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27-33 High Street

A Grade II Listed Building in Castle, Bedford

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Latitude: 52.1358 / 52°8'8"N

Longitude: -0.4661 / 0°27'58"W

OS Eastings: 505079

OS Northings: 249716

OS Grid: TL050497

Mapcode National: GBR G25.2Z0

Mapcode Global: VHFQ7.VLY2

Plus Code: 9C4X4GPM+8H

Entry Name: 27-33 High Street

Listing Date: 14 May 1971

Last Amended: 30 March 2023

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1138248

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35523

ID on this website: 101138248

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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Row of four buildings, built in the C17 or earlier, and altered between the C19 and late C20.


Row of four buildings, built in the C17 or earlier, and altered between the C19 and late C20.

MATERIALS: the roof has an asbestos tile covering, and the red brick walls are stuccoed.

PLAN: T-shaped on plan fronting the east side of High Street.

EXTERIOR: this row of four two-and-half storey buildings was constructed in the C17 or earlier, and altered between the C19 and late C20. The pitched roof has an asbestos tile covering, a red brick chimneystack to the ridge between numbers 27 and 29, and a box dormer window to numbers 27 and 29. The timber-framed buildings have brick facades to High Street, stuccoed at first floor level with channelled quoins. The left building (number 33) has two bays of six-over-six timber sash windows with horns, replaced in the late C20. The central building (numbers 29-31) has a tripartite window, the central light of which contains a two-over-two sash window with horns. The right building (number 27) has a 4-light window, each light arched with radiating glazing bars; the central two lights form a segmental bow with a bowed parapet over. The ground floor shopfronts were replaced in the late C20.


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 benefitted 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.

John Speed’s Map of Bedford (1610) and Thomas Jeffery’s A Plan of Bedford (1765) both show a continuous frontage of buildings along the east side of High Street. 27 – 33 High Street were likely built in the C17 or earlier and altered between the C19 and early C21. The first-floor bow window of 27 High Street was originally a Georgian shop window, which was re-sited at first floor level some time before 1860. A report on the central building, 29-31 High Street, states that two timber-framed buildings were erected on the site in the early to mid-C17, with an earlier hall to the rear of number 31, probably erected in the late C16 (RCHME). Number 29 was then extended to the rear before the two buildings were raised in height in the early C18; they were refaced in the C19 and refurbishment of the same date included insertion of stacks on the street-front ranges. A town plan of Bedford published by the Ordnance Survey in 1884 shows the buildings with narrow fronts to High Street, and narrow burgage plots to the rear, accessible from Castle Lane.

Reasons for Listing

27 to 33 High Street are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a good example of a row of historic commercial buildings, which contribute strongly to the architectural character and diversity of Bedford’s historic High Street.

Historic interest:

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

Group value:

* for their 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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