Shortstown is a village and civil parish on the outskirts of Bedford, on a ridge above the River Great Ouse, originally called Tinkers Hill.[2]

This ridge also overlooks the two other parts of EastcottsHarrowden to the north and Cotton End to the south. The name is taken from Short Brothers. The Admiralty established an airship works for the company in 1916. The company pulled out of airship work just three years later, but the name Shortstown stuck.

Shorts Building Shortstown

The Shorts Building
Shortstown is located in Bedfordshire
Location within Bedfordshire
Area0.871 km2 (0.336 sq mi)
Population2,392 (2016 Census)[1]
• Density2,746/km2 (7,110/sq mi)
OS grid referenceTL072594
Civil parish
  • Shortstown
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townBEDFORD
Postcode districtMK42
Dialling code01234
FireBedfordshire and Luton
AmbulanceEast of England
EU ParliamentEast of England
UK Parliament


Road access to the village is provided by the A600 road.[3] The Stagecoach bus also runs frequent routes in the village, with Route 9 running to and from the town centre at frequent intervals.[4] Routes 9A and 9B also provide connections to Bedford as well as the nearby locations of Cotton End and Shefford, continuing on to Hitchin.

Village history

Shortstown Map 1915
A map from 1915 of an area where Shortstown now stands.[5]

Shortstown was built on Tinker's Hill, Harrowden. Before it was built, a windmill stood on the site from 13th to 16th century. From 17th to 18th century, the area was known as Windmill Hill.[6] Shortstown started with the establishment of the Airship Works in 1917 when housing for the workforce was built next to the airfield. In 1918 and 1927, sheds (later Grade II* listed buildings) were built for the R100 and R101 airships which then represented the latest passenger flight technology. The village was originally built by the Short Brothers for its workers,[7] but evolved into a settlement for people working at the RAF Cardington base.

Shortstown was only created from 1916 onwards. The land originally lay in the township of Eastcotts which was itself a part of the ancient parish of Cardington. Eastcotts became a separate civil parish in 1866.

Shortstown Map 1946
A map from 1946 of an area where Shortstown now stands.[8]

Early in 1916 the Admiralty was seeking a site for an airship works for Messrs. Short Brothers and after a two month search the Naval Director of Air Services reported in March 1916 that a site had been selected at Cardington. It was picked as it was well served by roads and railways, was within easy reach of London by steam train and was a broad, flat valley running east-west without any obstructions. It was beyond the range of then known German bombers in Belgium, while “penetration by submarine landed agents was not considered likely due to the distance from the coast which it would be necessary to travel”. There was also suitable surplus labour available in Bedford, and “the river affords a means of disposing of the effluent from sewage disposal works if such are established”.

The whole site was bought by the Admiralty from the Whitbread Estate for £110,000 and in October 1916 Short Brothers made proposals for housing the employees required at the airship works. They estimated that for 1917 they would require 800 workers, 500 men and 300 women – of which 200 (mainly women) they hoped to obtain in Bedford. The rest would be housed in an entirely new “Garden City[9]” type settlement alongside the works.

The Building of Shortstown

By June 1919 the first phase of 151 houses had been built. This consisted of 12 six-roomed houses, 39 five-roomed houses, 64 four-roomed houses and 36 flats of three rooms each. The general layout and the design of the houses and airship works were by the architects Robert Burns Dick and James Cackett, of Cackett & Burns Dick of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Work was carried out by them under the control of the Director of Works, Admiralty, and no local contractors were used.

Cardington Sheds
Cardington airship sheds, former Short Brothers works housing R100 and R101 airships. Shed no.1 (left) now holds the new aircraft Airlander 10. Shed no.2 (right) is used for creating films that require a large open-space area.

The houses in this initial development are in a simplified neo-Georgian style, mainly red brick with dark red tile roofs, and are more reminiscent of Hampstead Garden Suburb in London than the original Garden City at Letchworth. Although the road layout is fairly formal and most of the houses are terraced, regimentation is avoided by arranging groups of houses around curves in a butterfly pattern or by setting some houses back and some forward in a particular terrace.

