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Wootton House

Wootton House about 1920 [PK1/7/13]
Wootton House about 1920 [PK1/7/13]

Wootton House was listed by the former Ministry of Works in May 1952 as Grade II*, a more important building of special interest. This small country house dates from the late 17th century and is built of red brick, rendered in plaster. It comprises eight bays in length by five bays in depth and has two storeys and attics beneath an old clay tiled roof. The listing notes: “Simple interior with some remaining original panelling”. The stables were listed separately in August 1987 as Grade II. They date from the same time as the house and are built in red brick with an old clay tiled roof. They comprise ten bays and two storeys with eight windows in each floor and a central carriageway which has now been blocked. A lean-to was added in the 20th century. The listing comments: “Included for group value with Wootton House”.

The house was built by Sir Humphrey Monoux, who had been made a baronet in 1660. His family had been substantial landowners in the area for over a hundred years - George Monoux, alderman and citizen of London buying the Manor of Wootton Bosoms in 1514. He also purchased manors in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire between 1524 and 1526. The first member of the family to live in Wootton may have been Lewis, Sir Humphrey's father, who died in 1628. Sir Humphrey purchased Wootton Manor from Lord Carlisle some time between 1639 and 1666 and it is on the land that came with the manor that he built Wootton House suggesting a date of around the time of the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660.

The family continued to own Wootton House for the next century and a half or so, during which time they bought more land in Wootton as well as other parts of the county. Sir Humphrey Monoux, great grandson of the builder of Wootton House, died without issue in 1757 and a relative, Sir Philip Monoux (grandson of a younger son of the original Sir Humphrey) inherited the estates including the house and the baronetcy. Sir Philip died in 1805 and his four daughters divided the estates between them. Sir Philip's elderly first cousin, another Philip, inherited the baronetcy and on his death in 1812 it became extinct. The eldest daughter of the Sir Philip who died in 1805, Mary, received the greater part of the Wootton Estate. She was widow of Tempsford baronet Sir John Payne and later married Joseph Francis Buckworth. Mary had two sons by her marriage to Sir John Payne: Charles and Coventry.

Charles was a minor on inheriting his father's estates and the Napoleonic wars combined with an unscrupulous uncle, Sir Peter Payne, who was trustee during his minority reduced the family fortunes to a low ebb. Sir Peter Payne even went so far as to claim the Payne baronetcy because Sir John has been illegitimate - the case begun by Sir Peter was not finally resolved until 1870, long after his death. Sir Charles Payne died in France in 1841 and the estates passed to his brother Coventry, Vicar of Hatfield Peverell in Essex. He did not live at Wootton House as his mother was still in residence and he died in 1849. His son, another Coventry, then inherited both baronetcy and estates and when his grandmother died in 1850 he moved to Wootton House.

On Sir Coventry Payne's death in 1873 his son Philip, aged 15, succeeded him and faced a heavily mortgaged estate exacerbated by the decline in value of the West Indian sugar plantations the family had owned on Saint Kitts since the 18th century. This decline is amply demonstrated by two valuations of the estate, that of 1874 valued it at £1,800, twelve years later it was £1,300. The West Indian estates were sold in 1892 and the First World War put such a strain on Sir Philip's finances that he sold the entire estate to his daughter Sybil Harriet Doyne-Ditmas in 1923 for £7,776/5/8 which paid off his debts and left him with a modest annuity of £150 per annum. In 1920 an inventory of the contents of the house was made [D268].

In 1927 Bedfordshire was valued under the terms of the Rating Valuation Act of 1925; every piece of land was inspected to determine the rates to be paid on it. The valuer visiting Wootton House [DV1/C50/78] noted that it was "Queen Anne style". At the time it was owned and occupied by Mrs. Doyne-Ditmas. It contained a small porch and a paved lounge hall 24 feet 6 inches by 18 feet, other rooms downstairs being: a drawing room facing south (23 feet by 18 feet); a dining room facing south (18 feet by 16 feet); a school room facing west (13 feet 6 inches by 14 feet); a lobby and W. C. with a low basin; a smoking room facing east (20 feet by 16 feet); a butler's pantry; a servants' hall facing west; a kitchen in the north-west corner (24 feet 6 inches by 17 feet 6 inches "good, light"), a scullery, W. C., three larders, a gun room and a cellar.

