
SHOWROOM 16 x12ft fitted up for conducting a DRAPERY BUSINESS.
STORE ROOM OR LOFT over the shop accessed by a trap door & ladder.
DWELLING HOUSE containing;  
BASEMENT with 2 cellars.
GROUND FLOOR with 2 large Sitting Rooms, Kitchen and enclosed passage leading to WC and Washhouse.  
FIRST FLOOR Large Landing; DRAWING ROOM, 2 Large Bedrooms, Dressing Room & WC
UPPER FLOOR containing 5 bedrooms and Box room (presumably for shop assistants & servants). Gas & water was laid on to all floors. There was a small yard was paved with Staffordshire Bricks and a side entrance.

William Newman was the purchaser and converted the premises into a Furniture Store also selling Washing machines & Mangles, Carpets & Bedding, Cots, High Chairs etc. There was a blaze in 1894 when some bedding caught fire and William Newman was severely burnt. His son in law Herbert Church took over the business in 1901 moving to the Market Square in 1909.

The shop was sold to William John Wells a prominent townsman who had previous grocery stores in various locations in he town. He opened General Stores selling provisions & groceries including a drapery department. His eldest son William George Wells took over following his father's death in 1932.  He died in 1953 and the shop was sold to Mr & Mrs Tickner from Surrey. The grocery connection ended in 1962 when L H Collings moved their television & radio shop here from the Market Square.  

The Ministry of Labour had an office on the ground floor using a side entrance from the early 1930's until they moved to Hitchin Street in 1942. The manager was Captain Thomas Findlay.

The premises were then altered into offices with a sympathetic frontage for the present occupants, Keene Shay Keens accountants.

 

1957 on Shortmead Street

 

1957 on Shortmead Street
Victoria House to Mead House in the  centre.

46
Here was a shop & dwelling house.  Samuel Benson Bricklayer owned cottages in 1838 he occupied one and George Pepper watchmaker occupied another until 1861. Later Samuel Benson now a builder constructed cottages in Bensons Yard and Bensons Row. William Keep a tailor here in 1851 & 1861. Ann White owned the property with an ironmongers shop in 1871 followed by her son Frederick Isaac White. He was a brazier, gas fitter, bell hanger & general ironmonger right through from 1880 to 1925. After he died in 1930 the property was sold.

46-50 Shortmead Street & Victoria House Biggleswade

 

From the right Victoria House and No 46 to No 50

 

48
This was a dwelling house occupied by William Sheffield a tailor in 1851 &1861 then James Winch a dealer in 1861 & 1871 and finally John Frost shoemaker. Thereafter it seems to have been taken in with no 46.

46-50
After Frederick White died in 1930, Albert Miller described as a shopkeeper was advertising English Apples in 1933. Mr Miller also had a carpentry business a building in the yard behind which originally led to Bensons Row and through to Chapel Fields. The three premises (note the three doors in the view below) became Phillips second-hand shop in the 1940's to at least the 1970's. The restored building is now Shortmead Antiques who have traded here for a number of years.

Philips in 1957

52 to 58 - Elphick Court
Raglan Housing Association purchased a historic site in Shortmead Street for redevelopment in 2001. The project comprised four separate buildings being refurbished and converted into flats and new houses built behind and facing Chapel Fields.

52
The first Co-operative Store in Biggleswade occupied no 52 (now demolished) from 1894 to 1915. There were initially 124 members benefiting from their Co-op dividend. They held annual social tea meetings in the Town Hall, costing adults' 6d, children 4d followed by a free concert given by members of the society.  Initially the society was successful extending to take in no 54. But the enterprise ended at an extraordinary special general meeting of the shareholders held in 1916 when the society was wound up voluntarily.

Charles Elphick used the detached shop in 1916 as HQ of their newspapers' Prisoner of War Fund appeal. Alfred Day opened as a Fruit & Vegetable dealer in 1919. Charles Rawlins watch repairer followed him circa 1930 to about 1940 when he moved to 30 Hitchin Street. Elphick's used it for themselves from time-to-time. N R Daws Insurance was there in 1988 until they moved to 6a. The shop was demolished in 2001 to make way for the present development of Elphick Court.

 

54 to 58 Shortmead Street

 

(From the right)
54 to 58 Shortmead Street
Mead House in the foreground

54
Joseph Heath grocer was listed in Kelly's directory in 1839 and also the 1851 census.  Thomas & William Heath were grocers and tallow manufacturers by 1876 until 1894 when the Co-op took over the premises for their main store and managers' house.  

56
Martin Robarts (1838) and James Robarts (1851) were cabinet makers. The property was up for sale as a double fronted shop with 8 rooms in 1874. By 1881 George Allen, Methodist Minister was in occupation, he was followed by Thomas Barr (1891) and Henry Rodney (1901). It was vacated in 1903 when a new Methodist Manse at 19 London Road was ready for occupation.  

Charles Elphick publisher of The Biggleswade Chronicle married Amelia Rutherford in 1896. He moved from Hitchin Street in April 1903. He was also a general printer and shopkeeper selling stationery, pictorial post cards, fancy goods, wallpaper, toys etc. He expanded his business and living premises to take in both 52 and 54 when the Co-op closed down. He died in 1942 after personally managing the business for 50 years.

Elphicks Shortmead Street 1920

 

Elphicks Shortmead Street 1925

 

Elphick's, Shortmead Street 1920 and 1925

 

His son Edward Elphick born in July 1898 was originally trained as a journalist, but joined the Sherwood Forrester's during the Great War in 1916. He left the army in with the rank of captain to succeed his father as editor of The Biggleswade Chronicle   until he died in 1947, leaving two sons and two daughters. The Biggleswade Chronicle was sold to Bedford County Press in 1953.

Son, David Elphick continued as Managing Director of Charles Elphick Ltd. with the extensive printing works. The company was sold to the Flair Group of Bedford in 1992 and the works at Biggleswade closed. His brother Robert Elphick became chief correspondent for Reuters in Moscow and a well-known BBC foreign correspondent.

58 - Mead House
Here was situated John Lancaster's Gentlemen's Academy sold by auction at the Royal Oak Inn on 24th November 1824. John Conquest a Wesleyan Methodist and Cambridge University Graduate opened his ESTABLISHMENT FOR YOUNG GENTLEMEN by 1834. There were two schoolrooms of which one remains. Mead House School was a success, with over 30 boarding pupils aged between 7 & 16 years attending from a wide area.

