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Clifton Manor House

Clifton Lodge Hotel in the early 1920s [Z564/6]
Clifton Lodge Hotel in the early 1920s [Z564/6]

Clifton Manor seems to have been the seat of the Manor of Clifton Lacies. It is shown as Clifton Lodge on 25 inches to the mile Ordnance Survey maps in 1883 and 1901 but by 1923 it has become Clifton Manor. It was listed by the former Ministry of Works in January 1952 as Grade II, of special interest. The ministry stated that it had seventeenth century origins, although it was substantially extended in the 19th century. The last time the listing was altered the building was subdivided into two properties called Clifton Manor House (the original building) and Court House (the 19th century additions) respectively. The original structure is a timber-framed building, the later additions being in yellow brick.

The first document to mention the manor house held by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service is an agreement of 1806 in which the manor house forming part of the Manor of Clifton Lacies, then occupied by John Arch is to be sold by Simpson Anderson to Samuel Henley Ongley of Graffham [Huntingdonshire] [HF13/5/17]. The next year the house was insured with Royal Exchange Assurance for £900 [HF13/5/18]. The tenant John Arch purchased The Grange in 1809 and the following year Samuel Henley Ongley leased the manor house, and a quantity of land, to his sister Catherine Fremantle of Clifton, widow, for twenty one years [HF13/5/19]. The Manor and land was put up for sale on Ongley's death in 1823 [HF13/5/24].

Interestingly, the sale particulars do not include the manor house but begin with "The VILLA called CLIFTON COTTAGE". It seems likely that this was, in fact, the manor house, which had undergone the first in a number of name changes as it is unlikely that the Manor would have been sold without the manor house and the description, so far as can be determined, would fit. The description is as follows: "secluded from the Village, situate at an agreeable distance from the turnpike road, and ornamented with Plantations, Shrubberies, Pleasure-Gardens and Gardens, through which is an approach to the House, and which with the Kitchen Gardens, Yard and Buildings occupies about four Acres. The House is in good repair, and contains on the ground floor a neat entrance Hall, with French Glass Doors, a Dining-room, 19 feet by 14 feet 9 inches a small Breakfast-room and a handsome Drawing-room with French Windows, commanding the Lawn, and communicating with a Conservatory attached; and excellent Kitchen with Scullery, Butler's Pantry, dairy and convenient Cellars. Above are five good Bed-chambers, two of them with dressing-rooms, five Servants' Rooms, and a Store-room. The OUT-OFFICES comprehend Stabling for twelve horses, a double Coach-house, with Harness-rooms, a Dove-cot, Brewhouse, Wash-house, Laundry, Coal-yard, Woodhouse, and other convenient Buildings. At the back is a FARM YARD with a large timber-built and tiled Barn, Cow-house for eight Cows, and every other requisite Convenience for a Farm". 

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has a photocopy of a flier for the building when it was run as Clifton Lodge Hotel in the early 1920s [Z564/6]. The flier boasted: "First-class service and food in the seclusion of unspoilt English Country. One mile from direct main road to London". Terms were as follows:

En pension (including service, baths, boots, light) from £3/3/-

Visitors' Guests

  • Bed and Breakfast    8/6
  • Luncheon  2/6
  • Tea  1/3
  • Dinner  3/6
  • Garage  1/- per day

Kennels

  • Dog Boarders (at owner's risk)  10/- per week

Extras

  • Early Morning Tea     2/6 per week
  • Garage  5/- per week
  • Dogs  6/- per week
  • Meals in Own Room9d each
  • Tennis  1/6 per hour

"Guests met on arrival at Arlesey Station (by appointment) at a nominal charge of 2/6, including luggage".

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified [Section 19 (1)] that every piece of land and property in the country be valued to determine the rateable value. Clifton, like most of Bedfordshire, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting Clifton House, described it as Clifton Lodge despite the name change evident from the 1923 Ordnance Survey map! [DV1/R47/57]. He further noted that it was owned by R. de V. Pryor and occupied by F. Humphreys who paid £120 per annum rent on a seven year lease, fixed in 1922. This suggests that 1922 was the date at which the building ceased to be a hotel.

Downstairs accommodation comprised: a hall ("poor"); ball or play room measuring 19 feet by 15 feet, 12 feet by 10 feet and 10 feet 6 inches by 8 feet; dining room measuring 18 feet by 15 feet; lobby; drawing room measuring 16 feet by 22 feet 6 inches; a store; a W. C.; a pantry ("now used for cloaks"); a dairy; a pantry; a kitchen ("light and good"); a scullery; a lamp room and an office. The first floor comprised eight bedrooms, a maid's bedroom, two other small bedrooms, 2 W. C. s, a dressing room, a bathroom, a house maid's parlour and a sitting room.

