Category Archives: Biddenham Society

The Biddenham Society – Houses, houses, everywhere

You may have read in the pre-Christmas press of the government’s ambitious plans for the Oxford to Cambridge corridor in which Bedford sits squarely in the middle. An expressway is to be built to speed up road transport, and there is even talk of recreating a train route between the two university cities.  However, even if the funds can be found to complete the line from Oxford to Bedford the prospect of continuing the link to Cambridge must be a bit of a pipe dream. And anyway, if there is an expressway how many are likely to abandon the car or the X5 to pay through the nose to join a one carriage train stopping at loads of country halts?

Nevertheless, good news for Bedfordshire and Bedford.  Or is it?

We can of course wax lyrical about being at the hub of a world-leading technological corridor, and I expect it will be great for house prices – that is if you are selling not buying.  But it will surely worsen the lot of those young people in Bedford struggling to take their first steps on the housing ladder.  It may be hard enough now, but if we become a new Silicon Valley, future parents might anticipate many more grown up children camping out with mum and dad – for ever!

But have no fear: the government is on the job! Odds on you are unaware of the existence of a body called The National Infrastructure Commission, which recently consulted all the councils within the corridor, including of course Bedford Borough.  No doubt you are even less aware that the leaders of these councils, including the Mayor of Bedford, signed up to a paper which calls for an additional 1 million homes to be constructed in this corridor over the next 35 years, with the aim of supporting a further 1.6 million people.

To give you an idea of scale, a million new homes is equivalent to a city 50% larger than Birmingham, or ten giant towns the size of Northampton, or several hundred more Biddenhams.  Houses, houses, everywhere; but from where are the people coming to fill them all?

However you look at it, the Borough of Bedford will have to take its share, and it would therefore appear that those of us who live in Biddenham will be faced with a never-ending battle to prevent the village’s absorption as a suburb of an expanding Bedford conurbation. For the foreseeable future, we will have to keep at bay the vultures circling around our few remaining green spaces, in the hope that we can retain the open fields and pass the baton on to our successors to continue the fight, for you can be sure the threat will never go away.

At the moment, as recorded in the last issue of The Loop, we await the public consultation stage for the borough’s next local plan, which will first identify agricultural and other land recommended to be reclassified for building purposes.  The process has been delayed as a result of late bids to establish large scale housing areas (in effect new towns) elsewhere on the Bedford fringe.  These are being considered together with many other bids from developers in which Biddenham – once again – features large, notwithstanding the huge construction projects already committed for Great Denham and north of Bromham Road.  Nothing is sacrosanct to money-grabbing land owners.

Being rather uncharitable, we must hope the chosen areas for meeting the borough’s housing targets go elsewhere, and the remaining spaces on the edges of our village (such as the substantial land area west of Gold Lane) are left intact.  If not, stand by for a tough struggle to retain the distinctiveness and attraction of where we live.  But it is worth fighting for – isn’t it?

This will be my 74th and last column for The Loop, nine years after the first in the January 2008 issue of what was then the Biddenham Bulletin.  During this fairly lengthy period I have tried to alert readers to the never-ending attempts by developers – small and large – to spoil our village, and in doing this I have rarely pulled my punches, applying the lash even-handedly to all, including any of my own erring friends or neighbours!  There will be some, I am sure, who will be relieved at the news.

Throughout I have been conscious that my policy of ‘naming and shaming’ miscreants does not sit comfortably in a church-sponsored publication, and I recognise this has frequently placed successive editors in difficult positions with the PCC. I would like to thank both Jean and her predecessor Rosemary for the tolerance they have shown over the years in doing all they could to accommodate my comments and observations, which many others may well have deemed unacceptable in the context of this particular publication.

The time is perhaps overdue for me to dispense a modest dollop of largesse and make our editor’s life a little easier by closing my Biddenham Loop folder.  My thanks to all those who have taken the time and trouble to contact me in person or by e-mail to respond to, or comment on, issues I have raised.  Most, not all, have been positive, but you can’t please all the people all the time (as many have said, probably including Donald Trump), and as part of my purpose has been to energise residents to talk about such matters I can feel satisfied some progress has been made.

My best wishes to readers, and to the continued success of the excellent Loop.

Tony Wood

Founded in 1965 by a group of concerned residents, The Biddenham Society remains committed to the continued preservation of the beauty, history, character and heritage of the village.

The 51st AGM of the Biddenham Society

Seventy residents attended the AGM and lunch of the society on 1 November. Following a short tribute to the late Doug Kitchen (who served for 29 years on the committee, 21 as chairman), the minutes of the last AGM and the financial report were both presented and accepted by the meeting.

The chairman’s report reviewed the planning applications received for Biddenham during the previous twelve months, and presented the outcomes of several of particular interest to residents. The good progress of the northern extension to the western bypass was also raised, with its expected completion in the Spring 2016. The launch of the new Bedford Borough Plan aroused much interest and questions from the floor, as did the borough’s agreement to review the boundaries of the Biddenham Conservation Area for which the society has been lobbying for many years.

