The Warren House

Kimbolton, Cambridgeshire

Overview

This little building became an eyecatcher, but is important chiefly for being a 17th-century, warren lodge, dwelling for the warrener who managed the rabbits on the estate.

  • Dogs AllowedDogs Allowed
  • Fire or StoveFire or Stove
  • Open SpaceOpen Space
  • Parking AvailableParking Available
  • Bath with ShowerBath with Shower
  • MicrowaveMicrowave
  • RemoteRemote

Beds 1 Double

Sleeps
2
4 nights from
£257 equivalent to £32.13 per person, per night

Originally a warrener’s cottage

This little building’s most obvious role today is as an eyecatcher for Vanbrugh’s magnificent Kimbolton Castle. Its fancy façade, a pediment set above beautifully worked stone windows with a Jacobean feel, raised the possibility that, like parts of the castle, Vanbrugh, Thomas Archer or Robert Adam might have had a hand in it. In fact, it is the timber-framed vernacular building behind that façade which makes The Warren House a rare thing. Its name says it all: this was once a dwelling for the warrener who managed the rabbits on the estate.

Rabbits were once a carefully farmed delicacy, valued for meat and fur

It is hard to believe today that rabbits were once a delicacy prized for meat and fur, but Kimbolton has had a warren since at least the fourteenth century. Our Warren House, a characteristically tall two storey single-bay structure, dates to around 1620 when interest in rabbit farming revived. It is a rare survivor of a once-familiar type of building, ill-served by Shakespeare’s description of the crossed lover, Don John, as being ‘as melancholy as a lodge on a warren’ in 'As You Like It'.

Overlooking a historic village that repays exploration

We are not sure which Earl of Manchester added the decorative elevation, but thanks to it, our Warren House is anything but melancholy. The ground floor is a cosy bedroom and you will probably live mostly in the first floor chamber, making the most of the fine views of Kimbolton Castle hunkered in the valley below, whose monumental gateway by Robert Adam serenely surveys a village high street that repays exploration.

Floor Plans

‘We enjoyed walking along the opposite side of Kimbolton, looking at the lovely view of The Warren House glinting in the sunshine.’

From the logbook

Map & local info

The Warren House stands in a peaceful, rural location, perched on a hill looking down the valley to the magnificent Kimbolton Castle below. You can explore Kimbolton and its surroundings on foot with one of the many walks around the local area. 

Castle Ashby, with its splendid gardens, plant centre and farmyard, and The Moot Hall Museum in the picturesque village of Elstow are both less than a half hour drive away from Kimbolton and well worth a visit. 

The world famous Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden Aerodrome is home to historic aircraft and vehicles. Spend some time in the Swiss Garden at Shuttleworth and enjoy the tranquility of this delightful Regency gem.

Look out for the fantastic series of exhibitions and art collections at The Higgins Bedford, as well as plenty of other attractions. You can get a 50% discount on entry to the Higgins Bedford with a National Art Pass, which enables its members to enjoy free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic houses throughout the UK as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions.

The pass is presented by one of Landmark's partners, the Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for art, which has been supporting museums and galleries for over 110 years by helping them to buy and display great works of art for everyone to enjoy. Income raised through the National Art Pass goes straight back into their charitable programme. Find more about it at artfund.org/national-art-pass.

For more information on things to do during your stay at The Warren House, please see our Pinterest page. 

Please Note: The Landmark Trust does not take any responsibility and makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about the content of any website accessed by hypertext link. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind. The Landmark Trust has no control over the availability of the linked pages.

The Warren House
Kimbolton, Cambridgeshire
Clear directions

‘We enjoyed walking along the opposite side of Kimbolton, looking at the lovely view of The Warren House glinting in the sunshine.’

From the logbook

FAQs

    What you need to know about this building

  • Does the property allow dogs?

    Yes.
  • How is the property accessed?

    Via a long concrete track from the main road.
  • What is the nearest railway station and how far away is it?

    St Neots – 10 miles.
  • Is there car parking specifically for Landmark guests?

    There is parking for two cars at the end of the concrete track. 
  • What type of heating does the property have?

    There is an Air Source Heat Pump system which feeds underfloor heating on the ground floor and radiators on the first floor. There are two woodburning stoves.
  • How can I get fuel for the open fire or stove?

    Unfortunately, there is currently no arrangement for the purchase and delivery of logs, however details of local sources will be provided with your order confirmation.
  • What are the kitchen facilities?

    The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc. There is also an electric cooker.
  • What are the bathroom facilities?

    There is one bathroom with a shower over the bath. 
  • Does this Landmark have steep, narrow or spiral stairs?

    The stairs are steep and narrow.
  • Is there a garden or outside space?

    There is a garden (not enclosed).

    Booking and Payment

  • What happens if I can’t get to the Landmark due to bad weather?

    If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will be able to tell you whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to prepare it then we consider that it is open and available for guests. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, depending on what we have available. It may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking. If the building is accessible but the customer cannot travel due to poor weather in his/her local area then please be aware that Landmark will not provide a refund. However the customer may be able to claim on his/her own travel insurance. We recommend that all guests take out travel insurance when they first secure a booking.
  • How can I pay?

