Potton is a town and civil parish in the Central Bedfordshire district of Bedfordshire, England, about 10 miles (16 km) east of the county town Bedford. Its population in 2011 was 4,870.[1] In 1783 the Great Fire of Potton destroyed a large part of the town. The parish church dates from the 13th century, and is dedicated to St Mary. Potton's horse fairs were some of the largest in the country.

The Market House Clock Tower - geograph.org.uk - 511758.jpg
Market House Clock Tower
Potton is located in Bedfordshire
Location within Bedfordshire
Population4,870 (2011)
OS grid referenceTL2249
Civil parish
  • Potton
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townSANDY
Postcode districtSG19
Dialling code01767
FireBedfordshire and Luton
AmbulanceEast of England
UK Parliament
List of places
52°07′38″N 0°12′55″W / 52.1271°N 0.2152°W / 52.1271; -0.2152


The village's name was spelled Pottun in 960 AD and Potone in the 1086 Domesday book. It is derived from the Old English for "farmstead where pots are made".[2]

Evidence of early-middle Iron Age settlement in the form of ditches, a pit and sherds of pottery was found in 2009 by archaeologists at Vicarage Farm off the B1042 Gamlingay Road.[3] The parish of Potton underwent parliamentary inclosure twice - once in 1775, and again in 1832.[4]

Great FireEdit

The Great Fire of Potton started in a stack of clover in a field in the area of what is now Spencer Close, in 1783. King Street, half the Market Square and some of the Brook End area were destroyed.[5] It was reported to have burned for a day. Local people raised £6,000 to help those most in need.[citation needed] The 13th-century parish church, St Mary's, survived. Rebuilding after the fire has left the town with a number of Georgian buildings.[6]

Market and fairsEdit

King William II granted a market in 1094.[6] Potton's market was one of the largest in Bedfordshire in the Tudor and Stuart periods, but declined after the Great Fire.[6] Corn and straw plait were the principal goods in 1831.[7]

A fair was granted by Henry II in 1227. As of 1831, fairs were held in January, April, July and October.[7] The town's horse fairs were some of the largest in the country, until they ended in 1932.[6]

The Shambles provided folding market stalls in the town square before brick buildings were put in place by Samuel Whitbread, the Lord of the Manor, in 1797. They became dilapidated in the 1930s and were demolished after the Second World War, with a modern library built in their place. The Clock House was opened on 23 July 1956 and used The Shambles' clock, illuminated dials and bell. In spring 2006, the mechanism was replaced with an automatic winding system costing £3,000.[6]


The Sandy and Potton Railway, also known as Captain Peel's Railway, opened on 9 November 1857. It was established by Captain Sir William Peel VC, who resided at The Lodge. When the Great Northern Railway came to Sandy in 1850, Captain Peel had a branch line built to his estate and on to Potton. The railway's locomotive was named Shannon, after the frigate Captain Peel was commanding. He never saw his railway; he died of smallpox on 22 April 1858 in India. The engine itself is in the collection of the National Railway Museum[8] and is currently housed at Didcot Railway Centre.[9] The Potton Barbershop Harmony Club named its male chorus 'Shannon Express' after the locomotive.[10]

Potton railway station, which opened in 1862 and served the Varsity Line between Oxford to Cambridge, was closed in 1968.[11] The railway was partly to blame for the decline of Potton market but made London accessible for the district's market gardeners.[6]

Potton ManorEdit

Potton Manor was built in the 1860s. It was requisitioned by the armed forces and used as a laboratory during the war and as a car factory by Eva Pokorova and Otto van Smekal.[12] The Champion car built in Potton was purchased from the National Motor Museum by Potton History Society, whose aim it is to restore the vehicle to full working order. The house was finally demolished in the early 1980s.[6]

Land Settlement AssociationEdit

In March 1935 the first Land Settlement Association (LSA) estate of 30 smallholdings was established to the east of the town along the Wrestlingworth, Sutton and Hatley Roads with land donated by Sir Malcolm Stewart, Potton's last Lord of the Manor. Its purpose was to resettle unemployed men from coal mining areas in the north of England. Pig and poultry farming plus horticulture were the main activities, augmented by a central farm. Potton provided the model for a further 20 such estates across the country.[6][13][14]

Air crashEdit

On 18 September 1945, a B-24 Liberator bomber crashed on the southern edge of Potton Wood. Four men were killed; the place where it fell can still be seen.[15][16]


