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Flitwick Manor

 Flitwick Manor about 1765 [LL18/26]
Flitwick Manor about 1765 [LL18/26]

Flitwick Manor is probably not the former manor house for the Manor of Flitwick or any of the other two manors in the parish; it was previously called Flitwick House. It is, however, a remarkable old building. It was listed by the Ministry of Works in October 1952 as Grade II*, meaning it is a particularly important building, of more than special interest. The original structure was built in the early part of the 17th century (perhaps in 1617, as will be seen below). The building was reworked about 1736 and extended in the late 18th century and at various dates in the 19th century. There was some reworking in 1936 by Ampthill architect Sir Albert Richardson.

The design is complex. The eastern block is of about 1736, of red brick with some vitrified headers, encasing the 17th century structure. Later additions were also made in a variety of red brick. An addition of 1872 was made in colour-washed concrete blocks. The house has clay tile roofs.

In January 1961 The Grotto, approximately 50 metres south-west of the manor was listed as Grade II, of special interest. This garden building dates from the late 18th century  and is built of red brick with some vitrified bricks. It takes form of small bridge, the archway room beneath having pebble-work decoration to the ceiling and floor and to parts of the walls. 

In 1632 the building was conveyed by George Jeere and William Holte to its tenant, Edward Blofeild of Flitwick, gentleman for £90. It was described as a messuage in Church End of the yearly value of £3/7/4. It was to be held of the Crown for remainder of a 99 year lease dating from 1617, which, perhaps, gives us the date of the original part of the house. The conveyance recited a grant by Crown in 1631 to Sir Henry Browne of Writtle [Essex] and John Cliffe junior of London and a grant by Browne and Cliffe to Jeere and Holte in 1632 [LL1/69].

Edward Blofeild of Flitwick made his will in 1664 and it was proved on his death in 1667 [ABP/W1667/78]. He devised the house to his wife Jane. She remarried in 1668, aged thirty, to Samuel Rhodes of Clerkenwell [Middlesex]. Rhodes made his will in 1699 (it was proved in 1710) devising his real estate to his son Benjamin and daughter Jane [LL12/37]. She married Henry Chester in 1710 and in 1712 she and her husband divided her father’s estate with her brother, Jane and her husband taking the house [LL17/5-6]. In 1710 the house was leased to Joseph Tilcock [LL1/131] and five years later to Thomas Deacon [LL1/132].

In her will of 1712 Jane “unhappy wife of a very bad husband” [LL12/38] stated: “That there may be no disputes after my death about those few thing that are now left me I thought good to affirm that for more than seven years past I have promis’d Mrs Henrietta Astry my watch of Tompion if I dyd before she had one, also my hair wring to Mrs Honour Chernock my snuff box to Mrs Anne Astry I beg all my clothes and other things may be given to my most Dear Friend and faithful servant Mary Saunders. I would be buried in the grave of my dear mother, in Maulden church, or as near as is convenient”. She died on 4th March 1713. After her death her husband and brother engaged in mutual suits in the Court of Chancery, the main attempt being by Benjamin Rhodes to recover his sister’s property from her husband as she had separated from him after two months of marriage and died soon afterwards [LL12/10-22]. Benjamin was Sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1730 and in his will of 1735 devised all his property to Humphrey Dell of Maulden [LL1/110].

Dell devised his property to his Goddaughter Ann, daughter of Jeffery and Ann Fisher by his will in 1765 [LL1/143]. Anne married J Hesse in 1778 [LL17/8] and, after his death, George Brooks in 1789 [LL10/2]. In 1802 George Brooks leased the house, then called Flitwick House, to the Trevor family [LL1/144]              

 Flitwick Manor about 1905 [Z1130//50/33]
Flitwick Manor about 1905 [Z1130//50/33]

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. The valuer visiting Flitwick Manor, on 30th August 1927 [D1/C272/13], found that it was still owned and occupied by a Brooks - Miss C M F Brooks. The house stood in 27.136 acres. The valuer commented: “Met Mr Swaffield here” who would have been Miss Brooks’ land agent “House very old, very bad repair, especially roofs. Water pump, cesspool drainage. All stairs and passages, mean staircase, only one bathroom. House generally very inconvenient inside owing to age. No lighting except lamps. House has not been modernised in any way. No central heating. Reception and main Bedrooms very large. Very mellow front entrance passage and dark.

Accommodation was listed as follows: passage at entrance (a later hand has annotated this “now pantry”); a hall measuring 15 feet by 16 feet; a billiard room (“now drawing room”) measuring 20 feet by 16 feet; a boudoir measuring 12 feet 3 inches by 15 feet with a bay measuring 9 feet by 2 feet 6 inches; a drawing room measuring 20 feet 6 inches by 26 feet 9 inches with a bay measuring 9 feet by 2 feet 9 inches; “through door and down four stairs to” dining room (later annotated “billiard room”) measuring 19 feet 6 inches by 29 feet 3 inches; “up 22 stairs” school room measuring 19 feet by 10 feet; two lumber rooms; “return downstairs and upstairs” lavatory and store room (later annotated as cloakroom); “return through hall to” pantry; kitchen measuring 20 feet 9 inches by 18 feet 9 inches; larder (“less passage”); scullery; “return and up main stairs” to a bedroom measuring 16 feet 3 inches by 16 feet 9 inches; a dressing room; a bedroom measuring 16 feet 9 inches square; another dressing room; a bedroom measuring 20 feet 6 inches by 16 feet; a bedroom measuring 14 feet 6 inches by 17 feet 3 inches; another dressing room; a bedroom used as a sitting room measuring 12 feet by 14 feet with a bay measuring 9 feet by 2 feet 6 inches; “up three stairs” a bedroom measuring 20 feet 6 inches square; “down six stairs” a workroom; a lavatory; a bathroom; “up four stairs and then up fourteen stairs to top floor”; three servants’ bedrooms, two with one bed and one with two beds.

