Back Street

Looking back at the history of
Back Street and Sand lane, Biggleswade
by Ken Page



Back Street 1910

Back Street looking west from near London Road in 1904
Apart from two cottages this area is entirely rebuilt
The horse-drawn cart is about to cross the railway bridge
then pass in front of the pub ‘Bridge House where the sign can just be seen on the left.

Starting from The Retreat Beauty Spa in London Road. The original building is a period cottage adapted by Tunnard’s potato merchants in the 1930s by adding a new extension office facing Dells Lane and the Potato warehouse in Back Street. It was adapted as a Bed & Breakfast guest house as Stratton Cottage. The original Victorian Stratton Cottage is opposite at the end of our tour.

Beauty Spa  No 1 London Road 2011

Stratton Guest House 2015

Retreat Beauty Spa  at No 1 London Road 2011
The entrance to Back Street is on the right

Former potato warehouse converted to
Stratton Cottage Guest House seen here in 2015

Numbers 1 to 23
When one block of six timber-framed buildings collapsed in 1951, they were already condemned and speedily demolished. Mrs Heard who was still living in no 11 was rehoused. These were demolished in 1954 and the Urban District Council replaced them with six old people’s bungalows (No 1-11) early 1950s at a cost of £5,000.

25 and 27 are the only Victorian cottages remaining and have been considerably altered.

Back Street 2007

Back street 1957

Tunnards building & No 1-11 & 13-15 1957

Bungalows 1 to 11 (seen here in 2007) replaced the old cottages Nos 1 to 23 that were demolished in 1954

Seen here in 1957 looking east

In the distance is Tunnards
building, then bungalows No 1-11
with No 25-27 seen in 1957

Back Street 1967

Back Street 2007

Back St No 25-27 2010

Back Street 1967

25 and 27 Back Street 2007

25 and 27 Back Street 2010

Numbers 29 and 31
The site of 29 and 31 was where Bridge House, a beer house, once stood; it is marked as property 25 on the 1899 Wells & Co Brewery plan below. Deeds show that in 1827 James Bontell, carpenter purchased a piece of land formally part of Delves piece now Hancock’s Field to build two houses. He occupied one and let the other to James Huckle. He died in 1847 and his son sold both houses to Robert Twelvetrees baker in 1864 for £205. William Chew and William Wade were the next occupants. The houses were sold in 1869 to Weston & Powers, brewers for £297. According to the licensing list Bridge House was established in 1857.

Wells & Co, later Wells & Winch Ltd, purchased Bridge House in 1875. In September 1901 the licensee Charles Bland was convicted by Biggleswade Magistrates of stealing manure to the value of one shilling, he was fined £2 plus 7/6d costs. He forfeited his licence.

Bridge House closed in 1936 and was let as a cottage until 1972. A pair of bungalows were built in 1995 on the plot that included a site of empty ground belonging to Biggleswade Scout Group This was originally intended as a site for their headquarters.

Back Street & Stratton Street 1899 Wells & Co Brewery plan of four pubs

Back Street 1970

Back Street bungalows replaced  Bridge House 1995

The bungalows at No 29 and 31 Back Street are seen
being built in 1970 as viewed from the railway bridge.

Back Street bungalows built in 1995.
The left one is built on the site of Bridge House.


Back Street hailstorm May 1967

Back Street hailstorm May 1967.
Over the bridge the scrap yard gates can be seen and behind that the Regal cinema.
On the left before the old bridge is the footpath entrance.

Immediately before crossing the railway bridge, which was originally built in 1850 and rebuilt in the late 1960s, there is a footpath leading to the railway station.

Listed in the 1841 census there was a beer house in the vicinity described as The Red House and occupied by one Alexander Medlock. This could have been where the cutting was made for the railway 1850.

On the west side of the railway bridge there were two cottages occupied by Joseph Allen and family with a scrap yard.

There were a further three cottages before Rose Villa on the corner of Station Road; demolished when the Post Office opened on 13th January 1899 and knocked down in 1982. The Royal mail Delivery Office is part of the present complex. None of the old buildings in Back Street from the railway bridge to Station Road have survived.

Next to the bridge is 1982 is Cavendish Court containing flats 33 to 55 Back Street.