Mead House - Biggleswade

 

Mead House

 

His son, Frederick William Conquest BA, took over as headmaster after he retired. Frederick moved the school to Ivel Bury in 1861 where it continued until about 1920, when Ivel Bury became the Territorial Army HQ.  

The next owner was George Wagg who moved from Christchurch, Hampshire to join the staff of Thomas Hooper solicitor. Following the death of Thomas Hooper in 1904, George Wagg became clerk to the Biggleswade Board of Guardians, Superintendent Registrar of Births and Deaths and holder of many other public offices. He was also an auctioneer, valuer, house & estate agent, certified accountant, auditor and the authorised agent for numerous shipping lines. When he died in 1922 when the report of his life and achievements and funeral took up two columns of the broadsheet Biggleswade Chronicle.  

Two of his sons George and Arthur Wagg carried on with the business at Mead House. George had left Biggleswade in 1909 as assistant clerk to the Hendon Board of Guardians, then Lambeth Board of Guardians, serving with the King's Shropshire Light Infantry from 1914 to 1918. On demobilisation joined his father as deputy registrar. In 1922 he was appointed superintendent registrar. He lived at 9 Drove Road retired in 1956 and died in 1960. Arthur Wagg became registrar of births marriages and deaths after leaving the Royal Naval Air Service in 1918. He died at his residence 9 the Baulk in 1963 at the age of 73. His sister Miss Emily Wagg continued to live at Mead House.

Prior to the death of Arthur Wagg, Alan Sale had been his deputy for a number of years. As Alan was with Lewis Day (appointed Superintendent Registrar of Births Deaths & marriages in 1956) senior partner at the office of Hooper & Fletcher solicitors opposite, he was able to assist when requested to do so. Alan was appointed interim registrar when Arthur Wagg was taken ill and his first recorded registration of birth was on 6th December1962. He was appointed Registrar of Births Deaths & Marriages in January 1963 and continued to attend at Mead House for some months until the office was transferred to Hooper & Fletcher's premises where he was able to combine this with his work as a legal executive. Alan Sale retired as Registrar in January 1965 (Lewis Day retired at the same time) then concentrating with his legal work on a full time basis. The schoolroom in Chapel Fields was demolished in 1975. But the other schoolroom is converted into flats.

Applied Construction Services Ltd were at the premises in 1978 to Applied Interiors Ltd by 1992.

The building 60/62 Shortmead Street is shown on the tithe award plan of 1838 comprising two shops with outbuildings.

 

Shortmead Street in Flood in 1905

 

 

Shortmead Street in Flood in 1905

 

 

60-64 Shortmead Street 1957

 

60-64 Shortmead Street

 

 

No 60 to 64 in 1957

 

No 60 to 64 in 2008

 

60
William Farrington a shoemaker and leather cutter was here in 1838. After his death in 1848 his son George Farrington continued as a shoemaker & currier employing 22 men & 10 women. George had a short career before passing away in 1857; his widow Hannah Farrington proprietor of houses was resident there in 1861.  But Joseph Farrington shoe manufacturer had taken over the business employing 21 men 2 boys 3 girls. At this point it gets confusing as Joseph aged 61 had retired in 1881 but died in 1882 aged 62. Another Joseph Farrington also a shoemaker married Elizabeth daughter of Hannah but she was a widow aged 29 in 1881 living with her mother. Both families lived in adjacent houses at 33/35 London Road and Elizabeth moved to 43 London Road in 1901 until she died in 1928.   

Then James Phillips photographer took over the shop at no 60 in 1881.

50-68 Shortmead Street 1906

50-68 Shortmead Street 1906

62
William Stokes sewing machine agent, established his shop here in 1868. By 1881 he had taken over no 60 combining both premises 60-62. He was a gentleman's hairdresser, selling and repairing Jones sewing machines and accessories also agent for Singer sewing machines, New Hudson bicycles, pianos, harmoniums and musical instruments and Sutton's carriers. He continued with the business until his sudden death after his breakfast on 12th May 1908. There was an inquest and the verdict was “Death from natural causes” His son William (Billy) Stokes carried on the business as a hairdresser until his death following a minor operation in 1952. Both father and son were staunch Wesleyan Methodists and Billy Stokes was a local preacher in the Biggleswade Circuit for 51 years.  Mr Merrison continued with the hairdressing business.

Bernard Gurney (Bernard's hairdressers) took over in 1967. He completely refurbished the premises in 1988 with an up to date hairdressing salon, but at the same time restoring the exterior to the original Victorian style and character, adding a traditional barbers blue & white pole above the front door. He also fixed a Victorian Shortmead Street sign. The shop appropriately fits in to the street scene in a conservation area. This completes 140 years of hairdressing to 2008.

 

 

 

A Shortmead Street scene in 1910

 

64
William Farrington appears to have owned this capacious property in 1838, but Jeremiah Brooks carpenter was here in 1841. William Field a carpenter followed him in 1851 with Field's Yard behind containing two cottages. William was still a carpenter employing 2 men in 1861, but he was a master builder employing 3 men & 2 boys in 1871 until his death in 1898.

The business then passed to his son-in-law Alfred Taylor also a carpenter. Alfred appears to have moved to 66 & 68 in 1901 when John Owen Jones surveyor to The Rural District Council lived here. Montford Woodham moved here from No 2 Shortmead Street in 1908 as a baker and dairyman with his yard behind in Chapel Fields.  After Mr Woodham died in 1959 there were numerous alterations. A flat was created in 1963 and a new shop front for a Sub post office & General Stores in 1964. A takeaway food service and tearooms opened in 1980, this was extended in 1983. Then there were further alterations to create a shop for Pine Antiques and an office for Boss Hire in 2001. The whole property and garden was up for sale in 2003 offering an enormous residence with shop frontage, seven bedrooms, two bathrooms and two reception rooms. The new owners sympathetically altered the property into a residential dwelling with bay windows.

 

Cottage next to Trinity Chapel 2008

 

Cottage next to Trinity Chapel in June 2008

History has now repeated itself with a planning application for the erection of a detached dwelling house with double garage on land at the rear. This was first applied for in 1992, but the building work is just completed. It is possible that the site, which can be seen from the Trinity Chapel grounds, was the original location of Field's Yard.

