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Shortgrove Manor Farm

Shortgrove Manor Farm in 1915 [SH102/11/1]
Shortgrove Manor Farm in 1915 [SH102/11/1]

Volume III of The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire was published in 1912 and gave the histories of manors in the Manshead Hundred. Shortgrove Manor extended into the parishes of Kensworth, Totternhoe, Studham and Whipsnade. It was given to Dunstable Priory by William de Cantlowe in 1209 and was held by the priory until it was dissolved by King Henry VIII (1509-1547) in 1540. The priory’s last tenant was William Belfield, whose rent was forty quarters of wheat per annum.

In 1546 the manor was granted to Sir Roger Cholmeley and Christiana, his wife. At some point they conveyed the manor to Sir Thomas Russell, Richard Lygon and Mary, his wife, as in 1567 they obtained a licence from Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) to sell it to Michael Lodge and Ellen, his wife.

The Lodge family held the manor until 1655 when Henry Lodge senior and his son, also Henry, sold it to Henry Honnor. He sold the manor, in 1712 to Thomas Cowslade. In 1774 John Cowslade, Thomas’ son, conveyed the manor to Frederick van der Meulen of Saint Albans [Hertfordshire] for £6,500 [BW192]. In his will of 1778, van der Meulen devised the manor to his son, Joseph Pomfret van der Meulen [BW192]. In 1837 Joseph’ son Frederick held the manor [BW192].

The manor seems to have been centred on Shortgrove Manor Farm which, in 1774 [BW192] is described as in the occupation of Thomas Simons. It then contained 317 acres, 1 rood 28 poles.

By 1915 Shortgrove Manor Farm was owned by the Pedley Family and formed part of the family’s holdings in Whipsnade put up for sale by auction. The sale particulars [SH102/11/1] read: “A Superior Residence of brick elevation with tiled roof, containing: on the Upper Floor – Six Bed Rooms and an Attic, on the Ground Floor – Entrance Lobby, Dining Room, Drawing Room, Kitchen, Pantry, Dairy and Wash-house, with Range of Out-offices. Garden”.

“Farm Premises adjoining, brick and timber built, with tiled, slated and corrugated roofing, of Nag Stable and Trap House, Cart Stable, Loose Boxes, Open Cattle Sheds, Pigsties and Mixing House, Corn Chamber and Granary, Large Barn with Fattening Box at end, Cow House, Cart Hovel and Sheep Yard, Fold and Rickyards, together with Enclosures of Pasture, Arable and Orchard Land abutting upon the road from Markyate to Dunstable”.

The land then comprised just 186 acres, 3 roods, 17 poles in both Totternhoe and Whipsnade. 74 acres, 2 roods, 36 poles of arable lay in Totternhoe and 27 acres, 1 rood in Whipsnade. Pasture comprised 11 acres, 3 roods, 11 poles in Totternhoe and 15 acres, 2 roods, 34 poles in Whipsnade. The remainder of the land consists of orchard, homestead and woodland. The tenant was Heath William Stanbridge who paid £101/5/- per annum in rent.

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 Shortgrove Manor Farm on 10th September 1926 [DV1/H23/52] and found it now owned as well as occupied by Heath William Stanbridge who had bought the place at the auction.

The farm now contained 236 acres. The valuer commented: “Not enough water for cattle. Lot of rough grass which had to be put in order with steam tackle. Repairs in buildings cost £50 per annum”. The “Good Farm” was in three parishes (Kensworth, Whipsnade and Totternhoe) and the homestead in two, as it fell on the boundary of Kensworth and Whipsnade.

The farmhouse comprised two reception rooms, a kitchen, a scullery, a pantry and a dairy with six bedrooms and an attic above. Water came from a well. The homestead comprised the following:

  • North Block: a brick and tile trap house; a lumber room; a stable for six with a loft over; a weather-boarded and tiled archway and three weather-boarded and corrugated iron calf boxes;
  • Round the North-West Yard: a timber, brick and tiled five bay open-fronted shed and a lean-to corrugated iron two bay shed;
  • Centre Block: a brick and tile granary with a loft over and a three bay open-fronted shed;
  • East Yard: three brick and tiled pigsties and a food store – in Whipsnade parish;
  • South Block: a weather-boarded and slated barn; two calf boxes; another calf box and a four bay open-fronted implement shelter;
  • West Block: a timber and brick earth closet’ a wood shed; a lumber shed; a fowl house and two store sheds.

In 1985 the farmhouse was transferred from the civil parish of Whipsnade into Kensworth [MDCP87/5]. Shortgrove Manor Farmhouse was listed by English Heritage in April 1986 as Grade II, of special interest. It dates from the early 18th century, being extended in the late 19th century. The main wing is constructed of dark red brick with dressings in a lighter colour. The extension is in the typical Luton grey brick. The roofs are of old clay tiles. The main wing comprises two storeys and attics with three rooms on each of the ground and first floors. The extension comprises two storeys