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Beckerings Park Lodge Farm Ridgmont

The front of Beckerings Park Lodge Farmhouse about 1897 [SFM3/253]
The front of Beckerings Park Lodge Farmhouse about 1897 [SFM3/253]

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service is lucky to have a century of leases relating to Lodge Farm as part of the Delmé Radcliffe archive [H/DE]. The family owned Beckerings Park from 1727 to 1828, having bought it from John, 3rd Baron Ashburnham. Lodge Farm has always been in the same ownership as the park.

Pre-dating the first lease is a survey of the park carried out in 1650 [R6/1/1/15]. This included the underkeeper's lodge which lay in the part of the park in Steppingley and was a relatively modest structure with just three rooms downstairs and two rooms upstairs. An orchard and yard containing half an acre lay outside. This may be today's Beckerings Park Lodge Farmhouse (just on the Ridgmont side of the civil parish boundary with Steppingley). The Keeper's Lodge was a much grander affair built in the shape of a Roman cross and was later pulled down.

The first lease of Beckerings Park Lodge Farm is in 1706; it was from Lord Ashburnham to John Denbigh of Beckerings Park. It looks as if Denbigh was already the tenant and this lease was a simple re-leasing at the end of his first term.

In the deed the farmhouse was described as a mansion house or lodge. The land lay in parcels of arable, meadow and pasture within the park. The lease was to run for 21 years and rent was £160 per annum. Denbigh agreed to pay £5 per acre for pasture in Fryers Grove or Lodge Leys he might convert into arable.

Another lease in the collection dates from 1750 by which time the park was in the ownership of Arthur Radcliffe. He leased the farmhouse and farm (noted as formerly in the occupation of John Denbigh) to John Ravens of Lidlington, yeoman, for £175 for nine years. The land was listed as follows:

  • Dial Close of 8 acres, 5 poles;
  • Calves Pen of 7 acres;
  • Homewood of 23 acres, 1 rood, 37 poles;
  • Ox Close of 5 acres, 1 rood, 22 poles;
  • Broom ground of 7 acres, 2 roods, 4 poles;
  • Upper Barn Ground of 5 acres, 4 poles;
  • Lower Barn Ground of 9 acres, 33 poles;
  • Upper Gravel Pit Ground of 5 acres, 2 roods, 28 poles;
  • Lower Gravel Pit Ground of 12 acres, 32 poles;
  • Moors Meadow of 28 acres;
  • The Warren with the warren house, barn and garden of 26 acres, 37 poles;
  • Lawrence's Hill of 10 acres, 1 rood, 36 poles;
  • Sheep-pen Grounds 11 acres;
  • Lower Sandy Ground of 6 acres, 3 roods, 11 poles;
  • Upper Sandy Ground of 8 acres, 2 roods, 11 poles;
  • Rye Ground 16 acres, 8 poles;
  • Upper Old Turnip Ground 14 acres, 3 roods, 36 poles;
  • Lower Old Turnip Ground of 8 acres, 2 roods, 10 poles;
  • Steppingley Ground of 13 acres, 2 roods;
  • The Slipe of  6 acres, 23 poles;
  • Horse Chippings of 14 acres, 7 poles;
  • Six Acres of 6 acres, 3 roods, 25 poles;
  • Greeners Ground of 16 acres, 30 poles;
  • Seventeen Acres of 18 acres, 23 poles;
  • The Spinney of 4 acres, 1 rood, 24 poles;
  • Butler's Ground of 12 acres, 3 roods, 10 poles;
  • Thistley Ground of 34 acres, 10 poles;
  • Bushey Ground of 18 acres, 2 roods, 14 poles;
  • Pryor's Grove of 3 acres, 1 rood;
  • Pryor's Grove Meadow of 13 acres;
  • The Lawn of 20 acres, 16 poles.

The land lay in Ridgmont, Steppingley and Millbrook and comprised 395 acres, 1 rood, 15 poles.

