Woburn Sands - The Borough Guide No. 75
This Guidebook, c.1905, by Edward J. Burrow of Cheltenham, was sold by W. H. Smith, in Woburn Sands. My grateful thanks to Miss Parker for providing a copy. Although undated, the landlord mentioned as at The Swan was only there from 1903 - 1906, so it must date between those years.
Visitors no longer arrive in this style, however, but obtain their first impressions of Woburn Sands as they emerge from the Station belonging to the Bletchley and Cambridge Branch of the London and North-Western Railway. The village is a comparatively modern health resort, situated 22 miles from its interesting neighbour, Woburn; 4 miles east of Bletchley, 12 from Bedford, 36 from Oxford, 42 from Cambridge, and 50 miles from London. The Parish is partly in Buckinghamshire and partly in Bedfordshire, was formed in 1867, and comprises Aspley Heath and parts of the Parish of Aspley Guise and Wavendon. The village was formerly known by the delightful name of Hog Sty End - a designation calculated to keep those who did not already know its beauties, as far from the place as possible.
On the whole, the buildings at Woburn Sands are in very good taste, and the shops in the High Street are well-stocked to meet the demands of the people living in the villages close by, whose visits (when they don't drive too hard bargains) are always welcome. Saturday night is the time to obtain some idea of the business done here, the tradesmen having as much as they can do to cope with the demands of customers “from the provinces.” No stirring events of national importance have occurred at Woburn Sands, nor does its name appear in the annals of English history, yet we believe it is destined to grow in popularity with those suffering from tuberculosis, and other lung complaints, and with all who delight in a dry invigorating air, impregnated with those subtle remedial qualities put forth by firs, pines and other trees of the wood.
Public Buildings and Schools.
“On with the dance, let joy be unconfined,” is sometimes the language of those who use the splendidly-prepared floor for the practice of terpsichorean exercises. Two ante-rooms, and the usual offices complete this useful Institution, which will accommodate from two hundred to three hundred persons.
The Men's Social Club.
The County Council Schools.
The Classical School on Aspley Heath is an excellent institution under the charge of the Ven. Archdeacon Miller and the Rev. F. F. Hort. The building is handsome, beautifully situated, and accommodates about 30 pupils. Being close to the woods, the pupils have some of the finest walks in the neighbourhood within easy reach.
The Sanatorium for Consumptives.
Hotel and other Accommodation.
The people are uniformly courteous and obliging, and a most pleasant holiday may be spent here at a very moderate cost.
Places of Worship.
The Parish Church.
The Church was enlarged in 1889 by the addition of the North Transept, and the lengthening of the Chancel. The only objects of interest are the stained glass memorial windows and the handsome reredos. All sittings are free. Ordinary Sunday services at 11a.m. 3p.m. (Children's Service) and 6.30p.m.
The Friends' Meeting House.
The most important Nonconformist Chapel in the town, is the Wesleyan Chapel, a large building in a commanding position in the High Street. The structure possesses much architectural merit externally, while the interior is commodious and attractive. Attached to the Chapel is a Schoolroom of ample proportions. This building well exemplifies the importance of Wesleyan Methodism in the district, and has for a long time past contributed in a notable degree to the success which has attended this section of belief. Services are held on Sundays at 11a.m. and 6p.m. There is also a flourishing Sunday School and other Auxiliaries.
The Primitive Methodist Connection has a Chapel on Aspley Hill and the Calvinistic Baptist Chapel is in Theydon Avenue.
Woods and Walks.
“Sweet is the breath of morn, her rising sweet,
and will agree with Byron that “There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,” especially if he happens to lose his way and gets late for breakfast.
The old village of Bow Brickhill is reached by going past the “Fuller's Earth Lodge” (a pretty house standing back on the right side of the road to Woburn) and the Church there should be visited on account of its great age and fine position at the top of the hill; and also because its old Choir formed the original of the famous picture called “The Village Choir,” by Sir David Wilkie.
In later days the Manor became the property of the powerful Guise family (hence its name) and was eventually given to King Henry VIII. in exchange for lands in Gloucestershire. That monarch handed it over to Sir Ralph Sadlier, one of his favourites, and it has remained in the possession of the Sadlier family ever since. Besides the Classical School already mentioned, the other objects of interest in the village, from an architectural point of view, are the Parish Church and the Parish Hall; though some of the private houses (notably those at Woodside) are extremely handsome.
