The history and families of Turvey in Bedfordshire, England

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Turvey House

Turvey House is built in the Italian Style with a Welsh slate roof and overlooks the pretty river Ouse at the entrance to the village.It was built by John Higgins of Weston Underwood as a home for himself and his wife, Martha nee Farrer.

John brought the land where Turvey House now stands, together with other land in Turvey, including the inn, the Tinker of Turvey, and the Mordaunt's family mansion, Turvey Old Hall, in the late 1780's from his father in-law, Mr W. Farrer of Brayfield House, who had in turn purchased the estate from the Earls of Peterborough in 1786.  Turvey Old Hall was already in ruins at this time.

In 1792, John Higgins built Turvey House, overlooking the Ouse valley across to the little village of Cold Brayfield.

When John died, in 1813, he was buried in Weston Underwood and his eldest son, Thomas Charles Higgins, took over the House.

Thomas enlarged and rebuilt the House quite considerably.  He added the top storey in about 1830 and many of the out buildings.  As a County Magistrate and High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, we was very interested in law and order, and it was on his land that the
Bedfordshire Reformatory was built in 1857.

Thomas also built Turvey Cottage and Woodside House as well as rebuilding many of his cottage properties throughout the village.

Who Worked in Turvey House?

In 1851 the following 12 servants lived in Turvey House, tending to the needs of Thomas Charles Higgins and his family.

The entrance is 27ft by 30ft and has a domed roof which reaches to the top of the house.

The Drawing room is 52ft by 30ft, the Billiard room is 19ft by 18ft and the Dining room is 35ft by 19ft.

At the time of its letting on 11 October 1931, Turvey House contained the following rooms:

4 reception rooms

Billiard room

21 bed & dressing rooms (yes, that does say 21)

2 Bath rooms

'On the Upper Floors, which are approached by two Staircases are:

Ten Best and Secondary Bedrooms, six maidservants' rooms, two bedrooms for men, day and night nurseries, schoolroom, there W.C.'s, bathroom etc

Hot and Cold Water, and Gas, are laid on all over the House, and the Reception Rooms and Best Rooms face due South.

The domestic offices are on the ground floor, and include Housekeeper's room, Butler's pantry with plate, closet, Servants' hall, kitchen completely fitted with range, hot plates etc., scullery, larders, laundry, wash-house with drying ground attached, bedroom for laundry maids, and all necessary out offices.

The drainage is modern and of the best description.

An abundant supply of excellent water, which has passed Dr. Voelcker's analysis, supplies the house by gravitation.'

In the ground there was stabling for nine horses as well as garages and harness and saddle rooms.  There was even a blacksmith shop.

The gardens included a 1 acre Kitchen Garden, a tennis court, potting sheds, heated greenhouse and fruit room.

Down by the river Ouse there was a Boathouse and a Bathing House.

By 1868, Turvey House was owned by Major Willam Francis Higgins.  He was still there in 1881, with his wife Fanny.

It was occupied by George William and Lady Elizabeth Taylor.

Higgins Family

In the 1880’s, Turvey House often saw Rook Shooting parties.

Click here to see when Turvey House is open to the public..

Turvey House servants of 1900

Click the image to enlarge.

Mabel Stenhouse Thompson

In 1911, Turvey House was lived in by a rich Lancashire widow called Mabel Stenhouse Thompson.

She was the daughter of Sir Edward Bates 1st Bt.

Mabel had been married to Frederick Bellairs Thompson (died 1882).

Mabel died on 25th April 1931.  She had not made a will. Click here to read the newspaper notice.

Turvey House was then let - see above.

In 1911 Mabel lived with her 28 year old son, Arthur, and had 6 servants at Turvey House:

Lydia Still - 39 year old Cook
Lydia Georgina Clare - 47 year old Lady’s Maid
Margaret Alice Clare - 43 year old Housemaid
Emma Harriett Matthew - 26 year old Housemaid
Ada Annie Pearson - 19 year old Kitchen maid
Ralph Thomas Wallace - 21 year old Footman

Turvey House is open to the public

a few times a year

Turvey House Opening Times

The house is also used for weddings and events:

Turvey House Events

Click here to read the architectural details of Turvey House on the British Listed Buildings website.