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A Brief History of the Stockgrove Estate
The earliest known historic features to be seen in the Park are the mounds which form a medieval woodbank, to be found on both sides of the public footpath which forms the southwest boundary of Bakers Wood. Woodbanks were mounds of earth which defined the limits of ownership of parts of the wood, and those at Stockgrove suggest this part of the estate was held by a number of owners in medieval times. The pathway referred to is described as Coker (or Cocoa) Way on the map and was a former roadway until 1845. The same map names the open meadows south-west of the House as 'the Bomes'.
The present Country Park is formed from parcels of two much larger estates. One of these was owned by a Thomas Staunton who died in 1784 - he owned land in Essex, Sussex and Buckinghamshire, including the Manor of Smewnes and Stock Grove Farm. The estate was advertised for auction in the Northampton Mercury on 7th January and on 7th April 1792 was sold as lot No. 10 at "Mr Christies Auction Room in Pall Mall". The purchaser was one Edwin Hanmer who paid £3200 for the estate and timber valued at £233 - 10s - 3d. The other estate was the Bragenham Manor Estate which was purchased in 1734 by the Leighs, who were the Lords of Leighton Buzzard. In 1852 they sold part of their estate to Edwin Hanmer. Part of this newly enlarged estate was leased by Hanmeron 10th April 1885 for a period of seven years to one Henri Baron de Ville of Liphook. The estate leased consisted of The Mansion House, 2 entrance lodges, rights of shooting over 1760 acres, the freedom to fell trees and cut fern from Rammymere (now Rammamere) Heath, Lords Hill and Coker Way.
The original Stockgrove House The building of the first house on the site can be traced to the period when the estate was owned by Hanmer. This house was built as a replacement for the Prebendal Manor House in Leighton Buzzard. The dating of the house came from evidence given at the Leighton Inclosure Award Hearings on 19th December 1843 in which were included statements by Thomas Chew, Thomas Tomkins and Thomas Arnold:
  • Thomas Crew (aged 47) said "I worked forthe late Edwin (father of the then owner) as a labouring boy and I remember it well because I was nearly smothered in a gravel pit". The gravel was being used in the construction of the garden and the roads to the house.

  • Thomas Tomkins (aged 67) recalled "I remember him building the first house at Stockgrove. It was built about 50 years ago, I cannot swear it was not 60. I was man enough to sow at the time. I think I was 16 years old".

  • Thomas Arnold remembers "The first house being begun and was finished nearly 50 years since".
The original Stockgrove House
In 1897 Joseph Truman Mills (JP, DL), of Cleremont, Norfolk, purchased the estate and included in the purchase was the Leighton Buzzard Town Hall. The marriage of J T Mills to Eliza Anna Layton produced 6 children during the period 11th September 1859 to 5th October 1864. Eliza Anna died in 1916 and Joseph Truman in 1924.
Michael Kroyer Kielberg The next owner of the estate was Michael Kroyer Kielberg (left), who was born in Denmark, was knighted in 1947 and died in 1958. It was during the period of ownership by Kroyer Kielberg that the present neo-Georgian house was built on the site of the earlier house and the parkland re-landscaped, which included enlarging the ornamental lake. This work was carried out between 1929 and 1939. By the side of the lake an ornamental concrete seat, with the Kroyer Kielberg coat of arms on each end stands, as a reminder of this period. During the period 1939 until after the Second World War the estate was used by the Armed Forces for various purposes. The outlines and depressions of slit trenches and foxholes used in training exercise can still be seen on the northern side of the valley. It was in the period just after the end of the Second World War that the 'Boathouse' (actually used for swimming) (below) with its pyramid thatched roof, built at the side of the ornamental lake, was sadly burnt down - only its foundations and ornamental ironwork remain. The House and its surrounds does not form part of the Country Park - it was used as a residential school by the Inner London Education Authority but has now been partitioned and sold off to private owners as housing.
Stockgrove 'boathouse' Stockgrove 'boathouse'