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Ickwell Bury

Ickwell Bury from the south in 1924 [AD1147/16]
Ickwell Bury from the south in 1924 [AD1147/16]

Ickwell Bury was built in 1683 by John Harvey and was the mansion house at the heart of the Manor of Ickwell or Ickwell Bury. The site of the earlier manor building was in the current grounds; it had been surrounded by a moat which, the Victoria County History reported had been filled in but had still been visible in the late 19th century.

The Harvey family owned the Bury for just over 250 years, selling it, along with the rest of the estate, in 1924. The sale particulars [AD1147/16] read as follows:

LOT 22

The Queen Anne Residenceknown as
Ickwell Bury
with Grounds, gardens, ParkLands
and Woodlands

Extending to about
108 a. 0 r. 4 p.

THE MANSION, which is Brick Built with Yellow Stone Dressings, Brick Parapets relieved by Stone Balustrades, and Tiled Roof, is seated in matured grounds in the centre of the UNDULATING FINELY-TIMBEREDPARK and divided therefrom by a Dwarf Brick Wall, Pillars, Parapet and Stone Balustrades.

It is approached from Ickwell Green and the Main Road by Two Long Drives, protected by Iron Entrance Gates, converging in a Broad Sweep at

supported on eight round columns, surmounted by Parapet and Stone ornamentations.

gives access through oak, glazed, double entrance doors (having coat of arms carved in stone over doorway) to

The Spacious and Artistically Planned Lounge of Historical Interest
28 feet by 21 feet 9 inches, with black and white marble floor, lighted by two windows, having open fireplace with black marble mantel and oak overmantel. The beams and cornices are relieved by carvings with gold decorations; a wall tablet states –
“The Carving in this Hall was made for the Duke di Palmella Tempus Louis 14th, his successor The Count di Carnola gave it to John Harvey of Ickwell Bury, it was arranged and restored by Beatrice Audley Harvey”

Opening off these are:

interior of Ickwell Bury around 1900 [Z50/16/125] 
interior of Ickwell Bury around 1900 [Z50/16/125]

30 feet 6 inches by 17 feet, having wood panelled dado 3 feet high and

17 feet by 17 feet 8 inches lighted by dome, give access to the


17 feet 6 inches by 17 feet 6 inches adjoins, decorated with Coat of Arms, fitted with marble mantel and hearth, dado panelled walls 3 feet in height. Communicating is

Lighted by two windows, fitted with marble mantle and hearth and wood overmantel, wood panelled dado 3 feet high with fitted glazed bird cabinets on three sides.

The Library at Ickwell Bury [Z50/16/128]
The Library at Ickwell Bury [Z50/16/128]

41 ft 8 inches by 19 feet 6 inches, exclusive of bay 13 feet by 10 feet, lighted by a three-light mullioned window, four windows in bay and three French windows opening onto glazed Verandah, having open fireplace with iron framed interior, carved wood mantel and overmantel, decorated with grotesque figures, with painted panel, fitted Book Cases and panelled ceiling, communicating with

19 feet 9 inches by 16 feet 8 inches exclusive of recess (opening also to Staircase Hall) lighted by Two French casements, opening to Verandah, stone and wood mantel and wood overmantel, off which is

43 feet by 18 feet exclusive of bay, lighted by four windows in bay and three French casements opening unto Terrace, having open fireplace with decorated Gothic mantel and overmantel with five figures in “Niches” relieved by glazed panels, full height.

24 feet 6 inches by 21 feet and recess 11 feet 6 inches by 6 feet, lighted by two windows (one in bay), having marble mantel with pillared, and carved and decorated wood overmantel.

16 feet by 12 feet 6 inches lighted by one window.

The Principal Rooms are 12 feet 6 inches in height.

rises from the Staircase Hall by a single flight of steps to the first Landing, thence by a double flight to the Principal Landing, off which are the Corridors with wood panelled dados are

29 feet by 22 feet, lighted by three windows, having marble mantel and wood overmantel and wood panelled wainscot.

