A look at the past: Old courthouse to be new town hall

PUBLISHED: 11:44 12 January 2006 | UPDATED: 09:27 06 May 2010

The original courthouse in 1957

The original courthouse in 1957

ON December 1, 1839, Samuel Whitbread, the prominent local magistrate, signed a motion together with six other magistrates to set up Bedfordshire Police Force. It became operational on February 18, 1840. There were six divisions for the county, one of w

ON December 1, 1839, Samuel Whitbread, the prominent local magistrate, signed a motion together with six other magistrates to set up Bedfordshire Police Force.

It became operational on February 18, 1840.

There were six divisions for the county, one of which was based at Biggleswade.

In the absence of a magistrates' court, the town hall was utilised for the administration of justice locally.

This continued until October 13, 1927 when the county police authority opened the purpose-built magistrates' court on a plot of land in Saffron Road.

The chief county architectural assistant, the aptly-named Sydney C Jury, designed the building and Pettingell and Clark of Hitchin were the builders.

A courtroom seating 50 people, rooms for the judge, magistrates, registrar and court officials were provided.

The whole of the courtroom furniture was made from Austrian oak.

When interviewed, Mr Jury said that the court was the best of its kind in the county and everything had been done to comply with the most modern ideas in design.

In 1947 the petty sessional districts were reorganised into Bedford, Luton, Ampthill, Biggleswade, Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard.

With increased business, the courthouse was extended in 1961.

Further reorganisation throughout the county took place in the 1990s, and meant that magistrates' courts at Biggleswade, Ampthill, Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard would close.

The last defendants came before the magistrates on December 22, 1999. Since January 1, 2000, just two courts are in operation, one in Bedford and the other in Luton.

The former Biggleswade courthouse will get a new lease of life soon as Biggleswade's new town hall.

The building will host the town council office, plus county and district council representation.

Conversion work is now well under way and the present town council offices in Chestnut Avenue are up for sale.

Up my street

PALACE STREET

This road extended from The New Inn Yard to Taylors the saddlers in Station Road and included the narrow lane through to Saffron Road.

The name comes from when Biggleswade was in the diocese of Lincoln, and the Bishop had a residence in Biggleswade when passing through.

Part of Palace Street changed to Bonds Lane sometime after 1957.

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