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Park Farm Woburn

Park Farm Complex annotated by the rating valuer in 1927 [DV2/C24]
Park Farm Complex annotated by the rating valuer in 1927 [DV2/C24]

Park Farm is a large complex of farm buildings which, today, are used as offices for the administration of the Duke of Bedford’s estate. The farm was originally designed in 1795 by Robert Salmon for Francis, 5th Duke of Bedford. The 5th Duke was very interested in the changes being brought about by the agrarian revolution. The first set of buildings was completed in 1797. It had the most up-to-date machinery and applied the most up-to-date techniques, being designed to demonstrate them to tenants and neighbours. Many of the machines were invented by Salmon himself who described himself in 1813 as “a mechanic – has a knowledge of most sorts of machinery – professionally conversant there in many years – has invented many machines and secured various premiums from the Society of Arts and Board of Agriculture &c. Agent to the Duke of Bedford and has been director of his improvements for nearly thirty years”.

Most of the buildings comprising the main area of Park Farm were listed by the former Ministry of Works in January 1961 as Grade II, of special interest including the former mill and the north-east block was designed as a sheep shearing house and was reworked about 1826 by William Root. Park Farm was intended as a place to demonstrate new agricultural technology, and was the setting for the annual Woburn Sheep Shearing. The building is constructed with mottled brick and has slate roofs. The main block is long and rectangular on a north-north-east to south-south-west axis and has a wide projecting single storey block leading east. The building is described by the listing as of neo-classical style. 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 Park Farm described this building as: a brick and slate trap house; a three stall stable; a loosebox; a wood and slate ladder shed; an office; a dairy and two locked rooms.

Original elevation of the sheep shearing house [RBox818/18/23]
Original elevation of the sheep shearing house [RBox818/18/23]

The south-east part of the farm complex is built in red brick and coursed ironstone. It has slate roofs. The main block is long and low, running roughly east to west with various blocks adjoining the rear. The listing describes the architecture as rustic neo-classical style. The 1925 valuer described the block as: a brick and slate four stall stable; a harness room; another four stall stable and harness room; a mess room with a loft over; another four stall stable; a loose box with tie-ups for three horses; a blacksmith’s shop and forge; a wood shed; a three bay open implement shed; a garage; another loose box with tie-ups for three horses; a nine bay open shed; a food mixing store with a copper for boiling water; a calf house with fourteen pens and a centre feeding passage; a four bay open shed and a five bay open shed.

Elevation of the south-east part of the Park Farm complex [RBox818/18/19]
Elevation of the south-east part of the Park Farm complex [RBox 818/18/19]

The south central part of the complex was described by the valuer as follows: an L-shaped cow house for thirty two in sixteen double standings; a bull pen; two seven bay open sheds; two loose boxes with tie-ups for two horses’ three loose boxes and a seven bay cow shed.

The south-west part of the complex was, again, listed as Grade II. It is red brick and coursed ironstone and has slate roofs. It is a long, low single storey building about a hundred metres in length with various blocks projecting south, that is, to the rear. These blocks for a courtyard at the west end. It is also in a rustic neo-classical style. The rating valuer described the block as follows: the estate yard containing a brick and slate store and carpenter’s shop; a rough store; a drawing office; a mess room; a paint shop; a wire store and a cement pipe store. There was also an office block included in the south central block comprised: an entrance lobby with a doorkeeper’s office; a drawing office measuring 17 feet 6 inches by 19 feet; a lavatory, urinal and lavatory basin; a typists’ office measuring 9 feet by 14 feet 6 inches; a strong room measuring 17 feet 6 inches by 14 feet; a plan room measuring 10 feet by 19 ft 9 inches; an office measuring 9 feet by 14 feet 3 inches; Mr. Elliott’s Room [Charles Pynsent Elliott the Land Agent] measuring 15 feet by 13 feet 6 inches; an office measuring 11 feet by 13 feet 6 inches; a general office measuring 21 feet by 13 feet; “return up fourteen stairs near typists’ office”; “Office (Mr. Mitchell)” [Frank Mitchell the Head Forester] 12 feet by 13 feet; office 14 feet by 13 feet; filing cupboard.

