Ivel Bury

Shortmead Street – Biggleswade

The Ivel Navigation opened in 1759 with the rivers Ivel and Ouse navigable from Kings Lynn to Biggleswade, where lighters were turned at the mill pit. There were three wharves at Biggleswade St Andrews, (now the Conservative Club), Middle Wharf (now Wharf House) and Ivel Bury. In 1823 the navigation was extended to Shefford and due to competition from the railways it closed in 1876.

The first record of the mansion at IVEL BURY is of a serious fire in 1783 when many of the best houses in town were burned down. There were extensive wine cellars under the site used in connection with the Ivel Navigation. Denis Herbert, a merchant trading between Biggleswade and Kings Lynn, lost the newly built mansion house he had not had time to insure. However, it was soon rebuilt and later became the residence of Samuel Wells the Biggleswade brewer who died in 1831. The next owner was Samuel’s son-in-law William Hogge who died in 1862. He was a merchant, brewer and banker of Biggleswade and Kings Lynn.

The next owner was Admiral Talbot. His executors sold it in 1883 to Frederick William Conquest who then moved Mead House School for young gentlemen from the other side of Shortmead Street. The school closed by 1920 and in 1921 the site was adapted for use as the Territorial Army Centre. Ivel Bury was rebuilt in 1936, retaining the original coach house and cellars (see Bygone Biggleswade Volume 3). The site became surplus to military requirements in 1970 and was put up for sale.

AHC Design purchased Ivel Bury and renamed it Century House. They originally provided technical drawing office and planning facilities to local firms. The private company later added technical recruitment and design consultancy. The Drill Hall, parade ground and gun park were used to house a variety of small factory units. The original coachhouse was converted into Argyle House Hotel in 1971 and then in 1984 became Pegasus public house. This building was demolished in 1989 and the cellars filled in to enable the construction of an adjoining residential complex called Pegasus House. Biggleswade & District United Services Club purchased the building in 2000 with the aid of a lottery grant. They renamed it Millennium House where we have our research room and hold our meetings.

The factory units behind were demolished in 2002 when the site was acquired by Croudace Homes. They filled in the other cellars; the last remaining cellar under Millennium House is “out of bounds”.

The development of 24 houses leading down to the river is “Ivel Bury” retaining the original name, a decision that should be applauded.

Ken Page
12th December 2004.