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Stonhill Billington Road Leighton Buzzard

Stonhill March 2009
Stonhill March 2009

Stonhill was listed in 1999 as Grade II, of special interest. It was built in 1902 to the designs of E. Turner Powell for Miss Mary Ann Bassett. It is a whitewashed roughcast building with a plain-tile gabled, hipped and half-hipped roof. The listing describes it as being in Vernacular Revival style and sums it up as: "A carefully judged and picturesque design for a patron who had a life-long interest in running handicraft classes for the disabled".

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 [DV1/R55/53] when the valuer noted that the owner and occupier was still Miss M. A. Bassett. The premises was built of brick and tile and the ground floor comprised the following: a hall measuring 12 feet 6 inches by 14 feet 6 inches; a dining room measuring 11 feet 6 inches by 19 feet with an 11 feet 6 inches by 6 feet 6 inches bay; an ingle measuring 3 feet by 11 feet 6 inches; a sitting room measuring 13 feet 6 inches by 19 feet 6 inches with a 4 feet 6 inches by 9 feet inglenook; a pantry and store; a larder and W.C. measuring 6 feet by 6 feet; a kitchen measuring 12 feet 6 inches by 16 feet; a scullery measuring 10 feet by 8 feet 3 inches and  7 feet by 3 feet 6 inches and a fuel store measuring 4 feet by 7 feet.

The first floor comprised: a bedroom measuring 12 feet by 13 feet; a bedroom measuring 14 feet by 14 feet 6 inches with a 9 feet 3 inches by 4 feet 6 inches bay; two bedrooms each measuring 9 feet 3 inches by 16 feet; a dressing room measuring 10 feet 3 inches by 8 feet; a bathroom measuring 6 feet 6 inches by 8 feet 4 inches and a W.C. There was a garden but "no outbuildings whatever". The valuer commented: "Nice situation standing in own grounds".

Miss Mary Ann Bassett died in 1948, aged 95, the last of the distinguished banker family. She was the daughter of Francis Bassett and granddaughter of John Dollin Bassett, who built The Cedars as his home. She had founded the Leighton Buzzard Handicraft Class for disabled people, referred to in the listing above, in the 1890s. Her pupils made handicrafts for the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897 and Mary Bassett School was named after her.

Her obituary said of her: "Miss M. A. Bassett was 95 when she died but no one thought of her as an old lady. She was a wonderful companion, when she talked of past days and told of a Quaker meeting, or a ball, one did not feel it had all happened in a distant and rather dull past, one fidgeted with the little girl at Meeting, which seemed to last so very long; one saw the young ladies in their flounced dresses, discreetly sitting by their chaperons at the ball, waiting for their partners. It as a grief to her to leave her garden [she lived in London from 1941 until her death], but Miss Bassett had "green fingers" and very soon, to her own delight, and to that of her neighbours, she made herself a garden on the roof at the back of her flat. Miss Bassett started the Leighton buzzard handicraft Class for Cripples in 1890. Her idea that cripples would find happiness in making beautiful things and could be taught to do so, in spite of their disabilities, is now a commonplace. Those who first started the idea must not be forgotten".