Claremont - 36 Leighton Street Woburn
36 Leighton Street March 2012
The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county’s historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The entry for Claremont [HER 16392] states that it was built between the 1840s and 1870s over three phases, starting with the main block which had a symmetrical front and a central door; a chaise house and a small wood barn were later added to this. Phase Two was a two storey brick and slate extension built onto the western elevation with a new front door and entrance lobby. The original front door was then blocked up. The last phase was a second two storey brick and slate extension at the south-west corner, perhaps as servants’ quarters.
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. Woburn, like much of the county was valued in 1927 and the valuer visiting 36 Leighton Street [DV1/C126/87] found that it, like most of the parish, was owned by the Duke of Bedford’s London and Devon Estates Company.
The tenant was Frank Mitchell whose rent was included in his wages. The valuer noted: “Head Forester lives here”. His accommodation comprised a hall, three living rooms and a kitchen downstairs with four bedrooms and a bathroom above. There was a cellar beneath the house. Outside stood a coachhouse with a loft over, a washhouse, a W. C., a coal barn and a glasshouse measuring 15 feet by 10 feet. The property had mains water, sewer sanitation and gas lighting. It stood in just under half an acre.
Directories for Bedfordshire were not published every year but every few years. Frank Mitchell is listed in Leighton Street in directories of 1910, 1914, 1920, 1924, 1928, 1931, 1936 and, the last directory for the county, 1940. The 1901 census reveals that Frank, or Francis, Mitchell was then 42 and he came from Saint Giles (possibly Saint Giles-in-theHeath) in Devon. His wife, Mary Jane, was 40 and from Hoole in Cheshire. Their eldest child was sixteen year old Sarah Mary, born in Warwick, as were fifteen year old Francis William (already a woodman himself) and Lilian Harriett (who, thus, were probably twins). Twelve year old Sydney Henri was born in Harlestone [Northamptonshire] as were ten year old Alexander George, Kathleen Frances, aged nine, Hubert Thomas, aged eight and Ernest Arthur aged six. Little Elsie Winifred, aged eleven months, had been born in Woburn.