Shefford is a lively and interesting small market town. It owes its name and its foundation to the five roads which meet in the town and the fact that at this point it was possible to ford the rivers Hit and Flit. Although the low lying land must have been a swamp at that time, the higher ground was used for sheep rearing and those flocks using the roads gave it the name of Sheepford or Shefford.
Its ancient wealth is reflected in the two princely iron age burials accidentally found near Stanford Bury Farm and the Roman cemetery which lay close to the Robert Bloomfield Middle School.
By the time the Domesday Book was compiled, however, Shefford is not to be found in it - but the ‘Cudsands in the manor of Campton’ seems a likely candidate, for even in 1220 when the first recorded ‘Serford’ appears it was part of the manor of Campton and Shefford-cum-Campton it remained until the mid 19th century.
It was important enough to be, in 1225, granted a Charter to hold a market and this must have flourished since in later times Bedford was to complain bitterly of the competition to its own markets. By 1312 the king had granted a Royal Charter to Shefford to hold a fair on Michaelmas Day. Although at least two more fairs were established at later dates the Michaelmas Fair held on the 11th of October every year in the High Street is the only one to survive.
The five roads still meet in Shefford and have strongly influenced its buildings - many of them originating as coaching inns and other uses which served the passing trade. When the canal was built in 1822 and the railway arrived in 1857 even more trade came with them and the population of the town increased steadily.
By the turn of the century it had reached a size which made its designation as part of the parish and manor of Campton a nonsense - the ugly duckling had outgrown its mother - and Shefford became a parish in its own right.
Before local government was established to take responsibility for the provision of lighting, drainage and the carriageways, Shefford was fortunate in the benefaction of an Tudor Sheffordian named Robert Lucas who bequeathed his property to the benefit of all the people of Shefford. In 1560 the Robert Lucas Trust was set up to establish and maintain bridges, highways and causeways in Shefford. In 1750 the Trust did build two new bridges over the Hit and the Flit and the highway between them. You can still see South Bridge Street and North Bridge Street today.
In 1820 the trust also arranged for the pond to be filled in and a reservoir to supply water to a pump installed. Alas, the original pump was a victim of the rush in the 20th century to accommodate the motorcar.Town Pump It is today commemorated in a replica pump immediately opposite the White Hart.
In 1900 it was described by H.Groves in The Way About Bedfordshire as ‘A bright and clean little market town, as well it ought to be, for in the reign of Elizabeth, Robert Lucas left moneys for the paving, cleansing and lighting of its streets.’
Before leaving the Pump it is worth looking at the small plaque towards the top which commemorates Peter Harwood whose Story of Shefford has supplied much useful information for the walk.