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Hazells Hall Sandy

Hazells Hall about 1920 [Z1306/99]
Hazells Hall about 1920 [Z1306/99]

This seat of the former Hassells Manor has been variously spelt Hasells, Hassells and Hazells, the latter spelling is adhered to here as it was the one used by Lord Pym. Hazells Hall was listed by the former Department of Environment in May 1979 as Grade II*, of special interest and in the top ten percent in this category.

Baron Brittain (his name, not his social rank), Lord of the Manor of Hasells in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, ran up huge debts which forced him to sell the manor and its estate in 1721. He did not live at Hasells Hall, but at another house not included in the sale. Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service archivist James Collett-White wrote a very full history of the house in 1984 [CR/Pu4/17] from which this article is taken.

A reconstruction of Hazells Hall in 1698 [CR/Pu4/17]
A reconstruction of Hazells Hall in 1698 [CR/Pu4/17]

“How much of the medieval [manor] house remained until the 1690s is difficult to say. If it had survived, it would have been modified and extended in the Tudor period. Alternatively, a new house could have been built after 1540. In either case, the house would not have been very big, as it was always lived in by tenants. According to the evidence presented for a legal case in 1722 [PM1805], Baron Brittain started to build the present Hazells Hall twenty-four years before, i.e. c.1698. In March 1698 Baron Brittain borrowed £150, presumably to help finance the rebuilding of the house. The tenant of the previous manor house was John Dash, and he remained as tenant throughout the rebuilding, till at least about 1710. The new house was probably not very large, because when it was eventually occupied by one of the Brittain family, it was occupied not by Baron Brittain senior or his son John, but by his younger son Baron Brittain junior. Unfortunately there is no plan of the house until that of 1814 [PM1/5] but it is probable that Baron Brittain’s house comprised the central section of the south front. It is likely, too, that the hall was in the centre of this side of the house, roughly where the room marked on the 1814 plan as the Dining Room lay. On either side would have been two rooms, a parlour and a dining room, with kitchens to the rear [see above]. The house and grounds contained one acre. These would have included fairly extensive farm buildings and therefore the gardens were probably small scale. The Hazells built by Baron Brittain was a house suitable for a member of the minor gentry; a modest sized house with modest sized garden”.

Baron Brittain took out numerous loans to buy land and for other projects. “Against this background of mounting debt, it is hardly surprising that Baron Brittain decided to sell the Hazells estate. In 1720 he proposed selling all his Sandy property, including Hazells, to William Astell esquire for £4,200 [PM235]. This deal fell through, and on 28th and 29th September 1721, Baron Brittain sold the Hazells estate, including the house occupied by his son and three recently built cottages, to Heylock Kingsley for £2,243, leaving Brittain (after his debts had been paid) with £876 [PM236-237]. Quite how far Brittain’s building operations had contributed to his being overstretched financially, it is difficult to say. The fact that the scale of the mortgage debts increased at the end of the 1710s, when the house had been, presumably, completed for some time, seems to indicate that the building of Hazells was at most a contributory factor”.

Memorial to Heylock and Elizabeth Kingsley May 2010
Memorial to Heylock and Elizabeth Kingsley May 2010

“Heylock Kingsley in 1721 was living at Furzen Hall near Biggleswade, but came from a well-to-do Hitchin family, who had made their money as haberdashers. His wife Elizabeth was to be the joint heiress of her father Robert Jenkin, a considerable landowner in Harpenden. His grandmother was a Heylock of Abbotsley [Huntingdonshire]”.

A reconstruction of Hazells Hall about 1730 [CR/Pu4/17]
A reconstruction of Hazells Hall about 1730 [CR/Pu4/17]

“Heylock Kingsley wished to enlarge both the house and the grounds. It is possible that he added two projecting wings to the central block on the south side of the house as shown on the 1814 plans. From the sketch of the house on Gordon’s map of 1736 it appears that the central section of the house projected very slightly further than the two wings. This is borne out by the plan of 1814”.

“The layout of the rooms [see above] is indicated by an inventory taken on the death of Elizabeth Kingsley (Heylock’s widow) in 1761 [PM2578]. The End Parlour in 1761 probably included the room to the east of the room called Mr. Pym’s room of the plan of the house of 1814. The Hall and the Common Parlour of 1761 combined to make the Dining Room of 1814. The Drawing Room and Great Parlour of 1761 are represented by the Drawing Room on the plan of 1814”.

