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The Red House Silsoe

The Red House hiding behind foliage October 2011
The Red House hiding behind foliage October 2011

The Red House stands just north of Ampthill Road and just west of a modern development called The Oaks. It was listed by the former Department of Environment in January 1961 as Grade II, of special interest.

The house is not particularly old, dating, as we shall see, from the early 19th century. It is built of red brick, hence its name, and has a hipped slate roof over three storeys in a double pile plan – in other words two parallel roofs each over half the main block.

The house was probably built by prominent Silsoe resident John Edwards. In his will of August 1823 [L5/947] he devised the building to trustees for sale to raise annuity for his wife Charlotte and legacies for his sisters. No sale took place straight away, instead the trustees leased the house, described in the lease as a "newly built mansion" to J. R. Henderson of Middlesex [L5/949-950]. The house had a garden and a plantation of three acres and had formerly been occupied by a man named William Humbly and so cannot have been brand new. The lease included a cottage at the western boundary of the land, today's 36 Ampthill Road and a pew in the chapel of Silsoe. Rent was £65 per annum for 14 years 3 months.

J. R. Henderson assigned the unexpired term of his lease to the owner of Wrest Park, Thomas Philip Weddell, Lord Grantham, later 2nd Earl de Grey in December 1831 for £310. Henderson had erected a barn which he sold to the new lessee for £160 [L5/951-952].

Baron Grantham sublet the property, the trustees of Edwards' will agreeing to this in 1832 [L5/955]. They also agreed to take over at valuation a W. C. to be erected by the new tenant Major General Foster or allow Lord Grantham for it if he paid the major general [L5/954]

Finally, in January 1855 the 2nd earl de Grey, as Baron Grantham had become, purchased the Red House, 36 Ampthill Road and fourteen acres of land from Edwards' trustees for £4,400 [L5/970]. Directories reveal that from at least 1869 the house was rented by various female members of the Delmé-Radcliffe family. A lease of February 1919 saw Nan Ino, 10th Baroness Lucas, raising the rent of the Misses Delmé-Radcliffe to £73/10/- per annum [L23/297].

This may not have happened, however. Following the death of her brother the 9th Baron on active service in December 1916 with the Royal Flying Corps, the 10th Baroness Lucas began to break up and sell the Wrest Park Estate. The Red House occurs in the 1919 sale particulars of part of the estate. The house formed Lot 11 and was described as follows:

An Attractive Private Residence
known as
adjoining Lot 9 [53 High Street], and having a total Area of about
5 acres, 0 roods, 11 poles.

stands in its own well laid out Grounds with Lawn in front, and is screened from the Road by Shrubberies. It faces South, is well built of red brick, with slate roof, and contains: -

On the Ground Floor – Entrance Hall, Drawing Room, Dining Room and Morning Room, Servants' Hall, Butler's Pantry, Kitchen, Scullery, China Pantry, Larder and Boot House.

On the First Floor – Four good Bedrooms and a Dressing Room, House Maid's Pantry and W. C.

On the Second Floor – Six good Bedrooms.

There are Two Staircases, and also a good Cellar.

The Water Supply is from a good Well with Force Pump, and there is also an Underground Soft Water Tank with Pump

THE OUTBUILDINGS consist of wood and slate Coach House and 3-stall Stable with paved Carriage Yard, brick and slate Tool House, and Pigsty with Yard.

Large walled Kitchen Garden. Adjoining House is a TWO ACRE PLOT OF RICH PASTURE.

The estimated Annual rental of the House and Land is £120 per annum, but is now let to the Misses Delmé-Radcliffe, as described below, at £70 per annum.

The Land Tax is redeemed.

This Lot is sold subject to the Life tenancy of the last survivor of the three Misses Delmé-Radcliffe, the present tenants, who are respectively stated to have been born on 15th October 1839, 3rd June 1842, and 5th June, 1845.

