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Grange Farm Willington

Grange Farmhouse August 2010
Grange Farmhouse August 2010

Grange Farmhouse was listed by the former Department of Environment in May 1984 as Grade II, of special interest. The department dated the property to the mid to late 19th century. It is built of yellow brick, with a hipped slate roof to the main block and a 20th century tile roof to the rear block. The Main block forms an L-plan, of two storeys, with a two storeyed additional block to the north wing with more a steeply pitched roof.

At the same date the mill at Grange Farm was also listed. It is of even date with the farmhouse and built of gault brick with a slate roof. It is a rectangular block of two storeys and attics, with lower lean-to blocks to the rear. The listing comments: “Included for group value”.

The farmhouse was probably built by a Duke of Bedford as the dukes were Lords of the Manor from 1779 to 1902. In November 1903 then Lords of the Manor, George and James Keeble, put the Willington Manor Estate properties in the village up for sale by auction. The sale particulars [X403/3] listed Grange Farm, then called Road Farm, as Lot 2 and were as follows


Situated at the junction of Saint Neots, Bedford and Sandy Roads, and comprising – A Superior Modern Brick and Slated double fronted RESIDENCE, fronting the Bedford Road, and containing Entrance Hall, Dining and Drawing Rooms, Kitchen, Back Kitchen, Dairy, Pantry, China Closet, 7 Bedrooms, Dressing Room, Bath Room with cold water supply, tastily [!] arranged garden at the corner &c.

Very Substantial and Commodious FARM PRESMISES which are principally constructed in Brick and Slate and conveniently arranged, comprising – 2 good Barns, Chaff Box and Loft, Cart Horse Stable for 8, Nag Stable with 2 stalls, Meal House with 4 bins, Cow House for 14, Bullock House, Cow Yard and Shelter for 11, Horse Yard and Shelter. Bullock Yard and Shelters, Loose Box, Pig Styes, Boiling House, Fowl and Pigeon Houses, Boarden tiled Gig House, Corrugated Cart Hovel, Boarden tiled Barn, Office and Harness Place.

There is a good open Yard, Stackyard, Orchard and Pasture Close adjoining, having a good frontage to the Bedford Road, the whole containing

  • House, Premises &c. 2 acres, 36 poles
  • Orchard 2 roods 36 poles;
  • Pasture Close 7 acres.

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 Grange Farm found owned by Mark Young who had bought a number of properties in the village from the Willington Manor Estate in 1903 including Grange Farm [DV1/H36/56].

The farm occupied 466.95 acres and the valuer commented: “Water pumped from well”. Another hand commented: “Good Homestead. Covered yards, 2 Onion Lofts, Glazed Chitting House, Smithy, Mill, Foreman in house. Some arable, sharp River grass, floods. A well managed estate in first class repair”.

The farmhouse comprised two reception rooms, a kitchen, a scullery and two store rooms with seven bedrooms and a bathroom above. A later hand implies that the house was divided between two tenants – J. Blackwell occupying the hall, living room, sitting room, scullery and three bedrooms and someone named Jordan occupying a living room, scullery, cellar (“out”), three bedrooms and “old barns”.

By May 1948 Mark Young was dead and most of his properties in Willington were sold at auction [PK1/4/178]. Grange farm, however, was not sold for another ten years. In October 1958 an auction was held of the farm and market garden dead stock as well as over four hundred pigs ad four horses [AD1147/34]. The farm itself had already been sold.

At the back of the particulars the auctioneers wrote: “The recent sale of Grange Farm is an important events in planned afforestation in England. The purchasers of this 331 acre property are Bryant & May Limited, the match manufacturers, and the area is to be developed as the company’s forestry headquarters for the Central and South Eastern Counties of England”.

“The British match industry has been concerned for more than 30 years in the study of poplar at all stages in its growth and utilisation, and Bryant & May, especially during the last ten years, have been active in laying the foundations for a good and continuing supply of poplar, by themselves acquiring property for afforestation and by actively encouraging landowners to plant this tree. The Company has a forestry advisory service, which willingly supplies information on poplar, and which sells plants of high quality at prices near to cost of production”.

“Poplar is a fast growing tree, and, on a suitable site, a yield of 3,000 cubic feet (Hoppus) per acre can be expected in 30 years. On better sites this volume should be obtained sooner. To provide for the present log requirements of the match trade it is necessary to plant 300 acres per annum. On a rotation of 30 years a potential 9,000 acres will be required, but this figure must be doubled if the match trade is also to become independent of imported splints. It is Bryant & May’s aim to encourage those landowners with suitable land to continue to plant poplar. A great deal is needed and there will always be a demand for good quality timber”.

In 1973 Bryant & May merged with Wilkinson Sword to form Wilkinson Match. This firm suffered the usual fate of British companies being taken over by a foreign concern, in this case an American company called Allegheny International. In 1987 Allegheny sold the company to Swedish Match. The last United Kingdom factory of the former Bryant & May, in Liverpool, closed in 1994.

In the mid 1980s plans were drawn up [PCWillington18/18] for the Francis Coales Charitable Foundation to build properties at the rear of Grange Farm. This development was called Grange Way. In 1988 plans were submitted to convert the premises into two separate dwellings [BorBTP/88/1781/LB].

Directories for the county were published every few years by a number of sources. the most notable are Kelly's Directory. Below is a short list of occupiers of Grange, or Road, Farm as revealed by directories. Entries are not the beginning and end dates of tenure but the first and last time the name is noted in a directory:

  • 1847: William Brimley;
  • 1854 to 1877: Joseph Brimley;
  • 1885 to 1890: George Church;
  • 1894 to 1903: Astell Brothers.

Mark Young the owned the farm until 1948. In Kelly's Directory for 1940 his farm bailiff Joseph Sidney Blackwell is listed as living at the premises, presumably the J. Blackwell noted in the 1927 rating valuation. Also listed at Grange farm is Doctor Frederick Sime Gregory, physician and surgeon who attended the premises every Monday and Wednesday between 2 and 3 p. m.