Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Hockliffe > Hockliffe Grange

Hockliffe Grange

Hockliffe Grange 1917 [AD3717- 1]
Hockliffe Grange 1917 [AD3717-/1]

Hockliffe Grange was listed by the former Department of the Environment in 1952 as Grade II, of special interest. The listing entry describes it as a seventeenth and eighteenth century building, much altered with nineteenth century and modern additions; originally of red and vitrified brick, with two storeys and a clay tile roof, the front retains a first floor Venetian window under a brick modillion cornice and gable. An area of parkland is shown surrounding the Grange on a map of 1774, and the 1839 tithe map shows the parkland bounded by a narrow band of plantation woodland on all sides. The area included three fish ponds [HER5326].

Given its location near the Church and medieval earthworks that appear to be part of the original manorit seems likely that the property on which Hockliffe Grange was later built was the site of a much earlier barn or farm. The word "grange" often meant a granary or an outlying farm, and it is probably that the Grange served this purpose for either the manor or for the Hospital of Saint John at Hockliffe which held the advowson of the Church. However, there is no firm evidence to this effect and the origins of the Grange remain speculative. The first certain references to Hockliffe Grange come in the seventeenth century. In 1616 Robert Gilpin was appointed Rector of Hockliffe and the Gilpin family appears to have bought the advowson of Hockliffe, the Rectory and surrounding property including the Grange and the Lodge – probably at the time all part of a single estate - for his use. The only part of Hockliffe Grange which dates to Robert Gilpin's time is a large barn at the entrance to the courtyard which Soskin in Hockliffe and the Gilpin Family states was built around 1630. Although Robert Gilpin left his Hockliffe estates to his wife Margery for life and then to his younger son, Robert, his elder son, Richard Gilpin appears to have been resident at the Grange and it may well have been this Richard who built the earlier part of the house. The returns of the 1671 Hearth Tax show that Richard Gilpin's house had nine hearths, the largest number in the village, which could only have belonged to Hockliffe Grange.

 Hockliffe Grange about 1820 [X254/88/134]
Hockliffe Grange about 1820 [X254/88/134]

In the eighteenth century Hockliffe Grange was rebuilt in the Georgian style by Thomas Gilpin (1704-1763), who also retained and incorporated some of the features of the old house. The picture above shows the house as it was in the early nineteenth century before it underwent further alterations. When Toddington Manor was demolished in 1745 by Earl Stafford Thomas Gilpin purchased a carving of Apollo and the Nine Muses and other carvings by Sir Grinling Gibbons [1648-1720] and brought them to Hockliffe. Most of this was used to build a 'large room near, and overlooking, the Grange, to fit the window-frames, doors etc. which he had purchased at the sale. The room was called the "Temple of the Muses" from the circumstance of it containing this beautiful representation of Apollo and the Muses'. Gilpin's "Temple" also contained an old oak carving 'representing the Almighty in the attitude of Benediction supported by angels', believed to have come from the Chapel at Toddington Manor.

All trace of this room disappeared during the alterations to the Grange carried out by Richard Thomas Gilpin in the nineteenth century. He rendered the south wing in a decorative cement façade with mock crenellations and parapets, and covered the brick on the front side of the house. A small bay window was added to enlarge the downstairs sitting room and a larger two-storey bay was added between this and the front door. A heavy cement porch was built to cover new steps leading to the front door, and most of the latticed windows were replaced with larger paned ones. The carving of Apollo and the nine Muses was used to decorate the entrance hall, but was subsequently sold to Major Cooper Cooper of Toddington Manor when the contents of the Grange were disposed of in 1885. [Soskin, Hockliffe and the Gilpin Family].

On the night of Friday 25th March 1881 Hockliffe Grange suffered a burglary while the household slept. A report in the Bedfordshire Mercury states that the burglers entered by removing a piece of stiff wire netting from the larder window and wrenching off two iron bars. The lower rooms were ransacked and £55 worth of silver goods were taken: two salt spoons, six tea spoons, two egg spoons, four dessert spoons, a fishknife, a sugar ladle, a wine strainer, two salvers, three plain old tablespoons, a fork and a small butter knife. The thieves failed to find a valuable gold 'loving cup' which had been presented to Richard Thomas Gilpin on the occasion of his eightieth birthday the previous month. According to the Mercury "suspicion has fallen upon two men who, in a dusty and fatigued condition, arrived at Bletchley Station and booked tickets to London by the first train", but it is not known whether the culprits were ever caught.

After the death of Colonel Richard Thomas Gilpin in 1882 ownership descended to Peter Valentine Purcell through his wife, Amy Gilpin. As he was resident in Kilcullen, County Kildare Purcell, who took his wife's name of Gilpin, became an absentee landlord and the property was let to a succession of tenants until the Hockliffe Grange Estate was sold in 1917 and the contents were sold at auction in 1885. When the Estate was auctioned at the Corn Exchange, Leighton Buzzard Hockliffe Grange with 54 acres 1 rood and 12 perches of associated land made up Lot 15 as show in green on the plan below:

 Hockliffe Grange Plan 1917 [AD3717]
Hockliffe Grange Plan 1917 [AD3717]

The house was described as "a delightful Old-Word Residence … occupying a retired situation in a small, well-timbered Park" and the following details were given:

The Approach is by a Carriage Drive, and the Accommodation comprises: Porch, Entrance and Inner Halls, with Staircase; Charming Drawing Room, 25-ft by 15-ft with large bay; Dining Room, 22-ft by 16-ft with bay; Morning Room, 26-ft by 23-ft with bay; Study; Lavatory, etc. W.C.