The Parish Church is dedicated to St. Botolph and is within easy reach from the centre of the village. In this building the chief objects of note are the splendid stained-glass windows on the south side; the coloured lights in the clerestory; the beautifully carved pulpit; the handsome reredos, and the recumbent figure in the north aisle which represents Sir William Tyrynton, a powerful connection of the Guise family, who flourished in the reign of Richard II. The probable date of this monument is A.D. 1400. The other places of worship in the village are the Wesleyan Chapel (dated 1813, and situated at the foot of Mount Pleasant), and the useful Mission Hall near the centre of the village. The Parish Hall at Aspley was built in 1901, and cost about £1800, the expense being largely borne by His Grace the Duke of Bedford and other distinguished benefactors.
The Hall was opened by the Duchess of Bedford in 1902, and possesses a Reading Room, Parish Council Chamber, etc.
The Powage Press, Ltd., issue “Kemp's Mercantile Gazette” from their Printing Works here, their premises occupying what was the Old Classical School.
The Cricket Ground.
The Old Church.
The Cemetery surrounding the Chapel is well-laid out, and quite close to it are the Infant School, the Fire-engine House and the Old Parsonage - the last-named being used as a gymnasium.
The New Church.
The stained memorial windows, the beautiful choir stalls, pulpit and organ gallery; the reredos, and the new organ, were all given by members of the noble family to whom Woburn owes so much. At one time the Church could boast a graceful spire, but as this was considered to be in a rather shaky condition, it was replaced by the present tower, which possesses a huge bell weighing 55 cwts. Vicar, the Rev. C. R. Dickinson, M.A.
The Town Hall.
Other buildings worthy of note in the town are the Almshouses, at the north end of Bedford Street, the Congregational Church in Chapel Street (reached by a covered passage), the Wesleyan Chapel in Leighton Street, and the Institute and Reading Rooms (erected 1884) in the same thoroughfare.
The Cottage Hospital.
The annual exhibition connected with the Woburn Horticultural and Floral Society has for a goodly number of years been a very popular event in the town.
The South Beds. Tennis Club has a capital ground on the Bedford Road, and the Town Club has headquarters at the back of the Bedford Arms Hotel. A good omnibus service connects the “Bedford Arms“ with Woburn Sands Station.
The site and possessions of the Monastery were given to Lord John Russell, afterwards first Earl of Bedford (1550); and since 1570, the mansion has been the favourite residence of the Russell family.
Most of the present buildings were erected about 1744, by John, fourth Duke of Bedford. The structure is built of Tatternhoe stone in the Italian style, and is quadrangular in shape. The West, or principal front is 272 feet in length, and among the numerous apartments of the mansion are the Saloon, 352 feet by 25½ feet; the Library, 50 feet by 242 feet ; and the Picture Gallery, 1112 feet by 17¾ feet. The North Corridor, 170 feet in length is filled with bronzes, plaster casts and vases; and the South Corridor (same length) contains some beautiful drawings in red chalk after Raphael, and an interesting series of models of English cattle. The mansion contains a very rich collection of paintings and sculpture, besides other works of Art; and its State Apartments display a wealth of furnishing and decoration.
The gardens immediately surrounding the house; the pretty Chinese Dairy; the Grottoes, Planthouses, etc.; the Kitchen Gardens to the northwest of the Abbey; the Tennis Court and Riding School - all are maintained in a manner worthy of their great value. Every Bank Holiday, the Duke throws open the Sculpture Gallery and Pleasure Grounds to the public, as the local Flower Show is held on that date. If the day is fine, the town is thronged with visitors on this occasion and the Duke's generosity is greatly appreciated. On ordinary days, visitors can only look over the Abbey by special permission
Places of Interest in the Neighbourhood.
Alongside the river is a well laid out Promenade, plentifully provided with seats, and planted with turf and shrubs. This forms a fashionable parade on Sunday mornings after service.
Many of Bedford's streets are charmingly planted on either side with trees, notably De Pary's Avenue, Bushmead Avenue and Foster Hill Road.
Close to the Cemetery at the top of the last-named thoroughfare, is the beautiful Park, where cricket matches are played on Saturday and Wednesday afternoons; and older inhabitants enjoy a quiet stroll along the many lovely walks. The grounds are tastefully planted with flowers and shrubs. Cycling is allowed on the principal paths.
Another popular pleasure ground is Russell Park, close by the river, where a wide stretch of grass land is used for hockey, cricket, and other games, while at the far end, a number of swings are provided. This space is bordered by pleasant gravel paths, on either side of which are planted neatly arranged trees and flowering shrubs. One of the first sights the visitor to Bedford makes for, however, is the famous statue of John Bunyan, at St. Peter's Green (turn to left on reaching High Street from station), which merits more than a passing glance, is a splendid work of art, the attitude, expression and dress being admirably executed.
