Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Samuel Whitbread 1720-1796

Today I took a short break from my Election Campaign to enjoy a Charity Visit and Tea in aid of MacMillan Cancer Support at Southill House, home of the Whitbread family since 1795. Our host was Charles Whitbread, Patron of Elstow Abbey, who lives at Southill House with his wife and 4 children and has now taken over the management of the Southill Estate from his father Sam Whitbread.

Samuel Whitbread I was born in Cardington in 1720, grandson of William Whitbread, who bought land there in 1653 and was a contemporary of John Bunyan. In 1736 Samuel was apprenticed to a brewer by his widowed mother and created the huge Whitbread brewing empire, while investing in Bedfordshire land and becoming a local Member of Parliament. He campaigned vigorously for the aboliton of slavery with his cousin John Howard, famous prison reformer. There have been seven Samuel Whitbreads in all including the present Sam Whitbread, Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire.

The Whitbread family created one of the largest estates in the country, including the villages of Southill, Cardington and Elstow and have been great benefactors to the local community, eg building Bedford Hospital. The Whitbread family donated the 15th Century Moot Hall to Bedfordshire County Council in 1959 and and the Whitbreads have also renovated several local churches including Elstow Abbey in 1880-82.

Southill House has beautiful wooded grounds and some lovely historic paintings, all by English painters such as Sir Joshua Reynolds and Gainsborough, favoured by Sam Whitbread 1. We had a delicious tea and I bought a bottle of Warden Special Reserve wine, one of five varieties produced by their Warden Abbey Vineyard.

This evening it was back to earth with a bang with an Elstow Parish Council meeting and tomorrow I am back on the campaign trail. I have canvassed over 400 houses in three days and organised the delivery of 50% of my manifestos, my third leaflet this year. An election campaign involves a lot of leg work and organisation with only a few helpers and this is my 8th personal election campaign.

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