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Dean Grange Upper Dean

Dean Grange about 1920 [Z1130/35/2]
Dean Grange about 1920 [Z1130/35/2]

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county’s historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The record for Dean Grange [HER 7495] describes it as a mainly 19th century farmhouse “though may be earlier in part”. A group of buildings is shown on the site in the inclosure award map of about 1802 [MA25] which seems to correspond to those shown in the sale particulars of 1833, for which see below. The house is built of local red and yellow bricks with an old clay tile roof. It is described as having a “complex plan with a number of projecting wings. Mainly two storeys with a cross wing to north-east end”. There is an additional entry [HER 9224] for the 19th century two storey school building, which is rendered in plaster and a third entry [HER 8205] for a moat to the east. The entry reads: “Site visit c.1977; a slight hollow to the south and east of Dean Grange School could be the remnants of the moat”.

The moat, forming a U-shaped pond, is shown on the plan accompanying sale particulars of 1833 [X67/342]. One of the farm buildings shown in the plan may correspond to the main house of today, the site appears to be the same and the building, though a different shape, has the proportions of the main north-west to south-east building. The sale particulars describe it as a farmhouse for a farm of 342 acres in Upper Dean and Lower Dean. The farm was to be sold at auction by the trustees of William Drury Lowe, Lord of the Manor of Upper Dean.

One of the fields comprising the farm was called Pound Close, lying immediately south of the farmhouse. A pound was a place into which animals caught straying were put by the manorial official called the hayward. They could be freed on payment of a fine by the owner. This manorial device lying so close to a substantial farmhouse which, itself, lay within a moat suggests that Dean Grange may lie on the site of the medieval manor house of Upper Dean Manor. The name may even, for once, be a true reflection. The term grange tends to be used for any large house but to be strictly accurate a grange was the farm house owned by a religious foundation. Upper Dean Manor was held by Higham Ferrers College from 1434 until the college was dissolved by King Henry VIII (1509-1547). The college had nothing to do with learning. It was a self-governing group of priests, under a Master, which existed to say masses for the dead and was founded in 1422.

The farm comprised the following pieces of land:

  • The farmhouse and homestead: 1 acre, 2 roods, 31 poles of pasture;
  • Pound Close: 4 acres, 1 rood, 22 poles of pasture;
  • Bakehouse Close: 3 acres, 1 rood, 27 poles of pasture;
  • Brick-kiln Close: 3 acres, 18 poles of pasture;
  • Pell’s Close: 15 acres, 2 roods, 16 poles of arable;
  • Middle Close: 11 acres, 11 poles of arable;
  • Church Field Closes: two closes comprising 19 acres, 3 roods, 37 poles of arable;
  • Bushy Close: 5 acres, 3 roods, 26 poles of pasture;
  • Home Lazarus: 5 acres, 2 roods, 3 poles of arable [this and the next close lay either side of the High Street immediately north of the farmhouse, a Lazarus or lazar was a medieval term for a leper];
  • Lazarus’ Close: 7 acres, 1 rood, 36 poles of arable;
  • Long Meadow: 6 acres, 1 rood, 31 poles of pasture;
  • Shopkeeper’s Close: 1 acre, 2 roods, 29 poles of pasture [this lay on the north-east side of Shelton Road, either side of the ford];
  • The Tofts: 9 acres, 1 rood, 7 poles of pasture;
  • The Pastures: 39 acres, 3 roods, 39 poles of pasture;
  • Mill Close: 28 acres, 20 poles of arable [lying on Shelton Road on the opposite side of the road to the current mill];
  • Dawes-Lane Close: 4 acres, 1 rood, 10 poles of pasture and 18 acres, 3 roods, 36 poles of arable;
  • Middle Close: 20 acres, 1 rood, 8 poles of arable;
  • Shelton Close: 19 acres, 2 roods, 23 poles of pasture;
  • Dyche’s Close: 4 acres, 1 rood, 17 poles of arable;
  • Great Warrens: 12 acres, 1 rood, 29 poles of arable;
  • Little Warrens: 16 acres, 3 roods, 27 poles of pasture;
  • Kitchen Croft: 10 acres, 1 rood, 17 poles of pasture;
  • Bennestead Way Close: 3 acres, 2 roods, 23 poles of arable;
  • Fox’s Warrens: 19 acres, 6 poles of pasture;
  • Old Hill Warrens: 16 acres, 37 poles of pasture;
  • East Warrens: 12 acres, 24 poles of arable;
  • West Warrens: 7 acres, 2 roods, 16 poles of arable;
  • Nether Dean Mill Close: 9 acres, 2 roods, 25 poles of arable [land around Lower Dean windmill];
  • Dawes Lane: 1 rood, 30 poles of pasture
  • A spinney of 2 roods, 28 poles.

