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Biggleswade, Bedfordshire

Historical Description

Biggleswade, a parliamentary division, a market town, and a parish in Bedfordshire. The town stands in a fertile valley on the right bank of the river Ivel, adjacent to the G.N.R., having a station of the same name, 10½ miles ESE of Bedford, and 41 NNW of London. It was anciently called Bykleswade. It suffered destruction of 150 houses by fire in 1785, and it now contains many neat modern houses. The town-hall, erected in 1814, was enlarged and improved in 1888 at a cost of £900. The parish church is Early English with Late chance], was originally collegiate, and contains some very interesting brasses. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Ely; net yearly value, £260 with residence, in the gift of the Bishop of Ely. There is also a church dedicated to St John the Baptist, erected in 1883, and Baptist, Calvinistic, Primitive Methodist, and Wesleyan chapels. The Brethren have also a place of worship here. The cemetery, which covers an area of 2 acres, has two mortuary chapels, and is under the control of a Burial Board of 9 members. The workhouse, erected at a cost of £4850, has accommodation for 320 inmates. The town has a fair water supply derived from springs in the neighbourhood. The country round is celebrated for its fertility, and is largely devoted to the growth of potatoes, cucumbers, onions, known as "Biggleswade violets," and other vegetables used for pickling purposes. A weekly market is held on Wednesday for corn. There are fairs on 14 Feb., Saturday in Easter week, Whit Monday, 27 Sept., and 8 Nov. for horses and live stock. It is a seat of petty sessions and a polling place, and has a head post, money order, and telegraph office. Some Roman relics, several armour-clad human skeletons, and about 300 gold coins of Henry VI. have been found in the neighbourhood. The environs are pleasant, and contain some handsome villas and mansions. The parish includes also the hamlets of Holme and Stratton. Acreage, 4647; population, 4943. At Stratton Park, about a mile SE of the town, the Cottonian Library was preserved, after being removed from Connington, in the time of the Civil War.

Biggleswade Parliamentary Division of Bedfordshire was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 64,457. The division includes the following:-Sharnbrook-Bletsoe, Bolnhurst, Garlton, Chellington, Colmworth, Colworth Farm, Dean, Farndish, Felmersham, Harrold, Keysoe, Knotting, Melchbourne, Milton Ernest, Odell, Pavenham, Pertenhall, Puddington, Riseley, Sharnbrook, Shelton, Souldrop, Staughton (Little), Thurleigh, Tilbrook, Wimmington, Yielden; Bedford-Barford (Great), Barford (Little), Biddenham, Bromham, Cardington, Clapham, Cople, Eastcotts, Eaton Socon, Elstow, Goldington, Kempston, Oakley, Ravensden, Renhold, Roxton, Stagsden, Stevinton, Turvey, Wilden, Willington, Wilshampstead, Wootton; Biggleswade-Arlesey, Astwick, Biggleswade, Blunham, Campton, Chicksands, Clifton, Cockayne Hatley, Dunton, Edworth, Everton, Eyeworth, Henlow, Holwell, Langford, Meppershall, Muggerhanger, Northill, Potton, Rowney, Sandy, Shefford, Shefford Hardwicke, Southill, Stondon (Upper), Stotfold, Sutton, Tempsford, Warden, Wrestlingworth; Ampthill (part of)- Cranfield, Marston Moretaine, Lidlington, Millbrook, Ampthill, Houghton Conquest, Haynes, Maulden, Clophill; Bedford, municipal borough.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Administration

The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyBedfordshire 
DioceseEly 
Ecclesiastical parishBiggleswade St. Andrew 
HundredBiggleswade 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.


Church Records

The parish register dates from the year 1670

The Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service (BLARS) hold the registers for Biggleswade: Baptisms 1697-1974, Marriages 1607-1972, Burials 1697-1942, Banns 1823-1983. Transcripts in either book or microfiche form for registers prior to 1813 can be purchased from the BLARS (see website for details).


Churches

Church of England

St. Andrew (parish church)

The parish church of St. Andrew is an edifice of sandstone, in the Perpendicular style, consisting of chancel, clerestoried nave of four bays, aisles, south porch and an embattled western tower, rebuilt in 1720, and containing a clock and 8 bells: the old bells were rehung and 3 new ones added in 1913: the chancel, rebuilt in 1467, by John Ruding, retains its piscina and sedilia for three priests, but the former has no basin and is now used as a credence table; a beautiful altar-piece, representing the Last Supper was presented by Charles Barnett esq. in 1865: a reredos was added in 1877: there are several brasses, one of which, to John Ruding, a former archdeacon of Bedford, has unfortunately been much mutilated, and the representation of an angel conversing with Death has disappeared: the lofty south porch, now much dilapidated, has interlaced stone vaulting, and a parvise above, formerly used as a school and reached from the exterior by a spiral stone stair: the outer doorway has an ogival arch, surmounted by a carved representation of the Crucifixion: in the church is a marble memorial to Thomas Bromsall, d. 1706, and there are mural tablets to Harriet, daughter of Admiral Sir Richard King and wife of Brigadier-General Charles Barnet, and to Thomas McGrath F.R.C.P.Edin. and his wife: the stained east window was erected in 1877 to Charles Barnett esq. of Stratton Park, and there are other memorial windows to Robert Lindsell esq. and Frances, his wife, to Mrs. Lindsell, of Fairfield, C. Fitzroy Barnett esq. of Stratton Park, and to George J. Barnett, d. 1892: the chancel has been enlarged by the Rev. Henry Thellusson Wood M.A. vicar here, 1884-9: the fine reredos of Venetian mosaic was designed by Mr. Withers, architect, of London: in 1892 a new organ was added at a cost of £680, raised by public subscription: the church was restored in 1832, and more completely in 1871, and now affords sittings for 800 persons.

St. John the Baptist

The church of St. John the Baptist, at the north end of the town, built in 1883, at a cost of £2,985, exclusive of the site, is an edifice of brick in the Lancet style, from the designs of the late Sir A. W. Blomfield M.A., A.R.A., F.S.A. (d. 1899), consisting of chancel, nave, south aisle, north porch, and a central turret containing 3 bells: the stained east window is a memorial to Sir Charles Talbot K.C.B. and Lady Talbot, and was erected in 1883 by the members of the family: there is a piscina and two sedilia: the church affords 400 sittings.


Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

Biggleswade was in Biggleswade Registration District from 1837 to 1974


Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Biggleswade from the following:


Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Bedfordshire is available to browse.


Maps

Online maps of Biggleswade are available from a number of sites:


Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Bedfordshire papers online:


Poor Law

Biggleswade was the head of a Poor Law Union, which was formed in 1835. It originally contained the following parishes: Arlesey, Astwick, Biggleswade, Blunham, Campton-cum-Shefford, Clifton, Cockayne-Hartley, Dunton with Millo, Edworth, Everton, Eyworth, Henlow, Langford, Meppershall, Moggerhanger, Northill, Old Warden, Potton, Sandy, Southill, Stotfold, Sutton, Tempsford, Upper Stondon, Wrestlingworth. Chicksands, Shefford, and Shefford Hardwick were all added to the Union at a later date.
For further detailed history of the Biggleswade Union see Peter Higginbotham's excellent resource: Biggleswade Poor Law Union and Workhouse.


Villages, Hamlets, &c

Holme

Visitations Heraldic

A full transcript of the Visitations of Bedfordshire 1566, 1582, and 1634 is available online.

CountyCentral Bedfordshire
RegionEastern
CountryEngland
Postal districtSG18
Post TownBiggleswade