The Whitworths and Turvey Mill

Part 2 – Turvey Mill passes between the generations. (1846 – 1877)

Whitworth Family Tree

The 1841 census records the 70 year old John Whitworth living in Felmersham and being of ‘independent means’.  His wife Mary died in 1843 and is buried at All Saints Turvey. The inscription on her headstone reads:

To the memory of Mary Whitworth wife of John Whitworth
who died 20th June 1843 in 73rd year of age.

John must have been a sprightly 72 year old for in 1845 he married 49 year old Rebecca Kirby from Burbridge, Leicestershire12.  At some stage between 1846 and 1851 John Senior passed the running of the mill to his son John. The previously mentioned 31 year lease with John Higgins was renewed for a further 31 years but now at a rent of £145 per annum13.  In 1849 John senior put most of his property and land in Felmersham  into  an auction held at the Wheatsheaf Inn in Harrold on 9th October.

John senior and Rebecca moved to Chellington where he farmed 40 acres employing two labourers. Also living with them were his son Robert and 24 year old niece Elizabeth Darby born in Sapcote, Leicestershire.

John senior died in 1855. The bulk of his legacy14 was passed to his son John and included all the real estate in Turvey plus £ 500.  Provision was also made for his wife Rebecca and son Robert who never married and continued to live with Rebecca in Felmersham both being of ‘independent means’ before moving back to Bridge End Chellington.  Rebecca died in 1875 followed by Robert in 1877.

By 1851 John junior has moved into Grove Farm in Turvey, together with wife Charlotte and four children (they would eventually have seven children all baptised at All Saints, Turvey) where he is described as a  “Farmer of 570 acres employing 25 men and 8 boys” .  John continued to prosper and lease more land so that by 1861 he operated four local farms: Grove Farm, Redlands Farm, Mount Pleasant Farm and part of Turvey Farm called Priory Farm15.

John junior was clearly a good farmer and well respected in the community. He was an active member of the Olney, Harold and Turvey Agricultural Society, a body established to help and improve the skills of those working on the land. John had also been a churchwarden at All Saints, Turvey for a great number of years. Newspapers at the time reported that he was producing much more corn per acre than fellow farmers on what was seen as poor land at Mount Pleasant Farm.

However, he also had his setbacks.  On Thursday 27th April 1858 fire broke out in a straw stack at Grove Farm and immediately spread to the barns. Villagers with buckets of water were soon on the scene and worked for three hours to stop the fire spreading. The Olney Fire Engine arrived and played water on the spot until Friday lunchtime. Fifty loads of wheat were destroyed together with a large number of valuable farming implements. The farm had been wisely insured with the County Fire Office. The cause of the fire was attributed to “Incendiarism”.

Further tragedy befell the family the following year when the eldest son John died in 1859 aged just 14. John, himself,  died, unexpectedly, on 10th January 1864. His death was recorded in a local newspaper:

Newspaper announcement of the death of John Whitworth: Bedfordshire Mercury Saturday 16th January 1864

As there was no will, Charlotte inherited the estate and continued to run Grove Farm. In the 1871 census she is recorded as a Farmer of 700 acres employing 14 men and six boys, whilst in 1881 she is farming 440 acres employing eight men and six boys. By 1891 she has retired and moved out of Grove Farm to live at ‘The Mill’ on Bridge Street with her daughter Ann.  By 1901 mother and daughter have moved to Station Villa in Station End, Turvey.

Throughout her life Charlotte remained a prominent figure in the village and its Agricultural Society, Ann died peacefully in her sleep on 15th November 1905 and is buried at All Saints, Turvey.  In 1906, at the Harvest  Thanksgiving in All Saints,  Charlotte’s daughter Ann donated two brass vases in memory of her mother and these were placed on the communion table16.

Meanwhile in Cold Brayfield – Charles Whitworth (b 1817)

You will recall that Charles, son of Benjamin moved to Cold Brayfield, started farming and married Annie Marie Battams.  In the 1851 Census Charles is described as a Farmer of 550 acres employing 22 men. In keeping with the Whitworth family tradition, between the years 1850 and 1869 Charles and Annie would have 14 children!

The 1861 census records the family still in Cold Brayfield but now farming 400 acres employing 14 men and three boys. The surprising death of his brother-in law, John Whitworth in 1864 clearly had implications for Charlotte, John’s wife and Charles’ sister.  Charlotte had a young family and the eldest son Benjamin was only 10 when his father died.  Charles came  to the aid of his sister.  Firstly, he settled John’s financial affairs and took over the management and financial responsibility for running Turvey Mill.  In 1867 and 1872 he  advertised for a miller at the mill and he also sold a house/bakehouse in Cauldwell Street Bedford, giving his address as Turvey Mill.17

The census of 1871 described Charles as a farmer of 850 acres employing 24 men and eight boys. The large family have also moved and now live at the Old Mill Inn in Newton Blossomville. However, his eldest son Charles Henry (b 1850)  is in Cold Brayfield with sisters Anna, Kate and Eliza with Charles Henry described as ‘For my father, assistant at Turvey Mill employing seven men and one boy.

