The property was not named ’Stevenage Lodge’ until about 1919. It probably derives its name from the farm which stood opposite; variously known as Stevenage Lodge or Lodge Farm from the mid nineteenth century until its demolition for development of the New Town.
The furthest back we can go in records of the property is a reference to the house and lands being held by James Knott in 1814. It appears from the documentary evidence that Jas. Knott was not always resident, as John Brown and Richard Cooper (about whom we know nothing), are given as occupants. William Knott, James son, came into possession of the house and lands – in all about 5 acres, “situate at Mobbs Hill” – after the death of his father on 13 th April 1814. William Knott held the property (copyhold) of the Manor of Stevenage for the annual quit rent of 1/3d.
William had been born c.1787 (census returns show people to be very vague about their birthdate), in Stevenage, married and had at least two sons, James (b.c. 1812) and William (b.c. 1820). This information comes from the Census returns for 1851 where William Snr. Is recorded as a widower and a farmer of 6 acres. He was at this time living in the house with his son James also a widower and an agricultural labourer, and his young grandson William aged 11, who is a farmers boy.
Four other properties
At the same time (1851) there are 4 other properties recorded at Mobbs Hill, one of which is in the occupation of William Knott, the younger, and his growing family. Unfortunately it is not possible to distinguish between the 5 individual properties as they are all referred to as “Mobbs Hill”. (It is unlikely that very much of any of these cottages remained until recent times. By the late 1870’s three are listed as uninhabitable (Rate Book 1876).
By the 1861 Census William Knott (the younger) occupied a property at Mobbs Hill, which housed 13 persons! His wife Georgiana, his family which now consisted of 8 children at home (one, Emma, had left home and probably married Emmanuel Gentle, a saddler), his own father, the elderly William Knott, his brother and his nephew. Obviously in his late 70’s old William was better off in his sons home. Presumably his old house was simply left unoccupied, certainly there is one listed as such in the census. His will is dated 14 June 1866, and he died on 20 Jan 1873 (aged 86).
Documents indicate that the elder William Knott built a second new house on his land before his death. The Rate Book, 1876, records William Knott (younger) as owning 2 houses and land. A document dated 1st July 1985 records that “William Knott (father) has erected and built another messuage or tenement to which premises the said William Knott (son) was admitted…” on 28th May 1873. He was admitted at a “General Court Baron of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England held at The White Lion, Stevenage…. Before Herman Curtis, Gent”. Deputy Steward of the manor of Stevenage.
William Knott, the younger, presumably was in occupation of the new property at the time of his death, 7th June 1895 (aged 75). In his will he had directed his wife Georgiana and his son -in-law Emmanuel Gentle to sell the copyhold estate.
In July 1895 Leonard Charles Knott, market gardener of Stevenage purchased the copyhold for £109. The Ecclesiastical Commission retained rights of mines and minerals under the ground ( a right which they appear to retain to the present day). Leonard was Williams son, possibly his youngest child, born February 1861. It seems that Leonard was already living on the property at the time of Williams death, for a rent of £13 a year. Perhaps he occupied the older house?
Leonard was able to purchase the property as freehold, because of amendments to Acts of Parliament relating to the Ecclesiastical Commission concerning the management of Episcopal Capitular Estates. Leonard’s property was in the Manor of Stevenage and belonged to the Bishopric of London. The Ecclisiastical Commissioners had been empowered to sell such properties off to keen purchasers.
Leonard briefly lived in the house, as he sold it the following spring, March 1896. In a local directory of 1898 Leonard is listed as a drainage contractor living in Walkern Road, (exact location is not known). He is subsequently recorded until 1910.
The property was sold to Alfred William Young of Little Wymondley and his partner Thomas Eldred Dobinson of Stevenage for the sum of £650.
A W Young are recorded as nurserymen and florists in local directories of 1898 and 1899. Mr Young established his nursery (it occupied plot 832) called the Highfields or Mobbs Hill Nursery. We know very little about the nursery, but a later schedule (1906) records “fruit and other trees standing and growing upon said premises” Unhappily in December 1901 Mr Young was declared bankrupt and ceased trading.
