Station Road

Looking back at the history of
Station Road, Biggleswade
by Ken Page

Station Road opened in 1850 when the Great Northern Railway came to Biggleswade

At a meeting at the Swan Inn in 1844,William Hogg, Robert Lindsell and John Nathaniel Foster were active supporters to enable the railway to pass through the town with an accessible railway station. The station owned by The Great Northern Railway opened on 5th August 1850 when there were celebrations in the town and local market gardeners decorated the station with vegetables. Passengers were conveyed to London and to Peterborough and the North and market gardeners were able to send their produce to markets at London & Sheffield.

 East Side of Station Road

The GNR purchased land from the Station to The Market Square and demolished The White Hart Maltings, leaving the ancient public house intact.

White Hart circa 1910 showing the old barn.
White Hart circa 1910 showing the old barn that caught fire (below).

There was a fire in the large barn between the White Hart and the newly built Regal Cinema on 23rd October 1936 at about 5pm. The audience were watching a film show and only one person went outside to see what was going on. The remainder were too engrossed in the film. Staff from the Regal and NURO films opposite used their hoses until the Fire Engine arrived. The barn was destroyed. The site was cleared and Station Chambers comprising three shops with offices above opened at the end of 1937.

Station Chambers 1957

Station Chambers 2007

Station Chambers 2011

Station Chambers 2015

Station Chambers from left to right (top and bottom) 1957, 2007, 2001 and 2015

Next was The Church of England National Schools, built in 1843 for 150 boys and 150 girls. The old building was sold in November 1909 to Frederick Maythorn the coachbuilder to add to his factory opposite. Then in 1935 it became the site for The Regal Cinema opened in 1936. New Church Schools were built in Church Street and Shortmead Street.

Regal architects impression in 1936

Regal cinema 1957

Regal  architects impression in 1936

Regal cinema 1957

Remembrance day Nov 1936

Remembrance day Nov 1936

Remembrance day Nov 1936

The Regal Cinema opened on Monday 27th July 1936 when large crowds of sightseers awaited the arrival of comedy film star Will Hay at the opening by Admiral Sir Lionel Halsey who lived at Old Warden. The proprietors were Arthur Hill and his two sons Ernest and Herbert; they also owned The Empire Biggleswade, Victory at Sandy and The Riverside Lido. The architect was Arthur Singleton and the town centre site chosen was part of the Maythorn factory on rising ground in Station Road.

Maythorn & Son Ltd who closed in 1931 had purchased the Church of England National School in 1909. Part of the original wall still forms part of the present building facing the car park. There were 744 seats. There was a short-lived café upon the mezzanine floor under the balcony, converted into offices in 1937. The first film was Will Hay in “Where There’s a Will” and Biggleswade Silver Prize Band provided the music. The Regal was an immediate success, but was sold to The Cox Cinema Co Ltd in 1937.

There were only four managers Guy David, Emile Morgan, Brian Walters and Tom Maguire. Mr Canfield was the first commissionaire soon followed by Bob Clements wearing maroon uniform and white gloves. One of the two pages was Charlie Cook. Mr J Clements was the projectionist with two assistants.

In 1938, Mr Cox invited all Biggleswade Pensioners to matinee performances free of charge. This was very much appreciated.

A series of Sunday Concerts, with proceeds to charity started in 1939 and continued from time to time during the war years. Live entertainment featured among others, Jack Payne, The Squadronaires, Troise and his Mandoliers, Ivy Bensons Girl Band and Big Bill Campbell and his Rocky Mountaineers. Amateur talent contests were very popular, with many enthusiastic performers.

Land for the car park in Victoria Place was purchased in June 1940 where a row of cottages had stood and later in September, a further piece of land behind The White Hart.

There was a demand for Sunday evening films in 1946 and as the Regal was not licensed for Sunday opening the Urban District Council initially turned down the request, but following a town vote the following year, the extended licence was granted.

