The history and families of Turvey in Bedfordshire, England

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Turvey Abbey

The Turvey Abbey Scrapbook

Various speculations

Attempted educations

By graphic illustrations

And several observations

On historic delineations

With private communications

And other examinations

Of minor considerations

Hope for remunerations

(For their supererogations)

From friendly approbations

Turvey Abbey was the home of Charles Longuet Higgins.

It is dated 1603 on the side facing the road and 1608 on the garden side.  It underwent considerable additions in 1855 and 1860.

The picture on the left show how it looked in the 1700’s.

In the 1830's Charles Higgins compiled what he called 'The Turvey Abbey Scrapbook' - a large collections of his opinions, observations and illustrations. The rather clever poem on the right is his description of the contents!

This remarkable collection can be seen in facsimile in the Bedford Record Office.

Particularly of interest are the beautiful sketches that Charles did of his servants and villagers - plus detailed biographies or their lives and families.

There are also maps, field rental information and all sorts of trivia on the village and its surrounds.  I have included many quotes throughout these web pages.

Entrance to Turvey Abbey

In the garden of the Abbey there is a very small, Gothick gazebo.

It has the date 1829 inscribed above the door and it was built by the Longuet Higgens family.

The Abbey became a Benedictine Abbey in 1980 when three monks and fourteen nuns came from Cockfosters (North London) and took up residence.

The nuns call it a hermitage.

O Lord of hosts; that man is blest

And happy sure is he

That is persuaded in his breast

To trust all times in thee

Here you can find out more about the servants who worked for Charles Higgins, at the Abbey.

And here you can find more information on the current occupants of Turvey Abbey.

This is the inscription that runs around the four beams inside Turvey Abbey.

The Abbey was owned by Mr & Mrs Rupert Allen in the early 1950’s.  Rupert Allen owned the Allen’s engineering factory in Bedford.

Here are two old postcards of Turvey Abbey.  The top one is from 1904 and the lower one from 1915 (note the village postman making his rounds!)

Click either to enlarge it.

In 1901  Helen E. Higgins, was now 76 and living with three servants:

Eliza Thorpe, aged 63, the housekeeper

Sarah J Andrews, aged 27, the parlour maid

Emily E Gardner, aged 24, the house maid

In 1861 Charles Longuet Higgins and  his wife, Helen, had three servants in The Abbey

Susan Blint, aged 30, the cook

Eliza Yallop, aged 25, the parlour maid

Emma Clifford, aged 20, the house maid

In 1871 the roles of the three servants who share Turvey Abbey with Charles and Helen are not stated on the census returns:

Emily Brittain, aged 26

Mary Swannell, aged 29

Lydia Jackson, aged 23

By 1881  Charles and Helen have three different servants:

Elizabeth A. Smith, aged 23

Sarah E. Butler, aged 32

Fanny Langley, aged 28

By 1891  Helen is widowed (Charles died in 1885).  A blind, widowed 90 year old nurse called Lucy Archer is visiting her.  Helen has four servants:

Eliza Thorpe, aged 53, the cook

Fanny Langley, aged 38, the house maid

Fanny Louisa Foddy, aged 25, the parlour maid

Lizzie Mott, aged 22, the Lady’s Maid

In 1841 Turvey Abbey is occupied by John Higgins (then aged 70) and his wife, Theresa.  Their son Charles Longuet is 35 and living with them, as is his 30 year old sister, Mary.  They have 4 servants:

Thomas Robinson, aged 48

Ann Seymour, aged about 20

Elizabeth Spencer, aged about 40

Sarah Sperrin, aged about 20    

Ages could be rounded to the nearest 5 years for the 1841 census.

Coo, fancy that!

Since 1964, Turvey Abbey’s dovecot has been a Grade II listed building in its own right.  

It dates from around the mid 1500s.  It is square and made of coursed limestone rubble with an old clay tile roof.

There are two upper windows with little shutters and a low doorway.

There are gabled dormers with louvres.

It no longer belongs to the abbey and is in Jack’s Lane.