A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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The parish of Astwick, covering 664 acres, lies midway between Biggleswade and Baldock. The ground slopes from the north—where the highest point is 249 ft. above the sea level—to the south, where it reaches only 138 ft. The soil and subsoil are clay, the chief crops being wheat, barley, peas, and beans. Of the acreage 504¾ acres are arable land, 145½ permanent grass, and 8 woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The village itself, watered by a tributary of the Ivel, lies concentrated in the south of the parish, off the Roman road which forms the eastern boundary. On the west side of the road which approaches the village a lane leads to the corn-mill. After passing Astwick Bury, which also lies on the west, the road takes a sudden downward trend, and a lane on the east leads to the church of Saint Guthlac, and to the Church Farm. Around the village the land is well timbered, chiefly with elm. Astwick is five miles south-south-east from Biggleswade station on the Great Northern main line, and four miles northnorth-west from Baldock on the Hitchin and Cambridge branch of the same line.
Among place-names may be mentioned the following:—Gews Pightell occurs in a fifteenth-century court roll. (fn. 2) It reappears in the following century as le Pytyll. (fn. 3) Temple Ground and Temple Leyes in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (fn. 4) are reminiscent of the claim of the Knights Templars to view of frankpledge in Astwick. (fn. 5) A fifteenth-century lease refers to a vinery belonging to the manor of Astwick. (fn. 6) Traces of this are to be found in the Vine Farm, which occupies an isolated position at the extreme corner of Langford abutting on Astwick. (fn. 7)
Other place-names occurring are Willkytmede, (fn. 8) Willkytholme (fn. 9) (xiv cent.), Hempwyk, Floggate (xv cent.), None Lane, Portemyllebrygge, Whelersmede, Twyshill, Le Strebe, Le Butte (a messuage) (xvi cent.). (fn. 10)
At the time of the Domesday Survey the land that afterwards became ASTWICK MANOR was held by Hugh de Beauchamp. (fn. 11) He had at that time three tenants, Bernard, holding one hide and one virgate; Wenelinc holding half a hide, and Ledmar, who held half a hide, including a mill, which he had held in the time of the Confessor as man of Earl Tosti. (fn. 12) The Beauchamp overlordship continued to be exercised in Astwick, for in 1166 Simon, son of Payn and heir of the Hugh of Domesday, exacted feudal service in Astwick, (fn. 13) and in 1198 he was quitclaiming the advowson of Astwick to Chicksands Priory. (fn. 14)
William de Beauchamp, grandson of Simon, was overlord in 1261, in which year he had the wardship of Elias de Astwick (cf. the descent of mesne manor (fn. 15) ). In 1265 John de Beauchamp, the last feudal baron of Bedford, was slain at Evesham, leaving sisters as coheiresses. Of these Beatrice, who married William Monchesney, (fn. 16) inherited the overlordship of Astwick, for in 1284 feudal service was due to her husband there. (fn. 17) Maud, the daughter of Beatrice, married John Botetourt, (fn. 18) and in 1328 received a licence to grant Astwick manor to William le Latimer (who had married her daughter Elizabeth) with remainder to the right heirs of Elizabeth. (fn. 19) In pursuance of this settlement John de Nevill of Raby (whose wife Elizabeth was granddaughter of William le Latimer and suo jure Baroness Latimer) is found seised at his death of a knight's fee in Astwick. (fn. 20)
Richard Neville Lord Latimer was holding this overlordship in 1495, (fn. 21) and four years later conveyed it by fine to John, archbishop of Canterbury, and other trustees. (fn. 22) One later reference has been found to this lordship in an inquisition of 1608, which states that George Kympton held this manor of the earl of Shrewsbury as of his manor of Lanthony. (fn. 23)
From Domesday onwards Astwick was held under the Beauchamps by a family who took their surname from this property, and who gradually acquired most of the land in the parish, becoming lords of the manor. In 1166 Richard de Astwick already held half a fee of the Beauchamp honour, (fn. 24) and thirty years later Elias de Astwick renounced all claim to the advowson in favour of his overlord. (fn. 25) John de Astwick received in 1202 quitclaim from Edith, daughter of Payn, of half a virgate of land in Astwick, (fn. 26) and by 1241 had given place to Elias, son of Henry de Astwick, who is mentioned in a plea between William de Beauchamp and the prior of Chicksands as under age, and in the custody of the former. (fn. 27) William de Astwick, probably a brother, appears to have succeeded Elias, and in 1252 brought a suit respecting lands in Astwick to a successful issue. (fn. 28) Walter de Astwick owed feudal service for one and a half hides of land in 1284, (fn. 29) and at his death in 1290 left a son Simon as heir, (fn. 30) who two years later did homage for all lands and tenements which he held in Astwick of the king. (fn. 31) In 1311 Simon of Astwick made a settlement of his property in Astwick with remainder to his son John and his heirs. (fn. 32) Simon held the manor certainly until 1320, when he and his son made a further conveyance by fine, (fn. 33) but by 1346 John of Astwick had succeeded him. (fn. 34) From the scanty documentary evidence which alone exists for the later fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, it is clear that the Astwicks continued to hold the manor.
