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Kempston Grange

Kempston Grange May 2012
Kempston Grange May 2012

The inclosure map of Kempston dating from 1804 [X1/25] shows nothing on the site of Kempston Grange. In 1841 Thomas Abbott Green of Pavenham and Mary, his wife, mortgaged an estate of 230 acres, 2 roods, 15 poles in Kempston, including the site of the later house, for £9,000 [X435/176-177]. The mortgage was repaid the following year [X435/180]. Green sold the estate to Henry Littledale, director of the Sun Life Insurance Company for £17,500 in 1842 [X435/183]. He built Kempston Grange and was living there in 1845 [P60/22/1].

Littledale died on 22nd June 1866 [Z713/7/1] and in 1869 his executors sold his estate for £23,460 to three people – Charles John Pearse of Finsbury Place [Middlesex], John Christies McNair of Exmouth [Devon] and Rev. George Robert Winter of East Bradenham [Norfolk]. The estate comprised Kempston Grange, with lodges and four cottages and 232 acres, 1 rood, 9 poles in Kempston [X435/184]. These three people were, in fact, trustees of Harry Thornton of Goldington Bury, Littledale’s nephew and one of the executors of his will. Under Littledale’s will Julia Ann Frances Thornton, his sister, had a right to occupy Kempston Grange at a yearly rent of £100 [X435/187].

In 1882 the Kempston Grange estate, now comprising 198 acres, 2 roods, 19 poles, was leased to Robert Barry Stafford of 27 Saint Mary’s Street, Bedford, auctioneer for seven years at a rent of £446/18/- per annum [Z713/7/1]. In 1886 the estate was put up for sale by auction by Stafford’s firm. The particulars [X65/63] describe Kempston Grange “a seat for a gentleman of position” as follows.

Handsomely Timbered Grounds and Park of about 30 Acres,

To Mansion is by a Porch, opening into the Lobby, with Cloak Room, and fitted with fire-place.

The Entrance Hall, principal Staircase (ascending from Hall) which is of light polished Oak, and above it is fitted a Stained Glass Window

24 feet by 19 feet by 12 feet high, with two Windows, commanding a view of the River Ouse and the Bridges over the same.

27 feet by 13 feet, with Bay Window, 6 feet, opening into Verandah, with views into the Park.

18 feet by 16 feet, communicating with Drawing Room, and approached from Hall.

26 feet by 16 feet 6 inches, with skylight over Table and fitted with Gas-burners.

With second Staircase leading therefrom.

18 feet by 16 feet.

Near the Entrance Door. W. C. on same floor.


Approached from both stairs are SEVEN PRINCIPAL BEDROOMS, TWO DRESSING ROOMS, and W. C.




Are conveniently arranged, and comprise Store Room, Housekeeper’s Room, Butler’s Pantry, fitted with large Iron Plate-Chest, Servants’ Hall, with 2 Footmen’s Bedrooms over, Boot House, Game Larder, Excellent Laundry, Dairy and Larder, with Bedrooms above, Kitchen well fitted and the Gas laid on throughout, Washhouse (or Scullery) with Copper, large Coal Shed &c., &c.

Contains EXCELLENT CELLARS, with WINE CELLAR fitted with Bins.

They surround and enclose Yard, with ornamental Shrubs in the centre, and comprise a range of Stabling with four Loose Boxes, fitted with every convenience and the Gas laid on, Large Loose Box adjoining, Coach-house, 18 feet 6 inxby 10 feet, Double ditto for 4 Carriages 18 feet 6 inches by 24 feet, ditto 18 feet 6 inches by 10 feet fitted with bins, Washing Box 18 feet 6 inches by 13 feet, Stabling with Two Stalls and Loose Box, Cleaning Room fitted with copper and fire-place, Harness Room, &c.

On the south and east of the Residence, with Conservatory approached from Drawing Room by Verandah, contain Fine Specimens of Cedars, Shrubs and ornamental trees of good growth; there is a Private Walk from Grounds through plantation of fine evergreens and shrubs leading to the entrance near Bedford, of nearly three-quarter’s of a mile, enclosing the Estate from the high road.

Which are walled-in, are very productive and well stocked with choice varieties of wall and other Fruit Trees. There is a Stove House heated with hot-water, Fowl House opening into Park, 9-light Forcing Pit heated with hot water, a Vinery in the Frame Yard, Potting Shed, Tool House, pump with good water and a 4-light cold frame.

