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Staunton House Woburn

The southern block of Staunton House May 2012
The southern block of Staunton House May 2012

On 29th May 1635 Sir Francis Staunton of Birchmoor made his will [ABP/W1639/79]. One of the clauses read as follows (note the original spelling): “I will and bequeath forty pounds to be bestoed by my executor in house or land to the use of the poore of Woburne aforesaid for ever, within six yeares after my decease and in the meane tyme till the said house or Land shall be bought, in lew thereof I appoint my executor to give unto fortie of the poore Twelve pence a yeere upon the Eight day of december”. The will was proved in the Archdeaconry of Bedford on 27th March 1639.

In 1802 the register of dues owned to the perpetual curate of Woburn [P118/28/2]

  • George Varney;
  • Elizabeth Copeland;
  • Thomas Boff;
  • Elizabeth Garner;
  • Andrew Henley;
  • J. Green and M. Cottam;
  • Ann Marshall;
  • E. Barker and S. Smith;
  • A. Abbethorpe and M. Ireland;
  • Sarah Edmond;
  • Mary Ralph;
  • A. Cox and M. Law

Decoration over the door of the northern block May 2012
Decoration over the door of the northern block May 2012

In 1892 John Gilby made an account of all the Woburn charities. He wrote the following about the Staunton Charity: “The Executor of Sir Francis Staunton, bart, with the £40 purchased a close of pasture Lane, with the appurtenances thereon situate at Piggs Park, Aspley Guise, area about 4 acres then valued at 40s.per annum, the Income derived from this Investment was to be distributed by Trustees in accordance with the deed of Trust to 40 persons nominated by the Heirs and Assigns of the said Sir Francis Staunton, owners of Birchmoor House and Land for the time being”.

“The other properties mentioned consisted of the following producing an annual rent roll of about £24 clear of all expenses viz.

South or London end of the Town. East Side

  • About 8 acres of Land near Cowell pond £12.
  • 5 tenements producing £2.6.8.
  • 3 Tenements producing West Side £1.

North end of Town

  • 3 Cottages, gardens and Orchards west Side £4.16.8.
  • 5 Cottages and Gardens East Side £4.
  • 4 acres, 2 roods Land near Long Slade £1”

Some of these rents are nominal. £25.3.4”.

“The whole of these Tenements being in a ruinous and very dilapidated condition and no funds available to rebuild them, it was considered beneficial to the Inhabitants and for the Benefit of the Poor, to sell the property, an Act of Parliament was obtained in the Year 1761 by which the whole of the Charity property was conveyed to John, 4th Duke of Bedford, his heirs and assigns on condition that he would build and keep in repair 12 Almshouses for Poor Families and pay the Inmates a yearly sum of £30 or £2.10 to each House, such sum to be chargeable on the House and Lands of Birchmoor. The nomination of the Inmates to be left to the Duke of Bedford, his heirs and assigns , owners of Woburn Abbey. Trustees were appointed with power to distrain etc. – in the event of non-payment. The number of Trustees is 13 with power to the last Survivor to appoint, the last appointment was made in 1885, by John Green Esq., Solicitor and Ebenezer Handscombe, Horologist [watchmaker] (both since deceased) survivors.

  • John Gilby Senior [(“dead”) written in pencil]
  • John B. Hill [(retired 1916) in pencil]
  • G. B. Clarke [(dead) in pencil]
  • F. Freeman [(dead) in pencil]
  • W. H. Smith senior [(dead) in pencil]
  • H. T. Hall [(dead) in pencil]
  • Edward Sanders [(dead) in pencil]
  • John Gilby Junior
  • Frederick Brown [(dead) in pencil]
  • W. H. Roberts [(dead) in pencil]
  • Frederick Whitlock Junior [(went to America and lost sight of) in pencil]

These are the present Trustees. In 1851 the Almshouses were rebuilt the number being increased to 20, 4 Double and 16 Single which is to be regretted, it being clear by the Act of Parliament they were intended for poor Families and not Individuals. Until very recently all nominations were given to persons born in or belonging to the parish. This Rule has of late departed from”.

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. Woburn, like much of the county was valued in 1927 and the valuer visiting Staunton House [DV1/C137/29-50] noted the individual occupiers of each of the two blocks; each had one living room and one bedroom with a barn and earth closet outside:

1. Miss Young;
2. Miss Lichfield;
3. Mrs. Adams;
4. Mrs. Gilks;
5. Mrs. Price;
6. Mrs. Atterbury;
7. Robert Rowkin;
8. Miss Agnes Tansley;
9. Mrs. Potter;
10. Mrs. S. Hobbs;
11. Thomas King;
12. Mrs. E. Wallington;
13. Mrs. Emily Coburn;
14. Fred Atterbury;
15. Mrs. Garratt;
16. Miss Chisnall;
17. Miss N. Wesson;
18. David Giltrow;
19. F. Hopkins;
20. vacant: “Covered in passage at back with crown glass side”.

Plaque on Staunton House March 2012
Plaque on Staunton House May 2012

In 1968 the almshouses were settled on new trustees and registered with the Charity Commission. Both blocks were listed by English Heritage in March 1987 as Grade II, of special interest. The listing states that the present properties were erected by Francis, 7th Duke of Bedford, in 1850. They are built of yellow brick with dressings in render and have clay tiled roofs. Blocks built to the rear are in red brick. The dwellings comprise two storeys and are built in a “loosely Jacobean style”.

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has the following sources for a more detailed study of the almshouses and the charity:

  • X21/634: extracts from trust deeds: 1847-1879;
  • P118/25/2: charity account book: 1865-1867;
  • P118/25/3: charity account book: 1883-1891;
  • R4/938: purchase of a bath chair for the almshouses by the Duke of Bedford: 1884;
  • P118/25/4: charity account book: 1890-1900;
  • P118/25/5: manuscript account of all Woburn charities made by John Gilby: 1892;
  • P118/25/7: list of charity documents handed over to Woburn Parish Council: 1895;
  • CHAR127/1: Woburn Almshouse Charity items: 1901-1954;
  • X21/633: printed page from a report by the Charity Commission: c. 1913;
  • X21/635: correspondence: 1913-1916;
  • PCWoburn11/3: copy registration of Woburn Almshouse Charity: 1961;
  • PCWoburn11/3: The Charities (Woburn Almshouse Charity) Order 1968;
  • PCWoburn18/2/1: planning consent: 1994.

The northern block of Staunton House May 2012
The northern block of Staunton House May 2012