THE INDUSTRIAL RAILWAY RECORD

No. 17 - pp192-193

© FEBRUARY 1968

INDUSTRIAL  RAILWAYS
OF  BEDFORDSHIRE

A. J. WARRINGTON

 

(1)   BIDDENHAM GRAVEL PIT, BEDFORD

 

    Biddenham gravel pit was owned by S.W. Jarvis & Son, a firm of stone and monumental masons in Alexandra Road, Bedford. In order to transport the sand and gravel to a point where it could be trans-shipped into carts for transport into Bedford, a 2ft 0in gauge tramway to the pit was laid down from the main Bedford to Northampton road where it made a junction with what was then a cart track known as Dayís Lane, where the quarried material was unloaded, and ran in a south-westerly direction along the edge of the roadway for about 100 yards. It then turned due west, crossed the road on the level and continued down a slope for about 150 yards to the gravel pit where it forked into two short branches.

    The sand and gravel were dug by hand and at one time about five or six men from Biddenham village were employed in the pit. The excavated material was loaded into steel side-tipping wagons which were then hauled three or four at a time by a horse to the tipping bank. There were at least six wagons in use in the pit and probably more.

    In Biddenham parish church is kept a scrapbook of the village, compiled by the Womenís Institute in 1956, wherein is a pencil sketch of a "train" arriving at the tipping bank about 1926. This sketch shows a horse drawing three loaded wagons with a man in attendance. There is also an office of some sort shown, which may have been a weighbridge office. About 1925 two children were involved in a fatal accident. Apparently it was their habit to visit the line on Sunday afternoons when it was not in use, and push a wagon up to the top of the bank and ride down on it to the bottom. Unfortunately the wagon on this occasion tipped up and pinned them underneath.

    The date of construction of the line is not known but it was certainly there by about 1920. The pit closed and the line was removed some time during the 1930ís, but what became of the equipment is not certain. It has been said that it was moved to another Jarvis pit at Oakley Junction but it seems very doubtful if it was used there, if in fact it was ever taken there at all.

    When I visited the site in 1961 virtually nothing remained, although it was not difficult to see where the line must have run. However, since then, a house has been built near the pit and the course of the tramway has been obliterated by the driveway. The site of the tipping bank is occupied by buildings belonging to the Royal Observer Corps, and the surrounding land was levelled by a bulldozer in 1963, so that all that now remain are the working faces of the pit in the field.