66-68
Shortmead Street This is considered to have been one building constructed about 1800, with a second front doorway added to the original central doorway at one time. It is shown on the 1838 tithe award plan but with no indication as to ownership or occupation.  Thomas Handley officer of excise appears to have lived here in1841 followed by George Bucknall general practitioner in 1861, then John Farmer Smith in 1871. Possibly then divided into two and occupied by Jane Luck & John Tebbs in 1881, with Mary Ferguson widow and one empty cottage in 1891. Mary Ferguson & Frederick Aggis, coach-builder, are shown in the 1901 census prior to Alfred Taylor moving from no 64 later in 1901 and he occupied the premises with his family until his death in 1930.

Alfred Taylor sawing wood in the yard

 

Alfred Taylor sawing wood in the yard

 

Some years ago I corresponded with the family of Alfred Taylor and I have one of his granddaughters memories. She visited the house as a child and recalled that he had a very large barn right at the bottom of 66 Shortmead Street in which he stored timber. It had access to Chapel Fields behind where he had his 'top shop' A very tall ladder led to an upper storey of another wooden building way up the garden; on one side was an open sided barn which housed a timber carriage for bringing up whole trees and opposite a similar barn which covered a sawpit for turning those trees into planks of wood.  On the same side of the yard nearer to the house was a large heap of builders' sand over which an everlasting sweet pea plant clambered. Nearer to the house was a brick building containing a washhouse with a copper, huge wooden mangle, a sink a storeroom and a toilet. Up above were two rooms used as a painting studio by her mother (Ellen Moseley) and aunt Elsie. The house had no bathroom just an outdoor large pump (drawing water from a well and a pump indoors feeding a shallow stone sink at the top of steps to the cellar. It was amazing that such a large family (there were 5 children) could live in such tiny rooms although Alfred Taylor (her grandfather) had acquired no 68 next door and made a way through.

On Sundays they could hear singing from The Wesleyan Chapel. In his younger days Alfred Taylor planted an acorn that grew into a large oak. The chapel elders respectfully asked him if he would remove the tree as it was blocking out the light to the chapel window.

Nearly opposite was a farm (Woodham's behind in Chapel Fields) where they went once to help with the haymaking. Next-door was a shop-cum-dairy  (No 64 Shortmead Street) where the cows were brought in each day (from the common) to be milked. The children were sent round each day with jugs to fetch the fresh milk passing trays of buns, doughnuts and bread on the way in the passage through which the cows had gone too!

Biggleswade Methodists purchased the two cottages in 1931. No 66 had various tenants over the years from 1930 to about 1985. They included Percy Gale painter & decorator who used some of the outbuildings. Alec Collings was there with his family for a short time in the 1930's before he moved to a new house in London Road.

Fred Cole and his family lived there from 1930 until 1969 when Fred then a widower remarried.

The situation in 1985 was that No 66 was now empty together with No 68 having been vacated in 1969 and subject to a closing order. Considerable remedial work needed to be carried out on the property, but the Methodist Chapel Trustees considered that this was an opportunity to demolish the cottages and extend their car park. Therefore, they made an application to demolish the listed building for this purpose. Mid Beds Districts Council refused their application when planning officers said that the cottages were in reasonable condition and that they had not gone beyond the point of viable restoration. Things dragged on until 1991 when they were in dispute with the both the District and County Councils over the future of these listed buildings. A Public Enquiry was held after there were further objections to demolition from the Council for British Archaeology, the Ancient Monument Society, Biggleswade History Society and English Heritage.

The enquiry upheld these objections and the cottages were eventually sold to Mrs M Clarke of Potton in order for her to carry out the necessary restoration work in conjunction with the Levitt partnership. The work stated in 1997 and was successfully completed by 2000 when the showpiece restoration received a Conservation award as shown in the central plaque affixed above.

Trinity Methodist Church.

Methodists celebrated their 300th anniversary in 2007. Charles Wesley co-founder of Methodism was born at Epworth Lincolnshire on 18th December 1707 and died on 2nd March 1791. He is reputed to have passed through Biggleswade, but there is no record of him having preached in the town, although he was a frequent visitor to Hinxworth where he preached at least 14 times.

The first Biggleswade Wesleyan Methodist chapel opened in Cowfairlands in 1795, but preaching started a year earlier firstly at a vacant shop in The Market Square and later at a large barn in the town. The Chapel remained in continuous use until 1834 when the old building was sold to William Conquest for £500 and converted into four cottages. This area of Cowfairlands then became Chapel Place. All demolished by 1957.

The present Wesleyan Chapel in Shortmead Street opened in November 1834, the site costing £620. From 1932 when all three branches of Methodism (Primitive, Wesleyan & United) combined, the building became The Trinity Methodist Church.

 

Methodist Schoolroom 2008

 

Methodist Schoolroom 2008

The Sunday School behind the Chapel was enlarged in 1906 taking in the site of the Superintendent Minister's house.

Wesleyan Chapel c1920

 

Wesleyan Chapel c1920

 

In 1929, the chapel was renovated with electric lighting installed. Herbert T Crooks wrote a History of Biggleswade Methodism celebrating the 100th anniversary of the present building.

The Bishop of Lincoln was the special guest preacher at a special service on 16th February 1995 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Methodism in Biggleswade and a new  illustrated history was written by Ann Pape to celebrate the event.

 

Trinity Methodist 1976

 

Trinity Methodist Chapel 1976

The Church was completely restored during 1997 at a cost of around £280,000, reopening on 8th January 1998 when over 200 people attended a Service of Rededication.

