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1800 - Modern Times

Places > Bedford

1801: Bedford Prison built in St. Loyes Street. In the seventeenth century the county gaol had stood at the north east corner of Silver Street. "The new building included a turnkey's lodge, cells for debtors, felons and house of correction prisoners, hot and cold baths and an oven to purify infected clothing. The silence system was enforced with great severity, wooden partitions being placed between any two prisoners at work on the treadmill. Separate exercise was allowed in the yards, and meals were taken in the cells." (VCH pt.25 p.4)

1803: Bedford Infirmary built. It was a gift of John Duke of Bedford. The cost of the building was met by S. Whitbread who also gave 4,000 to endow it. The Infirmary was abandoned when the new hospital was completed within the same grounds

1808: An Act passed "for the better care and maintenance of lunatics" leading to the building of an asylum in Ampthill Road under the guidance of Samuel Whitbread.  The asylum finally opened in April 1812.  It was funded by public subscription and cost 11,798.  The asylum continued to treat people until 1860 when it was incorporated into the Three Counties Hospital at Arlesey

1813: New Bedford Town Bridge designed by local architect, John Wing. The first stone was laid on the 26th August 1811 by Francis Marquiss of Tavistock. The bridge was opened free toll on 1st July 1835. (Kelly's Directory, 1920)

1813: Some time after this date the artist J.M.W. Turner painted a view of the sun setting over Bedford Bridge (Beds. Times 9th August 1984)

1821: The Huntingdon, Bedford and Peterborough Gazette notes "Straw platting, making straw hats, and list shoes, and slippers and mops; grinding corn into flour, and dressing it, digging gravel, sifting it; digging lime stone; and road making in the immediate vicinity of the prison; are the principal employments of the male prisoners. Washing prison clothes, making and mending different articles of dress, knitting and darning stockings, are the employments of female prisoners."

1823: River Ouse burst its bank causing tremendous floods

1825: Bedfordshire Notes and Queries (Vol. 1) records this tombstone inscription in Saint Paul's Churchyard to the memory Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Waldock, who died in 1825, "Pain was my portion, physic my food, Groans my devotion, drugs did me no good".

1830: Bedford Modern School built in the town by Edward Blore (now the Harpur Shopping Centre)

1830: Bedford Subscription Library founded (VCH pt.25 p.4)

1831: William Hale White (known as the author Mark Rutherford) born in the High Street, Bedford. His father was William White, a bookseller and printer

1832: Bedford Gas Company brings gas to the town for the first time

1833: The Gas Light Company purchase land between Priory Street and Greyfriars Walk in order to start supplying gas to Bedford. Until this point Bedford's "streets were still unilluminated except by sperm oil lamps at infrequent corners and its...houses were lighted by oil lamps and candles." (Bedford District Gas Company Report 1933)

1835: Assembly Rooms (now known as the Harpur Suite) built in the classical style

1837: Bedford Mercury newspaper first published

1838: Higgins Brewery built in Castle Lane by Charles Higgins (grandfather of Cecil Higgins)

1840: Holy Trinity church built by architect John Brown

1842: Frederick Burnaby, British soldier, traveller and adventurer born in Bedford

1843: Sarah Dazley of Wrestlingworth became the last woman to be publicly hanged outside Bedford Gaol for poisoning her husband with arsenic. This 'horrid case' was reported in The Times with great flourish and gusto on the 15th April

1844: George Stephenson (of railway fame) visits Bedford

1845: Bedford Times newspaper founded by James Wyatt

1846: Castle Close (now the Cecil Higgins Museum) built by Charles Higgins next door to his brewery

1846: Bedford to Bletchley Railway line opened

1846: The 'Bedford Times' coach leaves the Swan Inn for London for the last time, a victim of the success of the new railway lines

1847: St. Cuthbert's church built

1849: A serious outbreak of cholera in the town

1849-50: Bunyan Meeting Church built by architects J.T. Wing and T.J. Jackson

1850: Bedford cemetery established

1853: The first formal Bedford Amateur Regatta held on 25th August. There were eight races in all

1855: Bedford cemetery opened. The entrance lodge was designed by T.J. Jackson

1856: Foundation stone laid on the 23rd April by the Duchess of Bedford of the Working Men's Institute in Harpur Street (now known as the Guild House). The project cost 1,383 and was largely the gift of the Rev. R. W. Fitzpatrick, the Vicar of Holy Trinity

