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Knotting Fox Farm

 Knotting Fox Farm in 1922 [Z1246/1]
Knotting Fox Farm in 1922 [Z1246/1]

Knotting Fox farmhouse was listed by English Heritage in August 1987 as Grade II, of special interest. The former inn dates from the 18th century and is constructed of coursed limestone rubble, with a machine tile roof and red brick gable end stacks. It comprises two storeys and attics and has a symmetrical front elevation. There is a 19th century rear wing in red brick making the building into a T-shape. This extension comprises one storey and attics. There is a further modern extension at right angles, parallel to the front block.

The Knotting Fox was part of the Manor of Knotting. The earliest reference to the Inn is the map of Bedfordshire by Thomas Jefferys of 1765 which has it marked. In 1767 the Manors of Knotting and Souldrop were mortgaged and amongst specific manorial properties listed is the Fox Inn [AD1931]. A will of Joseph Hall of Knotting Fox is extant, but does not devise the property.

The Knotting Fox is shown on maps of 1801 [MC2/4], 1804 [MC2/24], 1813 [MC2/25] and 1826 [MC2/17], though the Fox had evidently ceased to be an inn by 1822 as it is not listed in the countywide licensing register [CLP13]. The tithe apportionment map of Knotting of 1838 shows the Fox [MAT28] and the schedule [AT28] states that the owner was the Duke of Bedford (Lord of the Manor of Knotting) and the tenant Richard Thorpe. It was now mostly or solely a farm, with 109 acres and a homestead.

The countywide licensing register of 1876 has an entry for this inn but gives no details, the obvious conclusion being that it was still licensed but was not trading. It may also suggest that the inn led quite a sporadic existence, trading for a few years, then closing. In 1882 the Knotting Estate was conveyed by the Duke of Bedford and his trustees to Charles Magniac of Sharnbrook [X547/24]. Knotting Fox Farm is listed in the conveyance but not the inn.

Magniac went bankrupt in 1894 and it was purchased by Samuel Howard Whitbread of Southill Park [X547/41]]. Knotting Fox was then divided between two tenants – J Wootton who had just over 47 acres and R Bird who had just under 40 acres [GA2941]. In 1900 Samuel Whitbread leased the farm to Jessie Headland [BMB4/1/22/9/1]. An abstract of title to the estate in 1906 describes the farm as having around two hundred acres [GA2942]. Jessie Headland left the farm in 1918 [BMB4/1/22/9/3]. In 1917 Samuel Whitbread sold the estate, including Knotting Fox Farm, to Albert Edward Bowen of Colworth Park [X547/49].

Thus by 1922 Knotting Fox Farm formed part of the Colworth Estate, which was put up for sale by auction in that year. The sale particulars [Z1246/1] describe Knotting Fox Farm  (Lot 7) as a “sound corn growing and stock holding”. It then comprised 151 acres, 31 poles partly in Knotting and partly in Souldrop. The farmhouse was occupied “by an Estate employee on a Service Tenancy. The comfortable farmhouse, brick and stone built with tiled roof, affords the following accommodation: Entrance Lobby, two Sitting Rooms, Kitchen, Larder, Dairy with Loft over, Scullery and Wash House, five Bedrooms, two Attics, Boxroom and Apple Store”.

“The excellent homestead built of brick with slated roofs, includes two Open Sheds with sheltered Yards, Coach House, Loose Box, Cow House for six, Smithy, double Barn, Stable for five with Harness Room and Loose Box, loose Box, hen House, three Pigsties, three-bay Cart Shed with Granary over. New Dutch Barn, about 70 feet by 24 feet, divided into four bays. The land is chiefly fertile arable, in good heart, with several convenient Meadows near the Homestead”. The whole estate was withdrawn as not sold and offered again in 1924 [Z1323/1/4].

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 Knotting Fox Farmhouse [DV1/J8/16a and 15b] found that it was owned by C P Smith (presumably he bought it in 1924) and occupied by K Flintham whose accommodation comprised two reception rooms, a kitchen and two larders with four bedrooms and a bathroom above. The valuer commented: “Attics to be closed up”. He also commented: “A cottage has been made of part of this house but house was too big before and a bathroom has been added”.  The cottage comprised a brick and semi-detached addition with a living too, kitchen, scullery and three bedrooms. It was occupied by F W Church.

In 1947 planning permission was given for the erection of a pair of semi-detached houses at the farm. [RDBP3/845]. In 2009 the farmhouse was, again, for sale. The particulars [Z449/4/69] noted a ground floor comprising a hall; a semi-cellar measuring 2.9 metres by 2.5 metres; a sitting room measuring 6.4 metres by 3.5 metres; a study measuring 3.8 metres by 3 metres; a farmhouse kitchen measuring 6.6 metres by 4.4 metres; an inner hall; a dining room/family room measuring 7 metres by 4.2 metres; a dining room area measuring 4.2 metres by 3.8 metres; a family room area measuring 4.1 metres by 3 metres; a utility/back hall measuring 3.4 metres by 2.5 metres; a rear hall measuring 3.8 metres by 1.4 metres and a separate W. C. The first floor contained five bedrooms (one en-suite), a dressing room and two bathrooms. The second floor had a box room measuring 5.2 metres by 2.9 metres and bedrooms measuring 5.2 metres by 2.9 metres and 5.2 metres by 3.4 metres. Outside were gardens and garages as well as two acres of land.