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Bedford Estates Cottages in Crow Lane Husborne Crawley

Cottages in Crow Lane about 1900 [X21/756/20]
Cottages in Crow Lane about 1900 [X21/756/20]

Husborne Crawley has fifteen blocks of Bedford Estate cottages, mostly built in the 1850s and 1860s. This is a total of 61 separate homes. They can be found in Crow Lane, Horsepool Lane, Mill Road, Ridgmont Road, School Lane and Turnpike Road. Some were listed by the former Department of Environment, which gave a general background as follows: "The 7th Duke of Bedford recognised the advantages of housing agricultural labourers in comfortable dwellings. From the late 1840's onwards the emphasis in Bedford Estate cottage building was on the utilitarian rather than the Picturesque. The cottages are not only remarkable for the high quality of construction at such an early date, but also represent an influential contribution to the development of working class housing which culminated in the garden cities and early council housing. The Dukes of Bedford built about 500 cottages in the locality between the 1840's and World War One. The brickwork seems to be an early type of cavity walling". The cottages were known locally as the Duke of Bedford's Mansions because they were so well designed and built.

The cottages in Crow Lane, all built in 1853 in the usual red brick with tiled roofs, are in two blocks, each of six cottages: Numbers 59 to 64 and 65 to 70. 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. Husborne Crawley, like most of the county was assessed in 1927. The valuer visiting the properties in Crow Lane [DV1/C53/58-69] found that they all comprised a living room and a kitchen downstairs as well as a coal barn and an earth closet outside. Each block had its own communal washhouse to which water was laid on. All were lit by lamps, having no electricity. They were then simply numbered 59 to 70 The Village.

Individual details were as follows:

 Farm buildings adjacent to 59 Crow Lane January 2012
Farm buildings adjacent to 59 Crow Lane January 2012

  • 59: occupied by George Harris who paid rent to the Duke of 15/2 per quarter. He also had a dairy downstairs and a two bay open hovel, two wood and corrugated iron pigsties, a two bay open cart shed, a stable for three horses, a barn and a cowhouse for four beasts.;
  • 60: occupied by Charles Fleet who paid rent of 16/3 per half year. He had three bedrooms and also had a pigsty outside;
  • 61: occupied by John Dimmock who paid rent of 14/1 per quarter. He had two bedrooms;
  • 62: occupied by Frederick George Nicholls who paid rent of £1/19/- per quarter. The valuer commented: "Rent high owing to pension received by occupier". He had two bedrooms and also had a pigsty outside;
  • 63: occupied by Frederick Peppitt who paid rent of 14/1 per quarter. He had three bedrooms.
  • 64: occupied by Joseph Sibley who paid rent of 16/3 per quarter. He had three bedrooms. A later hand has written: "Now occupied as 1 house cloakroom downstairs" – presumable referring to Numbers 63 and 64.
  • 65: occupied by Miss Elizabeth Smith who paid rent of 13 shillings per quarter. She had three bedrooms and also a pigsty outside;
  • 66: occupied by John James Alley who paid rent of 14/1 per quarter. He had three bedrooms and also had a pigsty outside;
  • 67: Mrs. Mary Anne Yates who paid rent of 14/1 per quarter. She had two bedrooms and also had a pigsty outside;
  • 68: Mrs. Elizabeth Deacon who paid rent of 14/1 per quarter. She had two bedrooms;
  • 69: Harry George Fleet who paid rent of 16/3 per quarter. He had three bedrooms and also had a pigsty outside;
  • 70: Wallace Deacon who paid rent of 16/3 per quarter. He had three bedrooms and also had a pigsty outside.

A former inhabitant of 61 Crow Lane was William James Warren. He served in the Labour Corps in the First World War and was wounded by a bullet in his right hand. Before the war he had worked with horses on a farm. In 1920, aged 31, he undertook training in running a smallholding. The training took place at Stratton Park, Biggleswade and was provided by Bedfordshire County Council [WW1/AC/TC4/95]. He transferred to Telscombe Training Centre, Newhaven [Sussex] on 16th June 1921.

A less lucky former inhabitant of 61 Crow Lane was Walter Sibley who died at the house of pneumonia whilst on leave on 27th October 1918, aged 33, a week before he was due to marry. He had been wounded with 1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment. His parents were William and Mary Sibley of 16 San Remo Road, Aspley Guise. He is buried in Husborne Crawley churchyard. His fiancée was a Miss Dimmock suggesting that he may have been staying with her family at the time of his death

A former inhabitant of 65 Crow Lane was Archie Smith. He was a lance corporal in 9th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and was killed on the Somme on  3rd September 1916, aged 26. He was the son of Edward and Elizabeth Smith and, presumably, Miss Elizabeth Smith's brother. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. The Bedfordshire Times of 22nd September read: ""A muffled peal was rung on the Church bells on Sunday in honour of Archie Smith, who was the first villager to sacrifice his life in the war. A corporal of the Company, writing to Mrs. Smith, states that the gallant solider was one of the first to mount the parapet, and he was immediately killed." The description as the first to be killed is not accurate, Alfred Charles Rowberry had gone down with H. M. S. Cressy in September 1914.

In 1953 Ampthill Rural District Council proposed to build council housing in crow Lane. The council made an agreement with the Duke of Bedford to supply water to the houses from his private supply [RDAH2/7].

59 to 64 Crow Lane February 2011
59 to 64 Crow Lane February 2011