Further houses were envisaged to the south and west, but in the event, these were not built until many years later and had little regard to the original style and layout. Similarly, the original plan made provision for shops, churches, a cinema and a hall in the centre, but all that was built was a social club.[10]

The Royal Airship Works

As a result of the building of Shortstown, the population of Eastcotts rose from 848 in 1911 to 2,065 by 1921.[11] However, in the meantime, Short Brothers, who were experiencing various difficulties, withdrew from airship manufacture and the Cardington Venture with effect from 1 April 1919 and moved to Rochester in Kent. The Cardington Works was, therefore, taken over directly by the government and renamed the Royal Airship Works,[12] but the associated settlement has retained its original name of Shortstown.

The Shorts Building, Cardington airfield - - 724860
The Shorts Building before it was refurbished in 2011.

During the 1920s the giant airship R101 was built at Cardington, while its sister ship, the R100 was brought to Cardington in December 1929. The R101 set off for its maiden flight to India on the evening of 4 October 1930 but in the early hours of the next morning, it crashed into a hillside at Beauvais in France, killing all but six of its fifty-four crew and passengers.[13] The shock of this tragedy brought an abrupt end to this phase of British airship manufacture and the R100 was broken up.

Shorts Building

The shorts building was built in 1917. It has taken on many guises ranging from an Administration Block in the early airship days to Station HQ in WW2 and in more recent years as a training centre for the Civil Service. However, despite its many uses, it is still referred to today as The Shorts Building and now over 90 years later has been restored to its former glory as part of the new Bellway development.[14]

The building was refurbished in 2011 and a new site called New Cardington was also built. It is now used for 20 residential apartments and has a Public Common Hall, that shows a permanent display of 17 enhanced historic R101 photographs taken from The Airship Heritage Trust collection. There are also additional community rooms and Eastcotts Children's Centre is based here too.[14]

Shorts Building
The Shorts Building fully refurbished.

RAF Cardington

The Royal Airship Works was put on a care and maintenance basis until 1938 when it was renamed the Balloon Development Establishment. However, the social club at Shortstown was still known as the Royal Airship Works and Shortstown Club in the 1980s.

In the meantime, in 1936, an RAF station had opened at Cardington, being particularly concerned with producing gas for barrage balloons and training barrage balloon crews as well as more general training of recruits and NCOs. Throughout the 1940s Cardington remained a busy RAF station and from 1953 it became the RAF’s main recruitment centre.

After the Second World War, further houses were built at Shortstown as married quarters for RAF personnel. The three avenues off the southern extension of Greycote are named after three prominent victims of the R101 disaster: Brigadier-General Lord Thomson of Cardington, Secretary of State for Air; Air Vice Marshal Sir W. Sefton Brancker, Director of Civil Aviation at the Air Ministry and Major George Herbert Scott, Assistant Director of Airship Development (Flying and Training) at the Royal Airship Works.

The roads of the western half of the site are all named after Second World War bomber aircraft.

The back of the refurbished Shorts Building.

With the ending of National Service and cuts in the armed forces the RAF’s presence at Cardington began to dwindle and largely disappeared in the 1970s. As a result, the population of Eastcotts declined from 3,675 in 1951 to 1,710 in 1981.

Shortstown today

Since 2012 there has been significant housing development on land to the east of the A600, this part of the village is marketed as New Cardington and Eastcotts Green to appeal as more upmarket than Shortstown. Over half of homes on New Cardington development are for Housing Associations. Since New Cardington homes went on the market, house prices in old Shortstown have risen by more than 20%.

Although Bellway homes marketed the development as New Cardington, in fact it remains an extension of Shortstown.

