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Kensworth House

Kensworth House about 1910 [Z883/35]
Kensworth House about 1910 [Z883/35]

Kensworth House was listed by the former Ministry of Works in April 1952 as Grade II, of special interest. It is not an old property, dating only from the late 19th century. It is faced in roughcast and comprised two storeys beneath a Welsh slate roof. A single storey extension lies to the right-hand side. The left-hand side and part of rear of main block have an open verandah with wooden tracery. The listing notes: “House contains staircase and some windows supposedly taken from a house in Ealing where Queen Victoria lived as a child”.

When the house’s owner Francis Hamilton died, his estate was put up for sale by auction in July 1896 at which time the tenant was W. G. Batchelor who paid rent of £120 per annum on a twenty one year lease from 1878. The lease of the park was an extra £40 per annum. The particulars [P34/28/3] describe Kensworth House as a “well-built and convenient country residence, charmingly situated on high ground with a south-westerly aspect … The road leading to the House is bordered by a remarkably fine Beech Avenue, with Shrubberies &c. on one side and the Park on the other. It is approached by a Carriage Drive through the Front Grounds with Carriage Sweep and Terraced Lawn, and is a substantially built erection, with Cement and Painted exterior, a Portico at Front door, and Timber and Slated Verandah on the whole of the West Side”.

The basement comprised a store cellar with a shoot from the outside, a beer cellar and a lock-up wine cellar. The ground floor contained: a “lofty” entrance hall with principal staircase, with “Groined Corridor to Reception Rooms”; a study measuring 14 feet by 10 feet 6 inches “with French Casements”; a dining room measuring 28 feet 6 inches by 20 feet “opening under Verandah”; a drawing room measuring 28 feet by 19 feet 6 inches; a kitchen; a butler’s pantry; a housemaids’ closet; a scullery with a copper (for heating water), pump and “power ditto for supplying cisterns”; a larder; a servants’ hall, passage and lavatory; a back entrance, lobby and staircase; a dairy “and adjoining outside in the kitchen yard is Apple Room; Coal House; Knife House, Wood Barn, 2 Kennels with yards and Ash Shed”.

The first floor contained a landing, four “principal” bedrooms, a day nursery, a night nursery and dressing room, a W. C., three servants’ bedrooms and a box room and store room. The grounds “Surrounding the House on the south and west are tastefully laid out with Flower Beds, Parterres, Walks, Lawns and two with fine Tennis Courts. The Kitchen Gardens are well sheltered, walled in, and well stocked with choice Fruit Trees, with Forcing Frames, Water Tanks, and other conveniences. There is a Greenhouse, 24 feet by 21 feet near the House, and a brick, flint and slated Potting and Tool House adjoining”. Stables included five loose boxes, a harness room, a large coachhouse and a chaff house. “In the Stable is a convenient coachman’s cottage, containing Two Living Rooms, Scullery (with copper and sink), Washhouse and Two Bedrooms, with Privy outside. Adjoining the Stable is a small farmery comprising: - Timber and iron Cowhouse with standings; Small yard; and Two timber and slated Pig Styes. The Park is a piece of old sward, well watered, and surrounds the House and Grounds. It is studded with some fine Timber and Clumps of Trees, and belted with plantations all along the public road”.

The house, and the estate, was evidently built by Dunstable brewer Benjamin Bennett. Directories for Bedfordshire were not published every year but every few years from the early to mid 19th century until 1940. Kensworth is first listed in a Bedfordshire directory in 1898, having been transferred from Hertfordshire the year before. The occupier of Kensworth House is listed as Benjamin Bennett in directories of 1898, 1903, 1906 and 1910. The directory of 1914 lists his widow. the remaining directories, 1920, 1924, 1928, 1931, 1936 and 1940 list Stanley Jones Bennett.