36 Ampthill Road was also included in the sale of this lot.

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 Red House in 1927 [DV1/C236/112] found it was owned by Sir Charles Delmé-Radcliffe, a brigadier-general, who presumably bought it in or at some time after the 1919 auction sale, and occupied by one of the Misses Delmé-Radcliffe. The house now stood in 2.74 acres.

Accommodation comprised: a hall measuring 19 feet by 7 feet; a dining room measuring 20 feet by 17 feet; a drawing room measuring 25 feet by 16 feet 6 inches; a larder; a kitchen measuring 14 feet by 15 feet 6 inches; a scullery; a coal place; a further larder; a servants' hall and a butler's pantry and a sitting room measuring 16 feet 6 inches by 13 feet ("now dining room"). First floor accommodation comprised a double bedroom measuring 20 feet by 16 feet; a dressing room; a double bedroom measuring 16 feet by 13 feet; a sitting room measuring 16 feet by 15 feet; a W. C.; a house maid's sink; two double bedrooms, each measuring 21 feet by 16 feet; a single bedroom measuring 18 feet 6 inches by 10 feet; a room used as a store room; a maid's room; a boxroom and a maids' room for two.

Outside lay a potting shed, an old piggery, a wood barn and a harness room. A coach house and a three stall stable with a loft over were not used. The valuer commented: "Well Built, not damp or settled but not a lettable property, oil lamps, no heating, no bathroom, grounds small. Well kept up. Value to occupier only".

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has plans for a proposed residential development at The Red House in 1971 [PL/P/AR71/4B] Today [2011] this is known as The Oaks. 

Directories for Bedfordshire, which were not published annually but every few years, give the names of the tenants of The Red House from 1869 1940 and the following names are taken from these directories. The dates are the dates the name first and last appears not the dates of residence:

1869-1877: Mrs. Delmé-Radcliffe
1885-1928: The Misses Delmé-Radcliffe
1936-1940: Horace Irvine Godfrey.

In 2013 the house was for sale. The detailed sale particulars [Z449/6/41] stated that the ground floor contained: an entrance hall; a reception room measuring 20 feet by 17 feet 5 inches; a drawing room measuring 24 feet 4 inches by 15 feet 11 inches; a dining room measuring 15 feet 5 inches by 13 feet 6 inches; a utility room; a kitchen/breakfast room measuring 24 feet 3 inches by 17 feet; a courtyard measuring 7 feet 2 inches by 23 feet 7 inches; and two studios measuring 24 feet 6 inches by 13 feet 7 inches and18 feet 9 inches by 15 feet 1 inch respectively.

The first floor comprised: a library measuring 14 feet 6 inches by 9 feet 5 inches; a dressing room measuring 16 feet 1 inch by 13 feet 7 inches and three bedrooms measuring, respectively, 20 feet 5 inches by 16 feet; 16 feet 1 inch by 13 feet 7 inches and 16 feet by 15 feet 8 inches. The second floor read more like the entertainment centre for the village with: a snooker room measuring 40 feet 1 inch by 16 feet 5 inches; a cinema measuring 21 feet 3 inches by 16 feet 6 inches; an entertainment room measuring 12 feet by 10 feet 1 inch as well as bedrooms measuring 16 feet 5 inches by 14 feet and 16 feet 5 inches by 15 feet 11 inches

Beneath the house were: a store room; a wine cellar; a boiler room and cellars measuring 19 feet 6 inches by 18 feet 1 inch and 32 feet 7 inches by 18 feet 1 inch. Outside were: a driveway; woodland; a swimming pool and a coach house of which the ground floor comprised: a kitchen measuring 10 feet 1 inch by 7 feet 9 inches; a reception room measuring 15 feet 8 inches by 13 feet 9 inches; a sitting room measuring 15 feet 8 inches square and an office measuring 16 feet 8 inches by 9 feet 7 inches. The first floor comprised: an office measuring 17 feet by 15 feet 8 inches and a bedroom measuring 15 feet 8 inches by 14 feet 2 inches.