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Bury Farm Kensworth

Bury Farm in the 1870s [Z883/36]
Bury Farm in the 1870s [Z883/36]

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county’s historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The entry for Bury Farm [HER 12,711] is just a summary but further information, available direct from the Central Bedfordshire Council's Historic Environment Record, includes a description of the manor house of The Manor of Kensworth from a translation of the lease of 1152: "The great hall of this manor is 35 feet long, 30 feet wide and 22 feet high, 11 feet under the beams and 11 feet above. The room, which is between the hall and bedchamber, is 12 feet in length, 17 feet wide and 17 feet high, 10 under the beams and 7 above. the bedchamber is 22 feet long, 16 feet wide, 18 feet high, 9 under the beams and 9 over. The cowhouse is 33 feet long, 12 feet wide, 13 feet high. The sheepshed is 39 feet long, 12 feet wide and 22 feet high. The house for lambs is 24 feet long, 12 feet wide and 12 feet high".

A draft lease of 1299, recorded in Bedfordshire Historical Record Society Volume I, published in 1913 (page 85) describes the manor house and farmstead as: "a small hall with a small chamber at one end and a small very serviceable thatched spence [a buttery or pantry] at the other end. Item a small very serviceable thatched bakehouse. Item three serviceable barns. Item one very serviceable cowhouse. Item a very serviceable sheepcote within the yard and a building for storing straw at one end of it beneath the same roof".

In 1870 J. E. Cussans published his History of Hertfordshire, in which county Kensworth lay until 1897.He stated: "In the Summer of 1877, when a portion of the Old Bury adjoining the church was being rebuilt, many wrought stones were found, some with the familiar dog-tooth moulding built in the walls. There can be little doubt that these stones came originally from the church and as the late building did not date from an earlier period than Elizabeth, this is the third time they have been used in the construction of the Bury". His assertion that the stones came from the church may not necessarily be correct, they may have come from the great hall of the original medieval manor house.

Volume II The Victoria County History for Hertfordshire, in which Kensworth was until 1897, wa published in 1908. It says of Bury Farm, or Burystead: "once the manor-house, has been much altered, but a little of the old oak panelling remains". The current farmhouse is certainly not medieval but all this evidence, together with the site adjacent to the church, the classic site for a medieval manor house, all points to it being built on or very near the site of the medieval manor house for Kensworth Manor.

Bury Farm and farmhouse - photograph from the Historic Environment Record
Bury Farm and farmhouse - photograph from the Historic Environment Record

In 1694 Robert Crawley of Dunstable, “doctor in Phisick” made his will and devised his lease of “Berrystead in Kensworth “which I farm and rent of the Dean and Chapter of Saint Paul’s, London” [BORDV13/1] to his wife Joan. The Dean and Chapter were the Lords of the Manor of Kensworth. Crawley’s will was proved in January 1695 and in July 1701 his wife made her will [BORDV13/2] in which she devised the lease to her son John but charged it with legacies of £200 each to her four daughters Elizabeth, Mary, Martha and Catherine. Her will was proved in July 1702.

In July 1855 the Dean and Chapter leased the farm, along with Downs Farm, to Thomas Fossey for an annual rent £22 reserved to the patron for the augmentation of the endowment of Kensworth Vicarage; and delivery to the Vicar of Kensworth of five quarters of “good and sweet” wheat and four quarters of “good and sweet” barley with payment by the Vicar of 6/8 and 3/4 respectively along with each quarter so received [CCE3844/1]. In 1866 the Dean and Chapter conveyed the farms to Fossey [CCE3844/1].

In 1914 a valuation was carried out on the death of the previous tenant William Morton before George Morton, took over. The valuation noted the following rooms and their contents [BML10/38/5]: dining room – a mahogany dining table and six chairs; drawing room – Brussels carpet and felting, hearthrug, square mahogany table and wicker chair; bedroom over the dining room – three door slips and linoleum; bedroom over the pantry – linoleum, oval fronted mahogany chest of drawers, swing glass, washstand and ware, painted linen chest, corner cupboard and six Windsor chairs.

The fields, with their crops, valued at £262/3/-, were as follows [BML10/38/5]:

  • Barings Hill – 18 acres of sainfoin;
  • Bury Hill – 27 acres of straw;
  • Bury Hinchly – 14 acres of cow grass; 14 acres of barley; 5 acres of swedes; 4 acres of mangolds; 2 acres of vetch; 2 acres fallow;
  • Church Field – 8 acres of straw; 8 acres of winter oats;
  • Clover Stover – 18 acres of beans;
  • Down Dell – 12 acres each of white clover, barley and straw;
  • Fourteen Acres – 13 acres of beans;
  • Glebe – 11 acres of winter oats;
  • Hunt Leys – 16 acres;
  • Pitchering – 18 acres, fallow; 18 acres of barley;
  • Sliding Hill – 8 acres, 2 roods of straw;
  • Stripers Hill – 18 acres, fallow; 7 acres of barley; 18 acres of winter oats; 16 acres of spring oats;
  • Ten Acre Bottom – 25 acres of mixed seeds;
  • Trefoil Haulm – 4 acres of beans.

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 visited Bury Farm in the afternoon of 13th August 1926. He found that it was then owned by Frederick Thomas Fossey and still occupied by George Morton whose rent was £380 since 1914 for 324 acres. The valuer noted: “Water from well 230 feet deep, treadmill driven by donkey” [a common feature in Kensworth]. He went on: “Lamps. Buildings fair”. Another hand has written: “Not farmed so well, it was Good Farm. Know it well”.

The farmhouse comprised two reception rooms, two kitchens, a dairy, pantry, a cellar and a well house with five bedrooms and a dressing room above. Outside stood a brick, half timbered and tiled earth closet in the garden and a brick and slate wood barn, donkey house and barn.

The homestead was divided into six blocks as follows [see the illustration below]:

  • A: brick, timbered and slate hen house; a gig house; a cowhouse for four; three loose boxes with a loft over and three brick, timber and tile pigsties;
  • B: a brick and slate loose box and a four bay open hovel;
  • C: a large brick, timber and slate barn and a brick and slate five bay hovel;
  • D: a large brick, timber and slate barn and loose box; a brick, timber and tiled stable for five; a chaff house with a loft over; a stable for seven and a loose box;
  • E: a timber and thatch nag stable and loose box, brick and tile henhouse, coal and wood barns;
  • F: a brick, timber and slate five bay cart hovel.

Frederick Thomas Fossey died in 1928 and the farm was devised to his executors [CCE3844/1]. Downs Farm was sold in 1930 and in 1932 part of Bury Farm amounting to 177.523 acres was sold to William Fossey Davis, the farmer [CCE3844/1]. Directories for Bedfordshire were not published every year but every few years from the early to mid 19th century until 1940.

The first time Kensworth appears in a Bedfordshire directory is 1898 as the parish was in Hertfordshire until 1897. The following farmers at Bury Farm are listed: 1898, 1903, 1906, 1910 and 1914 the executors of William Morton; 1920, 1924, 1928 and 1931 George Morton and 1940 George John Riddy. In the early years of the 21st century the barns at the farm were converted into living accommodation [P34/2/3/21].

Bury Farm homestead in 1926 [DV2/F33]
Bury Farm homestead in 1926 [DV2/F33]