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The Crescent, Shortstown;
the Shorts Building (L) and the airship sheds
Grid reference: TL072594
Location: 52°7’0"N, 0°25’60"W
Post town: Bedford
Postcode: MK42
Dialling code: 01234
Local Government
Council: Bedford
North East Bedfordshire

Shortstown is a village in Bedfordshire, on the outskirts of Bedford.

The village was originally built by Short Brothers for its workers, but evolved into a settlement for workers at the RAF Cardington base.

The population of Shortstown is between 2,000 and 3,000. There is a social club, a shop and a school: Shortstown Lower School.

Shortstown started with the establishment of the Airship Works in 1917, when housing for the workforce was built next to the airfield. In 1918 and 1927, sheds (later Grade II* listed buildings) were built for the R100 and R101 airships which then represented the latest passenger flight technology.

Shorts Building and Airship Sheds

The Shorts Building
Cardington airship sheds

The main Shorts Building was built next to what is now the A600 road as an hotel for air passengers, but was never completed, because of the demise of the airship as a mode of passenger transport following the loss of the R101 in October 1930.

Later the building was used by RAF Cardington for teaching and administration and as an officers' mess. It was empty and unused for some years and became very dilapidated. In late summer 2010 renovation work started; scaffolding was erected and shortly thereafter an enormous photograph was erected on the outside of the building, depicting a retouched image of how the building was planned to look when the renovation is finished.


The village has two playing fields which have been designated Queen Elizabeth II Fields:

  • Concorde Close Playground
  • Shortstown Village Hall Playing Fields

Village history

Shortstown initially grew quite quickly, with housing laid out in a Garden City style. Examples are to be found on the Crescent, North and South Drives and Central Avenue. This aimed for a green, open residential neighbourhood in a settled suburban environment with formal road geometry, grass verges, hedges and trees. The design was influenced by the arts and crafts movement, based on an 'ideal' English style cottage concept, with steeply pitched and tiled roofs, ornamental brickwork, cottage style windows, and ornate detailing. This design fitted well with the estate cottages found in many local villages, including Cardington and Elstow.

The War Department acquired the airfield from Shorts Brothers in the 1920s which marked the end of civilian airship production on the site. Air force personnel occupied the houses. Over the years, more standardised housing was built by the Ministry of Defence, which conflicted with the style of earlier development.

In the late 1930s and 1940s, RAF Cardington was an induction centre and holding station for new recruits. From the mid-1950s it was used by RAF 217 Maintenance Unit which closed in 2000. By then the military presence had dwindled substantially and the military had sold many of the houses, mainly to Bedford Borough Council, who later transferred many of them to a housing association. Other government agencies have been established on various sites. The largest of these is the Driving Standards Agency (DSA), which currently occupies land to the south east of the site.

Since 2012 there has been significant investment made by local small businesses. Shortstown now has very modern NisaLocal shop with the Post Office. There is a new pharmacy, Tesco Express and hair dresser/ beauty salon. Cash points are located by NisaLocal and Tesco Express. New school is being build by Willmott Dixon and should be open from mid 2013.

The former RAF Cardington Camp occupies an area of approximately 112 acres and lies directly to the east of the A600, linking Bedford with the A507 and Hitchin. The site rises from the valley floor formed by the Elstow Brook and extends to the south, up to the ridge on which Shortstown now stands.

There is significant housing development on land to the east of the A600, this part of the village is marketed as New Cardington to appeal as more upmarket then Shortstown. Over half of homes on New Cardington development are for Housing Associations. Since New Cardington homes went on the market house prices in old Shortsown have risen by more than 20%, probably because of the larger size of old homes and exceptionally large gardens.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Shortstown)