Bedford Architectural Archaeological
& Local History Society

Bedford bridge 1824.
Putnoe Heights Church Centre

AUTUMN & WINTER 2017 - 2018

All meetings are held at Putnoe Heights Church
& Community Centre, Putnoe Heights, Bedford MK41 8EB.

Visitors welcome (£3 donation requested)


Wednesday 13th September 2017 at 7.30pm.
The BAALHS Annual General Meeting followed by an illustrated talk by Kevin Varty
“The Great War through the Magic Lantern”

Sunday 8th October 2017.
Coach Trip to the Richard III Centre, Leicester & Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre.
Leaving St Peter's Church, DeParys Avenue at 08.15am. £35 per person payable on booking.

Wednesday 11th October 2017 at 7.30pm.
“How Old is the Icknield Way?” Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews.(Archaeology Officer, North Herts Museum).
Second-hand book sale.

Wednesday 8th November 2017 at 7.30pm.
Conservation evening: “Conservation and The Future of the Civic Movement” Ian Harvey (Civic Voice). Displays. Talk from BAALHS Conservation Committee.

Wednesday 13th December 2017 at 7.30pm.
“A Bookless Town – Bedford’s Libraries (1700-2017)” Bob Ricketts (President, BAALHS).
Seasonal refreshments during interval.

Wednesday 10th January 2018 at 7.30pm.
“Flight Research at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (Bedford)”. Talk, historic videos & display.
Barry Tomlinson (Bedford Aeronautical Heritage Group).

Wednesday 14th February 2018 at 7.30pm.
“New Maps & Old: Changing Bedford” Maurice Nicholson (Local researcher & Georeferencer).

Wednesday 14th March 2018 at 7.30pm.
“The History of Chicksands Priory” Julie Benson (Friends of Chicksands Priory).
Wine served during interval.

Wednesday 11th April 2018 at 7.30pm.
“Brickmaking in the Marston Vale” David Szymanski
(former Managing Director, Hanson Building Products).

----------------- FOR MORE DETAILS OF THE ABOVE EVENTS SEE BELOW -----------------

Wednesday 13th September 2017 at 7.30 pm.
Annual General Meeting & illustrated talk “The Great War through the Magic Lantern” Kevin Varty.

Kevin is a local historian and afficiando of Magic Lanterns and will be well known to many Members
through his excellent talks to the Friends of Foster Hill Road Cemetery. His subject will be the Great
War as seen through the lens of Magic Lantern slides, illustrated with genuine slides of the era.

Wednesday 11th October 2017 at 7.30 pm.
"How Old is the Icknield Way?" Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews.

Keith is currently the Heritage Access Officer for North Hertfordshire District Council, a post based in the Museum Service. An archaeology graduate of Lancaster University, he has worked extensively since the mid-1980s as a field archaeologist principally in Hertfordshire and for a period in Chester.

The Icknield Way is generally accepted to be an ancient long-distance track-way running from Norfolk to Wiltshire along a natural chalk escarpment and forming one of four "royal roads" spanning Britain. In his presentation, Keith questions this received wisdom He examines the consistency of the first written accounts by Mediaeval clerics and apparent references in legal charters of the period. He considers how 18th century antiquaries compiled evidence to support and develop their belief in this view. He then discusses how early 20th century survey work and field archaeology reinforced the idea of prehistoric trading routes connecting known sites. Finally, he examines how modern survey techniques (such as LIDAR) and statistical analyses of finds distribution have allowed archaeologists and historians to built up a rather different picture of ancient settlements and their connections.
Website www.northhertsmuseum.org.
There will also be a secondhand book sale – buy early for Christmas! All proceeds go to BAALHS.

Wednesday 8th November 2017 at 7.30 pm.
Conservation Evening.

We are dedicating this evening to conservation of Bedford’s townscape, an issue in which many Members have a strong interest and which BAALHS, through its Conservation Committee (jointly chaired by David Fletcher and David Fowler) seeks to influence – most recently on the future of Kempston Bury. We are supported in this nationally by our membership of Civic Voice. You will hear direct from members of the Conservation Committee about their achievements, issues and concerns as well as from Ian Harvey of Civic Voice on “Conservation and The Future of the Civic Movement”. The evening will be enhanced by two displays: a standing display of some outstanding heritage buildings in Bedford, recently restored (as seen at June’s BLHA county Conference, mounted by Andrew Johnson) and a table-top display of photos of historic commemorative wall plaques in the town, by Stuart Antrobus.

Wednesday 13th December 2017 at 7.30 pm.
“A Bookless Town – Bedford’s Libraries (1700-2017)” Bob Ricketts.

Bob is President of BAALHS and editor of Bedford Local History Magazine will explore the history and scandals of Bedford’s Libraries. Bedford, despite its affluence, outstanding schools and tradition of private libraries and literary societies, was one of the last major towns in England to establish a rate-funded, free public library. Although Bedford’s exclusive ‘Old Library’ was founded in 1700, and a large subscription library from 1830 (the ‘General Library’), the town didn’t get a free public library until 1937, forty years after Luton. This was only after a protracted campaign, starting in the 1860s, which only really gained traction during the 1930s, led by the charismatic headmaster of Bedford Modern School, Henry William Liddle, and backed by a diverse coalition comprising the Rotary Club, Bedford Council of Social Service, the editor of the Bedfordshire Times and clergy, in effect, shaming the Borough Council into action. Bob will also touch on two scandals which made the national headlines – the General Library Council’s attempt to sell John Bunyan’s copy of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs in 1911 to stave off bankruptcy, which triggered leaders in The Times and the intervention of the Attorney General; in 1938, the (new public library) Committee’s attempt to ban the works of Aldhous Huxley and Beverley Nichols, which resulted in national ridicule and a cartoon by Low. Seasonal refreshments, including wine, will be served during the interval.