Just to the south-west of the south-west block lay the Clerk of Works’ House [DV1/C140/17] which, at the time of the rating valuation survey was in the occupation of G. Whitcombe whose accommodation comprised a hall, four reception rooms, a kitchen, a scullery, a living room and a bathroom on the ground floor with five bedrooms above. There was a “good yard” and the house contained gas stoves and was also lighted by gas. Mains water was laid on and a W. C. stood outside.

The north central part of the farm complex was also listed as Grade II and was originally cow houses. The block was built later than the preceding blocks as it is not shown on a painting of sheep sheering at the farm dated 1804 but probably depicting a scene of about 1801. The construction is of coursed ironstone with slate roofs. The block comprises a number of low, single-storeyed blocks arranged around a small rectangular yard, with the main elevation facing east. It, too, is in a rustic neo-classical style. The rating valuer described it thus: a brick and slate fire engine house; a range of three loose boxes; two food stores; a loosebox; a harness room; a garage with an inspection pit and a loft over; a five bay open cart shed; a cowhouse for ten; a food mixing shed; a four bay open cart shed; a garage; a two stall stable and a loose box.

The Park Farm complex includes a number of buildings detached from the main blocks. To the north lies the dairy. This was listed by English Heritage in March 1987 as Grade II. It dates from 1900 but, the listing notes, is “apparently a rebuilding on the site of an earlier structure”. It has a high, red brick plinth on which a building with applied timer-framing with plaster infill stands. It has ashlar dressings and clay tiled roofs. It stands within an octagonal ha-ha, or ornamental ditch. The rating valuer simply described the premises as a dairy.

Immediately south of the main complex is the former Head Cowman’s House. This was listed in March 1987 as Grade II. It is a Bedford Estate cottage probably built around 1850, in yellow brick with ashlar dressings and clay tiled roofs. The rating valuer described it [DV1/C140/28] as a “house in the occupation of Brown” with two reception rooms, a kitchen and scullery and four bedrooms above. Outside stood a W. C.; water was laid on and the valuer considered the cottage “very nice”.

Other workers cottages lie west of the main Park Farm complex, these are 3 and 4 Park Farm Cottages in one block and 5 and 6 Park Farm Cottages in a separate block. Both blocks were listed by English Heritage in March 1987 as Grade II. Numbers 3 and 4 were probably erected in the 1840s and, again, are Bedford Estate cottages, built in red brick with ashlar dressings. They now have 20th century tiled roofs. Numbers 5 and 6 are also Bedford Estate cottages, probably from the 1850s in red brick with lighter red brick dressings highlighting architectural features. Again the roofs are composed of 20th century tiles. The rating valuer described the two pairs as in the occupation of Stokes and Saville and A. Hampson and W. Barber all with a parlour and kitchen and three bedrooms above (“one over barn”), with a barn and W. C. outside. Water was laid on to the yard of each.

In between 5 and 6 Park Farm Cottages and the south-west block of the main complex lay a bungalow which, at the time of the rating valuation survey [DV1/C140/18] was in the occupation of Nellie Gunnell who had a sitting room, a kitchen and a bedroom. A larder and W. C. stood outside. The valuer commented: “1905”, “Dairy” and “Nice, Big”. Nearby stood a detached house [DV1/C140/19]. The valuer wrote “?Horse Steward”. The house had three reception rooms, a kitchen, a scullery and a living room with five bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. A brick and slate loosebox, harness room, trap house and W. C. stood outside. Water was laid on and lighting was by gas.

The land agent, Charles Pynsent Elliott, lived in a commodious residence just to the north-west of the main park Farm complex and called Park House. The rating valuer [DV1/C140/26] did not describe it in any internal detail (perhaps he could not get access) but noted that it had a wood and corrugated iron garden room measuring 16 feet 6 inches by 14 feet 2 inches, a brick and slate coal house, tool shed and wood store and a brick and slate pigsty “used as a new house”.