On the first floor were, up the main stairs and turning left a bedroom over the pantry ("very small"); a bathroom; a bedroom over the servants' hall (17 feet 6 inches by 11 feet 6 inches); a nursery over the kitchen (25 feet by 17 feet); a bathroom and W. C.; a dressing room over the gun room (20 feet 6 inches by 12 feet); a night nursery over the smoking room (21 feet by 16 feet); a bedroom over the hall ("small"); another bedroom over the hall (17 feet 6 inches by 17 feet); a bedroom over the drawing room (15 feet 6 inches by 18 feet 6 inches); two cloth cupboards; a bedroom over the dining room (16 feet 6 inches by 18 feet 6 inches) and a further cupboard.

On the second floor up the main stairs were a maid's room with two beds, a maid's room with one bed, a maid's room used as a box room, another maid's room with one bed, three store rooms, a bedroom ("good") and a further maid's room with one bed. Outside were a stable yard, a brick and tile four stall stable used as kennels, two pigsties, a harness room, garage and food room. There were also an open garage, two loose boxed ("unused"), an engine room and a battery room - "lofts over all above". There were also a timber and tile wood shed and three brick and tile kennels ("old"). In the grounds were a walled kitchen garden, a heated glasshouse (28 feet by 11 feet 6 inches), a potting shed, another heated glasshouse (28 feet by 17 feet) and a lean-to (19 feet by 8 feet). The entire site comprised 7.074 acres.

The valuer's remarks were as follows: "Central heat from stove. M[ain] hall not used. Electric light. Water pumped by wind. Motor. Grounds small - no flower garden. Good K[itchen] garden. Stands well away from Road with good approach". The valuer also noted: "Walked round it". He valued it a little lower than he might due to: "bad central heating system - stove in hall" and "only has 2 Bath Rooms". Overall he considered that it was: "Not a Good Residential Place".

The hall in 1927 [P3/28/5]
The hall in 1927 [P3/28/5]

Mrs. Doyne-Ditmas sold Wootton House in the same year as the rating valuation, 1927, buying Kempston Manor with the proceeds and living there until selling that in 1935 and returning to Wootton to live at Cause End Cottage. The 1927 sale particulars, taken at the same time as the valuation made an interesting comparison and are as follows [Z375/1]

AN ATTRACTIVE
EARLY GEORGIAN RESIDENCE
ABOUT 4 MILES FROM BEDFORD
KNOWN AS
Wootton House

Occupying a secluded position in the VILLAGE near the Church, and screened from the Road by Belts of Timber, approached by a Carriage Drive ending in a Wide Gravelled Terrace at the Porch, which opens into the

Spacious Lounge Hall

Measuring about 25 feet by 18 feet, with black and white stone paved floor, large open hearth with oak panelled sides and over mantel with carved coat-of-arms of the Monoux Family

Inner or Staircase Hall

Fitted with “Ideal” pattern boiler for heating the radiators distributed throughout the house, off which is a CLOAK ROOM witted with lavatory basin (hot and cold) and W. C. adjoining.

Charming Drawing Room

Measuring 23 feet by 18 feet, well lighted, fitted with modern barless grate and hot-water pipes to one side of room and communicating with

The Dining Room

Measuring 18 feet by 17 feet 6 inches, with modern barless grate and good cupboard, and communicating with the

Business Room

Measuring 14 feet by 13 feet, with old fireplace and two good cupboards. On the right of Entrance Hall is a

Pleasant Smoking Room

Measuring 20 feet by 16 feet with modern well fireplace and good cupboard

Gun Room

Measuring 15 feet 10 inches by 12 feet, and fitted with two large Stone Cupboards

ON THE FIRST FLOOR, which is approached by the BROAD PRINCIPAL STAIRCASE with heavy moulded oak hand rail and twisted balusters, are –

Nine Principal Bed and Dressing Rooms

All well lighted and lofty, and from which excellent views are obtained, as follows: -

THE GREEN ROOM, 18 feet 10 inches by 18 feet fitted with barless grate and communicating with

THE CANOPY BED ROOM, 24 feet by 18 feet 9 inches, with large recess and POWDER CLOSET on either side, and old fireplace

THE OAK BED ROOM, 17 feet 6 inches by 17 feet fitted with modern barless grate

DRESSING ROOM 18 feet 6 inches by 8 feet, with fitted lavatory basins (hot and cold)