1859: James and Frederick Howard open the Britannia Iron Works in Kempston Road as a manufactory of steel ploughs

1859: Midland Road railway station opened

1860: The Midland Hotel built

1862: Bedford to Cambridge railway line opened

1864: Italian General Garribaldi visits the Britannia Iron Works

1865: Land in Brereton Road purchased for a Catholic Church

1866: Waterworks established in Clapham Road and main drainage put in hand for the town

1866: Bedford Amateur Rowing Club formed at the Dame Alice Street Club Rooms on 15th March under Edwin Ransome, the Mayor of Bedford. The club became known as the Bedford Rowing Club nine years later

1869: Bedford Volunteer Fire Brigade formed

1873: The last official horse race run at Bedford racecourse. The racecourse was on the Pear Tree Farm site in Elstow

1874: Statue to John Bunyan by Sir Edgar Boehm erected on St.Peters Green. Work on the Catholic Church in Midland Road commenced. It was completed in 1912 and is of Bath stone. (Kelly's Directory, 1920)

1874: Corn Exchange erected at a cost of 10,000. It was opened by Francis 9th Duke of Bedford on April 15th. "It contains a spacious assembly room, supper room and several is used for balls, entertainments and public meetings, as well as for corn the course of excavations for the structure, a number of bones, skulls and other human remains were discovered" (Kelly's Directory, 1920)

1876: Duke of Bedford presents the  Bunyan Meeting Church with bronze doors by Frederick Thrupp

1879-81: Shire Hall erected opposite St.Paul's Church by "Prudential" Waterhouse at a cost 0f 20,000

1880: Volunteer Fire Brigade House in Mill Street built. "The Brigade has a total strength of 20 men, and a resident trained engineer." (Kelly's Directory, 1920)

1881: Bedford Training College (later known as Bedford College of Higher Education and then De Montfort University) was founded as a result of a decision to establish a kindergarten school in Bedford in 1881. A leading member of the founding group was Joshua Hawkins, part owner of the Bedfordshire Times.

1882: Girls High School built by Champneys

1882: Bedford Training College founded (later Bedford College of Education)

1882: Lady Isabella Whitbread opens the High School for Girls

1884: Prebend Street bridge opened on October 21st

1886: Bedford Rowing Club founded

1888: Suspension Bridge opened by the Marquis of Tavistock. The bridge was designed by John J. Webster

1888: Bedford Park opened by the Marquis of Tavistock

1888: General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, visits Bedford

1891: Embankment Hotel opened.  It was built by the brewing family Higgins and Sons.

1894: Statue to John Howard the prisoner reformer erected.  The statue was by Sir Alfred Gilbert

1894: W.H. Allen's Engineering Works founded near the railway

1897: Bedford General Hospital opened on Kempston Road

1897: "Modern Bedford is an up-to-date, picturesque, well built town, standing upon both sides of the river Ouse with a population of 33,000 inhabiting 6,000 houses. There are twenty miles of streets, eight miles of main roads, and five miles of private roads. The rateable value of the borough is 128,281. There are 4,268 parliamentary voters and 5,976 names upon the parochial registers" (from the Bedford Guide, Diamond Jubilee edition)

1898: Russell Park opened. (Kelly's Directory, 1920)

1903: Bedford Physical Training College founded (taken over by Bedfordshire County Council in 1952)

1903: Dora Carrington moves to Bedford with her family to take up residence in 6 Rothsay Gardens.  She later went on to become an artist and was closely associated with the Bloomsbury Group

1904: Bedford Bowling Club set up. South African War Memorial unveiled by Lady Cowper, wife of Earl Cowper, Lord Lieutenant of the county. The memorial has the names of those who died serving in Bedfordshire military units as well as Bedfordshire men serving in other units. The Bedfordshire Standard said of the statue "The general effect is that of a soldierly figure in a restful attitude and as a work of art it seems successful as a worthy memorial of the part Bedfordshire played in the war"

1905: The Arcade opened on March 25th

1910: The Bedford Picturedrome, Bedford's first purpose built cinema opens (demolished 1964)

