A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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The parish of Clophill has an area of 2,425'227 acres, of which nearly half, 1,000¾ acres, is arable land; there are 834 acres of permanent grass and 246 of woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The soil is very sandy, with a subsoil of gravel, and there are many old sand-pits and gravel-pits scattered over the parish. The country is undulating, forming numerous ridges and hollows, the slopes being covered by open tilled land or small pine woods, to the low ground round the River Flit, on the north side of which the village is placed. The general slope of the land is from north-west to south-east, the highest point in the north being 323 ft. above the ordnance datum, and from here the ground falls till in the extreme east near Campton it reaches an elevation of 152 ft. Clophill village presents a straggling appearance, as it covers about 1½ miles of the main road from Ampthill to Shefford, which traverses the centre of the parish from west to east.
From the east end of the village a broad ridge rises for a mile to the north-east, and upon this, a half-mile from the village, the old church is conspicuously placed at a height of 279.6 ft. above the ordnance datum, with a commanding view over the country to the east and south. The churchyard possessed the unenviable reputation of being a haunt of body snatchers, and many human bones have been dug up in the fields of Brickwall Farm. The new church is near the east end of the village, opposite the rectory, west of which there is a large tithe barn, now used as a parish hall. Near the middle of the village where the river approaches the street is a large water-mill used for grinding corn, while to the west of the village, at a short distance from the main road, stands an ancient windmill built of timber; the shape is peculiar, for the body is built like an ordinary barn with gables at the end. The mill sails used to be supported on large cross-beams which are attached to a square wooden turret with a low-pointed roof, which projects from the roof of the barn at the west end. At this end of the village is the public-house, called 'The Flying Horse,' a popular inn in the old coaching-days for travellers from London to the north. There are several good specimens of Georgian architecture among the houses, and the old pound still exists, while memories of earlier days are recalled by the relic known as the Stocks Tree. In the middle of the village the street is crossed by the main road running north and south from Bedford to Luton. This road also forms the boundary of the parish on that side, dividing it from Maulden, to which the west half of the village belongs. Near the west boundary of the parish is Beadlow Farm, on the site of the small Benedictine priory of Beaulieu, a cell of St. Albans Abbey. The farm buildings are comparatively modern and stand close to the road, but in the meadow to the east the broken ground and lines of banks and ditches mark the site of the priory buildings. From time to time foundations of walls have been traced and destroyed by the occupants of the farm, some glazed floor tiles and a thirteenth-century base having been found, together with part of a fourteenthcentury coffin-lid, still preserved on the farm.
The fine earthwork of Cainhoe Castle, already described, (fn. 2) is in the south of the parish, and on rising ground a short distance to the south is Cainhoe Farm, an H-shaped house, evidently of some antiquity, though showing little old detail at the present day. In one of the first-floor rooms is some good panelling.
With the site of the manor of Cainhoe were granted lands bearing the following place-names in the sixteenth century: Plumtree Hedge, Cantywede, and Inlandes' Spythell, (fn. 3) and in 1354 the names Foulhole, Pidley Wood are found; in 1628 Pidley Wood and Howgrove. (fn. 4)
The Inclosure Act for this parish, passed in 1808, is private, and has not been printed. (fn. 5)
The MANOR OF CLOPHILL AND CAINHOE was held of the honour or barony of Cainhoe (fn. 6) until the reign of Henry VIII, when it was annexed to the honour of Ampthill, (fn. 7) and granted out by the king from time to time: the overlordship is referred to as late as 1628, (fn. 8) but as there is no further mention, the right probably fell into abeyance. (fn. 9) On the partition of the Cainhoe barony in 1233 (fn. 10) the manor of Clophill and Cainhoe was not divided, but fell to the inheritance of Isabel, the eldest sister, and continued in her descendants (fn. 11) until after 1415, when it passed to the Greys, earls of Kent, (fn. 12) and finally came into the hands of the king. (fn. 13) At the time of the Domesday Survey, Nigel d'Albini held the manor of Cainhoe and the manor of Clophill; (fn. 14) these two manors were always held together and became known as the manor or manors of Clophill and Cainhoe. That of Clophill consisted of 5 hides, and had been held by two thegns, men of Earl Tosti, (fn. 15) while the manor of Cainhoe was assessed at 4 hides and had been held by Alvric, a thegn of King Edward. The manor descended to Nigel's son Henry and