In 1393 a John Astwick was holding the manorial courts, (fn. 35) and in 1479 William Astwick leased the lordship of Astwick to Robert and John Squire for nine years at a rent of 12 marks. (fn. 36) With the next holder, John Astwick, the manor appears to have passed finally away from this family. An inquisition taken at the death of Richard Sheldon states that John Astwick enfeoffed Richard Godfrey and other feoffees of Astwick manor to the use of Richard Sheldon, (fn. 37) and there is evidence that the latter held the manorial courts from 1487–8 till his death in 1495. (fn. 38) He left as heir a son Richard, who held a court in 1497, (fn. 39) and two years later leased the lordship to Roger Slow for thirteen years. (fn. 40) Richard Sheldon was still holding courts in 1512 and 1513, (fn. 41) and probably died without issue before 1539, at which date the manor had passed to John Poley (husband of Prudence, sister of Richard Sheldon), (fn. 42) who at that date conveyed it by fine to Edmund Kympton. (fn. 43) Up to 1551 Edmund Kympton's name appears as lord on the manorial rolls. (fn. 44) Elizabeth or Lucy Kympton (afterwards married to John Shipman) held the courts between 1560 and 1564, (fn. 45) being followed by her son George Kympton, (fn. 46) who held the manor at his death in 1608. (fn. 47) His son George sold Astwick in 1620 for £2,100 to John Hodgson or Hudson of London, (fn. 48) and in 1652 William Hudson, described as of Middlesex (and probably a son of John Hudson) sold the manor to William Fletcher, (fn. 49) who within two years transferred it to Samuel Browne, (fn. 50) a justice of the Common Pleas, who was knighted in 1660, (fn. 51) and died in 1668, being succeeded by his son Thomas, (fn. 52) whose daughter and heir Mary married as her second husband John Schutz, (fn. 53) and, together with him, conveyed the manor by fine to Samuel Denison in 1784. (fn. 54) Lysons, writing before 1804, stated that the manor was the property of Michael Angelo Taylor. (fn. 55) The Inclosure Act of 1804 names John Jackson as lord of the manor, (fn. 56) whilst by a fine of 1822 Michael Angelo Taylor conveyed the manor to Robert Jackson and others, (fn. 57) since which date no further reference has been found to Astwick Manor.
