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Parsonage Piece

Parsonage Piece March 2008
Parsonage Piece March 2008

Old Warden is something of a show village due to the preponderance of attractive cottages; some are tiled, some are thatched, but most are quaint looking and painted in the same livery of cream and white. Most are rendered and some have mock timber framing on the outside (sometimes concealing real timber framing beneath the render!). All look old but many are 19th century. They all belonged to the Shuttleworth Estate as it was known after Joseph Shuttleworth bought the estate in 1872. It had previously been the Ongley estate after Samuel Ongley bought it from Earl Bolingbroke, a member of the Saint John family of Bletsoe, in 1698.

Parsonage Piece was listed by the former Department of Environment in 1970 as Grade II, of special interest. It is a 17th and 18th century building, reworked in the 19th century. This means it probably dates from the period of the Saint Johns but might, possibly, have been built in the first years of the Ongley possession of the estate. It is of timber-framed construction "some fairly substantial" with colour-washed rough-cast render and an old clay tiled roof. It is an L-plan of two storeys with various 19th and 20th century additions to north and south.

 Parsonage Piece and pump March 2008
Parsonage Piece and pump March 2008

In 1872 Old Warden Park was sold by Robert, 3rd Baron Ongley by private contract to Joseph Shuttleworth. The sale catalogue of the time [X65/61] gave details of the estate including the Post Office described as: "Of neat elevation, with roughcast exterior and tiled roof, containing Four Bed Rooms, Sitting Room, Kitchen, Double Shop, and good Cellar, with Yard and Garden…in occupation of WILLIAM KING, as Yearly Tenant, at a Rental of £8 PER ANNUM". King had been in the village since at least 1853 when he is first recorded as shopkeeper and postmaster; Daniel Garner had been listed as the only shopkeeper in the village in a directory of 1847, though not necessarily in the same place.

William King is listed as postmaster until a directory of 1890 when he had been replaced by Sarah King and she is so listed until replaced by William J.Mayes in a directory of 1903. In the last Kelly's Directory owned by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service, 1940, William Mayes had been replaced by Lucy Mayes.

In 1927 the dwellings of Old Warden were valued under the Rating Valuation Act 1925; every piece of land and building in the country was assessed to determine the rates to be paid on it. The valuer visiting Parsonage Piece [DV1/C34/74] noted that it was owned by the Shuttleworth Estate and tenanted by W.J.Mayes, standing in 0.245 acres and leased at £14 per annum. The buildings comprised the post room, small post office and shop ("general stores and grocery"), living room, kitchen and parlour with four bedrooms above and a cellar below; outside were a wash-house and barn ("good"), water came from a tap in the yard [not, apparently the pump adjoining the premises]. There was also a greenhouse and the valuer commented: "Nice little place, has a big-ish gate and path through garden. Nice garden. Lays low".

 Parsonage Piece east elevation 1944
Parsonage Piece east elevation 1944 [SL5/148]

The buildings were altered in 1944 and the plan below and elevation above date from that time [SL5/148]. No post office is marked, indicating that it must have moved to its present location at or before this date.

Ground floor plan of Parsonage Piece 1944
Ground floor plan of Parsonage Piece 1944 [SL5/198]