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About Biggleswade

Biggleswade is a small market town on the River Ivel, Bedfordshire, England. The A1 connects it with the north (about 35 minutes to Cambridge), while fast trains to the London Kings Cross railway station take only about half an hour. Most visitors, however, are attracted by its rich history which is reflected by the town’s building and weekly market that is held every Saturday on the Market Square which forms the town centre.

Biggleswade Through Time

Archaeological finds such as arrowheads which have been dated to 10,000 BCE (they are on display in the Bedford Museum) suggest that the area around Biggleswade was inhabited at least from the Neolithic Era. However, today’s Biggleswade entered history only in 1089 with the Domesday Book (referred to as Bichelesuuade/Pichelsuuade). The latter also reveals that at the time, there was a manor that was held by Ralph de Insula under the Crown. But there was no market, while the population besides nobles and clergy accounted for 20 men who held land from the Lord of the Manor. There were also two mills which according to the Biggleswade History Society probably stood on the site of today’s mill.

In 1132, King Henry I transferred the manor to Bishop Alexander of Lincoln. During the rule of John I (1196-1216), the town was granted the right to hold a market which is still held on Saturdays, as mentioned earlier. But instead of Saturdays, the market was originally held every Monday.

Biggleswade remained a small town until the Great Fire of 1785 which destroyed about one third of the town. A nationwide rebuilding effort was launched which had a major influence on its future growth by encouraging a larger number of people to settle in the area.

By the beginning of the 19th century, Biggleswade’s experienced a dramatic population growth. According to the Biggleswade History Society, the town’s population increased for as much as 80 percent. The trend continued in the following years, reaching its height in the mid-19th century when Biggleswade got main train station as the first town in Bedfordshire.

Biggleswade Today

Biggleswade today is of course very different from historical Biggleswade but it retains much of its medieval character including the weekly market. Besides historic buildings, the town’s history is also reflected by large open area with farming and underdeveloped land on the one hand and the presence of light industry on the other. This gives Biggleswade a unique character and charm which gives it a very special place in the County of Bedfordshire and attracts a growing number of visitors.