Trinity Methodist 2006

Trinity Methodist Chapel 2006

72-74  The whole site through to Chapel Fields was owned by Joshua Malden auctioneer in 1838, he died in 1839 and his widow Mary Malden continued until her death in December 1860. George Buckell general practitioner was there in 1861 followed by William Alden Keep, tailor who had moved from no 46 by 1871. He died in June 1880 aged 64 his widow Elizabeth Keep was still in business as a tailoress in 1880 when the original 72-74 was sold, together with 6 cottages built at the rear fronting Chapel Fields

Auction 15th September 1880 by trustee of the will of the late Mr W A Keep

Comprises the conveniently arranged Freehold BUSINESS PREMISES Occupying a most eligible position in Shortmead-street, Biggleswade, for many years in the occupation of the late   Mr. W. A. Keep, who conducted during that time a profitable Business as a Tailor and Hatter and consists of the comfortable brick and stud-built (with stuccoed front)

DWELLING HOUSE Containing a capital SHOP, WITH PLATE GLASS FRONT,

Sitting room, Living room, Kitchen, Cellar, and 4 Bed rooms, also a convenient Tailor’s cutting room, adjoining is a timber-built and pantiled two-stall Stable  and Chaise-house, with lofts over, a Hen house Coal place, Closet and Manure pit, paved Yard and Garden.    In the rear approached from the front Street by a neat Gateway Entrance is a detached timber-built and slated Wash-house, With capital loft over same; Wood Barn, Pigstyes and Hen house, also a Paddock, Orchard and Garden, Fenced, and partly walled at side; together with the

PRIVATE    DWELLING    HOUSE

Adjoining, in the occupation of Mr. E. J. smith, and containing

Two Sitting rooms, Kitchen, Cellar, and 4 Bed rooms, with Closet and a piece of walled Garden in the rear The premises are supplied with Water by a pump and well

The Estate is bounded on the South side by the Property of the Trustees of the Wesleyan Chapel; East by Lot 2, & Chapel Fields; & North by that of Mr. William Nichols, Mr. J. W. Kingsley, Mr. J. Dalton, and Mrs. White, and partly on the West by premises belonging to Mr. J, W. Kingsley, and an extensive frontage to Shortmead-street, and is now in tenure of Mr. H. J. Exworthy and Mr. E. J. Smith at a Rental of £54 per Annum.

The Private Entrance from Chapel Fields to the Paddock will be sold with this Lot, the North side of which is bounded by the end of Cottages forming Lot 2.

The Fixtures and Fittings, of which an Inventory will be produced, will have to be taken by the purchaser at a sum to be stated by the Auctioneers at the time of sale

 

 Details of lot two are carried forward to Chapel Fields

72 Elizabeth Keep was still in business as tailoress in 1881, but in 1891-1901 Mary Ferguson lived there
Bryant & Chambers motorcycle dealers opened in 1907. They were Alfred Bryant and his wife’s brother Mr Chambers. They added No 74 in 1925 and became 'Bryants The Rider Agents' in 1932. The premises opposite at 25-27 were added in 1938.   The original premises were sold and one listed building was demolished in 1985.
Was Electro Biggleswade Bargain Centre in 1997 then 'Electro Exchange', later 'Biggleswade Batteries' until 2007, currently (2009) is vacant.
 

74 1891-1901 Alfred Huckle poulterer, 1903Arthur King tailor to 1925 when he moved to 23 Shortmead Street.
Lettors Property Services 1997 to 2001, currently Hollywood Dogs, a Dog & Cat Grooming Salon.

76 Hole in the Wall was a beerhouse opened in 1840 accessed through a passageway between two houses. Having just one door was never destined to become a successful pub. John Steed brewer Baldock and his successors were owners between 1840 and 1898, then 1899 Martha Marsom Crown Brewery Northill, 1900 Down & Needham, Woburn Sands and finally Jarvis & Co Bedford from 1900 until it closed in 1912. Frederick Bennett the baker purchased it as a cottage for £110.  Among the licensees were 1861 James Housden, 1871 Emma Field widow, 1881-1891 William Plowman, 1901 Matthew Howlett. 

Trinity Close with 15 houses was created between 1983/5 replacing the rear of 74 and cottages 76-84

The following 4 cottages were sold in 1874 by Tebbutt v Tebbutt (must have been a family disagreement), 

78 1861 William Maltman,1871 Mary Maltman shoebinder, 1874 Widow Maltman, 1891 William Bull Ag Lab, 1901 William Larkins.

80 1861 Jane Smith needlewoman, 1871-1874 Thomas Boud greengrocer, 1901 James Francis carpenter, 1916 Harry Minney.

82 1861 Elizabeth Larman nurse 1871 domestic, 1874 Widow Larman , 1891William Larman own means, 1901 Ann Larman needlewoman.

84 1874, - Brunt  (subject to the life interest of Mrs Mary Ann White aged 59 years), 1891 W. Cowland (widow) laundress, 1901 John Tate living on own means.

86 Was a butchers shop for at least 140 years. 1841 Elizabeth Burton, 1851 William Burton, 1871 John Watts, 1881-1923 William Nicholls, 1923 his nephew Thomas William Nicholls, 1936-1937, R T King. The last butcher Arthur (Joe) Peck took over soon afterwards, he died in 1981 and the shop was converted into a house in 1983. It is now divided into three 84, 86, 86A Shortmead Street.

88- 90 Wagstaff’s Yard Frederick Wagstaff basketmaker started on his own at 90 Shortmead Street in 1891. He was President of the British Amalgamated Union of Basket Makers in 1905 when the Biggleswade Chronicle reported their annual meeting at The Royal Oak, Biggleswade. Frederick died in 1925 aged 60 following a seizure. He was a staunch Methodist, a local preacher and a Sunday School Superintendent. Three Methodist Ministers officiated at his funeral at The Wesleyan Chapel located near to his residence at no 88. The next generation Walter Wagstaff was already working with his father and continued the business. He was very active in local government and organisations, but died tragically in 1955 aged 58. The family owned osier beds at Clifton.

92 1841 Charles Barker dealer, was licensee of a beershop, then Thomas Dalton shoemaker and beerseller from 1851-4. James Dalton, Matthew Doulton and Louisa Dalton and other members of the family followed him to 1910. Mr & Mrs William Woodward celebrated their 35 years at the house in November 1970.

94 1891 James Goldthorpe Gas fitter, 1901 William Robert Bottoms painter followed by Herbert Bottoms possibly his son who opened a shop selling decorating material and later radio sets. He died in 1954 and his widow Letitia Bottoms carried on until she retired in 1969 to 76 Drove Road. She tragically died in 1980 aged 81 after being struck by a car at the Sun Street Rose Lane junction. 1980 Ivel Models, later Traditional Furniture Galleries now Electro Exchange.

96 1861 & 1871 William Larkins retired draper, 1881 &1891 William Chambers merchants clerk, 1901 George Francis carpenter.