A wide screen was fitted in 1956 and Cinemascope came in 1962

In 1972 the Regal Cinema was sold to the Star Group and in 1974 to the Regent Leisure Group. They began to run regular bingo sessions in addition to showing films.

With more people watching television at home, audiences at the Regal declined and the owners proposed to close the cinema, as they said it was not financially viable. Early in 1976, more than 2,000 people signed a petition against closure. But fewer than 60 people attended a public meeting, when various schemes were put forward. These schemes did not materialise and the Regal closed after Easter 1976. The last film was “Return of the Pink Panther” starring Peter Sellers.

The very last manager of the Regal Cinema, Tom Maguire retired in 1983 after 17 years, of change. However, a new era had started in 1982 when Don Tyler purchased the building.

Don Tyler had been in the cinema business since 1968. With many years’ experience as an executive with Granada Cinemas he had converted many cinemas into bingo halls. “Flutters Bingo & Social Club” Biggleswade heralded a new grouping expanding to five venues. Don, who with his pleasant personality, had worked very hard to make this enterprise a success, sadly died of a heart attack in 1995 when he was only 62. Luckily his sons Andrew and Ian Tyler carried on with the venture.

Flutters continue to provide family entertainment to a large number of local patrons. There are presently three other “Flutters” in the group at Coalville, Hinckley and Rushden.

Flutters 2004

Flutters 2007

Flutters 2004

Flutters 2007

Sea Cadets after Remembrance parade

Flutters 2015

Sea Cadets after Remembrance parade

Flutters 2015 from outside the Aldi store in Bonds Lane

The original Post Office and Postmasters house opened in 1899 built on the corner site Rose Villa purchased from Thomas Purser. This replaced the Post Office in High Street. A new larger Post Office and Delivery Office behind in Back Street, built at a cost of £408,000 opened on  11th November 1982. The reason given was that the population had doubled to 10,000 in 83 years.

Just over 9 years later in January 1992, the Post Office moved to part of Budgens Supermarket in Bonds Lane!

Station Road c1909 Post Office and Taylors

Station Road 1910 with the Post Office

Post Office c1980

Station Road c1909 Post Office and Taylors

Station Road 1910 with the Post Office

Post Office c1980

New post office

New Post Office

Postal Sorting 2010

New Post Office

New Post Office

Postal Sorting Office 2010

Thomas Purser retained Holmeside House on a large site next door where he lived with his family. After his death in 1922 his widow and sons continued until they sold the property for the Boys’ Home in 1928. The Boys’ home moved to Hillcote in London Road when the site was required for the new Police Station that opened in 1938. Holmeside can be seen as number 2 in this map from 1924.

Map of 1924

Station Road 1925

Station Road looking towards the Railway Station1925.
The wall and railings of ‘Holmeside House’ are on the far left  followed by estate railings for the vacanrt plot before getting to the large house.

Police Station with building new post ofice behind

Police Station 2009

Police Station with building new post office behind

Police Station 2009

Next was a large garden (possibly had belonged to Holmeside House) where the new Catholic Church was built and opened in 1973 with a house for the incumbent priest. This replaced the old church previously in Sand Lane.

Site for Catholic Church

Catholic Church Station Road opened 1973-09-01

Catholic Church

Site for Catholic Church

Catholic Church Station Road opened in 1973

St Peters Catholic Church

No 9 Station Road was built on another large site where Dr Welsh lived 1898 until 1924. Dr Bolster followed him until1941 when Dr Alan Lane Connold took over the practice. The last doctor in residence was Dr William Robertson who died in 1993. The house is now converted into flats.

There are two more imposing Villa residences no 11 and no 13.

No 7-9-11 Station Road 2007

11 and 13 Station Road 2007

Numbers 7, 9 and 11 Station Road in 2007

11 and 13 Station Road  2007

The railway station forecourt included the Stationmasters Villa emphasising his status. This was demolished in 1972, sadly with no evident photographic record except for aerial images, and replaced by a filling station later converted into offices.

