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Clifton Bury Farm

The drive leading to Clifton Bury August 2009
The drive leading to Clifton Bury August 2009

Clifton Bury Farmhouse was listed by English Heritage in January 1985 as Grade II, of special interest. They dated it to the 18th century "or earlier", with the front having been substantially altered in the 19th century. The original structure was timber framed, the rear elevation is now covered with pebbledash render and the south elevation encased in brick, with front additions in yellow brick. The building has clay tile roofs to earlier parts and slate roofs to front.

The 18th century date may be a little late as evidence points to the house, then called Bilberry House, being built in the late 17th century. Walter Rolt held all three of Clifton's manors in the 17th century but had to mortgage some of his property, including a house in Clifton. The ownership of this eventually found its way, via the mortgagee and his family to Richard Lee of Potton in 1689 [X147/34]. Between 1689 and 1694 Lee either built or rebuilt the house and called it Bilberry House [X147/38]. He left the house in his will to his son Matthew [X1478/40] and he, in his turn, to his wife.

The house eventually came to Matthew Lee's son, Richard, who mortgaged, then assigned the house to Viscount Torrington in the 1730s [X147/42-28]. By 1747 the house was known as Berry Farm, also as Lee's Farm. In 1770 Richard Astley purchased the property from the Byng family [W2174 and X147/79] - he also owned Pedley Farm - on his death about 1779 it descended to his nephew William Yates [X147/84] and on his death about ten years later it was sold at auction to John Field for £2,650 [X147/1]. It was now called Clifton Bury and had about a hundred acres of land with it.

The house was sold by Field's estate in 1856 to Emery Bodger of Southill [X147/11]. In 1890 it was conveyed to William Inskip [X147/21/1] During the First World War Britain came as close to defeat in 1917 through an unrestricted campaign of U-Boats against her merchant shipping as she did in World War Two. As a panic measure the War Agricultural Executive Committees of county councils were ordered to identify grassland which could be ploughed up for food production. This overlooked the fact that the land was often grass for a good reason, in that it was not very good for arable crops.

Not surprisingly farmers usually objected or, at least demanded compensation when the crop either failed completely, or sale failed to reach a satisfactory level of reimburselent. This latter case  happened at Bury Farm where Alfred Inskip was now farmer. Ironically, he was himself a member of the War Agricultural Executive Committee. Ten acres of Middle Field were ordered to be broken up and ploughed [WW1/AC/OP2/79]. Fortunately for the country the eventual instigation of the convoy system decreased the U-Boat menace to a sustainable level.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified [Section 19 (1)] that every piece of land and property in the country be valued to determine the rateable value. Clifton, like most of Bedfordshire, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting Clifton Bury Farm noted that it was still owned and occupied by Alfred Inskip and comprised 255 acres ("only rough idea"). The valuer commented: Homestead scattered - mostly wood - Expensive. House been modernised. Position not good. Homestead at one end. Can use Langford Siding. Long road to keep up. Lovely garden. Lotof sharp land." Another valuer commented: "Made a mile road which has to be kept up. About 2 miles of ditches to keep up. 70 acres liable to flood".

The house comprised three reception rooms, a kitchen, scullery and pantry downstairs. On the first floor were four bedrooms and a bathroom with hot and cold running water with three semi-attics above. A coal shed and washhouse and greenhouse stood outside.

The homestead comprised two main blocks, as shown on the map below:

  • A: a loft [probably for onions], a barn with a concrete floor, a two bay open shed with adjoining loose box and two open sheds each of two bays with an adjoining loose box - all in wood, brick and tile.
  • B: a three bay wooden cart shed; a seven bay open cart shed; a potato barn; a two bay open hovel; a stable for seven horses with adjoining chaff house; a hen house; a four bay open hovel; a barn; a loose box; a three bay open hovel; a corn shed; a stable for six horses; a garage and a gas house - all brick, wood and tile with two wood and tile onion lofts in a field.

Three onion barns stood in nearby fields.