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The Dower House, Quorn - A brief history

Numbers 5 and 6 Dower House Gardens were once just one house. A summary of its long history has been provided for Quorn Village On-line Museum by Ivan Bexon.

The Early Days
Robert de Farnham was granted lands in 'Querendon' from the estate of the Earls of Arundel in about 1260, and the Farnham family has had a presence in Quorn ever since. The first dwelling on the site was probably in the 14th century and some parts of the present building date from the 17th century.

The property belonged to the Over Hall (Quorn House on Meeting Street) branch of the Farnhams who used it as a dower house. The term ‘dower house’ comes from ‘dowager’ - the widowed mother of the male head of the family. In a deed in 1588 Matthew Farnham settled the house and “that one close commonlie cauled Stafford Orchard” on his widow for ‘dower’ and in 1669 the house was part of a settlement by Edward Farnham on his son Edward and daughter-in-law Mary (née Chaveney from Chaveney's House). Their eldest daughter, Mary Farnham, born in 1671, married Francis Corfield of Prescott, Shropshire in 1697 and they lived in the house. In 1702 Corfield described it as being 'very old and in bad repair' but as a tenant he may have wanted to make it seem to be in a worse condition than it actually was! Mary Corfield bore seven children in the house between 1698 and 1712, although the records suggest that only one, a daughter, survived to maturity.

Later Changes
Over the centuries the house has changed. The nature of the walls and steepness of the roof suggest that it may have originally been thatched and comprised only the eastern gable part of the present building. An extension at the western end was added in Victorian times, becoming the front of a much-enlarged house. The 1884 ordnance survey map shows the building as 'Orchard House'. It was later called 'The Elms', having a number of fine specimens in the grounds, and was for a while a Boarding School for girls, run by Mrs Leeds. Later Alfred Sault lived in it and ran a livery stable from which horses and cabs could be hired. There were cobbled courtyards and carriage blocks, and stables opened on to what is now Station Road. Mr Sault was also the landlord of the White Horse public house in the Cross.

After the Farnhams
The house was finally sold by the Farnhams in 1896 to the Tyler family, owners of a Leicester boot and shoe business. They occupied the house for more than 40 years until World War II, when it was purchased by Loughborough Colleges for use as a student hostel. Accommodation blocks were built and the former stables were used as garages. In 1968 the whole site was sold for redevelopment, almost resulting in the house being demolished. Fortunately, it was rescued at the 11th hour and extensively rebuilt, restoring the square, timber-framed appearance of the early house and the Victorian character of the extension. It is now two houses, the older part retaining the name 'The Dower House', reflecting its early history. Modern houses occupy the grounds of the earlier house and the adjacent Stafford Orchard has been a public park since the 1920’s.

The oldest surviving parts of the present house are the oak beams in the ceiling and an ingle nook fireplace in the lounge.

Naturally The Dower House has a ghost, reportedly an elegant lady in a hooded cloak. But the troublesome bedroom in the gable end has been exorcised and things have been quiet for a while ...

The photograph shows the Dower House in 1961.Part of the Loughborough Colleges' extension can be seen on the far right.

 view larger image
 Submitted on: 2015-06-01
 Submitted by: History by Ivan Bexon, photograph from Roy Green
 Artefact ID: 1889
 Print: View artefact in printer-friendly page or just on its own.

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