The Schedule describes the property as …..”All those messuages or tenements with the lands and appurtenances thereto belonging, containing 6 ½ acres situate at Mobbs Hill, numbered 832, 833, 836, 837, on 1881 Ordnance Survey map of Stevenage….”
The property was sold in September 1903 to Mrs Rose Ellen Shires. She came from London and her husband William George is described as a Coffee and Dining Room Keeper, the Schedule describes the property as being “all that piece or parcel of land with the messuage or tenement, cottage and other buildings thereof….containing 6 acres, 1 rod 25 perches….”
In the spring of 1906 Mrs Margaret Alice Von Saal, described as the wife of Otto Von Saal, merchant, of London, purchased the property for £760.
We know nothing about these owners and whether or not they were residents.
The 1906 Schedule gives further interesting details about the property “the two messuages or tenements, cottages and outbuildings thereon …. Known as Rose Cottage and Flint Cottage…” Rose Cottage is so marked on the 1881 Ordnance Survey map, but only appears by name for the first time in the property deeds in 1906. This cottage remains today, called ‘Cherry Trees’, though much modernised and extended. It no longer forms part of the property as it was retained by Mrs Von Saal when she sold the Stevenage Lodge in 1919 and since then has a separate history from the property. Flint Cottage is not recorded in other sources, but appears as an alternative name for Rose Cottage in the deeds of that property.
The Abstract of Title dated 8th August 1919 is the first document to record the name ‘Stevenage Lodge’ by which the house is known today. Mrs Von Saal sold only part of the original property in October 1919, just 2 acres of land the house and gardens known as Stevenage Lodge, to Edward Berry Allan, Gentleman of Westminster.
A plan with the documents shows the house to be standing on Aston lane (at other times the road is also referred to as Mobbs Hill, Lanterns lane and Walkern Road!). The house became a gentleman’s residence and E.B.Allen Esq., resided there for almost 20 years. Early in 1933 plans were drawn up for alterations to the house. The coloured plan and elevation remains among the papers of the property. The extension enlarged the existing downstairs larder and cloakroom and upstairs maids bathroom and made an adjoining room into another bathroom.
On 20th June 1938 Edward Allen died at Felixstowe and the property passed to Frederick Sandford Allen (his relationship to E.B.Allen is not stated. Frederick Allen was probably resident at Stevenage Lodge at the time of Edward’s death, and he himself died there on November 1st 1946.
The house was purchased in July 1947 for £6,250 by Mrs Muriel Jessie Berry, a widow, from London. A year later she sold the house for £5,750. The depreciation in value was due to the Town and Country Planning act, 1947. The purchasers were Archibald Dundas Russell and his wife Catherine Muriel. They moved to Stevenage Lodge from ‘Westover’, a house on the corner of Julians Road and Hitchin Road (now demolished). Mr Russell was a bank official
The Schedule reads “The said property was on the 1st July 1948 used as a single private dwelling and cartilage including a garage and greenhouses and is so held …together with the right to use the same for such other purposes as may now or hereafter be authorised in connection with such uses aforesaid under the Town and Country Planning Act. 1947”
In September 1955 Stevenage lodge was purchased by William George Harper, a company director from Letchworth. In April 1963 a narrow strip of land forming part of Lanterns Lane, went to the Stevenage Development Corporation who were building the new Mobbsbury estate. The right-of-way along the highway was extinguished and a new road, Frobisher Drive, provided the new route. A new drive was made into Stevenage Lodge. (The old lane , leading to Aston, is now ‘sandwiched’ between Drakes Drive and Frobisher Drive). A deed dated May 1967 shows a change of address “….Stevenage Lodge, formerly Mobbs Hill Lane, WalkernRoad, but now Frobisher Drive”.
On February 5th 1976 under the Physical Training and Recreation Act 1937 and in consideration of £38,500 Stevenage Borough Council received Stevenage Lodge by transfer purchase (subject still to mining rights held by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners!) The Schedule describes it as “All that piece or parcel of land situate at Mobbs Hill in the Borough of Stevenage… together with the messuages and premises…known as Stevenage Lodge….”
(Produced in 1979 by Stevenage Museum).