In May 2017, Shortstown had its Centenary, which took place in June, called Shortstown Fun Day. There was also a firework display that took place in September and a Centenary Reunion that took place in November.[15]

In April 2019 Shortstown became its own civil parish, having previously been part of the parish of Eastcotts.[16]


Shortstown Primary School 1957
The first school in Shortstown, built in 1957.[17]

Despite houses having been built from 1917 onwards, Shortstown had no school until the mid 1950s. Some children from Shortstown seem to have attended that school as well as going to Cotton End School.[18]

Current Shortstown Primary School
Current Shortstown Primary School.

The first headmaster of this school was Mr Evans. A road in the village was supposedly named after him.[17]

A new school named Shortstown Primary School was built in New Cardington: starting construction in late 2012 and completed in September 2013. This school replaced the old, and now demolished school named Shortstown Lower School, where new houses now stand.[19]

Notable people


The solid or underlying geology is a mudstone called Oxford Clay Formation. This was laid down between 154 and 164 million years ago in the warm, shallow seas of the Jurassic Period.[22] The northern part of the area has a superficial geology consisting of river terrace deposits of sand, gravel, clay and silt. A similar mixture, called head, lies in the southern part of the community.[23] There is a woodland created by the Forest of Marston Vale called Shocott Spring, which is between Shortstown and Cotton End.[24]


  1. ^ "Shortstown (Bedford, East of England, United Kingdom) - Population Statistics, Charts, Map, Location, Weather and Web Information". Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  2. ^ "The Community of Shortstown in General". Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  3. ^ "Roads". Bedfordshire Streetlighting. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Stagecoach Bus Route 9".
  5. ^ "Sheet 84. Bedford. - David Rumsey Historical Map Collection". Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  6. ^ "The Development of Shortstown". Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  7. ^ "Shortstown 1917-1924 - Shortstown heritage". Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  8. ^ "Sheet 147. Bedford and Luton. - David Rumsey Historical Map Collection". Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  9. ^ "Gasbag Magazine - Shortstown heritage". Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  10. ^ "Land At Shortstown pdf" (PDF).
  11. ^ "The Development of Shortstown". Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  12. ^ "The Royal Airship Works Shortstown". Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  13. ^ "Construction and Destruction of the R101". Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  14. ^ a b "Recent updates - Shortstown heritage". Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  15. ^ "Shortstown Centenary Fun Day". WhereCanWeGo. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b "Recent updates - Shortstown heritage". Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  18. ^ "Shortstown School". Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  19. ^ "A Brand New Primary School for Shortstown - Children Mark the Start of Building Work". Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  20. ^ a b c "The Short Brothers - Shortstown heritage". Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h "Interesting People - Shortstown heritage". Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  22. ^ "Geology with Oxford Clay Formation". Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  23. ^ "The Community of Shortstown in General". Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  24. ^ "Shocott Spring". The Forest of Marston Vale Trust. Retrieved 30 July 2018.

External links


Bedford is the county town of Bedfordshire, England. The town has an estimated (2017) population of 87,590, whereas the Borough of Bedford had an estimated population of 169,912.Bedford was founded at a ford on the River Great Ouse, and is thought to have been the burial place of Offa of Mercia. Bedford Castle was built by Henry I, although it was destroyed in 1224. Bedford was granted borough status in 1165 and has been represented in Parliament since 1265. It is well known for its large population of Italian descent.Bedford is on the Midland Main Line, with stopping services to London and Brighton operated by Thameslink, and express services to London and the East Midlands operated by East Midlands Trains.


Bedfordshire (; abbreviated Beds) is a county in the East of England. It is a ceremonial county and a historic county, covered by three unitary authorities: Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, and Luton.

Bedfordshire is bordered by Cambridgeshire to the east and northeast, Northamptonshire to the north, Buckinghamshire to the west and Hertfordshire to the southeast and south. It is the fourteenth most densely populated county of England, with over half the population of the county living in the two largest built-up areas: Luton (236,000) and the county town, Bedford (102,000). The highest elevation point is 243 metres (797 ft) on Dunstable Downs in the Chilterns.