    We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • How do I create an account?

    If you have not used the Landmark online booking facility before and you wish to register in advance, you can set up an on-line account by following the instructions below:

    Go to the Landmark home page and click on Gift shop (located at the top of the home page in red).

    Select a gift (e.g. Landmark Handbook or Anniversary Mug) and complete the ‘Amount required’ box. There is no need to complete the purchase but this step is necessary in order to bring up the registration page.

    Click ‘Next Step’ at the bottom of the page.

    This will bring you to the ‘Your details’ page.

    Please complete all the fields (name, address, contact details and create an account). Click on the green ‘Create Account’ button once you have finished.

    At the top of the page headed ‘Your details’ there will be a grey box saying ‘Signed in’ and underneath this it will say ‘you are currently signed in as ….

    Here you will also have the option to ‘Sign out’. Please do so and that is your registration completed.

    Please return to the Landmark home page.

    To check your registration or update your account details at any time please ‘Sign in’ using the icon in the top right-hand corner of the home page.

    If you experience any problems in registering or setting up your on-line account please contact webmaster@landmarktrust.org.uk.
  • How do I pick up the key?

    There are various arrangements for picking up keys. To arrange to get into the Landmark, please contact the housekeeper at least two days before your stay
  • Can I pay a deposit?

    If your stay starts more than three months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • How can I cancel or change my booking?

    If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • Do you accept payment in other currencies?

    At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • What if I arrive late?

    Please let the housekeeper know if you are going to arrive late and s/he will leave a key for you in a suitable place.
  • How far in advance do I need to book?

    It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • Do you have to be a member to book a Landmark?

    No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • Do I need a Handbook to be able to book?

    No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!

    Staying at a Landmark

  • Are Landmarks accessible for people with disabilities or limited mobility?

    Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries on 01628 825925 if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.
  • Are Landmarks only available as self-catering accommodation?

    Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Do you provide catering?

    Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • Do you allow dogs?

    You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control.
  • Can I bring a pet?

    Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Am I insured if I break something?

    We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Are Landmarks suitable for children?

    Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Can I get married in a Landmark?

    Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • Can I hold a big party in a Landmark?

    All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • Are there televisions in the buildings?

    We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • Why are your access tracks sometimes difficult?

    One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Will there be sockets for my electrical appliances?

    Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s). If you are visiting one of our European properties we have standard European electricity sockets. If you are visting from the UK, you will need to bring your own adapter plug (s).

    Facilities

  • Are the kitchens and bathrooms restored to a modern standard?

    Sometimes our kitchens and bathrooms have to be imaginatively fitted into the available space in buildings where before there were none, but they are all planned and equipped to a high and modern standard.
  • Is linen provided?

    Yes, Landmarks are fully equipped with sheets and towels. All the beds are fully made up for your arrival.
  • Are the kitchens fully equipped?

    Yes, our kitchens are well equipped with cookers and fridges. There are freezers and dishwashers (in larger buildings) and, where space allows, microwaves as well as a wide and standard range of utensils. A full equipment list is available at time of booking.
  • Do you provide logs for the open fire/stove?

    Logs are provided at many of our Landmarks for an additional cost.
  • Will there be a mobile signal in the Landmark I book?

    Mobile coverage varies. Some Landmarks have an excellent signal, but others have none at all. If you are concerned, you can check with the housekeeper before your arrival.
  • Is there Wi-Fi in your buildings?

    No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
  • What should I bring with me? Are there lavatory rolls, soap, shampoo, milk, teabags, coffee, hairdryer?

    A welcome tray with tea and sugar awaits your arrival and you will find a pint of milk in the fridge. We also provide lavatory rolls and a bar of soap, per basin but no other toiletries. We do not provide hairdryers.
History

Thought to be an 18th-century eyecatcher

When The Warren House was given to Landmark by a pragmatic farmer and his wife in 2005 we were delighted to take on what we thought was an 18th-century eye-catcher for Kimbolton Castle, aligned precisely with the Duchess’s bedroom in the castle. It certainly came to play that role, but we later realised that its greatest rarity lay in its survival as a timber-framed warren house, once a recognisable building type of which very few survive unaltered. As a timber-framed survival, unaltered in modern times, it is possibly unique.

Warrens were areas of land set aside from the Middle Ages onwards for rabbit husbandry. Rabbits were first imported into England around 1200 from Spain, and strange though it seems today, they were delicate creatures that needed to be nurtured and protected to survive in the English climate. They were also valuable livestock, prized for both their meat and their skins, and jealously guarded by the lord and his warrener. From these early times, warren lodges were built out on the lonely warrens to accommodate the warrener, also sometimes doubling as a hunting lodge. Rabbits thrive especially in light, well-drained soils and the area of East Anglia known as the Brecklands, further east from Kimbolton, became one of the earliest and longest standing concentrations of rabbit breeding. The few surviving medieval warren lodges are found there. They are massive stone and flint structures, all ruinous today.

