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Town council logo and de facto town arms
Biggleswade town centre
|Population||16,551 (2011 Census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Fire||Bedfordshire and Luton|
|Ambulance||East of England|
|EU Parliament||East of England|
Biggleswade is a market town and civil parish located on the River Ivel in Bedfordshire, England. It is growing in population mainly because of good transport links along the A1 road between London and the North, and via Biggleswade railway station on the East Coast Main Line). New housing developments are appearing as Biggleswade continues to expand as a commuter town.
Biggleswade is located about 40 miles (60 km) north of Central London and 20 miles (30 km) to the west-southwest of Cambridge. Situated with a station on the East Coast Main Line, Biggleswade is around an hour from the capital city by train. In 2011 the population of the town was about 16,550. The Biggleswade civil parish also includes the nearby hamlet of Holme, Bedfordshire.
The town lies just off the A1, Britain's "Great North Road" between London and Edinburgh. The B1040, which leads to Potton in the north, runs through the town. Biggleswade is also situated on the A6001, which leads to Langford and Henlow to the south.
The area around Biggleswade is thought to have been inhabited from around 10,000 BC, with arrowheads dating from this period believed to have been found in the region. 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.
(See also Hundred of Biggleswade)
In the 5th century AD, Saxon invaders settled here – the name Biggleswade is thought to be derived from Biceil, an Anglo-Saxon personal name and Waed, the Saxon word for ford. The spelling "Bykleswade" and its variations occur in Law records of the 15th century, e.g. in 1430.
In 2001 a gold coin bearing the name Coenwulf 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 with the help of funding from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the British Museum Friends making it the most expensive British coin purchased until that date.
In 1132, Henry I granted the manor of Biggleswade to Bishop Alexander – Alexander the Magnificent – of Lincoln to help endow Lincoln Cathedral. The town was granted a charter to hold a market during the reign of King John (1196–1216) – a market is still held in the market place in the centre of the town every Tuesday and Saturday. The medieval Church of St Andrew is the town's parish church and contains the monumental brass of John Rudying with a Figure of Death. 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 1960.
Buses in the town were provided by Eastern National until 1952 when the western division of Eastern National was handed over to United Counties. The company had a garage in Shortmead Street opposite Ivel Gardens until 1989 when it was sold for redevelopment into flats. United Counties was acquired by Stagecoach in November 1987 and moved to the current site in Hitchin Street in 1989, which was acquired from Charles Cook. Other bus operators based in Biggleswade included Charles Cook European Travel who operated in the area between 1947 and 1998 and Fairway Coaches although both of these operators have ceased to operate.
Traditionally, Biggleswade has been a vegetable and produce-growing area, with trains often taking daily loads of vegetables to London's produce markets. Though much of this has now ended, 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. There also used to be 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. 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, which was owned by Mid Beds Council was demolished in 1987, and its site converted into shops and a car park.
A much larger employer in the town was Cincinnati Milacron, which had a large site between Dells Lane and the railway. The factory was demolished in the mid-1980s. Part of its site is now covered by the "Poets" estate (Tennyson Ave, etc.)
The town had a large brewery, Wells and Winch, 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
There is an indoor pool, Saxon Pool, and a leisure centre, which replaced the old outdoor swimming pool in Playfield Close. It underwent expansion in 2015 to add a new sports hall to the back of the complex. There is also a small skatepark located behind the complex, next to the local park.
The town has three football clubs – Biggleswade Town, of the Southern League Premier Division, along with Biggleswade United and Biggleswade FC of the Spartan South Midlands Premier Division. Biggleswade United has recently been given a boost in awareness by Sky Sports pundit Guillem Balague's appointment as Director of Football. Although only formed in 2016, Biggleswade FC immediately won promotion to Step 5 – and share a ground with Biggleswade Town, located on Langford Road.
Biggleswade Rugby Club plays in the Midlands 3 East (South) league, and has 3 senior sides alongside active Mini and Youth sides from under 7 to 17 years.
Biggleswade Cricket Club, provides teams for all ages including youth teams. The club's adult teams compete in league cricket on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the season.
The Swiss Garden in Old Warden Park was created in the early 19th century, and charges a fee for entry. Over time, the gardens have seen additions by the Shuttleworth family, including major renovations in 2013/14. It is promoted by the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
The town is mentioned twice in the diaries of Samuel Pepys. On 22 July 1661, Pepys stopped off at "Bigglesworth" to buy a pair of warm woollen stockings. On 5 August 1664, Pepys's wife, on a visit to relations in Huntingdonshire, sent him a message saying she had arrived in "Bigglesworth" on the coach from York and would be home next day.