The Domestic Offices include: Servants' Hall, Kitchen, Scullery, Butler's Pantry, Larder, etc.

On the First Floor are: Six Principal Bed Rooms, Four Dressing Rooms, School Room, Bath (h. and c.), Housemaid's Pantry and Two W.C.'s.

Above are Two Bed Rooms, Tank Room, etc.

Water of excellent quality is obtained from a deep Artesian Well by a pump driven by electric motor; feeding tanks in the roof. Drainage is a water carriage system discharging into dumb wells in the Park. Electric Light installation is run by a Smart &U Brown Paraffin Engine, and is laid on throughout the House and Out-buildings.

The Out-buildings which surround a paved Court Yard, comprise: Brick and Tiled Range, consisting of Cottage with Four Rooms, Larder, etc. Paved Stabling with Two Loose Boxes, and Coal Store; Second Brick and Tile Range, consisting of Paved Stabling with Loose Box. Stall and Loft over, Harness Room, Garage with cement floor and pit, man's Bed Room over. Electric Light House, Brick and Slate Coal Store, Pump House. At rear is a Hunters' Stable, built of brick and timber and paved, consisting of Four Loose Boxes and Wash-house.

The Gardens and Grounds which surround the House are of a very charming Old-World character and exceptionally well-shaded. They are studded with some very fine Old Timber, and include: Large Lawns, Long Herbaceous Border, Large Walled Kitchen Garden, Two Glass Houses, and Beautifully-wooded Small Park (40.152 acres).

The property, together with two cottages opposite St. Nicholas's Church built in 1909 (Lot 23), had been let to J. Forbes Woodhouse, Esq. on 3rd August 1911 for a 21 year term at £235 per annum inclusive of sporting rights. The sale catalogue also states that in recent years the Grange had been the residence of Field Marshal Viscount John French, 1st Earl of Ypres, commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force from 1914-1916. [AD3717]. Hockliffe Grange failed to meet its reserve price at auction and was not finally sold until 1923, when it was purchased by Thomas Neville, one of the partners in the Luton building firm of T & E Neville, for which Bedfordshire and Luton Archives holds an extensive collection [X843].

Under the terms of the Rating and Valuation Act 1925 every piece of land and building in the country was assessed to determine the rates to be paid on them. When Hockliffe was assessed in 1927 Hockliffe Grange the valuer records that when Thomas Neville bought the house in 1923 it was in bad condition.[DV1/C201/93] There was good cesspool drainage, water was pumped from a well by an engine, and electricity was generated for electric light. Central heating had been put in by Mr. Neville, with radiators in all downstairs rooms and two of the bedrooms. The house was described as 200 years old and at this time contained:

  • Downstairs: Outer hall, 9ft x 7½ft; Lounge (facing SW) 18¾ft x 25ft, 5¼ft x 14ft, with bow 15½ft x 3ft; Dining room 21¾ft x 14¾ft, with bow 9¾ft x 4¾ft (facing SW).
  • Along a passage with a wash basin: Morning room 10ft x 16½ft (average); Cupboard; W.C.; Drawing room 17½ft x 18½ft with bows 14½ft x 5ft and 6ft x 10½ft (facing SW and S)
  • Up steps to Kitchen 21½ft x 10½ft, 3½ft x 7½ft; Scullery; Larder; Butler's pantry; Servants hall; Storeroom; Old dairy
  • Up front stairs: WC; Dressing room 11½ft x 7ft; Bedroom with radiator (facing S and SW) 19¾ft x 10ft, 14ft x 5ft; Linen cupboard
  • Half way down stairs: Double bedroom 18½ft x 21½ft, 16ft x 2ft (average); Powdering closet; Two bathrooms; Housemaid's cupboard
  • Single Bedroom (Powdering closet); Double bedroom; Single bedroom (small); Single bedroom; Library 21½ feet by 8 feet, 8½ feet by 4½ feet
  • Upstairs: Two Attics (both bad)
  • Basement: Cellar; Wine cellar
  • Outside kitchen door: Stoke hole; Garage for 1 car with concrete floor; Pit; Washing place; Mess room; Man's bedroom; Covered arch; Engine room; Battery room; Oil store; Stable with 2 loose boxes (no horse).
  • Behind: Store shed; two further store sheds (old stables); old stable with 2 loose boxes and loft over.
  • Accommodation occupied by S. Rolph, chauffeur: Reception, Kitchen, 2 Bedrooms
  • Outside WC.
  • Grounds: Lawns in front of house; Tennis court; Summer house; Potting shed; Glasshouse (heated) 10 feet by 20 feet; Stoke hole; Glasshouse (heated) 10 feet by 20 feet; Glasshouse (heated) 15 feet by 30 feet; Walled kitchen garden

The valuer commented that it was an old house with bow windows etc. added, with good grounds and a lovely situation, and that thoroughly modernised it could be made very nice. Around 1930 Thomas Neville added a large conservatory to the front of the house, moving the entire structure from his previous residence at Luton to house an enormous geranium creeper. [Soskin, Hockliffe and the Gilpins]

Hockliffe Grange seen from the church tower July 2015
Hockliffe Grange seen from the church tower July 2015