98 Waterloo House was uninhabited in 1851. Then followed a succession of pawnbrokers with the traditional three balls hung above the shop. 1881 C Chilton, soon followed by Frank Page until 1897, then Christian Braitling until 1913 when Stone Brothers continued the business. Fred Stone took over from his father about 1969 and he specialised in heavy duty working clothes for men retired about 1985. 

100 1881-1891 Thomas Allen grocer & draper, 1901 to 1906 Robert Walker greengrocer & Market gardener 1925-50 Charles Larkinson - Larkinson Brothers post office, 1951, CA & E Crook grocers took over the shop, 1978 Biggleswade Bearings. By 1996 Jade Garden Restaurant.  Mr & Mrs Watkin had been living in the dwelling house for many years when Mrs Martha Watkin died in 1953 followed by Arthur Watkin in 1957.

There are now five houses in BRUNTS LANE the last one on the corner with Chapel Fields together with 15-20 Chapel Fields taking up the rear of the whole site from the Methodist Schoolroom to Brunts Lane. This site comprised gardens & orchards until the sale of 72/74 and the rear to Chapel Fields in 1880 detailed earlier.

LOT   TWO

Consists of SIX Newly-erected Brick-built and Slated

FREEHOLD     COTTAGES

Pleasantly situated in Chapel Fields, Biggleswade. Each contains Sitting room, Kitchen and convenient Bedrooms, and has a detached Wash-house and Closet, with a piece of Garden in the front and rear.

The premises are supplied with good Water by a well and pump.

The property possesses a considerable frontage on the East to the public footpath leading through Chapel Fields, from which it is enclosed by a neat iron Fence; is bounded on the North by that of White’s Trustees; West and South by Lot 1, and is now in the occupation of Messrs. G. Tebbs, W.Larkins, W. Bryant, D. Sole Jnr, C. Craddock, and D. Sole Snr. At Rentals amounting to £5018s: 4d per Annum Affording a capital opportunity of making a profitable investment.

The remainder of Chapel Fields will be included on its own page.

Methodist Sunday School The old Methodist Schoolroom was demolished together with an old Manse and a new schoolroom built in 1905.

15-20 Chapel Fields newly erected 1880

15 1880 G Tebbs, 1881-1901 Francis Vorley saddler

161880-1891 William Larkins blacksmith, 1901 Ernest Harradine coal porter.

17 1880 William Bryant platelayer, 1891-1901 Edward Brown retired butcher.

18 1880-1891 David Sole junior coachbuilder; 1901 Lydia Tasker shop assistant (she sold her shop at 130 in 1894).

191880 Charles Craddock basket maker, 1891-1901 Samuel Berry railway clerk

20 1880-1891 David Sole senior grocers porter 1901 assistant. gardener

Back to Shortmead Street

The whole premises 102 to 128 Shortmead Street were developed between 1955 & 1957 for A W Watkin Ltd comprising showrooms, garage and workshops taking in part of Cowfairlands and divided by the Long Twitchell.

102 1851 Ann Wells basket maker, 1871 Mary Maltman shoe binder, 1881 C P Gray 1891-1901 Elizabeth Gray dressmaker Mrs Matthews

104 1851 Martha Crouch, 1871 Thomas Boud greengrocer, 1881 Mary Pepper widow, 1891 Mary Pepper own means, 1901William Pepper market gardeners labourer.

106 1851 Thomas Bygraves 1861 Elizabeth Larman nurse1871 Elizabeth Larman domestic 1881 Empty, 1891 Mary Brooks own means 1901 Joseph Wright corn merchant & carter

108 1851-1871Mary Cole hawker, 1881 Empty, 1891 John Thresher cycle dealer, 1901 Albert Wright  Printer & compositor

110 1851 Thomas Warner farm labourer 1861 Samuel Woodall came to Biggleswade in 1861 to purchase a blacksmiths business carried on by Mr. Burgess. He moved to Shortmead Street in 1871 and also started coach building. Samuel died on 7th April 1904. His only son, Arthur who was 26 years of age went to Hill Farm, Old Warden on 8th May 1905 to trim some young colts feet. There were six to do and the first one, although restrained with a “twitch” kicked him in the stomach. He suffered a haemorrhage due to injuries re from which he died on 10th July. He left a widow with two little children. Elizabeth Woodall, his mother carried on with the business of Woodall & Son, wheelwrights and general smiths. 

Arthur William Watkin, born in 1870 was the son of Henry Watkin, a Market Gardener. He was a man of many parts, at one time a signalman on the Great Northern Railway. In 1905, he advertised as a dairyman in St Johns Street supplying families with new milk twice daily. Arthur Watkin had married Martha Woodall and after her father and brother died, he took an increasing part in the business.

On 14th December 1911, he purchased the business of Woodall & Co and became the sole proprietor. A significant event was a serious fire in the early morning at 2.30 on Sunday 3rd November 1918, when the workshops, showroom and valuable stocks of materials were destroyed. There was an announcement in the Biggleswade Chronicle that business would be carried on as usual. New premises were to be built under the title of A W Watkin & Son and his son Arthur Owen Woodall (Owen) Watkin was taken into partnership.

Arthur Watkin started the Biggleswader Bus Service in the early twenties, with services to Bedford, Hitchin, Royston and St. Neots. He sold the goodwill and eight buses to Mrs Mary Alice Atkinson on 1st January 1928. The Bus business failed in 1930 when Mrs Atkinson was made bankrupt with only one bus remaining.

It was announced in May 1928 that the A W Watkin motor works were reconstructed and enlarged. In addition to the wheelwright and general smith businesses they were agents for Leyland, Chevrolet and Vulcan lorries and could supply chassis of any make and build bodies on the premises for customers requirements. A. W. Watkin Ltd

was set up in April 1930, when Owen Watkin became Managing Director. By then they were main agents for Bedford Lorries and Vauxhall cars.  Owen Watkin married Eva Sletcher of Luton in 1931. Under his control the company prospered and expanded. He obtained the long lasting dealership in Bedford lorries and Vauxhall cars. They were also dealers and bodybuilders for Albion Motors Ltd until 1935 and also dealt with Morris and Riley cars.

Mrs Martha Watkin kept a grocery shop at 112 Shortmead Street next to The Long Twitchell and was still running it in 1945 at the age of 75.

