biggleswade bridge 1905

Biggleswade and the Great North Road

Between Biggleswade and Sandy the road runs close to the River Ivel on low lying ground. It was always a troublesome stretch in wetter weather when the mud became notorious. In the 18th century the town’s importance grew with the development of turnpikes: the Stevenage-Biggleswade Road Act passed in 1720 and Biggleswade-Alconbury in 1725.

Biggleswade is located near the crossing point of the River Ivel (the image above dates from about 1905).

About Biggleswade

The name Biggleswade is believed to derive from Biceil, an Anglo Saxon personal name, and Waed, the Saxon word for ford.

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 town sits in a landscape well known for its market gardening and its contribution to food production is maintained by the Jordan’s mill and cereal factory.

In 1302 the first bridge across the River Ivel was constructed. A new 13 ft square tollhouse was built at the bridge in 1755.

On June 16, 1785, there was a large fire in the town. The fire started at 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. In the local parish church there is a stained glass window depicting the fire.

Explore Biggleswade

The images below provide links to additional information either on this website or elsewhere.


Biggleswade Then and Now

jordans mill
  • Baker Perkins - Joseph Baker - Jacob Perkins

Baker Perkins

Engineering company, Baker Perkins, operated an overnight Great North Road trunker service between its factories at Peterborough and on Tyneside...

  • Ermine Street

Ermine Street

The southern section of Ermine Street aligns closely with the Old North Road, merging with Great North Road near Godmanchester, before heading eastwards.....

  • RAF Wittering - Harrier Jump Jet

RAF Wittering

RAF Wittering is located just south of Stamford, Lincolnshire. It was the “Home of the Harrier” and for several decades has been marked by a Harrier Jump Jet anchored...

  • stilton cheese

Stilton Cheese

King of Cheeses. Stilton is recognised across the world as a unique and special variety. Its initial commercial success was the direct result of its popularity with coach.....

  • Wansford Little Chef

Wansford – Bauhaus

This Bauhaus inspired building has been a notable feature for travellers on the Great North Road since it was constructed in the early 1930s. It has seen.....

  • Rolls Royce Emblem

Henry Royce

Sir Henry Royce, a founding partner in Rolls Royce, was born at Alwalton in 1863 where his father was the miller. When the family business failed, they moved.....

  • River Nene - Wansford

River Nene

In Roman times, Ermine Street crossed the Nene to the west of modern Peterborough, close to Durobrivae. The site of the Roman bridge is still evident in.....

  • norman cross prison

Norman Cross

Norman Cross is no major settlement but it has been a well known point of interest along the Great North Road for centuries. It is now necessary to make.....

Sawtry Abbey

The site of Sawtry Abbey is squeezed between the Great North Road and the east coast mainline railway. Not far away you can find Monks Wood and Abbots.....