BELL HOUSE

 

The pathway from Monks Risborough through the village hundreds of years ago, passed by a large pond that is very deep. It would have been a natural place to build a house near and stock the pond with fish for the winter months and encourage water fowl to nest.

Bartholomew of the Pond was an important signatory to the early charters and it can only be suggested that his family, by the end of the sixteenth century, had built a substantial house for a person of prestige.

It can only be calculated however, that he chose to be on Squire Hampden's side in the Civil War, as the house had changed hands after the Restoration.

In 1662 the birth of a son and heir to William and Elizabeth Dorrell was registered. He was baptized on 8th October.

Another son, Edward was born in 1664 followed by Walter, John and Elizabeth.

The taxman caught up with William Dorrell senior in 1668 as he was taxed £3.6s.9d. and his sons £1.9s.6d. each.

The other sons who lived in the house at the time were Richard and Edward, both of whom married but neither of had any surviving children.

William and Elizabeth's family prospered, into the eighteenth century when their great grand children continued to live at the house.

James Dorrell born in 1769, married Mary- Ann and went to live at Meadle. They had two surviving children, Elizabeth and Ann, and in 1812 paid a visit in the spring to their relatives at Askett at the old home, where, as legend has it, tragedy struck, as little Ann, aged two, drowned in the deep pond.

There are no further records of the family after this date, and it can only be supposed that they left the area, leaving only the name Dorrells Pond remaining and the house deserted.

In 1912 in the Reports of Monuments in Buckinghamshire, mention is made of the house, now divided –

......... now three tenements, about 500 yards North of the church, is of two storey, partly timbered-frame, with brick filling, and partly of red brick with a diaper pattern in the black bricks. The roof is tiled. The original house was built late in the 16th century, and the plan was L-shaped, the wings extending north and east; at the end of the 17th century a square block was added south of the north wing, making the plan T­-shaped; the house has been subsequently restored and enlarged. The ends of the 16th century wings are gabled; the north gable retains the original rectangular timber framing, and is little altered; under the gable the upper storey projects, and is supported by a moulded bressumer, and the window has a shaped bracket under the sill. The 17th century windows have square solid frames with mullions and transom, and a few of them have metal casements. Some of the original windows are blocked.

Condition - Poor but structurally fairly sound.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the property was part of Monks Risborough Manor Lands, leased to a farmer for his workers.

Ernie Baker, whose wife was an invalid, had two daughters, Hilda and Ethel, and lived in one cottage; Tom Williams, who used to drive with his son the early traction engines on the farm lands, lived in another, and Arthur Poulton, who married Alice Redrup, had three daughters, Ethel, Rose and Hilda - who remember playing around Dorrells Pond, and chasing the pigs around the garden.

There were also two brothers, and a little sister who died aged two and a half years old. Grandad and Grandma Poulton lived with them - so it was a crowded household.

Mr Neal Stevens had to get a court order to evict them all when he sold the cottages.

In 1923 the Misses Kewley joined the cottages together, and during the rebuilding their brother Bill found a bell in the attic - so they called it the Bell House, and opened it as an hotel.

There were advertisments in the newspapers and a notice which was hung on the Old Barn in the village "To the Hotel".

The guests came from London to stay in the country to taste the country fayre, like the fresh vegetables from the garden, grown by Bill Kewley and his boys, who came from Dr. Barnado's Home.

When local beer was requested Bill had to rush down the muddy track to the White Cross pub to collect it. He also did the shopping in Princes Risborough, accompanied by Hobbs, his Yorkshire terrier. They used to travel on the bus together but if Hobbs got bored waiting by the shops, he was known to get on the bus by himself and knew exactly when to get off at the crossroads.

One of the sisters married, and as Mrs Archdale, lived at the Barn, but later unfortunately when out riding she was thrown, and died in the onion field in which she fell. Further bad fortune led to bankruptcy in 1929 and the hotel closed, the debt repaid many years later.

The Barn (now known as Bell House Barn) and the Bell House are now privately owned.

Footnote: The Kewleys had a vegetable stall in the market square in Risboro'.

The sign on the barn read Bell House (not “To the Hotel”) and had an arrow. According to an old Dunlop Guide the Bell House had 12 bedrooms and was unlicensed. At this time the hotel was run by the Kewleys. Subsequently the Bell House became an R.A.F. let. When the Kewleys sold the Bell House Mike White bought a huge wardrobe at auction there.

Mrs Baker at the Bell House was not an invalid; it was a Mrs Baker at Haxted Cottage.

 

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