history of waterside cottage

history of waterside cottage

holiday cottage owned by wyvern shipping co. ltd.

Wyvern Shipping Co Ltd is primarily a holiday canal-boat hire company, based in Linslade, near Leighton Buzzard. Our boats are all purpose built by us, and are easy to handle. However, there is more to us than just boats...

If you prefer to watch boats rather than be on one, we also have a beautiful 3-4 star canalside holiday cottage. Our 160 year old detached cottage is a fun place to be and perfect for guests wishing to sit and relax while watching the boats.

Set in a working boatyard, it is perfect for families wishing to experience a different kind of holiday, with lots of boats coming and going. It is a 20-minute walk to a choice of shops, pubs and restaurants in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire and a 25-minute walk to a Leisure Centre. Situated on the edge of The Chiltern Hills, there are many National Trust properties, and other historic places of interest to visit nearby, as well as a zoo, a safari park and steam railways.

The cottage, which has 6 bedrooms and three bathrooms, and includes an attic bedroom and additional small TV lounge (ideal for teenagers), is available for weekly holidays and short breaks throughout the year. It also has an interesting history behind it.

history of the cottage

It is not known exactly when the cottage was first built, but we believe a Mr and Mrs Duffort owned the cottage and accompanying 2 acres of land from 1900 to 1953. I am told that originally the land was used as a sand quarry for local builders and also as a local timber yard.

Around 1900, the land was developed and used as a market garden. At this time, a large apple tree orchard (with the odd pear and plum tree) was planted. The address then became Bossington Gardens. The apples were cooking apples, but the apple orchard, like many other orchards in the 1950s, eventually became uneconomical. One by one, the trees either died or were blown down by storms and gales, until today there is not a single apple tree or plum tree remaining.

Then in 1953 Michael Keef bought the land as a base to run coal-carrying narrow boats and the canal bank was piled with concrete piles to make it suitable for mooring boats. The address then changed from Bossington Gardens to Bossington Wharf and it became a boat yard with three pairs of narrow boats carrying mainly coal from the Coventry coalfields to London and Leighton Buzzard.

Michael being a Civil Rural Organiser could turn his hand to most practical skills and set about doing several extensions to the cottage. Starting at the south end, he built on a living room with wooden beams, a dining room and a kitchen and then started to build a conservatory. On the north end he built a Granny annex for his ageing parents.

It was said that Michael‘s wife Elizabeth would stand at the new kitchen extension and throw broken crockery to make crazy paving (or perhaps it was laying the foundation for a path). The cottage had no main drains and the heating was a very old boiler in a back shed. This burnt almost anything from old rags, to logs from the estate, but mainly wood covered in tar from old boats being rebuilt or scrapped.

The coal boats were not a great success and they were converted to leisure boats in 1958. Then in 1960 the company and house were sold to Major John Griffin and his wife Margaret. The land was bought by Margaret and the boats by ‘The Major’. The idea being if the boats failed they still had the land.

wyvern shipping co waterside cottage

Wyvern Shipping - waterside cottage 1963

Michael had been very much into recycling old building and scrap materials and in 1960 some parts of estate were more like the 'Steptoe and Son' scrap yard. Several skip loads of scrap were removed in an attempt to tidy things up. In the Orchard, Michael had kept two horses that did their best to eat the apples, but a strong smell of rotten apples was always present. The Major tried to sell the apples to Bulmer's Cider, but they were not interested.

The Major had a further extension done to the north side of the house, building on a dining room and Kitchen and converting the old kitchen into a bathroom and the old dining room into a bedroom. Two brickies were employed for the extension, but as work appeared to progress so slowly, they soon became to be known as 'Flash' and 'Lightning'!

The cottage was then connected to the main drains, and to this day the cesspit has to be pumped up into the main drains at the end of Rothschild road. All sorts of wonderful diaphragm pumps were used until the modern submersible was installed in about 1980.

So now, after four extensions we have a much larger cottage with 3 bedrooms and two bathrooms. A diesel boiler was also installed.

The Major and Margaret had two sons, John and James, and when they retired to Cornwall in 1978, John and his wife moved into the cottage. They were there until 2000, when they moved to Milton Keynes. James then bought the cottage from John and converted the two loft rooms and old office into bedrooms turning it into a spacious holiday cottage with six bedrooms to sleep 11 guests.

The cottage was an immediate success because of its unique location elevated on the banks of the Grand Union canal and its central location for visitors from all over the country and abroad.

These days it provides a great location for family visits and all kinds of party reunions. Plus it is ideal for those who enjoy the actions of a boat yard, but feel safer watching the boats rather than being on a boat. A new gas boiler and central heating have recently been fitted along with a third bathroom. Along with all mod cons, it is a great place to stay.

If you prefer to watch boats rather than be on one, how about a relaxing holiday in our 3-4 star holiday cottage. ‘Waterside’. Our 160 year old detached cottage is a fun place to be and perfect for guests wishing to sit and relax while watching the boats. Also conveniently positioned for shops in Leighton Buzzard, and right on the edge of the Cheviots for walks and NT properties.

01525 372355