In the fifteenth century there are traces of another so-called manor in Astwick. The will of John Enderby, dated 1450, and proved in 1457, mentions amongst his real property lands and tenements in Astwick. (fn. 58) In the inquisition taken in 1471 at the death of his widow Maud, who had married a second husband Robert Bothe, this property is called the manor of ASTWICK alias JOHN DE JONS. (fn. 59) Maud left a son Richard Enderby as heir, (fn. 60) who at his death in 1487 was seised of the same manor of Astwick, worth £4, and held of Richard Sheldon as of his manor of Astwick. He left a son under age at the time of his father's death. (fn. 61) Here all traces of the manor as such cease, but at a court held by Richard Sheldon in 1497 John Enderby, lately come of age, did homage for the lands of Richard Enderby. (fn. 62) Sixteenth century Court Rolls of Astwick also refer to the Piggotts (to whom the Enderby lands had passed) (fn. 63) as defaulting suitors of the manor. (fn. 64)
Walter the Fleming had a small holding in Astwick at the time of the Survey, when Hugh held of him 1 virgate and a mill which had formerly been held by Lewin, a thegn of King Edward, (fn. 65) and this fee was held by his heirs the Wahulls. (fn. 66)
In the fourteenth century the prior of St. John of Jerusalem successfully claimed the right of view of frankpledge twice a year as of his manor of Langford (q.v.). (fn. 67)
At the same time the abbot of Warden claimed view of frankpledge over his lands in Astwick, but judgement was deferred. (fn. 68) The abbot of Warden is mentioned as a defaulter at the manorial court of Astwick. (fn. 69)
Two mills are mentioned in Domesday; one, a water-mill, belonged to Hugh de Beauchamp's tenant, (fn. 70) and appears to have remained appurtenant to Astwick manor (q.v.); the appointment of the miller is constantly to be found in the Court Rolls. The other mill belonged to Hugh, who held it of Walter the Fleming. (fn. 71) This was probably the same mill which in 1386 Sir John Vynter, parson of Clothall, granted to John Cukkowe of Clifton, (fn. 72) but no further mention has been found of it.
Certain jurisdictional rights over the town appear to have been possessed by the lord of the manor. At his court the constable of the town was elected and sworn in. (fn. 73) At a court held in 1564 the stocks were declared to be in ruin, and the inhabitants were ordered to repair them by a certain date. (fn. 74) Again a Court Roll of 1583 relates that all who had offended against the statute of 13 Elizabeth anent the wearing of caps were amerced to the lord 3s. 4d. (fn. 75)
A document recording a lease of the manor in 1479 by William Astwick to John and Robert Squire affords interesting detail as to the resources of a fifteenth-century manor. The manor-house or hall, 'with the chambers in the eyr end of the hall, with botry, pantry, kechyn, stabylle, with the chambers above the stabylle, the hawkes house, and the garden within the mote on the east side of the hall, before the hall window' were not to be included in thelease. William Astwick was also to retain 'all the fruits that shall happen to grow within the said mote,' and a hey-house at the westgate, the dove-house, a garden, and the cherry trees in the Church 'mede.' Reference is also made to a vinery belonging to the said William Astwick. Robert and John were to make yearly payments of fuelwood, two hogs, three dozen capons, a gander, three geese, a cock, six hens, half a bushel of apples, one peck of 'grate walnotys schalyd,' and straw for litter 'both for horses and beds,' and were to pay all charges on the manor save stint money. They were not to fowl with nets nor fish within the grounds, moats, and waters of the manor, nor to fell or lop the trees. William Astwick on his side had to provide sufficient plowbote, cartbote, and harowbote, and to find at the beginning of the term 'all manner of heggyngwode necessary to closure,' which John and Robert were to leave in good repair at the end of their lease. William was also to give yearly a cloth gown or 3s. 4d. in money, and four cart-loads of wood or else 5s. 4d. In conclusion, John and Robert entered into a bond of £40 to fulfil the conditions of the lease. (fn. 76)
It is evidently only a fragment of a larger building, but the process by which it has arrived at its present plan is somewhat obscure. The tower is almost certainly the central tower of a cruciform church, which in the early part of the fifteenth century was brought approximately to its present use as a western tower. The south transept was certainly retained at this time, and there was a building of some sort on the north side of the tower also.
