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THE BOROUGH OF BEDFORD : The author acknowledges the use of factual and written material in this site which has been obtained from a number of sources including the Borough of Bedford websites and other relevant sources.

N.B. For more pages in the Travelling Days series about Bedford during WWII please go to the 'Days Past' website here

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The author was born in 1929 in a flat above a coal merchant's office at 1 Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge. The building has long since been demolished and its place taken by government offices. We moved to 112 Denmark Street, Bedford (right) in 1935.

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The Victorian terrace house was situated directly opposite the Anglican 'tin tabernacle', Christ Church. "An iron structure erected in 1883, at a cost of £1,150" in Castle Road it was later moved to Denmark Street in 1902.

From its inception until 1942, Christ Church was a chapel of ease to St Cuthbert’s Church (pictured below) which is now used by the Polish Catholic community in Bedford.

Christ Church was originally staffed by curates, many of whom only stayed for a few years before moving on. On a number of occasions suggestions were made that a permanent church should be built, and plans were drawn up, but nothing came of them, although in 1939 builders’ huts were erected on the present site of the church and a few preliminary trenches were dug. But World War 2 started in September and the work was postponed.

On the afternoon of Saturday 22nd September 1956 Lord Luke, of Odell Castle, laid the foundation stone of the new building. The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev EM Gresford-Jones, consecrated Christ Church on Monday 29th September 1958. From this point Christ Church became a parish, and Rev Leslie McKay its vicar. (Acknowledgement to the Christ Church website for the information!)
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St Cuthbert's Church, viewed from Mill Street (right). The new church seen here was built in 1846-7 in a neo-Norman style, the north and south aisles are additions of 1865, and the north transept porch was constructed in 1907. Declared redundant by the Church of England in 1974, the church was subsequently purchased by the Harpur Trust who presented it to the Polish population of Bedford. It is now known as "The Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Saint Cuthbert".

From Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898:
"St. Cuthbert's church, on the east side of the town, and so named in honour of St. Cuthbert of Durham, is said to have been founded by Offa, King of Mercia, A.D. 772, and, if so, would be the oldest existing ecclesiastical foundation in Bedford.

"The former building, consisting of a small nave and chancel under one roof, with a bell turret, was replaced in 1847 by the present edifice, which is of stone, in the Transition style, and was built at a cost of £2,100, on the site of the ancient church, erected in the 8th century.

"The church, which stands in a pretty and well-planted churchyard, consists of chancel, nave, aisles, transepts and a low but massive central tower, containing a bell. At the end of the north transept is a clock.

"The church has been twice enlarged; first in 1865, when the aisles were built at a cost of £1,600; and subsequently in 1877, when the building was extended westward; a cloister-porch added on the west front, and an organ chamber erected on the north side of the chancel, at a total cost of about £1,350. On the erection of a new organ chamber on the south side of the chancel in 1886, the former chamber was converted into a vestry. The organ, built at the same time, replaced the former organ, built in 1865; the total cost of organ and chamber was £616.

"The fittings of the church are of solid oak, obtained from Chicheley Park, Bucks. The east window is stained, and contains a figure of St. Cuthbert; several other stained windows have been presented to the church as memorials.

"The register dates from 1607, and contains, among other details of interest, the record of the baptism of a child of John Bunyan, who was sometime a parishioner of St. Cuthberts: Christ Church, in Castle road, a chapel of ease to St. Cuthberts, erected in 1883, at a cost of £1,150, is an iron structure"

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Close to 112 Denmark Street and on the corner of York Street was Muncey's bread, cake and sweet shop (right). Behind the shop was the bakery, now a car servicing and repair shop (below). In the late 1930s and early war years old Mr Muncey used to deliver bread to the local residents and used a three wheel cycle with a large covered box at the front to contain the the bakery products.

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The Russell Park Baptist Church (right) is also situated in Denmark Street. In the 1930s and 40s it boasted a well attended Sunday School. The organist, Mr Rawlings, played for most services, including Sunday School Anniversaries although his son was often invited to take over the playing. Mr Rawlings senior had a piano in his home to which a playable full size organ pedalboard had been attached - a valuable addition to enable him to practice at home!

Sunday School outings were very popular and included bus trips to Wicksteed Park near Kettering and to local village churches including the Baptist Church at Radwell.

The teachers were somewhat non-plussed on Sunday 3 September 1939 when the the Sunday School received such a large influx made up of evacuees from London who had been billetted locally so that both the church and hall became ummanageably full!

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Castle Lower School is situated in Goldington Road although an entrance via the playground is available from York Street which runs off Denmark Street (left).

From the school website: "On 29th July 1899 Reverend George Penman laid the foundation stone for Goldington Road Schools. The Infants School opened on 15th January 1900 and the Mixed Department opened on 24th April in the same year. The building work was carried out at a cost of £10,866.

"Soon after the outbreak of the First World War the School was taken over and used as a soldiers' hospital. In 1929 following a schools re-organisation the (pupil content) rose to 535 children and class sizes averaged 50 pupils. In 1932 school was closed for a day in order to house un-employed marchers from the north of England - the well documented 'Jarrow March'. In 1938 a nursery class was added to the school."

In 1939/1940 air raid shelters were built in the grassed area adjacent to the the school playground. author well remembers that in wet weather several inches of water covered the floor. The school log book records that on 3rd October 1940 that Air Raid Warings operated "9.35 - 11.00am, 11.10 - 12.00 and 1.50 - 5.10pm" and that "Barley sugar and biscuits (were )distributed." Big changes came in September 1946 when the school was divided into Infant, Junior and Secondary Modern sections. But in December 1964 the Secondary Modern department in Goldington Road closed and children were transferred to Newnham Secondary School. In 1966 a swimming pool was added.

July 1975 marked the end of Goldington Road Schools, due to re-organisation of education. The School re-opened as 'Castle Lower School' in September 1975.

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