Birch Brothers

Birch Brothers was a bus and coach operator in south east England.

Cardington, Bedfordshire

Cardington is a village and civil parish in the Borough of Bedford in Bedfordshire, England.

Part of the ancient hundred of Wixamtree, the settlement is best known in connection with the Cardington airship works founded by Short Brothers during World War I, which later became an RAF training station. However most of the former RAF station is actually in the parish of Eastcotts, as is the settlement of Shortstown, which was originally built by Short Brothers for its workers. The old village of Cardington is located to the north east of Shortstown and the RAF station, and houses most of the population of the parish, which was 270 in 2005, making it one of the least populated parishes in Bedfordshire, also more recently has been divided into Cardington and New Cardington, with the new build homes building into Cardington village itself.

Cardington Airfield

Cardington Airfield, previously RAF Cardington, is a former Royal Air Force station in Bedfordshire, England, with a long and varied history, particularly in relation to airships and balloons.

Most of the former RAF station is in the parish of Eastcotts, as is the settlement of Shortstown.

Cotton End

Cotton End is a small village and civil parish on the outskirts of Bedford. It became its own parish as of 1 April 2019, having previously been part of the parish of Eastcotts. Ordnance Survey maps from the 1880s show its name as 'Cardington Cotton End'.There is a primary school, a Bapist Church, a village hall and a pub.

The Baptist chapel was founded here in 1777.

In 1912, Cotton End was described as a scattered hamlet with a school and a farm. It lies further down the A600 road from Shortstown.

A new woodland created by the Forest of Marston Vale in 2005 called Shocott Spring.


Eastcotts is an electoral ward within the Borough of Bedford. It was formerly also a civil parish until its abolishment on 1 April 2019, when Cotton End and Shortstown parishes were established.The boundaries of Eastcotts are approximately Exeter Wood to the east, Bedfordshire Greensand Ridge to the south and Shocott Spring to the west. There are two woodlands; Shocott Spring and Exeter Wood, two villages; Shortstown and Cotton End and two hamlets; Harrowden and Herrings Green. And some landmarks such as the Cardington Sheds.

Harrowden, Bedfordshire

Harrowden is a one-street hamlet in the civil parish of Eastcotts, in Bedfordshire.

Harrowden has only 18 houses and 32 people on the electoral roll. Elstow Brook runs through it. There is just one road - Old Harrowden Lane - which leads to a footpath known as Bumpy Lane, from where you can access the birthplace of John Bunyan, now simply marked by a stone.The street runs from east to west parallel and to the south of the A421 Bedford Southern Bypass, and 200 metres to the north of the village of Shortstown. There is a path at the west side of Harrowden named Bumpy Lane that leads to Abbey Fields. Like Shortstown, Harrowden is in the Eastcotts parish, of the Borough of Bedford.

Haynes, Bedfordshire

Haynes is a small village, civil parish and former manor, located in Bedfordshire, England, about seven miles (11 km) south of Bedford. It includes the small hamlet of Haynes Church End. It used to be known as Hawnes. North from Haynes is a hamlet named Silver End, then further up is Herrings Green, Cotton End and Shortstown.The name 'Haynes' is derived from an Old English word meaning "enclosures". It was mentioned in Domesday Book. There is a pub, "The Greyhound", a shop, a post office, a village hall and a Lower School.

In 1730 the philosopher John Gay became Vicar of Wilshamstead (later adding the living of Haynes).

Ian Nairn

Ian Douglas Nairn (24 August 1930 – 14 August 1983) was a British architectural critic who coined the word ‘Subtopia’ to indicate drab suburbs that look identical through unimaginative town-planning. He published two strongly personalised critiques of London and Paris, and collaborated with Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, who considered his reports to be too subjective, but acknowledged him as the better writer.

