This page was written in January 2010 following research into the life of Preston
farmer, Chalkley Whitbread (Link: C. Whitbread).
When tracing the farm’s history of which he was tenant, I discovered the early records
relating to what is known today as The Dower House, formerly The Cottage. For some
months, I had intended to include an article about this property on the Preston web-site
- now, seems an appropriate time.
The research trail concerning The Dower House or Preston Farm, as it was known, begins
with an entry dated
3 May 1742 in the manorial records of Maidencroft (Ippollitts).
It noted that Edward and Ann Hurst had died and that their holding, which was described
in detail, had passed to their son, Edward Hurst. It included the homestead, known
as Barons. In turn, Edward Jnr bequeathed the farm together with its fields to his
only child, Ann Hurst (a minor) who was admitted as a tenant of the manor on 7 June
1743. Later, Ann married John Salmon, a clothier from Dedham, Essex on 30 August
In 1789, Ann Salmon (now a widow) passed her property to John Foster of Biggleswade,
Beds. (who married John and Ann’s daughter, also Ann Salmon in 1787) and he in turn
sold the holding to Joseph Darton, of Temple Dinsley, on 11 November 1800. In 1818,
Ippollitts parish was enclosed and the map and the document that accompanied it showed
where Preston Farm and most of its fields were situated (see below).
Preston Farm was located on the east side of the Hitchin Road, where today, The
Dower House (formerly The Cottage) is to be found. North Herts C.C., when surveying
Preston noted that the house dated from the early eighteenth century and was altered
and extended to the east in the early nineteenth century.
It was constructed in red brick laid in a Flemish bond. The south front of the older
building had a chequered pattern formed by black headers. There was dark weather-boarding
to the first floor at the rear and steep old red- tiled hipped roofs. The house had
two stories with long lower wings running alongside the Hitchin Road and stepped
down the steep slope to the east.
The south front included four recessed sash windows with eight by eight panes and
flat gauged arches. Under the trellis porch is an early nineteenth century door with
a flush panel and reeded surround.
Copy of the 1816 Enclosure Map of Ippollitts showing Preston Farm
St Albans Highway
Preston Farm -
Fields of Preston Farm in Ippollitts parish:
Joyes Croft aka Jays Croft
Wainwood (location unknown;
probably on west side of Hitchin Road)
Hill Close (location unknown)
Twelve pieces of arable land in
Chalgrave Field (location unknown)
Side Close (by St Albans Highway)
Fields of Preston Farm in Manor of Temple Dinsley:
Arable land: 16 acres
Arable land in Pitchley Close, Kings Walden: 1 acre
a r p
Thus, the total known area of Preston Farm was about 70 acres
Preston Farm (aka The Cottage, The Dower House) in the nineteenth century
The history of Preston Farm from 1742 until 1800 (when it was sold to Joseph Darton)
has been related above.
Darton mortgaged the four acres of Side Close (which was enfranchised on 22 July
1802 and was occupied by Thomas Horton) to Henry Bean, yeoman of Preston in the parish
of Hitchin for £500. The field was to be farmed by Robert Fullwood of St Paul’s Walden.
The loan was repaid on 23 October 1802
On 16 October 1812, Joseph Darton then sold the field, Wainwood, to William Wiltshere
for £160. When Darton died in 1816, his estate was inherited by his widow, Elizabeth.
She was living at The Cottage in 1851 and her son, Captain Thomas Darton, was there
The Cottage was part of the estate when the Temple Dinsley estate was sold by the
Dartons in 1873. The hyperbole of the selling agents included these descriptions:
‘pleasantly situated’, ‘charming and secluded’, a bijou residence’ (ie small but
elegant and tasteful), and ‘Shooting Box’ (ie a small country house used by hunters
It had a dining room, drawing room, library, kitchen, scullery, cellar, dairy, eight
bedrooms, two dressing rooms, an attic and w.c. Attached were stables, coach house
and a small farm yard together with green and hot houses in the garden. There was
also a private walk through a shrubbery to the village which emerged by the rail
pond on the Green.
Above, four views of southern aspect of The Cottage in the early 1900s. Note the
gardeners in the top photograph.
Clearly some major alterations have been carried out - the bottom photograph is closer
to the present-day view.
Known occupants of The Cottage from 1881
In 1881, although his family had sold Temple Dinsley to the Pryor family, Thomas
Harwood Darton was living at The Cottage. The Pryor brothers, Ralston and Geoffrey
then moved into the house, and rented Temple Dinsley.
Their house keeper was Mrs Sarah Peters (born 1843), wife of Joseph and mother of
Bertha and Annie Christobel.
The Pryors moved to Laburnum House on Preston Green between 1894 and 1901 and The
Cottage was included in subsequent sales of Temple Dinsley and ultimately became
part of the Princess Helena College.
1901 Henry Anstruther (Lord of the Treasury)
1910 Matthey Percy St Clair
1911 James Cosser (farm manager)
1915 William John Simms
1920 Frederick and Rosa Stubbs
1925-30 William and Agnes Margaret Austin
1951 Henry G MacIntosh
In 1910, according to the Inland Revenue valuation, The Cottage (assessed as only
in ‘fair repair’) had been sub-divided into two gardener’s cottages. The first consisted
of a hall, sitting room, kitchen, scullery, larder, three bedrooms, a box-room, bathroom
and wc.The second cottage had a living room, sitting room, kitchen, three bedrooms,
bothy and a scullery. The outbuildings included a boot-house, two coach-houses, a
harness room, two bedrooms, two wcs., two wood and corrugated iron loose boxes, a
wood and tiled stables for four horses with stove and loft and a greenhouse.
The Dower House today
Views of The Dower House from the Hitchin Road, Preston. The second photograph is
if the southern aspect. Note the chequered brick pattern.
The bottom photograph is the northern aspect. There was extensive rebuilding of brickwork
following flood damage in 1968