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53 High Street Silsoe

53 High Street in 1961 [Z53/104/9]
53 High Street in 1961 [Z53/104/9]

53 High Street is a detached property standing on the west side of the High Street just south of the GeorgeInn. It was listed by the former Department of Environment in January 1961 as Grade II, of special interest. The department dated the property to the 18th and 19th centuries "apparently reworking of earlier structure". However, a map made for the Duke of Kent in 1718 to accompany a rental survey [L33/286 folio 11] does not show anything on the site of the property. A possible explanation is that that because the house did not belong to the Wrest Park Estate it was not included; otherwise the department's suggestion of a building earlier than the 18th century is wrong.

The house is built of colour-washed roughcast to the left hand side and weather-boarding to the right, "probably over some timber framing". It has hipped clay tile roofs and is built in an L-shape, comprising two storeys and attics.

The earliest mention of the house is in 1740 when it was devised in the will of Edward White of Middlesex, innholder to his wife Elizabeth [L5/993]. The will was proved in March 1746. In 1747 Elizabeth conveyed the house, formerly in the occupation of William White, to John White for £150, part of a debt of £300 he had been owned by Edward White [L5/935-936]. Then in 1764 the heirs of John White sold the property to Henry Sharp of Bedford, carrier and Ann, his wife who was one of John White's eight children for £150 [L5/939-940].

Henry Sharp's will of 20 April 1790 describes 53 High Street as a cottage with a range of buildings on the waste opposite, a wagon house, yard containing a chaise house, stable and cart hovel and another bay, formerly a blacksmith's shop [L5/991-992]. Sharp left the property to his nephew William Doulton, a seaman aboard H. M. S. Lancaster (a 64 gun third rate ship of the line in service from 1797 to 1832). In 1801 he sold the property via Jacob Aaron of Portsea, navy agent as agent to John Edwards of Silsoe, gentleman. It was then described as a messuage in Silsoe abutting east on the turnpike from Clophill to London, south on the road from Ampthill to London, west on the premises of John Edwards and north on premises of Lady Lucas, with a yard, coachhouse, stable and loft and a bay or range of buildings near it upon the waste in the occupation of John Edwards [L5/991-992]. John Edwards was son-in-law of Henry Sharp and owned a considerable amount of land and property in and around Silsoe. In his will of 1819 he devised the house to his daughter Frances [L5/995].

In July 1856 the trustees of Edwards' daughter, Frances Platt, conveyed the house to the 2nd Earl de Grey for £850 [L5/1002]. The building was described as a messuage in Silsoe abutting east on the road from Bedford to London and south on the road from Ampthill to London – a plan in the margin of the deed confirms it is 53 High Street. A map drawn up for the 2nd Earl de Grey in the same year [L33/12/13] shows that 53 High Street was in the occupation of Francis Joyce. Kelly's Directory for Bedfordshire was published every few years and in 1890 Francis Benthall is listed as the occupier of Ruthyn Cottage. He is last mentioned in the directory of 1903.

The house was part of the Wrest Park Estate sold at auction in 1919 [L23/1000/1]. 53 High Street formed Lot 10 and was described as follows:

A Small Private House
Known as
RUTHYN COTTAGE (near Silsoe House)
covering an Area of

10 perches

and containing

In Basement – two Cellars.
On the Ground Floor – drawing Room, Dining Room, Library or Smoking Room, Kitchen, Scullery and Back Passage.

On the First Floor – Five Bedrooms.

On the Second Floor – two Attics and Loft.

In the Yard are Coal Cellar, Poultry House, Wood House, Wash-house, 3-stall Stable with Loft over and earth Closet.

The Water Supply is from a well with pump on the premises.

The House is chiefly built of stud and plaster, with tiled roof, and is in the occupation of Miss B. Olney at a Rent of

Per £44 Ann.

And this Lot will be sold subject to her life tenancy. She is stated to have been born on the 15th January, 1847.

There is Land Tax of 15s. 3d. on this lot.

Ruthyn Cottage was conveyed, together with its larger neighbour Silsoe House, in June 1919 by Nan Ino, 10th Baroness Lucas, owner of the Wrest Park Estate [L23/305]. Both properties were bought by Sir H. Trustram Eve for £1,035.

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 53 High Street [DV1/C236/115] found it owned and occupied by Mrs. D. Wheldon who had bought it three years previously, presumably from Sir Trustram Eve. The rent had been £14 per annum.

Accommodation comprised two reception rooms, a living room, a kitchen, a scullery and an old studio with five bedrooms above. There were also two attics ("very bad"). A lock up garage with a loft over, a small brick and slate lock up garage, two wine cellars, a store barn, a coal house and a petrol shed lay outside. The valuer commented "Right on pavement, not attractive".

53 High Street March 2011
53 High Street March 2011