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16 and 18 High Street Leighton Buzzard

16 High Street about 1900
16 High Street about 1900 [Z50/72/140]

The Manor of Leighton Buzzard alias Grovebury was the principal landowner in the town before the 19th century. Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a full run of court rolls from 1393 to 1727 [KK619-715] and another full run from 1704 to 1867 [X288/1-23]. The service also has court rolls for other manor to own land in the town, the Prebendal Manor, from 1448 to 1459, 1588 to 1591, 1611 to 1622, 1627 and 1631 [KK792-1798]. A fair number of buildings in the High Street were originally copyhold and a detailed study of these court rolls would probably produce quite detailed histories for a number of properties and the sites on which they stand, though it would take many years of study.

16 and 18 High Street were listed by the former Department of Environment in 1975 as Grade II, of special interest. The building was erected in 1913 in, as the Department rather unkindly puts it, "a nondescript traditional style". It is built of red brick and has a tiled roof with a square cupola in the middle. There are two storeys.

A project called Our High Street Revisited 1819-2000 by Leighton-Linslade Local History Research Group [CRT130Lei58] aimed to use directories and census records to try to establish as full a history of use of the building in the High Street as possible. The results for Numbers 16-18 are as follows:

Numbers 16-18

  • 1819: owner R. Cotchin; occupier W. Prentice and J. Underwood;
  • 2008: Leighton Buzzard Conservative Club

Number 16

  • 1841: house of Ann Sanders;
  • 1851: house of Gregory Odell, schoolmaster;
  • 1861: house of William Ridgway;
  • 1871: house of Elizabeth Ridgway;
  • 1881: unoccupied;
  • 1891-1903: William Bardell, fishmonger

Number 18

  • 1841: Edward Watkin, painter;
  • 1851; house of Robert Cotching;
  • 1861: William Sutton, hairdresser and bookseller;
  • 1871: house of Joseph Foxley;
  • 1881: Samuel C. Reeve, auctioneer's clerk;
  • 1891: Albert Olney, auctioneer's clerk;
  • 1894: Philip Hart, auctioneer;
  • 1906-1910: Hart and Sons, auctioneers, valuers and estate agents;
  • 1906: flat of Albert Edward Olney;
  • 1914: premises shared by Bert Inns, plumber;
  • 1920: premises shared by Leighton Buzzard Gas Company Limited;
  • 1936: premises shared by Harry Baker & Company, draper;
  • 1940: premises shared by Miss C. E. Simpson, art needlework.

16-18 High Street June 2008
16-18 High Street June 2008

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. Leighton Buzzard was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting 16 High Street [DV1/R56/5] found it owned by Henry Chapman Furlong and occupied by  H. A. Furlong at a rent of £47 per annum; the present Number 14 was included under Number 16. Purser and Furlong, a house decorating business, was run from the property with contained shops measuring 19 feet 3 inches by 15 feet and 19 feet 3 inches by 3 feet 6 inches on the ground floor, along with a living room measuring 11 feet 6 inches by 12 feet plus a bay, a kitchen measuring 13 feet 6 inches by 8 feet and a scullery 9 feet by 8 feet. In the basement was a store measuring 19 feet by 14 feet.

On the first floor was a half landing office measuring 8 feet by 11 feet and a W.C., also a bedroom measuring 11 feet 6 inches by 12 feet plus a bay and a drawing room measuring 19 feet by 14 feet. There was also a bathroom and three further bedrooms measuring 9 feet by 14 feet, 10 feet by 14 feet and 11 feet 6 inches by 12 feet. Outside was a W.C. and a brick and slate two storey building with a plumber's shop measuring 22 feet by 14 feet on the ground floor and; a paint shop of identical proportions on the floor above. The valuer commented: "Good shop front".

Number 18 [DV1/R56/2-3] was owned by the trustees of the Unionist Club and was split into three. Bardell Brothers, fishmongers, occupied part. at £30 per annum rent, consisting of lock-up shops measuring 14 feet by 15 feet and 14 feet by 11 feet  and "white glazed bricks" outbuildings and a brick and slate lean-to cleaning shed and W.C.

Harry Baker and Company, drapers specialising in ladies' millinery, also occupied part of the premises, for an annual rent of £39, comprising lock-up shops measuring 14 feet by 15 feet and 14 feet by 11 feet and a W.C. The Unionist Club itself occupied part of the ground floor with a bar measuring 10 feet by 8 feet, a smoking room measuring 14 feet by 16 feet and a reading room 9 feet by 16 feet 6 inches. The club also had a beer cellar in the basement measuring 15 feet by 26 feet and a kitchen measuring 8 feet by 13 feet. On the first floor was a billiard room ("2 tables") measuring 23 feet 6 inches by 34 feet, a W.C. and urinal and a further billiard room ("1 table") measuring 32 feet by 16 feet 6 inches. The secretary, George A. Sedgwick  was "over Willis' offices" at 42 High Street.