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Westfield Farm Oakley

Westfield Farm in 1918 [AD1147-18]
Westfield Farm in 1918 [AD1147/18]

Westfield Farm formed part of the Oakley Estate, owned by the Dukes of Bedford and formed by their purchase of the Manor of Oakley Reynes and all its lands in 1737. A map made at the time of the purchase [R1/57] shows that Westfield Farm formed part of the manorial lands.

A snapshot of the farm in 1884 is provided by a report of William James Beadel to the Duke of Bedford’s steward [R4/168]. It reads as follows.

“This Occupation situate in the Parish of Oakley about 4 miles from Bedford is bounded on the North east by Oakley Town Farm and on the North West, west and South by the River Ouse”.

“Its total area is now 487 acres, 2 roods, 27 poles, 292 acres, 37 poles Arable and 195 acres, 1 rood, 30 poles Grass”.

“Prior to Michaelmas last the Quantity was 498 acres, 3 roods, 31 poles, 11 acres, 1 rood, 4 poles (with a Barn, Cattle Yard and Shed) have, however, been since that period held by the Marquess of Tavistock”.

“The present Tenant Mr. Robert Horrell held the Farm up to Michaelmas last at a Rent of £798/8/- per annum. From that time the rent is to be reduced £35 per annum (for the portion given up to The Marquess of Tavistock) viz to £763/8/- equal to 31/4 per acre”.

“Mr. Horrell pays neither Tithe nor Land Tax”.

“The Homestead is central, well arranged and all that can be desired. The Arable land, as a rule, is of good quality, capable of carrying a large quantity of Sheep. Part of the Pasture is of first rate quality and the proportion to the Holding large, thus enabling a Tenant to keep an average quantity of Stock”.

“Mr. Horrell, at his own expense, has drained the Western part of Number 65. About 15 acres (the Western part of Number 62) requires underdraining and should be done”.

“The Northern part of Number 54 has also been drained by Mr. Horrell the herbage having been thereby materially improved”.

“Number 59 is full of rushes; this could be drained at no great expense and would be of material benefit to the Tenant more especially in wet Seasons”.

“The Private Road (Number 10 on Plan) is, I understand, kept in repair by the Tenant, material for repair being obtained on the Farm, the necessary Labour is not a very serious matter”.

“Mr. Horrell manages the Farm most creditably and keeps a large quantity of Stock. If any Tenant is entitled to consideration in rent he certainly has a great claim”.

“I have not often had occasion to report upon a Farm, taking it as a whole, possessing so many advantages as does this and it is a rare occurrence to find one of the kind in the Market for letting at all. Were Mr. Horrell vacating I am not at all sure it would not command, even in these depressed times, the Rent which is now paid. The risk of getting so good a Tenant would be great and the result probably most disappointing. If Mr. Horrell’s Rent is reduced from £763/8/- to £700 per annum, I think complete justice will be done him and a fair arrangement made between Landlord and Tenant”.

Plan of Westfield Farm in 1884 [R4-168]
Plan of Westfield Farm in 1884 [R4/168] - to see a larger version please click on the image

In October 1918 the Duke put the Oakley Estate up for sale at auction. In the event Oakley House was withdrawn because the Duke sold it privately to his cousin the 2nd Baron Ampthill, but most of the rest of the estate duly went through the auction process. The sale particulars described Westfield Farm as follows [AD1147/18]

An Important Corn-growing Property
with Fishing Rights in the Great River Ouse, extending to about
450 acres 2 roods 30 poles
(450.686 Acres)
one and a half miles from Oakley Station and five from Bedford , including a
Superior Brick-built and Tiled House
built in 1855, containing: - Drawing Room, Dining Room, Breakfast Room, Kitchen, Scullery, Two Pantries, Cellars, Six Bedrooms, Bathroom (hot and cold) and W. C. Outside – Brew House, Wood Barn and Cistern Room over. Well water.