1911: St. Leonard's church built by architect G.P. Allen

1913: Igranic Electric Co. sets up in Bedford

1913: Meltis Factory sets up in the town

1921: Bedford Lawn Tennis Club move to Bradgate Road. Originally the club started with a small shed and seven grass courts

1921: Boathouses (between the Butterfly Bridge and Suspension Bridge) built to accommodate Bedford Modern School, Bedford School and Bedford Rowing Club. They were designed by a local architect George P. Allen FRIBA

1932: Britannia Works closes

1934: Granada Cinema opened in St. Peters Street

1938: Girl's Modern School (now Dame Alice) moves to new premises in Cardington road

1941: The BBC Symphony Orchestra and several other broadcasting departments evacuated to Bedford

1941: "Charlie Chaplin's Great Film at Bedford...many Bedford people have this week seem one of the most effective pieces of film propaganda against war and dictatorship ever made.  The film, Charlie Chaplin's 'The Great Dictator' is being shown at the Plaza and Picturedrome cinemas." (Bedfordshire Times, 31st January, 1941)

1941:"A clarification of the position regarding sandbags in Bedford was given to the Bedfordshire Times and Standard reporter by Inspector L.B. Loveridge Chief A.R.P. Officer for the Borough on Tuesday.  He said that two bags of sand were being distributed to each house and that the idea was one of the bags should be kept in the porch and the other taken indoors.  The distribution of the bags of sand is in pursuance of the A.R.P. Department's policy of giving every possible help in connection with the campaign against incendiary bombs..." (Bedfordshire Times, 14th February 1941)

1941: "The total amount raised during Bedford's War Weapons Week was 466,526 - over 216,000 in excess of the sum organisers set out to achieve." (Bedfordshire Times, 21st February, 1941)

1941: Dig for Victory: "Bedford Corporation propose to open a Dig for Victory campaign  in the Borough on the 3rd March with a public meeting over which the Mayor (Mr A.M. Dudney) will preside....What people do in the first week of March will decide the quantity and kind of food they will have later in the year.  We want people to produce non-perishable foodstuffs, to learn how to use fertilizers ant to render help to each other.  The Mayor said that badges or other distinguishing marks would be issued for display outside houses so that members of the public would know those people who were willing to advise on gardening problems...." (Bedfordshire Times, 21st February 1941)

1942: The Americans arrive in rural district aerodromes surrounding  Bedford and start visiting the town

1944: The Bedfordshire Times and Standard (7th January) includes adverts for a BBC Symphony Orchestra concert at the Corn Exchange with a programme of Berlioz, Mozart, Berg and Brahms under Sir Adrian Boult and the Ballet Rambert in a repertory of their original ballets at the Town Hall. On a lighter note the Plaza Cinema was advertising "Bing's first musical! starring Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour in 'The exciting career of rollicking minstrel man Dan Emmett, who caught the spirit of the south in one triumphant song!' " while the Picture Drome was showing 'Tarzan triumphs' with Johnny Weissmuller

1944: A new American Club opened for American officers visiting Bedford.  It was situated on the corner of Kimbolton and Goldington roads and run by the American Red Cross (Bedfordshire Times and Standard, 4th February, p.8)

1944: The Bedford Times and Standard of the 17th March carried the following report "Rat menace in Bedfordshire and District.  Every man , woman and child is asked to be a "Rat-Reporter".  A country wide effort is being made to destroy these food-devouring, disease spreading pests." All you need to do - If you see a rat fill in this coupon and take it or post it to 6s St. Mary's Street Bedford stating where you have seen rats. Issued by the Ministry of Food

1947: Volunteer Fire Brigade replaced by a public service fire brigade

1947: Bedford suffers from severe flooding, the Ouse rises 6ft above its normal levels at the Town Bridge

1957: Texas Instruments Ltd. make Bedford their UK headquarters

1960: Barry Fry becomes the first Bedford schoolboy to be capped for England in a soccer international

1960: A 600,000 water treatment works opened on the outskirts of Bedford (Clapham Road)

1967: The County Hotel (later known as the Moat House) opens in November.  The development company was Bedford (Ford End) Property Co. Ltd. and the architects were Ronald Salmon and Partners Kensington.

