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Hill Grove Whipsnade

Hill Grove - the old Hill Farm House January 2009
Hill Grove - the old Hill Farm House January 2009

Hill Grange, today called Hill Grove, was listed by the former Department of Environment in September 1980 as Grade II, of special interest. The building dates from the 17th century and is timber-framed building with a back-to-back fireplace and later, 18th century, brick casing with red stretchers and grey headers. It is built in a T-plan and comprises two storeys beneath an old clay tiled roof.

In 1881 Hill Farm, owned by Arthur Macnamara, comprised 240 acres, 3 roods, 10 poles. The tenant was William George [BML6/6/3(ii)]. In 1883 a new farmhouse was built immediately south of the homestead to replace the old building [MN129/4]. In 1899 the tenancy changed and the incoming tenant was Ephraim Bates, the farm now comprising 170 acres, 18 poles. The tenant died in 1917 [BML10/78/8].

In December 1915 the second auction of Pedley Settled Estates, owned by the Macnamara family, took place. It included 2,050 acres in Eaton Bray, Whipsnade, Totternhoe, Studham and Caddington as well as the Hertfordshire parishes of Markyate and Flamstead. Lot 2 in the sale particulars [Z214/3] was Hill Farm.

Today's Hill Grove was described as a substantial shooting box standing 700 feet above sea-level “with a South aspect, most pleasantly situate facing the Green, opposite to the Church”. The brick house had a tiled, gabled roof and contained seven bedrooms, a dressing room and a W. C. with a lavatory (in the sense of a washing place) basin. The ground floor comprised: a dining room; a drawing room; a study; a tile-paved staircase hall; a kitchen with an enclosed range; a scullery with a sink and a force pump for lifting water to a tank in the roof; two larders and a basement cellarage. There was a paved yard with a coal barn, a garden and a range of stabling with four stalls for horses and a coachhouse with a gravelled yard. The premises occupied 2 roods, 15 poles.

The 1883 farmhouse comprised five bedrooms, two sitting rooms, a kitchen, a scullery, a dairy, a coal barn and cellar with a carpenter’s shop at the end of the house. The farm buildings comprised: a boiling house with a copper and force pump for raiding water to a tank supplying the yard, two fattening boxes, a cow house for eight with a calf pen at the end, a four bay open cattle shed, a four bay barn with a boarded door, a cart stable for eight and chaff house, another cattle shed of three bays, a cart hovel with an implement shed, a detached timber and tiled granary, a fold and rickyards. The farmer also had the right to graze ten cows on Whipsnade Green. There were 138 acres, 3 roods, 19 perches of arable and 15 acres, 29 perches of pasture and 19 acres, 3 roods, 24 perches of mixed arable and pasture; the farmhouse and buildings comprised 1 rood 35 perches. The farm was still let to the executors of Ephraim Bates for £168/12/- per annum.

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 1883 farmhouse, now called The Paddock and detached from the farm [DV1/C98/15] found it owned by George Dunn (owner of Hill Farm) and tenanted by Captain Rupert Victor Hurle Hobbs whose rent was £18/15/- per quarter, which included a grass field with some fruit trees adjacent measuring 1.11 acres. The property and surroundings comprised 0.377 of an acre.

The house contained a basement cellar and ground floor accommodation was recoded as: a hall (“stairs go up from”); a drawing room measuring 15 feet 6 inches by 17 feet 6 inches; a study measuring 15 feet by 9 feet 6 inches; a dining room measuring 17 feet 6 inches by 13 feet 6 inches; a kitchen measuring 16 feet 6 inches by 12 feet 6 inches; a scullery; a parlour and a larder. Upstairs were bedrooms measuring, respectively, 16 feet 6 inches by 12 feet, 17 feet by 13 feet, 16 feet by 17 feet 6 inches, 14 feet by 8 feet and 17 feet by 8 feet 6 inches. There was also a bathroom and a separate W. C.

Outside were: a brick and tiled store shed; a weather-boarded lean-to store shed; two brick and timber garages and a two-stall stable. The valuer commented: “Was shooting box. Saw Mrs. Hobbs 17/12/26. Only been here since August. Cesspool drainage. Lamps”

The farm and the old farmhouse, today’s Hill Grove, were visited on 7th September 1926 [DV1/H23/36]. The owner was George Dunn and the tenant Charles Bates, whose rent of £185 per annum had been set in 1917. The farm now comprised 178 acres. The valuer commented: “Decent homestead. I like the Farm, not Bad Land. House and Homestead on Green, well served with Road”.

The farmhouse contained a reception room, a kitchen, a scullery (measuring 16 feet by 19 feet and later used as a store) and a dairy downstairs with four bedrooms and a boxroom above (a later annotation notes that the five rooms measured 16 feet by 19 feet, 16 feet square, 15 feet square, 10 feet by 12 feet and 10 feet square). There was also a cellar measuring 15 feet by 12 feet. Outside were two barns and a workshop.

The homestead comprised the following:

  • West Block (all brick and tiled): two loose boxes, a cow house for eight, a calf box and a garage.
  • North Block (all timber, weather-boarded, brick and slate): a four bay open-fronted cow shed; a barn and a stable for eight horses;
  • East Block (all brick and tiled): a three-bay open-fronted shed; a fowl house; a garage and a two-bay open-fronted implement shed;
  • At the rear: a lean-to two bay cart shed

There was also a weather-boarded and tiled granary. A later had has noted an old caravan “jacked up on bricks” measuring 13 feet by 6 feet 6 inches.