Ten things you (probably) didn’t know about Baldock
PUBLISHED: 11:58 30 August 2018 | UPDATED: 19:14 25 September 2018
©2018 Danny Loo Photography - all rights reserved
Think you know Baldock? Here are 10 things about our town that may have passed you by.
1. Baldock was named after Baghdad.
Baldock was founded by Knights Templar returning from the Crusades in the 12th century, who named it after the old French rendition of Baghdad – Baudac, or Baldac. The great city, today the capital of Iraq, was at the time considered one of the most prosperous in the world, and it is thought the Templars hoped they could emulate this success by giving their new market town the same name. An alternate theory is that the knights named the town after Baalbek, an ancient city in the Levant. In any case, Baldock’s market soon eclipsed the older one at Ashwell.
2. Baldock’s annual charter fair has been going strong since 1199.
The charter for the fair, which is still held for up to four days from October 2 each year, was granted in 1199 by King John – who 16 years later signed the Magna Carta. There are no signs of the charter fair stopping any time soon.
3. Baldock’s modern layout dates back centuries.
Parts of the town centre – for example St Mary’s Church – go back as far as the 14th century. The town founded by the Templars was built on the ruins of an ancient Romano-British town, which had declined so much that by the 12th century nobody knew there had been a town there before.
4. Baldock once had a pub for every 60 people in the town.
Baldock became a regional centre for malting in the 16th century, and in 1881 there were about 30 drinking establishments in the town of only 1,900 people.
5. Baldock used to be where Letchworth people came for a drink.
In contrast to Baldock’s long and proud brewing history, Letchworth – founded as the first garden city in 1903 – was dry until 1958, with no pubs there except for a hostelry selling soft drinks. Baldock pubs therefore welcomed numerous regulars from Letchworth, including many from the significant Belgian population who settled in the garden city during the First World War.
6. Baldock’s Knights Templar School opened the day after the Second World War started.
The school off Park Street was originally called Baldock County Council School, and welcomed evacuee children from London within a week of opening in August 1939. Photographs taken of the school by a government photographer in 1944 aimed to show how a typical country school was adapting to wartime life. The school was renamed after the Knights Templar by Vivian Crellin, who was headmaster from 1960 to 1984.
7. The façade of Baldock’s Tesco Extra store was inspired by ancient Egypt.
The front of the building that is now Tesco was originally built for a film processing company called Kosmos, and was inspired by Howard Carter’s explorations of Egypt. Kosmos went bust before moving in, and the building instead became a factory for the Full Fashion Hosiery Company – later called Bondor from 1946, and Kayser Bondor from the early 1950s.
8. Baldock didn’t have a dedicated restaurant open past 8pm until 1969.
The Golden Rickshaw, in Whitehorse Street, was a fixture of Baldock life from its opening in 1969 until it shut its doors for the last time in December 2017.
9. The actor who played Yes Minister’s Sir Humphrey Appleby lived just outside Baldock.
Sir Nigel Hawthorne, who also played the title character in the 1994 biographical drama The Madness of King George, lived with his long-time partner Trevor Bentham at the 16th-century Radwell Grange. The Oscar-nominated actor objected so strongly to the construction of Baldock services – half a mile away – that he compared the fight to the Battle of Agincourt, and moved south to Thundridge after he failed to stop it being built.
10. Baldock was the subject of one of Wikipedia’s most famous hoaxes.
In November 2005, the ‘did you know...’ sidebar on the main page of the English-language Wikipedia featured a new article about the Baldock Beer Disaster, a supposed 1904 incident in which a floor collapsed at a brewery in Simpson Drive and killed 13 people. The article claimed a wave of beer sloshed through the surrounding streets, destroying three houses and killing a dog – with the disgraced brewery supposedly going bankrupt shortly afterwards. The tale was entirely imagined but lasted almost two years as an article on Wikipedia before being deleted, following rebuttals from Baldock historians including former Knights Templar School head Vivian Crellin – who had himself been falsely cited as a source for the article. The fact the Baldock Beer Disaster never happened didn’t stop the Destihl Brewery in Illinois naming its Baldock Rye IPA after it.