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Town Farmhouse Oakley

Town Farm House March 2011
Town Farm House March 2011

Town Farm formed part of the Oakley House Estate. This had been founded in 1737 when the Duke of Bedford purchased the Lordship of the Manor of Oakley Reynes and with it a good deal of the village. Acquisitions through the years meant that by 1900 the Duke owned most of the parish.

Town Farmhouse is a quintessentially Bedford Estate dwelling. The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county’s historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The entry for Town Farmhouse [HER 9219] notes that the property was built in 1858 of red bricks and has an old clay tile roof.  The group of associated farm buildings only survives in part; a central range of barns at the back of the house have gone and have been replaced by modern portal frame structures. The farm is first mentioned in a directory in 1877 and reports and plans exist in the archive of the Dukes of Bedford for 1883-1884 [R4/162-164] and accounts for 1893-1896 [R5/1541].

In October 1918 the Duke of Bedford put the Oakley Estate up for sale by auction. In the event Oakley House was withdrawn from the auction as it was sold privately to the duke’s cousin the 2nd Baron Ampthill. Town Farm was Lot 11 and was described as follows [AD1147/18].

The Capital Agricultural Holding
situated in and adjacent to the Village of Oakley and under one mile from Oakley Station on the Midland Railway, extending to about
183 acres 1 rood 16 poles
(183.349 Acres)

The Modern Well-built Homestead
THE HOUSE (fronting the main road) containing on the GROUND FLOOR: - Two Sitting Rooms, Kitchen, Larder and Cellar and Four Bedrooms on the Upper Floor. Outbuildings: - Wash House, Wood Barn and Two Earth Closets. 

The Well-ventilated Buildings
comprise NORTH RANGE: - Barn, Three-bay Cart Shed with Granary over, Cow House for Eight and Calf Pen, EAST RANGE: - Cow House for Eight, Mixing House and Trap House. WESTRANGE: - Cart Horse Stable for Six, Harness and ChaffBay, Loose Box, Three-bay Open Shed and Two Stall Nag Stable. CENTRERANGE: - Four Bay Open Shed, Loose Box, Piggery and Fowl House, enclosing Four Yards.

Held by Mr. Benjamin Howkins on a Yearly Michaelmas Tenancy, with the exception of the Woodland which is in Hand.

This land included a quarter of an acre in Pavenham as well as 73.433 acres of pasture, 106.007 acres of arable and 2.05 acres of woodland in Oakley.

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. Oakley, like most of the rest of the county, was valued in 1927 and the valuer visiting Town Farm [DV1/H8/20] found it owned by Edward A. L. Laxton and occupied by Douglas Burbidge who paid rent of £414 per annum for 207 acres, 16 poles of land. The valuer commented: “No Bath Room, no inside Closet. Homestead one end of farm. Carting Expensive. Most of grass by River long way. Has to cart water – should be supplied by main from Oakley House. Otherwise a very nice farm. Rent = 5% of purchase price. [Ordnance Survey Map] Number 18 a very good field. Lot of waste”.

The farmhouse comprised two reception rooms, a kitchen and pantry with four bedrooms above. A coal place, a barn, a cooling room and two W. C.’s lay outside. The valuer commented: “Good brick built house … but no bath or conveniences, no waste spaces”.

The homestead was split between two fields as follows:

  • Field Number 53: an army hut used as a poultry house;
  • Field Number 55a first yard: a corrugated iron and wooden poultry house; a wood and tiled hen house and a brick and slate range comprising: a double nag stall; a three bay open hovel; stabling and harness room with a chaff bay and loft over with four corn bins and a store room; a barn with a raised wooden centre;
  • Field Number 55a second yard: a brick and slate range comprising: a fowl place; a range of three pig boxes round a mixing bay; a four bay open hovel; a barn; a mixing room; a cow place for eight beasts; a cow place for seven beasts and a grinding house.

The valuer commented: “Good, Handy Road”.

Directories for Bedfordshire, which were not published annually but every few years, give the names of the tenants of Town Farm from 1877 until 1940 and the following names are taken from these directories. The dates are the dates the name first and last appears not the dates of residence:

  • John Hilton 1877;
  • Frederic Wallis Gostling 1898;
  • Benjamin Howkins 1903-1914;
  • Edward Laxton 1920-1924;
  • Douglas Burbidge 1928-1936;
  • Frederick William Newman 1940.