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Grove Farmhouse - 18 Main Road Biddenham

Grove House March 2012
Grove House March 2012

Grove House was listed by English Heritage in February 1986 as Grade II, of special interest. The listing describes it as two 18th century houses abutting one another, with 19th century alterations and extensions to the rear. The main wing is built of coursed limestone rubble and has an old clay tiled roof. The house comprises two storeys with attics.

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 Grove Farm [DV1/H1/74] found that it, like most of the parish, was owned by the Wingfield family, Lords of the Manor of Biddenham. It was occupied by Alfred Anthony Chibnall who paid rent of 30/- per acre. This had been set in 1921, from 1899 it had been 23/- per acre. The farm had comprised 190.7 acres in 1914 and had grown to 220 acres but land “Is being Taken constantly for Buildings”.

One valuer has written: “Sir Trustram [Eve] fixed rent see him. Bedford people trespass. Can’t keep sheep because of dogs. Good house and buildings”. Another hand has written: “Was a good shaped Farm once. Know it by heart. Trespassers abnormal. Good land”.

The farmhouse comprised three reception rooms, an office, a kitchen and scullery, a cellar, a dairy and a pantry; five bedrooms, a bathroom and a W. C. all lay on the first floor. There were also two attic bedrooms. Domestic outbuildings comprised a wood shed, a bike shed, a store and a coal barn. The valuer commented: “water pumped to roof from well. Gas and electric light. Good house”.

The homestead comprised the following groups of buildings:

  • South: an oil place; a garage; a loose box; a two stall stable; another loose box; a three bay open implement shed; two barns; a boiling house and a wood and tiled store shed belonging to the tenant;
  • North: a loose box; a ten bay open hovel; a granary; four loose boxes; a seven bay open hovel and a loose box;
  • East: a stable for ten; a chaff place; a harness room; a five bay open cart shed; a hen house; a four bay open cart shed and a Dutch barn

The valuer commented: “nearly all stone and tile, very good, water from well”. In the field numbered 51 on the Ordnance Survey map was another group of buildings as follows:

  • South: a granary and a three bay hovel “used by estate”;
  • North: two loose boxes; a six bay open hovel; a bull box; a five bay open hovel; a cowshed for twelve; a washing place; two cow sheds each for ten beasts (“low and poor”); a chaff house and a barn;
  • In the yard was a cow shed for seven.

Next to Main Road were two boxes, a three bay open hovel, and a cow shed for ten. The valuer considered these a “poor set of buildings”.

Directories for Bedfordshire were not published annually but every few years. The first one to mention Grove Farm is 1903 when the tenant was Alfred Benjamin Chibnell. He became tenant at Michaelmas 1898 [PK7/2/3-4]. He was also listed as farmer in directories of 1906, 1910 and 1914. the directory for 1920 lists both Alfred Benjamin and Alfred Anthony Chibnell as do those for 1924 and 1928.

In 1931 the farm is not listed but in the directory for 1936: Grove House is shown as occupied by a Miss H. S. Manfield. This is because, like Manor Farm, the farmhouse was detached from the farm and rented separately as a private residence. This took place in 1933 when the Wingfield family leased the farm to Charles William Rawlins of Cardington [CCE1262/24]. As well as Grove Farm the lease included Manor Farm and Church Farm. The combined rent was £1,298/17/4 per annum. The lease was renewed for seven years from 29 September 1948. The 1933 lease reveals that Grove Farm then comprised 161 acres, 2 roods, 11 poles.

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has, in the archives of valuers and estate agents W & H. Peacock, a number of stocktaking valuations for the farm from 1930 to 1941 [PK3/2/37].