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Bedfordshire Women's Land Army

Bedfordshire Hostels 1942-1950

Bedfordshire Women's Land Army

Seventeen hostels were set up by Bedfordshire County War Agricultural Executive Committee (Beds "War Ag" or CAEC) from 1942 onwards to accommodate mobile groups of land girls. They were run by Wardens and other staff appointed by the Young Womens Christian Association (YWCA). These YWCA hostels ranged in size and type from houses for just 16 land girls and the early Ministry of Works hutments for 40 young women to large requisitioned country houses for up to 94. Three of these hostels were training farms, which recruits attended for a four-week induction course.

Hostels set up in 1942

  • Milton Ernest - the first hostel, in the north of the county, opened 16 February 1942. (Closed: 31 March 1950)
  • Leighton Buzzard - in the south, the second hostel, opened on 4 June 1942, both purpose-built hutments. (Closed: c. September 1950)
  • Bolnhurst - (the third hutment hostel) in the north opened c. 19 October 1942. (Closed: April 1949)
  • Kensworth House - (a requisitioned private house) in the south, in November 1942. (Closed: c. October 1949)
  • Toddington Park - in the centre of the county, opened in November 1942 (see also Training Farms, below) (Closed: c. December 1949)

Hostels set up in 1943

  • Potton - in the north-east of the county. In January 1943, The Hollies, a small requisitioned High Street Georgian house in Potton, opened as a hostel. (Closed: c. August 1948)
  • Whipsnade - in the south, opened in huts opposite "The Chequers" pub, near Whipsnade Zoo, in February 1943. (Closed: c. 1944?)
  • Silsoe - a hostel in Wrest Park, behind Silsoe village church, in the centre of the county, opened around June 1943. (Closed: c. September 1950)
  • Hulcote Moors - in the west, near Cranfield, opened in July 1943 in a requisitioned farmhouse. (Closed: c. March 1947)
  • "Chimney Corner" - the largest hutment hostel holding up to 94 land girls, down Thickthorn Lane, four miles south of Bedford, near the Chimney Corner pub (B530 road), opened in July 1943 (variously known as Houghton Conquest hostel or Elstow hostel). (Closed: July 1950)
  • Cople House - one of the largest hostels in Bedfordshire a requisitioned country house five miles east of Bedford holding up to 100 was opened around September 1943. (Closed: by September 1950)

Hostels set up in 1944

  • Sharnbrook House - the furthest north opened, c. early 1944 - a requisitioned country house, on the high street of the village. (Closed: c. December 1949)

Post-war Hostels

  • Aspley Guise - "The Holt", a Georgian manor house in, in the west of the county (on the border with Buckinghamshire), opened in November 1946.  (Closed: December (?) 1948)
  • Clifton - Clifton House, in the north-east, opened around June 1947.  (Closed: c. December 1949)
  • Sandy - Hasells (or Hazells) Hall, near Sandy, also in the north-east, opened to land girls in May 1948.  A Georgian country house. (Closed: c. December 1949)

Training Farms/Hostels

  • Luton Hoo - was the countys first training farm, from 7th July 1941, offering a four-week induction course in milking and dairy farming, plus horticulture, using the bothy accommodation and gardens of the mansion and the estates home farm. (Training ended: 4th March 1946)
  • Toddington Park - a manor house and farm in the centre of the county, became the second training farm offering four-week training courses from November 1942 onwards. (Closed: c. December 1949)
  • Ravensden House - a farm five miles north of Bedford, opened as a training hostel in May 1944, and provided training in the post-war years, up to 1949. (Closed: c. December 1949)

Temporary Hostels

  • Ampthill - Woburn Road hostel, built in 1941 (later accommodating Italian prisoners of war)
  • Luton - Church Street (?) hostel reported open in December 1943

More about Hostels

Stuart Antrobus Historian/Author

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Page last updated: 4th March 2020