Nostalgia: By royal appointment

PUBLISHED: 11:35 26 January 2006 | UPDATED: 09:30 06 May 2010

Riverford House

Riverford House

RIVERFORD HOUSE, SHORTMEAD STREET, BIGGLESWADE THIS week is the first of a two-part feature on Riverford House in Shortmead Street. The house was built in 1840, next to Dark Lane. In 1873, Frederick Conder, the estate agent, sold it to Annie, Mary and L

RIVERFORD HOUSE, SHORTMEAD STREET, BIGGLESWADE

THIS week is the first of a two-part feature on Riverford House in Shortmead Street.

The house was built in 1840, next to Dark Lane.

In 1873, Frederick Conder, the estate agent, sold it to Annie, Mary and Lizzie, daughters of Charles Powers the miller, following their father's death.

By 1890, the house was owned by Frederick Gee.

He had been born in Balsham, Cambridgeshire, and came to Biggleswade with his parents.

He attended the British School and when a local seedsman, Thomas Ayres, asked the headmaster, Mr Carter, who was the brightest boy in the school, Frederick Gee was asked to stand up and was promptly apprenticed.

He set up on his own at the age of 16 as a seedsman and plant grower in Hitchin Street.

He soon moved to Sun Street with his gardens nearby in Fairfield.

Riverford House as Frederick Gee found it included extensive pleasure gardens leading down to the river with a boathouse at the end of Dark Lane.

The house had a large hall, three reception rooms, a kitchen, scullery and six bedrooms, a dressing room and bathroom.

As Frederick and his wife Ellen had 16 children, a large house was essential.

He was soon supplying seeds to the royal farm at Windsor and was recognised as a Royal Seedsman by Queen Victoria.

A royal warrant from King Edward VII followed, renewed by King George V.

Frederick Gee was a man of boundless energy.

He joined the local board in 1892, and served on the urban district council until 1919, being chairman from 1911 to 1914.

He also served on many local bodies, but notably was a lifelong member of the Royal Agricultural Society of England.

When he died in 1925, the firm of Frederick Gee and Sons included Furzenhall, Marsh and Elm Farms.

Three of his sons carried on the business, but in 1930 at a time of recession the firm was in the hands of a trustee for creditors and the house was sold to Mrs Gee.

In 1937 the house, cottages and land were sold to Alfred Bryant - we will continue the history of the house with Alfred next week.

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