Biggleswade is an ancient Anglo Saxon market town in east Bedfordshire, standing astride the Great North Road (A1).
The town became an important staging point on this busy London road and several ancient coaching inns still remain. Including the timber-framed White Hart Inn, one of the oldest pubs in the county. The large market square, chartered in the 12th-century, still holds a weekly outdoor market and regular Farmer's Markets.
Local inventor Dan Albone developed bicycles and a light tractor called the 'The Ivel', in 1902 - a forerunner of the modern farm tractor. The Ivel Works where he manufactured these vehicles was named after the river which flows through the town. The River Ivel was once navigable down to King's Lynn and was served by several busy wharves during the early 19th-c.
The town is surrounded by attractive walking countryside. The Kingfisher Way, a popular long distance trail, passes through the town, providing a delightful riverside walk from Baldock to Roxton. Also circling the town is the way-marked Biggleswade Green Wheel, which opened in 2015. Part of the track follows along the river and passes several historic sights of interest. Biggleswade Common, a large area of pasture land covering some 300 acres to the north, can also be visited.
The nearby small village of Old Warden has many old thatched cottages, several with Elizabethan chimneys. The 12th-c cobblestone church has a Norman tower arch. An Iron Age earth bank once ran from Old Warden Hill in the direction of Luton, crossing the Icknield Way.
Just west of this village is Warden Abbey, established by Waiter Espec in 1135 as a Cistercian house. None of the origin buildings remain. A small Tudor brick house was built on the site after the abbey was dissolved.
This pretty village to the north of Old Warden is noted for its elaborate May Day celebrations; a 400 year old tradition. Ickwell is one of the county's most picturesque villages with gaily-painted thatched cottages surrounding its large green. Sunday afternoon cricket matches are often played on the green in the summer, portraying a typical English village scene.
Thomas Tompion, the father of English clock-making, was born here in 1638. To one side of the green is Thomas Tompion's workshop, an old forge building with a horseshoe shaped doorway. A blue plaque marks his cottage nearby.
At the northern end of the village is the formal house of the 18th-c Ickwell Bury (not open to the public). Previously a priory, it was rebuilt after a fire in 1937, to a neo-Georgian style. It stands in richly wooded parkland with an 17th-c octagonal dovecot and stables.
The racing driver Richard Shuttleworth began a collection of veteran cars and aircraft at his home in Old Warden Park, during the late 1920s. His collection and museum is now housed at the nearby Biggleswade Aerodrome. Historic aircraft can often be observed flying above the airfield on summer weekends. Read more...
Old Warden Park, next to the Aerodrome, has a pleasant Swiss style garden, created for Joseph Shuttleworth in 1872. Open to the public. Read more...