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Highlands Farm - 33 Bedford Road Northill

Highlands Farm sign August 2010
Highlands Farm sign August 2010

Highlands farmhouse was listed by the former Department of Environment in March 1985 as Grade II, of special interest. It is built of red brick and has slate roofs. It was restored in the 20th century. In 1798 the farm was owned by the Lord of the Manor of Northill, John Robinson. The Northill Estate was sold at auction in 1802 and the sale particulars [HY74] detailed Highlands farm as Lot 2, the farmhouse is not described in detail but the land is detailed as:

  • 27. Eight Acres, or South Stockings – Arable – 8 acres, 2 roods, 19 poles;
  • 28. The Nine Acres – Arable – 9 acres, 1 rood, 10 poles;
  • 29. The Spinney – Wood – 1 acre;
  • 30. The Seven Acres – Pasture – 7 acres, 29 poles;
  • 31. North Stockings – Arable – 18 acres, 1 rood, 33 poles;
  • 32. The Spinney adjoining – Wood – 3 roods, 11 poles;
  • 33. The Fourteen Acre Spinney – Wood – 3 roods, 20 poles;
  • 34. The Fourteen Acres – Arable – 14 acres, 20 poles;
  • 35. The Six Acres – Arable – 6 acres, 3 roods;
  • 36. The Seventeen Acres – Wood – 17 acres, 3 roods, 2 poles;
  • 37. The Small Spinney – Wood – 1 rod, 28 poles;
  • 38. The Larger Spinney – Wood – 2 acres, 2 roods, 10 poles;
  • 39. The Five Acres – pasture – 5 acres, 3 roods, 9 poles;
  • 40. The Fifteen Acres – Arable – 15 acres, 2 roods, 10 poles;
  • 41. The Eleven Acres – Pasture – 11 acres, 1 rood, 32 poles;
  • 42. The Spinney adjoining – Wood – 6 acres, 3 roods, 37 poles;
  • 43. The Farm House, Three Barns, Cow House, Granary, cart Hovel, Pig Cotes, Poultry Houses, yards and Gardens, together with a Close of Land – Pasture – 4 acres, 1 rood, 31 poles;
  • 44. The Three Corner Piece – Arable – 11 acres, 1 rood, 10 poles;
  • 45. The Thirteen Acres – Arable – 13 acres, 1 rood, 38 poles;
  • 46. The Spinney adjoining – Wood – 1 acre  2 roods, 9 poles.

A total of 158 acres, 1 rood, 38 poles “The whole of Lot II is held by Mr. William Lamb, Tenant at Will, excepting Nos. 29, 32, 33, 37, 38, 42 and 46 which are in Hand”. The particulars are annotated with the figure £4,600. Lamb also tenanted Lamb’s High Lands Farm, which comprised:

  • 47. The Twenty Three Acres – Arable – 23 acres, 1 rood, 9 poles;
  • 48. The Eleven Acres – Arable – 11 acres, 3 roods, 27 poles;
  • 49. The Twenty Acres – Arable – 20 acres, 3 roods, 14 poles;
  • 50. The Spinney adjoining – Wood – 2 acres, 38 poles;
  • 51. The Twenty Acres (now in Two) – Meadow and pasture – 20 acres, 2 roods;
  • 52. The Spinney adjoining – Wood – 3 roods, 1 pole;
  • 53 and 54. The Ten Acres (now one Field) – Arable – 3 roods, 33 poles and 10 acres, 6 poles.

A total of 90 acres, 10 poles “The whole of Lot III is held by Mr. William Lamb, Tenant at Will, excepting Nos 50 and 52 which are in Hand”.

The particulars are annotated with the note that both lots, with others, were purchased by Isaac Hindley, who may have been an agent. Certainly, in 1805 Highlands Farm, comprising 248 acres, 2 roods, 8 poles (i.e. the two lots above), was conveyed by Robinson’s trustees, Lord Braybrook and William Clive, to William Walker of Gravel Lane, Houndsditch [Middlesex], sugar refiner [HY466-467].

A barn at Highlands Farm in 1973 [X97/6]
A barn at Highlands Farm in 1973 [X97/6]

The former Department of Environment considered that the farmhouse was built by Walker as in 1825 he sold both Highlands Farm, the farmhouse described as “newly erected”, and Sweetbriar Farm, Old Warden, to Jeremiah Rosher of Northfleet [Kent] for £17,490 [HY474-475]. Rosher sold the two farms to John Harvey of Ickwell Bury in 1858 for £20,000 [HY478-479], Harvey immediately mortgaging them to Rosher to secure a loan of £12,000 [HY480] which was redeemed in 1866 [HY481].