to the latter's son Robert, who died in 1192, and was succeeded by his son Robert, who died in 1224: his son Robert enjoyed the manor for only a short space, as he died without issue in 1233, when the manor passed to his sister Isabel, who married first William de Hocton, and secondly Drew des Preaux: (fn. 16) her son William must have assumed the name de Albini, as he inherited the manor under that name on his mother's death in 1262. (fn. 17) He apparently died soon after, when the manor passed to his son Simon, who died seised of it in 1272, leaving as his heirs his three sisters, Isabel, Christina, and Joan, (fn. 18) who each took one-third of the manor. (fn. 19) The youngest sister Joan married three times: by her second husband, Sir Roger Dakeney, she left a son and heir Robert, to whom descended the third on the death of his mother in 1310: (fn. 20) Robert died in 1316, (fn. 21) and as his son Roger was then only fourteen years of age, the custody of the lands and heir was granted to Richard de Cane, who enjoyed the profits until Roger proved his age in 1324. (fn. 22) This Roger acquired a few years before his death another portion of the manor, amounting to one-ninth. (fn. 23) When the manor was separated into thirds, Isabella the eldest sister brought her share to Hugh de St. Croix, by whom she had a son Peter; she married secondly William de Hotot, (fn. 24) who held the third of the manor after her death. On his death in 1310 Peter de St. Croix entered into possession. (fn. 25) In 1349 his estate suffered severely from the plague, all the bondmen and cottars dying of the pestilence. He himself died in the same year, (fn. 26) and a few months later his son Robert died. The custody of the lands were granted to Roger de Beauchamp (fn. 27) until the lawful age of the son and heir, Thomas, who proved his age in 1362 (fn. 28) and alienated his share of the manor in 1364 to Sir John Cheyne, with remainder to John Dakeney and his heirs, (fn. 29) a grandson of the Roger above mentioned, who was grandson of Joan.
The remaining third of the manor, which was the inheritance of Christina, second daughter of William de Albini, was, on her death in 1318, (fn. 30) divided again into thirds among her three daughters by Peter de la Stane, Elizabeth, Margery, and Christina. The youngest daughter Christina married Anthony de Byddik and died in 1326, (fn. 31) when the custody of the ninth part of the manor was granted to John de Mere as her son and heir John was only fifteen years old. (fn. 32) In 1334 John granted this part for life to John Dakeney and Joan his wife, (fn. 33) and in 1336 they acquired full possession. (fn. 34) This John Dakeney was probably a younger son of Joan de Albini, the youngest daughter of William de Albini and wife of Roger Dakeney, and therefore uncle to Roger, to whom in 1348 he transferred his right in the manor. (fn. 35)
Through Elizabeth the eldest daughter one ninth passed to her son Peter de Norton, who died without issue in 1330, when his brother Thomas inherited it. (fn. 36) The latter died in 1346, (fn. 37) but in 1334 he had alienated the ninth of the manor for life to John Dakeney and Joan his wife (fn. 38); it reverted to Thomas de Norton's son Sir Ralph de Norton, who sold his right in the ninth part of the manor to John Dakeney, grandson of Roger, and his wife Mary in 1373. (fn. 39) The remaining ninth, which fell to the inheritance of Margery, the second daughter, passed to her son Brian Saffey, who died in 1349, probably of the plague, leaving a daughter Alice or Joan, who also died the next year. (fn. 40) This part of the manor then reverted to her uncle, Thomas Saffey, and on his death in 1361 passed to his sister Joan. (fn. 41) In 1364 Joan alienated this ninth to John Dakeney, (fn. 42) the grandson of Roger, who thus acquired eight parts of the manor, purchasing the remaining part from Sir Ralph de Norton in 1373, when the whole manor was reunited. Sir John Dakeney died seised of the manor in 1376, (fn. 43) and as his son Walter was only seventeen years old the custody of the lands and heir was apparently granted to Reginald de Grey, who held a court there in 1381. (fn. 44) Walter died while still under age in 1384, when Alice his father's sister inherited the manor. (fn. 45) Alice and her husband Walter Alnthorpe continued to hold the manor, and were in possession in 1415, (fn. 46) but some time between that date and 1428 it was alienated to Reginald de Grey. (fn. 47) The manor continued in the de Grey family (fn. 48) until it was sold by Richard, earl of Kent, some time in the reign of Henry VII to Giles, Lord Daubeny, who died seised of it in 1508. (fn. 49) His son Henry probably conveyed the manor to Sir William Compton, knt., on whose death in 1528 it reverted to the king as the result of a settlement made previously by Sir William Compton in order to ensure the observance of his will. (fn. 50)