Palace Street and Station Road

Saffron Road Garages 1972

Palace Street and Station Road where
Saffron Road Garages were built on the right

Saffron Road Garages advertisement in 1972

Petrol Station 1980

Baystraight House offices 2007

Petrol Station in 1980

Baystraight House offices in 2007

The Great Northern Railway was incorporated into The London & North Eastern Railway Company in 1923. The railways were nationalised in 1948 and became British Railways. Network Southeast was a great improvement for local services rebranded as Great Northern in 1986 leading to electrification in 1887 and alterations to the Station but the original frontage and booking office are hardly changed Five houses were built in Railway Bank to house key workers.  One of these was John Boothey who came to Biggleswade in 1889 as a signalman and retired at the age of 70 in 1927. He was known as “Honest” John during his years of service in local government.

At end of the road was the capacious goods yard.

The railway was successful and as traffic was increasing the original two tracks were increased to four and a new station built in 1901.

The Great Northern Railway was incorporated into The London & North Eastern Railway Company in 1923.

The railways were nationalised in 1948 and became British Railways. Network Southeast was a great improvement for local services rebranded as Great Northern in 1986 leading to electrification in 1887 and alterations to the Station but the original frontage and booking office are hardly changed

Railway Station and environs

This aerial view shows some interesting aspects of the railway station and its environs:


1 Station Master’s house
2 Weighbridge – demolished without permission
3 George Hotel
4 Railway Station
5 Goods lifts from the bridge to the platforms
6 Stables – demolished without permission
7 Saffron Road



First Railway Station taken in 1901 by Ernest Chew

First Railway Station c1876 by Ernest Chew

Market Gardeners Queuing along Station Road


Market Gardeners Queuing along Station Road with the weighbridge in use.


Railway Station 1957

Railway Station 1979

Railway Station 1957

Railway Station 1979

West Side of Station Road

The George Hotel 20 Station Road was substantially built at the station entrance in 1856 with bar & taproom  and five bedrooms, also large yard with stables, cart sheds pigsties etc. Successive licensees were also coal merchants. The hotel closed in 1965 and was converted into flats. The building was demolished and George Court built in 1982.


Arthur Dixon licessee of The George Hotel



Arthur Dixon licensee of The George Hotel


George Hotel closed 1965

George Hotel demolition

The George Hotel demolition starts

George Hotel closed 1965

George Hotel demolition

The George Hotel demolition starts

building George Court

George Court

Building George Court


There are three original Victorian villa houses leading to Saffron Road numbers are 14-16-18. Seen here in 2007

One of these, No 16 housed the first telephone exchange at the residence of Mrs Maria Bailey in 1913. This continued for twenty five years until the automatic exchange opened in Back Street.

Station Road 2007

Palace Street & Station Road
Palace Street and Station Road

No 12 in 2007
Originally known as South Villa built in 1857.The garden forms an apex to Saffron Road. Henry Franklin the miller purchased from Horace Barker in 1875. It was let to Samuel Gray merchant and farmer until his son Leonard Franklin moved in. Frederick Wright market gardener lived there for many years.

No 12 Station Road 2007


Station Road

Next are three Villa residences (above) and some of their occupiers were: (left to right in the photo above).

No 10
Thomas Handley architect & surveyor, died suddenly in 1908, he had lived there from about 1876.

No 8
Nehemiah Smith was the first headmaster of the new British Board School in Rose Lane.  He continued as headmaster of the boy’s school for 42½ years, retiring on 31st March 1918, when it was The Council School.  Three months later on 2nd July he died at the age of 69.

No 6
A detached Villa owned by John Squire Bartlett who was schoolmaster of the National School and the collector of rates and taxes. When the school closed he opened Bates School in his office at the rear in Holmeside. He died in 1882 at the early age of 49. His son Charles John Squire Bartlett continued as collector of rates and taxes, he also ran several insurance agencies and agent for Charles Samuel Lindsell at Holme Green. When the Urban District Council started he carried on he became Rating Officer with his office called ‘ Holmeside’ in Palace Street (see more details on that page). This use continued until his death in 1947 when Dennis Sale continued in the post. Barbara Kendall lived there from about 1945 to 2001 when she died

Station Road 2007
Station Road 2007 looking across the face of No 8 in the foreground

Old Police Station 2003

Sea Cadet HQ 2009

No 4
This was The original Police Station (left in 2003) built about 1855 and included the Superintendent’s house. It closed in 1938 when the new building opened opposite, then used for various purposes including the County Library, Civil Defence and currently the Sea Cadet headquarters (right in 2009).