At the Bedford and Kempston Entrances. There is

A Boat House
Which is approached by a gravel path under a fine row of elms.

The Bailiff’s House which adjoins the Stables, although not communicating, contains 2 Living Rooms, Kitchen, 4 Bedrooms, and Dairy.

A range of buildings with Pony Stable, and Cow Houses for 6 cows, with Granary over, Brew-house fitted with coppers and fire-place, two large Threshing Barns, lean-to Shed, Wood Barn, Hen-house, Chaff-house, Stabling for 8 horses, loose box, House for 10 Cows, mixing room and meal house, 3-bayed open hovel, 5 enclosed Pigsties, 3-layered open hovel enclosing four Stock Yards, in which are two pumps of good water.

A Range of Buildings comprising Loose Box, Bull House, Gig shed, 3 –bayed cart hovel and Pigsty.

Enclosed with Root house, Calves pen, Large Barn, Harvest Hovel, Implement Shed and 4-bayed open Shed, and near to same are implement sheds, wood barn, and two enclosed yards and drying ground.

In 1894 the estate was sold to James Harold Howard [X435/190]. He was the son of James Howard of Clapham Park who was Liberal Member of Parliament for Bedford from 1868 to 1874 and for Bedfordshire from 1880 to 1885. James and his brother Sir Frederick Howard founded J. & F. Howard, ironfounders at the Britannia Works in Kempston Road, Bedford.

Second Lieutenant Addison Howard [X550/1/82]
Second Lieutenant Addison Howard [X550/1/82]

James Harold Howard and his wife Mary had a son, Addison James Howard who served with 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment in the First World War. He led his company in an attack on Falfemont Farm, part of the battle of the Somme on 4th September 1916 and was killed. He was just 23 years old and is buried at Guillemont Road Cemetery near the spot where he fell.

In 1925 James Harold Howard leased 50 square yards on the south bank of the River Great Ouse to Bedford Borough Council for five years at £1 per annum. Part of the conditions to be enforced by the council were: “only suitably attired bathers to use the premises, bathing from the Bathing Shelter on the opposite or northern side of the river; and not to allow dressing or undressing on the premises, only to use it as a place to which such bathers can swim and rest before swimming back to the northern side of the river and to prevent bathers landing on the right or southern bank except on these premises”.

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 Kempston Grange [DV1/R25/57] noted: “Saw Mrs. Howard. Lighting by gas. Main to be relaid from gates (¼ mile) not at all satisfactory. No central heating. Bath put in by Mr. Howard’s father difficult to get any water from cistern owing to low levels. Very bad ceiling cracks. Beaver boards put in on landing and is now cracked. Whole house settling badly. Drainage not good to meadow. On water main. Surroundings not ideal and position has deteriorated. Do not consider would be able to let. Bathroom very bad”.

The ground floor comprised: an outer hall measuring 10 feet 6 inches by 12 feet; a hall measuring 26 feet by 11 feet; a dining room measuring 25 feet by 18 feet 6 inches; a drawing room measuring 28 feet by 18 feet 6 inches with a bay; a passage to the back stairs; a library measuring 16 feet 6 inches by 18 feet 6 inches; a machine room measuring 16 feet 6 inches by 18 feet 3 inches (“not used”); a photographic room; a stoke house; a lavatory (in the sense of a place to wash) and W. C.; down two steps lay a pantry, a kitchen measuring 15 feet by 22 feet, a scullery (“very high”) and a larder. There was an old dairy; a coal house; a wood barn; a W. C.; a workshop; a larder; a boot hole; a servants’ hall with two small bedrooms over (“not used”); a spare pantry; a glass cupboard; a boot cupboard and a billiard room measuring 32 feet by 16 feet 9 inches (“badly cracked, not used for billiards”).

There were also four horse boxes (“not used”), an old hay barn, a small garage with an inspection pit, a heated garage (“good”), another garage (“smaller”), a washing down place (for the cars, presumably), a stable with three stalls (“not used”) and an old harness room (“not used”). A chauffeur’s house stood in the grounds comprising three rooms downstairs and four up (“two cannot be used”) as well as a coal cellar (“not convenient”). There was also a kitchen garden with walls on three sides (“very nice well kept”), a small glasshouse, a potting shed, a gardener’s shed, a heated glasshouse measuring 15 feet by 30 feet and a heated conservatory measuring 18 feet by 12 feet 6 inches. The grounds and drive combined came to four acres. Comments were “Rotten place” and “Who would live here?”

