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Clifton Pond

Clifton Pond about 1900
Clifton Pond about 1900

Clifton Pond is an important feature in the centre of the village. Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service staff made a study guide [CRT130/Cli8] to the pond drawn from references in parish Council minutes from 1895 to 1957 [PCClifton1/1-4].

On 13th June 1895 it was minuted: "Mr. Harwood moved that the Council call a Parish Meeting to deal with the question of the present condition of the pond". In August it was proposed that the pond be cleaned out and a sub-committee of the parish council was convened to oversee the process. In October the sub-committee delivered its report: "The Committee duly met, and fully considered all the details of the project of cleaning out the Pond; and as a preliminary step it was decided to clean out the ditch or channel for the water of the pond; but were unable to get it executed owing to the inopportune period of the year, and the high state of wages required by the workmen. The Committee agreed that by postponing the work for a short time, it could be more satisfactorily carried out".

In April 1899 a letter was read calling the attention of the council to the "unsanitary state of a ditch running from the pond" and Biggleswade Rural District Council was duly informed.  In October 1910 it was minuted that: "Mr. Harwood called attention to the wall or dam at the end of the Village Pond, and gave notice of motion that at the next meeting he should move that the said wall be repaired. Mr. Oliver moved that the plug in the Pond dam be withdrawn and the Pond thoroughly drained. This was seconded by Mr. Inskip and carried". The plug was duly pulled but "owing to a congested take off, failed to drain the Pond". The minute continued: "On full consideration the committee deemed it advisable fro ma sanitary point of view, that the Dam of Pond should be raised to a level with the feed drains, so as to keep plenty of water in Pond. Mr. Inskip moved and Mr. Norris seconded that in adopting the committee's report, the Dam of Pond should be repaired and raised as recommended. This was carried - Mr. Warner gave notice of motion at next meeting, that a notice be put up, prohibiting persons from throwing old pails, tins etc. into the Pond, as such are a danger to cattle".

This latter theme of fly-tipping was picked up again two months later, in February 1911: "Mr. Warner, in moving his motion on the agenda, spoke of the growing practice of throwing rubbish into the pond as an improper and dangerous one, and the many old domestic utensils thrown in were a source of injury to horses and other beasts going thro' the Pond…Mr. Harwood, who seconded the motion, spoke of seeing a part of a bedstead, as having been thrown in Pond".

In July 1918 a letter from a parishioner was read asking for the surface of the pond to be sprayed with paraffin to prevent breeding insects such as mosquitos. It was thought, however, that an influx of storm water would wash away the eggs and so no action was taken. In October 1920 Biggleswade RDC Sanitary Inspector wrote to the parish council calling attention to the unsanitary condition of the pond and it was obviously cleaned out because in the following October the Parish Council was asked if it had any comment to make on the expense of the cleaning being put down to special sanitary expenses - which they did not.

In April 1929 the problem of people dumping rubbish in the pond was again raised and in July 1934 it was decided to again clean the pond, however, Biggleswade Rural District Council, on this occasion, refused to do so stating: "this is not a liability of the Rural Council". Nothing was done and the Parish Council tried again in July 1938 and again received the reply that it was not an RDC matter. The Parish Council then tried to get the Ouse Catchment Board to do the job but they refused because: "I have had a look at the above pond and find that owing to the iron and concrete fence and wall on one side, and tress etc. on the other side, it would be impossible to use either of the machines we have for cleaning it".

In 1942 the problem of dumping rubbish in the pond reared its ugly head again. Then in 1944 the council received a report that: "drains from certain surrounding houses are connected to the pond and the surface water from the adjoining highways runs into it. Also there is a piped outlet from this pond which eventually discharges into an open ditch". In 1945 the Parish Council considered either cleaning the pond out or filling it in but again the RDC refused, now simply saying that it "could not be undertaken at the present time". The following year the problem of breeding insects was used to try to get some action and the RDC's Sanitary Inspector got involved, which finally resulted in the pond being cleaned out by November 1946. However, eighteen months later there were already complaints about the smell! This was found to be because a drain from some piggeries ran into the pond and this was disconnected.

By 1957 the smell was back and it was agreed that ownership of the pond be resolved by a Parish Council sub-committee. The study guide ends at that point but the story of the pond continued. In the first years of the 21st century a protracted legal process ended with a decision that the sub-soil covered by the water of the pond is ancient highway, animals having been led into it to drink. The water of the pond itself has now been registered as a village green and is thus an amenity for the parish.

Clifton Pond August 2009
Clifton Pond August 2009