“In July 1749 Heylock Kingsley died and he was buried in 31st July at Sandy and the estate passed to his widow Elizabeth, with reversion to their daughter Elizabeth, who had married William Pym in 1748. On her death in 1761 (she was buried on 13th February 1761) an inventory of the contents of Hazells was prepared [PM2578]. Much of the furniture was old and some of it was clearly out of repair. In the End Parlour were six old cane chairs and cushions. In the Drawing Room was a settee with an old, gold coloured seat. The White Room, one of the bedrooms, was very shabby. It had three old blankets, one old dressing glass in a black frame, one old tin fender, one old white elbow chair, six old common elbow chairs, one bedstead with sacking bottom and white hangings “very old”, one old “crack’d Iron harth”, two pairs of old red window curtains and an old table. The only things not described as “old” in the room were the feather bed, the bolsters and the pillow [PM2578]”.

“The contents of Mrs. Kingsley’s own room were equally elderly. On her bed were three old blankets and an old white quilt. The furniture included eight old chairs, an old chamber clock, two old chests of drawers, an old walnut-tree bureau, one old pier glass and one old dressing table. William Pym, Elizabeth Kingsley’s son-in-law, had a bedroom in the house. Mr. Pym’s bed had old wrought hangings and a pair of old white window curtains over the windows. In describing the linen in the house, the inventory records “the above mentioned linen pretty much worn; the undermentioned of an Indifferent sort and very much worn”. Only one picture is mentioned in the Inventory: “a picture in a gilt frame”, which was valued as 12s. 6d. It was hung in the End Parlour”.

“William Pym was left the furniture in the house for life but in a letter of 17th April 1761 to his co-executor, Mr. Carter [PM1957] he stated that part of the furniture is “very old and therefore some of it I don’t propose to keep”. This he was going to well for the benefit of the estate. In inventories of 1940 [PM2938/3/2-3] some furniture earlier than 1760 such as a William and Mary suite of burnt walnut and heavy inlaid chest, a William and Mary armchair, a Queen Anne walnut bureau bookcase and a Queen Anne mahogany stationery cabinet, is mentioned. Although these pieces may possibly have come from other Pym houses, it might indicate that William only sold off the worst pieces and kept the best. He probably added the Adam gilt mirror, Chippendale dining room chairs and Sheraton card table. It seems unlikely that William Pym drastically altered the contents of the rooms. Modern pieces were added but they stood side by side with old fashioned pieces [PM2578]”.

“In 1768 repairs were needed at Hazells to the sum of £18/12/-. No separate entries were made in the accounts”.

“In 1774 the improvement account increased again to £40/2/-. Some considerable building was being undertaken between June and August that year. Waters was paid a number of sums for brickmaking. On 25th August he was paid his full account for 66,000 bricks. On July 17th 1765 Bankes of Castle Mills was paid fourteen guineas for “tiles for new tiling the Hasells new house” and on August 12th Miller of Potton was paid £5/16/- for “lath at 3/9 per band for tiling my house”. It is absolutely clear to what these entries refer as there appears to have been no major rebuilding or reconstruction of the house at that date. About this time the pavilions at the end of the terrace were built. The curious South Pavilion with a classical front and a rustic back probably can be dated from the 1760s to 1770s on stylistic grounds. Edward Stevens built the Bath House at Wrest in a grotto style in 1767 and the back of the south pavilion at Hazells has certain similarities to it”.

“In July 1788 William Pym died aged 65 and was buried on the 17th of the month. By his will proved at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 26th July 1788 he left the residue of the Hazells Hall estate to Francis Pym, his eldest son. In a complicated deed of settlement [H/DE342] is included: “The Manor of Haleless, alias Hasells, in Haleless alias Hasells in Sandy and Girtford, a capital messuage called Hasells Hall in the occupation of Francis Pym, the farm house, Hasells, late occupied by John Harding and John Disher and all lands belonging to the capital messuage and farm house (214 acres) occupied by Francis Pym”.

“Francis Pym inherited a comparatively small house, still probably the same size as it had been in the 1730s, after Heylock Kingsley’s extensions. It was far too small and insignificant for a man who had recently married a rich heiress and who had designs on a position of greater social and political importance in the county. The gardens with their design based on a succession of terraces had been old-fashioned when they had been introduced in the 1720s. The Park, too, appeared old-fashioned in comparison with the more “natural” designs of Humphry Repton who by carefully planned clumps of trees sought to soften the landscape and “improve” the views from the windows of the country houses”.

