BEDFORD ARCHITECTURAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL & LOCAL HISTORY SOCIETY

BEDFORD LOCAL BOOK REVIEW

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BOOK REVIEW by Alan Cox

Bedford History Timeline
By Alan Crawley & Bob Ricketts CBE.

Published by BAALHS in 2019. A4 softback, 94 pages, 119 black & white illustrations ISBN 978-1-9160708-0-6 Obtainable from the Eagle Bookshop, 103 Castle Road, Bedford, MK40 3QP for £8.
Or by post from the BAALHS Honorary Editor, Bob Ricketts, at 68 Mendip Crescent, Bedford, MK41 9EP, for £10 including postage (cheque payable to BAALHS).

This publication is intended ‘to refresh your knowledge of Bedford’s history, to follow-up particular periods or themes which interest you, or as a handy source of reference’. It achieves all three.

The book begins with two short narrative sections on Bedford’s origins in the Saxon period and on the town’s surviving and demolished medieval churches. The actual Timeline begins in 571 with the Battle of Biedcanford and ends in 1938 with the widening of the Town Bridge. Throughout, the left-hand page has three black-and-white illustrations, while the left-hand one has the individual descriptions (varying in length) of the chronological events. Although the two are cross-referenced, it is perhaps inevitable that they are out of synch, sometimes by as much as five pages. Fortunately, the ring-binding makes it easy to flip between pages. A very necessary subject and date index allows a particular entry or topic to be found along the Timeline. There is also an index of illustrations and a useful list of further reading material.

The authors have mined a wide range of sources, both published and unpublished, including the increasing amount of information now available on-line. The topics covered in the Timeline are equally wide. There are, for instance, industrial concerns such as Grafton Cranes and Meltis/Peak Frean; shops like Braggins, E. P. Rose and the sadly recently departed town-centre M & S; and all the main public services and utilities, including parks and the cemetery. The Timeline demonstrates, among other things, how first the turnpike roads and then the railways gradually radiated from Bedford in every direction. Churches, chapels and monastic foundations are well represented. Successive entries between 1536 and 1538 indicate that the three surviving monasteries all accepted their dissolution without demur or bloodshed, with the prior and canons of Newnham Priory even receiving pensions from the Crown. Figure 53 shows how much better the tower of Holy Trinity Church would

look if its four original pinnacles were to be reinstated. The illustrations also remind one of the sad loss of some notable local buildings, from the remains of the medieval Greyfriars to all five of the town’s older cinemas. Figure 79 actually shows the former Town and County Club on the Embankment being demolished in 1971. Had it survived a little longer, it would now surely have been converted into luxury riverside apartments.The authors appeal for comments and additions to the Timeline, suggesting it is intended to be an ongoing project. One possibility might be to extend it to at least the end of the 20th century.
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Illustration of book cover