Toll House – Shortmead Street (Later the Herdsman’s Cottage)
The Toll House house built for the Biggleswade to Alconbury Turnpike that opened in 1725; it was situated at the northern end of the town. This later became the herdsman’s cottage . It was 13ft square with two rooms downstairs, living room and kitchen, and a divided bed room upstairs, the stairs went straight into the room. It was demolished in 1957 and the area is now The Dan Albone Car Park.
Four items from The Biggleswade Chronicle.
1911 May 05 A. Webb, Cross Roads, Old Warden, chosen by Fen Reeves as Common Herdsman from 15 applicants. Took over on May Day. Samuel Day, his predecessor retired.
1933 Dec 29 “The trustees met for the last time on December 28th 1867, when there was a balance in the treasurers hands of £381. Biggleswade Toll house was sold for £50.
1938 July 15 Mrs Elizabeth Webb died at Common Gate, 180 Shortmead Street aged 81.
1942 July 17 Arthur Webb died aged 83 at house at entrance to The Common
The last Common Herdsman was Micky Marlow, he recorded a tape about his life for us.
A lady, Mrs Clare BROWN (nee HESLOP and still living in Biggleswade in 2006) who lived here when she was first married (from April 1948) told me that the family kept chickens. One day she went in the coop to get an egg that was just inside when the door closed behind her and she couldn’t get out. So she crawled into the run and called for help from a passing “old boy” who was quite possibly deaf as his reply was, “Yes it is a nice day”and walked on. Fortunately a lady passed by eventually who recognised her plight and let her out.
The Fen Reeves agent used to collect the rent of 5/- a week.
As it was in 1947 when the BROWN family lived there. Clare Brown believed their car shown here was a Morris. She remembers that they had an outside toilet and bathtime was either a tin bath in the kitchen or a visit to her mother-in-law’s. Clare’s sister Joyce and mother joined her in the picture on the right. Joyce now lives in Australia.
The old bridge, dating back to 1758, is still in place and the southern section of the “Meccano” bridge has been installed. The toll house was just over the bridge, to the left. The old bridge was demolished, and the second “Meccano” section added, in 1948.
A clipping from the Biggleswade Chronicle dated 25th January 1957 shows that despite it being recorded on the “supplementary list of buildings of architectural and historic interest” it was doomed to destruction – another act of vandalism!