Biggleswade Heritage Trail

The following is a list of some of the features that will be incorporated into a Heritage Trail booklet that is in the process of being developed by the Biggleswade History Society.  This will include all of the green plaques that are affixed to buildings around the town denoting places and people of historical importance to the town; these have been incorporated over a period of several years:

Plaques 1997
First Methodist Chapel
Downs Maltings
White Hart
Town Hall

Plaques 2003
Dan Albone
Sun Inn
Swan Hotel
Maythorn Coachworks
Union Workhouse

Plaques 2004
Mead House School
Birthplace of Charles Penrose
Market House
Regal Cinema
Council School
County Court House
Ivel Mill
Old Police Station
Bourne Chapel

Other buildings and structures

Crown Hotel (Great Fire plaque)
Old Fire Station, Church Street
Old Print Works, Church Street
Saxon Sculpture & Information Board
Restored Drinking Fountain, Market Square
War Memorial, Market Square
Georges Hall, High Street
St Andrews Place (Conservative Club)

Railway Station
Former Court House, Saffron Road
Turners Chemist Shop (HSBC Bank), High Street
Trinity Methodist Chapel, Shortmead Street
Tec Chambers’ plaque on Labour Hall, Crab Lane
Restoration plaque on cottages 66&68 Shortmead Street
Restored Cottage, 55 Shortmead Street
Restored Cottages, 34&36 Sun Street

Long, Roothams and Bear


Biggleswade Heritage Plaques
Ken Page supplied the following text 13th April 2006
(Plaque illustrations and location photographs will follow in due course)

The Union Workhouse
142 London Road

The workhouse was formerly built on this site for the Biggleswade Union in 1837 on 3 acres of land called ‘Gallows Ditch. The building housed 280 paupers from 24 parishes and later became an infirmary, maternity hospital and old people’s home called ‘The Limes’. This fine Victorian building was demolished in 1972.
Frederick Hooper, solicitor and registrar opened the building circa 1861 for use as a County Court for civil cases and offices for his solicitors practice next door at Brigham House.  Customs & Excise later used the building before it became the job centre. The building is now a private house.

County Court House
91 High Street


J R Goldthorpe
38 High Street

William Goldthorpe was trading here as an ironmonger by 1869. His son John Richard carried on the business in these premises up to 1970. This is the longest established business currently operating in this town.
The Town Hall built by a private company  in 1844 at a cost of £800, was used as a public hall until 1922.  The Drum Clock was moved from the original Post Office opposite in 1898

Town Hall
Market Square


The White Hart
Market Square

The White Hart is thought to be the oldest building in the town after the  parish church. It also incorporated a maltings until the arrival of the railway in 1850.
The Regal Cinema seated 744 patrons and opened on 27th July 1936 with comedy film star Will Hay in attendance.  This was the premier entertainment in the town and included a cafe.  Between 1940 and 1946 Sunday evening concerts were staged.  The cinema closed in 1976 and became a Bingo Hall.

Former Regal Cinema
Station Road


Old Police Station
4 Station Road

Biggleswade Police Station was built circa 1855 when Edwin Blunden was the first Superintendent of Police for the Biggleswade Division of the Bedfordshire Police Force.  It was operational until 1939 when the new building opposite opened.  This building still contains the original cells.
John Maythorn a manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages moved from Sun Street to this site in 1869.  The factory and showrooms of Maythorn & Sons Ltd covered a large area of the town centre, making bodies for expensive motor cars with Royal Patronage.  Following a fire in 1923 the factory was rebuilt but subsequently closed in 1931. The premises were substantially demolished in 1990.

Maythorn Coachworks
Iceland supermarket now on the site (2006)
Market Square


Market House
Market Square

There was an ancient Market House on this site before 1565 when it was in a ruinous condition and repaired.  During the Victorian period it contained shops and a dwelling house above.  In 1937 the building was reconstructed and incorporated the 16th century oak frame roof.
The old Shambles stood on this part of the Market Square until burned down in 1896


The Shambles
Century House now on the site
Market Square


The Swan Hotel
Pegasus House is now on the site
High Street

On this comer site stood The Swan Hotel, an ancient coaching inn reputed to have been visited by Samuel Pepys.  The building burned down in The Great Fire of Biggleswade in 1785, was subsequently rebuilt to become the principal hotel in the town.  Demolished in 1973.
Charles Penrose Dunbar Cawse (1874-1952) was born here.  He had a long career in film, theatre and radio.  The first gramophone record was in1911, the most famous of which was the “Laughing Policeman” made by Charles Penrose in 1926.

Charles Penrose
3 High Street


Mead House School
Elphick Court, Shortmead Street

The inscription above the front door reads ‘ESTABLISHMENT FOR YOUNG GENTLEMEN’  and is a reference to the Biggleswade Academy for boys founded by John Conquest in 1834.  Behind this building stands the former school.  Both buildings together with nos. 52-58 Shortmead Street are now converted into 11 flats.
The Bourne Primitive Methodist Chapel was built in 1873 and continued until 1939 when it combined with Trinity Methodist Church.  During WWII it was a Woman’s Service Canteen and a clinic for mothers and babies evacuated from London.

Bourne Chapel
132 Shortmead Street


Dan Albone
Shortmead Street

DAN ALBONE  1860-1906

Father of the British tractor industry and Biggleswade’s most famous son.  Dan Albone lived and worked directly Opposite. He invented and manufactured Safety bicycles, motorcycles and motorcars.  Other inventions named Ivel included the worlds first practical and Successful farm tractor The Ivel Agricultural Motor  was patented on 15th February 1902

This 17th century building was frequented by Lord Torrington in the late 18th century and was in its day, Biggleswade’s premier coaching inn with 24 bedrooms.  The inn maintained 44 horses, 6 post chaise and 2 carriages.  One of the three original horse-mounting blocks can still be seen in front of this property.  The Sun Inn closed in 1836.

The Sun Inn
9 Sun Street


Methodist Chapel
2 Fairlands

On this site stood the first Methodist Chapel built 1795
The British Board School was built in 1874 for 200 boys, enlarged in 1905 to accommodate 200 boys, 200 girls and 213 infants and was known as ‘The Council Schools’. This was the main school in the town for nearly 50 years before changing to a Secondary Modern School, then St Andrews Lower School in 1964. Closed 1988.

Council Schools
Rose Lane


Downs Maltings
The Old Maltings, Church Street

Downs Maltings circa 1720 was one of 26 Maltings in Biggleswade using local barley.  The malt was conveyed along the Ivel Navigation to Kings Lynn and then by sea to London
There has been a watermill on this site for over 1000 years.  Henry Franklin, already a coal merchant became the miller in 1883.  After a fire in 1945 the building was restored but used as a warehouse.  In 1959 the business became Dalgety Franklin.  In 1982 the mill was converted into flats.

Ivel Mill
Mill Lane


Biggleswade Windmill
51 Osprey Road

Near to this spot stood the tallest and finest windmill in Bedfordshire from 1859 to 1967, demolished in one day. It was 70 feet high  and had five floors, with a gallery around the cap. The three millstones could grind three tons of grain per hour.