Lowlands Great Barford
Lowlands March 2010
One only sees the rear of Lowlands from the road between Great Barford and Roxton but it is, nevertheless, impressive. It was listed by the former Department of Environment in August 1983 as Grade II, of special interest. It dates to the early 19th century and is attributed to local architect John Usher, who also designed Barford House on the opposite side of the road. The house is built in yellow brick, the front elevation of which has been colour washed, with a slate roof. The house has two storeys “articulated into two units of three and two bays with outbuildings to the gable ends”, these are single storeyed to the south-west and two storeyed to the north-east.
John Usher was born in Blunham in 1822, moving to Bedford in the late 1840s and establishing himself as a surveyor and architect. He was a typical High Victorian style of local architect. He took his nephew Alfred Ernest Anthony as a business partner in the 1870s and died in 1904. Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has plans for Great Barford House, which usher designed for J. Arnold Whitchurch in 1852 [CDE54/1-19] but nothing for Lowlands. In 1912 planning permission was sought for additions as well as a new stable and cow shed [RDBP1/214L].
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. Most of Bedfordshire was listed in 1927 and the valuer visiting the property, then called Barford Villa, found it owned by J. Arnold Whitchurch and occupied by Richard Coates M. R. C. S. Eng., L. R. C. P. Lond. He was a surgeon and the Medical Officer and Public Vaccinator for the Barford District of the Bedford Union. He paid Whitchurch £43 per annum in rent, the same rate as when he began his tenancy in 1899
Accommodation comprised a dining room measuring 15 feet by 13 feet 6 inches, a cloakroom with a lavatory basin, a consulting room measuring 12 feet 6 inches by 10 feet, a dispensary measuring 9 feet by 10 feet, a waiting room measuring 13 feet by 14 feet, a drawing room measuring 15 feet by 14 feet, a servants’ hall measuring 8 feet by 11 feet, a butler’s pantry measuring 9 feet by 11 feet, a kitchen measuring 11 feet square and a scullery measuring 6 feet by 11 feet. There was also a wine cellar. Three principal bedrooms, a servant’s bedroom and a boxroom lay upstairs. Two coach houses, both with a loft over, a “dust proof” garage with a covered wash and inspection chamber (“not heated”), a loose box with a loft over, a garden tool shed and trap shelter lay outside. The grounds included a kitchen garden, an ornamental garden and a shaded walk.
The valuer commented: “Weird place” and “Doctor says right on road and traffic bad”. He went on to note: “The whole place is badly lighted for a house of its character. There is a long and badly lighted passage from kitchen to dining room. The place is straggling and narrow and has no lighting nor Bath. Water outside pumps. Drain cess pit. Position lower than road and a drain is supposed to run under the property causing occasional flooding and baling out of the kitchen and scullery. The value is enhanced by pleasant surroundings and by both front and back doors being on opposite side of the building to the road but the back outside wall being windowless is by no means advantageous”.
Lowlands about 1950
Kelly’s Directory for Bedfordshire lists four doctors living at Barford Villa in the course of nearly a hundred years as follows:
1854: Samuel Fowler Underhay M. R. C. S., L. S. A;
1861-1899: Charles Sprigge, surgeon;
1899-1931: Richard Coates;
1931-1940: Gilbert C. Hughes, physician and surgeon (he died in 1962).
The Great Barford Women's Institute scrapbook [X535/5] has a page in Great Barford's doctors. One contributor had memories of Charles Sprigge: "He used to ride to see his patients in a gig and pony. Mrs. W. Green can recall being in the village shop as a small girl. The Doctor came in, and, on seeing her, told the shopkeeper to give her a quarter of a pound of sweets, saying he would pay for them. He then went on to tell the shopkeeper that the child would eat the sweets, they would give her tooth ache, he would charge her 1/- for extracting the tooth. In fact, it was like dcasting the bread on the waters - it returned after many days!"
Doctor Coates' retirement in 1931 is covered in the scrapbook by a newspaper cutting: "It is with much regret that the parishioners of Great Barford heard recently of the decision of Dr. Coates to retire from his practice and to leave the village. As everyone felt that Dr. Coates was a personal friend, it was with eagerness that a presentation was subscribed to. The collectors were Misses B. Mardlin, A. R. Mayhew, M. Hull. M. Facer, M. Minney and M. Robinson".
"A silver salver was bought and inscribed "Presented to our Doctor and Friend, Richard Coates, Esq., M. R. C. S., on his retirement, by many who wish to show their appreciation of his 32 years' medical devotion at Great Barford. 1899-1931". This salver and a book in which Mr. J. Harold Brown had written the names of the 438 subscribers, was presented to Dr. Coates at his home on the11th inst. by Mr. J. H. Brown, Mr. T. W. Mayhew, and the six collectors".
"Dr. Coates, in reply, thanked them and the people of Great Barford, bot only for their generosity, but especially for the kindness he had always received from everyone".
"The preface to the book of names was as follows: "To Richard Coates, Esq., M. R. C. S., L. R. C. P. We, the 438 parishioners of Great Barford whose names appear in this book, wish to express our gratitude for all your great kindness in our times of illness and anxiety. Your splendid care for the sick and suffering has been deeply valued by us all, and we regret the departure of such a true friend after 32 years' incessant hard work on our behalf. We ask you to accept our small gift as a token of affection, esteem and gratitude, with our best wishes that there may be many years of happiness before one who has devoted his life to the welfare of others, March, 1931"".
The rear of Lowlands March 2010