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Shefford Hardwick Farmhouse

Shefford Hardwick Farmhouse on a map of 1883
Shefford Hardwick Farmhouse on a map of 1883

The first mention of Shefford Hardwick Farm in any document held by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service is on 25th May 1810 when the property was for sale by auction [WW205]. The particulars are as follows:

LOT II

A VALUABLE AND SINGULARLY DESIRABLE FREEHOLD ESTATE,
(Part Tythe free, and Extra Parochial)
KNOWN AS
Hardwick Farm

Desirably and very advantageously situate for large Markets, being at Great Hardwick, Southill, and Stanford, in the Parish of Shefford, Five Miles from Biggleswade, Eight from Bedford, Ten from Hitchin, and Forty-Two from London.

Lying extremely eligible, very compact, and principally bounded by the Road from Shefford to Bedford

AND CONSISTS OF ABOUT

Three Hundred and Seventy-three Acres Three Roods and Three Perches of rich Arable, Meadow, Pasture, and WoodLand, as under:

Together with

A COMMODIOUS FARM HOUSE,

Including numerous Chambers, Sitting Rooms, Kitchen, Brewhouse and Bakehouse in one;

A very excellent and well-protected FARM YARD,

One Six and Two Four-bay Barns, Four Stables, Cow Houses, Piggeries, Dove Cote, Poultry Houses, Dog Kennel, Granary, Chaff Barn, cart and Waggon Lodges, Stack yard, garden, and Orchard

AT GREAT HARDWICK

1. Little Balds Wood 0 acres, 3 roods, 8 perches
2. Great Balds Wood 6 acres, 1 rood, 30 perches
3. Wood at Top of Round Hill 0 acres, 2 roods, 8 perches
4. The Twenty Acres Wood 0 acres, 2 roods, 37 perches
5. Collins Grove 3 acres, 0 roods, 12 perches
6. Wood by Southill Way 1 acre, 0 roods, 39 perches
7. Great Cockshutt Grove 1 acre, 2 roods, 19 perches
8. Mill Spring 1 acre, 2 roods, 3 perches
12. A Back Yard 1 acre, 1 rood, 0 perches
13. The Farm Yard, House, Barns and Garden 3 acres
14. Dove House Close 1 acre, 3 roods
15. The Old Orchard 1 acre
16. The Alder Bed 6 acres,1 rood, 10 perches
17. Rushy Meadow 15 acres, 0 roods, 26 perches
18. Fearn Close 5 acres, 3 roods, 28 perches
19. Grass Yard, 8 acres, 1 rood, 26 perches
20. Shefford Warren 13 acres, 2 roods, 35 perches
21. Great Meadow 8 acres, 1 rood, 10 perches
22. Little Meadow 3 acres, 0 roods, 10 perches
23. Rye Close 18 acres, 0 roods, 5 perches
24. Furze Close 8 acres, 0 roods, 22 perches
25. Middle Field 58 acres, 1 rood, 12 perches
26. Hunger Hill 14 acres, 1 rood, 4 perches
29. Tiler's Field 36 acres, 0 roods, 12 perches
30. The Twenty Acres 24 acres, 3 roods, 37 perches
31. The Sixteen Acres 22 acres, 1 rood, 2 perche
32. Shefford Field 58 acres, 3 roods, 37 perches
33. Clay Pit Hill 16 acres, 1 rood, 5 perches

AT SOUTHILL

27. Smith Close 27 acres, 3 roods, 30 perches
28. Pightle in Smith Close 3 acres, 1 rood, 9 perches
Clarke's Close 1 acre, 2 roods

The Closes at Southill pay a Modus of 1s. per Annum to the Vicar of Southill.
Great Hardwick is Extra Parochial, and Southill is Tythe Free

Shefford Hardwick Farm in 1810 [WW205]
Shefford Hardwick Farm in 1810 [WW205]

The fields are shown on the map above. to see a larger version please click on the image

