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Pulloxhill Vicarages

Elevation of the Vicarage in 1847 [X254/88/210]
Elevation of the Vicarage in 1847 [X254/88/210]

The Old Vicarage at Pulloxhill was built in 1847, the year after the complete restoration of the church by James Tacy Wing. The plans [X254/88206-210] survive. It was not, however, the first vicarage in the parish. In fact the early history of vicarages in Pulloxhill is tantalising and, ultimately, frustrating, as will be seen below!

The earliest reference we have to a vicarage in Pulloxhill is in a terrier of 1607 compiled for the Archdeacon of Bedford of all church property in his care [ABE1]. It contained four bays, was half-timbered and had a tiled roof. It included two lofts on the top storey and a barn of three bays lay outside.

A parish register for Pulloxhill [P13/1/4] contains an intriguing note, made in 1737, of a terrier of the glebe and parsonage of 1674. The terrier noted that the glebe included the site of the old vicarage. The Rev. Birt in 1737 amplified this with a note of his own: "The old Vicarage House &c. stood in the Corner of the Church-yard, next the street". It is not clear from this whether the vicarage mentioned in 1607 was the building pulled down or whether it was the predecessor to this building.

Just over a century after the first terrier, in 1708, another archdeaconry wide terrier [ABE2 Volume II page 546]. It again refers to a timber built and tiled house but adds the details that there were four rooms downstairs (three with earth floors, one boarded in deal) and four boarded chambers above. There is not sufficient detail to state whether the vicarages of 1607 and 1708 are one and the same or whether the 1607 vicarage was pulled down and the vicarage of 1708 built on another site. Given that Rev. Birt knew the location of the pulled down vicarage in 1737 might indicate that the vicarage of 1607 had been pulled down some time prior to 1674 because in 1737 there would be people still alive who remembered the old vicarage sixty three or more years before, but this can only be speculation.

As to the location of the vicarage which had been pulled down and the vicarage still extant in 1737, again, we have no hard evidence either in the form of a map or a good description. The vicarage pulled down by 1737 obviously stood, as Rev. Birt noted, in the corner of the grave yard bordering the street. This suggests one of four locations: the site of the Chequers public house (built in the late 18th century); a site immediately south of the Chequers, now part of the graveyard; the site of Rectory Farmhouse (the oldest parts of which date to the 16th century) or a site immediately north of Rectory Farmhouse, now part of the graveyard. Clearly, Rectory Farmhouse could only stand on the site if the vicarage was pulled down before 1607!

Volume 81 published by the Bedfordshire Historical Records Society (2002) is devoted to returns made during episcopal visitations| to the county by the Bishop of Lincoln in the early 18th century, edited by former County Archivist Patricia Bell. A return made for the visitation of 1712 stated that the vicar (John James Laporte) lived at Wrest Park, presumably as chaplain to the Duke of Kent who had his own chapel in the mansion. "When he is absent he has one to supply his cure at 10s. a Sunday". By 1717 the vicar (Ralph Hancock) lived in the parish, as he did at the time of the visitation of 1720.

Alterations were made to the vicarage in 1714, just before Hancock's arrival. The parish register referred to above [P13/1/4] has the following note: "The Hall and Passage have been Since paved with Brick, viz in 1714 when the whole House & all out Houses & Barn were repaired and Yard new fenced". In 1792 it was noted that the parsonage was in a poor state of repair [L30/9/73/2]. In 1794 a faculty was obtained to pull down the vicarage wash house and another room [ABF2 page 64 and ABF3/176-177].

Ground floor plan of Pulloxhill Vicarage [X254-88-206]
Ground floor plan of Pulloxhill Vicarage [X254/88/206] - to see a larger version please click on the image

The vicarage of 1847 was built on a virgin site, so the old vicarage must have been pulled down or converted to another use. Rev. Houfe in his incumbents' records book (available on the Searchroom shelves) wrote: "The Agent of Lord Lucas – Cecil Argles, Esq., of Silsoe – writing to the Rev. A. E. Houfe on December 13th 1909 says: " … the date of the building of Pulloxhill Vicarage was 1847-8 and as far as I can make out the Patron assisted in the cost thereof to the extent of £400". Soon after the death of Lord Cowper (1905) the Agent of the deceased Earl – Mr. Trethewy of Silsoe – then over 90 years old told the Rev. A. E. Houfe that he (Mr. Trethewy) chose the site for the Vicarage House, which stands in 1 acre, 18 poles of land (counting that on which the Vicarage Room stands). Many thanks to Mr. Trethewy for it is the most beautiful and healthiest site one could wish for. It seems the only consolation for ever becoming Vicar!"

The Church Hall was built on part of the grounds of the vicarage in 1880. In Autumn 1902 Earl Cowper gave Rev. Houfe £100 to put the building in order. This donation was subsequently increased to £150. Between 1903 and 1909 this money, and £125 of his own money was spent by Rev. Houfe in making the necessary improvements including complete new drainage. He makes a complete list of all his improvements in the incumbents' records book. He also notes two incursions into Vicarage airspace by German Zeppelins during the First World War: "On September 3rd 1916 Pulloxhill experienced a close touch of the war, for a German Zeppelin crossed the Vicarage at about 2.15 a. m.  – Sunday (11th Sunday after Trinity). The Vicar was awoke by the noise of the airship's engines. A parishioner saw the airship. Two or more Zeppelins passed over Silsoe". Another incident happened just over a year later: "On October 19th 1917 (a Friday) bombs were dropped around here, shaking the Vicarage and village. 12 Zeppelins invaded this country. Six or more were brought down in France. As the Vicar (A. E. Houfe) stood at his door he could [hear] the Zeppelin engines".

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. The valuer visiting the Vicarage [DV1/C234/65] found that it stood in 1.055 acres. It comprised a drawing room, a study, a hall, a dining room, a butler's pantry, a larder, a kitchen and a scullery. Upstairs were four bedrooms, a bathroom, a playroom ("young gymnasium"), a servant's bedroom and a W. C. three attics ("very small used for store room") lay above this.

Outside stood a brick and slate woodshed, a stable, a coal cellar, a washhouse and an earth closet. The valuer commented: "Very nice looking house and garden. Vicar is very happy and does not want to leave". A tennis court lay in the garden

By the time of the induction of Rev. Burman in 1961 the vicarage and its garden were both in a very neglected and dilapidated condition. The previous year it had been decided to sell or demolish the vicarage. Because of its excellent views it was decided to obtain a grant to divide it. In the event the vicarage seems to have continued as the residence of the vicar [P13/2/4/1] at least until the incumbent of Silsoe was also given Pulloxhill and Flitton to hold in plurality in 1982, after which time the vicar lived in the vicarage at Silsoe and the vicarage at Pulloxhill was sold.

The Old Vicarage March 2011
The Old Vicarage March 2011