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19 and 21 High Street

A Grade II Listed Building in Castle, Bedford

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Latitude: 52.1355 / 52°8'7"N

Longitude: -0.4661 / 0°27'57"W

OS Eastings: 505081

OS Northings: 249691

OS Grid: TL050496

Mapcode National: GBR G25.2Z2

Mapcode Global: VHFQ7.VLY8

Plus Code: 9C4X4GPM+6H

Entry Name: 19 and 21 High Street

Listing Date: 6 June 1952

Last Amended: 28 March 2023

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1129011

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35522

ID on this website: 101129011

Location: Bedford, Bedfordshire, MK40

County: Bedford

Electoral Ward/Division: Castle

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Bedford

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Bedford St Paul

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans

Tagged with: Building

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Commercial and residential building, built between 1849 and 1851, possibly to designs by Robert Palgrave.


Commercial and residential building, built between 1849 and 1851, possibly to designs by Robert Palgrave.

MATERIALS: the roof has a slate covering, and the walls are stuccoed over an ashlar limestone shopfront.

PLAN: the building is L-shaped on plan, facing west to High Street at the corner with Castle Lane.

EXTERIOR: 19 and 21 High Street is a five-bay four-storey building, facing west to High Street. It has a hipped roof hidden behind a parapet. The ground floor shopfront, replaced around 1915, is of ashlar limestone, and has a plain cornice, and rusticated piers and pilasters with a dentil course over head-height. The upper three floors are stuccoed. The first and second floors have giant fluted Corinthian pilasters to the end bays and half-columns to the central bays, with a full detailed entablature, forming a portico in antis. The five bays of the three upper floors have flat-arched architraves containing mid-C19 timber sash windows without horns. The central and end first-floor window surrounds each have a cornice on consoles, and a concave curved pediment with anthemion decoration to their apex. The second-floor window surrounds have eared architraves. The third floor has pilasters with vermiculated panels, carrying a frieze, cornice and blocking course with balustrades over the central and end bays.


Bedford lies in the shallow valley of the River Great Ouse, and from the Middle Saxon period evidence appears for the beginnings of a settlement at ‘Beda’s ford’, a key river crossing point. The Middle Saxon core of Bedford developed on the north side of the river with an early street pattern (still recognisable) and was surrounded by a defensive ditch. In the C10 and C11, Bedford was important both as a trading centre, with coins minted in the town, and as the central burh of the shire. The town’s main north-south route, comprising what is now High Street to the north of the river and St Mary’s and St John’s Streets to the south of the river, was developed by this time. After 1066, Bedford became a stronghold of the new Norman regime and during the reign of William II, a motte and bailey castle was built in a strategic position on the north bank of the river and then rebuilt in stone. A period of unrest, however, led to a siege of the castle in 1224 and, when it fell, Henry III ordered it to be dismantled. Despite political struggles, the town experienced a period of consolidation during the Norman and Medieval periods, when local commerce flourished and religious houses and hospitals were founded. The population of the town was decimated by the Black Death in the C14, and a new river crossing at Great Barford undermined the local economy by drawing traffic and trade away from the town. There was little further growth and the town was largely contained within its Saxon framework, as can be seen from John Speed’s map of Bedford dated 1610.

The dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII dealt a further blow to the town’s prosperity but its fortunes began to revive with the receipt of letters patent from Edward VI, allowing the foundation of a grammar school. Bedford also benefited from the River Navigation Act, which made the River Great Ouse navigable between Bedford and King’s Lynn (completed in 1689). The town became the headquarters of Cromwell’s army between 1646 and 1647 and the puritan influence established during the Civil War lived on after the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672, when the town became a centre for non-conformist preachers such as John Bunyan. Despite this prosperity, Bedford remained of modest size through to the end of the C18, as illustrated on Thomas Jefferys’ map of 1765. An Improvement Act in 1803 allowed for the erection of a new river bridge between 1811 and 1813 (widened in 1938), and clearance of the Market Square. Continuing prosperity in the early C19 was accompanied by modest growth, but by far the most dramatic expansion of Bedford followed the building of the Midland railway in 1873, linking the town with London, and associated industrialisation. In the early years of the C20, some houses in the town centre were replaced by department stores, banks and cinemas to serve the expanding population; The Arcade was built and other properties in and around the centre were converted to shops and offices. The High Street is characterised by narrow three and four-storey frontages, with long buildings, closes and yards occupying medieval burgage plots to the rear, those on the eastern side of High Street being particularly long.

19 and 21 High Street were constructed between 1849 and 1851 as a chemist shop and residence of Charles Frederick Palgrave (1797-1854), who served as Mayor of Bedford in 1849 and 1850. It is probable that 19 and 21 High Street were designed by his nephew, Robert Palgrave (1831-1882), who was a pupil of George Gilbert Scott, and also designed Howards’ Britannia Works in 1857 and the tower and spire of St Paul’s Church in Bedford. After Charles Palgrave’s death in 1854, the business was sold to John Usher Taylor, chemist. The 1884 Ordnance Survey map shows the ground floor split into two commercial units, with number 19 occupying the southernmost three bays, and number 21 occupying the northernmost two bays. Around 1915 number 19 became occupied by the Capital and Counties Bank (which later became Lloyds Bank), and number 21 became an optician’s shop. It is probable the ground floor shopfront was replaced at that time. Since the 1970s the building has had various bars and clubs on the ground floor and accommodation over.

Reasons for Listing

19 and 21 High Street is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a good example of a historic commercial building, which contributes strongly to the architectural character and diversity of Bedford’s historic High Street;
* for the architectural quality of its classical façade, which is enlivened by cornices, pediments, and half columns.

Historic interest:

* for the contribution it makes to the evolution of the historic High Street and development of the town.

Group value:

* for its historic and functional group value with other listed buildings on High Street and St Paul’s Square.

External Links

External links are from the relevant listing authority and, where applicable, Wikidata. Wikidata IDs may be related buildings as well as this specific building. If you want to add or update a link, you will need to do so by editing the Wikidata entry.

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