Wednesday 10th January 2018 at 7.30 pm.
"Flight Research at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (Bedford)" Barry Tomlinson.

Barry is a retired government research scientist who worked at RAE (Bedford) on flight simulation projects and is now a member of the Bedford Aeronautical Heritage Group since the last element of the research site closed in 2008, BAHG has been actively assembling an archive of historical material and artefacts that will help preserve RAE (Bedford)'s unique scientific legacy. At Thurleigh airfield and at the Twinwoods wind-tunnel site, RAE (Bedford) conducted world-class aeronautical research, into automatic landing in fog, naval operations from aircraft carriers, Concorde aerodynamics, vertical take-off and landing, helicopter performance, and the visual landing aids that are now accepted and installed at airports world-wide. The talk describes the historical development of Bedford as the centre for aeronautical research in the UK after World War II as work and personnel transferred from Farnborough and elsewhere in the 1950s. Many of the pioneering activities were recorded on film and the presentation includes excerpts which vividly reveal how ingenious solutions to challenging problems were devised and proven in 50 years of military and civilian research. Website www.bahg.org.uk.

Wednesday 14th February 2018 at 7.30 pm.
"New Maps & Old: Changing Bedford" Maurice Nicholson.

Maurice was brought up in Queen's Park, attended Bedford Modern School, and spent his career as a pharmacist. In his retirement he has researched and given talks on local history and was centrally involved in the award-winning Queen's Park Lives local heritage project. and its publications. A particular passion is old maps and mapping and he has participated as a volunteer in the British Library crowd-sourcing project to georeference digital images of charts and plans scanned from old documents onto Ordnance Survey mapping. Since the project began in 2012, he has become their leading georeferencer credited with tens of thousands of the online images which are finally overlaid onto Google Maps and Google Earth. Maurice's talk will describe the British Library project and its achievements and go on to show how the technique can benefit local history researchers in revealing changes in the urban and rural landscape. Battlefield researchers too can gain from the ability exactly to pinpoint the location of features and engagements. Access is becoming freely available to highly detailed historical mapping in digital form, such as the 25" Ordnance Survey series on the Library of Scotland website. With the centre of Bedford as a focus, Maurice will finally show how historical photography from overhead or street views when compared with Google imagery can vividly document the impact of wartime events and post-War civic developments on the appearance of the town.

Wednesday 14th March 2018 at 7.30 pm.
"The History of Chicksands Priory" Julie Benson

Julie is the Secretary of The Friends of Chicksands Priory, a voluntary group formed in 1975 which serves to preserve the structure of the Priory and its immediate grounds and to research and publish information on its history. Guided tours take place by appointment on Sunday afternoons between April and October. The Prory at Chicksands was founded by St Gilbert around 1150 and accommodated Augustinian Canons and Benedictine nuns until it was dissolved in 1538. Subsequently it became the property of the Osborn family who turned it into an elegant country house. Little remains of the monastic cloisters which even eluded Time Team excavations in 2001. The Priory was a convalescent home for wounded servicemen in the Great War and passed into Crown ownership in the 1930s. During the Second World War and the Cold War that followed, it was the base for signals intelligence gathering by RAF and then USAF units. Since 1997 it has been the Regimental Headquartes of the Intelligence Corps and is located within a secure Defence Ministry perimeter. Website www.chicksandspriory.co.uk. Wine will be served during the interval.

Wednesday 11th April 2018 at 7.30 pm.
"Brickmaking in the Marston Vale" David Szymanski

David was brought up at Stewartby, educated at Bedford Modern School, and read Mechanical Engineering at university before a career in project and general management at London Brick Company and Hanson Building Products. Now retired, he recently served as Master of the Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers. (Chartered in 1568).Stewartby in the Marston Vale takes its name from the Stewart family which established the London Brick Company in the 1920s and built a model village (similar to Bourneville and Port Sunlight) to provide accommodation and amenities for workers in its brickmaking industry. In the 1970s the industry was annually producing billions of Fletton bricks, a type which exploits the carbonaceous content of the lower Oxford clay. In his talk David recalls life as a youngster in the village and then discusses the challenges of being a technical manager dealing with the vast scale of the excavations, the production engineering and its transport system, and obligations to its workforce, many of whom had come from Italy and India. Production began shifting in the 1980s and is now concentrated around Peterborough; Stewartby finally ceased production in 2008 (owing to problems meeting UK sulphur emission regulations). David will conclude by discussing the opportunities for landscape restoration and the problems of conserving the remaining industrial architecture.


For any queries about the programme, contact Bob Ricketts, 68 Mendip Crescent, Bedford, MK41 9EP, telephone 01234 313608 or e-mail Bob, info@baalhs.org.uk.