There was another major expansion between 1955 & 1957 , when the works were extended to take in the Mount Pleasant Area of Cowfairlands and Debney’s farmstead. The site now extended to 112-118 Shortmead Street from Brunts Lane to Wren’s fish shop. It included a third of Cowfairlands and was divided by The Long Twitchell from Shortmead Street to Sun Street.

Arthur William Watkin was a member of the Methodist Chapel, from a Sunday school pupil to a teacher and the Superintendent. He became a local preacher in 1883 and was a well-known tenor singing in the choir. He formed the Boys Life Brigade in 1921 and was a supporter of the Scout movement. As President of the Biggleswade Brotherhood in 1935, he was responsible for building their Hall in Chapel Fields. About five years later it was used by The Peniel Assembly, whose members preached each Saturday on the Market Square.  In 1952 it became the Labour Hall and is now demolished. He served on the Urban District Council and was governor of the Council School in Rose Lane where he was educated.  He was a wheelwright, craftsman and model maker.  And not least, was a local historian writing articles for the Biggleswade Chronicle.  His book “True Tales Told of Biggleswade of Old” was published in 1955 and reprinted in 1988. He died in July 1957 at the age of 87.

Owen Watkin died on 4th December 1980. Apart from his business commitments he took a great interest in local affairs as an Urban District Councillor. During the 1939-45 war he was Liaison Officer for the Motor Agents Association and Ministry Of Transport, also Civil Defence Communications Officer. Other interests included the Town Band, Choral Society, Athletic Club, Dramatic Society, Sea Cadets and Air Training Corps. He was an enthusiastic member of the Camera Club. Mrs Eva Watkin died at Beaumont Park Nursing Home on 15th May 1999 aged 89.

The sons of Owen Watkin, Michael and Robin Watkin the third generation and great grandsons of Samuel Woodall, became Joint Managing Directors on 1st January 1977,

with Michael responsible for Sales and Robin for repairs & Servicing. When Vauxhall motors ceased to manufacture Bedford lorries, they took the Seddon Atkinson franchise. Tragedy hit the family badly on 9th March 1998, when Michael Watkin suffered severe burns in a fire at his home in Broom. He died 16 days later in a specialised burns unit in Essex.

The Pendragon Motor Group took over the Company as ‘Watkin of Biggleswade’ in May 1998, but closed down the business in 2000. The whole site was purchased by Wheatley Homes in 2001 and sold on to Stamford Homes in 2002.

The next two houses 112&114 occupied by John Green gardener and Eliz Larman blacksmith were incorporated into Samuel Woodall’s premises.

New Houses were built in 2003 from Brunts Lane to Wrens Fish Shop plus 24 behind in Watkins walk

116 1851 George Garton brewers lab 1871 John Luck tailor, Mrs Martha Watkin shop 1935-40

118 1851 Josiah Wick farm lab1871 John Tebbutt printer,1881-1891 William Rycraft fishmonger 1901 Rose Matthews fishmonger still 1916

The Long Twitchell still continues right through to Sun Street

120 &122 1841 Mary Malden, 1851-1871 John Malden baker & seedsman, 1881 James Howard baker, 1901 Joseph Hill baker & corn dealer until 1904 when John & Daniel Desborough took over the business Daniel moved to High Street in 1910 but John carried on until about 1937 when the property was sold to A W Watkin. Augustus Rainbank was living at Lime Tree Walk in 1935 and described as a wardrobe dealer at the shop in 1940, he died in November 1948, his son Thomas was still living at the shop in 1954.

Watkin’s purchased 124-128 about 1928

124  1851 George Butterfield grocer, 1861 John Partridge plumber ,1871-1881 John West MG 1891 William Bates tailor 1901 John Tebbs corn merchants clerk

126  1851 Joseph Keete carpenter & joiner ,1861 William Watts tea dealer 1881 John Forargue shoemaker1891 John Cooper general trader 1901 Thomas Wheeler shoemaker

128  1851 William Sibbold vetinerary surgeon, 1881 George Witty provision dealer1891 Alfred P Taylor & toy dealer , 1901 Mark Daniels furniture dealer

120-128  continued in occupation until demolition about 1955-7.

130 1851 John Pope, 1861 George Cooper basket maker, 1871 Thomas Tasker a grocer bought land from the Bourne Chapel Trustees in 1874 for £125 to enable them to enlarge the chapel.  He had the shop at 130 Shortmead Street built at the same time. Following his death in 1885 his widow Lydia Tasker carried on trading with her son Walter. The shop was sold to John King of Broom in 1894 and then let to Fred Smith a butcher until 1906, when William Wren 1863 –1942 moved his fish business there.

William Wren He was the third son of Walter Wren had set up on his own by 1881 in Alexandra Terrace, Rose Lane. By 1891 he had married Mary who was born in Ware. Their first 3 sons were also born in Ware. By 1900 they were living in Nash’s Row Mill Lane  The final move was to 130 Shortmead Street selling wet and fried fish in the shop with the warehouse serving as a base for the extensive market and hawking trade. William retired in 1938 and died in 1942.

All six sons were involved in the fish trade. 1 William 1893-1909 sadly died from rheumatic fever at the early age of 17. 2  I have  no further information about Thomas 1895-1909.Joseph 1896 –1967 was in the fish trade all his life except for army service in the Great War. 3 Joe Wren never married and was well known and popular in Biggleswade walking around each week with his fish barrow. 4 Alfred 1900 -1951 married Ada. He also served in the Great War.. 5 Albert 1908-1986 married Ivy. He initially worked for his father but soon had his own fish business, later opening his fish & chip shop in Potton Road. He served in the 1939-45 war.  6 John 1906-1936 married Irene Chambers. He died tragically soon after their marriage. The two sons of Alfred and Ada; Colin & John continued with the business. Colin retired in 2002, but John the last member of the family to trade still lives on the premises.  He still takes the stall to    Hitchin Market. 

The Bourne Chapel at 132 Shortmead Street   Robert Hodges gardener and Jeremiah Banks grocer & carpenter at 132 & 134 in 1851.

