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Girtford House

Girtford House in 1954 [X758/1/11/136]
Girtford House in 1954 [X758/1/11/136]

Girtford House is no more. The rather unlikely site today [2010] is the Texaco garage and Somerfield shop on the north-west quadrant of the A1 roundabout opposite Bedford Road. The earliest record relating to the house is the inclosure map of 1799 [PM1/37] which shows a building in the location occupied by the house, albeit in a different shape to that on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey 25 inches to the mile map of 1884.

A newspaper cutting and photograph, see above, from 1954 [X758/1/11/136] support the idea that the property was 18th century or earlier. The cutting reads: “The pen of Dickens would be necessary to describe Girtford Manor House adequately as it is pictured here. Covered on the road side to the roof ridge with untrimmed ivy, the windows broken and doors hanging on one hinge, the derelict premises, which must have had dignity in the early Georgian or Queen Anne days, and the surrounding site, are being demolished to make room for modern car showrooms and a heavy goods vehicle repair depot”.

The description of the house as the manor house raises an interesting question. Was the medieval manor house for the Manor of Girtford on or near the site? Medieval Girtford would have probably been further west than today, either side of the Great North Road and a site for the manor house near Girtford Bridge is plausible, though it cannot be proven. The court records of the Manor of Girtford are held by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service and cover the dates 1413 to 1466 and 1536 to 1573 [L26] and detailed study of these may give a clue.

The first substantial document regarding the property is as late as 1907 when Frederick Safford (1841-1914) insured the house and neighbouring properties with Norwich Union [HF47/3/46]. Safford was the illegitimate son of Frederick Hogg, the owner, a wine and spirit merchant and trustee of Biggleswade brewers Wells and Company, who had died in 1878. The properties insured were as follows – the total sum insured being £3,960:

  • Girtford House, in occupation of Mrs. Griffiths, widow, consisting of: House and adjoining domestic offices, brick plaster, slate and tile; stables and saddle house, brick and tile;  kitchen and adjoining granary with lofts over, brick and tile;
  • Counting House and liquor warehouse adjoining Girtford House, timer and tile;
  • granary with shops over, brick and tile, unoccupied;
  • stable, chaise house and open shed adjoining Girtford House, brick and tile;
  • dwelling in occupation of L. Northern, bailiff, brick and tile;
  • dwelling in occupation of Peer, labourer, plaster and tile;
  • dwelling near bridge in occupation of Mrs. Tarrant, brick and tile;
  • barn and offices of timber and tile in occupation of Mrs. Tarrant;
  • two cottages adjoining farm, plaster and thatch;
  • kitchen and office, plaster and thatch;
  • Farm in occupation of A. Jeeves consisting of:
  • two bullock sheds, timber and tile;
  • two stables, one tool house and henhouse, timber and tile;
  • barn and chaff house, timber and tile;
  • double cart house, brick, timber and tile;
  • three bullock sheds, timber and tile;
  • open bullock shed, timber and tile;
  • two cottages at Brick Fields, Sandy, brick and tile with adjoining barn and offices, brick and tile;
  • two cottages, plaster and tile, with adjoining barn and offices, brick and tile;
  • Ivel Cottage, occupied by Frederick Safford with adjoining barn and offices

In 1915 the house was offered for sale by auction as part of 42 lots of land and a few buildings in Girtford all the estate of the Frederick Hogg. This took place after Frederick Safford’s death as Hogg had given his son a life interest in the estate. In the particulars [BMB3/2/34] Girtford House was Lot 30. It had a reserve of £775 but did not sell. The particulars were as follows:

All that VALUABLE PROPERTY
CONTAINING
An area of 2a. 2r. 35p. (more or less)
Situate near GirtfordBridge and adjoining the Great north Road and
Known as “Girtford House”

THE RESIDENCE which is Brick Built and Tiled, contains Tiled Hall, Butler’s Pantry with cupboard and fireplace, Back Hall leading to Gentleman’s Lavatory, Tradesmen’s Entrance to Wash House with fireplace and copper, Billiard Room 38 feet by 16 feet 6 inches, and Back Stairs and Landing with fitted linen cupboard and 2 Servants Bedrooms and Loft, Kitchen 17 feet 6 inches by 13 feet 9 inches fitted with range, dresser and cupboard; Pantry, Scullery with force pump and well of water, copper, fireplace and hot and cold water laid on over sink, Side Hall to Garden, Smoke Room with cupboard in recess and French Window, Side Hall with capital wine cellar fitted with bins, Dining Room 18 feet 6 inches by 16 feet with two windows and door leading to Drawing Room which is 19 feet 6 inches by 15 feet 6 inches fitted with marble mantel and having three windows together with small Conservatory. The Bed-chambers are approached by a main and well lighted staircase also back Stairs from Kitchen and comprise Bedroom over Hall fitted with gun cupboard and iron safe, small Dressing Room adjoining, Large Landing, Bedroom over Smoke Room, Large Bath Room with fireplace, Bedroom adjoining, W. C., Bedroom over Drawing Room with two windows, Small Dressing Room, Bedroom over Dining Room with two windows, also three Attics.

