Bedfordshire Cottages

Keepers and Keepers

Keeper’s Cottage with miniature Lilliput Lane model “Bark, the Herald Angels sing”

Last week I had a wonderful treat! My son booked a week (Monday to Friday) for us to stay at a Landmark Trust property in Bedfordshire as a gift to me on my retirement in June. So, last Sunday I travelled down to London from Norfolk and on the Monday D and I drove up to Old Warden in Bedfordshire to spend the week at Keeper’s Cottage in the Warden Warren woods which make up part of the Shuttleworth Estate.

Keepers Dec 2009

Keeper’s in the snow, December 2009

In fact we stayed at Keeper’s in December 2009 but had such a lot problems with snow and ice and moving the car and I fell and sprained my ankle that the stay was only memorable for it being such a disaster. Surely we couldn’t be dogged by snow and ice again?? But we were. On Wednesday we woke to a thick covering of snow which looked beautiful but our hearts sank wondering whether we would have a repeat experience. Luckily the roads and tracks were not so bad and the snow added to the charm of the cottage and the woodlands.

Keepers Dec 2012

Keeper’s in the snow, December 2012

Keeper’s Cottage was built by the local Bedford builder and architect John Usher in about 1877 when Joseph Shuttleworth, owner of the Old Warden Estate, decided to rehouse his gamekeeper Richard Aireton. It was built in accordance with the architectural pattern books of the day and is a sampler of features including decorative fleur de lys plasterwork, timber framing, hipped gables and decorative roof and ridge tiles. The cottage comes with a set of outbuildings which include a bakehouse, washhouse, earth closet and, down the slope from the living quarters, a four stalled kennel block. Keeper’s (like all Landmarks) has a detailed history album for the cottage which makes fascinating reading. Before the Landmark Trust took over the property all the outbuildings had been lost but it was decided to totally rebuild them as the detailed plans were still available.

Fleur De Lys plasterwork

The Fleur De Lys plasterwork above the door

Former washhouse and bakehouse

The former washhouse and bakehouse

Keeper's Kennels

The former kennels at Keeper’s Cottage

Before setting off on a trip I usually check my ‘Places’ bookcase for books which might add to my knowledge of the region to be visited and amongst the books which I check are those in the Country Series published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson. You’ll probably know them as they are often to be found in remainder book shops.

English Cottages book

I own quite a few and flicking through my copy of ‘English Cottages’ I noticed a double-page spread of pictures of cottages at Old Warden.

Old Warden page

The Old Warden Page in English Cottages

Old Warden Cottage

I *think* this is the cottage featured in my book but there are many others :

Old Warden Cottage 1

Old warden Cottage 2

Old Warden Cottage 3

Between 1830 and 1850 existing cottages at Old Warden were revamped and new ones built in a highly Picturesque style. Fancy thatch and ornamental chimneys … suggest that the architect, P.F.Robinson, who was working nearby at the time, had a strong hand in the designing of Old Warden”

Old Warden house

Lord Ongley, under whose auspices the village was built, decided, as did the serious followers of the Picturesque movement, that the inhabitants were just as important as architecture in pictorial terms. Thus he went all the way and asked the cottagers to wear tall hats and voluminous red cloaks which matched the paintwork on the doors and windows.”

Old Warden Swiss

I actually did not see a single villager as I walked along the main street (actually called The Village) let alone one dressed in a tall hat and red cloak. My guess is that today the village is inhabited chiefly by London commuters who are probably the only people who can afford to live in such beautiful cottages.


7 comments on “Bedfordshire Cottages

  1. Lovely! They all look like a fairytale.

  2. What a wonderful son you have – and what a pretty village’

  3. LizF says:

    What a lovely trip down memory lane for me!
    Although I have lived in Yorkshire for over thirty years now, I grew up in Bedfordshire and remember many visits to Old Warden and the aircraft museum during my childhood.
    I always used to want to live in one of the gorgeous cottages that we passed rather than our ordinary 30’s semi on the outskirts of Luton!
    Thank you for this post and I am glad that this was a successful visit.

    I hope that you are enjoying your retirement!

    • Welcome Liz and thank you for your comment here. I also grew up in East Anglia (Norfolk) and have lived over 35 years in Yorkshire now! Those cottages are as gorgeous as ever. So far, retirement is going very well, thank you.

  4. Amanda Done says:

    What a lovely post, I happily stumbled across it searching for something else… I just thought you might like to know that most of the cottages in the village still belong to The Shuttleworth Trust and are rented. Very few of the tenants are ‘London commuters’ as you say and the community is very close, much as it was in the day when the villages all worked on the Estate.
    Next time you are passing through please visit us at the Shuttleworth Visitor Centre. The Swiss Garden has just reopened after a Heritage Lottery Fund restoration and is well worth a visit.

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