Jeremy Reynolds and Monica Knight then described a recent inspection visit of two significant Arts and Crafts period gardens in the village by consultants from ‘Historic England’. The meeting re-elected the committee for a further year with the exception of Chris Gleave who was stepping down for personal reasons. In thanking her for her past service, the chairman paid tribute to the outstanding contribution she had made to the preparation and organisation of the annual lunch over many years.

Thanks were also given to the committee and the other helpers involved, without whose assistance the event would be unable to take place in its present form.

Tony Wood

Founded in 1965 by a group of concerned residents, The Biddenham Society remains committed to the continued preservation of the beauty, history, character and heritage of the village.

Heritage Trail Opening Ceremony

The sun shines on the opening of the heritage trail

A beautiful sunny, if slightly chilly, morning attracted a bumper attendance of over 150 people to the opening of the new Biddenham Heritage Trail on 18th April, created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Biddenham Society.

The launch took place on the attractive grass area at Kings Corner, Main Road – a fitting site for the event incorporating as it does a bench seat (restored for the occasion) given by the society to the village in 1995 to commemorate its 30th anniversary.

The event began with musical entertainment provided by talented students from Biddenham Upper School, following which the chairman of the society introduced the former MP and current prospective parliamentary candidate for North-East Bedfordshire the Rt Hon Alistair Burt.

Mr Burt began by thanking Joe Mummery and Owen Openshaw from the school for their excellent musical contributions, and presented them with tokens of appreciation from the village. He also thanked the Heritage Lottery Fund, whose grants officer Suzie Spence was present, for providing the greater part of the funding needed to establish the trail.

He then commended the Biddenham Society for its initiative in developing the project as a way of highlighting the many beautiful aspects of the village to both residents and visitors, thereby encouraging people to respect and help preserve its fine history. He paid tribute to the work of the society over the last 50 years for its constant vigilance in protecting the unique character of Biddenham against undesirable development, and expressed pleasure at the presence of many young people who he hoped would one day continue its good work.

Mr Burt opened the trail by unveiling the first of six colourful information boards positioned around the village and in the river valley, each of which contains a map of the main anniversary trail and its various extensions, together with a varied selection of excellent reproductions of paintings of key features created by local artists.

Following the opening ceremony, copies of a family trail questionnaire consisting of 24 questions of varied difficulty were distributed with a return date of one week. Many families quickly set off to take up the challenge, and groups were soon to be found all over the village energetically searching for the answers. The winners of the various prizes donated by local organisations will be announced in the June issue of The Loop.

A supply of A5 leaflets containing a map of the various routes and the sites of the six information boards plus associated information will be maintained in the village hall entrance area for the convenience of residents and visitors. The map can also be found on the village blog. If you have not yet done so I hope you will take an early opportunity to walk some of the routes for yourself, all of which are colour coded and waymarked.

The completion of the overall project will follow the installation of the junior trail board in the grounds of St James’ School. The board has already been manufactured, and is a unique interpretation of the village’s heritage featuring drawings and writing done by the children. Its installation has been delayed following the departure of the previous head teacher, but I expect it to be carried out before the end of May. The total heritage trail project has been completed within budget, with every penny of the lottery grant spent!

See the quality – feel the width!

Great efforts have been made by contributors and designers to produce visual displays which are not only distinctive compared to similar ventures elsewhere, but are also of high quality. The Biddenham Society wants to ensure this standard is maintained in the future, and that any resulting vandalism or deterioration in information boards or waymarkers is swiftly and effectively corrected.

Accordingly, the society is establishing a ‘Heritage Trail Maintenance Fund’ to enable corrective measures to be taken when they are needed. As an initial target we aim to raise £1,000 for this purpose, and thanks to the early generosity of the Biddenham Show Committee plus two local residents we are off to a flying start with £400 already in the bank.

If you as an individual, or as part of one of our many thriving village groups, would like to consider making a contribution to this fund, you would be helping to sustain a very concrete expression of the pride in our village we all wish to encourage amongst both residents and visitors.

Donations, however small, would be welcomed, and preferably sent to our Honorary Treasurer Bob Hutchinson at ‘Buttercups’, 19 Main Road. Cheques should be made out to ’The Biddenham Society’.

With best wishes and thanks

Tony Wood

Founded in 1965 by a group of concerned residents, The Biddenham Society remains committed to the continued preservation of the beauty, history, character and heritage of the village.

Opening of the Biddenham Heritage Trail


To what?  Why the opening of the Biddenham Heritage Trail of course on Saturday18 April at 11.00am at King’s Corner, Main Road.  Festivities will commence at 10.30am with entertainment by some of the talented musicians from Biddenham Upper School under the direction of their tutor Georgina Murphy.  Our current (but then prospective candidate) Member of Parliament Alistair Burt will formally open the trail at 11.00 am.

There will be balloons for the children and trail maps for everyone, with the different routes colour coded and identified by waymarkers.

