EXTRACT RE KEMPSTON MANOR.
Extract from”Recollections and Traditions of the Parish” , recorded by Edward William and his wife Elisabeth Carter-Williams in this “year of grace 1915.
This is the most charming residence in the Parish, the property of Mrs.Charles
Williamson, now in the occupation of Mr. and Mrs. Cusack.
Mrs. Charles Williamson , since her widowhood many years ago, has never resided there, prefering to take up her abode in the Alms Houses known as St. Johns Homes, which she built and endowed, and where she cares for and tends the sick and aged poor she places there and by whom she is known as “Our Lady”.
The Manor of Kempston, the proper designation of which is Kempston Dawbeny, is a very ancient one dating back to even the pre-Norman times. Judith, daughter of
Adolisa, sister of William the Conquerer owned it and much other property in this and adjacent counties and she it was who “to save her concience” founded the Benedictine Nunnery at Elstow, the ruins of which are still extant, and she is also supposed to have built the Church at Kempston which in those days was an appendage of Elstow.
From Judith of evilfame the Manor desended through her grandmother Mathilds, wife of Prince David of Scotland to Dorvorgilla, Lady of Galloway and wife of John de Balliol, who died in 1268. It was this pious Lady who founded Balliol College, Oxford, the Cistersion Abbey of the Sweet Heart in Galloway, and the Abbey of Dumfries. It is said by Mr. Huyshe in his monograph on this Lady (David Douglas, Edinburgh 1913) that Kempston was her favourite residence amoungst the many she possessed, and that she died there in 1290, though her remains were interred in her beloved Abbey of the Sweet Heart
The Manorial rights of Kempston Dawbeny passed through many Lords until, in about the middle of the 17th century, the Snagges, possessors of large estates in Marston and some in Cranfield, became its owners.
Tradition now nearly forgotten, has it that Lady Snagg still haunts the grounds and is said to be seen, though it is not said precisely enough, a tradition very similar to this is still extant in Cranfield where Lady Snagg is said to drive along the lane which runs from the Court Road down to Marston once every year..
Early in the last Century the Manor was vested in the family of Dennis from whom it was purchased in the year 1809 by the Rev. Edmund Williamson, Rector of Campton and Shefford, the grandfather of Mrs. Charles Williamson and a member of one of the oldest families in this county.
In the year 1815 Mr. Williamson pulled down the picturesque old Manor House, which was a red brick structure of some antiquity, and then much out of repair, building the existing house on the same site.He it was who, with the assistance of his eldest son, the Rev. Edmund Ryland Williamson, who succeeded him at Campton and Shefford, and was father of Mr. Charles Williamson, planted the beautiful wood on the high bank of the river known as “Hillgrounds”, as also most of the existing trees in the Manor grounds.
On the death of the Rev. Edmund Williamson, his four unmarried daughters came to live at the Manor, which they occupied for many years and made it a centre of most
gracious and kindly hospitality to all their neighbours.
How good these kindly Ladies were to young folks, and how they spared no pains to entertain and amuse them is held in grateful remembrance by the present writers to whom summers afternoon at the Manor was an especial treat. To their poor neighbours in the village, their kindness and charity were unfailing.
The Rev. Edmund Ryland Williamson and Mrs.Williamson made Campton Rectory the abode of kindly and genial days, and were very well known and popular throughout the neighbourhood.
Mr. Williamson was also distinguished by his great stature, for he was slightly over 6’ 6” in height and, in his humourous way, would at meetings of his brother clergy describe himself as the High Priest of Bedfordshire.His two brothers, both distinguished men of Cambridge, were also very tall, Dr. Richard Williamson, at one time Headmaster of Westminster School, being 6’ 4”, and the Rev. Williamson, third wrangler when Adams the Astronomer was first, then Fellow and tutor of Clare College, Cambridge and afterwards Rector of Datchworth, Herts, being 6’ 2” .
When Mr. Williamson died in 1864, Mrs. and Miss Williamson came to live at the Manor, the surviving Aunt, Miss Catherine Williamson continuing to reside with them. There they kept up the old pleasant traditions of friendliness and hospitality for which it had been so long known, retaining the old servants who, for long and faithful service had become almost part of the family, notably amoungst them was George Heathfield who at the time of his death had served the Williamson family for nearly 70 years.
He was an autocrat though a very kind one, in the stable and garden, and one remembers now what pride he took in the latter, and in what beautiful order he kept it.
The latter died on 26th May 1927 and the Manor House and Grounds were sold by Mrs.Charles Williamson’s executors to Mr. E . Kenneth Martell, LL.B.,who now resides there with his father and mother (Mr. and Mrs. E. E. Martell, ) and a sister and brother.
Photographs taken 30th October 2012. Thanks to Ilex Tutorial College.