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Tempsford Millennium Garden - a brief history

The land that now forms the Tempsford Millennium Garden Sanctuary was once part of the park that surrounds Tempsford Hall. The land was compulsory purchased in the early 1960s to enable the development of the new A1 trunk road. On completion of the new road the one and a half acre site which remained was surplus to requirements and was left as a small woodland area. The gates through which you enter the garden were the original entrance to Tempsford Hall. A small thatched gatekeeper's lodge stood just inside the gates on the left hand side.

The entrance, note the old pillars of the original entrance to Tempsford Hall

It is believed the stone pillars and wall date back to 1769 when the original Tempsford Hall was built by Sir Gillies Payne who owned the Tempsford Estate at the time. In 1801 Sir Gillies Payne died and his son, Sir John Payne, inherited the estate. However he died in 1803 so the estate passed to his brother, Sir Charles Payne, who, in 1824, sold it to Colonel William Stuart, a descendant of the Royal House of Stuart.

In 1898 a disastrous fire destroyed Tempsford Hall and almost all of its contents. A new hall was built on the site of the old one, and this is the hall we see today. The last Stuart to occupy Tempsford Hall was Millicent, widow of Colonel Stuart. Millicent died in 1933 and the Tempsford Estate passed to her husband's cousin, Kathleen Wynne nee Stuart. Her son, Frederick Owen Stuart Wynne, born at Tempsford Hall in 1933, is head of the Wynne family today. The Wynne family lived at Tempsford Hall for a short while and then leased it to Dr Henry Ward Hales who used the Hall as a clinic from 1938 to 1946. Dr Hales then purchased Tempsford Hall and continued to use it as a clinic until he retired and sold it in 1964. Tempsford Hall was purchased by the Kier Group and is now their head office.

Looking north in the Garden

When the land was compulsory purchased for the development of the A1, the old gates and lodge were no longer needed. The lodge was vacated by its occupant who, whilst burning some rubbish, accidentally set fire to the thatched roof, and so the lodge was destroyed and demolished. Over a period of years the whole of the site became very neglected, rundown and overgrown.

Looking into the central atrium of the Garden

In March 1999 Steve Cooney, a local Tempsford resident, put forward the idea of transforming the site from an eyesore into a Millennium Garden Sanctuary - a place where everyone could walk on laid out pathways within a woodland setting. Seating could be provided for people to relax and enjoy the wonders of nature, and the area could be transformed into a wildlife sanctuary and village feature. The historic entrance would be recreated using the original stone and an almost exact replica of the gates and railings made and installed.

The obelisk, built from stone salvaged from the original Tempsford Hall which burnt down in November 1898

Efforts were made to try and raise the money required for the project, estimated at nearly £40,000. The Highways Agency who owned the site agreed to sell the land to the Parish of Tempsford for £1, and a grant of £11,250 was given by Mid Bedfordshire District Council. Several other companies and local residents were very generous in donating to the plan. It was only made possible by the enthusiasm shown by the residents of Tempsford and the generous financial support of all the companies and people who helped make it happen.

The garden is owned by the Parish, maintained by the Parish Council, and is open from dawn to dusk every day of the year.

Trees and spring flowers in memory of past residents of Tempsford