20 feet 6 inches by 19 feet, lighted by three windows, having wood panelled dado, marble mantel and overmantel with decorations by Grinling Gibbons, and

Sixteen Principal Bed and Dressing Rooms
including the Japanese and Italian Rooms, the dimensions of the chief rooms being 23 feet by 20 feet (exclusive of bay); 21 feet 6 inches by 21 feet; 20 feet by 19 feet 6 inches; 16 feet 6 inches by 14 feet 8 inches; 15 feet 6 inches by 15 feet; 16 feet by 15 feet by 10 inches; 19 feet by 13 feet 9 inches; some of which have Grinling Gibbons’ decorations and wood panelled walls

Three Bath Rooms and Lavatories, four W. C.’s and Housemaid’s pantry and Linen Room

gives access to all floors

situate in the East Wing comprise: - kitchen with tiled floor, Scullery, pantries, Cook’s Sitting Room, two Larders, Still Room, Housekeeper’s Room, Servants’ Hall, Brew House and extensive Cellarage,

With OUTSIDE OFFICES, two W. C.’s, Coal and other Stores.

(bearing date 1683) with Cupola supported by six cylindrical Doric columns,

Comprising: - Coach House, Stable, Harness Room with Rooms over, Covered Car Shed. Two Stables for three and Boxes with iron fittings and Rooms over.

GARAGE for four cars, open wash, seven-bay Barn with concrete floor, carpenter’s Shop, Engine House.

The Premises are lighted by electricity, generated by a 13 h.p. “Tangye” Engine and “Castle” Dynamo, stored in 55 cells.

TELEPHONE is installed.

THE WATER SUPPLY is from Company’s mains.

THE DRAINAGE SYSTEM and connections discharge into septic tanks.

The Delightful Old Matured Pleasure Grounds and Gardens
include: - Broad Spreading Lawns and Tennis Courts with Flower Beds, Herbaceous Borders, Terrace Walk with Pergolas, Ivy Bowers and an

of about 3½ acres studded with Islands, Boat House and Lily Pond and Cold Spring, surrounded by Woodland with Grass Walks.

well stocked with Fruit Trees

Also an

the whole being ornamented by Flowering and other Shrubs, Weeping Ash, laurel Banks, Yew Bowers and sheltered by handsome Matured Forest Trees.

From the Terrace is a commanding view of the Chestnut and Lime Avenue which intersects the Estate.

THE PARK is good sound feeding land and meadow and well studded with clumps of fine matured timber.

THE WOODLANDS contain matured Oak, Elm and other timbers of large dimensions.

are let to the Rev. G. L. DEUCHARS and F. T. DAVIES, Esq., on two Leases for 8½ years each from March 25th, 1929.

The Woodlands are In Hand.

Gateway and yard at Ickwell Bury August 2010
Gateway and yard at Ickwell Bury August 2010

A newspaper cutting found in the sale particulars details sale of some of the interior fittings of Ickwell Bury: "tapestry lovers found much interest yesterday in a sale of fine panels at Messrs. Knight, Frank and Rutley's rooms, which formerly used to adorn Colonel John Harvey's home at Ickwell Bury, Biggleswade. These were offered early in the day and attracted a big concourse of collectors, which was to be expected after the throng on the view days. As anticipated, the Soho panels were most desired. The large hanging design by John Vanderbank, probably for some rich Eastern trader, as the subject was a Chinese composition of rich mandarins with salaaming attendants, was bought by Mr. Frank Partridge for 1,000 guineas, and a smaller panel, of similar grouping, reached 750 guineas (Cameron), who gave 460 guineas for another Soho panel by Vanderbank of his well-known "Boys at Play" series. A fourth Soho panel, a decorative floral scheme, realised 530 guineas (Benjamin), and M. Seman, of Brussels, gave 370 guineas for a Romulus and Remus Brussels panel, 9 feet by 15 feet 2 inches; a Flemish landscape panel bringing 350 guineas".

"When the house at Ickwell Bury was being examined by the auctioneers' experts they found behind the door of some stairs a very wide carved scroll frame, six yards by one yard, containing a vivid painting of the Rape of the Sabines. This Venetian decoration, confidently ascribed to Caliari, better known as Paolo Veronese, is akin to the finely-painted frontals of contemporary cassoni, and Messrs Durlacher certainly won a prize at 400 guineas. An early English sporting picture of a shooting party made 16o guineas, and a work by Alphonse Legros, to whom modern art owes much, a picture of some monks reading, brought 80 guineas".

Since 1900 the Bury had been home to Horton Preparatory School, and the wife of the headmaster purchased the Bury from the Harveys. The school closed in 1937 and shortly afterwards the deserted house caught fire with the results seen in the photograph below.