The valuer at this point commented: “Would cost small fortune to put and keep in good repair”. Outside were the following: a conservatory measuring 13 feet by 51 feet; “in stable yard” a coal house and washhouse (“now two garages”); a coach house used as a garage with an inspection pit; a store with a loft over; a three-stall stable, loose box and harness room with a loft over; “in kitchen garden” a lean-to vinery measuring 14 feet 4 inches by 40 feet and a potting shed at the back; “in grounds” a weather-boarded and tiled store shed and a four-bay open hovel; two grass courts; “kitchen garden adjoining” a gardener’s cottage; a derelict glasshouse and heated frames and a house in occupation of G Nibbs comprising parlour, kitchen, washhouse, five bedrooms and an earth closet (“very old, was old farmhouse years ago now very bad and old”. There was also a “range of rough wooden sheds”.

Flitwick Manor 1982 [Z50/50/21]
Flitwick Manor 1982 [Z50/50/21]

Flitwick Manor was put up for sale by auction in June 1953 and the particulars  [CRT130Flitwick16] described it as a “delightful Caroline and Georgian residence” and stated that that the owner, John Comyn Lyall had inherited it from his father Colonel R A Lyall who had married Mary Catherine Brooks. The house stood in 4 acres, 2 roods, 13 poles of grounds and had been modernised “a few years ago” by Ampthill architect Professor Albert E Richardson. The ground floor comprised: an entrance hall measuring 16 feet by 15 feet and a secondary or inner hall with a cupboard; a south-east sitting room measuring 17 feet 6 inches by 12 feet 9 inches with a Georgian fireplace; a south-east drawing room measuring 26 feet 6 inches by 20 feet 9 inches; a north-east dining room measuring 20 feet by 16 feet; a T-shaped corridor off the entrance hall leading to a rear entrance hall and cloakroom and WC; a north-east and south-west library measuring 29 feet 6 inches by 19 feet 6 inches; domestic offices reached through a door from the entrance hall and comprising passage and broom cupboard and china cupboards, a servery, a kitchen measuring 24 feet by 21 feet, a scullery, a gun room (leading off the kitchen), a larder, a WC and a housemaid’s sitting room; “below is ample cellarage” consisting of boiler room, wine cellar and other store rooms.

The first floor contained six bedrooms (17 feet by 15 feet; 20 feet 9 inches by 16 feet 6 inches; 17 feet square; 18 feet by 17 feet; 21 feet by 21 feet 3 inches and 17 feet 3 inches by 12 feet respectively) and a bathroom and WC. The second floor, reached by a staff staircase, had four bedrooms for servants and a separate WC.

Flitwick Manor 1982 [Z50/50/23]
Flitwick Manor 1982 [Z50/50/23]

Outside were: a courtyard with a soft water pump, two single garages with a games room above and a range of three stables, two loose boxes and a store room. There was a lawn with a ha-ha, sunken flower garden and bridge known as The Grotto, a lime avenue extending east and a walled kitchen garden. The entrance lodge, of rendered brick and thatch, with a brick and tile addition, contained a sitting room measuring 13 feet by 10 feet 6 inches; a living room measuring 13 feet by 10 feet; a larder/store room; a kitchen; a scullery and, on a floor above, a bedroom. The parkland and lake extended over 28 acres, 1 rood, 13 poles.

 Flitwick Manor 1982 [Z50/50/24]
Flitwick Manor 1982 [Z50/50/24]

A half-timbered cottage stood in 5 acres, 24 poles and included a living room of 16 feet 6 inches by 11 feet with inglenook fireplace, a larder, a kitchen measuring 17 feet by 15 feet and, on the first floor four bedrooms and a dressing room, the bedrooms measuring, respectively, 17 feet 6 inches by 14 feet 6 inches, 17 feet 6 inches by 15 feet, 15 feet by 12 feet and 15 feet by 0 feet. There was also a lean-to shed, four loose boxes, potting shed and glasshouse measuring 30 feet by 10 feet. The Pinetum, with a frontage to the Bedford-Dunstable road measured 10 acres, 3 roods, 28 poles and a final small area of parkland 2 acres, 3 roods, 23 poles.

Flitwick Manor later became a hotel, which it remains at the time of writing [2017]. In 1995 and 1996 Flitwick Manor Hotel achieved a fleeting moment as a cause-celebre as it was supposedly haunted. Some newspapers [CRT130Flitwick19] reported the apparition as rose-fragranced and as being a former housekeeper of a “Mr Lyall”, presumably R A or J C Lyall, both 20th century owners of the property. Others claimed the housekeeper had been sacked after being accused of trying to poison an old man. Another paper stated the ghost was that of a Mrs Brooks who had lost a child to tuberculosis.

Flitwick Manor April 2017
Flitwick Manor April 2017