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Ugly Kensworth

The Dunstable Gazette of 3rd February 1920 published an article with the provocative title "IS KENSWORTH UGLY?" It was the reply of the Vicar, William Brian Somerville Litle to a suggestion made by a resident - a Mr. Bowles, probably the man rejoicing in the name of Francis Domino Bowles, listed by Kelly's Directory for 1920 as living at Old Hall. The piece [PCKensworth9/2] runs as follows.

Writing to the Luton Rural District Council to make a generous offer of land for a recreation ground at Kensworth, Mr. Bowles included in his letter the statement that he considered Kensworth a very ugly village. This charge of unsightliness against the village is resented by many of the residents, and the Vicar (Rev. Dr. W. B. S. Litle) has taken up the matter in the current issue of the Parish Magazine, in which he details in an interesting article the historic and picturesque features of Kensworth. the article reads as follows: -

"Is the village of Kensworth very ugly? Mr. Bowles, who has in the last few years acquired property in the parish and now resides here, says in a letter to the District Council that it is. Now, we who have been much longer in the place than he has do not like this description, and disagree with his opinion. Strangely enough there is nowadays a liking for things ugly in some classes. The child loves hideous dolls, the motor man hideous mascots, the dancers jazz bands, and strange and often coarse dances. These are only a few of the popular likes of the day. So if Kensworth is very ugly it is evidently in the fashion and should not be blamed. But we sincerely hope this is not the case, and we certainly cannot believe that it is. Perhaps Mr. Bowles' idea of a pretty village is that of a cluster of half-timbered or thatched cottages with a church in the centre and some bigger houses with extensive grounds, trees in which the rooks have built their nests, and a fair-sized green in the centre of the village, with possibly other satisfactory items. This is not our case for the Enclosure Act of 1799


and eventually settled a large part of the population on a new road the Commissioners made from the foot of the Lynch Hill through the old common to Green End. Of all the houses on both sides of the Common Road probably not more than six were here before this Act re-arranged the village, established new roads and distributed afresh much of the land. Thus new farm centres sprang up, and the houses were buit on land allotted in lieu of common rights. This is why we have a long and straggling village  which does not seem to please Mr. Bowles. Still, there are plenty of "beauty spots". Thus there is Church End, the old centre of the village, with its ancient towered church and avenue of fine old chestnut trees. The Bury, which was always occupied by the tenant, often the bailiff of the Lords of the Manor, who, being an ecclesiastical corporation [Saint Paul's Cathedral, London] were non-resident, and also what is locally known as King John's Hunting Box, with its water wheel dated 1686. Then there is the Lynch, the wooded surroundings of Kensworth House, the making of this end of the village, the Lynch Lane, which has been described as one fro the most beautiful in Hertfordshire [Kensworth was in that county until 1897, Rev.Litle was evidently living in the past]. There are still points of advantage where fine views are to be obtained, as the isle of Wight, with a striking distant view of the Church; Striper's Hill (the Award spells this without an r), here you have a local and distant view towards London; and the superb and well known view from the Downs. The many picturesque features of Kensworth have been much, we think deservedly, admired. That there are ugly buildings and some poor cottages we know; there are in most places. The Parish has an altitude as high as any parish in Hertfordshire, and second only by a few feet to the neighbouring village of Whipsnade in Beds. This elevation adds lovely views near and siatant of woods and hills, and gives a beautiful putlook. What more can you expect? We have our Mount Pleasant, fourteen hills are mentioned by name in the Award, and seven ancoent Crofts".

"As an independent witness we might quote a passage from Salmon's History of Herts, 1728: "Within this Parish is a situation surprisingly fine. This is Kensworth Green, half a mile in length, a good turf, and level, with Whipsnade woods on the back of it , and rows of high trees on the other side. There is nothing to be seen from it one way but sky, and the other we have a view of the top of a grove only, at Mr. Coppin's, of Markyate Cell. When retirement was the fashion, and the aim of the religious was to sequester themselves from every object that would divert and amuse, it is strange this happy spot should miss a cell. It seems to claim a preference to the whole country, and comes little short of the famous Guy's Cliff, near Warwick. There teh shady grove and rolling stream below make a beautiful scene of solitude. Here the woods and trees afford shade enough, and the pure ether which surrounds us would make a hermit think himself out of the world with nothing in his view but the tops of trees"".

As to Mr. Bowles' offer of a recreation ground, the Vicar says: "It is very satisfactory that Mr. Bowles is trying so gerenrously to remedy our supposed defects by the provision of a Recreation Ground of four or five acres in the centre of the houses. This will be all the more appreciated if the ruling body are able to keep the grass short. If the children take to it, and the cricket and foorball clubs play regularly on it when it is quite ready, we are sure it will prove an immense boon, that whether the authority is the District or the Parish it will not become derelict. In anticipation of its many benefits to the village, we offer on behalf of our readers our thanks to Mr. Bowles for his munificent gift to the Parish".