Other heritage trails exist but not like ours!  The Biddenham version really will be a bit special – but then, so is Biddenham!   As you follow the trail and any of the three optional extensions (for the energetic) see how many of the natural and man-made features of great historical interest you can identify.  Over 30 of these are illustrated in full colour on the six information boards which will be positioned around the village and the surrounding area, in the form of reproductions of a selection of the 54 original paintings done specially for the occasion by village artists.

>>> click here for further details from the 2014 Biddenham Society AGM

We want this to be a real family event, so bring the children and/or grandchildren, and take the Heritage Challenge.  This is in the form of a special Family Trail Questionnaire, the answers to which can all be found by following the main Anniversary route of about 1.5 miles in length through the historical parts of Biddenham.  There is no need to go further afield.  Some questions are easy (children) and some more difficult (adults) – or should it be the other way round?  Prizes donated by local organisations will be awarded for correct or near-correct entries. The questionnaires will be available immediately following the opening ceremony, but if you can’t spare the time to take the challenge on the day itself you will have a week in which to do so and to submit your family entry.

Come on!  Note the date, and help give this initiative a flying start.

Tony Wood               


Founded in 1965 by a group of concerned residents, The Biddenham Society remains committed to the continued preservation of the beauty, history, character and heritage of the village.

The Biddenham Society’s 50th AGM

A full house of 100 residents attended the 50th AGM and lunch of The Biddenham Society held on Sunday 7 December 2014 in the Village Hall.  In his welcoming remarks the chairman drew attention to the presence of two residents, David Palmer and Pat McKeown, who had also been present at the inaugural meeting of the society in 1965.

The minutes of the 2013 AGM (presented by Secretary Mark Phillips) and the Balance Sheet for 2013-2014 (presented by Treasurer Bob Hutchinson) were both accepted by the meeting, the particularly healthy state of the finances being primarily due to as yet unspent lottery funds committed to the heritage trail.

Chairman’s Report
In his report, the chairman reported that 38 planning applications for the Biddenham area had been received during the last year, most of them relating to property extensions.  However four recent submissions of particular significance to the village were worthy of specific note.

i). The most recent application by the owner of 29 Day’s Lane to construct two dwellings on the site of the orchard adjoining the pavilion field had again been refused following widespread local opposition.

ii). The application for retrospective planning permission by the occupant of 38 Church End for a two-storey residential barn already constructed in the back garden was refused following objections by the society, the parish council and neighbours.

iii). The application to extend and re-model the façade of ‘The Firs’, 21 Church End was withdrawn following objections from the society and others regarding an inappropriate pastiche design and other factors.

iv). The application to construct a large residence to the rear of ‘Lavender Lodge’, 42 Main Road is pending, but has been opposed by the society as an overdevelopment of the site and with an excessive footprint.

The chairman then described the latest developments regarding the paddock between Church End and the golf course and a new form of protection for green spaces which can be shown to be special to the local community.  From the floor, Pat McKeown spoke of the initiative he has launched to acquire this area presentation in trust to the village, and Cllr Jon Gambold followed with the possibility of still having the paddock accepted  as an ‘Asset of Community Value’ despite the recent rejection by the borough of an application from the parish council for its designation.

The chairman then updated the meeting on the by pass extension north of Bromham Road: completion by October 2016 (earlier if the weather is kind); a contractual requirement to complete the first two roundabouts in nine months giving access for housing construction; 1300 dwellings currently planned, but initial development will only be at the western end of the site; cost £8 million.

Heritage Trail

This will be opened at 11.00 am on Saturday 18 April 2015 at King’s Corner, Main Road, by Alistair Burt MP. Biddenham Upper School will be providing musical accompaniment, and family trail questionnaires (with prizes) will be available.  More details later.  The Junior Heritage Trail, devised by pupils of St James’ Lower School, will be opened at a later date in the school’s summer term.

Three excellent presentations on aspects of the heritage trail were then made to the meeting.  Monica Knight discussed the history and development of the Arts and Crafts movement in Biddenham, specifically in relation to the houses of Mallows and Baillie-Scott; Peter Applewhite talked about the origins and turbulent past of the village pond and its lost dovecote, and encouraged those present to help preserve this important asset by becoming ‘friends’ of the pond; and Kathy Fricker described the work and activities of the recently-formed History Society, and its close links with the development of the heritage trail.

Peter Applewhite also briefly referred to the excellent new initiative of the ‘Biddenham Blog’. The society’s section can be found on

Election of committee

Left to right Jeremy Reynolds, Susie Mason Patel, David Slark, Monica Knight, Will Jenkin, Averil Watson, Mark Phillips, Chris Gleave, Bob Hutchinson & Tony Wood

Thanks were expressed to Averil Watson who is stepping down from the committee this year.  The remainder of the committee Dr Tony Wood (Chairman), Mark Phillips (Secretary), Bob Hutchinson (Treasurer), Chris Gleave, Will Jenkin, Monica Knight, Susie Mason Patel, Dr Jeremy Reynolds, and David Slark were re-elected for 2014-2015.

In closing the meeting the chairman thanked the committee, helpers and friends for their great efforts in organising the luncheon event, and especially Chris Gleave for once again masterminding the preparation of the meal.

>> click for further details