List of Bedfordshire settlements by population

This is a list of all the settlements in Bedfordshire. Population figures are taken from the 2001 UK census. The population given is for the civil parish, Luton Borough in the case of Luton and the unparished area in the case of Bedford. Because of this some village's population may include hamlets which may or may not be considered separate settlements. As well as this some civil parishes include more than one village but they have been included together in this list because there is no reliable data for the populations of separate villages in a civil parish consisting of more than one village. Settlements which do not form part of urban areas have had their urban area listed as rural. However some villages may be only partly in one Urban Area with the rest of it not being in any urban areas in such cases the urban area has been listed as the urban area and Rural.

List of places in Bedfordshire

Map of places in Bedfordshire compiled from this list

See the list of places in England for places in other counties.

This is a list of all the towns and villages in the county of Bedfordshire. See the List of Bedfordshire settlements by population for a list sorted by population.

List of schools in Bedford

This is a list of schools in the Borough of Bedford, in the English county of Bedfordshire.

MK postcode area

The MK postcode area, also known as the Milton Keynes postcode area, is a group of 26 postcode districts in England, which are subdivisions of five post towns. These postcode districts cover north Buckinghamshire (including Milton Keynes, Buckingham, Newport Pagnell and Olney), west and north Bedfordshire (including Bedford) and very small parts of Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

Robert Burns Dick

Robert Burns Dick (1868 - 1954) was a British architect, city planner and artist. Mainly working in the Newcastle upon Tyne, he designed municipal buildings, churches and over one hundred houses and housing schemes in the North East of England.

Short Brothers

Short Brothers plc, usually referred to as Shorts or Short, is an aerospace company based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Shorts was founded in 1908 in London, and was the first company in the world to make production aircraft. It was particularly notable for its flying boat designs manufactured into the 1950s.

In 1943 Shorts was nationalised and later denationalised, and in 1948 moved from its main base at Rochester, Kent to Belfast. In the 1960s, Shorts mainly produced turboprop airliners, major components for aerospace primary manufacturers, and missiles for the British Armed Forces.

In 1989 Shorts was bought by Bombardier, and is today the largest manufacturing concern in Northern Ireland. Prior to that merger, the authorised capital share by the owner was: HM Government, 69.5% (majority share); Rolls-Royce Ltd, 15.25%; Harland & Wolff Ltd, 15.25%.

The company's products include aircraft components, engine nacelles and aircraft flight control systems for its parent company Bombardier Aerospace, and for Boeing, Rolls-Royce Deutschland, General Electric and Pratt & Whitney.

Stagecoach in Bedford

Stagecoach in Bedford, also known as Bedford Bus (stylised as 'Bedfordbus'), is the sector of the Stagecoach Group that operates buses in Bedford, Bedfordshire and is currently a trading name of Cambus Ltd. Stagecoach in Bedford forms part of the Stagecoach East division, along with Stagecoach in Cambridge, Stagecoach in Peterborough and Stagecoach in The Fens.


A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet but smaller than a town, with a population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand. Though villages are often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighborhoods. Villages are normally permanent, with fixed dwellings; however, transient villages can occur. Further, the dwellings of a village are fairly close to one another, not scattered broadly over the landscape, as a dispersed settlement.In the past, villages were a usual form of community for societies that practice subsistence agriculture, and also for some non-agricultural societies. In Great Britain, a hamlet earned the right to be called a village when it built a church. In many cultures, towns and cities were few, with only a small proportion of the population living in them. The Industrial Revolution attracted people in larger numbers to work in mills and factories; the concentration of people caused many villages to grow into towns and cities. This also enabled specialization of labor and crafts, and development of many trades. The trend of urbanization continues, though not always in connection with industrialization.

Although many patterns of village life have existed, the typical village is often small, consisting of perhaps 5 to 30 families. Historically homes were situated together for sociability and defence, and land surrounding the living quarters was farmed. Traditional fishing villages were based on artisan fishing and located adjacent to fishing grounds.

Places adjacent to Shortstown
Settlements in Borough of Bedford
Unitary authorities
Major settlements

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