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Caesars Camp Sandy

Caesar's Camp about 1900 [Z50/99/55]
Caesar's Camp about 1900 [Z50/99/55]

Caesar’s Camp is a large Victorian dwelling set in woodland, bounded by Sand Lane, Swaden and the railway line, near the Iron Age Hillfort bearing the same name. The following report from the Bedfordshire Mercury of 10th January 1859 reports a fatality during construction of a well which was probably in connection with the building of the house:

FATAL ACCIDENT IN A WELL – For some time past a well has been in process of sinking on the estate of Captain Peel, in this parish, at a place called Caesar’s Camp. On Thursday, the 30th ultimo, a man named Henry Chapman was working at the bottom of the well, about 115 feet below the surface, and a number of others were at the top. Chapman had just filled the bucket, and the men at the top were winding it up, when they heard a noise as of something striking the bucket, and shortly afterwards thought they heard a groan. No answer was received to the shouts of the men above from the man below. Upon this a man named Edwin Thurley descended in the bucket, and he found Chapman lying down and bleeding profusely from his nose and ears. It appeared that, the well having been bricked up about 60 feet, from some cause or other one brick from the top of the work became loosened and fell striking the deceased on the temple. He was got up as soon as possible, and was still alive. Mr. Buckle, surgeon, was in attendance immediately, and had the man removed to the Queen’s Head, where he died the same afternoon. At an inquest held by the deputy coroner on the following Monday, a verdict of “Accidental death” was returned.

In 1871 Harry Duberly was considering taking a lease on the house. He was contemplating adding to it but no definite decision is made in the correspondence [AD2863]. Directories reveal that he certainly did lease the place, until at least 1885.

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. Sandy, like most of the county, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting Caesar’s Camp [DV1/R78/16] found it owned by Francis Pym and occupied by Cuthbert A. Lambton who paid rent of £120 per annum (though the valuer has put a question mark after this). He had been at the property four years, having taken a lease for seven, fourteen or twenty one years in 1923. the house had electric light, central heating from radiators and mains water laid on.

Accommodation comprised: a hall (“narrow and poor”); a study measuring 14 feet by 11 feet (a later hand has written “now part of Hall”); down two steps lay a flower room (a later hand has written “new sink”); a kitchen (“small”); a scullery; a larder; a servants’ hall (“small”); a back stairs; a “poor” w. c. and lavatory (in the sense of  a place to wash); a pantry; a dining room measuring 20 feet 3 inches by 16 feet; a heated conservatory measuring 17 feet by 15 feet and a drawing room measuring 24 feet 9 inches by 10 feet 6 inches (a later hand has written “enlarged by 3 feet”).

Upstairs lay: a dressing room; a south-west bedroom over the dining room measuring 21 feet 3 inches by 15 feet 6 inches; a nursery (“small”); a box room (“tiny”); an east bedroom; then down two steps to four more bedrooms; a house maid’s sink; a bathroom and a w. c. two coal cellars and a boiler room for the central heating lay beneath the ground floor. The valuer commented: “Bad social position, very poor house, small rooms and no character”.

Outside lay a wood and corrugated iron summer house and a wooden engine house and store. There were also: a wood and corrugated iron three stall stable (“store only”); a garage with a room over (“store only”), for which the tenant had paid a lump sum; a loose box (“unused”); two loose boxes used as stores; two wood and slate wood sheds and an unused pigsty. There was also a heated lean-to glasshouse used as a vinery measuring 13 feet by 54 feet.

The valuer commented thus of the grounds: “These are main feature of a very poor house, kitchen garden very good. Lawns in front of house with good view through the trees, tennis lawn. House is on a hill, has a belt of woodlike grounds all round. Part of gardens used for hens. Very good trees round, with good house would be very nice”. The grounds were about 19 acres.

Kelly’s Directory and other directories for Bedfordshire was published every few years until the last Kelly’s in 1940 and the following tenants of Caesar’s camp can be identified from these directories:

  • Captain John Peel 1864;
  • Henry Kaye 1869;
  • Henry Duberly 1877, 1885;
  • George Gardner, HM Inspector of Schools 1890;
  • Captain Charles George Pym 1894;
  • Charles Guy Pym MP 1898; 1903; 1906; 1910; 1914;
  • Mrs Pym 1920;
  • Cuthbert A. Lambton 1924; 1928;
  • Mrs. G. M. Barnes-Gorrell 1936.