“The remodelling of Hazells Hall and park was conceived of as a unity with both complementing one another. In his Red Book of Hazells of December 1791 Humphry Repton wrote that the purpose of the park was to “present the house in a pleasing point of view”. Equally the park and surrounding countryside was designed to “make a delightful Landscape”, when viewed from the house where “the Eye dwells upon the tame foreground with increasing pleasure, while the imagination bounds forward to a supposed romantic country in the distance” [CRT130San16]”.

Hazells Hall ground floor plan October 1814 [PM1-5]
Hazells Hall ground floor plan October 1814 [PM1/5] where annotations are legible they have been added in typescript. To see a larger version please click on the image

“The first stage of the alterations was the complete remodelling of the house outside and inside, and the building of a whole new east wing. This contained the new entrance porch, library and octagon room. An anteroom on the South-East corner of the house joined the new hall to the old part of the house. Extensive alterations took place in this part of the house. A new drawing room was formed out of the Great Parlour and Drawing Room of the 1730s house [see above]. The Dining Room was formed out of the Hall, the Dining Room and the Common Parlour of the old house. A new passage was built at the back “Mr. Pym’s study” was added at the South-West corner of the main house. It is difficult to decide how much of the extensive service side of the house had been built by 1788 but it is probable that they were considerably extended in the general remodelling of the house that then took place [PM1/5]. By 1814, at least, there were numerous rooms in this area including a Servants’ Hall, Kitchen, Housekeeper’s Room, Butler’s Room, Larder, Store Room, Pantry, Scullery, Coal Bunker, Cellar, Laundry, Washhouse, Bakehouse and a room that in 1814 was about to be converted into a Laundry and a Washhouse. The North front had a central gateway and gatehouse. Above the gate was hung the present bell, made by Thomas Ayre of Kettering, dated 1727”.

“Upstairs the bedrooms were entirely fitted out with modern fireplaces. Many of these 1790s fireplaces still survive in the house”.

Hazells Hall bedroom floor plan October 1814 [PM1-5]
Hazells Hall bedroom floor plan October 1814 [PM1/6] where annotations are legible they have been added in typescript. To see a larger version please click on the image

“To harmonise the old house with the extensions the whole of the exterior of the house was given matching twelve paned, sashed windows. The old front door on the South Front was replaced by a further window. Above the central window on the first floor was added a pediment incorporating the Pym coat of arms”.

“The building was started in 1789 and completed by October 1790. In the rent book of the Pyms’ London estates is recorded: “The taxes, insurances and other disbursements are by Mr. Martin Cole’s desire reserved to be accounted for in the next half year’s payment to Lady Day 1789 and the whole amounts of the rents (viz. £528/10/-) on the opposite side of the half year to Michaelmas 1788. I have this day deposited in his hands and for which he has given me a proper receipt, towards the expense of the buildings, which he is now employed to do for me at Hasells Hall” [PM2383]. Cole was Pym’s agent and surveyor in London. He drew up plans for Pym’s premises in Aldersgate Street in London in 1799 and clearly was a competent architect In February 1789 Bennett, Pym’s steward in Bedfordshire, advanced Mintrin, a local builder £20 on account of Mr. Cole “for the building and altering the house at the Hasells”. Despite the accounts being somewhat sketchy there are references to payments for ladders, scaffolding, fetching coals for the brick-clamp and straw for the bricks. Probably the majority of the bricks were made on the estate but some were fetched by carrier’s cart from Clophill and Eaton Socon. To the £528/10/- advanced to Martin Cole in March 1789 were added £525/1/4 in the following July. Mintrin was paid weekly and there were further payments to John Edrop, a carpenter and John Walters, a brickmaker”.

“Having completed the rebuilding and renovation of the house and the “improvement” of his Park, Pym turned his attention to politics. As a considerable local landowner, Pym might well expect being given the chance of standing for Parliament for the County. He won one of the two seats available in 1806 and held the seat until losing in 1826 in a three-cornered fight with his fellow Whig the Marquis of Tavistock and Tory Thomas Potter MacQueen. It seems as if he was fairly closely allied to Bedfordshire’s most famous Whig Samuel Whitbread II. In a letter written in 1810, Whitbread praised Pym’s “sterling sense and sound integrity” [G/DDA48/4]. Being a member for the county for so long entailed considerable expenses (£5,346 was paid out in 1820/21 and £4,949 in 1821/22) and therefore this period saw few alterations to the house and park [PM2608]”.

