Biddenham History Society – Visit to King’s Close

The afternoon of Friday, 7th July 2017 was an excellent afternoon for many of us. We started with a delicious First Friday lunch in the Village Hall at 12.30pm. Thank you to Liz Watson and Judith O’Quinn and all your helpers. Some of the helpers managed to clear up in record time, so that we could all assemble at King’s Close at 2.30pm and meet Helen and Jeremy Humphreys. They welcomed us to their beautiful Arts and Crafts house, designed by Mackay Hugh Baillie-Scott in 1907. They have been working hard to restore many of the Arts and Crafts features since buying the property about 3 years ago.

kings-close-garden-pictureOne of the key principles in Baillie-Scott’s design was that the garden should be linked to the house – serving as an extra room – so vistas from the house to the garden were very important. Helen and Jeremy have restored the brick path that leads from the front gate to the gravel area in front of the front door. The brick path continues at the back of the house and leads the eye to the orchard at the bottom of the garden.

At the front, borders, edged with box in the shape of the Union Jack, have been restored, and the yew by the front gate has been cut back so the gate can be opened. There is a lovely walk along the brick path, past the box hedges with seasonal planting, to the front door. A beautiful climbing rose sets off the front of the house and the Tudor style beams and front door.

Before going to the back garden, Helen and Jeremy very kindly let us look at their living room which still has the original twentieth century paneling. Helen showed us the settle by the window that was designed by Baillie-Scott and the wooden doors with the original door furniture that can be used to divide the room from the rest of the house.

Seeing the room also gave a vista of the back garden. Jeremy and Helen have worked very hard in this area, reinstating the brick path down the middle and removing ivy and conifers. The pink roses climbing over the original metal arches looked stunning as the main feature leading the eye down the garden. Helen and Jeremy have been busy planting the borders that edge the path with lavender and lilies, which were coming into flower and attracting the bees.

The final room at the bottom of the garden was the orchard and meadow area. The trees were already laden with fruit. On a hot summer day, it was a lovely place to rest and admire the views to the house. We were indeed in another beautiful room.

Thank you once again Helen and Jeremy for your kindness in allowing us to come and see your lovely garden. We now have a better appreciation of what the Arts and Crafts architects were seeking to achieve and wish Helen and Jeremy every success in what they describe as their ‘work in progress’.

The next meeting of the Society is on Monday 20th November, 2017 at 8pm in the Church Barn when Steven Cockings, the Chairman of the Bedford Roman Villa Project will talk about the Roman Villa complex at Manton Lane, which may well have been linked to evidence of Roman settlement in Biddenham. I hope you will be able to come.

Kathy Fricker

Heritage plaque commemorates Biddenham’s historic coffin Path

The Biddenham Society has commissioned and installed the village’s first historic green plaque to commemorate and identify the C16th Coffin Path which runs from Gold Lane to St James’ Church, forming an important part of the Biddenham Heritage Trail which was opened in 2015.

The book The Village of Biddenham through the ages, describes The Coffin Path, or Causeway, as historically being a vital amenity for the village as it was the shortest way for relatives of the working class to carry the coffin of the deceased to the churchyard for burial.  The path and gates were kept at a width of six feet to allow a coffin with a man on either side to pass through comfortably. In the C18th the Botelers left £2 per annum with the vicar to ensure regular maintenance was carried out to keep the path to the requisite width.

Unfortunately, in 2016 successive ploughing by the land owner destroyed a large part of it, since when the route has relied on villagers and other walkers marking it out with their feet. Meanwhile, with the support of the society and other local groups, the parish council continues to engage in dialogue with the land owner to seek reassurances that this important part of our heritage will be properly preserved in the future – and at six feet wide, not just the width of a tractor wheel!

The plaque is mounted on the north wall of Dawn Cottage at the Gold Lane end of the path, and we thank Peggy Groves for agreeing to have it on her property.  The Biddenham Society is also grateful to the Biddenham History Society and the Biddenham Show Committee for their sponsorship of this project.

The Village of Biddenham Through The Ages

book-the-village-of-biddenham-through-the-ages-bmpA number of people have recently showed interest in the history of Biddenham. So this is a perfect opportunity for people to be aware that there is a book available for purchase.

Three Biddenham History Society members , Katherine Fricker, Mary McKeown and Diana Toyn have written a very detailed and comprehensive book about the village of Biddenham. A book review by Bob Ricketts  is available for further information

Note in advance before purchase, there is no mention of FAM Webster in the book.

Publisher: Bedfordshire Bugle, 2012.
ISBN 9780955135620. 394 pages Price £20.
Available from Mary McKeown on 01234 267678
Postage & packing £4, or collect from author

A famous and distinguished Biddenham resident

With the imminent Biddenham Historical society meeting at Kings Close, Biddenham on the 7th July 2017. There has been a lot of interest from the village about the house from a historical perspective.

F.A.M. Webster was a resident in this house during the 1920’s and 30’s. A biographical account has kindly been submitted by Bob Phillips who is an athletics writer, broadcaster and historian who for 17 years was a member of the BBC Radio athletics commentary team.

Michael Webster has also kindly submitted some old pictures of the house taken in 1920’s.

kings-close-biddenhamlouisa-webster-family-at-biddenham

 

 

 

 

 

If any one has any further comments or points of interest about the house please submit in the comments section below:-

Programme of Archaeology Talks At The Higgins

My name is Liz Pieksma and I am the Keeper of Archaeology at The Higgins, Bedford and I am very keen to share the Archaeological Collections of Bedfordshire in our care with other interested folk. To this end I have taken several themes and created informal slide presentations followed by an object handling and nattering time.

As you probably are all aware The Higgins Art Gallery and Museum, Bedford offers a range of tours/talks/ activities and exhibitions. We do have less-abled, secure parking in the courtyard and there is The Pantry on site for refreshments etc so please pop in to see us sometime.

Please find further information below:-

 

archaeology-talks