A boot shed and coal shed stood outside along with a brick and tile garage for two cars, five loose boxes ("not used, poor"), a harness room used as a store, a wood and corrugated iron open shed, a wood and tile range comprising an apple room, garage, wood store, sitting room, bedroom, hen house and pigsty. There was also a wood and thatch barn, a cow shed for six beasts and a hay place. Two tennis courts, a walled-in kitchen garden and five acres comprised the rest of the "poor grounds".

The valuer noted that the house did not have electric light. He also remarked: "Bad Position. Very poor repair. Very rambling. Badly arranged, poor place".

The manor was sold in 1990 [Z449/1/4]and was described, in very fanciful terms, thus: "Clifton Manor is the major portion of a Grade II listed property which dates back to 1390 [the Department's 17th century date seems a good deal more likely]. It is built on a site which is listed in the Domesday Book as the Manor of Lacies [again, not strictly accurate!]. Today the property is a substantial part moated home opposite the local cricket green and one that enjoys a quite enviable position. The property undoubtedly offers an impressive level of accommodation including bright and substantial reception rooms in addition to seven bedrooms, a dressing room and three bathrooms. Almost every room offers a combination of either great size and or important historical and architectural features. Clifton Manor is, without question, one of the most fascinating houses - architecturally or historically - to be sold in Bedfordshire this year. Clifton Manor is listed in the Domesday Book as the Manor of Lacies. The present property was built on the same site in 1390 and a Deed of ownership was granted to the Prior of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem in 1397 [clearly a confusion with the manor in Clifton, not Lacies, held by the Hospitallers]. This was a reward for the Knight Hospitallers who had at first escorted pilgrims from the coast to Jerusalem, and subsequently looked after crusaders from Cyprus to England. During the reign of the Lancastrians and the War of the Roses, the Manor remained a grant to the same religious order. When the Tudors were on the throne, the property was maintained for what is now the Church of England. In 1620 the manor was obtained by Walter Rolt who thereafter commissioned a troop of horses to support Cromwell in 1644. In 1652, the decline of the estate started with the sale of the land in the direction of Stanford. Ownership of the Manor then alternated between physicians and the clergy. When William of Orange was on the throne, major extensions were built on to the original main house. In 1706 the Queen Anne staircase was installed; In 1810 the whole façade was rendered covering the wooden frame and the Georgian type French doors and internal arches and columns were installed. In 1850 the west wing was added, however by 1910 the Lodge, Armoury and Home Farm had been disposed of leaving the Clifton Manor estate reduced to some 5 acres. During World War I the Australian cavalry were billeted in the stables and outhouses; the sergeants in the servants quarters and the Officers in the main house. In 1933, the estate was sold to a clergyman from Northampton and in due course (1965) the servants' wing was sold off in addition to the stables and staff cottage [presumably the date at which Court House was created]. This left the original manor House in about 2 acres of historic wooded and moated land".

The layout was then described as a ground floor comprising: a reception hall (23 feet 2 inches by 13 feet); an east facing morning room (20 feet 3 inches by 18 feet 7 inches); a south facing library (12 feet 8 inches by 9 feet 10 inches); and east facing cocktail bar (11 feet by 8 feet 8 inches);  a south facing dining room (17 feet 6 inches by 15 feet 1 inch); an inner hall; a south and west facing drawing room (27 feet by 18 feet); a south and east facing study (13 feet by 9 feet); a boiler room; a downstairs cloakroom; a north facing kitchen (17 feet 9 inches by 10 feet 8 inches); a west and north facing breakfast room (10 feet 10 inches by 10 feet 4 inches) and a utility room.

The first floor comprised a galleried landing, eight bedrooms, a dressing room, an inner hall a separate W. C. and three bathrooms. The drive was measured at 150 feet and there were three main sections of garden and orchard.

The building was again offered for sale eleven years later [Z449/1/28], with a much more basic description: "Clifton Manor is a Grade II listed historic country house forming the major part of a 17th Century manor house. The property offers spacious and well presented accommodation on two floors which includes spacious reception rooms with fine period detail, a well appointed kitchen and beautiful reception hall with an elegant oak staircase leading to the first floor galleried landing and the extensive first floor bedroom accommodation. The house which is understood to date from the 17th century has been improved and extended over the centuries and is constructed of rendered and brick elevations under a plain tiled roof. The house occupies a mature setting with attractive gardens and grounds and is approached over a tree-lined avenue".