“Plans of the ground floor and the bedroom floor were prepared in 1814 and form a most important source for the earlier history of the house [PM1/5 and 6]. Pencil annotations to the plans show that alterations to the north-west corner of the gatehouse range were contemplated to make a new Laundry and washhouse. The old laundry and washhouse on the north-east corner of the same range probably were altered at the same time but no indication is given as to the new use. In 1817 a new water closet and cistern were installed [PM2293-2302]. Francis Pym continued living at Hazells until his death in 1833 aged 78. He was buried at Sandy on 12th December of that year [P9/1/19]”.

“Although the Pym family were not actually living at Hazells from 1858 to 1892, a close eye was kept on the estate and a number of improvements were made to the house and grounds of the Hall itself. A map of 1873 made when Francis Pym III came of age shows that the Lodge [Hazells Lodge] at the end of the main drive had been built by this date [PM1/45]. In 1877 a third lodge was added, built to designs by Samuel Redhouse, opposite Quarry Hills [PM1/86]. Some time in the period before 1885 the library and breakfast room marked on the 1814 plan were demolished, and a new single storey building built. The windows were designed to match the 1790s windows elsewhere in the house. By the 1880s the present game larder was built and connecting covered ways from the house constructed (including one to the Summerhouse)”.

“On Francis Pym III returning to Hazells Hall in 1892 immediate plans were made for installing a form of Hot Water Central Heating. Other changes between the first Ordnance Survey map surveyed in 1883 and the second, revised in 1900 show that the Keeper’s House (to the left of the drive and formerly near the Bowling Green) had been pulled down and a square plantation with cross drives created in the centre of the Park. In 1911 there was a chimney fire at the Hazells, which involved a certain amount of rebuilding of chimneys but the rest of the house was untouched. Francis Pym died childless on 10th June 1927 and the estate passed to his younger brother William Pym. In the same year alterations were made to the summerhouse in accordance with plans [PM1/66]”.

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 Hassells Hall found it occupied by its owner, Francis Pym. He noted: “Met Mrs. Preedy”, the housekeeper.

The house comprised: a panelled hall measuring 26 feet 9 inches by 20 feet 6 inches; a drawing room measuring 19 feet by 16 feet plus 25 feet 9 inches by 17 feet 9 inches; a dining room measuring 22 feet by 35 feet; an inner hall with stairs of stone and iron (“poor”); a boudoir measuring 15 feet 6 inches square; a study measuring 17 feet by 16 feet 9 inches; down three steps was a lavatory (in the sense of a place to wash), three w. c.’s and the back stairs; down four more steps was the cellar and the servants’ hall (“big, little used” – a later hand has written “now kitchen”); a w. c.; a boot room; a store; a wood store; a kitchen (“very very big – too big, high light”); a larder; a scullery (“dark”); another w. c.; a laundry room; a drying room; a store; a coal store; a back kitchen (“little used”); another servants’ hall (“light, nice”); a butler’s pantry and footman’s bedroom (a later hand has annotated these: now kitchen and scullery”); a billiard room (“big, very good room to watch”) and a room over the billiard room measuring 18 feet by 17 feet.

Up the main stairs, on the first floor lay: a bedroom over part of the drawing room (“small, did not see”); Mrs. Pym’s bedroom to the west (“did not see”); a bedroom to the west measuring 17 feet 6 inches by 16 feet 6 inches; another bedroom; the top of the back stairs; a dressing room; a bedroom; a w. c.; a box room; a bathroom and w. c. (“fair, white tiled one end”); a bedroom to the south over the billiard room measuring 16 feet 6 inches by 19 feet  6 inches; a dressing room; a bedroom measuring 18 feet  9 inches by 15 feet; a bedroom measuring 15 feet by 19 feet. At the top of the back stairs lay the servants’ quarters with two men’s rooms, a store cupboard, a bathroom and w. c. (“big was a bedroom”), two servant’s bedrooms and a housemaid’s room (“big”).

On the second floor lay: a box room (“no light”); a big bedroom (“two servants”); the butler’s bedroom; a servants’ bedroom (“big, not used, long and narrow”); another bedroom; two more unused servants’ bedrooms; a work room and bed and another servants’ bedroom. The valuer commented: “No bath or water on this floor, or w. c.”

Outside lay three heated conservatories measuring 15 feet 9 inches by 50 feet, 17 feet by 47 feet and 17 feet by 42 feet respectively. There was also a potting shed and a fruit room and a further potting shed with a w. c.. A heated glasshouse (“very low”) measured 70 feet by 12 feet 6 inches and a peach house, vinery etc. measured 13 feet 6 inches by 89 feet (lean to on wall, face south”). There was also a potato room.