Ickwell Bury after the fire of 1937 [Z50/84/49] 
Ickwell Bury after the fire of 1937 [Z50/84/49]

Colonel George Hayward Wells, then chairman of brewers Charles Wells Limited bought the estate and rebuilt the house to a smaller scale. On Colonel Hayward's death the Bury was left to the Bedford Charity for use by Bedford School, of which he had been an old boy. The school used the grounds for field studies but had no use for the buildings and, after a seven year period during which the house stood empty, leased them to the Yoga for Health Foundation as a residential centre in 1978. This centre closed in 2006, and private homes and businesses now occupy the buildings.

Bedford School Study Centre at Ickwell Bury August 2010
Bedford School Study Centre at Ickwell Bury August 2010

Bedford School continues to use the grounds as a Conservation Reserve and runs courses for children from all over the county in the school holidays. The lake in the grounds is currently [2010] being cleared of crayfish. These imports from America have wiped out much of the indigenous wild life in the water and the idea is to eradicate them to restore the waters to their natural state.

Ickwell Bury Lake and Islands in 1924 [AD1147/16]
Ickwell Bury Lake and Islands in 1924 [AD1147/16]

The complex of buildings around the Bury (though not the Bury itself, naturally) was granted Listed Building status for its historic interest by the Department of Environment in 1952. These buildings had escaped the 1937 fire and were retained by Colonel Wells. The stable block was built in 1683 for John Harvey and converted as living accommodation for a chauffeur between 1938 and 1940 by A.S.G.Butler for Colonel George Hayward Wells. It is built in an L shape out of red brick and has hipped clay tile roofs. The weathervane formerly bore the Harvey coat of arms but, since being restored in the 1970s, now bears the arms of Bedford School. The entrance archway was only added in the 19th century but is made of the same material and has a carved keystone bearing the Harvey arms.

A group of barns forms the north west side of the courtyard about 40 metres north west of the stable block and comprises a range built between the 17th and 19th centuries. The earliest structure is timber framed, weatherboarded and with a clay tile roof. The lower gabled blocks to north and south of it were converted in the 20th century as part of the HortonSchool. Two 18th century timber framed barns and a 19th century red brick block complete the range. Some 18th and 19th century outbuildings form the south west side of the courtyard.

The octagonal dovecote was built in 1683 of red brick and has a clay tiled, pyramidal roof. The brick nesting remains on the inside amounting to 968 boxes. The Bury also had a beehouse, built in the 19th century of timber frame and weatherboard on a red brick plinth and with a thatched roof; inside are wooden shelves which used to house beehives.

In the garden is a listed sundial probably installed about 1803 by Major John Harvey to commemorate the raising of the Bedfordshire Yeomanry Horse Artillery to help combat any invasion by Napoleon (a threat which essentially disappeared after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805). It is of dressed limestone forming an obelisk just over four feet high.  

HY839 Illustration of the mason's bill of 1683 
HY839 - to see a readable version please click on the thumbnail

The illustration is of the mason's bill of 1683 (the new year began on 25 Mar rather than 1 Jan until 1751) for building Ickwell Bury [HY839] and transcribes thus:

"February The first 1684
The Masons Bill for Mr.John Harvey Esqr for worke done att his house att Ickwellbury In Bedfordshire
For 6 marble mantle pieces att £6 per Piece £036:00:00
For Coveings & fine stone for 5 Chimnies £010:00:00.
For 183 foott & ½ foott of minde Stones & harth peaces of marble stone att 5 s. per foott £045:17:06
For Taikeing up & new laying of 3 fine harths & pullishin & Plaisinge & laying 6 foott of white marble maieking 3 sineke stones & maikeing A harth out of his stone Tro[?] Jaumes for The 2 foott oven workeing 13 foott & ½ of Plaine att the Kichin dore with 4 foott of Paving
For dayes & ½ day of John Royalls att 3s. & 4d. per Die £001:08:04.
For 6 dayes worke & ½ of Thomas Jeraway att 2s. & 6d. per Die £000:16:03.
For 14 foott & ½ foot of Raged stone for ye oven att 1s. & 4d. per foott £000:19:04
For 8 foott of fine stine att 1s. & 3d. per foott £000:10:00
Suma Tottall £107:11:05"

Ickwell Bury from Warden Road March 2010
Ickwell Bury from Warden Road March 2010