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  - A BRIEF HISTORY OF BEDFORD (Part 2) -


   LINKS to other pages in this site and to other sites in the Travelling Days series:

Autographs Home Page:      Bedford 1939 onwards Part 1:      BBC in Bedford:
BBC Symphony Orchestra Personalities:      Bedford Miscellany:       Bedford School (1940s):
Composers:      Conductors:       David Gentleman:      Glenn Miller:       Instrumentalists:
Personalities of the 1940s:       Pianists:       The RAEC in Cornwall:
Religion and Drama:       Singers:       BBC in Cornwall 1949:      Colin Day's List-O-Links:
America West Home Page:      Guest Book:

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BEDFORD is noted for its education facilities. Endowed by Sir William Harpur (Bedfordian, Member of the Merchant Taylors' Company, Lord Mayor of London, died in 1573 and buried in St Paul's Church) and controlled through the Harpur Trust, four schools in Bedford - Bedford School, the High School for Girls, The Bedford Modern School and the Dame Alice School for Girls - continue to receive benefits from the endowment fund.

Bedford School, reputed to be one of the largest public schools in England, in 2002 celebrated the 450th anniversary of its foundation. The school, previously known as Bedford Grammar School, was orginally located in St Paul's Square. In 1891 the school moved to a new building (shown in the photographs taken around 1900) that had been built on a twenty acre plot of land situated to the north of the town. In 1917 the name was changed to Bedford School.

On 25 July 1945 a fire in the roof of the main building, together with the water used to dowse the flames, caused severe damage to the classrooms but the hall was spared. On the night of the 3rd/4th March 1979, however, a devastaing fire, deliberately lit, gutted the hall, offices and classrooms. BedfordSchool1897.jpg - 21102 BytesAll was lost apart from the building's outer walls which remained standing, later to be incorporated in the new building which was completed in 1981.

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The Great Hall of Bedford School as it appeared in the 1940s (left). The hall was used extensively by BBC orchestras for rehearsals, transmissions and recordings from 1941 until 1945. After the 1979 fire a new hall was constructed within the brickwork shell but occupying only the two upper (gallery) levels. The lowest level was redesigned for use as offices and classrooms.

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A local newspaper's picture of the devasting fire of 1979 (right) - with acknowledgement to the Bedford County Press.

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The rebuilt main building of Bedford School in 1981 (left). Note that the dormer windows present in the old building, shown above, were not incorporated into the new design. The picture is from a photograph by Morley Smith. See also 'Bedford School in the 1940s' by clicking here.

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Because the town was situated on the German bomber route to targets in and around the industrial cities of the Midland and the North, Bedford residents spent many nights during the war in their outdoor air raid shelters or in the (questionably) safer parts of their homes such as under the staircase or beneath solid dining room tables, or in a more reliable Morrison Shelter! (see below)

However, comparatively few incidents of bombs being dropped on Bedford were reported. Apart from the tragic Putnoe Lane incident mentioned in the previous page, other raids destroyed property in Ashburnham Road and Midland Road (1942), including the Assembly Ballroom and Grosvenor Hotel, and inflicted severe damage in the Foster Hill Road area. High explosive bombs dropped at Goldington landed in open fields near the church.

A stick of incendiary bombs falling on the east of the town was distributed in a narrow path from Philpott Avenue, extending over Greenshields Road and George Street and into Russell Park, which, one resident said, 'lit up the park like fairyland'!   Some minor property damage was sustained on that occasion.

In the 1944/5 V1 ('doodle-bug') bombardment of SE England the town, fortunately, was beyond the operational range of most of the flying bombs. Bedfordshire reported a total of 10 'hits' by flying bombs, mostly in the southern part of the county.cartoonshelter.gif - 24251 Bytes

The 'Punch' cartoon by Sillence (left) depicts a family in a Morrison Shelter, named after Herbert Morrison, Minister of Home Security.
The shelter, which could double as a table, was usually installed in the home, had a steel frame, a steel plate on top and steel mesh walls. It was introduced in 1941 and over half a million were distributed, free of charge, by the end of that year.

The caption to the cartoon (left) reads, "By the way, did you remember to feed the canary?".  (With acknowledgement to the proprietors of 'Punch' magazine)


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