Biggleswade (St. Andrew)

BIGGLESWADE (St. Andrew), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Biggleswade, county of Bedford, 10½ miles (E. S. E.) from Bedford, and 45 (N. N. W.) from London, on the road to York; containing, with the hamlets of Holme and Stratton, 3807 inhabitants, and comprising 4200 acres, of which 200 are common or waste. The town is pleasantly situated on the river Ivel, which is crossed by two stone bridges, and which, by act of parliament, has been made navigable to its junction with the Ouse, whereby the neighbourhood is supplied with coal, timber, and various articles of merchandise. A large portion of the town was destroyed by fire in 1785, to which circumstance its handsome appearance may partly be attributed. It is lighted with gas, and has been lately much improved by the erection of new buildings; the houses are uniformly of brick, the air is pure and salubrious, and the inhabitants are supplied with excellent water from numerous springs. The environs, abounding with elegant villas and picturesque scenery, present a pleasing appearance. The making of white thread-lace and edging, and straw-plat, affords employment to a considerable part of the female population; much of the traffic of the town arises from its situation on the great north road, and the railway from London to York will pass by. The market, which is on Wednesday, is much resorted to for grain, and fairs are held on Feb. 13th, the Saturday in Easter-week, Whit-Monday, and Nov. 8th, for horses and live stock of every kind; a fair on August 2nd has been discontinued. The county magistrates hold a petty-session for the hundreds of Biggleswade, Clifton, and Wixamtree: the powers of the county debt-court of Biggleswade, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Biggleswade.

The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £10; patron, the Prebendary of Biggleswade: the rectorial tithes have been commuted for £937. 10., and the vicarial for £312. 10.; the glebe consists of a small piece of land. The church, formerly collegiate, is a venerable structure in the early English style: the chancel was rebuilt in 1467, by John Reeding, Archdeacon of Bedford, whose arms are carved on some wooden stalls in the north aisle; and the entire building has recently undergone considerable repair. A chantry belonging to the guild of the Holy Trinity anciently existed in the church; the revenue, at the Dissolution, was £7. There are places of worship for Baptists and Wesleyans. Sir John Cotton, in 1726, bequeathed for charitable uses £1800 to be laid out in the purchase of land, two-ninths of the rental to be given as a salary to a schoolmaster, and one-ninth to the vicar: the proceeds are about £36 per annum. There is also an endowment of £13 a year, from lands at Holme, given by Edward Peake, in 1755, for the instruction of more children. The poor law union of Biggleswade comprises 26 parishes and places, and contains a population of 20,694. In 1770 a yellow earthen pot, containing 300 gold coins of the reign of Henry VI., was discovered by a ploughman, in a field near the manor-house.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.