Biggleswade town centre
|North East Bedfordshire|
Biggleswade is a market town on the River Ivel in Bedfordshire. It has grown in population by nearly 10% over the past decade, primarily due to good transport links, being situated along the A1 road between London and the North, as well as having a railway station on the main rail link North from London (the East Coast Main Line). New housing developments mean that expansion is predicted to continue into the foreseeable future.
The name 'Biggleswade' is from Old English; thought to be derived from Biceles wæd (or similar) meaning "Bicel's ford". The spelling Bykleswade and similar variations occur in Law records of the 15th century, e.g. in 1430.
The Church of St Andrew has a 15th-century porch and priest's room. It displays fine stained glass including a recent Millennium window.
In Roman times, a loop road known as the White Way passed through Biggleswade (possibly along the course of the present-day Drove Road), linking up with the Ermine Way at Godmanchester, then a Roman town.
Biggleswade is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The entry reads Bichelesuuade/Pichelsuuade: Ralph de l'Isle. 2 mills
Bedfordshire was amongst the Mercian lands. In 2001 a gold coin bearing the name of Coenwulf, King of the Mercians, was discovered at Biggleswade on a footpath beside the River Ivel. The 4.33 g (0.15 oz) mancus, worth about 30 silver pennies, is only the eighth known Anglo-Saxon gold coin dating to the mid to late Anglo-Saxon period. The coin's inscription, "DE VICO LVNDONIAE", indicates that it was minted in London. Initially sold to American collector Allan Davisson for £230,000 at an auction held by Spink auction house in October of that year, the British Government subsequently put in place an export ban in the hope of saving it for the British public. In February 2006 the coin was bought by the British Museum for £357,832, making it the most expensive British coin purchased until that date.
In 1132, Henry I granted the manor of Biggleswade to Bishop Alexander of Lincoln, known as 'Alexander the Magnificent', to help endow Lincoln Cathedral.
The town was granted a charter to hold a market during the reign of King John (1196–1216) and a market is still held in the market place in the centre of the town every Saturday. The church is dedicated to St. Andrew. Biggleswade Castle existed in earlier times, as did a manor at Stratton Park Moated Enclosure.
On 16 June 1785 there was a large fire in the town. The fire started at the Crown Inn and spread rapidly through the neighbouring streets. By the time the fire had been brought under control, nearly one-third of the town had been destroyed, including 103 houses leaving 332 people homeless. A national appeal was launched to raise funds for the many people who had lost their homes and their livelihoods. In the local parish church there is a stained glass window depicting the fire.
The Great Northern Railway opened in 1850, and Biggleswade was for a time the first and only town in Bedfordshire to have a mainline station. Later it was one of three towns in the county to have one (on the East Coast Main Line), along with Bedford and Dunstable.
The town was bypassed by road in 1961.
Traditionally, Biggleswade has been a vegetable- and produce-growing area with trains often taking daily loads of vegetables to London's produce markets. Even though much of this has now stopped, Bedfordshire Growers, based on the outskirts of the town, still supplies major supermarkets with UK-grown potatoes and onions.
Biggleswade is also the base of the Jordan's cereals business who produce their own brand of breakfast Muesli, Country Crisp and Crunchy Oats and Frusli cereal bars which are sold across Europe as well as in Canada. There used to be a Felix cat food factory located on Potton Road. However, this moved away in 1970, and there was a glass bottle factory on Brunts Lane which was destroyed by fire in 2000.
The town was also home to the Ivel Cycle Works, founded by Dan Albone. This factory ultimately produced bicycles, motorbikes and light tractors. It went into receivership in 1920.
Other goods which have been made in Biggleswade include Berkeley Caravans and Sportscars]], who had a factory in the town, which was later used by Kayser Bondor, who made ladies' underwear and stockings in the town until the mid-1990s. The factory was demolished and is now a housing estate, with roads named Berkeley Close and Kayser Court after the businesses that used the factory.
Other large factories included Maythorns who were coach builders. Their large site in the town centre was acquired by Deleney Galley and was latterly Gloster Saro, who made heat insulation materials for aircraft (including Concorde). Gloster Saro was renamed Insumat and relocated to London Road trading estate. It has now left the area. The original factory was demolished in 1987 and the site converted into shops and a car park.
A much larger employer in the town was Cincinnati Milacron who had a large site between Dells Lane and the Railway, the demolition of this factory took place in the mid-1980s.
The town had a large brewery in the town centre for many decades; its last owners were Greene King but it closed down in October 1997 and the site is now occupied by an Asda supermarket.
Sport and leisure
- Biggleswade Town
- Biggleswade United
- Rugby: Biggleswade Rugby Club
- Swimming: Biggleswade Swimming Club
The town is mentioned twice in the diaries of Samuel Pepys. On 22 July 1661, Pepys stopped off in Biggleswade (called 'Bigglesworth' by Pepys) to buy a pair of warm woollen stockings. John Byng, 5th Viscount Torrington often refers to the town and the Sun Inn.
Nearby is the Shuttleworth Collection of vintage aeroplanes.
- Plea Rolls of the Court of Common Pleas; National Archives; CP 40 / 677, http://aalt.law.uh.edu/AALT1/H6/CP40no677/aCP40no677fronts/IMG_0138.htm; 7th entry, mentioned as the place where William Derlynge lived
- "Museum's £350,000 deal for coin", BBC.
- EMC Number 2004.167, Early Mediæval Corpus, Fitzwilliam Museum.
- "Ancient coin could fetch £150,000", BBC.
- Healey, "Museum Buying Rare Coin to Keep It in Britain".
- Bedfordshire Growers
- Jordans: What we're about