Then, three cottages where Taylor & Co ran a saddlery and harness business from the 1880s and in 1923 the business passed to John Woodward who had worked for them for 32 years. His grandson Derek Woodward actively sold leather and travel goods there until 2008.

Fairfield Care Products took over the premises and warehouse behind in Bonds Lane. Next were Fairfield Care Products moving to Albone Way.  Currently, (May 2015) the premises are vacant pending development.


Taylors Station Road


Taylors Station Road

Taylors Station Road

54 Taylors Station Road 1957.jpg

Taylor & Co 2003

The old Post Office is on the left with Taylors on the right in the left-hand photo in 1910
The centre photo above of Taylors was taken in 1957 and the one on the right in 2003.




Taylors shop officialy closed 2008

Fairfield Care Products 2009

Ivel Building Supplies 2009

Taylors shop officially closed 2008

Fairfield Care Products early in 2009

Ivel Building Supplies later in 2009

From Bonds Lane to  The Market Square was the main Maythorn factory, now three shop  units and a car park

 Station Road 1957
Station Road in 1957
Maythorn building in front and Regal cinema on the right.

John Maythorn, ‘Journeyman’ founded a each shop in Fox’s Yard, Sun Street, Biggleswade in 1842. The stage-coaching era was coming to an end, but he found plenty of work building coaches for gentry and commercial carriers. In 1854, he was described as a ‘Coach Builder and Harness Maker”. By 1862, he moved his growing business to the corner of Station Road and the Market Square. In 1885, Kelly’s Directory described the business as ‘John Maythorn and Son, High Street, Station Road, Palace Street, Cemetery Road (The Baulk) and Market Place’. The firm manufactured every type of horse-drawn carriage and was renowned nationally. John Maythorn took part in public life, being a member of the Board of Guardians, Lighting and Burial Committees. He became a Director of Biggleswade Gas Company in 1876, helping to make it profitable after a period of stagnation. John Maythorn died in 1897 aged 75.

His son, Frederick Alfred Maythorn, took over the business and expanded into building motorcar bodies. He purchased the old National School in Station Road in 1909 (now Flutters Bingo Club) and a dozen old cottages in Palace Street in 1914, to extend the factory that covered a large area in the town centre. When he held a party to celebrate completion of the new workshops, there were about 200 employees. Maythorn & Son built high quality wooden bodies of ash.

Frederick Maythorn entertained 110 employees of Maythorn & Son Ltd at his retirement party on 30th January 1920.

There was a dreadful fire in 1923, when a large part of the factory was destroyed. An even larger works was completed by 1925 with a handsome building dominating the Market Square causing more cottages in Palace Street to be demolished. The other works in Palace Street and Station Road were not affected and production continued, albeit with difficulty.

 The Morning after Maythorn's 1923 Fire
The Morning after Maythorn’s 1923 Fire

Frederick Maythorn died in 1928, when the Company was still flourishing. The Pressed Steel Company of Great Britain Ltd opened their factory at Cowley; Oxfordshire beside Morris Motors works in 1926. This resulted in a limited trade for wooden bodied limousines’ and as Hooper’s now had surplus capacity, the Biggleswade factories closed and Maythorn & Son Ltd was liquidated in 1931. Many employees found work at Vauxhall Motors, Luton finding that their expertise was not required in mass production.

Redevelopment in 1990 saw the site used to build three large shops; two of these are now Iceland Frozen Foods and the third, Lloyds Chemists. They were designed to look something like the original premises. Part of the original Maythorn factory remains in Bonds Lane.