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Toddington Manor

Toddington Manor on the Agas Map of 1581 [X1-102]
Toddington Manor on the Agas Map of 1581 [X1/102]

The Tudor manor house was built in around 1560 by Henry Cheney, who chose a site about half a mile north-west of the the village and away from the previous manor house, the site of which is uncertain but may well have been Old Park. Queen Elizabeth I visited Henry Cheney at the Manor in 1563 and knighted him.

After Toddington Manor was inherited by the future Earl of Cleveland in 1614 it was visited by King James I. The Agas map of 1581 and drawings by John Thorpe show that Cheney's house was a palatial building. The house was built around a court entered on the south side through an archway, with four storey turrets to each side crowned with cupolas and similar turrets at each corner of the building. The main entrance to the house was on the north side of the court, with kitchen quarters, stables and other ancillary buildings round the 'Backe' court. Thorpe's elevational sketches show the west, or garden side and the south front. In the centre of the garden front a bay window ran the full height of the building, an unusual feature which left the wall at a 135 degree angle and met it again at a right angle. On each side of this central window was a further vertical set of three windows under a gable. The front had a main gateway typical of the period with three vertical sets of three windows on each side, each under a gable containing another window, and with an oriel window in the centre of the first floor on each side.

An inventory made in 1644 listed most of the rooms and described their furnishings. The main room was the great hall in the north side. This contained "one shovel board, 3 other tables, 2 long forms and 2 short forms". A Great Parlour contained "a great round table, a cupboard, two side tables, 4 leather carpits, 17 leather chairs, 10 leather stools, and 8 griffins to hold lights on". There were two dining rooms, a steward's room, four galleries (one a picture gallery and one containing a billiard table), a chapel, a nursery, a fencing room, a Great Chamber, and several other chambers. The named bedrooms included: My little Ladies Chamber; Mistresses Chamber; Smith's Chamber; The Queen's Chamber; Leicester's Chamber; New Chamber; Cheeks Chamber; and My Ladies Chamber, hung with five pieces of arras and containing a bed with damask valence and curtains. The great kitchen was not mentioned, although this is one of the few rooms to have survived the demolition.

Sometime after Thorpe's drawing was made a classical façade crowned with an open balustrade was added. This was flat except for a slight projection containing the entrance framed by a pediment supported by Corinthian columns. The new façade was never completed. A survey of 1719 notes "the frontispiece not finished, the stone pediment not put on and other ornaments wanting … great settlement in walls and chimneys … main timbers shored, broken and sunk; other timbers rotten and falling down; wainscoting, doors and doorcases wanting … two of the cupolas open and exposed to the weather".

The debts incurred by both the Earl of Cleveland and his daughter, Lady Henrietta Maria, meant that the manor fell into decay; it was demolished in the mid-18th century by Lord William Strafford. The kitchen with its Tudor fireplaces and a few other rooms were left to serve as a steward's house and these were later incorporated into the new manor house built by the Cooper-Cooper family in the 19th century. Some of the carvings and panelling from the old Toddington manor also survive, having been incorporated in the White Horse Inn at Hockliffe.

John Cooper family purchased the manor of Toddington in 1808 and the family remained lords of the manor for just over a century. John's daughter Elizabeth married her second cousin William Dodge Cooper Heap and he changed his surname to Cooper as part of the settlement of the estate of his father in-law, thus becoming William Dodge Cooper Cooper. In 1824 John Cooper died and Elizabeth and William moved to Toddington to take up their inheritance and built Toddington Park as their residence. Later they renovated the largely ruinous manor house and moved in there. The last of the family to live there was Edith Georgina Warren Vernon, daughter of William Smith Cooper Cooper. She sold the house in 1912 to Weston Webb who, in turn, sold it to Mrs Hamilton Williams toward the end of the Great War and then sold in 1922 to Captain McAndrew Shepherd. He sold the house in 1925 to W Harold Edwards.

 Toddington Manor about 1910 [Z1130/126/54]
Toddington Manor about 1910 [Z1130/126/54]

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 Toddington Manor noted its change of owner and found that the imposing pile stood in 6.997 acres [DV1/C85/24-27]. Accommodation was as follows:

 Ground floor: a hall measuring 34 feet by 10 feet ("nice"); a conservatory; a dining room measuring 22 feet by 26 feet 6 inches ("very fine"); a billiard room measuring 29 feet 6 inches by 24 feet; a cloak room, lavatory and WC (all "good") and a scullery (also "good"); a kitchen measuring 16 feet 6 inches by 15 feet; a servants' hall; a dairy measuring 14 feet 6 inches by 20 feet; a pantry; a morning room measuring 22 feet 6 inches by 15 feet 6 inches and a drawing room measuring 34 feet by 20 feet 6 inches. Beneath the property were cellars "(very damp");

 First Floor ("awful main stairs like a Monument"): a bedroom measuring 22 feet by 20 feet 6 inches; a dressing room; a bathroom ("very good"); a boudoir measuring 11 feet by 17 feet; a WC; two more bathrooms ("down 8 stairs"); a housemaid's cupboard; a linen cupboard ("down four stairs"); a bedroom measuring 12 feet 6 inches by 18 feet; a dressing room ("large"); bedrooms measuring 16 feet by 20 feet and 14 feet 6 inches by 20 feet; another bathroom; two bedrooms both measuring 11 feet by 16 feet and one measuring 23 feet by 16 feet 6 inches; a work room and five maids' rooms

 Toddington Manor about 1920 [Z1306-126]
Toddington Manor about 1920 [Z1306/126]

The valuer remarked: "Worth twice Toddington Park. Own Electric Light. Edwards only just come in – not yet straight. Very different type House from Toddington Park. Sat in morning room while she telephoned her husband. A lettable house. Water bad – got to re-pipe and build tanks – pressure bad. Edwards spending a lot on the place".