BEST BED ROOM or NURSERY, 21 feet by 16 feet, fitted with modern barless grate and radiator

BED ROOM (adjoining) 21 feet by 12 feet, fitted with lavatory basin (hot and cold), fireplace and radiator

BATH ROOM with bath (hot and cold), lavatory basin (hot and cold), W. C. and towel airer

DAY NURSERY (formerly Billiard Room), 25 feet 6 inches by 17 feet 6 inches, with fireplace and large linen cupboard heated by radiator and boot cupboard heated with hot-water pipes, and communicating with

NIGHT NURSERY, 18 feet by 12 feet, with fireplace

BATH ROOM with bath (hot and cold), lavatory basin (hot and cold), W. C., towel airer and fireplace

SMALL DRESSING ROOM with lavatory basin (hot and cold)

The Large Landing and Corridors are fitted with radiators and a Secondary Staircase communicates with the Servants’ Quarters

ON THE TOP OR ATTIC FLOOR are Four Large Bed Rooms and Two Servants’ Bed Rooms, Cistern Room, Large Linen Cupboard, Two Lumber Rooms and old Plate Room fitted with Chubb’s fireproof iron door. Four access doors to roof.

Electric Light throughout Central Heating Telephone

The Well-arranged Domestic Offices
Comprise: SERVANTS’ HALL, 15 feet by 12 feet; PANTRY with fireplace, two China and Glass Cupboards; KITCHEN, 25 feet by 17 feet 6 inches, paved with stone and brick, and fitted with double oven range and hot plates at side: SCULLERY with sink (hot and cold), “Ideal” boiler which supplies hot water to the lavatory basins, towel airers, etc.; Larder and Servants’ W. C. and good Cellarage. Close to the Tradesmen’s Entrance are Two Game Larders.

Lying to the North-East of the Residence are

STABLING AND GARAGE PREMISES

Comprising: A Range of Brick and Tiled THREE-STALL STABLE, LOOSE BOX and HARNESS ROOM, GARAGE, MIXING ROOM and way up to Loft over, COACH-HOUSE, TWO LOOSE BOXES, ENGINE HOUSE, fitted with Paraffin-driven Engine for the Electric Light system. ACCUMULATOR HOUSE adjoining and Saw Bench in rear, worked from the Electric Plant. Timber and Tiled Wood and Store Sheds. Two Cow Houses, Two Dog Kennels and Boiling House. Large Yard.

THE PLEASURE GROUNDS

Are small and inexpensive to maintain, and comprise Herbaceous Borders, Flower Beds on either side of the Gravelled Walks, Tennis Lawn and Large Lily Pond etc.

Adjoining the house on the West is the excellent

Walled-in Kitchen Garden of over 1¼ Acres

Well laid out and stocked with a variety of Standard and Bush Fruit Trees. VINERY, MELON HOUSE, Stokehole under, and Store Shed. Also PEACH HOUSE. Potting and Tool Sheds, etc.

On the North of the Kitchen Garden is a

Capital Gardener’s Cottage

Containing Four Bed Rooms, Two Sitting Rooms, Kitchen, Larder, Wash-house with copper, sink and fireplace. Wood Shed and E. C. Good Garden, Small Orchard and Pond.

Well Timbered Park-like Pasture Lands

Surround the Residence, the whole contains an Area of about

46 acres 2 roods 32 poles

Divided as follows: -

Wootton House on the plan accompanying the 1927 sale particulars [Z375/1]
Wootton House on the plan accompanying the 1927 sale particulars [Z375/1]

1. House, Grounds and Gardener’s Cottage - 3 acres, 1 rood, 26 poles
2. Pool at Road Side - 8 poles
3. Road Side Waste – 1 rood, 15 poles
4. Lily Pond, The Basin – 1 rood, 15 poles
5. The Wilderness – 2 acres, 15 poles
6. Pond, The Canal – 1 rood, 35 poles
7. Biggins – 5 acres, 32 poles
8. Plantation – 2 roods, 5 poles
8a. Plantation – 1 rood, 8 poles
9. Bottom Fish Pond – 12 acres, 2 roods, 39 poles
10. Part of the Park – 20 acres, 27 poles
16. Top Fish Pond – 1 rood
17. Oak Close – 7 acres, 3 roods, 1 pole
18. Garden, Woodyard etc. – 1 rood, 16 poles
19. Pightle and Pond – 4 acres, 3 roods, 33 poles
21a. Site of Reservoirs – 14 poles
Part 45. Site of Well and Wind Pump – 2 poles

Possession may be obtained on Completion of the Purchase

Apportioned Land Tax £12 14s. 3d.

