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Beckerings Park Manor Farm Ridgmont

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service is lucky to have ninety of leases relating to Lordship Farm as part of the Delmé Radcliffe archive [H/DE]. Lordship Farm seems to be the former name of Beckerings Park Manor Farm which 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 keeper's lodge. This was a very grand affair described as "built in the fashion of a Roman "T"" in middle of park in Ridgmont. It was constructed of timber and brick. One stroke of the cross was 50 feet long and 20 feet broad the other part 40 feet long and 24 feet broad. The lodge contained: a hall; two parlours (one wholly wainscotted); a buttery; a staircase; a kitchen; a pantry; a larder; a boulting house [possibly a room for sifting grain] and other small rooms downstairs. A "fair dining room" and "three useful lodging chambers" with four other chambers lay upstairs with "necessary closets". A brewhouse, a washhouse, a stable and a small barn lay outside. The site comprised 1.5 acres.

None of this building survives and, to judge by the brief description in the leases (just a messuage, not a capital messuage which would surely fit such a grand building) it had probably been pulled down by the beginning of the 18th century. It may be that the farmhouse of Lordship or Manor Farm was based on the site of the old keeper's lodge hence why today's 19th century Manor farmhouse lies so closely to the Lodge farmhouse, the latter probably being the former underkeeper's lodge.

The first lease dates to 1717 when John, 3rd Baron Ashburnham leased the farm to Adam Bevan of Simpson [Buckinghamshire], yeoman for eleven years [H/DE97]. One wonders if he was a descendant of the Bevan family which held one of the manors of Ridgmont during the Middle Ages or whether this is just a coincidence. The rent was £160 per annum with an extra £5 per annum payable of Bevan decided to convert pasture in Barn Leys, Calves Close, Lyfield Close and New Close into arable land.

Another surviving lease was made in 1729 for thirteen years to Benjamin Bevan [H/DE98]. The rent was then £180 per annum and the land was described as comprising:

  • Homewood Close of 20 acres;
  • Green Close of 4 acres, 3 roods;
  • The Pightle of 3 roods, 2 poles;
  • Blackberry Hills Close of 26 acres, 5 poles;
  • Lower Cow Pasture of 21 acres, 3 roods, 16 poles;
  • Upper Cow Pasture of 19 acres, 2 roods, 32 poles;
  • Lyefield or Leefield Corner of 11 acres, 2 roods, 27 poles;
  • Calves Close of 2 acres, 17 poles;
  • Long Close of 4 acres, 2 roods, 13 poles;
  • Blackberry Leys of 9 acres, 2 roods, 8 poles;
  • New Close of 9 acres, 16 poles;
  • Upper Ridgmont Corner Close of 12 acres, 14 poles;
  • Lower Ridgmont Corner Close of 7 acres, 24 poles;
  • The Meadow of 37 acres, 25 poles;
  • Spoone Close of 6 acres, 2 roods, 16 poles;
  • Thisley Close of 1 acre, 3 roods, 34 poles;
  • Lowsey Meadow of 5 acres, 34 poles;
  • Wells Close of 2 roods, 38 poles;
  • Broomhills Close of 19 acres, 2 roods, 12 poles;
  • The Barne yard of 1 rood, 25 poles;
  • The Warren of 52 acres, 1 rood;
  • The Moors of 5 acres, 1 rood, 29 poles

This gave a total of 278 acres, 2 roods, 27 poles.

In 1738 the farm was leased again to Benjamin Bevan for sixteen more years on the same terms as before [H/DE100]. In 1764 a lease was made to John Bevan for 7 years, still at £180 per annum [H/DE101]. Finally, in 1807 the farm was leased for seventeen years to Esther Barton, widow and Samuel Barton, yeoman, presumably her son, at £250 per annum for 297 acres [H/DE102]

In 1828 the farm, along with Lodge Farm and the rest of Beckerings Park was sold to John, 6th Duke of Bedford. Directories for Bedfordshire, which were not published annually but every few years, give the names of the occupiers of the farm from 1864 to1928. In 1864 the occupier was William Platt, who is also listed in the directories of 1869 and 1877. The directories of 1885, 1890, 1894 and 1898 list John Tacchi as the occupier. In 1900 his widow sold all her household furniture at the farm prior to leaving [SFM51/54]. The directory of 1903 has Arthur Syratt at the farm but by 1906 he has been replaced by Arthur Sturges. In 1914, 1920 and 1924 Arthur and Nathaniel Sturges are listed.

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 Beckerings Park Manor Farm, on 19th August 1926 [DV1/H15/12] noted that it was still owned by the Duke of Bedford and now leased by Arthur Henry Sturges who paid rent of £252/10/- per annum, fixed in March 1921. The previous figure, fixed in September 1908, had been £187 per annum. The farm comprised 273 acres. The valuer commented: "Saw Mr. Sturges who complained of distance to main road and of the fact that he has about 2 miles of private road to keep in repair. Some land heavy and superfluity of game everywhere".

The farmhouse was lighted by oil lamps and sanitation was to a cesspool. Water was obtained from a well. The house comprised:  a hall; two living rooms; a kitchen; a scullery; a dairy and a pantry with a cellar beneath. The first floor comprised four bedrooms and a W. C. A later hand has annotated the notebook to indicate that one of the bedrooms had been turned into a bathroom.

The homestead comprised four blocks as follows:

  • South Block: a wood and corrugated iron two bay open hovel; a brick and slate six bay open cart shed;  a brick and tiled loose box, chaff house and carthorse stable for seven; a cowhouse for three; a cow stable for eight with a feeding passage; a pig house with two fattening pens and a mixing house;
  • West Block: a brick and slate cowhouse for ten with a feeding passage; a large granary with a cement floor; a three bay open cart shed and a cowhouse for four;
  • North Block: a wood and tiled cowhouse for six; a loose box; a three bay open cowshed; a loose box; a barn [see below] and a storehouse with a loft over; a loose box; a coachhouse and a wood shed;
  • Centre Block: brick and slate three open cowsheds, each of three bays and three pigsties.

The valuer commented: "Buildings in A1 order". Directories of 1928 and 1931 also list Arthur Henry Sturges as tenant but no one is listed in the final two directories for Bedfordshire, those of 1936 and 1940 suggesting that the manor farm may have been integrated into the Lodge Farm.

A barn at Manor Farm was listed by the former Department of Environment in February 19837 as Grade II, of special interest. The department dated the barn to the early to mid 18th century, "probably reusing the earlier core". It is three bays long and two bays deep, built round a timber frame raised on a red brick plinth and clad in weatherboarding with a half- hipped 20th century tiled roof. The interior was restored in the 20th century "although apparently retaining much original timbering".

The Bedford Estate put the Beckerings Park 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].