Potton is 10 miles (16 km) east of the county town of Bedford, 15 miles (24 km) south-west of Cambridge and 43 miles (69 km) north of London. The B1042 road links the town to Sandy and Wrestlingworth and the B1040 to Biggleswade and Gamlingay.[17]

Area and landscape classification

The parish covers an area of about 1,085 hectares. Potton Brook flows centrally, north to south through the parish and is the dividing point between two National Character Areas (NCAs) designated by Natural England. West of Potton Brook lies within The Bedfordshire Greensand Ridge (NCA 90). East of the Brook forms part of The Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire Claylands (NCA 88).[18] Central Bedfordshire Council has further classified the landscape into landscape character areas (LCAs). The town and west of the parish lie on the Everton Greensand Ridge (LCA 6C), land surrounding Potton Brook is part of the Dunton Clay Vale (5G) and Potton Wood and its surrounds are on Cockayne Hatley Clay Farmland (1C).[19]


The town centre is 39 metres (128 ft) above sea level. The land slopes from north to south and reaches a high of 88 metres (289 ft) at Potton Wood in the north-east of the parish.[20]

Geology, soil type and land use

The town is mainly surrounded by arable farmland. There are areas of woodland to the south-east of the town at Pegnut Wood, alongside Potton Brook at the north-eastern edge of the town and at Potton Wood in the north-east corner of the parish. There is a sand quarry to the north-west of the town.

Potton lies on Potton Sands; a geological formation whose strata date back to the Early Cretaceous age. Dinosaur remains are among the fossils that have been recovered from the formation. There is a band of alluvium along the course of Potton Brook and a strip of gault to the east of the town. Potton Wood lies on boulder clay.[21]

The soil at the centre and west of the parish is of low fertility and is freely draining and slightly acid with a sandy texture. Alongside Potton Brook the soil is loamy and sandy with naturally high groundwater and a peaty texture. East of the brook is a strip of freely draining slightly acid loamy soil. There are highly fertile lime-rich loamy and clayey soils with impeded drainage at and to the south of Potton Wood.[22]


At the time of the 2001 census, Potton had 4,473 inhabitants living in 1,869 households. The ethnic origin of 95.5% was British. 73.9% were Christian, 1.3% followed another religion and 24.9% stated no religion or were not religious.[23]


Potton Town Council has 15 members and meets at the Community Centre (formerly the old fire station) in Brook End.[24] The town is represented by a single councillor on Central Bedfordshire Council and by the Conservative Member of Parliament Richard Fuller for the North East Bedfordshire constituency at the House of Commons.[25]

Public transportEdit

Centrebus (South) runs an hourly, daytime, Monday to Saturday service to Biggleswade and Hitchin (journey time one hour) via Wrestlingworth and Dunton (service 188) or via Sutton (service 190) and to Sandy direct (service 188) or via Gamlingay and Everton (service 190). Ivel Sprinter runs a return trip each Wednesday to Cambridge (journey time 43 minutes) and every Thursday to St. Neots (38 minutes).[26]

The nearest railway stations are Sandy and Biggleswade.

Public servicesEdit

The water supplied by Anglian Water for the Potton Public Water Supply Zone (RW50) is chloraminated and classed as hard. The supply comes from groundwater boreholes.[27] There is a waste water treatment works on Biggleswade Road and a water tower on Hatley Road.

The Eastern Power Area of UK Power Networks is the distribution network operator for electricity.[28] Cadent Gas owns and operates the area's gas distribution network.[29] The two nearest general hospitals are Bedford (Bedford Hospital NHS Trust) and Lister Hospital, Stevenage (East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust). Ambulance services are provided by the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust. Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has a station on Bury Hill staffed by retained firefighters.

There is a public library on the Market Square and a post office at Brook End.