There are six churches in Biggleswade, which are represented locally by the umbrella organisation Churches Together.
Nearby is the Shuttleworth Collection of vintage aeroplanes, sometimes referred to as Biggleswade Airfield. The organisation also operates the Swiss Garden and a large play area on the premises.
Biggleswade, as part of Central Bedfordshire, has a three-tier schooling system with lower schools catering for ages between 5 and 9, middle schools from 9 to 13 and Stratton Upper School continuing education up and into Sixth Form. Two of the local schools, Stratton Upper School and Biggleswade Academy, attained Academy status in 2011.
List of schools
- Stratton Upper School and Community College (formerly Stratton Grammar Technical School)
- Biggleswade Academy (merger of Holmemead Middle, Southlands Lower, and Brigham Pre-School)
- Edward Peake Middle School
- St Andrew's Lower School (including new satellite school on King's Reach development)
- Lawnside Lower School
- Ivel Valley School, a special school for children with moderate or severe learning difficulties, which also operates within other local schools.
- Erlensee, Germany since 2000.
In birth order:
- John Manton (1807–1864), Methodist minister and founder of Newington College, Sydney, Australia
- Henry Ryland (1856–1924), Pre-Raphaelite painter born in Biggleswade
- Dan Albone (1860–1906), inventor and cyclist, credited with making the first practical farm tractor, the Ivel Agricultural Motor
- Charles Penrose (1873–1952), radio comedian and singer of "The Laughing Policeman" (song)
- Christine Chaundler (pseudonym Peter Martin, 1887–1972), children's author
- Wally Odell (1912–1971), professional footballer
- Philip E. High (1914–2006), science fiction writer
- Richard Walker (1918–1985), angling journalist, author and photographer
- Ian Mantle (1920–2010), vehicle engineer and rally driver
- Derek Scott (1921–2006), stage and TV music director, The Muppet Show
- William Windham (born 1926), British Olympic rower in 1952
- Chris Roycroft-Davis (born 1948), journalist
- Pam Rhodes (born 1950), novelist and BBC Songs of Praise presenter
- Stevie V (fl. 1980s–1990s), dance act known for the song "Dirty Cash (Money Talks)"
- "Town population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
- Biggleswade Master Plan Retrieved 20 September 2017.
- National Statistics Online
- Operator's site. Retrieved 18 December 2018.
- Operator's site. Retrieved 18 December 2018.
- Plea Rolls of the Court of Common Pleas; National Archives; CP40/541; http://aalt.law.uh.edu/AALT6/R2/CP40no541a/aCP40no541afronts/IMG_0175.htm; second entry, second line
- 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 Medieval Corpus, Fitzwilliam Museum.
- "Ancient coin could fetch £150,000", BBC.
- Healey, "Museum Buying Rare Coin to Keep It in Britain".
- 'Gold mancus of Coenwulf' on the British Museum website
- Purchase of the Coenwulf coin in The Guardian
- Cartlidge, Neil, A debate with death : John Rudyng's Brass in St Andrew's Church, Biggleswade, Transactions of the Monumental Brass Society., 19 (2) (2015) pp. 94–100 – University of Durham
- Brass Monumental Brass of Death and John Rudying – Rubbings Collection – Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
- Bedford Borough Council and Central Bedfordshire Council (23 January 2014). "Great Fire of Biggleswade – Digitised Resources – The Virtual Library". Virtual-library.culturalservices.net. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
- "Our Heritage". Biggleswade Town Council. 25 November 2015. Archived from the original on 31 March 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
- "The Great Fire of Biggleswade June 16th 1785". Parish Chest. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
- Biggleswade Conservation Area – Introduction. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
- Bedfordshire Growers website
- Jordans: What we're about
- Wells & Winch: Biggleswade Brewery – The National Archives
- Members Guide 2012, published by CPRE, 2012
- Blog publishing a day of the diary each day, with notes: Retrieved 6 August 2017. Archived 24 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine
- Full edited text of tours 1781–94: Retrieved 6 August 2017.
- "Churches Together in Biggleswade". Churches Together in Biggleswade. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
- "The Piranha Brothers pt. 2". YouTube. 4 January 2007. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
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