The Primitive Methodist movement which started in 1807 came to Shortmead Street, when a “Room in late dwelling house of John Guy held in trust for Primitive Methodists” was registered on 18th November 1848. The Chapel in Shortmead Street was registered for worship on 24 December 1853 when the minister was Edward Powell.James Young followed in 1860 and William Sidebottom in 1875.

The present building opened in 1873 and registered for marriages on 20 March 1897. Classrooms were added in 1895 and in 1902 The Sunday school was built at the rear.

There is a tablet in the building to the memory of 12 young members who gave their lives during the 1914-18 War.

The three branches of Methodism: Primitive, United and Wesleyan joined together in 1932. Then the Wesleyan Chapel became the Trinity Methodist Church. The Primitive Methodist congregation did not immediately accept the new order and the building was renamed The Bourne Chapel after its founder Hugh Bourne. They still had a thriving Sunday school when 80 young children sat down for the annual tea in February 1937. But their final service was held on 3rd April 1939 when the members amalgamated with Trinity.

During the 1939-45 War the building was let to The Evacuation Committee. The WVS canteen opened in October 1940 and was derequisitioned on 30th September 1946. There was a well-attended clinic for mothers and babies evacuated from London.

Cundall Folding Machines Ltd of Luton bought the building in 1946.  Denlocs Engineering Co Ltd took over in 1957 and Bourne Industrial Precision Ltd in 1981. Biggleswade Auto Supplies Ltd 1989-2006 were last occupants.

The building is now restored and converted into 4 apartments with 2 new one-bedroom houses behind. The forecourt provides a car parking area.

136 & 138 Harleys Bakery is the oldest continuing bakery in Biggleswade and the only one still operating in the town.  I can trace the history of the ancient building The first record is from the 1841 census when John West a baker aged 39 was born in Alconbury. He was still there in 1861.

The business was continued in 1871 by his son John West aged 39 who was the baker. William Alexander Medlock confectioner was in an adjacent building. There was a passageway beside the shop next to The Peacock beerhouse at no 140 leading to West’s Yard with 6 houses.

In 1881 WA Medlock seems to have continued with the bakery, he was a confectioner and also Town Clerk for many years later moving to St. Andrew’s Street.

James Gaylor was the baker in 1891 of the property sold in 1887 by Executors of the late Charles Powers that he had purchased in 1850.

Particulars of Sale by auction at the Swan Hotel on October 5th 1887

2 THREE-STORY DWELLING-HOUSES & SHOPS,

 (under one roof ) Lath and plaster built with good Brick Fronts and slated Roof

Occupying a Occupying a capital position in SHORTMEAD STREET BIGGLESWADE 

with a frontage of 43 feet thereto and let to Mr ROBERT WORMSLEY and Mr, JAMES GALER, Baker at

RENTALS AMOUNTING TO £31 PER ANNUM

And containing the following accommodation respectively—

      Mr. ROBERT WORMSLEY'S (Rent £ 13 per annum,, Tenant paying Rates),  A Front Shop with largo bow-fronted paned window, but at present temporarily converted by a match boarded partition and 2 doors (the property of the Tenant) into a Sitting-room

      A Living Room, and a Kitchen or Scullery, with Sink and Fire-place.

      2 Bedrooms, and 1 Attic Bedroom on the upper Floors.

      At the back a small Garden with Pebbled Path. Ash-pit, and 2 lean to Weather-boarded and Slated Wood and Coal Barns and Closet.

      The Fixtures and certain Improvements belong to the Tenant who will be entitled to compensation should he leave before 7 years from the commencement of his Tenancy, March 1884.

      Mr. JAMES GALER'S (Rent £18 per annum. Tenant paying Rates),

       

      A   BAKER’S FRONT SHOP

With bow fronted and panel window and the necessary Fixtures; a front Sitting-room with private entrance door, a Living-room or Kitchen: Staircase 2 Bedrooms and 2 Attic Bedrooms, on the upper Floors; also a large Cellar in the Basement, and adjoining and communicating with the House, a Brick-built, Weather-boarded and Pantiled

 

BAKEHOUSE

With convenient side Entrance, and fitted with a 4-bushel Coal Oven and the necessary Fixtures, and having a large Flour Loft over a lean to Scullery, with copper and Sink;

A STABLE and a covered Gateway Entrance with pair of close boarded gates and Hay Loft over both, of similar construction, and under the same roof and slated lean to Closet and Coal-shed ;

A   PEBBLED   YARD

With Flower Beds, and a PUMP and WELL OF WATER for the joint use of both Houses.

Tlic whole Property contains an area of about 8,550 superficial feet, is Enclosed by Brick Boundary Walls, and is most conveniently Situated for Business Purposes, having side approach to the Bakehouse and also to the Yard by the Entry called West's Yard.

Bounded on the North by the Property of Messrs. E. K. & H. Fordham, on the East by the Property of Mr. E. Chew, junior., on the South by the Primitive Methodist Chapel, and on the West by the Street.

The title shall commence with the Stewards copy admission of Charles Powers on 26th April 1850

 

In 1900 Wells & Co sold some properties (not part of their brewery business) including the premises comprising; a bakers shop (138) occupied by William Sugars at £18 per annum and the dwelling house (136) occupied by Robert Wormsley £18 per annum John Moore the High Street grocer bought these for £415. Mr Wormsley was still living there in 1901 but had moved to Sun Street by 1911.

William Sugars in the 1901 census was a baker, corn dealer and also ran the sub post office at 138 Shortmead Street. James Howard the baker had previously employed him at 122 next to The Long Twitchell. William Sugars died in 1919 aged 47.  He left a widow and son Cecil Sugars who continued as the baker but tragically died in 1920 aged only 20. His widow Mary Sugars sold the business in June 1922 to Cedric Rouse of Lancashire.

The Rouse family continued for 58 years. Ken Rouse followed his father, but in the late 1970’s an explosion in the oven injured him whilst he was taking out a batch of bread. Ken Rouse died in 1980.

Frank Harley was the next baker and he carried out structural and internal alterations to the timber framed building in 1990 when he showed me around the premises.

Soon afterwards David Gray and Linda Beard took over the business as Harley’s Bakery and they are still trading successfully.