The panels inserted in the pedestal on which the statue stands are also very fine. They illustrate scenes from the "Pilgrim's Progress," and underneath the one representing Christian's combat with Apollyon, an inscription informs us that the statue was presented to the Borough of Bedford by Hastings, IX. Duke of Bedford, on June 10th, 1874, in the mayoralty of George Hurst, Esq. The unveiling ceremony was witnessed by thousands of people, including many eminent Americans. Turning back down the High Street, we come presently to the statue of John Howard, the Philanthropist, which stands on the right, in the open space used on Saturday nights as a Market Square. A turning on the left from the High Street, just before the statue is reached, is called Mill Street, and contains three of the most important Nonconformist places of worship in the town, including the celebrated Bunyan Meeting House, so long associated with the ministry of Dr. John Brown. The Chapel is reached through some very fine gates, and has a handsome and spacious interior. Bunyan's chair and other relics may be inspected here.
A little beyond “Bunyan's Meeting,” as it is familiarly called, is St. Cuthbert's Church, and by turning to the right, we reach the Embankment, and passing along it soon come to the Old Bridge, on which the gaol in which Bunyan was confined once stood. The Bridge forms a link between the High Street and the road which we take for Elstow. Just beyond it on the right is a pretty Public Garden running down to the water's edge - a pleasant spot for a quiet read or a talk with a lady friend. Continuing our journey, we make for Elstow, passing over the London and North-Western Railway Bridge and then turning to the right. The village is about a mile from Bedford, and the road is a fairly good one. Bunyan's Cottage lies on the right as we enter the village. Picture post-cards of the Cottage, the Church and the old Moot Hall where the famous preacher used to hold meetings, are to be bought here. There is much to kindle the imagination at Elstow - the Green remains practically in the same condition as when Bunyan played thereon; the old Gaol gates are preserved under the tower of the old Church, and the bells which John thought were coming down on his head, still hang in their place. We may return into Bedford by the Ampthill road, passing the Hospital (on the right) and the celebrated Howard Engineering Works (left) on our way.
No description of Bedford would be complete without mention being made of her two most important Churches - St. Peter's, close to the Green bearing the same name, and St. Paul's, just off the High Street, and looking down Commercial Road. The latter possesses a beautiful spire, and its melodious chimes are among the most familiar sounds with which the townsfolk are acquainted.
The prosperity of the town is closely bound up with that of its fine Public Schools, which have won a world-wide reputation for efficiency and moderate fees. Chief among these are the Grammar School (standing in extensive playing-fields off De Pary's Avenue and equipped with fine laboratories and workshops); the Modern School, nearly opposite St. Paul's Church in Harpur Street; the County School, just outside the town, the Crescent House Ladies' College, in Bromham Road; the Howard Ladies' College, also in Bromham Road; the Bedford Ladies' College, in Conduit Street; the Girls' Modern School, and the Bedford High School for Girls.
“Bedford,” it has been well said, “with its large park, handsome embankment and splendid river, is itself a kind of large public playground. The Grammar School crews have acquitted themselves with great credit, both on the home river and at Henley.”
The roads round Bedford are fairly level and of good surface, and such picturesque villages as Stevington, Goldington, Wilshampsted, Cotton End, Cardington, Southill, Penhold and Wootton will well repay a visit.
Ampthill Park adjoins the town on the N.W. and is united to Houghton Park on the N.E. It is now the property of the Duke of Bedford. A Castle was built on it in the time of Henry VI., which was for some time the residence of Catherine of Arragon, first Queen of Henry VIII. The present mansion stands on lower ground than the site of the old Castle, and commands an extensive view of the Vale of Bedford. It is a magnificent edifice, was built by Lord Ashburnham, and contains valuable paintings and a Museum. The Park is spacious and contains many venerable oaks.
Houghton Park is interesting because it possesses the pear-tree under which Sir Philip Sidney is said to have written part of his “Arcadia.” The remains of the house built by “Sidney's sister, Pembroke's mother” are also to be seen here. A beautiful alcove of lime trees, called the Alameda, was planted by Lord Holland, for the recreation of the townspeople.
The Church at Ridgmount was built in 1855, and is a handsome building of stone in the Decorated style, erected from designs by Sir Gilbert Scott, R.A. There is also a very handsome Wesleyan Chapel. It may interest some of our readers to know that the Rev. Wm. Cuff, of Shoreditch Tabernacle, London, at one time ministered at the large Baptist Chapel, Ridgmount
The principal public buildings at Luton are the Town Hall, the Corn Exchange, the Plait Hall and the Court House.
There are also a fine Public Library, a beautiful Park, extensive recreation grounds and large, swimming baths, so that the physical well-being of the people is well looked after by an enterprising Corporation.
Webpage last updated Dec 2017