NOTES. – The Fixtures and Fittings on this lot to be paid for in addition to the purchase-money as per Inventory amount of £ [blank]

Drinking Water is obtained from a Well in Field No. 45 (Lot 29) and raised by Wind Pump to reservoirs with access covers and stop valves in the North-West corner of Field No. 21 (Lot 4) and conveyed thence by Gravitation to the Residence. This lot is sold with the benefit of rights thereto as set out in the 11th and 12th Conditions of Sale.

The Purchaser shall within 3 months erect and maintain a good and sufficient fence dividing this lot on the South from Lot 2, where shown by a dotted line and marked T on Plan, to the satisfaction of Messrs. Stafford, Rogers and A. W. Merry Ltd.

Wootton House in 1927 [P3/28/5]
Wootton House in 1927 [P3/28/5]

In 1936 the house was again up for sale and this time the particulars [AD1147/28] were as follows: “Wootton House occupies a pleasant rural situation on an eminence at the Western end of the old world village of Wootton, from which it is approached by a carriage drive and also by a back entrance. The principal Rooms have a Southern aspect, and possess delightful views over the park-like land and lakes”.

“THE WILLIAM AND MARY RESIDENCE is of outstanding architectural merit, being of low elevation and containing a number of characteristic features, including well-proportioned rooms with typical large twelve-pane sash windows and shutters, a quantity of unpolished oak and pine panelling and old brass locks to doors. It has a deep roof of old mellowed tiles”.

The Accommodation comprises: -

ON THE GROUND FLOOR

PORCH ENTRANCE, a half-glazed door with fanlight over leading to

Lounge Hall

Measuring about 25 feet by 19 feet, with unpolished oak dado, stone tessellated floor and recess fireplace over, which is a richly-carved oak mantel with Coat of Arms. Gentleman’s Cloak Room fitted with basin (h. and c.) and W. C.

Drawing Room

Facing South, about 23 feet by 19 feet, with marble chimneypiece and painted walls, communicating with

Study (or Boudoir)

Also facing South, and measuring about 19 feet by 17 feet 6 inches, with painted walls and fitments of bookshelves, this room also communicating with the Hall

School Room (or Business Room)

Looking to the West, with painted dado and two wall cupboards

Dining Room

About 18 feet by 16 feet, with painted walls and fireplace with plain Bolection moulding.

Complete Domestic Offices

In a wing consisting of large lofty KITCHEN with “Gradient” range, LARDER, SCULLERY, with National radiator for domestic hot water supply, PANTRY with sink and ample cupboard fitments; Boiler for Central heating system; Good SERVANTS’ HALL and man servant’s BED ROOM fitted lavatory basin; Game Larder, Tradesmen’s Entrance, etc.

ON THE FIRST FLOOR, approached by a

Noteworthy Pine Staircase

Well lighted and of wide and easy ascent, with pine dado and balusters; and also approached by a back staircase:

LARGE LANDING AND UPPER HALL, from which lead

7 Best Bed Rooms, Dressing Room and 2 Principal Bath Rooms

More particularly described as follows: -

No. 1. EXCELLENT PRINCIPAL BED ROOM, measuring about 20 feet by 18 feet, with painted dado 3 feet 6 inches high, pillared bed recess and ablution cupboard, communicating with

No. 2. BED ROOM or DRESSING ROOM, about 18 feet square, with oak-panelled dado, polished floor and carved chimneypiece.

No. 3. BED ROOM, with pine panelled dado and carved chimneypiece, communicating with DRESSING ROOM, also having pine-panelled dado.

No. 4. BED ROOM with West aspect and fitted lavatory basin.

No. 5. NURSERY or BED ROOM. A well-proportioned room, measuring about 21 feet by 18 feet.

No. 6. BED ROOM, measuring about 18 feet by 12 feet, with West aspect.

No. 7. BED ROOM, having old hob grate.

LARGE PRINCIPAL BATH ROOM fitted with lavatory basin, heated towel rail and W. C.