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. Kensworth, like much of the county, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting Kensworth House [DV1/C114/65] found it owned and occupied by Stanley Bennett, he noted: “Mr. Bennett away in Italy. Nobody at home said caretakers. House about 100 years old. No central heating. Water – own water-tower. Lighting – oil lamps. Drainage – cess-pit. Dunstable Station 3 miles”.

The ground floor comprised an entrance hall measuring 13 feet by 18 feet 3 inches, a drawing room measuring 19 feet by 28 feet 6 inches, a dining room measuring 19 feet by 28 feet 6 inches, a kitchen measuring 21 feet by 16 feet, a scullery (“dark”), a servants’ sitting room measuring 12 feet 9 inches by 9 feet 9 inches (“new”), a larder, a lumber room, a cellar (“small”), a butcher’s pantry, a study measuring 14 feet by 10 feet 3 inches and a billiard room measuring 29 feet 9 inches by 22 feet (“really another large reception room”).

The first floor contained a bathroom, a dressing or box room measuring 14 feet 3 inches by 11 feet and bedrooms measuring, respectively, 19 feet 3 inches by 13 feet 9 inches, 10 feet by 19 feet 3 inches (plus a bay of 4 feet by 15 feet 3 inches), 12 feet 3 inches by 19 feet 3 inches and 15 feet 6 inches by 19 feet 3 inches. A bedroom used as a store room measured 14 feet 3 inches by 14 feet with a bay measuring 10 feet by 5 feet. Down seven steps lay a W. C., (annotated to read “and servants’ bathroom”), a boxroom, a servants’ sitting room measuring 14 feet 6 inches by 8 feet with a bay measuring 5 feet 9 inches by 6 feet, a smaller servants’ sitting room and a lumber room (“small”).

Outside, adjoining the house, stood an old washhouse, four coalhouses and a woodhouse. Three blocks in the garden were annotated A, to D. Block A comprised a glasshouse (“fernery, could be heated) measuring 17 feet 9 inches by 40 feet, a conservatory (“could be heated”) measuring 19 feet by 50 feet 6 inches and a glasshouse measuring 11 feet 9 inches by 40 feet 3 inches. Block B was a heated cucumber house measuring 9 feet 3 inches by 43 feet 3 inches. Block C comprised a glass house (“could be heated”) measuring 15 feet by 74 feet 3 inches, and a smaller lean-to glasshouse measuring 8 feet 9 inches by 71 feet 9 inches: “This block of glass – very fine but has not been heated since war except cucumber house”. Block D comprised a potting shed, a weather-boarded and corrugated iron garage (“4 small cars used as a store room”) measuring 18 feet by 21 feet. There was also brick and slate stabling “used for storing a few things” comprising five loose boxes and a harness room. A coachhouse (“not used, double doors”) and another coachhouse (“used for caretaker’s car”) completed the outbuildings on site. Over the road was a further block comprising two unheated glasshouses measuring 14 feet by 49 feet 9 inches and 64 feet by 12 feet, an old corrugated iron well house and engine room with a 2¾ horsepower engine and a brick and tile water tower.

The valuer opined: “A charming place, but neglected and evidently seldom lived in. No lighting. One bath”.

During World War Two the house had a near miss. On 30th August 1940 nineteen German bombs dropped in two fields in Kensworth, four of these were unexploded, one of which was near the house [WW2/AR/CO/2/1].

The house was put up for sale by auction on 16th October 1950 by the tenant for life, Mrs. L. C. S. Bennett, and the particulars [BML10/38/10] noted the following:

