Biggleswade and District Gardening Club

PUBLISHED: 16:58 03 February 2006 | UPDATED: 09:32 06 May 2010

The first meeting of the New Year had a good start with a talk from Roger Skipper named Treize – our garden throughout the season. Roger is a retired Police Inspector but is familiar with Biggleswade, having been stationed here over 40 years ago, when he

The first meeting of the New Year had a good start with a talk from Roger Skipper named Treize - our garden throughout the season. Roger is a retired Police Inspector but is familiar with Biggleswade, having been stationed here over 40 years ago, when he and his wife lived in the police house in Chestnut Avenue, which many members remembered. He soon moved to Police HQ at Kempston, where they bought a bungalow at Wootten Green which included an acre of garden, although at that time it was just a field with a few trees. As you could see the chimneys of the Stewartby brickfields only two miles away, it follows that the ground was extremely claggy. As a child he had his own little garden on his father's or his grandfather's land and the couple had always had allotments, so an acre of garden to transform from a meadow was a welcome challenge. The garden has actually been developed over the last 18-19 years and is now good enough to be visited by the public and is open from mid-May-July. The show began at the beginning of the year with silver birches in the snow and took the audience through the year until we returned to the snow again. There is a flower out on every day of the year, and it was obvious with careful planning and knowledge that we could all aim for this. Many of them are small enough to fit into anyone's plot, in the winter you can have snowdrops, hellebores and primulas, giving way to hundreds of bulbs in spring, celandines (especially Brazen Hussy a cultivated form), and epidediums. They have made a winter walk which is really attractive at all times of year and later in the spring there are bluebells, anemones and spireas. There are many different shrubs interspersed with perennial geraniums, aquilegias and self seeded foxgloves. A large pond was dug about 16-17 years ago which took 12 evenings to dig out because of the heavy soil, but is now very interesting with water lilies and backed by a rockery with a waterfall and planted with alpines. Pentstemons are Roger's speciality and he has a collection of around 150 species which will be cut back at the end of March. This was an interesting talk with lots of ideas. The competition for an interesting item from your garden was won by Frances Whitfield, with Pauline Thompson second and Tony Gray third. The next meeting is on Wednesday, February 15 at Stratton School at 7.30pm when Neale Holmes-Smith will talk about Decorative Foliage Plants. We have an informative website which is http://tiscali.co.uk.biggleswadegardening.

The speaker at the January meeting: Of Biggleswade History Society was Rev. Alan Bliss talking about the Hearth Tax which was imposed in 1671 and abolished in 1688. The original records for Bedfordshire in 1671 are held at Kew but there are copies in the Record Office in Bedford. The tax was payable on March 21 and Michelmas Day September 29 each year. Samuel Worster was the collector for Biggleswade in 1671. From the Returns of 1671 for Biggleswade, Old Warden, Sutton & Northill Alan showed us that it was possible to estimate areas of populations, size of house and wealth of individual occupants. In Biggleswade the house with the most hearths was occupied by Henry Drewry with 15 fireplaces, there were 74 dwellings with only 1 hearth and an estimated population of 642. By contrast Old Warden was prosperous with several large houses with many fireplaces, including Sir William Palmer with 20 hearths, but only 17 dwellings with 1 hearth and an estimated population of 187. Alan was thanked by Rex Skinner, who also presented him with a wooden bowl that had been turned from wood taken from a yew tree at Old Warden church, where the Rev. Alan Bliss had been vicar for 10 years. Items received into the Society Archives during December included the Biggleswade Band drum, a collection of photographs from the widow of Ivor Carr and a very significant collection from the daughter of the late George Skevington. The next meeting will be on Tuesday at Millenium House in Shortmead Street when the speaker will be John Burnett talking about the History of the Levitt Partnership. New members are always welcome - please contact the Secretary: Jean Strange on 01767 315075 for details.

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