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Goldington Hall

Goldington Hall June 2017
Goldington Hall June 2017

Goldington Hall was listed by the Ministry of Works in June 1952 as Grade II, of special interest. It dates from the 17th century, though “much altered and enlarged” in 1884. It is built of red brick with an old tiled roof and comprises two storeys and attics. The lead rainwater heads are dated 1650.

The Hearth Tax of 1671 states that the Hall, occupied by Nicholas Luke, had ten hearths. In 1680 it was conveyed by Sir Thomas Allein of London, his wife and son, to the trustees of John Davies of London and his wife. The Hall was noted as formerly in the occupation of Thomas Threllfall, then Robert Latton, then Nicholas Luke. Land accompanying the Hall amounted to around 375 acres, mostly in Goldington, but some of it in Renhold, as well as several cottages and a farmhouse on the east side of Goldington Green [Bury Farm] [PE255-256].

In 1735 the trustees of John Davies, who had made his will in 1694 [PE216] sold the estate to Joseph Biscoe of Inner Temple [London] [PE271-272]. Biscoe made his will in 1767 [PE98] charging his real estate with payment of £1,000 to his daughter Bethia, wife of Rev Edmund Calamy. In 1783 Mrs Biscoe, owner of the the estate was assessed for £28/12/- Land Tax [HA14/5], the occupier is given as “Mr Palmer”, probably either George Palmer or his son Emery.

It seems as if the Hall and estate was either sold or passed by will to the Rolfe family within a few years as Emery Palmer was renting a farm assessed at £28/12/- Land Tax from Edmund Rolfe in 1797. The Palmers remained tenants until at least 1832.

In 1843 Goldington Hall was owned by Robert Faulkner [MAT17/1/1], who sold it to the Polhill family in 1874 and they to the Harvey family the same year. In 1890 the owner was William Marsh Harvey and in 1918 his daughter. The tenant in 1843 was Lord Francis Russell [MAT17/1/1].

William Kenworthy Browne leased Goldington Hall from 1844 to 1858. His father was a Bedford wine merchant and alderman who also became mayor. He originally lived in Cauldwell House, Cauldwell Street.  He was a very close friend of the translator of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883) who often visited him at the Hall where he moved on his marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Elliott. Fitzgerald wrote of his friend that he: “has very good abilities; a smooth-mannered person; more surface than depth; quite a man of the world; fond of argument, but not ill-tempered; careful, thoughtful of others, and a good contriver; gentlemanly; would not do a mean thing”. Fitzgerald read Omar Khayyám in his visits to Goldington: “When in Bedfordshire I put away almost all books except Omar Khayyám which I could not help looking over, in a paddock covered with buttercups and brushed by a delicate breeze, while a dainty racing filly of W Browne’s came startling up to wonder and snuff about me”.

The 1851 census gives the following inhabitants of Goldington Hall:

  • William Kenworthy Browne, aged 33, born in Bedford;
  • Elizabeth Browne, aged 27, born in Goldington;
  • Mary Elliott Browne, aged 6, born in Goldington;
  • Grace Elliott Browne, aged 4, born in Goldington;
  • Elliott Kenworthy Browne, aged 3, born in Goldington;
  • Gerald Elliott Browne, aged 10 months, born in Goldington;
  • Five house servants;
  • Two out-door servants.

Browne enjoyed the life of a country squire and a captain in the militia. He rode very enthusiastically to hounds, fished and played bowls. On 23rd September 1858 he moved the short distance to Goldington Bury but tragedy struck on 28th January the following year. Returning with the Elstow Harriers from a day’s hunting his horse reared and he fell beneath it. He lingered in agony for two months, Fitzgerald rushing to his side. He died on 29th March 1859.

The Bedfordshire Mercury of 7th September 1869 tells us: “On Sunday morning last, a male servant at the Hall, the residence of Captain Thursby, was seriously injured by the falling of a stone ball from the top of one of the pillars at the entrance gates upon his legs, which were badly crushed. The cause of the accident was the unusual roughness of the wind. The sufferer was immediately driven to the Bedford Infirmary, where it was found necessary to take off one of the legs just below the knee”.

On 13th September 1870 the Mercury reported: “On the night of Friday last Goldington Hall, the residence of the Misses Turner, was entered by a thief or thieves, and the following articles were stolen: an overcoat, black felt hat, crepe shawl, two silk umbrellas and hat brush”. In 1874 Elizabeth Browne sold the hall to two sisters - L and E J Harvey who lived there well into the 20th century [DC/NB/E1b/16/1-12].

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 the Hall [DV1/C228/132] found it still owned and occupied by the Misses L and E J Harvey. It stood in 2.641 acres and the ground floor comprised: an entrance porch; a panelled hall measuring 16 feet by 14 feet 9 inches; a library measuring 27 feet by 16 feet; a cellar; a passage to a pantry and back stairs; a scullery; a servants’ hall; an earth closet; a maids’ sitting room; an “old-fashioned” kitchen measuring 17 feet by 23 feet 6 inches and a dining room measuring 28 feet 3 inches by 14 feet 6 inches. Going up the back stairs one came to a passage way, a sitting room measuring 16 feet by 18 feet; a maids’ room; two single bedrooms and up to three attics. Going up the main stairs one came to a sitting room measuring 16 feet 9 inches by 15 feet; a bedroom measuring 15 feet 9 inches by 14 feet; a single bedroom measuring 15 feet 6 inches by 13 feet 3 inches; a billiard room (“not used”), another bedroom (“not used”); two “store” bedrooms and a single bedroom.

Outside was a coachhouse and a saddle room, used as stores, an old stable with three stalls and three loose boxes with a loft over, an old barn and piggeries (“derelict”), a coal house and a store place. “Grounds small but fairly well kept. “Absolutely out of date, no conveniences of any kind, no bathroom. House dark and only partly used, out-buildings becoming derelict. Absolutely unlettable and would require to modernise it”. A grass field of just over an acre went with the property.

In common with Goldington Bury, the Hall was acquired by Bedford Borough Council after World War Two. The transaction took place in 1952 [DC/NB/E1b/16/12]. Plans exist for proposed alterations in 1952 [Z1169/8/33A/8] and the following year [Z1169/8/33A/9]. In 1965 there were proposals to turn the Hall into a youth centre [Z1169/8/33A/12].

In 1972 the borough sold the Hall to brewers Bass Charrington, which undertook substantial alterations, opening the property as The Falstaff Public House in October that year. It was later renamed the Lincoln Arms. Plans for demolition of a cellar and store were made in 1988 [BorBTP/88/3009/LB].

In 2006 plans were prepared to convert the former pub into fourteen flats with other buildings in the grounds. On 23rd January 2008, however, a serious fire broke out. A preservation trust then rebuilt and restored the building and in 2014 was for sale, now [2017] being a private house.