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The Town Hall Woburn

The Town Hall May 2012
The Town Hall May 2012

In 1818 stationer and bookseller Stephen Dodd described the market house in Woburn in his book An Historical and Topographical Account of The Town of Woburn, its Abbey and Vicinity thus: “In the centre of the town, stands the Market-House; a very handsome edifice of stone, three stories in height. On each front is a peristyle and entablature, of the Doric order; on the summit rises a lofty cupola, containing a bell, on the top of which is a large gilt vane. This structure was finished in the year 1737, but was materially altered and improved by the late Duke of Bedford. Shambles were likewise originally erected before the west front, at the expense of the then Duke of Bedford. These having become ruinous, were, in the beginning of the present century demolished, and the lower part of the Market-house fitted up for the accommodation of the butchers of the town and neighbourhood. Behind this building is a small square, in the centre of which is a commodious watch-house, surmounted by a lantern”.

A plaque on today’s Town Hall 1830 reads: Built by John VI Duke of Bedford 1830. Restored by Hastings IX Duke of Bedford 1884. Enlarged by Herbrand XI Duke of Bedford 1912”. The 1830 building was designed by Edward Blore and listed by English Heritage in March 1987 as Grade II, of special interest. The listing notes that the structure in “in a loosely Jacobethan style”, a mixture of Elizabethan and Jacobean. It is built of mottled red brick and has ashlar dressings. The roof is of clay tiles and the structure comprises two storeys with a three-stage square turret at the north-east angle. A low extension, built in 1912, is attached to the ground floor.

Plaque on the Town Hall March 2012
Plaque on the Town Hall March 2012

Until 1884 the Town Hall housed a library of books forming the Woburn Institute. These books were donated by the more privileged members of the parish for the use of the less privileged and in 1884 were moved to 4a Leighton Street, where they were still in 1927.

Directories for Bedfordshire were not published every year but every few years from the early to mid 19th century until 1940. They reveal that William John Deacon was the Town Hall keeper from at least 1914 until at least 1940. Previous keepers include: Frederick Hopkins, listed in 1910; Francis Keen (also bill poster and town crier), listed in 1877, 1885, 1890, 1894, 1898, 1903 and 1906; John Smith listed in 1864 and 1869 and William Brewer listed in 1847 and 1854. At the time of writing [2013] the Town Hall is given over to antiques outlets.

The Town Hall seen from George Street March 2012
The Town Hall seen from George Street March 2012