Also outside were: a brick and corrugated iron boiler house for the conservatories with a stoke house; a wood and corrugated iron lean-to shed; a wood and corrugated iron coke shed; two game larders; a pump house (“not used”); a brick and slate cottage (“not used”) with two rooms up and two down and a w. c.

In the yard were two cellars (“very dark”) and a wine cellar and stores as well as a boiler. These premises were “very big, very little used”. There was a brick and slate range comprising a harness room, four stalls (“one used”), a loose box with a loft over, a loose box (“unused”), four more stalls, a water softening plant, a coachhouse (“could be four cars”) and a dog kennel. There was also a brick and corrugated iron wood shed and two pigsties (“unused”).

There was a cottage occupied by Dean, the gardener. This brick and slate structure comprised a sitting room, scullery, kitchen, a washhouse with bath and w. c. and three bedrooms upstairs. It had only been built in 1925. A barn stood outside. An identical cottage occupied by Wiseman the chauffeur stood semi-detached to it.

The valuer summed up the grounds thus: “Two walled-in kitchen gardens, one with glass houses. Wooden fence round part of kitchen garden. Large lawns in front of House. Not used or fit for tennis. Old holly and yew hedges. Grass walk running north and south, summerhouse each end”. He commented on the house thus: “House has a very fine red brick and white Tudor front. Is well approached and looks over park like land. Faces south and south-west. Grounds are well laid out. Disadvantages: No electric light or gas, only two baths, only one postal delivery per day, very bad social position, only three other mansions near, about 1¼ miles to station, kitchen to dining room 34 yards and four steps, poor main staircase”.

James Collett-White’s history of the building continues: “Frederick William Pym was in his late 60s when he inherited Hazells [in 1927]. At his age he was not keen to make innovations and with his agent Henry Preedy, who served the estate from 1910 to 1945, sought to preserve the status quo. It is probable that while minor repairs were done, that the Hall gradually deteriorated during his ownership. F. W. Pym died on 9th July 1941. The estate then reverted to Leslie Ruthven Pym, a cousin of F. W. Pym and M. P. for Monmouthshire. Before the war, as heir presumptive, he had taken an active interest in the estate and had run Highfield Farm from 1932. He lived at Hazells from July 1941 to May 1942, presumably commuting up to London to his job as Lord Commissioner of the Treasury and M. P. for Monmouth”.

“In May 1942 the hall was requisitioned for use as a hostel for the R. A. F. pilots using the new Tempsford Aerodrome. The house suffered the usual amount of damage inflicted on large houses requisitioned in war time. Virtually no repairs could be done during the war years. Immediately after the end of the war the two people most interested in the Hazells died, Preedy in May 1945 and L. R. Pym himself on 20th July 1945, just before he had hoped to take up residence at the house. The new heir Francis Leslie II was only 23 and was living in Liverpool. The prospect of living in the large and partly decaying Hall can have had little attraction. The lease to the Government was therefore continued till 1948, when the hall was taken over as a hospital, acting as an annexe to Bromham Hospital. The conversion was done on an ad hoc basis and as cheaply as possible. The Hall for instance was divided by concrete walls and the job was done so badly that they did not fit the panelled walls properly and so when the walls were removed in recent restoration the panelling was found intact. In 1968 the Regional Hospital Board withdrew from their lease at very short notice. Despite efforts to find a tenant the building remained empty. The house is now [1984] being expertly restored by Kit Martin and sold off in sections as individual dwellings”.

Hazells Hall in 1961 [Z53/99/2]
Hazells Hall in 1961 [Z53/99/2]

And thus Hazells Hall remains a very up-market block of flats at the time of writing [2011]. A list of tenants of the house can be gleaned from the pages of the various directories for the county printed between 1847 and 1940 and is as follows:

  • Lady Jane and Francis Pym 1847;
  • Francis Pym 1854;
  • Thomas de la Rue 1864;
  • Colonel, later General, Thomas Hooke Pearson 1869, 1877, 1885, 1890;
  • Thomas Sherwin Pearson J. P. 1890;
  • Francis Pym 1894; 1903; 1906; 1910; 1920; 1924; 1928;
  • Frederick William Pym 1931; 1936; 1940.

Hazells Hall in the 19th century [Z50/99/5]
Hazells Hall in the 19th century [Z50/99/5]