Brook House

Brook House – Now 20/21 Market Square

This house was reputably built about 1840 but probably earlier. According to census records of 1841 Samuel Conder auctioneer, cabinetmaker and china dealer lived there. He had a private garden in front taking up part of the square. He died in 1864 and by 1873 it was Conder and Son estate & land agents, auctioneers, valuers & surveyors. In 1895, Frederick Conder, his son who carried on with the business, was found dead in the Great Northern Hotel at Kings Cross, poisoned by Prussic Acid. At St. Pancras Coroner’s Court the jury returned a verdict of suicide while of unsound mind.

This early photograph was taken during Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in 1897. By this time Frederick – Conder operated the family business of Estate and Land Agents.

There are two conflicting reports in The Biggleswade Chronicle. On 8th February 1896 it reports that John Maythorn bought Brook House and twelve cottages at the rear from Frederick Conder. But when his son Frederick Maythorn sold the property to Herbert Church in 1929 it was reported to have been purchased from Robert Lindsell in 1869. Robert Lindsell owned the property in the tithe award plan of 1838 and in all probability Samuel Conder rented it from 1839 (Pigots Directory) until he purchased it from Robert Lindsell in 1869. Roberto Conder moved to London Road about 1895 and Brook House was sold to John Maythorn in 1896.

John Maythorn was a coach-builder starting at Sun Street in 1842 and moving to The Market Square by 1862. The business was continually expanding and the company was the main landowner in the centre of Biggleswade. His own premises extended from the corner of Station Road in 1896 and the obvious reason for buying Brook House was to obtain the cottages behind in Palace Street where he was enlarging his premises.

Roberto Conder the third generation to own the business moved to Chilworth House, London Road. He married Evelyn Dyer in 1895 and in 1907 he was found dead in a railway train at Sandy. The inquest was at the Bell Sandy and the verdict reported in the Biggleswade Chronicle was of death from strychnine poisoning taken during temporary insanity. George Jackson, estate agent of Hitchin purchased the business and auctioned the contents of Brook House under instructions from the Trustees of the late Mr. R F Conder’s marriage settlement.

William Green Brighten of Brighten & Lemon, Solicitors was the next owner in 1897. Mr. & Mrs. Brighten were joint secretaries of the Church of England Temperance Society. They were also connected the Independent Order of Good Templars an international temperance organisation. Their son Edgar William, also a solicitor was born at Southend-on-Sea in 1880 and came to Biggleswade with his father. Edgar served throughout the South African War as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Beds Volunteers and as a Lt. Col. commanded the 5th Beds & Herts regiment during the 1914-18 War. He was commissioned in the regular army as a Major in 1907 and promoted Lt Col in 1919 serving overseas in India and on his return to Dover in 1929 took command of the 2nd Beds & Herts Regiment.

Herbert Thomas Church, ‘Complete House Furnisher’, moved here from Victoria House, Shortmead Street in 1911 and converted the property into a furniture store; a verandah in front of the building replaced the garden. A recruiting sign can be seen on the full sized image of the photograph above indicating it was taken about 1914. Note the original balustrade on this and the adjoining building.

The Movex Studios photographers used part of the premises in 1928.

The property was offered for sale on 2nd February 1933 on the instructions of Herbert Thomas Church and comprised:

“A double fronted shop with display windows and verandah, with two staircases leading to the first and second floors and a large showroom with casement doors leading to the lawn and garden. A lock up shop with bay window and office at rear the dwelling house, with kitchen, scullery and pantry and three good cellars. On the first floor three front rooms, back bedroom and bathroom at the back of two sitting rooms and an upstairs water closet. There were five capital rooms on the top floor. On the east side is a motor entrance leading to the ornamentally timbered lawn and garden. On the west there is a side entrance to the dwelling”.

Biggleswade Urban District Council purchased the space occupied by the verandah in 1936 to extend the Market Square.
The premises were reconstructed as a restaurant and offices in 1938 and it became Benjamin Young’s Central Café. By 1951, Mark Bygraves had opened Parks Restaurant and he moved to 18 Market Square in 1969. Simmonds opened a perfumery stores and chemist shop in the building circa 1943; they were succeeded by Philadelphus Jeyes, chemists who moved to 19 Market Square in 1969.

A new use for the whole building was found when Stitchers Supermarket opened on 11th November l969. On 1st September 1971 the supermarket became Downsway. Above we see Stitchers Supermarket, with Philadelphus Jeyes the Chemist at No 19.

In 1976 Fine Fare took over and by about 1998 it was Gateway Food Market with ‘Up The Wall’ at No 19. In 2001 the name changed to Somerfield.
The modern fronts are very functional, but isn’t it a pity to lose the original charm, or is this a matter of opinion?

Ken Page
28th November 2007