The first floor comprised: a single bed room over the hall measuring 16 feet by 12 feet 6 inches; a double bedroom over part of the dining room measuring 19 feet 6 inches by 15 feet; a dressing room over the other part of the dining room measuring 9 feet by 14 feet 9 inches; a double bedroom over the drawing room measuring 16 feet 6 inches by 19 feet; a double bedroom over the library and machine room measuring 19 feet by 16 feet 6 inches; a nurse’s room measuring 17 feet 9 inches by 16 feet 3 inches; a single bedroom over the photographic room (“not used”); a W. C. and a store cupboard. The next part of the first floor lay down six steps and comprised: a housemaid’s parlour; a bathroom (“very bad”); two boxrooms and a spare room over the servants’ hall. Back up the steps were: three maids’ rooms (“dark”) and a spare room at the end.

In 1937 the Howards gave a portion of the grounds around Kempston Grange to Kempston Urban District Council as a park is named after their late son. The Bedfordshire Times for 26th March 1937 reported: “Kempston’s new recreation ground, the Addison Howard Park, was opened to the public on Tuesday [23rd March] by Mrs. Harold Howard. The residents of Kempston have reason to be grateful to Mrs. Howard for her kindness in giving five acres of her estate to supply one of Kempston’s most urgent needs. Mrs. Howard also made herself responsible for the gates and the fencing”.

“The Park is hidden from the road by a thick belt of trees and shrubbery and is equipped with swings, see-saws and seats. Despite the cold wind and sleet there was a large attendance at the opening”.

“Invitation to the ceremony was restricted to friends of Mrs. Howard who knew her son and to the members (and their wives) of the Kempston Urban Council, all the members of which were present, with the exception of Mr. G. G. P. Goldney who is away from home”.

“Referring to the death of her son, Mr. Addison Howard, Mrs. Howard said: “Some of you knew him and loved him, and those who knew him best will approve of what I am doing this afternoon. He, like countless other young men, gave his life for the sake of his country, and I am sure he wished that this little piece of England, which he loved so well, should remain unchanged to give pleasure to the people”. Mrs. Howard then declared the park open”.

“Mr. G. E. Smith (chairman of the Kempston Urban District Council) said that it was a red-letter day in Kempston and would go down in history as a day which they had looked forward to for years. The developments in the district had gradually robbed the children of their playgrounds. In Mrs. Howard they had one of the greatest benefactors Kempston had ever known. Mrs. Howard had graciously given them land for a playground for the children and a rest-park for the older folk. As the children passed through the gates he hoped they would revere the memory of the one to whom it was dedicated, and as the older folk entered he hoped they would honour the park as the name of Howard was honoured in Kempston. He thanked Mrs. Howard on behalf of the members and the officers of the Council and on behalf of the residents of Kempston for her gift. He presented her with a silver key”.

“Mr. B. G. Shorten said that he was connected with Messrs. J. and F. Howard for more than forty years. At one time he spent almost a fortnight with Mr. Addison Howard, shortly after he came back from school “During that time” said Mr. Shorten “he was a young man full of life and vigour and full of hope for the future. He went to serve his King and country but never returned. Today we honour his memory as we honour the name of the great family of Howard for what they have done for Kempston, Bedford and the world”.

“After the ceremony Mrs. Howard planted a tree”.

Mrs. Howard made a stipulation in her will that within twelve months of her death 33.765 acres of land, including Kempston Grange itself and the existing Addison Howard Park, should be offered to Kempston Urban District Council [UDK1/12]. In 1949 the Grange and land was duly offered, at which time two servants, R. G. Milton the chauffeur and E. Matthews the gardener, were still attached to the house and the council offered them employment. The conveyance to the council duly took place on 15th November 1950 [UDK1/12] leading to a large increase in the size of the park. The drawing room was converted into a café and the kitchen used for catering and the rest of the building converted into flats.

The house was listed by English Heritage in May 1984 as Grade II, of special interest. The listing also quotes a date of 1845 as being the approximate date of construction of the property which is built of yellow brick with slate roofs. The house is roughly L-shaped and comprises two storeys.

Side view of Kempston Grange May 2012
Side view of Kempston Grange May 2012