Billy Lincoln And His Films Of Biggleswade Life In The 1930s

“Billy Lincoln and his films of Biggleswade life in the 1930s”

A talk by Hilary and Edward Street, 8 January 2019

Another nostalgic evening at the History Society to start the new year.  Biggleswade in the 1930s is only a county and a generation distant: instantly familiar as our parents’ world, yet vastly remote from today’s preoccupations.

Billy Lincoln – a distant cousin of Stapleford resident Hilary Street – was born in Biggleswade in 1900.  He saw service at the end of the first world war, then stayed in the navy until he was invalided out in 1931.  He returned to Biggleswade and worked as a bus conductor until ill health brought a premature end in 1936.  He made films on a simple clockwork camera, adding careful titles and editing.  These survived in the family, and Hilary’s son Edward arranged for them to be digitised.  The results were astonishingly clear and gave a vivid picture of a small town community in the 1930s.

There were scenes of celebrations for the silver jubilee of George V and Queen Mary in 1935 and the accession of Edward VIII in 1936.  The streets were festooned with bunting, there were marching bands and parades and of course local worthies making speeches: the whole town seem to have turned out in their Sunday best to mark these occasions.  And there was a fascinating sequence of a large group of Biggleswade ladies on an outing to Holland by chartered steamer, visiting several towns over a week, all smartly turned out in hats and gloves (though with off-guard moments as well for fraternisation with the sailors).  Entertainment involved a community effort in the days before you could tap into an infinite choice on a handy screen.

Edward generously made copies of the films available for sale to support History Society funds.  If you’d like the DVD, they’re just £2: phone Hilary on 840548.

John Street