SECOND BATH ROOM, having fitted lavatory basin, W. C.

ABOVE approached from the Upper Hall by an interesting wide oak Staircase with Jacobean balusters:

TWO SECONDARY BED ROOMS, with dormer windows, both looking to the South.

FOUR MAID SERVANTS’ BED ROOMS, Two Large Box Rooms (or additional attic Bed Rooms).

THIRD (STAFF) BATH ROOM, fitted with lavatory basin and housemaid’s sink, separate W. C.

The delightful character of the house together with the modern conveniences carefully installed without spoiling the original features combine to form a residence of old-world charm with up-to-date comfort.

The Stabling and Garage Buildings

Are situated in a cobbled yard to the North of the House, and are substantially built of brick, comprising Three Stalls, two Loose Boxes, Third Box, Harness and Saddle Room. Garages for two cars and Loft over; Engine House adjoining containing Tangye oil engine, which drives the Mawdsley 100 volt dynamo, and has shafting for operating a circular saw; Coal, Coke and Wood Sheds; 2-Division Piggery.

The Gardens and Grounds

Have been well maintained, and include Lawns with tennis Court, Fish Pond.

Well-stocked Walled Kitchen Garden

With central herbaceous border, wall fruit, and heated Glasshouse containing a notable Nectarine Tree (some 15 years old); potting shed, brick forcing frames, asparagus and strawberry beds, etc.

In addition: orchard, Fruit Garden with cages, second smaller Orchard

“Norbrek” Hard Tennis Court

Fox Cottage

Is substantially built of brick and tile, and comprises Six Rooms and Box Room, with water supply

The Bungalow Cottage

Well built of brick, during recent years, comprises Six Rooms, and also has the Estate water supply

Both these cottages are at present occupied by Service tenants

The Parklike Pasture Land

Is of good quality, studded with forest trees, and sloping from the Residence to a

Chain of Three Lakes

Connected by a stream and affording coarse Fishing; the balance of the property comprising

Wootton Wood

One of the largest covets for some miles around, and comprising good specimen Oak, Ash, Larch and Fir etc. The Wood is traversed by the “Green Ride” with other cross rides, the area of the entire Property amounting to a total of nearly

178 Acres

On 25th July 1939, not long before the outbreak of World War Two, Wootton House was again up for sale – the third time in twelve years. The sale particulars [Z682/2] stated: “At bargain upset price only £4,000, with 13½ Acres”. It comes as no surprise that the particulars were almost identical to those of 1936. Sadly the copy held by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service is not annotated with the name of the buyer.

Directories for Bedfordshire were not published every year but every few years from the early to mid 19th century until 1940. From these directories, and from other documents, we can build up quite a good picture of the inhabitants of Wootton House in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These may be summarised as follows:

  • 1808: John Davies of Shepherd’s Bush [Middlesex] took out a 21 year lease in this year [BS144]. This lease included the house itself, “with the pew in the church, the coach houses and outhouses; also 15 acres of pasture adjoining; and the royalty or Manor of Wootton (except the courts, perquisites, etc), and the right of hunting, etc. All which premises were late in the tenure of Lord Charles Henry Somerset” [second son of the Duke of Beaufort, MP for Scarborough, then for Monmouth, Governor of Cape Colony from 1814 to 1826]. The annual rent was £80;
  • 1811: John Davies was no longer in occupation [F467];
  • 1813: Colonel Lake;
  • 1838 Joseph Francis Buckworth [HF17/7/5];
  • 1847 H. Bolders;
  • 1853-1871: Sir Coventry Paine, baronet;
  • 1875: John Phillips Thomas [F650];
  • 1885 Henry John Conant;
  • 1890-1914: Colonel Hon. Robert Villiers Dillon RHA;
  • 1920-1927: Major Harold Edward Churton Doyne-Ditmas;
  • 1928-1936 Captain Rt. Hon. William George Arthur Ormsby-Gore MP and Lady Beatrice (he was Conservative MP for Denbigh 1910-1918 and Stafford 1918-1938 becoming 4th Baron Harlech in 1938);
  • 1940 Lieutenant-Colonel Hon. Thomas George Breadalbane Morgan-Grenville , DSO, MC (High Sheriff in 1951).

Wootton House in 1969 [Z50/136/1]
Wootton House in 1969 [Z50/136/1]