Biggleswade - Encyclopedia

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BIGGLESWADE, a market town in the Biggleswade parliamentary division of Bedfordshire, England, 41 m. N. by W. of London by the Great Northern railway. Pop. of urban district (1901) 5120. It lies on the east bank of the Ivel, a tributary of the Ouse, in a flat plain in which vegetables are largely grown for the London markets. The town is a centre of this trade.

Biggleswade (Bichelswade, Beckeleswade, Bickleswade) is an ancient borough by prescription which has never returned representatives to parliament. The borough court was held by the lord of the manor. At the time of Edward the Confessor, Archbishop Stigand owned the manor, which according to Domesday passed to Ralf de Insula. Henry I. granted it to the bishop of Lincoln, under whose protection the borough evidently grew up. In 1547 the bishop surrendered his rights to the king, and in the 17th century Biggleswade formed part of the jointure of the queens of England. Owing to its important position on the Roman road to the north the town became an agricultural centre for the surrounding district. In 1335 Edward III. renewed the bishop's licence to hold a Monday market, and annual fairs were held here from very early times. Those for horses are mentioned as famous by Camden. In addition to agriculture, Biggleswade was formerly engaged in straw-plaiting and lace manufacture.

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