The chancel at this time probably occupied the position of the present nave, whose south wall is at least as old as the fifteenth century. The present chancel appears to be entirely composed of old masonry somewhat clumsily re-used, and the north wall of the nave, which is clearly outside the line of the former north wall, is probably of the same date as the chancel. A curious point is that on either side of the east window of the chancel there are corbels for images, and in the south-east angle a piscina, features which are hardly likely to have been reset at a post-Reformation date, but, on the other hand, the evidence that the chancel arch and windows are clumsy rebuildings of fifteenth-century materials tells strongly against the present arrangement being of mediaeval date. The east window of the chancel is of three lights with wooden head and mullions, the jambs being re-used fifteenth-century work. Of the image brackets on either side of it that on the north has late fifteenth-century mouldings, and that on the south, perhaps of somewhat earlier date, has an angel's head and wings. The piscina has a cinquefoiled arch under a square head with marks of a shelf low down in the recess. The drain is much lower in the wall than in normal instances. There is a plain north doorway which is modern, and west of it a window of a single light clumsily made up of old material. The chancel arch is of three chamfered orders, the crown not being central between the jambs. It has moulded capitals with a half-round shaft to the inner order, the outer orders being continuous. The chancel walls where exposed are very roughly constructed of brick and stone rubble, and have in places a very modern appearance. The nave has two windows on the south, each of three cinquefoiled lights with clumsy three-centred heads, the mullions being continued up to the arch of the window, and it seems that only the lower part of the tracery is mediaeval. The north windows are copied from them, but are entirely of a later date, and the north wall, which is thinner than the south, is supported by large brick buttresses. The tower is of two stages with a lowpitched slate roof. Its walls are 5 ft. thick, and the internal angles are quoined. In its east wall it has a small fifteenth-century doorway opening inwards to the nave, in its north wall is a blocked doorway of somewhat similar type, but a little more elaborate, and in the south wall is a tall fifteenth-century arch of two chamfered orders with moulded capitals and splayed jambs with a roll between the two orders of the jambs. This is an early example of a feature commonly occurring in the neighbourhood later in the fifteenth century, and appears to be developed from the small rolls in the angles of the quatrefoiled fourteenth-century piers to be found in so many of the churches. Its use here is purely illogical, and corresponds with no member of the arch above. The archway, as already said, must have opened into a transept, but is now blocked, with a small doorway pierced in the blocking. In the west wall of the tower is a fifteenth-century window of two cinquefoiled lights with a quatrefoil over. The upper stage of the tower is lighted by single windows on each face, which do not appear to be older than the arches below, except that the west window, which is a small round-headed light, is possibly of earlier date. The internal quoining of the tower shows no signs of early tooling, although it is difficult to believe that the tower itself is not considerably older than any other part of the church. It has, however, undergone so much change that it has lost any traces from which its former condition can be deduced.
In the chancel floor are four slabs with inscriptions to children of Thomas and Elizabeth Cokayne of Astwick, 1657–8, and there are also several modern monuments ranging from 1823 to 1866 to the Fossey family.
The earliest register, which has only lately been recovered from an old chest at Stotfold, runs from 1655 to 1717. The second book, beginning 1718, contains burials and baptisms to 1812 and marriages 1735 to 1812.
Astwick was originally a parochial chapel, but by 1291 had become a parish church. (fn. 77) The advowson was granted to the priory of Chicksands by Simon de Beauchamp, whose father Payn had founded the monastery about the year 1150. (fn. 78) This gift was confirmed by the charter of his son William to the monastery. (fn. 79) In 1291 the tithes of Chicksands in Astwick were assessed at 13s. 4d. (fn. 80) At the Dissolution the temporalities of Chicksands Priory were worth £4 13s. 4d., whilst the rectorial tithes amounted to £7 6s. 8d. (fn. 81) The advowson appears to have remained with the crown for some short time, but Edward Butler was holding it at the time of his death in 1561, (fn. 82) and Beckingham Butler was presenting in 1605. (fn. 83) In 1660 the right of presentation was exercised by Sir Samuel Browne, (fn. 84) and it appears to have followed the same descent as the manor till the eighteenth century. (fn. 85)