Thomas Harrison of Wolverton purchased the Bletchley Park estate in 1793. Located at the centre was a large early 18th century mansion k now as Water Hall; it was very close to the present site of the Bletchley Park Mansion. In 1895, or thereabouts, Harrison demolished the mansion.Nobody wanted to live in it and the materials probably had value. From that time on the estate was leased as a farm cover 300 acres.
Thomas Harrison died in 1809 and his last surviving son died in 1858 and there was probably a settlement to be made among members of the family, so Spencer Harrison, the eldest son of Richard put the estate up for auction in June 1865. There were seven lots:
- The main Bletchley Park estate of 304 acres.
- A 27 acre parcel adjoining Bletchley station.
- Pasture adjoining this amounting to 34 acres.
- A 22 acre field by Fenny Stratford known as “Mad Stews”.
- Bushey Close, by the cemetery – 6 acres.
- A small farm with house and outbuildings at Bradwell – 15 acres.
- One acre at Market Harborough.
AUCTION OF BLETCHLEY PARK, Adjoining the Bletchley Junction Station of the London and North-Western Railway, and from which station there a private wicket gate, COMPRISING a desirable FREEHOLD LANDED PROPERTY, of about Acres of RICH PASTURE and ARABLE LAND, finely Timbered, and with a Gothic MANSION, in course of construction, suitable for the establishment of a nobleman or gentleman. A wing of the house is complete and is now occupied, and the whole might be finished to the taste of the Purchaser in a few months. There is a Park of about 110 Acres in ring fence.
It is possible that Seckham concluded that he did not like Bletchley very much, because in that same year he bought a property in Lichfield, where he settled for the rest of his life.The new purchaser was a London financier, Herbert Leon, who was destined to have a permanent impact on the Bletchley district. He set about enlarging and completing the house in 1883 and having it ready for occupation in 1884.
Sir Herbert Leon was born in 1850 and died in 1926 and for just over 40 years was a very influential figure in Bletchley and district. He was effectively (although he did not have the title) Lord of the Manor. After his widow died in 1937 the house and estate was put up for auction. the successful bidder was a local builder who divided the land into housing lots. He apparently intended to demolish the mansion; however, there were those in the late 1930s who anticipated a war, and in 1838 Admiral Sinclair, Chief of the Intelligence Service, decided that the mansion would be a perfect location for intelligence services. The house had good communications to London and there was a repeater station at Fenny Stratford. In addition, there were branch railway lines to both Oxford and Cambridge.
War did break out of course and the role of Bletchley Park during that time has become the stuff of legend,