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Places > Cardington  

1303: The first mention of Cardington cross is recorded. This cross was subsequently replaced twice. Firstly in 1796 by Samuel Whitbread and secondly in 1837 by William Henry Whitbread.

1697: Whitbread almshouses on the Green founded by Steven Whitbread (Kelly's Directory, 1920).

1760-1790: John Howard (prison reformer) lived in Church Lane.

1778: The bridge over Cardington Brook built for Samuel Whitbread by John Smeaton. Smeaton's Eddystone lighthouse finished in 1759 was hailed as one of the greatest engineering triumphs of the century. Smeaton also rebuilt Cardington Mill in 1786.

1787: Almshouses built by Samuel Whitbread on the Village Green.

1788: Samuel Whitbread and John Howard create a Cardington library.

1796: Samuel Whitbread erects a new cross near an earlier cross with a broken shaft dating from before 1303. This cross was in turn replaced 41 years later by William Henry Whitbread.

1823: Wesleyan Chapel erected (Kelly's Directory, 1920)

1837: The third Cardington Cross erected by William Henry Whitbread. This cross replaced an earlier cross of 1796 and was designed by the sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey.

1848: William Henry Whitbread builds a school for 100 children in the centre of the village opposite the Green. It was known as the British School.

1898-1902: St Mary's Church rebuilt.  Kelly's Directory of 1920 records that it is in the perpendicular style from designs by Mr Highton FRIBA, architect of Bedford.

1908: Howard Memorial Congregational Chapel erected (Kelly's Directory, 1920).

1917: The Admiralty purchase land for an airship factory at Cardington. Number 1 shed built by A.J. Main and Co. of Glasgow in 1916-17. The first two airships built in this shed were the R31 and the R32. The shed was enlarged in 1926-27 by the Cleveland Bridge Company with the purpose of housing the R101.

1918: R31 Airship constructed.

1919: Royal Airship Works founded. R32 airship built.

1920: Kelly's Directory for this year records "The chief crops are wheat, barley, beans, peas, potatoes, turnips and mangle-wurzel."

1925: Methodist Chapel erected.

1926: Steel mooring tower for airships erected. It was 70ft in diameter and 202ft tall.

1927: Hangar No. 1 extended to house the R101.

1928: Number 2 shed built by the Cleveland Bridge Company to house the R100. The R100 arrived in December 1929 from Howden, Yorkshire, where it had been built, and in 1930 successfully flew the Atlantic both ways.

1930: R101 airship crashes on her maiden voyage to India on October 4th.

1931: The government decides to abandon further airship development and the R100 is scrapped despite a successful return flight from Montreal.

1936: Cardington becomes an RAF Station for training balloon operators.

1959: Royal Air Force Cardington granted the Freedom of Entry into the Borough of Bedford.

1966: RAF Balloon Unit moved from Cardington to Hullavington, near Chipenham Wiltshire.

1971: Fire Research Station uses Cardington hangars for gas explosion experiments and high rise fires.

1979: A barrage balloon from Cardington explodes about 2,000 feet in the air after being struck by lightning. It had been sent up to observe weather conditions.

1989: Hangar No. 2 transferred to the Building Research Establishment.

1993: An eight-story frame started as Hangar No. 2 becomes the first Large Building Test Facility.

1993: Permission granted to Holgrove Properties by Bedford Borough Council to use Cardington Hangar No. 1 to construct theatrical staging. The hangar has been used by groups including Paul McCartney, U2, Rod Stewart and AC/DC for rehearsals.

1994: Cardington Cross moved to save it from the upheaval of the southern bypass. The cost of the project was 6,825 and was met by the Department of Transport. The cross was designed by the sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey and erected by William Henry Whitbread in 1837.

2007: English Heritage place Hanger No.1 on their register of endangered buildings. (Beds. Times, 27th July 2007)

2007: Planning permission given for Frontier Estates to build 400 homes between the back of Cardington Hangers and the dismantled Bedford-Hitchin Railway Line. (Beds Times, 19th October)


  • Cardington Airship sheds by Martin Robertson in The Archaeological Journal Vol. 139, 1982
  • Newspaper articles and pamphlets in the Bedford Central Library local studies collection

Page last updated: 23rd January 2014