Nostalgia: A butcher, a baker and bicycle racer

20 Hitchin Street THIS week I am writing about the building that stands on the corner of Mill Lane in Hitchin Street and just across the road from where the Brown Bear pub once stood. The building is currently occupied by Woodfine Leeds Smith solicitors

20 Hitchin Street

THIS week I am writing about the building that stands on the corner of Mill Lane in Hitchin Street and just across the road from where the Brown Bear pub once stood.

The building is currently occupied by Woodfine Leeds Smith solicitors but it has a very colourful past being associated with a number of local families.

The first record I have is from the Tithe Award Plan of 1838 when the owner was James Barker and the property was occupied by a Mr Wilson and other businesses. There also appears to have been four cottages occupied by labourers.

David Bygraves occupied one of these cottages in 1861, but the first mention of commercial use was in Kelly's Directory of 1877 when it was a butchers shop occupied by George Bygraves. He was trading there until moving to 2 Hitchin Street in 1892 taking over George Berry's butchers shop.

The shop was connected with various members of the Ashwell and Wakes families who were prominent bakers and confectioners in Biggleswade for many years.

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Mary Ann Ashwell was born at Northill and christened on December 20, 1829. She was living at Budna near Northill with her family in 1841.

She became Mrs Mary Ann Wakes after marrying John Wakes and after he died traded as a confectioner in the Market Square, according to Kelly's Directory of 1876, and appears in the 1881 census as a confectioner assisted by her sister Jane Ashwell. Mary Ann was still there in 1901 but then moved to Shortmead Street to make way for Maythorn's expansion. She passed away at her residence in Shortmead Street in April 1904, having been ill since Christmas.

Her daughter Rosa married William Brookbanks who was a vegetable grower and salesman of Shortmead Street. A keen cyclist, he held the North Beds cycling record of riding 2021/2 miles in a day in 1894. They later moved to Roadside Farm, Biggleswade.

Mary Ann's son Alfred was a confectioner trading first on the other side of Hitchin Street in 1881 and 1891 with his wife Emma and son Arthur. He converted the butchers' premises at number 20 into a bakery in 1892. In Kelly's Directory of 1890 he was described as Alfred Wakes confectioner.

Alfred Wakes was also a racing cyclist and suffered facial and knee injuries in the one-mile race at Wellingborough in 1901.

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