A memorial cross to Potton men killed in the First and Second World Wars stands in the cemetery, with a brass plaque bearing the same names in the parish church.[30]

Sport and leisureEdit

The Henry Smith Playing Field off Brook End on the eastern edge of the town has a children's play area and skate park. Events such as Picnic in the Park and the bi-annual Party on Potton are hosted.[31][32]

Potton has a Non-League football club Potton United F.C., which plays at The Hollow. Potton Colts is the local youth football club with teams for children aged 6–16.[33]

Potton Town Cricket Club is also based at The Hollow on Biggleswade Road. Both Junior and Senior cricket is played. The adult section runs two teams competing in the Saracens Hertfordshire League on Saturdays and The Bedfordshire Cricket League on Sundays. The club also enter midweek competitions.[34][35]

Potton History SocietyEdit

There is an active History Society with a membership of over 100. It meets regularly in the Community Centre in Brook End. [1]

Religious sitesEdit

St Mary's Church

The parish church stands a short distance from the town centre on a small hill. It has a chancel, a nave, aisles and north porch, and a western tower with circular turret containing six bells. A separate cemetery was established in 1880, west of the town on the road to Sandy.[7]


Potton had its own brewery from around 1784[12] until 1922 when it was bought by the Bedford brewery of Newland & Nash. This company subsequently closed the brewery in Potton and sold the site to the Co-operative Society (the original buildings remain intact). In 1998 brewing returned to Potton when the Potton Brewery Company was re-established, This subsequently closed but a new brewery is currently being planned. The town is also home to Potton Homes, who specialise in mock Tudor style property developments.

A sand quarry operated by Breedon Aggregates lies off The Heath to the north-west of the town. Deepdale Trees operate an extensive tree nursery off Hatley Road and there is an adjacent poultry farm.

Despite noteworthy local businesses, the town remains very much a commuter town; the majority of people in Potton commute daily to either London, via rail, or to Cambridge.

Notable peopleEdit


  1. ^ UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – Potton Parish (E04011976)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  2. ^ Mills, A.D. (1998). A Dictionary of English Place-names. Second Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford. p277. ISBN 0-19-280074-4
  3. ^ Keir, W. and Turner, I. "Archaeological Field Evaluation: Vicarge Farm, Gamlingay Road, Potton" (PDF). Archaeology Data Service. Albion Archaeology. Retrieved 28 September 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ "Inclosure Records Conspectus". Bedfordshire Archives and Records Service. Retrieved 29 August 2021.
  5. ^ "The Great Fire of Potton 1783". Bedfordshire Archives and Records Service. 22 June 2019. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Potton Town Guide (2006)
  7. ^ a b c Potton: historical and genealogical information at GENUKI.
  8. ^ Bedfordshire County Council: Captain Peel's Railway Archived 7 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Didcot Railway Centre: No.5 Shannon/Jane
  10. ^ Shannon Express History Archived 20 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Potton Barbershop Harmony Club. Retrieved 22 February 2009
  11. ^ Subterranean Britannica – Disused Stations: Potton
  12. ^ a b Bedfordshire County Council: Potton Timeline Archived 5 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "The Land Settlement Association". Severn. Peter Clark. 20 November 2018. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  14. ^ "LAND SETTLEMENT FOR THE UNEMPLOYED". The Spectator Archive. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  15. ^ "Potton Liberator KN736". Graham Hague. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  16. ^ Forestry Commission: Potton Wood Archived 23 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Google Maps
  18. ^ "The Ecological Potential of Potton" (PDF). Potton Neighbourhood Plan. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  19. ^ "Central Bedfordshire Landscape Character Assessment" (PDF). Central Bedfordshire. Central Bedfordshire Council. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  20. ^ "Elevation". Route Calculator. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  21. ^ "Sheet 204. Geological Survey of England & Wales". British Geological Survey. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  22. ^ "Soilscapes Viewer". LandIS - Land Information System. Cranfield University. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  23. ^ Bedfordshire County Council: Potton parish profile Archived 6 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Bedfordshire County Council: Potton Town Council Archived 27 June 2007 at archive.today
  25. ^ Find Your MP[permanent dead link].
  26. ^ "Potton". Bus Times. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  27. ^ "Drinking Water Quality Information". Anglian Water. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  28. ^ "Check if you're in our area". UK Power Networks. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  29. ^ "Map: who operates the gas distribution network?". ofgem. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  30. ^ Roll of Honour.com: Potton
  31. ^ "Henry Smith Playing Fields" (PDF). Potton Town Council. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  32. ^ "About". Party on Potton. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  33. ^ "Potton Colts".
  34. ^ "Saracens Hertfordshire Cricket League".
  35. ^ "Bedfordshire Cricket League". Archived from the original on 29 August 2013.
  36. ^ "The Potton Poisoner, Wrestlingworth, Beds, UK".

External linksEdit