The Extensive and Substantially-built Buildings
of brick and slate enclosing spacious walled Yards with open Cattle Sheds, Cowstall for 10, Cart Horse Stable for Six, Mixing House, Chaff House; another Stable for Five, Loose Box, Stable for Two, Trap House, Harness Room, Cartshed, Cow Stalls for 27, Mixing Room, Engine House, Calf Pens, Five Piggeries, Two Barns with Granary over, Chaff House, Chicken House, and Two Loose Boxes. Sheep Yard, Wood built Well House. DETACHED BRICK AND TILED COTTAGE, containing Three Bedrooms, Parlour, Kitchen and Wash-house, Wood Barn. Water in Yards.

Held, with other lands, by Mr. T. Handley on a Yearly Michaelmas Tenancy, with the exception of the Cottage and Woodlands which are in hand. The Vendor’s interest in the half of the bed of the River along the south-western boundary of this lot between Park Plantation and Woodcraft Wood and the whole of the Bed of the River between Woodcraft to a point just west of Dick’s Island, together with a Right of Way between the points marked J and K on the plan, to cut Rushes and fish, will be included in this lot.

Also the use of the Ferry with Right of Cartway therefrom over Lot 13 [Manor Farm, Stevington], terminating at the Church Lane as at present enjoyed.

The land included 1.4 acres of osier holts in Pavenham, Tucker’s Islands of 0.681 of an acre in Stevington, 145.483 acres of pasture in Oakley, 287.739 acres of arable in Oakley and 9.093 acres of fox covert 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 Bedfordshire, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting Westfield Farm [DV1/H8/28] found it owned and occupied by W. and H. Quenby who had, presumably, bought it in 1918. He noted that about 1912 the rent had been £1 per acre for the 600 acres, reduced to about 425 by 1927. The valuer commented: “1¼ [miles of] Private road to keep up. 1¾ [miles to] Oakley Station. 6 miles to Bedford Market. No water laid on but will pay water rate when laid on. Land all very hot. Very good House and Buildings. Know it by heart”. Walter Quenby leased an additional eighty acres in Stevington.

The house comprised three reception rooms, a kitchen, scullery and larder with a dairy in the cellar and six bedrooms, a bathroom and W. C.  above. A stone and slate washhouse, coal shed and water tower lay outside. Water was pumped from a well to the cistern in the tower.

The homestead comprised a number of blocks of buildings as follows.

  • West Block: a brick and slate hen house; two loose boxes; a four bay open hovel; a barn; five pigsties; standing for twenty cows; a calf pen; a cake room; a mixing room; a cow shed for twenty seven beasts; an engine house over the well with an oil engine and pump; an open implement shed; a two bay open store; a calving yard; six bay open shed; two boxes; a thirteen bay open hovel and an army hut used as an implement shed.
  • East Block: a four bay open hovel; standing for six horses with a loft over; twelve piggeries; a granary; a smithy; a three bay open hovel; a four bay open cart shed; a three bay open cart shed; a garage; a store place; a harness room; a garage; a two stall stable (“used for dogs”) with a granary over;
  • At the Rear of the House: two brick and slated loose boxes.

Twelve bombs fell near the farm on 3rd October 1940 during World War Two [WW2/AR/CO/2/2]. Sixteen days later incendiary bombs were dropped near the farm as were two oil bombs which did not explode. The lmost likely explanation for this is that an aircraft taking part in an attack on Birmingham ditched its bombs for some reason, perhaps due to damage or a night fighter attack, on the best local target it could find and was actually aiming for Oakley House.

Directories for Bedfordshire, which were not published annually but every few years, give the names of the tenants of Westfield Farm from 1862 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 Horrell: 1862-1885;
  • Robert Horrell 1890-1910;
  • Thomas Handley 1914;
  • Walter Quenby 1924-1928;
  • Davison and Logsden 1931-1940 (Eric Frank Davison 1940)