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Church End Farm Kensworth

Church End Farmhouse in 1928 [Z720/1/36]
Church End Farmhouse in 1928 [Z720/1/36]

In the mid 18th century Church End Farm was in the ownership of Jane Cart’s Charity. Jane Cart had been born Jane Chew and had married James Cart, a London merchant. In 1736 she conveyed a number of pieces of land in Edlesborough [Buckinghamshire], Kensworth, Dunstable, Cardington and Bedford to trustees to establish a charity to assist poor prisoners in London prisons, poor clergymen and the widows of clergymen. The land in Kensworth was described as being in the occupation of Richard Whitley the elder and Richard Whitley the younger together with land, unfortunately not described in detail, in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

In 1789 the Cart Charity trustees leased the farm for 21 years to Daniel Fossey of Kensworth for £105 per annum [BH437]. The farm is described as comprising 246 acres and being formerly in the occupation of Thomas Simons, deceased. It also included two properties on Kensworth Green formerly occupied by Thomas Simons and John Walker, but then John Sharpe and Richard Durrant and a property in Church End (divided into two tenements) formerly occupied by John Deacon, but then John Ellingham and John Byrchmoor.

A map of 1855 [BH466] shows the land owned by the farm which is described as being occupied by George Hopkins. In 1904 a man rejoicing in the name of Young Jem Blow succeeded as tenant of the farm [Z720/247/1]. He gave up the tenancy in 1911 and it then passed to William Henry and William Joseph Cripps [Z720/247].

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 Church End Farm, in the afternoon of 13th September 1926, [DV1/H25/6] found it still owned by Cart’s Charity and occupied by William Joseph Cripps at a rent of £250, fixed in 1916, for 272 acres. The valuer noted: “House Good. Lamps. Much of the farm is a long way from the homestead, [water] from well pumped by engine. Drainage by septic tank”. Another hand has written: “Bad Shape” and “Old House as Granary”.

The farmhouse comprised two reception rooms, a kitchen, scullery, diary, pantry, cellar and office with five bedrooms, a bathroom and W. C. upstairs. Outside stood a brick and tile W. C. and a brick, tile and corrugated iron wood barn. The homestead was broken down into eight groups plus another group at Mount Pleasant. They were described as follows [see the image below]:

  • A: a brick and slate coachhouse (“old”);
  • B: three brick, timber and tiled a hen house and two loose boxes;
  • C: a brick, timber and corrugated iron six bay cart hovel; a brick, timber and tile loose box; a three bay open hovel; a barn with a concrete floor; two calf pens; a large barn and a wood barn;
  • D: a brick, timber and corrugated iron stable for eight; a chaff house; a loose box and a timber and corrugated iron implement shed;
  • E: an old brick and tile farmhouse used as a granary; a brick, timber and tile engine house with a five horsepower engine, shafting for a pump with fast and loose pulley and a mill;
  • F: brick, timber and corrugated iron double four bay feeding hovel;
  • G: brick and slate henhouse; two loose boxes and a trap house;
  • Mount Pleasant (“rarely used”): three brick and slate loose boxes; a four bay open hovel with a manger; a timber and slate loose box and hovel.

Church End Farm buildings in 1926 [DV2/F33]
Church End Farm buildings in 1926 [DV2/F33]

In 1928 the charity decided to sell the farm. The sale particulars [Z720/1/36] note that title to the farm began with the deed of 1736 endowing Jane Cart’s Charity. The particulars detailed a porch, an entrance hall, a large dining room with a marble mantel, a spacious drawing room with white enamelled overmantel, an office or morning room, a kitchen with a range and boiler for hot water supply, a scullery, a dairy, a larder, cellarage, six bed and dressing rooms, a bathroom with hot and cold water, enamelled bath and lavatory basin, a W. C. and a linen cupboard. Outside stood a washhouse, a W. C. and coal barn. They also noted: “Drainage to a Septic Tank. Workshop, Stabling for 3, Harness Room and Coach House. Pretty Pleasure Garden and Walled Kitchen Garden”.

The particulars also detail an “Engine Shed and Well House with Hornsby 5 h.p. Oil Engine and Pump supplying Water to the House and Homestead” . This had replaced a donkey driven wheel, which was a common device in Kensworth for raising water. The farm amounted to 272.022 acres of which 237.707 acres were arable and 29.99 acres were grass, the rest being woodland, orchard and buildings. The particulars state: “Included in the foregoing total are sixty acres of valuable building land close to Watling Street with frontage to the Kensworth Road and standing on high ground with good views which could be readily developed in Fields numbered 54, 58 and 59”.

In 1943 the farm was again put up for sale when the Kensworth Estate was broken up. The auction sale particulars [BML10/38/11] state that the farmhouse comprised an entrance hall, a dining room, a drawing room, a kitchen with a range, a maid’s sitting room, a scullery “with “Ideal” Domestic Boiler and Larder”, on the first floor five bedrooms, a bathroom with bath and wash basin, a W. C. and a linen cupboard. A washhouse, W. C. and wood and corrugated iron barn stood outside. “The water supply is pumped to Tanks in the roof from a Well on the Farm premises. The Tenant has wired the House for Electricity, the supply being available. There is a nice Garden in front of the House enclosed by an iron fence and near an extensive walled-in kitchen garden well stocked with fruit trees”.

The farm buildings comprised an elevator shed, a range of nag stabling, a harness room and a coachhouse. The main range included a pump house “with old donkey tread wheel dated from 1688 now replaced by a Motor driven Pump which draws water from the Well for the House and Buildings. The old Farm House now used as a store”. The rest of the range comprised a modern cowshed for thirteen beasts with tubular fittings, water bowls and feeding passage, a cooling place and mixing room, a harness room, a barn, three loose boxes, two sheltered yards with a four bay hovel, bull box, cowshed for six, calf place, three loose boxes, a six bay implement shed, granary, tractor house and new five bay Dutch barn. Mount Pleasant still had a range of buildings including a pump house and well. Two brick and slate cottages were included with the farm, each of two bedrooms, a living room, scullery, washhouse, barn and pail closet.

The land now comprised 285.282 acres of which 260.998 acres were arable, 13.277 acres were pasture, 4.014 acres were paddocks and the rest was woodland, roads and buildings. 253.293 acres were let to George John Riddy, of Bury Farm, on a seven year lease from 1937 at £169 per annum. Most of the remainder was let to W. Samm on a seven year lease from 1938 at £18/15/- per annum. A small area of woodland remained in the hands of the estate.

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 farmers at Church End Farm listed in directories are as follows: 1898 and 1903 George Flemons Hopkins; 1906 and 1910 Young Jem Blow; 1914, 1920, 1024 and 1928 William Joseph Cripps; 1931 and 1936 David Young and 1940 Robert Henry Preston.

The Old Farmhouse at Church End Farm was listed by the former Department of Environment in March 1977 as Grade II, of special interest. The building is constructed of brick – red stretchers (bricks placed lengthways, longest part parallel with the direction of the wall) and grey headers with an old clay tiled roof. The house comprises two storeys and dates from the 17th or early 18th century. Some timber framing is visible in the south-east wall.