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West Manor Farm Milton Ernest

West Manor Farmhouse 1962 [Z53/82/8]
West Manor Farmhouse 1962 [Z53/82/8]

West Manor Farmhouse was listed by English Heritage in August 1987 as Grade II, of special interest. Its origins lie in the 17th century and it was altered and extended in the 19th century. The house is constructed from coursed limestone rubble, with an old clay tiled roof. The property includes a back-to-back fireplace between two rooms on the ground floor.

The farmhouse represents Weedon's, a farm, homestead, yard and garden belonging to men whose names were Thomas Fisher of Caldecot [Warwickshire], Ellis Shipley Pestell of Ashby-da-la-Zouche [Leicestershire] and Samuel Wyatt of Burton-on-Trent [Staffordshire] in 1804 [Award Book E]. They were Lords of the Manor of Babs or Balls. Land Tax records indicate that these three men owned land in Milton Ernest in 1797/8, when tenanted by John Barratt, though it is not known where the land was but, presumably, it included West Manor Farm and farmhouse. By 1801 the tenant was Vincent Millard and in 1802/3 Charles Duncombe. This land was, presumably, the same piece as at all three dates it is taxed at £22/17/-. In 1804 Fisher, Pestell and Wyatt's property, and thus the manor, seems to have been divided between two tenants, William Barringer (rental £179/3/11) and John Robinson (rental £36) [P80/5/2]. In 1808 Robinson seems to have become tenant of both and paid both sets of rates until 1815. There is then a gap in the rate book until 1819 by which time the tenancy seems to have passed to James Lamb. Fisher, Pestell and Wyatt seem to have sold the manor, including the farm, about 1804 to a man referred to as Serjeant Vaughan, which seems to indicate that he was a lawyer, a serjeant-at-law. The Northampton Mercury of 3rd March 1804 has the following advertisement.

"MANOR and ESTATE in BEDFORDSHIRE
To be SOLD by AUCTION
At the Swan Inn, in Bedford, on Saturday the 17th Day of March 1804, about Four o'Clock in the Afternoon, unless previously disposed of by Private Contract"

"A Very valuable and desirable Freehold MANOR and ESTATE, situate in and adjoining the Parish of MILTON-ERNESS, in the County of Bedford; comprising the Manor of Babbs, in Milton-Erness; with the Fishery and other Rights thereto belonging; a Farm-House, with the requisite Out-buildings, in the Occupation of James Duncomb; a Wood, of 16 Acres, well planted and very flourishing; 58A. 3R. 16P. of ancient inclosed Pasture Ground; 226A. 3R. 6P. of newly allotted Arable, Ley, and Meadow Ground; and three Cottages or Tenements, with Orchards or Gardens thereto belonging".

"May be viewed by applying to Mr. Duncomb, on the Premises; and a Plan of the Estate may be seen by applying to Mr. Gee, Land-Surveyor, Turvey. This Estate (unless particularly wished to be sold together) is intended to be divided into Lots according to a printed Particular; which, as well as further Particulars, may be had of Mr. DAY, Solicitor, St. Neots".

At some unknown date between 1832 and 1845 the land passed from the Vaughan family to the Egerton family, Earls of Bridgewater. Between 1864 and 1869 the farm, with the manor, was sold to Joseph Tucker. Ledgers and Rentals for the Pavenham Estate [LJ3/1] show that the tenant in 1874 was Benjamin Crisp. He died about 1888 and the subsequent tenant was Hugh Andrew from 1890 until the estate was sold by Joseph Tucker Burton Alexander in 1909. The sale particulars [X65/69] describe West Manor Farm as Lot 6 with 269 acres, 3 roods, 24 poles of land. The farm was still let to Hugh Andrew for £165 per annum, directories tell us that he was still the tenant in 1924.

The farmhouse is described as: "well built of Stone and Rough Cast. It contains ON THE GROUND FLOOR - Entrance Hall, Drawing Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, Scullery, dairy &c.; and ON THE UPPER FLOORS - Five Bed Rooms. There is also attached an excellent Garden and well stocked Orchard". The farm buildings: "Are conveniently placed at a short distance to the rear of the dwelling. They consist of an excellent Modern Farmstead, Brick and Slated, comprising Two Cattle Yards with necessary Shedding, Barn, Cart Horse Stable for five, Piggeries and a very large Cow House and Dutch Barn".

The fields were listed as follows:

  • House, buildings, yard and garden: 2 acres, 2 roods, 8 poles
  • Poultry Run: 1 rood, 36 poles of pasture
  • Poultry Run: 2 rods, 1 pole of pasture
  • Home Close: 2 acres, 3 roods, 34 poles of pasture
  • Thirty Acres: 28 acres, 1 rood of arable
  • Garden adjoining the railway: 1 rood, 19 poles of arable
  • Gravel Pit Close: 22 acres, 36 poles of arable
  • Osier bed: 1 acre, 2 roods, 24 poles of osiers
  • The Patch: 5 acres,1 rood, 8 poles of pasture
  • Great Meadow: 17 acres, 8 poles of pasture
  • Island: 1 rood, 3 poles of pasture
  • Seed Close: 28 acres, 15 poles of pasture
  • Little Meadow: 10 acres, 36 poles of pasture
  • Babs Close: 12 acres, 5 poles of pasture
  • Hatchet Close and Ivory Hill: 33 acres, 3 roods, 35 poles of arable
  • Twenty Stitch: 21 acres, 3 roods, 22 poles of pasture
  • Church Green and Wood Close: 38 acres, 3 roods, 18 poles of pasture
  • Hermitage Close: 19 acres, 2 roods, 7 poles of pasture
  • Hermitage Close in Thurleigh parish: 2 roods, 8 poles of pasture
  • Hermitage Close in Clapham parish: 5 acres, 3 roods of pasture
  • Great Close in Clapham parish: 16 acres, 2 roods, 32 poles of pasture
  • Great Close in Thurleigh parish: 1 rood, 29 poles of pasture.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 stated that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. The valuer visiting West Manor Farm [DV1/H19/8] found it owned and occupied by John Underwood. It comprised 196 acres. “90 acres Milton Ernest glebe rented in addition about 30/- per acre. Farm rather scattered”. Another hand wrote, on 21st February 1927: “Bought very cheaply from JRES [?] – land on North bad. House fair. Buildings good serve in all 286 acres. Position of homestead bad for working farm. North land a long way off”.

The farmhouse contained two reception rooms, a kitchen, a scullery, two dairies, four bedrooms (“large”) and one small bedroom. Outside was a store room as well as an earth closet. Water came from a pump in the yard where there was also an old timber and corrugated iron shelter shed and two brick and tiled fowl houses.

The homestead, all built from brick and slate (“very good”), comprised the following:

  • West range pigsty, trap house, loose box, five stall stable and chaffhouse, loose box and very large loose box
  • North range two large loose boxes (“mangers”), cow house for eight with mixing room and loft over part, three bay open shed
  • East range large barn, five bay implement shed
  • Centre cow house for twenty (“very good”), two pigsties, two bay shelter
  • Rickyard old timber and corrugated iron straw shed

In 1990 planning permission was sought for a first floor extension and a detached garage [BorBTP/90/0814/LB].

West Manor Farmhouse February 2011
West Manor Farmhouse February 2011