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The Manor House Milton Ernest

The Manor House February 2011
The Manor House February 2011

The Manor House was listed August 1987 by English Heritage as Grade II, of special interest. It dates from the 17th century at its earliest, with developments in the following two centuries. It is built in an L-shape from coursed limestone rubble with some red brick beneath an old clay tiled roof. The listing states that the earliest part of the house is the west wing, the northern part of which has two storeys and the south two storeys and attics. The south wing dates from the 19th century.

The building formed part of the Manor of Milton Ernest or Harnesse and to distinguish it from the Manor Farm which formed part of the Manor of Balls or Babs (West Manor Farm) was known as East Manor Farm. Kelly's Directory for 1890 gives a farmer in the parish as William Feazey. We have an inventory and valuation of his fixtures, hay and straw when in 1892 he gave up the lease to the Lady of the Manor Mary Burton Alexander [Z720/261/1]. The following year she agreed a lease with Thomas Street [Z720/261/2] who was there for eighteen years.

In 1909 the farm was put up for sale as part of the Pavenham Estate. The sale particulars [X65/69] described the house as "a very desirable residence" which was described as: "Stone Built and tiled standing at the East End of the Village and adjoining the Church of All Saints. It contains ON THE GROUND FLOOR - Entrance Hall, Drawing Room, Dining Room, Parlour, Kitchen, Scullery, Dairy &c.; ON THE UPPER FLOORS - Six Bed Rooms and two Attics. At the West Side of the House is an Extensive and Well-arranged Set of Farm Buildings Principally well-built and in good repair and comprising Nag Stable and Coach-house (brick and tiled), Hay Barn (corrugated iron), Barn (tiled), Cart Horse Stable for Seven, Corn Barn, Cow Yard with Shedding, Calf Places and Piggeries, Cow Shed and Cart Hovel. A short distance North of the Homestead is a pair of stone and thatched labourers' cottages with Outhouses and Gardens adjoining, and Large Barn with yard and Two Sheds. Also a short distance from last-named Homestead is another Pair of Stone, Brick and Tiled Labourers' Cottages with Outhouses and Gardens adjoining". As we have seen the tenant was Thomas Street whose rent was £165 per annum. The farm comprised 306 acres, 6 poles and the fields were as follows:

  • Church Green: 3 roods, 39 poles of pasture;
  • Paddock: 1 rood, 9 poles of pasture;
  • Home Close: 17 acres, 1 rood, 17 poles of pasture;
  • Hollow Field: 11 acres, 3 roods, 26 poles of arable;
  • First Field: 24 acres, 18 poles of arable;
  • Second Field: 30 acres, 2 roods, 34 poles of arable;
  • Top Wigney: 36 acres, 1 rood, 9 poles of pasture;
  • Top Wigney Lane: 13 acres, 1 rood, 30 poles of arable;
  • Top Wigney Wood: 39 acres, 3 roods, 12 poles of arable;
  • Hockley: 19 acres, 1 pole of pasture;
  • Bottom Church Close: 11 acres, 10 poles of pasture;
  • Clay Pit Field: 15 acres, 2 roods, 25 poles of pasture;
  • Bletsoe Field: 32 acres, 2 roods of arable;
  • The Lynch: 2 acres, 2 roods, 14 poles of pasture;
  • The Lynch west of the railway: 6 acres, 3 roods, 3 poles of pasture;
  • Bradwell: 12 acres, 3 roods, 31 poles of arable;
  • Bradwell west of the railway: 6 acres, 2 roods, 29 poles of arable;
  • Meadow: 20 acres, 3 roods, 36 poles of pasture

The buyer was Frederick William Verey. In 1918 Verey put the farm up for sale again. The sale particulars of the farm, then let to Stephen Inns, state that it would be offered first as one lot, then broken down into five lots [Z436/5]. The five lots would be:

  • 76 acres, 21 poles comprising Top Wigney and Top Wigney Wood;
  • the farmhouse, homestead and 145 acres, 1 rood, 12 poles of land;
  • 54 acres, 3 roods, 4 poles comprising Bletsoe Field, The Lynch east of the railway, and the two pieces of Radwell/Bradwell;
  • 20 acres, 3 roods, 36 poles of meadow;
  • 6 acres, 3 roods, 3 poles comprising The Lynch west of the railway.

During 1917 unrestricted submarine warfare by the Germans very nearly forced Britain out of the war by sinking huge numbers of merchant ships bringing in food from overseas. This U-boat campaign is very little known compared with its Second World War successor but every bit as deadly. One of the measures taken to counteract the possible starvation resulting from the losses of food-bearing ships was to plough up ancient grassland for cultivation. The results were often poor because grassland was usually grassland rather than arable land for the very reason that its arable productivity was marginal. Farmers were forced to plough up certain fields by War Agricultural Executive Committees in each county and East Manor Farm was one such. When crops failed, or partially failed, farmers were entitled to seek compensation. Stephen Kingston Inns, lessee of the farm from Frederick Henry Verey had to plough up Top Wigney and to sow prescribed crops in Top Wigney Wood and later sought compensation [WW1/AC/OP2/78 and WW1/AC/OP2/135]. Fortunately the belated introduction of the convoy system by the Admiralty did much to limit the U-boats' effectiveness and starvation and defeat were staved off.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 stated that every piece of land and building in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. The valuer visiting East Manor Farm [DV1/H19/2] found that it was owned by Mrs. Verey, suggesting that it did not sell in 1918. The tenant was John Bright Stops. His rent was £347/13/8 per annum fixed in 1922 for 229 acres. The valuer commented: “Fields very wet. Field Number 91 very good. Land scattered. Plenty of road frontage. House good but rather large. Buildings poor. 9½ acres rented from Milton Ernest glebe £11 per annum”. Another hand wrote, on 21st February 1927: “A very bad shape. 2½ miles from End to End. Good House. Two Thatched Barns some useful grass and arable. River land floods. Heavy on north. Buildings not good. Rent high. 30/- per acre”.

The farmhouse comprised three reception rooms (“One unused”), a kitchen, a scullery, a pantry, a dairy, a coal shed and a timber built wood shed. Upstairs were five bedrooms (“one small”) and a W. C., along with two attics. The valuer noted: “Water from pump pumped to tank in dairy for cooling and drinking”. By the house was a brick and tiled two stall stable, a coachhouse and a store room.

The homestead comprised the following:

  • South range: a timber and thatched cowhouse for thirteen (“good”) and a brick and slate six bay cart shed;
  • West range: two brick and slate loose boxes and a four bay open shed (“manger”);
  • North range: a small stone and thatch barn with a loft over; a stone and tiled stable for six, a barn at the back of the stable and a four bay open shed with a manger
  • East range: seven brick and slate pigsties and a meal house
  • Rickyard: a seven bay Dutch barn with a lean-to hovel
  • on the opposite side of the road was a stone and thatch barn with two three-bay open sheds.

Directories for Bedfordshire were published from the mid 19th century until 1940. We know the names of some of the tenants of East Manor Farm after Thomas Street gave up the tenancy in 1911 as the following list shows. The dates are those of the directory in which the name is listed:

  • 1914: Charles William Felce 1917-1920:
  • Stephen Kingston Inns 1920:
  • Benjamin H. Cooke 1924, 1928, 1931:
  • John Bright Stops 1936:
  • James Harris
  • 1940: John Davies.

In 1945 E. W. Page, the new owner of the farmhouse applied for planning permission to make alterations [RDBP3/460]. In 1976 planning permission was sought to convert a barn into a dwelling [BorBTP/76/1348].