Joseph Allen's original scrap yard

Cavendish Court 2015

The site of Joseph Allen’s original scrap yard
The police station garages are on the far right and the station radio mast is just behind them.

Cavendish Court in 2015 – No 33 to 55 Back Street.
This was built on the site of Joseph Allen’s original scrap yard.

Then come the garages which were built as part of the Police Station in Station Road built in 1938, these are now in use for other police purposes.

Rear of Police Station 1957

Original garages for Police Station 2015

Now the original garages for the Police Station
have another police use; this was taken in 2015.

This was the rear of the Police Station in 1957 showing
just the original garage doors here.

The former Telephone Exchange built in 1938 and closed in 1972 is now converted into the new Providence Chapel. For information about the old chapel see Victoria Court below.

new Providence Baptist Chapel 2015

building new Post Office

temporary Post Office 1980

Above is the new Providence Baptist Chapel in 2015 on the site of the former telephone exchange.


Top centre is the new Post Office under construction.

Top right is the temporary Post Office in 1980.

Bottom left shows the new Providence Chapel behind the new Post Office yard in 2015 which is also shown bottom right.

new Providence Chapel 2015. and Post Office yard

Back Street Postal Sorting Yard 2015

Returning to London Road via Sand Lane to the Market Square and along the north side of Back Street

The Regal Cinema, now Flutters Bingo Club, opened on Monday 27th July 1936 (see Station Road page).

Back Street & Station Road Regal Cinema

Flutters car park 2007

The Regal Cinema before it became a bingo hall.
In case you are wondering, the main film showing at the time of the photograph was ‘Escapade in Japan’. Made in 1957 the film starred Teresa Wright, Cameron Mitchell and Jon Provost

At the back of the old Regal cinema is Flutters bingo club car park in 2007.
The door on the far left gives access to the original projection room. So it was the only route for the projectionist into and out of the building; not a very safe idea with all that acetate film around!

Sand Lane (renamed Victoria Place after 1990)

Starting in Back Street the site of two cottages and other land became the Regal cinema car park in 1936. Beyond were two Looking from Back Street towards the Market Square, the Town Hall on the far right and the High Street beyond the site of cottages can be seen in Sand Lane and further land behind the White Hart was added to the car park in September of that year. Coming back up Sand Lane from The Town Hall one would have seen The Catholic Church which opened in what was called the Small Town Hall in 1924. This building was replaced by the present two shops and dentists surgery in 1973.

Sand Lane Regal car park & Allen's scrap yard 1957


On the right is the old St Peter’s Catholic Church in 1957. This was replaced with shops as shown below in 1976. The two cottages seen in the photograph on the left have now gone too and become part of the White Hart car park.

old Catholic Church 1957

In the photograph above the Regal cinema car park is on the left and cottages beyond are there in 1957. On the right of the picture the roof of the old Catholic Church can just be seen but occupying most of the scene is ‘Joey’ Allen’s second scrap yard.

  Sand lane new Shops 1976


Below are the two shops and dental surgery built in 1973/76 that replaced the old Catholic Church.

Sand Lane Victoria Place 2003

Sand Lane Victoria Place 2009

Victoria Place 2009

Victoria Place (Sand Lane) in 2003

Victoria Place (Sand Lane) in 2009

Camberley House on the corner with Sand Pit Walk was built for Joseph Allen. He also owned the scrap yard where the sandpit was located.
The eight Victorian houses, now demolished, went through to Roothams Twitchell.

Sand Lane Camberley House 2007

Sand Pit Lane 2007

Joseph Allen's scrap yard 1957

Sand Lane Camberley House 2007

Sand Pit Lane 2007

Joseph Allen’s scrap yard 1957

Looking into Victoria Place on the right, where Joseph Allen’s scrap yard later was, there were originally a row of cottages.

In the 1841 census there were 48 houses in Back Street, plus 19 more described as ‘Sandpits’.

Local historian Mr A.W. Watkin recalled that many years ago there was old gravel pit on part of the site where Victoria Court now stands.  In one corner were the remains of a building known as The Cage. His father told him that this was a building once used as a lock up where drunks and lawbreakers were temporarily housed.  The building was earthed over on top and had a heavy iron barred door. The excavated sand was very convenient for building numerous cottages nearby.