1968: RAF Henlow given the freedom of Bedford. The parade was formed by the Queen's Colour Squadron of the RAF, with three squadrons and a band from Henlow. Four Canberras from RAF Bassingbourne flew over in formation. The Mayor of Bedford, Alderman Ron Sharman, presented the scroll to Captain N. F. Curtis, Officer Commanding RAF Henlow

1969: County Hall constructed

1969: Robinson swimming pool opened

1971: Work started on Mowsbury Golf Course

1971: Joe Bugner gives a boxing display in Bedford to support the National Association of Boys Clubs boxing championships.  Joe Bugner fought for Bedford Boys Club as an amateur. (Bedford record, 9th February, 1971)

1971: The Bedford Record advertises newly built homes in Torridge Rise, Bedford as follows "spacious 3 bedroomed semi-detached with garage, luxury 'Hygena' kitchen units 4,945, 3 bedroomed detached houses from 6,000" (Bedford Record, 4th May 1971)

1971: Howard Chapel in Mill Street closed. It had originally been built in 1774 under the patronage of John Howard.  It was enlarged in 1849 by local architect John Usher

1972: Bedford Central Library opened in Harpur Street

1974: St. Cuthbert's Church declared redundant, it was taken over by the Polish community in 1979

1976: Mander College, Bedford College of Education and Bedford College of Physical education amalgamated to form Bedford College of Higher Education

1976: A stained glass window celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Harpur Trust installed in St. Paul's church.  It was designed by Brian Thomas

1978: The old Midland Road railway station demolished and replaced by the new station

1978: First Bedford River Festival to celebrate the opening up of Bedford to the sea

1980: Newnham swimming pool closed and replaced by Aspects Leisure Centre

1980: The Bridge Hotel in St. Mary's Street demolished to enlarge Bedford College site.  Until 1890 it had been the private residence of the Nash family of brewers.  It had been gutted by fire in 1977

1982: Bedford Museum opened in the converted Higgins brewery buildings in Horne Lane

1982: The Eagles Football Club folds (to be re-launched in 1990)

1982: Artificial canoe slalom course created at Priory Park. The project cost 273,000 and was the first artificial canoe slalom course in Britain

1984: The Suspension Bridge re-opened after being closed for repairs.  It was restored by Bedford firm CAEC Howard Ltd. and cost 32,000

1984: Putnoe Heights Church opened by the Bishop of St. Albans, the Right Rev. John Taylor and the Chairman of the London NW District of the Methodist Church, the Rev. Stanley Chesworth

1987: Neolithic henge monument excavated on the Tesco supermarket site

1988: Pilgrim Upper School closed

1988: Goldington Road Tesco store opens. The main contractors were Higgs and Hill plc and the architects were Woods Hardwick of Bedford

1989: Britannia Iron Works pulled down

1989: The Barns Hotel opened by John Lee M.P.

1991: Granada Cinema in St. Peter's Street demolished

1993: Fatima Whitbread (winner of the javelin world championship gold medal) comes to Bedford to open the Bedford Athletics Stadium in Barkers Lane

1993: Bedford Eagles move into their new 'Eyrie' at Meadow Lane, Bedford. The stadium was opened by Trevor Brooking

1994: Bedford becomes a university town with the establishment of De Montfort University

1995: Suspension Bridge granted status as a listed building

1995: Excavations by Bedfordshire County Council uncover a ritual site of late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age date (c1800 BC) together with evidence for Early to Middle Bronze Age (c800-400BC) domestic and ritual activity next to the Bunyan Centre. The excavation was undertaken because of housing development.  Three skeletons were found, one of which was accompanied by a complete Beaker pot (Conserving Bedfordshire Heritage, 1996, Beds. C.C.)

1995: Bedford Register Office moves from 3 Brereton Road to Pilgrim House, Brickhill Drive. The Register Office had been at Brereton Road for over 30 years

1995: Foundations for the new Wilkinson's shop locate the line of the western outer bailey ditch of Bedford castle (c1080-1224/25) (Conserving Bedfordshire Heritage, 1996, Beds. C.C.)

1998: Floods during Easter cause many problems within the town and in surrounding villages

2003: Housing built on the former Britannia Iron Works site on  Kempston Road


Page last updated: 22nd January 2014