EXCELLENT FULL SIZED TENNIS OR CROQUET LAWN

The Kitchen Garden and Grounds are walled and are well stocked with Shrubs and also wall and other Fruit Trees in full bearing. Small Green House and a 4-light Garden Frame. 

THE OUTBUILDINGS which are chiefly built of Brick and Tiled are very commodious and comprise detached Stable with large loose box and 2 standings with loft over. Large Stable Yard and Range of Buildings consisting of Apple Room, 3-Stall Stable and Harness Room with fireplace, a double Coach House with loft over and a lean-to Harness or Store-Room. A substantially Brick Built Barley or Corn Shed 38 feet 6 inches by 20 feet with capital loft above and a large lean-to Wine Store adjoining. A range of Timber and Tiled Buildings near consisting of Loose Box, 2 Standings and a 3-bay Open Shed, Outside E. C., Small Paddock and Large Yards with gateway approach, together with a range of Buildings abutting on the road and consisting of 2 Bottling Rooms with loft over, Office with fireplace and safe in wall, also Coal House, &c., as occupied by Mr. W. H. Moller, as sub-tenant of Mr. and Mrs. Hart, under a Lease expiring 25th December 1920 (or earlier determination by the Lessees). The Rent now received is

£60 : 0 : 0 PER ANNUM

N. B. The fitted Bath and Lavatory Basin belong to Mr. Moller who has the right to remove same.

THE GAS AND WATER ARE LAID ON TO THE PROPERTY

The Auctioneers desire to call especial attention to this important lot of property which is admirably adapted for business purposes, such as Motor or other similar works where substantial buildings are required, as it occupies an important position on the Great North Road.

N. B. – The Sluice as used for flushing purposes on the South side of this Lot is the property of the BedsCounty Council.

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. Sandy, like most of the county, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting Girtford House [DV1/C28/34-37] found it owned and occupied by David W. Ibbett. The valuer was not too impressed, commenting: “Awful. Very unlettable. Right on road at bad corner. Very dark”.

The brick, lath, plaster and tiled building comprised: a kitchen and larder; a washhouse with a range and copper for heating water; a back stairs; a room measuring 14 feet 6 inches by 16 feet, another measuring 13 feet 6 inches by 16 feet and a third measuring 12 feet by 13 feet 6 inches (two of these had circular windows); a butler’s pantry “used for lumber” and a w. c.

Upstairs lay five bedrooms measuring 14 feet 6 inches by 16 feet, 13 feet 6 inches by 16 feet, 14 feet square, 12 feet by 14 feet and 14 feet by 7 feet 6 inches. Two of these had a circular window. There was also a dressing room, a w. c. and a room measuring 17 feet by 12 feet 6 inches with a bath.

In an adjoining building lay a store room, a school room, two bedrooms above the school room both measuring 15 feet by 8 feet and a living room, also above the school room measuring 16 feet by 11 feet. The valuer noted that the school had room for twenty but present attendance was just seven, the average for the previous four years being six. A loft lay over part of the schoolroom.

An old glasshouse and shed lay in the garden. Also outside lay an old, plaster and tiled disused two stall stable with a loft over, a brick and tiled stable with three boxes with a harness room and shed. Also outside lay a timber and tiled shed, a large brick and tiled barn and shed with a loft over, a timber and tiled two stalled stable and cart shed, a corrugated iron open-fronted cart shed and an old brick and tiled barn.

The valuer made further comments as follows: “House in poor condition: very old and structurally not firm. Requires a great amount up upkeep, very damp, ceilings badly cracked”.

Kelly’s Directory for Bedfordshire was produced every few years until the last edition of 1940. The directories give the following tenants of Girtford House:

  • Frederick Stafford 1885;
  • Mrs. Griffiths 1890;
  • Trevelyan Edward Turner 1894;
  • Arthur Lindsell 1898;
  • Captain William Horace Kennedy 1903;
  • Mrs Morgan 1910;
  • William Henry Moller 1914;
  • David W. Ibbott or Ibbett 1920, 1924; 1928 and 1931

The 1936 and 1940 directories do not have a listing for the property. It seems likely, therefore that the last tenant left in the early or mid 1930s and the house began its near quarter century decline into dereliction before being pulled down in the mid 1950s.