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Biggleswade is a market town on the River Ivelmarker in Bedfordshire, Englandmarker. It is well served by transport routes, being close to the A1 roadmarker between Londonmarker and the North, as well as a railway stationmarker on the main rail link North from London (the East Coast Main Line).

Geography

Located about 40 miles (60 km) north of Central London and 20 miles (30 km) west-south-west of Cambridgemarker, the fastest train to Londonmarker, King's Crossmarker, takes 35 minutes, while a car journey to central Cambridge takes about 35 minutes. In 2001 the population of the town was about 15,383.

The town lies on the B1040 and A6001 (a section is the former A1) which also leads to Henlowmarker to the south.

History

Romans

The area around Biggleswade is thought to have been inhabited from around 10,000 BC, with arrowheads dating from this period 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 Waymarker at Godmanchestermarker.

The Saxons

In the Fifth 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.

In 2001 a gold coin bearing the name Coenwulf was discovered at Biggleswade on a footpath beside the River Ivelmarker."Museum's £350,000 deal for coin", BBC.EMC Number 2004.167, Early Medieval Corpus, Fitzwilliam Museum. 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."Ancient coin could fetch £150,000", BBC.Healey, "Museum Buying Rare Coin to Keep It in Britain". In February 2006 the coin was bought by the British Museummarker 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.

Medieval times

The Crown Inn.

The 1785 fire started here.
In 1132, Henry I granted the manor of Biggleswade to Bishop Alexander - Alexander the Magnificent - of Lincolnmarker to help endow Lincoln Cathedralmarker. 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 Saturday. The church is dedicated to St. Andrew. Biggleswade Castlemarker existed in earlier times.

On June 16, 1785, there was a large fire in the town. The fire started at the 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.

St. Andrew's Church
Biggleswade Town June 2000


Transport history

The Great Northern Railway opened in 1850, and Biggleswade was the third town in Bedfordshire to have a mainline stationmarker (on the East Coast Main Line) after Bedford & Dunstable.

The town was bypassed in 1961.

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.

Industrial history

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 Jordans cereals business who produce their own brand of breakfast muesli and cereal bars which are sold across Europe as well as in the USA and Canada. There used to be a Felix cat food factory located on Potton Road. However, this moved away in 1970.

The town was also home to the Ivel Cycle Works, founded by Dan Albone. This factory ultimately produced bicycles, motorcycles 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.

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.

Biggleswade had two long serving motor dealers, A.W Watkin were agents for locally made Vauxhall Cars and Bedford lorries for many years and had a large showroom and repair site in Shortmead Street, but the dealership closed in 2002 and the was site redeveloped into houses which are in a road named Watkin Walk. The other dealer was the Mantles business which originally had a site for Austin cars near the old Swan Hotel in the town. Mantles moved to a larger site opposite the old work house on London Road where they sold British Leyland and later Austin Rover cars. They also had a caravan dealership. Mantles still sell cars here, but since the collapse of MG Rover now sells Mitsubishi and Ford cars. The caravan business closed in the early 1990s.

Facilities

Biggleswade Swimming Club website at www.biggleswadesc.org celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2006. It now uses the new indoor Saxon Pool and Leisure Centre. The town has two football clubs - Biggleswade Town and Biggleswade United. Biggleswade also homes a Skatepark.

Biggleswade is the home of Biggleswade Rugby Club which has 3 senior sides and an active Mini and Youth section with sides from under 7 through to 17 years. See Biggleswade rugby.

Culture

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.

Nearby is the Shuttleworth Collectionmarker of vintage aeroplanes.

Education

Biggleswade, as part of the former authority of Bedfordshire County Council, has a three-tier schooling system with lower schools catering for ages between 5 to 9, middle schools from 9 to 13 and Stratton Upper School continuing education up and into Sixth Form.

List of Schools:

  • Stratton Upper School and Community Collegemarker
  • Holmemead Middle School
  • Edward Peake Middle School
  • St Andrew's Lower School
  • Lawnside Lower School
  • Southlands Lower School
  • Hitchmead Schoolmarker, a special school for children with moderate learning difficulties
  • Sunnyside Schoolmarker, a special school for children with severe learning difficulties
  • Holme Court School, a private school for dyslexic children, which was opened in 2005 just off the A1 to the west of Biggleswade


Twinned towns

 Erlenseemarker, (Germanymarker) since 2000.


Notable residents



References

External links







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