BOOK REVIEW by Bob Ricketts

By Colmworth and Neighbours History Society
46 pages. Over 100 illustrations. Produced by XL Press, Little Barford, in 2018. Obtainable from the Secretary, Colmworth and Neighbours History Society Or by post from the Acting Secretary, Dave Jarrett, 3 Collingwood Road, Eaton Socon, Cambs., PE19 8JQ Price £5 plus £2 postage & packing.

A delightful, richly illustrated pictorial record of historic and present views of Colmworth, Bushmead Crossroads, Little Staughton, Bolnhurst, Keysoe, Thurleigh, Ravensden and Wilden. The concept mirrors that of Bedford Past & Present, with views from the late-19thC or early 20thC set alongside present day photographs, accompanied by a brief historical commentary. Examples include:
• The Old White Swan, Colmworth, illustrated with a drawing by Pamela Harden showing the gypsy caravans which used to arrive each year until 1939 to help celebrate the Colmworth Feast and a modern photograph showing its conversion into a large house;
• The Jury beer-house, Colmworth, with a 1925 photograph showing an advertisement on the side wall for “HIGGINS & SONS LTD/BEDFORD/ALES & STOUT”. The then licensee, William J. Abraham, although born in Colmworth, spent much of his life in Sheffield where he was a member of the Labour Party and a prominent trade unionist. He became president of the Sheffield Trades and Labour Council and in 1920 was elected president of the National Union of Railwaymen. He was a member of Sheffield City Council and stood unsuccessfully as a parliamentary candidate for Bolton in 1922. Shortly afterwards he became ill and returned to Colmworth, where he died in 1927 aged only 44 and was buried in Colmworth Churchyard. The beerhouse is now a private residence;
• Bushmead Priory House & Bushmead Priory, showing ten photographs (five taken in the 1950s before the demolition of the mansion in 1964 and five taken in the late-nineteenth century by Frank Day, of St. Neots) of the house, grounds, remains of the Priory and grounds, including the Grotto, and a map;
• Baptist Chapel Little Staughton, built between 1766 and 1876. The first photograph, taken in the early 1900s, shows smartly-dressed members of the congregation posing outside the chapel. The second photograph, taken in 1944, shows the damage inflicted by the undercarriage of a Lancaster bomber taking off from the nearby airfield; the roof is covered with tarpaulins. The chapel was so badly damaged it had to be demolished. The final photograph is of the new chapel, opened in 1957, largely funded by compensation from the Air Ministry;
• Bolnhurst windmill, a postmill in use until the 1920s, when two sails blew off; the windmill was demolished in 1929-30. There are two good early twentieth century photographs of the mill (with sails), as well as the surviving, but extended, mill house;
• Bolnhurst Mission Hut, the first photograph (my favourite) shows the caravan used by the travelling mission with two missionaries sitting by the van. The wording on the side of the caravan reads: “THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH”; “THE GIFT OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE”; “PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD”. The travelling mission arrived each summer and set up camp on the corner of School Lane. The second photograph shows the mission hut built by the Pentecostals in the early twentieth century, which was used until 1970. The next photograph, taken in 1990, shows the hut in a derelict state. The ITP Support Association bought the site and built their new headquarters on the footprint of the old mission hut. The new building was opened in September 2015 by Neil Dudgeon, otherwise known as John Barnaby of ‘Midsomer Murders’.
The above examples merely represent a selection of those pages I found particularly interesting, but hopefully give you an insight into the breadth and interest of this volume. I, for one, will be keeping my copy in the car to refer to when I’m out and about in north Bedfordshire. Maybe the Society should use it as the basis of a car tour?
Highly recommended.

Illustration of book cover