In 1542 it was annexed to the royal honour of Ampthill, (fn. 51) and continued to be held by the crown for many years, leases of the whole or part of the manor being made at various dates. In 1530, when the rabbit warren was granted by Henry VIII to Thomas Sackville for twenty-one years, the site of the manor of Cainhoe was leased to William Cartwick for the same term. (fn. 52) In 1548 the reversions of these grants were bestowed upon Robert Beverley, and in 1558 on Robert Power, together with the custody of the queen's woods in Cainhoe. (fn. 53) In 1572 the site of the manor, rabbit warren and woods were in the possession of Thomas Newdigate, who had purchased them from Henry and George Fisher, who had bought them from Robert Power. (fn. 54) In 1588 Elizabeth granted the custody of the woods to Anne Newdigate, widow, for twenty-one years, and in 1607 Thomas Viscount Fenton received them for forty-one years, (fn. 55) while in 1613 he resigned his office of steward of the manor, which was then conferred upon Edward, Lord Bruce. (fn. 56) In 1624 James I granted the manor and the site to Sir Henry Hobart, bart., and others for ninety-nine years in trust for the prince of Wales, and included the royal woods and rabbit warren in the grant; the reversion of this lease in 1628 was sold to James Beverley, (fn. 57) who continued to hold the manor until 1654 when he alienated it to Amabel, dowager countess of Kent, (fn. 58) in whose family the manor has remained until the present day, the present lord of the manor being Lord Lucas and Dingwall. (fn. 59)
There is another manor in Clophill, known as BEDLOW MANOR, which probably originated in the land held at Domesday by Azelina wife of Ralph Taillebois (fn. 60); it amounted then to 1 hide, and was held of Azelina by Turstin, and had been held by Ulvric, a sokeman of King Edward. Between 1140 and 1146 it was given to Beaulieu Priory, a cell of the abbey of St. Albans, situated in the parish of Clophill, by the founder, Robert de Albini, in his charter of endowment. (fn. 61)
The priory continued to hold the land, which in 1346 amounted to the sixth of half a knight's fee from the barony of Cainhoe. (fn. 62) The overlordship passed, as in the case of the manor of Clophill and Cainhoe, to the crown, from whom it was held as late as 1586. (fn. 63)
In 1428 Beaulieu Priory was absorbed in the parent abbey, (fn. 64) as its poverty prevented an independent existence, and the manor continued to be the property of the abbey of St. Albans until the Dissolution, when it was taken into the hand of the king. Edward VI in 1553 bestowed it upon Sir William Fitzwilliam and his wife Joan. (fn. 65) The former died in 1558 and his wife shortly afterwards, when the manor was divided among their four daughters, Mabel wife of Thomas Browne, Katherine wife of Christopher Viscount Gormanston, Elizabeth wife of Francis Jermye, and Elizabeth wife of Innocent Rede. (fn. 66) Mabel Browne died in 1564, and her son Matthew sold his share in the manor in 1585 to Richard Charnock, (fn. 67) who had already acquired the remaining parts from the three other daughters of Sir William Fitzwilliam. (fn. 68)
Richard Charnock left the manor to his son John, (fn. 69) and the latter's son Robert, who was knighted in 1619, succeeded his father, and was in possession in 1639 (fn. 70) and died in 1670, leaving a son, St. John, who had been created a baronet in 1661 and died in 1680. He was succeeded by his youngest son and heir, Sir Villiers Charnock (the elder sons having died without issue in their father's lifetime), who died in 1694, and the manor passed through his son Sir Pynsent, who died in 1734, to Sir Boteler Charnock, the latter's son, who died in 1756 without issue. (fn. 71) His brother and heir, Sir Villiers, probably sold the manor to Lady Amabel Grey, who was holding it in 1772, (fn. 72) since which date it has been held by the de Greys, earls of Kent, jointly with the manor of Clophill and Cainhoe, the manorial rights at the present day being vested in their descendant Lord Lucas and Dingwali.
Another manor in Clophill, which at the beginning of the sixteenth century acquired the name of the MANOR OF CLOPHILL HALL, can be traced back to a grant of land made in 1354 by Joan the widow of Roger Dakeney to Gerard de Braybrook and his wife Isabella, which consisted of 4 acres of meadow, and 250 acres of wood. (fn. 73) Gerard died in 1359, and was succeeded by his son, another Gerard. (fn. 74) The manor then probably followed the same descent as that of Clifton (q. v.), descending from Sir William Babington to Sir John Fisher, for in 1510 Sir John Fisher died seised of it and was succeeded by his son Michael. (fn. 75) On Michael's death in 1548 the manor passed to his granddaughter Agnes, who by her marriage with Oliver St. John brought it to that family, (fn. 76) in which it remained until 1598, when Lord Oliver St. John of Bletsoe alienated it to Thomas Anscell. (fn. 77) The latter conveyed it to Richard Charnock in 1605 (fn. 78) and it was held by the Charnock family together with Bedlow manor until 1651 (fn. 79) when it was sold to James Beverley (fn. 80) from whom it was bought in 1656 by Lord Bruce. (fn. 81) It was probably conveyed by the latter to the de Greys, earls of Kent, for Lady Amabel Grey was in possession in 1772. (fn. 82) The subsequent history of the manor is identical with that of Cainhoe and Bedlow and is held jointly with them at the present day by Lord Lucas and Dingwall.