Warren houses tend to share a broad typology: tall two-storey, single-chamber structures built in lonely and commanding spots, often south-facing since rabbits prefer warmer slopes. They had one or more fireplaces, a very early date for such features, and were well provided with windows for surveying the surrounding countryside, with a well nearby. The ground floor was often strengthened or fortified, since it was here that valuable carcasses and pelts were stored. A spiral stair, often in the south-west corner, led to the first floor, where the warrener lived.

It will be immediately apparent that the Kimbolton Warren House shares most, if not all, of these characteristics. The earliest (if slightly ambiguous) reference to a Kimbolton warren is in 1373. However, the original little timber-framed, single-chamber cottage dates not from the Middle Ages but from the revival of interest in rabbit farming that took place in the first half of the 17th century. The Warren House is not shown on an estate map of 1582, but does appear on one from 1673. Tree-ring analysis sadly failed to provide a construction date, but a largely illegible document among the Manchester papers dated 1637 giving the accounts for ‘Your Honour’s improvements on the heath’ provides a highly plausible construction date.

The Warren House has always been associated with Kimbolton Castle and its place in full view on the escarpment made it ideal to bring into service for the 4th (or possibly 5th) Duke of Manchester’s enhancement of his park under the advice of Joseph Spence. The greatest 18th-century architects, Sir John Vanbrugh, Nicholas Hawksmoor, Thomas Archer and Robert Adam all contributed to the castle’s magnificence that we see today, and it seemed highly likely in prospect that one of them might have been responsible for designing the elegant stone and brick façade that now dresses the humble warrener’s cottage. The full footprint, complete with porch, is clear on an estate map of 1763. In fact, we have found no firm evidence of the involvement of any of these architects, or of an explicit link with the similar lodge, Priory Cottage, which stands to the east of The Warren House. A drawing showing alternative options for the frontage of a lodge in the Manchester Papers at the Huntingdon Record Office provides circumstantial links with the office of Robert Adam; it is in the same bundle of documents, and on the same paper, as the drawings Adam did for his work on the gatehouse and castle from the 1760s. It may equally relate to a refurbishment as much as original construction of the lodge.

Despite its new role as picturesque eye-catcher, our analysis of The Warren House provided no evidence at all of any polite use internally. It seems it remained a humble gamekeeper’s cottage. It achieved fame of sorts by appearing in the London Illustrated News in the 1880s and may have operated as a hunting lodge for late-Victorian shooting parties. It continued to be lived in as an estate cottage until after the War (despite also being requisitioned by American airmen who used the airbase that was created on the plateau behind in the 1940s). Eventually, its lack of services and remoteness led to its abandonment, leading to dereliction, partial collapse and vandalism. It was sold by the Manchester estate to the Boots Pension Fund in 1975; the Fund twice applied for permission to demolish it due to the cost of repair, and it was only thanks to local lobbying with the help of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and the Ancient Monuments Society that the lodge survived. The Fund carried out some repairs in the 1980s, rebuilding the parapet, re-roofing, demolishing the outshot to the rear and putting pebbledash on the exterior. This at least stabilised the building.

Restoration

Generously given to Landmark

In 1997 The Warren House was bought with surrounding farmland by Mr and Mrs Convine. In 2005 they generously gave Landmark the building and access to it. It was a number of years before The Warren House came to the top of Landmark’s project list, but work finally began in summer 2011. The rear extension, demolished in the 1980s, was rebuilt in hempcrete, a building material that combines hemp fibre with hydraulic lime to produce environmentally friendly, breathable and highly insulating fabric.

The building was re-roofed and the upper courses of the porch and chimney-stack rebuilt. Inside, the restoration was guided by The Warren House’s former use as a warrener’s or gamekeeper’s dwelling. A small window was introduced to the bedroom on the ground floor (which originally had no windows). The hearth has been enlarged to its original dimensions and a spiral staircase has been reconstructed in oak in the original position of the stairs. The façade, certainly planted onto the timber frame at a later date, was tied back in and stabilised. The Warren House’s future is now secure, to see and be seen within the landscape.


Supporters of The Warren House

We are hugely grateful to those who supported the restoration of The Warren House, including:

Guardians:
Mr S Conrad, Mr R Eaton, Mr and Mrs S Jordan, Miss T Little, Mrs L Officer

Patrons and other generous individuals:
Mrs S Andrew, Mr and Mrs T Bell, Mr D Hopkinson, Mr and Mrs C Mills-Hicks, Ms S Picken, Mr S Roberts, Mr and Mrs R Setchim, Dr M Schopman, Mr P Webber, Dr J Williston and Dr E Found

Gifts in memory of:

Dr and Mrs J Kilby

Charitable Trusts and Foundations:  
Aurelius Charitable Trust, The Alan Evans Memorial Trust, John Allan Jones Family Foundation, The Monument Trust

Statutory Grants:

  

    Huntingdonshire District Council

We would also like to thank those who have chosen to remain anonymous, and the many other donors who supported the appeal.

Availability & booking

Select a changeover day to start your booking...

What's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?Explain MoreQuestion

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.