140 The Peacock beerhouse opened in 1856. The trade was mainly local with houses clustered around. The Territorial Army Drill Hall opened opposite n the 1920’s were customers, but soon ran their own bar. Thomas Parish was the original owner selling to Fordham’s of Ashwell in 1891; they were taken over by J W Green Ltd, Luton in 1951. Greens became Flowers Breweries Ltd in 1954. The pub closed in 1961 and at the same time Flowers keg bitter was on sale in Wells & Winch pubs in Watford. Some licensees were 1851 John Bond, 1861 John Forargue, 1871 Ebenezer Dew, 1881- 1891Alf Smart, 1901 Jacob Stoton, he was followed in 1906 by William Oxby then his widow Charlotte until 1949-1961 when the last licensee Ted Lawrence took over

Next to The Peacock was a PASSAGEWAY TO WESTS YARD where there were 6 Cottages numbered for convenience

1 1871-1881 William Lincoln Gen Lab 1891 George Richardson railway lab 1901 George Cartwright Ag Lab Thomas William Brittain was there in 1916

2 1871 Henry Course ag lab, 1881- 1901 William Richardson gen lab

3 1871 Sarah Storton straw plait, 1881-1891 William Wells gen lab, 1901 Mary Wells widow was still there in 1916

4 1871 William Pepper sawyer, 1881 William Albone, 1891 George Wells ag lab, 1901 Joseph Waller jobbing bricklayer

5 1871 Elizabeth Pepper plaiter, 1881 James Pepper,1891 Eliza Pepper plaiter 1901 George Cartwright MG labourer still there in 1916

6 George Belcher journeyman blacksmith, 1881 Daniel Walker, Walter Johnson ag lab 1901 Frederick Pollard own means

This row of cottages appear to have been newly occupied in 1861   

142 1861 Thomas Dew carrier, 1871-1901 George Dew shoemaker

144 1861 Edwin Randall gents gardener, 1871 John Dalton retired draper 1881 George Burrows 1891 Rebecca Burrows own means, 1901 Charles Green print compositor & machineman

146 1861 Thomas Smith gents coachman, 1871 Samuel Law, 1881 Jane Berry, 1891 John Tilley Journeyman butcher, 1901 Arthur Newman gardener.

148 1861 George Munt master bricklayer, 1871 empty, 1891Ralph Newman gardener, 1901 Frederick Tear blacksmith

150 1861 Charlotte Oney, house proprietor 1871 Susannah King grocer 1881 Uninhab1891 -1901George Randall agricultural labourer

152 1861-1871William Adam tailor, 1881 George Randal, l Joseph Waller general lab, 1901 Thomas Britton market gardeners labourer

140 After The Peacock and all the cottages were demolished, new industrial premises were built comprising the former 140-152.  1979 Dutton Engineering (Woodside) Ltd, 1988 Anglia Handling Services, Armshire Sherville Plastics 1980-88. Currently Satisnet.

Then came the garden to the Sun Inn that fronts Sun Street
Described in a sale notice of 1823: A most valuable plot of Garden Ground, part fronting the Inn and a frontage towards the Main Street of Biggleswade, abundantly stocked with choice fruit trees. Area 2 roods 24 poles.  The detached garden of the Sun Inn, opposite that closed in 1836 was subsequently used as a gravel pit to dig gravel becoming dangerous in 1929, was walled off by the Urban District Council.

 Herbert Alec Collings (known as Alec) was one of seven sons of Lewis Herbert Collings who came to Biggleswade in 1920. Alec Collings took over The Motor, Tractor & Agricultural business at 28 Shortmead Street.

He opened his new Showroom and Depot with repair facilities for Allis Chalmers tractors on 27th November 1935 as H A Collings at a site at 152 Shortmead Street at the Junction with Sun Street. The builders were Wrights (Langford) Ltd

I was told that Charlie Carr a market gardener in Mill Lane bought the first Allis Chalmers tractor and that it was later converted into a roller for Biggleswade cricket Club. The model B was introduced in 1937 and continued to 1954 it was popular with Market Gardeners and Osbourne & Woodward at eagle Farm were very pleased with their tractor.

The business prospered and was extended in 1954 when a limited company H A Collings Ltd was formed. A big new servicing workshop was opened on 9th March 1954 by Godfrey Baseley of The BBC “Archers” a luncheon was provided for more than 230 farmers and agricultural dealers. F C Levitt was the architect and Wrights again were the builders. The Tractor Depot closed with a big sale of tractors and machinery on 11th 1970.  

MICHAEL KEILY converted the premises into Garage, Car Wash and Petrol Station in 1973 becoming MGK (Biggleswade) Ltd until 1980. Then Biggleswade Motor Co from 1980 until 1994 when restyled Biggleswade Motor Centre. It became Tim Brintons garage in 2000.  In 2002 Hamilton Cars took over the premises for their used car section closing on 1st January 2008. It is now Master Cars & Gees Autos

The Royal Oak 1 Sun Street stood at the corner. The let included a cottage fronting Shortmead Street let to W Lenton in 1898.
The corner site is now a block of 14 flats Acorn House and the whole site right through to The Common is Royal Oak Close comprising about 40 houses. Alfred Vernon Perrins traded as The North Road Auto Co from a newly built garage from 1919 to 1926 Owen Godfrey went there in 1920 to train as mechanic It became The North Road Auto Co in 1924 and Owen Godfrey purchased the business in 1926. After Owen Godfrey closed the garage was purchased by BRK (Biggleswade) Ltd by 1988 specialising in repairs and second hand sales. This continued under s various names including A-Z Motorist Centre, Deals on Wheels. It is now Now Daytona Cars & Auto Tec

The following are shown on the 1901 census

174 Eli Lincoln [or Lenton] (Oak Yard ) platelayer on railway

176 Sarah Rowlett laundress

178 Gilbert Haynes accountant.  John Day kept the Ongley Arms opposite until it closed in 1918 when he moved to 178. His  5th son Alfred Day general dealer took over the shop at 52 Shortmead Street in 1919. He left the shop to live at his father’s house shortly before he died at Moggerhanger Sanatorium in 1937 at the early age of 36.

180 Common Gate Charles Coleman postman & shoemaker
The Herdsman Cottage originally the Toll house built c1755 was utilized s a cottage for the Common Herdsman in 1876 Samuel Day was the common herdsman until Arthur Webb took over and lived there until 1942. It was demolished in 1957 and this portion of The Common is now The Dan Albone Car Park.

Keep watching - more photographs to come!