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Places > Thurleigh

c1135: It was thought that Thurleigh Castle was built about this date.

c1150: The church tower was built around this date. The Norman church was enlarged by the addition of north and south aisles by the 13th century and in the 14th century the chancel was built.

1278: There was a windmill in Thurleigh by this date.

13th Century: Thurleigh Castle began to fall into disuse.

1618: George Franklyn founded a free school and endowed it with an annuity of 40s.

1805: Thurleigh Enclosure Act passed.

1827: Baptist Chapel built.

1833: A new Whitwick Manor House erected.

1841: Village School erected on what is now the village hall site.

1876: Foundation stone for a new village school laid on the 24th May with the school opening on the 1st June 1877.

1882: Major restoration work on church begins.

1885c: Windmill built to replace an earlier one that had been blown down.

1888:  A new red brick Baptist Chapel built on the same site as the original Chapel seating 180 persons at a cost of 840.

1890: Windmill erected after original windmill blown down. It ceased to be used during the First World War and soon fell into disrepair.

1917: Windmill stops working.

1921: The War Memorial unveiled in September.

1927: Thurleigh village hall opened.

1940: Authority was given on the 29th July 1940 for land to be requisitioned at Thurleigh for development as an operational airfield. Construction work began in early 1941 for a standard bomber airfield with three surfaced runways. The site was originally located to Bomber Command but was reallocated to the USAAAF. In September 1942 the 306th Bombardment Group arrived. The airfield holds two distinctions within the 8th Army Air Force. It was in continual combat use for the longest period from October 1942 to April 1945 and it was also to a single unit, the 306th Bombardment Group for the longest period. The 306th flew 342 operations from the airfield with the loss of 177 aircraft and 1043 airmen killed. The Glenn Miller Band played at the airfield on the 14th July 1944 and it was their first concert on an active airfield.

1955: Plans for the development of Thurleigh Airfield as a part of a new national centre for aeronautical research were drawn up after the war. The airfield opened in 1955.

1957: In June The National Aeronautical Establishment, later to become The Royal Aircraft Establishment, took over the airfield. About 800 people were employed there in the 1960s-1970s with about half that number remaining at its closure.

1962: The Playing Field opened.

1969: In February 1969 the news broke that Thurleigh was one of the four sites short listed by The Roskill Commission for the creation of The Third London Airport. A local opposition group was formed to fight the proposal, Bedfordshire Airport Resistance Association (BARA). In 1971 The Commission recommended that Cublington should be the chosen site.

1971: After major restoration work the church was rededicated on the 5th of July.

1977: Thurleigh Sports and Social Club Hall built.

1994: Thurleigh Airfield closes on the 31st May.

1996: Birmingham based St.Modwen property group purchases the Thurleigh Airfield site.

1998: Firms move into premises at the new Thurleigh Airfield site.

1999: Palmer PromoSport announces it is to invest 5m into a corporate motor sport centre.

2000: Thurleigh windmill converted into a house.

2002: Thurleigh Airfield Museum opened on the 27th July (Bedfordshire on Sunday, 28th July)


  • Newspaper Cuttings Collection, Local Studies Library, Bedford Central Library

  • WILDMAN, Lilian  Thurleigh Through the Years.  1996.
  • PICKFORD, Christopher  Bedfordshire Churches in the 19th Century. Bedfordshire Historical Record Society Vol.79 2000.

Page last updated: 4th February 2014