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Sundial Cottage - 10 Market Square Toddington

Sundial House 10 Market Square March 2016
Sundial House 10 Market Square March 2016

Sundial Cottage is a late 17th century Neo-classical building listed by the former Department of the Environment as Grade II, of special interest. It is built of red brick with an old clay tile roof. In Toddington Through the Ages David Buckingham suggests that behind the Georgian façade parts of the building date back to the fifteenth century, with the original structure being a medieval town house running back from the street, probably with an open hearth in the middle of the hall. The archaeological assessment of Toddington carried out in 2003 for Bedfordshire County Council and English Heritage also suggests a medieval date for the earliest part of the property. Toddington Through the Ages charts the development of the house through three subsequent phases: demolition of part of the medieval property around the late 16th century, and its replacement with a substantial timber framed house parallel to the street and a stone built cellar at its eastern end; in the 17th century the raising of the roof and first floor by about a meter, the fitting of a central staircase, and addition of two chimneys at either end of the house; during the 18th century the addition of a brick façade. In 1841 the house was occupied by William and Rebecca Osborn; they and later their daughter remained at the house for sixty years and it became known as Osborn House.

In 1911 the house was let by owners actress Isabel Clouston Morris and writer Brenda Cecilia Hopwood to Henry Cross for £50 per annum [HN10/368/Morris1]. The relationship between landlords and tenant was not easy. In 1912 Cross wrote to Miss Morris: "Allan's man and a boy opened the pump, put it together again and went; another day, same thing. I am afraid they will give me a great deal of expense... I am only writing because I think Allan is delaying work and I am afraid he has a reputation of doing this and mounting up expense". the following year Miss Morris, now of Ross-on-Wye [Herefordshire] sent a letter to her solicitor, Frederic Tanqueray in Woburn stating: "I am sending one or two of Mr Cross' so you may see how he has been worrying us with these complaints and putting us to expense. Thank you so much for putting a stop to this" [HN10/368/Morris2]. Cross was given notice to quit in September 1913 [HN10/368/Morris3]. In her will of 1914 Isabel Morris left her half of Osborn House to Brenda Hopwood [HN10/368/Morris5] though she did not die until 1937. Later in the 20th century the house was occupied by Alec Gibbs, the founder of the Luton News.

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. At this time the property was still known as Osborn House and was owned and occupied by Alec Gibbs. Downstairs were three reception rooms, a kitchen, a scullery and a pantry; upstairs were five bedrooms, a bathroom and W.C. Outside buildings, which were used by the butcher next door,  included a brick, timber and corrugated iron coach house, a stable, a hovel, a barn, four greenhouses and a water closet. The valuer noted that the house was supposed to date from 1690, that the bathroom was poor, water was pumped, and it only had gas which was so bad that the occupiers used lamps. Nevertheless, the valuer described the property as a "lovely place, lovely front, lovely inside". It also had a garden and central heating which had been put in by the previous occupants [DV1/C85/125].

Sundial Cottage 1931 [Z267/3]
Sundial Cottage 1931 [Z267/3]

When Sundial Cottage was put up for sale in September 1931, the particulars described it as a "charming 17th century residence containing a wealth of oak beams and panelling", with "an attractive red brick elevation with tiled roof and leaded casements. The aspect is S.E., with a commanding view over the village. The frontage is approximately 75 feet and the house is enclosed by a wall and hedge with stone-flagged forecourt. Over the Entrance Door is an old Sundial, whence the property derives its present name" [Z267/3]. The accommodation was described as follows:

  • Entrance Hall: with oak door, quarry tiled flooring, oak panelling and equipped with a hot water radiator and a cupboard under the stairs.
  • Lounge: communicating and measuring about 16 feet by 17 feet, with oak flooring and oak beamed and raftered ceiling. Open Brick fireplace with stone surround and hearth and beautifully carved oak mantelpiece in Tudor style. The fine old oak principal staircase leads from this room.
  • Dining Room: About 16 feet 3 inches by 16 feet 9 inches with an old oak and mahogany inlaid door from the Hall. This beautiful room has quarry tiled flooring, oak panelling and heavily beamed and raftered ceiling. Tudor style fireplace as before with old oak mantelpiece (dated 1688) and iron basket grate. The chimney breast is panelled and carved in linen-fold design, with a portrait of the Duke of Monmouth in oils inset and carved gargoyle mask terminals. An old door (dated 1689) leads to
  • Study or Morning Room, about 22 feet 6 inches by 9 feet, a quaint old-fashioned room, believed to have been used formerly as a Chapel, with red tiled flooring and oak panelling and a small lobby and door to the garden. Hot water pipes for heating. Back Lobby with tiled flooring and fitted with a "Pither" radiant heat enclosed stove. Large Wine and Store Cellar with brick flooring.
  • Domestic Quarters: comprising Large Kitchen, with tiled flooring and fitted double oven range, sink (hot and cold) with pump, shelving and dresser. Separate Larder. Store Room with tiled flooring and fitted ranges of glazed and panelled slide door cupboards; Tradesmen's door; Outside W.C. and brick coal house within a trellis-enclosed yard with tiled pathway.

Sundial Cottage interior [Z267/3]
Sundial Cottage interior [Z267/3]

On the First Floor:

  • Landing: panelled in oak, with gallery hand rail and radiator points.
  • Front Bed Room, No.1: about 17 feet by 17 feet 3 inches, with hardwood flooring and brick fireplace with oak mantelpiece and picture panel in oils.
  • Front Bed Room, No.2: about 10 feet by 16 feet 9 inches, fitted brick fireplace with old oak mantelpiece and deep wall cupboard.
  • Front Bed Room, No.3: about 9 feet by 13 feet, fitted hot water radiator.
  • Back Bed Room, No.4: About 23 feet 6 inches by 9 feet 6 inches, fitted corner stove with oak mantel and brick hearth and hot water radiator.
  • Large Bath Room: about 12 feet by 10 feet. Beautifully equipped by Messrs. Shanks, of Bond Street, London, with green tinted tile walls and fitted marbline enclosed parallel bath and porcelain lavatory basin (both hot and cold with chromium plated taps) and pedestal W. C. Two alabaster half-bowl electric wall lights and marble-pattern rubber flooring. Store room.
  • Maid's Bed room, No. 5: about 15 feet by 6 feet, with massive exposed oak beams. Heated linen and hanging clothes cupboard.

Outside the house had double entrance gates and a drive, with a lodge or gardener's cottage on the opposite side. This was brick built with a tiled roof and included a bed room, a sitting room, a living room and a wash house. The drive ran through the centre of the grounds to a range of outbuildings built of timber and corrugated iron, including stabling for four, a garage for two or three cars, a store and a cart lodge. There were also greenhouses, mainly with brick bases and all in fair condition, one with a vinery, and with a boiler pit, forcing pits and lights.

The grounds of about 2½ acres included: a grass walk with pergola and roses; a formal garden with a sundial; a sunk garden with rose beds and lawn enclosed by laurel, lilac and other shrubs and trees; a rock garden with artificial pond; a small enclosed orchard; a large paddock with grass tennis court foundations; a soft fruit plantation and a kitchen garden.