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297 Southill Road Cardington

297 Southill Road Christmas Eve 2010
297 Southill Road Christmas Eve 2010

297 Southill Road was listed by the former Ministry of Public Buildings and Works in July 1964 as Grade II, of special interest. The ministry dated the property to the 17th century. It is timber framed with a roughcast render and has an old clay tile roof. The cottage comprises a single storey with attics and originally had two rooms downstairs. A modern lean-to extension lies at the rear.

We are fortunate that three surveys of the parish of Cardington from the late 18th century survive. The first of these was undertaken in 1782 by James Lilburne. He was the parish schoolmaster and later agent for Samuel Whitbread, who owned large estates in the parish and also the sole Enclosure Commissioner for the parish. He produced a list of all the inhabitants of the parish arranged by house and hamlet [P38/28/1]. This was published, with extensive analysis by County Archaeologist David Baker in 1973 as Bedfordshire Historical Record Society Volume 52.

Since publication a second list has been found [P38/28/2]. It carries revisions up to the year 1789. Sadly neither of these surveys includes a map. Finally, in 1794 Lilburne produced another survey [W2/6/1-3] and this one had a map with a key showing where each house was. One can use this to plot the houses of the previous surveys and this work was carried out by John Wood of Bedfordshire County Council’s Conservation Section in October 1982 [CRT130Cardington29].

The 1782 survey [P38/28/1/2] noted that the cottage was occupied by 40 year old blacksmith Robert Findin, who had been born at Eaton Socon. His wife was 36 year old Mary, née Castleman, who had been born at Renhold. At that date Robert had five children by his first wife who had, presumably, died. Ann was 13 and had been schooled at the expense of friends. Sarah was 11 years and 3 months and had been schooled at the expense of Samuel Whitbread I. She was in service in Cardington in 1787. Robert was noted as 11 years and 3 months, clearly an impossibility as both he and Sarah were Robert senior’s by his first wife. It seems likely that Lilburne made a mistake and either meant 11 years, 6 months or, perhaps more likely, 10 or 9 years and 3 months. He was also schooled at the expense of friends and in 1787 was apprenticed to his father. Thomas was 7 and was schooled at the expense of Samuel Whitbread. Martha was just nine months old on 1st January 1782 but was later schooled at Samuel Whitbread’s expense. Robert and Mary went on to have four children of their own: Mary was born on 13th September 1782 and was later schooled at the expense of John Howard; Joseph was born on 26th March 1784, but died on 13th June 1785; Lawrence and Elizabeth were born on 5th March 1786 and, tragically, both died the following day. Robert’s wife had had smallpox before 1787 and Robert was willing for himself and all his surviving children to be inoculated. Robert and his family were still in residence in 1794 [W2/6/1-3].

Instructions for counsel in a legal dispute of 1840 about land in Wilshamstead involved a statement by the Cardington blacksmith. At that date he was Samuel Marriott, who had gone to Cardington in 1803 from Oakley [WL1000/1/WILS/1/1/8].

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. Cardington, like most of the county, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting 297 Southill Road [DV1/C116/71] found it was still a blacksmith’s, occupied by Josiah Taylor, who paid £9/7/4 per annum in rent.

The cottage comprised a living room, kitchen and pantry, two bedrooms and a barn. The smithy measured 20 feet square and the shoeing shed 12 feet by 14 feet. A store place also stood outside.

From the mid 19th to the mid 20th century various directories for the county were published every few years. These offer a snapshot of important residents and trades people in each parish. The following list of blacksmith is taken from directories held by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service:

  • 1847-1854: Ambrose Marriott;
  • 1862-1869: John Marriott;
  • 1885-1898: William Tuffnail;
  • 1903-1940: Josiah Taylor.