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The Firs Guest House - 85 High Street Ridgmont

The Firs Guest House - 85 High Street January 2011
The Firs Guest House - 85 High Street January 2011

The Firs Guest House, formerly The Firs Stores has been a commercial premises for many years. In 1911 the personal representatives of William Charles Adams, deceased, former grocer and draper of The Laurels conveyed the property to the Duke of Bedford for £1,200 [HN10/353/Adams1]. The property was described as a messuage and shop with the schoolroom, two cottages, stable, coachhouse, yard, garden and outbuildings adjoining with an area of 20 poles and having a frontage to the High Road [High Street] of 57 feet now or late in the occupation of William Charles Adams, The Methodist Society, Harry Pilgrim and Jane Pearse.

The plan accompanying the conveyance [see below] confirms that this was The Firs and that the cottages lay behind the building. The conveyance did not include the Methodist Chapel as this remained a place of worship owned by the Methodist Church until 1947. Presumably the Methodists had previously occupied the schoolroom noted in 1926 [se below].

A List of deeds and documents relating to property [HN10/353/Adams4] gives a potted history of the ownership of the site. Unfortunately it does not give any indication as to when the building was erected but it has the appearance of a 19th century structure.

In 1711 John Denbigh conveyed the site to Nicholas Maskall and sixty years later William Maskall and Ann, his wife, conveyed it to Robert Goode. In 1835 William Linell and Mary, his wife, Sarah Linell, John Townsend and William Linell the younger all conveyed the site to Samuel Bennett and his trustee John Ginger. In 1855 the building was conveyed to the trustees of Bennett's will who sold to Charles Gosling in 1860. he immediately took out a mortgage with William Boure, Frederick Ingoldby and Mark Sanderson and this may represent the point at which The Firs was built. Gosling took out other mortgages and further advances in 1862, 1867, 1870, 1874, 1877, 1878 and 1882. Evidence suggests he may have become bankrupt or, at least, encountered financial difficulty, because the property was conveyed in 1885 by Henry Carr, with Gosling as the agreeing party, to John Harman who straight away took out a mortgage with Agnes Margaret Thorp. In 1896 the property was conveyed to William Charles Adams.

The Firs in 1911 [HN10/353/Adams1]
The Firs in 1911 [HN10/353/Adams1]

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. Like most of the countyRidgmont was assessed in 1926. The valuer visiting The Firs [DV1/C54/95-98] duly found it owned by the Duke of Bedford. It was occupied by H. D. Bedford who paid rent of £32 per annum.

The property comprised: the grocer's shop measuring 19 feet by 15 feet; a parlour measuring 14 feet 11 feet 9 inches; a reception room measuring 10 feet 9 inches by  12 feet; a reception room measuring 12 feet 6 inches by 10 feet; a kitchen measuring 13 feet 6 inches by 10 feet 6 inches; a store room measuring 12 feet by 19 feet 6 inches and a scullery measuring 5 feet 6 inches by 10 feet 6 inches. Eight bedrooms lay upstairs measuring, respectively: 14 feet 4 inches by 8 feet; 9 feet by 13 feet 6 inches; 15 feet by 10 feet 6 inches; 14 feet by 10 feet 3 inches; 10 feet 6 inches by 7 feet; 10 feet 9 inches by 10 feet; 12 feet 6 inches by `10 feet and 9 feet by 12 feet 6 inches. Also upstairs was a school room measuring 10 3 inches by 18 feet. Outside stood a coal house, two stables, a coachhouse, a wood barn, a timber garage and a soft water pump in the yard.

It is hardly surprising that the valuer commented on this large property: "Not used to proper extent. Accommodation and rooms for storage much too large for village shop in this district".

Directories for Bedfordshire, which were not published annually but every few years, give the names of the occupiers from 1920 to 1940and the following names are taken from these directories. The dates are those of the first and last appearance of a name, not the full span of dates of occupancy:

  • 1914: H. W. Bedford & Son;
  • 1920-1931: H. D. Bedford;
  • 1936: Thomas John Dillingham;
  • 1940: Dudeney & Johnston Limited.

H. W. Bedford outside his shop about 1914 [Z50/95/106]
H. W. Bedford outside his shop about 1914 [Z50/95/106]