The 31 year lease taken out by John Whitworth in 1846 expired in 1877 and it can be assumed that this was the time a new lease was created.  Charles set his two eldest sons up in business, with Charles Henry moving to the Mill House in Newport Pagnell with his new wife, Gertrude Mary Eve (b 1852) and where in 1881 he was described as a miller and farmer of 318 acres employing nine men and three boys.  Charles passed the running of Turvey Mill to his 22 year old son John Battams (b 1855)  who in 1881 is still living in Cold Brayfield with sisters Kate and Mary and described as a ‘Miller at Turvey, Coal and Coke Merchant”.

Charles continued to farm, the 1881 census records he and his family are still at the Old Mill Inn in Newton Blossomville farming 900 acres and employing 20 men and nine boys. Charles died on 18th August 1888 in Newton Blossomville where he is buried.

Headstone of Charles and Annie Maria Whitworth at Newton Blossomville

In memory of
Charles Whitworth
born March 20th 1817
died August 18th 1888
“The memory of the just is blessed”
Also of Annie Maria
Wife of the above
Died March 14th 1913
Aged 84 years
Peace befell peace

Burial site of Charles and Annie Maria Whitworth at Newton Blossomville

A newspaper, in reporting his death, stated  Mr Whitworth, who had reached the age of 71, was a gentleman who had made many friends during his long career as a successful businessman.  He was an authority on both agriculture and milling, being connected largely with farming and flour mills. His death will be sincerely felt and deplored by a large circle of relatives and friends”.18

After her husband’s death Annie Maria continued to farm with the help of her son

George Benjamin who also managed Grove Farm in Turvey. In 1901 Anna Maria returned to Earls Barton living on her own means with three of her unmarried daughters before moving to St Albans with her daughters in 1911. Annie Maria died in 1913 whilst living in St Albans and was buried with her husband in Newton Blossomville.19

Part 3 – John Battams Whitworth and the great fire (1877 – 1885) 


12. James Whitworth, married Rebecca Kerby , daughter of Yeoman Benjamin, at St Nicholas, Warwick , Warwickshire’. Rebecca was born in Burbridge, Leicestershire in 1796, being 49 years of age at the time of the marriage.


13. Bedfordshire Archives Service Z 178/48 cf Z178/41


14. John senior wrote his Will in 1852 and died in 1855. He was buried on 23rd March 1855 at The Church of St Nicholas, Chellington. In his Will, the bulk of his legacy is passed to his son John and includes all the real estate in Turvey plus £ 500. Rebecca, his widow, received £ 200 together with any household goods that she so chooses. To his grandson James, son of the late James a messuage at Grendon, Northamptonshire and the rest of his estate is to be sold by the executors. The resulting income is to be used to pay his son Robert 10 shillings a week for life with the remainder to be passed to his wife. Upon her death the estate is then to be divided into four parts: son john, Daughter Ann, wife of William Cook, Daughter Maria, wife of James Mackness and grandchildren John and Mary Boulton. John Whitworth signed his will on 15th October 1852. Bedfordshire Archives Service GA2023

15. John had gradually increased his farmland as he had prospered , for on 25th March 1845, he signed a lease for 14 years at £ 100 for Redlands Farm to John Higgins of Turvey Abbey. There then followed three leases with Charles Longuet Higgins of Turvey Abbey: On 7th February 1850 a 10 year lease at £ 210 for Mount Pleasant Farm, on 7th February 1850  a 10 year lease at £ 240 for Grove Farm, on 24th January 1861 a 21 year lease for part of Turvey Farm to be called Priory Farm  at £330.

16. Bedfordshire Times & Independent Friday 5
th October 1906

17. In 1867 he is advertising for a Miller for the Mill and again in 1872 local newspapers carried an advertisement for a Foreman/Miller at the Turvey Mill and at the same time he is also selling a House/Bakehouse in Cauldwell Street Bedford, giving his address as Turvey Mill.

18. Croydon Weekly Standard 25th August 1888

19. In 1901 Anna Maria returned to Earls Barton living on her own means with three of her unmarried daughters before moving to The Laurels, Upper Marlborough Road, St Albans with daughter in 1911. Died 14 March 1913 at The Limes St Albans. Probate to the value of £ 20 479. A collection of newspaper cuttings compiled by Annie Maria from 1880 to 1910 may be found in the Bedfordshire Archives Service ref: Z1708/1

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