The same parties transacted a lease for 21 years in 1757 at the same rent [H/DE95]. The final lease, to John Clayton senior and junior, is in 1805 when they paid £300 per annum rent for the Lodge itself and the Lodge Farm, now of 413 acres which was formerly in the occupation of Benjamin and John Browning.

John, 6th Duke of Bedford acquired Lodge Farm along with BeckeringsPark in 1828. In 1882 he leased the farm to Henry Richard James Swaffield at a rent of £505 per annum [SFM3/30]. He remained the tenant until 1899 when he gave up farming [SFM3/251].

Directories for Bedfordshire, which were not published annually but every few years show that in 1906 George Preston was the tenant of the farm and he is also listed in the directories for 1910 and 1914. The next directory, in 1920, gives Reginald William Simms as the tenant

By 1906 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 the Lodge Farm, on 19th August 1926, found it still owned by the Duke of Bedford and leased by Reginald William Simms who paid rent of £360 per annum, which had been fixed in 1920, presumably when Simms became tenant, for 495 acres. The valuer commented: "Saw Mr. Simms who complains of some wet plough land". Another hand wrote, on 2nd December 1926: "A large heath farm for which there is not enough demand, no good grass on it".

The farmhouse was lighted by oil lamps and sanitation was to a cesspool. Water came from a well. The house comprised: a large hall, two living rooms, an office, a kitchen, a scullery and a pantry; two cellars lay beneath the ground floor. The first floor contained five bedrooms, a bathroom and W. C. (combined) and two boxrooms with four attics over. A wood house, washhouse, dairy and two earth closets stood outside.

The homestead comprised a number of different blocks of brick and slate buildings as follows:

  • South Block: a loose box, a five bay open cow shed and a harness room;
  • West Block: a carthorse stable for eleven; a chaff house; a four bay open cart shed with a loft over; a privy; a tool house; a mixing house; a barn; an engine shed "containing locomotives only"; a wood shed; a mill with a granary over; a threshing house; a store room with a loft over ("all locked"); a four bay open implement shed; a mixing house; a pig house containing six fattening pens and a poultry house;
  • North Block: a four bay open cowshed and a cow house for seven;
  • North Centre Block: a four bay open cow shed and two cow houses for three beasts each;
  • Mid Centre Block: a four bay open cowshed; a cow house for four and a fowl house;
  • South Centre Block: a cowhouse for twenty four with a central feeding passage;
  • Block adjoining the garden: a coachhouse; a nag stable for six; four wood and tiled coachhouses; a washhouse and store shed and a Dutch Barn.

The valuer commented: "All buildings in good order and well planned".

Directories give Simms as the tenant in 1928, 1931, 1936 and 1940. The latter is the last directory published for Bedfordshire.

The farmhouse belonging to Beckerings Lodge Farm was listed by the former Department of Environment in October 1952 as Grade II, of special interest. The department dated the property to the 17th century "or earlier" indicating that it probably is the underkeeper's lodge of 1650. It was heavily reworked and added to in the 19th century. It is built of a variety of brick types, mostly red and has 20th century tiled roofs.

The Bedford Estate put the BeckeringsPark up for sale in 1996 as one estate of nearly 1,500 acres. This estate also included Segenhoe Manor Farm, Beckerings Park Manor Farm and Beckerings Park Lodge Farm [Z449/1/17]. Lodge Farmhouse, now called simply Beckerings Park Farmhouse comprised a ground floor of: an entrance hall; a drawing room measuring 18 feet 5 inches by 17 feet 7 inches; a dining room measuring 18 feet 3 inches by 17 feet 7 inches; a kitchen measuring 24 feet 7 inches by 12 feet 8 inches; a staff annex; a rear hall; a utility room; a boiler room and an office measuring 19 feet 6 inches by 15 feet. The first floor contained a half landing, four bedrooms and a bathroom. The second floor comprised two bedrooms and a bathroom. Outside were two single garages, a patio and a dairy building now used as a store room.

The rear of Beckerings Park Lodge Farmhouse about 1897 [SFM3-252]
The rear of Beckerings Park Lodge Farmhouse about 1897 [SFM3/252]