  • Entrance Hall, 18 feet 6 inches by 17 feet with tiled fireplace and carved oak mantel;
  • Library, 30 feet by 22 feet. A lofty panelled library with polished oak floor and fitted with mahogany bookshelves;
  • Dining Room, 28 feet 6 inches by 19 feet 6 inches;
  • Lounge, 28 feet 6 inches by 19 feet 6 inches;
  • Office, 14 feet by 10 feet, fitted with cupboards and shelving;
  • Kitchen, 19 feet 6 inches by 13 feet, with Esse Premier cooker and sink;
  • Scullery, 13 feet by 12 feet 6 inches, with double sink and plate racks;
  • Dairy, 10 feet by 7 feet 6 inches, with shelving;
  • Butler’s Pantry, 11 feet 6 inches by 6 feet 6 inches, now Bathroom, fitted with bath and cloakroom fitted with two basins and sink;
  • Cellars – extensive cellarage;
  • Housekeeper’s Room, 12 feet 6 inches by 10 feet, with tiled fireplace, kerb and marble mantelpiece;
  • Small Storeroom now two separate W. Cs.;
  • Boiler Room with Domestic Boiler No. 15D; Laundry with two sinks;

On the First Floor

  • The First Floor is approached by an easy staircase with wrought iron balusters and mahogany handrail.
  • Bedroom No. 1, 19 feet 6 inches by 14 feet;
  • Bedroom No. 2, 19 feet 6 inches by 14 feet;
  • Bedroom No. 3, 19 feet 6 inches by 12 feet 6 inches;
  • Bedroom No. 4 19 feet 6 inches by 15 feet 6 inches;
  • Bedroom No. 5, 19 feet 6 inches by 14 feet;
  • Bedroom No. 6, 18 feet by 14 feet 6 inches with adjoining bathroom, now converted into ablution room containing; - 5 lavatory basins and three baths; W. C.;

The Servants’ quarters adjoining comprise:

  • Servant’s Bedroom No. 1, 13 feet 6 inches by 9 feet 6 inches;
  • Servant’s Bedroom No. 2, 17 feet 6 inches by 9 feet, fitted hot water radiator;
  • Servant’s Bedroom No. 3, 10 feet by 8 feet; Bathroom with basin, bath and W. C.; Trunk Store; Box Room

Services
Main electricity, modern drainage to septic tank.
Water is pumped by an electric pump from a well in the grounds.

THE GARDENS AND GROUNDS
Extending to some 5 acres, 2 roods, 5 poles

Comprise ornamental and pleasure gardens with tennis and croquet lawns, ornamental trees, large walled-in kitchen garden and copses.

Outbuildings

  • Range of brick and slate Outbuildings comprising four Coal and Wood Stores;
  • Brick and slate Garage; Timber and iron Garage;
  • Large timber and iron double Coach-house.

There are extensive glass-houses, viz:

  • Conservatory No. 1, 39 feet 6 inches by 16 feet 6 inches with ornamental pond;
  • Conservatory No. 2, 50 feet by 19 feet;
  • Conservatory No. 3, 40 feet by 10 feet 9 inches;
  • Cucumber House;
  • Peach House and Vinery, 74 feet 6 inches by 24 feet, with figs, peaches and vines;
  • Potting Shed.

Adjoining the kitchen garden is a

MODERN STONE AND SLATED
BUTLER’S COTTAGE

Comprising

On the Ground Floor

  • Hall with tiled floor and cupboard;
  • Dining Room with dresser and combination grate;
  • Sitting Room with tiled fireplace and oak surround;
  • Scullery with sink, draining board, copper and cupboard;
  • Larder.

On the First Floor

  • Bedroom No. 1, with built-in cupboard;
  • Bedroom No. 2, with built-in cupboard;
  • Bedroom No. 3;
  • Bedroom No. 4;
  • Bedroom No. 5;
  • Bathroom with bath, basin and W. C.

The Outbuildings comprise

  • Brick and iron coal barn;
  • Store shed with shelving;
  • W. C.

Main Electricity is connected and Water laid on

These quarters are let, together with a small part of O. S. [field] 131 at a rental
of

£16:18:0 per annum

(Landlord paying rates)

The Parklands having an area of 20 acres, 0 roods, 15 poles are let to Mr. W. Mardle at a nominal rental of £25 per annum.

Kensworth House seen from Common Road January 2013
Kensworth House seen from Common Road January 2013