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The Rookery Aspley Guise

The Rookery January 2008
The Rookery - January 2008

The Rookery stands in a commanding position in Church Street, on a rise next to the graveyard and overlooking both church and Manor.

In 1927 this part of Bedfordshire was valued under the terms of the Rating Valuation Act 1925; every piece of land and property was inspected to determine the rates to be paid on it. The valuer visiting The Rookery noted that it was owned and occupied by Miss A.S. and Miss C.V.S.Westoby (in a directory of 1910 Miss C.V.Studey Westoby is noted as honorary secretary of the South Bedfordshire RSPCA); the building was brick and tiled.

Accommodation downsairs consisted of: a hall (12½ feet by 8 feet with a bay 9½ feet by 5 feet); a drawing room (10½ feet by 22½ feet); a dining room (21 feet by 14½ feet); a living room (12½ feet by 13 feet); a kitchen (20 feet by 11½ feet); a scullery, pantry and larder and a store room ("up stairs out of scullery"). Upstairs were: two dressing rooms; a bathroom and separate wc and three bedrooms (19 feet by 11 feet, 14½ feet by 12½ feet, 13¼ feet by 15 feet with a bay measuring 7½ feet by 3½ feet). There were also three attics and a boxroom. Outside was a heated conservatory (21 feet by 17 feet), an aviary, a brick and tile stable with two stalls and two loose boxes, a harness room, wc, coach house, tool shed and fowl houses. The house had mains water laid on but relied on lamps and a cess pit for lighting and drainage respectively. The valuer commented: "Stands up well - top of Hill" but down-valued it due to the lack of electricity and the fact that it had only one bathroom.

Directories reveal the following occupiers for give dates: Carlisle Spalding Parker JP 1864-1885; Sir Benjamin Chilley Campbell Pine 1890; Benjamin William Dixon 1894; Mrs.Dixon 1898; Miss C.V.S.Westoby 1903-1910; the Misses Westoby 1914-1928; Harold W.Kempthorne 1931; Maurice Lewis 1936-1940.

Perhaps the most interesting resident occurred during World War Two. During the war the area around Aspley Guise was used by the government (through its Political Warfare Executive) to broadcast what was known as black propaganda to Germany as well as radio programmes to occupied Europe. The black propaganda, which included, for example, suggesting Hitler had Jewish ancestry, was organised by a Berlin born Australia called Dennis Sefton Delmer. He knew Hitler personally having lived in Germany before the war and for part of the war lived at The Rookery, in some style, having moved there from another Aspley property, Larchfield. For more information see Stephen Bunker's recent (2007) book Spy Capital of Britain. Dr.Bunker relates that the German for Rookery is krahenhorst which also translates as "den of thieves" (as, indeed Rookery itself also meant in slang English in the 18th and 19th centuries), which allegedly caused Delmer some amusement.

The Rookery is now, once more, purely a private house.