Either the farm did not sell or the new owner quickly decided to get rid of it, because it was put up for sale again on 13th May 1813. The sale particulars described the farmhouse and homestead thus  [Z575/492]: "an excellent and substantial farm-house containing a large parlour, a small parlour, roomy kitchen, bakehouse and brewhouse in one , dairy and various offices, cellars etc., convenient and airy bed-chambers, a spacious farm-yard, two cart-stables for six horses each, and a two-stall stable, loft etc. over lately erected; a new-built granary, a large well-built six-bay barn, a four-bay barn, and a smaller barn, cow-house, cart and wagon lodges, and various out-buildings all put into substantial repair, a stack-yard, sheep yard, good garden, orchard etc." The farm was bought by Samuel Whitbread II of Southill Park for £27,000. The tenant was E. Baker who seems to have left the farm the following year [Z477/8]. The conveyance was not enacted until the autumn of 1814, much to Samuel Whitbread's annoyance [Z575/39-136]. The new tenant was Lawrence Williams [Z575/152].

On 11th October 1859 the farm was let to William Inskip [BML10/63/1]. Directories for Bedfordshire were not published every year but every few years and directories for 1853 and 1854 show Thomas Inskip as tenant, presumably a close relation of William who held the lease until at least 1890. Directories of 1894 and 1898 list the leaseholders as the executors of William Inskip and Charles Inskip is listed in directories of 1903, 1906 and 1910. Directories of 1914, 1920 and 1924 list Jane Inskip as the farmer whilst those of 1928, 1931 and 1936 list Frank Inskip and so the family seem to have been the tenants for at least the best part of a century.

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 Hardwick Farm [DV1/H39/84] noted that Frank Inskip paid rent of £510 per annum. The farm then comprised 346 acres. The valuer commented: "Large House and buildings, very well built. Good farm. Handy to Shefford. Water from main. 2 cottages by buildings. Flat land, very marshy. House let to Mrs. Inskip lit by gas from main. 3 Tennis courts by RailwayBridge let to Shefford Club". Another hand wrote, on 5th January 1927: "First class house let to William Inskip senior. Good buildings. Onion loft. A most deceptive farm. Really good land by the roadside, Heavy & hilly on the north-east. Don't know rent".

The farmhouse was described as containing three living rooms, a hall, a kitchen, a dairy, a scullery, seven bedrooms, three attics, a bathroom and a lavatory. It was lit by gas from main. The homestead comprised:

  • By the house: a wood and tiled nag stable and hovel; a six bay open shed and stabling for twelve horses with lofts over;
  • In the yard: a large double open shed and two pigsties;
  • West Block: an old wood and tiled brewhouse; a separating house, cowsheds for six; a long range of piggeries and calves boxes and two loose boxes;
  • North Block: a brick and slate potato store; a barn and a mixing place ("good buildings, fairly new");
  • East Block: a wood and tiled six bay lean-to shed; a corrugated iron motor house; a nine bay cart shed; a small hay shed; a fowl house; a large barn with a loft over; an oil shed and an implement house;
  • In the yard: a wood and corrugated iron five bay engine shed and a wood and thatched onion loft;
  • Two cottages comprising a parlour, a kitchen, a pantry, two bedrooms and half an acre of land for the two cottages which were occupied by William Crossley (the farm bailiff) and William Hanscombe whose rent was included in their wages; water for these cottages came from the main.

A new leaseholder, A. J. Parrish, took over the farm on 11th October 1939 [BML10/63/1].

The farmhouse was listed by the former Department of Environment in January 1985 as Grade II, of special interest. The department dated the property to about 1600, though noting that it was reworked and extended in the early and late 19th century – a plaque at the rear giving the date 1886. The original structure has a substantial timber frame with red brick infill and the later blocks are in red brick. All have clay tiled roofs. The original part consists of a two-storeyed L-shaped block, whilst the later blocks (which probably contain or replace some earlier building) extend to the south and west.