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Wentworth House Toddington

Wentworth House March 2016
Wentworth House March 2016

This 18th century neo-classical style building was listed in 1980 by the former Department of the Environment as Grade II, of special interest. It is built of red and vitrified brick with an old clay tile roof with parapet and modillion cornice. It has a first floor band, recessed centre, sash windows with flat arches and mounted frames, and central right hand and left hand dummy windows. The central door surround has fluted Corinthian pilasters, consoles, ribbed frieze dentil cornice and pediment, with a six fielded panel door in an architrave. It is possible that the 18th century façade hides a much earlier structure.

Historical accounts of the origins of Wentworth House differ. William Hyde in his History of Toddington Church states that it was built by Sir Henry Johnson, the husband of Martha, Baroness Wentworth, who inherited the Manor of Toddington in 1697. Others suggest it was built by the 2nd Earl of Strafford for his mother, Martha's step-daughter Anne. It is possible that both suggestions are correct, and that the Georgian façade was added by the Earl of Strafford to an earlier house built by Baroness Wentworth. After the death of Anne Wentworth the house was used as the manor's hunting lodge.

Wentworth House was originally known as Earl's Court and later as the Red House before acquiring its present name. Until 1937 a group of five cottages known as Earl's Court cottages stood to the north. Fowler's Yard, a terrace of five cottages with a shop and a bakehouse, stood behind the main house.

From 1884 to 1896 part of Wentworth House was used as a branch of Bassett's Bank of Leighton Buzzard. After Bassett's was taken over by Barclay's Bank the branch moved to 2 High Street. From 1897 the northern section was converted into a reading room and the Parish Council for a short time held its meetings there. By 1910 this part of the house had become the Conservative Social Club.

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. At this time the Red House was owned by the trustees of Mrs. E. Johnston [DV1/C83/45-47]. The northern, left-hand section of the Red House was the Conservative Club, with a club room and committee room; accommodation consisting of a living room, a kitchen, and two bedrooms was used by the caretaker. The valuer described it as a "miserable place … has been [a] good house but cracks in walls now". The middle section of the Red House was rented by Edward Randall for 52s 6d per quarter. This property, described as "very poor", consisted of a living room, a kitchen and two bedrooms, with timber and thatch barn, stable and coach house. The right-hand house was larger, with a kitchen, scullery, two living rooms and a "semi-basement" downstairs, three bedrooms and two attics upstairs, and timber and thatch coach house, stable and barn outside. The occupier was Samuel Fleckney (a cattle dealer), who paid £24 per annum rent, increased from £21 per annum before the First World War. The valuer noted that he didn't understand the rent.

During the Second World War Wentworth House was used by the army. After the war it was sold to A. Boutwood who converted the property back to a single house. Following the conversion 1946 Wentworth House was revalued for rating purposes [DV1/X388/36]. The accommodation now included:

  • Ground floor: Dining room with front door; study to the left with steps to children's room (formerly kitchen), in turn leading back to the dining room; lounge, with part partitioned off; a half basement with kitchen (11½ feet by 11½ feet) and scullery (10½ feet by 10½ feet); larder, cellars.
  • First floor: six bedrooms (without running water); box room; bathroom; W.C.
  • Second floor: two attics.
  • Outside: Brick and tile stores and open garage.

The valuer now described Wentworth House as "a very charming period house with balanced accommodation". A garden was being laid out but the only access to three of the cottages in Fowler's Yard behind the house was across the garden making it "very public".

Sale particulars from 1977 described Wentworth House as a "delightful Georgian village house" [Z156/26]. By this date the property had full central heating and offered "excellent family accommodation":

  • Ground floor: Entrance lounge 18 feet 6 inches by 15 feet with large inglenook fireplace with exposed beam and side cupboard, arched apsidal corner cupboard thought to date from the late 18th century, half panelled walls and paved flagstone floor; dining room 25 feet by 15 feet 4 inches, short staircase to; garden lounge or TV room, 12 feet by 11 feet with double glazed casement doors to terrace; study or bedroom 6 13 feet 6 inches by 13 feet (on mezzanine floor); rear hall; cloakroom; breakfast room 13 feet 3 inches by 7 feet 2 inches; kitchen 13 feet 6 inches by 9 feet 1 inch.
  • Lower ground floor: Utility room 10 feet 8 inches by 10 feet 6 inches; boiler room; extensive cellarage under the whole house with a large safe [this safe was a relic of the late 19th century when part of the house had been used as a bank].
  • First floor (reached by two staircases): bedroom 19 feet by 15 feet; bedroom 15 feet 6 inches by 12 feet 6 inches; bedroom 14 feet by 13 feet; bedroom 14 feet by 12 feet 10 inches; bedroom or study 10 feet 6 inches by 7 feet 6 inches; two bathrooms; separate W.C.
  • Second floor (reached by two staircases): three or four attic rooms
  • Outside: Lofty old barn used as a workshop, 20 feet 9 inches by 14 feet 10 inches; double garage; cedarwood garden store shed.
  • Gardens: 2½ to 3 acres in extent, with lawn to the south and rear, wrought iron gates and gravelled drive leading to the garage.