Outside was a laundry which was "being reconstructed". There was also a brick and tiled range comprising six loose boxes and a saddle room ("lovely") as wel las a chaff room, workshop and two loose boxes and a garage for three cars. There were also two more loose boxes and a store room but a later hand has crossed there entries through, replacing them with a WC, garage, cart shed and two loose boxes. There were six rooms over the garage for the coachman (a later hand has added "and butler"). There were two more loose boxes, a later hand adding a bathroom and WC. There was also standing for three horses and a hay loft. A coach house and boot room also existed but these entries were later struck through. There was also an engine room with a Ransome twelve horsepower oil engine and a 54 cell battery. Water supply was by gravitation from a filter bed at the top of the drive. In the grounds was a potting shed and heated greenhouses as well as a range of frames extending over 170 feet. Interestingly the valuer deducted value for the dodgy water supply but also for the neighbourhood.

Toddington Manor Italian Garden about 1935 [Z1306-126]
Toddington Manor Italian Garden  about 1935 [Z1306/126]

In the 1930s the Manor was sold to Colonel Edward Skinner and, after his death, the house was sold to The Fish Meal Manufacturers Association in 1950. By 1977 when the Manor was put up for sale, along with the Lodge, Herne Poplar and Herne Grange Farms, part of the house had been converted into three flats and bedsitter which were occupied by members of staff of Toddington Manor Research Farms Limited. Outbuildings had been converted to create a fourth flat [X994/14]. At this time the accommodation comprised:

Ground floor: Entrance porch leading to; Entrance hall (34 feet by 10 feet) with antique stone carved fireplace, mainly woodblock and part tiled floor; Drawing room (22 feet 9 inches by 26 feet 4 inches) with fine alabaster surround to large open fireplace and woodblock floor; secondary entrance porch and long hall with entrance to flat no.2; WC and cloakroom; Dining hall (32 feet by 26 feet) with 17 feet wide open fire, stone overmantle, woodblock floor, panelled walls, and secret door to; Billiard room (29 feet 3 inches by 23 feet 6 inches), panelled with fine open fireplace, woodblock floors and hide seats; lobby with marble floor; washroom and separate WC; door to stable courtyard; door of second hall and dining room to main flat; back lobby and spiral staircase in stone tower to first floor.

First floor: Master Suite consisting of bedroom 1 (12 feet 6 inches by 20 feet 6 inches), dressing room, bathroom, bedroom 2 (16 feet 10 inches by 11 feet 6 inches) with door to former minstrels' gallery over dining room, separate WC; Grimsby Suite with two bedrooms (23 feet by 16 feet 4 inches, and 16 feet 4 inches by 11 feet 8 inches), bathroom, and separate WC.

Main Flat – former sculleries etc. to the main house with door from rear courtyard to long hall with doors leading to: Sitting room; large kitchen with solid fuel Aga, quarry tiled floor and game larder; three bedrooms; bathroom. Also doors off to: cellar, side hall of main house, silver safe, and boiler cellar.

Flat 1 – on first floor with private stairs from the stableyard: Three bedrooms; kitchen, sitting room; bathroom. Also a utility room at the bottom of the stairs to Flat 1 and the bedsitter.

Flat 2 – access only via the main house on the second floor: Entrance hall; bathroom; three bedrooms; sitting room; kitchen with dining area.

Bedsitter – access from the same stairs as Flat 1: Bedsitter with basin; bathroom and WC; airing cupboard; kitchen.

Outbuildings, constructed of brick and tile and lying to the north of the Manor around a cobbled yard: store; five loose boxes used as a hay store with a flat over; coaching house used as three garages; store; tack room; 6 loose boxes; 3 garden stores.

Westminster Flat (outbuildings): Sitting room; dining room; two bedrooms; bathroom; separate WC; utility room.

Gardens: swimming pool (48 feet by 18 feet by 8 feet deep, homebuilt in 1973); open grass areas, rosebeds, fine mature amenity trees; walled garden now used as a vegetable garden.

The sale included piggeries consisting of a slurry pit; a fattening house capable of housing 400 pigs with at the end an office, feed house, WC and feed hopper; dry sow yards with accommodation for 90 sows with individual feeding places; 4 boar yards with 8 individual lying areas; farrowing house with 28 places; dry sow yards divided into 4 kennels with open yards off for 32 sows; 3 bay hay and straw store with 6 ton fee hopper; multi-suckling / weaner yards with adjacent dry food hoppers; fattening house with central feed passage and 20 pens for 280 pigs. The land sold as part of the Manor lot amounted to 245 acres.

The Manor was purchased by Sir Neville Bowman-Shaw, who owned the forklift manufacturers Lancer Boss, based in Leighton Buzzard. Once again the house was offered for sale in 2010.