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Holly Cottage Clifton

25 Church Street - Holly Cottage - August 2009
25 Church Street - Holly Cottage - August 2009

Holly Cottage, formerly 11 Church Street, now 25 Church Street, has a very interesting history. It seems to have been used as a Quaker Meeting House for at least part of the 18th century. Episcopal Visitations tell us that there had been a Quaker meeting in the village since at least 1706 but, of course, the meeting had not necessarily always been in the same building. The Quaker Meeting in the village was discontinued in 1764 and it is likely that Holly Cottage was the meeting house at this time.

Holly Cottage was sold in 1807 by John Arch of Clifton, yeoman, to the Rector, Daniel Stephen Olivier [WJ135] it was described as standing in a field "latterly called Hanger's Close, now Meeting House Close" and had "heretofore used as a meeting house" for Clifton Quakers. The tenant had been Thomas Medlicott but by 1807 was George Neal, at which point it had been, presumably, a private house for forty three years.

When Holly Cottage was listed by English Heritage in January 1985, it was described simply as 18th century. The house is of timber-framed construction with red brick infill and has a clay tile roof. Like most 17th or 18th century cottages it originally had a simple plan of two rooms downstairs with beds in the attics. The dormer window in the attic was installed in the 20th century, the porch is also 20th century.

As soon as Olivier bought the cottage he turned it into a school for the village. A report on this school in the correspondence of the Whitbread family of nearby Southill, made in 1809 [W1/853], notes: "The Clifton School was established in November 1807 by Mr. Olivier at his own expense - the Person who instructs the Children is William Morgan, lately a Servant in a Clergyman's family…There is nearly 70 Scholars".

In 1821 Olivier conveyed Holly Cottage, to Daniel Josias Olivier (who succeeded him as Rector on his death), the Honourable Samuel Henley Ongley of Sandy, John Arch of Clifton, farmer and George Honeybone Field of Clifton, farmer as trustees to maintain the school. This conveyance is still in the possession of the Diocese and the property is described as "many years ago used as a public meeting house of Protestant Dissenters called Quakers, residing in or near Clifton and now used as a schoolhouse for teaching the poor Boys and Girls of Clifton". In Olivier's will of 1825, proved in 1827 he left £800 to the school, of which £700 was to maintain the master and mistress and the rest to repair the school house [P7/29/1/1]. From lack of other evidence it would appear that Holly Cottage continued to serve as the village school until the purpose built school was erected in 1859.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every piece of land and building in the country had to be assessed to determine its rateable value. Clifton, in common with most of Bedfordshire, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting Holly Cottage noted that it was still owned by the trustees of the school. It was tenanted by S. Smith who paid £107 per annum in rent. The cottage comprised a parlour, living room, scullery and store room downstairs with two bedrooms in the attics. A wood and slate garage, two wood and tile pigsties and a wood and tile hen house stood outside. The valuer noted "Stands Back From Road - Pretty"; he also noted that water was laid on to the house. In February 1969 the Diocese of Saint Albans resolved to sell Holly Cottage to private buyers.