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40 to 44 High Street Silsoe

40 to 44 High Street in 1961 [Z53/104/4]
40 to 44 High Street in 1961 [Z53/104/4]

This range of cottages was listed by the former Department of Environment in January 1985 as Grade II, of special interest. The department dated the properties to the 18th century "with 19th century alterations". They share a timber-framed structure, the ground floor having been rebuilt in brick in 19th century. The first floor is rendered and the whole has been colour-washed. There is a half-hipped clay tile roof and the properties comprise two storeys.

A map made for a rental survey for the Duke of Kent in 1718 [L33/286 folio 11] shows properties on the site of 40-44 High Street. They are described as "A Messuage with Barns, Stables &c. and the Home Pikle [pightle, a small inclosure of land] Adjoyning". The occupier was Edward Laurence who farmed 54 acres, 25 poles and paid rent of £89/9/2 per annum. A map drawn up for the 2nd Earl de Grey in 1856 [L33/12/13] shows that 40 High Street was then the schoolmaster's house. Number 42 was in the occupation of Thomas Lavender and 44 of Leonard Simpson.

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 row of cottages [DV1/C236/140-142] found that they were still owned by the Wrest Park Estate, much of which had been bought by John George Murray, who had bought Wrest Park itself, in 1918 and 1919.

Number 40 was much larger than the other two and was leased by R. A. Bond who, the valuer noted, was the schoolmaster, thus the tradition from the 19th century lived on. The rent was £9/10/- per annum, this was "received by Mr. Murray but passed on to Vicar of Parish for upkeep of school premises … Nominal rent of 6d. per annum also paid by School Managers". This last was for a nearby allotment of 0.291 of an acre used as children's' gardens.

The valuer noted that the property had previously been two houses but another hand has written "Was 3 Cottages, right on pavement". It comprised a reception room, a living room, a kitchen and two sculleries with four bedrooms ("one small") above. There was also a cellar and an earth closet stood outside. A puzzling annotation simply reads: "Small boys Club Room".

Number 42 was leased by P. Brightman who paid rent of 3/6 per week for a living room and kitchen with three bedrooms above. There was also a cellar. A weather-boarded and corrugated iron barn and an earth closet stood outside. Brightman also had a small allotment of 0.398 of an acre nearby included in the rent.

Number 44 was in the occupation of Antony Bratt, who paid £4/9/- per annum for a living room, kitchen and three bedrooms. A weather-boarded and tiled barn and a brick and corrugated iron earth closet stood outside. The valuer commented: "Right on Pavement". Bratt's nearby piece of allotment measured 0.136 of an acre.

In 1934 John George Murray tried, unsuccessfully, to sell the Wrest Park Estate. The sale particulars [AD1147/23] described 40 to 44 High Street as follows.

Two Similar Cottages [to 46 to 54 High Street]

Being Nos. 42 and 44 containing: Sitting Room, Living Room, Three Bed Rooms, together with Outoffices and Gardens.

Now in the occupation of Messrs. S. Brightman and A. Bratt on Monthly Tenancies at Rentals amounting to £12 18s. 6d. per annum.

The Dwelling House
(Formerly the School House),

Being No. 40 and containing: Hall, Three Sitting Rooms, Kitchen, Pantry, Larder, Scullery, Cellar, Four Bed Rooms and Box Room. Garden.


40 to 44 High Street March 2011
40 to 44 High Street March 2011