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Austin Canons Kempston

The front of Austin Canons in 1982 [Z50/67/98]
The front of Austin Canons in 1982 [Z50/67/98]

Austin Canons was built between 1890 and 1891 By Rev. Paul Williams Wyatt (“chaplain to the Chapel Royal , Savoy”). The architect was Henry Young and the builder Samuel Foster of Kempston. It derived its name from the fact that it stood on land said originally to belong to Cauldwell Priory.

In 1897 Kempston Urban District Council approved plans for additions to the building [UDKP18]. In 1910 Rev. Wyatt, Mayor of Bedford in that year, hosted a centenary celebration by the Bedford District of the M .U. [Manchester Unity] Oddfellows. It included a garden fete in the grounds of Austin Canons. A procession, headed by Bedford Midland Military Band and accompanied by Shefford Brass Band led the way from the railway station and an address on the progress of the Order was given by P. G. M. Bourne of Cheltenham and the Rev. Wyatt. An open-air concert was arranged by A. W. Newman; there were sports for juvenile members and tea on the grounds, price sixpence each. A special late train ran from Bedford to Hitchin at 10 pm calling at Southill and Shefford [Z1372/3]. Rev. Wyatt was granted his own coat of arms in 1914 [FAC66/129].

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 value visiting Austin Canons [DV1/R25/23] found it still owned and occupied by Rev. Paul Williams Wyatt JP. He noted that the brick and slate property was “very well built”. The ground floor comprised: a lounge hall measuring 17 feet 6 inches by 15 feet 6 inches; a morning room measuring 15 feet 6 inches by 18 feet 6 inches with a bay; a drawing room measuring 27 feet 6 inches by 15 feet 6 inches with a large recess; a dining room measuring 19 feet 6 inches by 16 feet; a corridor; a W. C. and lavatory [in the sense of a place to wash]; a kitchen measuring 18 feet by 15 feet; a scullery; a housemaid’s pantry; a butler’s pantry; a back kitchen larder; a servants’ W. C.; and a washhouse. The valuer commented “No Bath Room” (though there was one upstairs).

The first floor contained a bedroom measuring 21 feet by 16 feet and two others each measuring 19 feet by 17ftx, one with a dressing room attached. There was a bathroom with a wash basin “But No Bath fitted”! There were also two small servants’ bedrooms as well as a larger servant’s bedroom measuring 14 feet by 15 feet. The second floor housed two large maids’ rooms. Outside stood a coal shed, a wood shed, a barn, a coachhouse, a harness room and two loose boxes as well as a greenhouse which measured 31 feet 6 inches by 9 feet 6 inches. The valuer commented: “Fairly good house. Rather imposing but hemmed in by small property and allotments. No fitted bath. Close on the road. Doubt if anyone would take house if Rev. Wyatt left”. In another section he commented: “Much too close to road. Motor buses noisy. Stafford Road and allotments have much depreciated value by spooling outlook”

Rev. Wyatt died on 29th December 1935 [FAC69/1]. The last directory for the county, that of 1940, lists the occupier as Raymond Benedict Hervey Wyatt. Just after World War Two the house was purchased by the Bedford Electricity Undertaking and an electricity substation built in the grounds [UDKP1049-1050]. The following year the house itself was divided into six flats [UDKP1103]. An ambulance and civil defence depot was built in 1952 [UDKP1812]; the ambulance depot was modernised in 1976 [PY/PH192/3] and is still is use [2013]. The house was demolished at the end of the 20th century.

The rear of Austin Canons in 1982 [Z50/67/93]
The rear of Austin Canons in 1982 [Z50/67/93]