The Woolpack beer house (item 26 on the 1899 plan above) was first licensed in 1846 when Wells & Co, the Biggleswade brewers, purchased a site. The pub was most likely converted from a cottage. There were two front and two back rooms , a kitchen three bedrooms and a cellar in the basement. A yard with gates to the road, washhouse Lofts and WC. Mr Cotton was licensee in 1905/6 and left because he could not make a living. There were two more tenants before it closed in 1907 and sold to Mr R.W. Wright for £90in 1908 in 1908.

Next to the pub was The Providence Strict Baptist Chapel built above old cottages on a site “abutting northward on the Town Cage” It opened on 18th July 1843 built to accommodate about 250 persons. It was soon full and enlarged about three years later holding 390 but was again soon full.  Typical Sunday attendances in 1851 were morning 200, afternoon 300 and evening 300. The cottages were converted into a Sunday school in the basement. In 1874 there were 120 pupils and 10 teachers. Back Street was built up during the years leaving the Chapel below street level. By 1970 the trustees realised that the chapel was in need of considerable repair.

old Providence Chapel 1975

old Providence Chapel 1987

old Providence Chapel 1987

.old Providence Chapel 1975

old Providence Particular Baptist Chapel detail in 1987

old Providence Chapel 1987
with scrap yard buildings to the left

Joseph Allen sold the scrap yard to Mr S. W. Wood (Baldock Metals Ltd) in 1964.

Richard Larkinson was the grandson of Frederick Larkinson. His father Harry Larkinson died shortly before his grandfather. Richard gradually built up his own business and purchased the scrap yard. He already owned the former telephone exchange and it was agreed that it could be converted into a new chapel. This opened on 11th October 1987 and the chapel was demolished.

The site was cleared and Victoria Court containing 24 flats was completed in 1989.


Back Street Victoria Court 1989



Victoria Court advertisement in the
Biggleswade Chronicle in 1989


Victoria Court 1995

Victoria Court 2007

Victoria Court 2010

Victoria Court 1995

Victoria Court 2007

Victoria Court 2010

Flats have replaced the rear entrance to Hubbard’s greengrocers. The other side was Roothams Terrace where King & Bowles (Les King and Ron Bowles) established their carpet store and fitting service here from 1970 to 1986. When Ron retired Les continued with Gareth Griffiths (King & Griffiths) until 1989. This was replaced by Pedals’ the Biggleswade cycle shop owned by Les Williams; he moved to Shortmead Street in 2014.  Between Roothams Twitchell and the Railway Bridge were more old cottages and houses including the location occupied by Pedals and a derelict yard behind what was the Shoulder of Mutton’ (item 24 on the 1889 plan above).

Back Street & Sand Pit Walk 2007

To re-orientate the photo on the left, taken in 2007, is from the car park outside the former ‘Pedals’ business and looking west along Sand Pit Walk towards Sand Lane (now Victoria Place). Victoria Court is on the left


The photo on the right shows the flats and the
entrance to Roothams Twitchell in between
them and Pedals (see below centre right).

Back Street Pedals 2009

Back Street & Sand Pit Walk 2007


Pedals 2009

Back Street Hubbards back entrance and Roothams Terrace  1957

Back Street Roothams Terrace 1957

Roothams Twitchell

Hubbards back entrance
and Roothams Terrace 1957 on the right.

Back Street Roothams Terrace 1957
looking towards the High Street

Roothams Twitchell 2009.

Pedals 2009

Pedals 2009

45 Back Street Pedals 2015

Pedals 2009

Pedals 2009

Pedals moved to 72 Shortmead Street

rear of old Shoulder of Mutton 2007

Between Pedals and the railway is this vacant plot behind the
former Shoulder of Mutton waiting to be developed; seen here in 2007.

 Back Street No 10-14 three bungalows
To the east of the railway bridge three old people’s bungalows
replaced more old cottages; also seen herein 2007

Back Street No 2-8 2007

Back street  2007

Then comes a block of five three storied flats

Back Street rear of Brignals 2007

London Road No 2 Victorian Stratton Cottage Brignals Balderson Warren Solicitors 2011

Finally is the yard entrance to Brignell’s, Balderston Warren, solicitors in London Road.

Looking at the area today it is not easy to imagine that there were 67 dwellings here in 1841 and still 65 in 1901. Mostly owned by local traders and rented to agricultural labourers with large families.