Nostalgia: How the Market Square emerged

THE MARKET HOUSE, BIGGLESWADE IN 1565 William Stewarde became a lessee of the Market Square. From this lease we know that there was a court or market house on the Market Square, with a chamber or hall 60ft long by 24ft wide, used by justices travelling

THE MARKET HOUSE, BIGGLESWADE

IN 1565 William Stewarde became a lessee of the Market Square. From this lease we know that there was a court or market house on the Market Square, with a chamber or hall 60ft long by 24ft wide, used by justices travelling on assize.

A lockup or stock house, not included in the lease, was somewhere on the same site.

The market house was ruinous and so William Stewarde undertook to do the repairs.


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From the county archives, we know that by 1778 the building was known as the town hall and was occupied by Richard Austin, a saddler, with four shops adjoining.

In the 1838 tithe award plan, the property is described as 'House and yard occupied by Robert Brooks'.

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He was a grocer and tea dealer.

James Crouch, a linen and woollen draper, occupied the premises by 1854, and by 1890 Caleb Soundy, a boot and clothing manufacturer, draper and tailor, occupied the building.

It was owned by Wells and Co of Biggleswade Brewery at that time and described in 1898 as "A Messuage, formerly called The Town Hall, situate near the Market Place Biggleswade, with the Dwelling House, Shops, Sheds and Buildings. Let to Mr. Caleb Soundy, at £50 per annum."

Mr Soundy purchased the property and his descendants are still owners.

The original purpose of this building is shrouded in antiquity but the most popular theory is that it was an old market house built for the storage of livestock especially cattle during sales and overnight.

Above the cattle stalls were where the caretakers lived and drovers were lodged.

Each head of cattle was charged for and paid into the town's funds.

Around the middle of the 17th century the building was converted into a dwelling house. The area of the original building was about 70ft in length by 25ft in width.

The building was due to be reconstructed in 1937 when that part of High Street was to be widened, but when it was dismantled, an early 16th century timber framed roof was discovered.

It was decided to incorporate this in the new structure.

To be continued.

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