The house, by the name of Dean House, was again for sale in 1852. The sale particulars [WG911] describe it as follows: “DEAN HOUSE is a complete FAMILY RESIDENCE, standing in Park-like Grounds, and contains entrance hall, drawing room, 22 feet 6 inches by 15 feet 3 inches, with adjacent morning room, dining room, 18 feet by 16 feet 6 inches, study, seven best bed and dressing rooms, two water closets, five good servants’ rooms, housekeeper’s room, butler’s pantry, servants’ hall, good kitchen and scullery, two larders and capacious cellarage; near to the house is a brewhouse and washhouse, also, coach houses, stables, and all the usual out-buildings”.

“At a convenient distance from the mansion is the Farm House, which is roomy, substantially built, in complete repair, and possesses a cool dairy and suitable conveniences. The farm yards are sheltered and extensive, and the farm buildings, which comprise all necessary accommodation, are of a superior description, and have for the most part been erected within the last few years, at a considerable outlay. – A Brick Yard, with House, Barn, Kiln, and Sheds. Several Cottages, with gardens and Outbuildings adjoining. Numerous thriving Plantations, judiciously dispersed throughout the Estate. Also, several closes of Arable, Meadow, and Pasture Land, of good quality, well fenced and watered, in the highest state of cultivation, containing altogether 371 acres, 1 rood, 33 poles, or thereabouts”. Rental of house and farm was reckoned to be about £800 per annum and tenants included William Dunmore, William Whit, Sarah Bradshaw, Robert Corbett, John Deighton and John Porter.

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. It is likely that Upper Dean, like most of the county, was assessed in 1927. The valuer visiting The Grange [DV1/C150/28] found it “very unlettable” and “Not nearly so good as Pertenhall”. It was owned and occupied by Mrs. Wade and stood in just under 2½ acres. An entrance porch and a “very dark” passage way led into the ground floor accommodation which comprised: a study measuring 16 feet by 10 feet 3 inches; a w. c. ; a pantry; a servants’ hall; a larder; a kitchen to the north-east measuring 15 feet 6 inches by 17 feet; cellars; a scullery (“being reconstructed”) with a boiler house beneath it; a back hall used for storage; a drawing room measuring 15 feet 4 inches by 13 feet 6 inches; a dining room measuring 22 feet by 16 feet; a conservatory measuring 19 feet 6 inches by 10 feet; a billiard room measuring 25 feet by 20 feet 3 inches (“not used”) and a school room measuring 17 feet by 18 feet 3 inches.

Upstairs lay a single bedroom measuring 16 feet by 10 feet 6 inches, a w. c., two maid’s rooms and a boxroom. Up four steps lay another box room and a maid’s room (“small”), a room intended to be two bathrooms and a double bedrooms measuring 14 feet by 15 feet 6 inches. Up some stairs lay a dressing room, a nursery measuring 15 feet by 16 feet, a double bedroom (“best”) measuring 18 feet 6 inches by 17 feet 6 inches. Up more stairs lay two single bedrooms measuring respectively 15 feet 6 inches by 10 feet 6 inches and 14 feet 3 inches by 15 feet 6 inches. Outside lay coal and wood barns, a store barn and pump house, two store barns, a coal place and a larder. There were also a two bay hovel, a store place, a two bay stable used as a store, a coal house used as a wood barn, a passage way to a hovel, two garages each for one car, an old harness room with a loft over, a two stall stable, three more store places and three kennels. A kitchen garden was partly walled and there was a tennis court in the “small” grounds.

The valuer commented: “Mrs. W. out, shown over by maid. Lighting by oil lamps, water pumped, drainage to cess pool. At present no bath, now having two put in. Grounds small and adjoins farm. Buildings not well planned and do not consider lettable. Mrs. W. recently came into occupation, reconstructing scullery and hot water system. Very difficult to value … awful front, garden very bad”.

Dean Grange was used as a private school. The schoolroom is 19th century in date but there is no evidence in records held at Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service for a school being held there at that time. It is known that a school was established at the house in 1944 and by the 1980s used the name Dean Grange International Preparatory School catering for local children and for children from overseas, mostly from Nigeria. The school closed in 1982 but a school clearly continued as Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has plans accompanying an application for planning permission to erect a new classroom from 1985 [BorBTP/85/2308]. At the present time [2011] the house is a bed and breakfast.

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has a number of directories for the county dating from 1839 to 1940. These give some details of names and addresses of prominent people in each parish. The following list has been compiled for  Dean Grange. County directories were only published every few years and so the dates in the list simply include the first and last reference to a particular individual residing at a property.

  • 1854-1864: William Ackroyd;
  • 1869-1871: Captain Robert FitzGerald Dalton;
  • 1877-1924: John William Rawson-Ackroyd;
  • 1928-1940: Colonel Henry Oswald Wade.