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Swineshead Manor

Swineshead Manor in 1982
Swineshead Manor in 1982 [Z50/120/17]

Swineshead Manor is a large and imposing building which has clearly had a number of additions in the last fifty years or so as the photographs appearing on this page indicate; the most recent additions, to the rear, occurred in 2008. Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service does not possess any evidence to show that this old building as the manor house. On the contrary, what little evidence there is tends to show that it was most likely not the manor house but a farm building. It is quite common for old and imposing houses to be named Manors in modern times as is the case, for example, with Odell Manor, which is the former rectory.

 Swineshead Manor in 1961
Swineshead Manor in 1961 [Z50/120/12]

If there is a question over the status of the building as a manor there is none over the fact that the core of the building, the part shown in the photograph above taken in 1961, is old. The building was listed by the former Department of Environment in 1964 as Grade II, of special interest. The Department's architect considered that it dates from the late 16th or early 17th century. Like most of the older buildings in Swineshead it is constructed over a timber frame, with colour-washed plaster infill. The roof is covered in clay tiles.

 Side view of Swineshead Manor in 1982
Side view of Swineshead Manor in 1982 [Z50/120/18]

The house was originally in a T-plan, the wing at the south-east end only being added, to form an H-plan, in 1969. A brick built extension was erected in the 18th century to the rear of the property; this was further extended in 1969. The building is of two storeys with attics in the two cross-wings.

Unnamed Swineshead Manor shown on Inclosure Map of 1808
Unnamed Swineshead Manor shown on Inclosure Map of 1808 [MA87/2]

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has very little material on Swineshead Manor, most of the evidence coming from maps. The inclosure map of 1808 [MA97/2] shown above picks out the manor buildings but does not label them as the manor house, they are simply part of an ancient inclosure of Lord St.John's, numbered 28. This is described as a homestead of 1 acre, 3 roods, 35 poles in the Inclosure Award [A87]. Interestingly Lord St.John was not Lord of the Manor, that was the Duke of Manchester, indicating that by 1808 the modern Swineshead Manor was no longer part of the Manor of Swineshead. The Saint John family bought various small parcels of land, together totalling in excess of 190 acres from John Day of Bedford between 1806 and 1809. All of these had formerly been part of the Manor of Swineshead, but none of them was described as the manor house.

 Unnamed Swineshead Manor on 1901 map
Unnamed Swineshead Manor on 1901 map

Similarly the Ordnance Survey 25 inches to the mile second edition map of 1901 shows it without naming it. If the property had been called Swineshead Manor at the time the Ordnance Survey map would almost certainly have recorded the name. The same is true of the 1st and 2nd editions of the Ordnance Survey 6 inches to the mile maps of the 1880s and 1902 respectively, where, again, the property is unnamed.

Swineshead Manor side view with modern extension May 2008
Swineshead Manor side view with modern extension May 2008

In 1927 Swineshead was valued under the terms of the Rating and Valuation Act 1925; every piece of land and building in the country was assessed to determine the rates to be paid on it. Sadly, Swineshead Manor seems to have been missed off the valuation - the two cottages to the rear were visited and assessed but there is no reference number on the map against the Manor buildings, nor is there any mention of it in the relevant valuer's notebooks.