On 12th August 1880 a water test was carried out at Highlands Farm [P10/2/1/14] the results of which were as follows:

  • Chlorine: 19 grains per gallon;
  • Free Ammonia: 0.015 parts per million;
  • Albumenoid Ammonia: 0.18 parts per million;
  • Total Hardness: 5 degrees;

The tester commented: “All your waters analyzed by us have contained large accounts of Chlorine, which may arise from the Soil, instead of from urea”. He concluded: “This water would be conducive to diarrhoea”.

Highlands Farmhouse in 1973 [X97/8]
Highlands Farmhouse in 1973 [X97/8]

The Ickwell Bury Estate was sold at auction in 1924. The sale particulars [AD1147/16] describe Highlands Farm as follows:

LOT 45

Holdings   .. .. Highlands Farm and Woodlands
Tenants    .. ..
Messrs VINCENT & SONS, and In Hand
Area  .. ..
About 222 a. 3 r. 31 p.
Tenancy   .. ..
Yearly, October 11th

A Useful Mixed Holding
with two Cottages and Woodlands

It comprises: -

A SUBSTANTIAL BRICK AND TILED DWELLING HOUSE
containing: - Hall, four Sitting Rooms, Kitchen, Larder, Stores, Dairy, Pantry with Six Bed Rooms and Attic.

OUT OFFICES AND GOOD WALLED GARDEN

THE FARM BUILDINGS of brick and Timber construction with Tiled and thatched Roofs, for a good Stock Yard, and comprise: - Three Calf Pens, cart Shed and Calf pens with Lofts over, three-bay Barn, Cow Shed for 16, three-bay Barn and Lean-to Engine House and Chaff House.

Brick Built and Tiled Range of
STABLES for 2, 3 and 4 with Coach House and Loose Box, two-bay Open Shed and Pigsty and four Pigsties.

In [Field Number] 118 is
A PAIR OF MODERN BRICK-BUILT AND TILED COTTAGES
each containing four Rooms with Out Offices and GoodGardens. Company’s Water

THE WOODLANDS contain some Valuable matured Timber, principally oak, some of which is of large dimensions. 

The farm contained totals of: 59.333 acres of arable, 54.763 acres of rough ground, 46.692 acres of woodland, 23.201 acres of mixed arable and pasture, 7.009 acres of pasture, 0.969 of an acre of orchard and 0.434 of an acre of water.

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. Northill was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting Highlands Farm [DV1/H40/24] found it owned by the Shuttleworth Estate and occupied by Vincent and Sons of Oak Farm, Old Warden, who paid £160/19/2 per annum in rent, which had been fixed in 1922. The farm comprised 185 acres. The valuer noted: “House now occupied by 2 labourers. Buildings very bad – 3 thatched ranges. Repairs generally bad – house roof corrugated iron. Poorish farm – mostly grass of fair to middling quality”.

The farmhouse comprised a basement cellar, on the ground floor two kitchens, a scullery, two living rooms, a w. c. and a hall with six bedrooms and a bathroom on the first floor. A lawn and kitchen garden lay outside. Mains water was laid on. The valuer noted that the two labourers in residence were John William Kiteley and John Hart.

Farm buildings were as follows:

  • North: a wood and tiled barn (“old and dilapidated”);
  • East: a brick and tiled stable for sixteen horses (“very bad repair – all used as pigsty”); a range of four pigsties;
  • South: a two bay open hovel; a wood and thatched barn;
  • West: a wood and thatched cowhouse for sixteen beasts and a hay house.

The interior of Highlands Farmhouse in 1973 [X97/10]
The interior of Highlands Farmhouse in 1973 [X97/10]

In The Bedfordshire Magazine Volume 25, pages 231-236 (1996) local architect John Manning described in an article called “Back from the Brink: the Rescue of Highlands” how he bought Highlands in 1973 and restored it, completing the project in 1978. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings had described the building in the following terms: “Only one elevation of interest and the building is beyond repair”.

John Manning relates that the house was requisitioned during the Second World War and used for evacuee children and, later, Italian prisoners of war. After the war the house was rented briefly to an Irishman who practised black magic otherwise it lay empty and vandalised. At the time of writing [2010] the house is, once more, a private family home.

Highlands Farmhouse in 1982 - photograph by Eric Meadows
Highlands Farmhouse in 1982 - photograph by Eric Meadows