Certain rights and privileges were at different times granted to the lords of the manors in this parish. In 1293 the prior and convent of Beaulieu were granted free warren in their demesne lands in Clophill by Edward I, (fn. 83) and in 1330 this charter was produced in justification of their claim. (fn. 84) In the latter year the descendants of the Albinis of Cainhoe also claimed free warren in Clophill and Cainhoe as from time immemorial. (fn. 85) View of frankpledge was claimed by the priory of Beaulieu in 1287 (fn. 86) and again in 1330 in the manor of Bedlow (fn. 87) and in 1600 (fn. 88) and 1656 (fn. 89) the Charnocks had view of frankpledge in the manor of Bedlow, at which latter date a court baron was also held. In 1298 the prior of Beaulieu was granted a fair in the manor of Bedlow to last for three days every year at the feast of St. James, (fn. 90) and in 1330 when his claim was contested he produced this charter. (fn. 91) The abbot of St. Albans also enjoyed the liberties of infangentheof, goods and chattels of felons, waifs and strays. (fn. 92) The lords of the manor of Clophill and Cainhoe enjoyed free fishing at Clophill: in 1376 John Dakeney died seised of this right (fn. 93) and it was referred to in 1600, when Richard Charnock possessed a free fishery in Clophill and Bedlow. (fn. 94)
There was a mill on the manor of Cainhoe at the time of the Domesday Survey worth 6s. (fn. 95) This mill descended with the manor and by 1272 there were two water-mills, (fn. 96) the rights to which were divided in the same way as the manor; these were nearly destroyed in 1330, (fn. 97) and in 1376 there is mention of only one mill (fn. 98) which passed with the manor to the de Greys and was rented in 1445 by Lord Edward Grey de Ruthyn at 53s. 4d. (fn. 99) In 1514 Richard earl of Kent demised the mill called 'Clophyll Myll' with the dam and pytell belonging to William Hewyns, baker of Ampthill. (fn. 100) In 1553 the mill was granted to Andrew Christendome at a rent of 60s. for the term of twenty-one years, and in 1558 the reversion was granted to Robert Power for ninetytwo years. (fn. 101) He sold the reversion to Henry and George Fisher and the latter sold it to Thomas Newdigate who was in possession in 1572. (fn. 102) In 1611 the mill was granted to Felix Wilson and Robert Morgan and their heirs for the rent of 60s. (fn. 103) Soon after, however, James I gave the mill to James Beverley and the grant was confirmed in 1627. (fn. 104) Probably James Beverley sold his rights in the mill to Amabel, dowager countess of Kent, at the same time that he sold her the manor of Clophill and Cainhoe, as there is a water-mill on this estate at the present day.
The castle of Cainhoe, situated in the parish of Clophill, was the head of a Bedfordshire barony known as that of d'Aubigny (de Albiniaco) of Cainhoe to distinguish it from those of the d'Aubignys of Belvoir, and the d'Aubignys of Arundel. It represented the Domesday fief of Nigel de Albini, which comprised lands in Husborne Crawley, Tingrith, Priestly, Harlington, Shelton, Marston Moretaine, Millbrook, Ampthill, Southill, Maulden, Westcott, Silsoe, Pulloxhill, Streatley, Milton Ernest, Carlton, Radwell, Turvey, Wyboston, Holme, Harrowden, Clifton, Henlow, and Arlesey, as well as in Clophill and Cainhoe, with a few outlying manors in Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire, and Leicestershire; it was held by the service of 25 knights. (fn. 105) Its principal tenants were Nigel de Wast in 1086, and the Pirot family in 1166, and subsequently St. Albans Abbey was the house which enjoyed the favour of the barons, who were benefactors to Sopwell, and founded the priory of Beaulieu as a cell to St. Albans.
The history of these barons is uneventful until the extinction of their male line in or about 1233, (fn. 106) when the barony was divided among the three sisters and co-heirs of Robert, the last baron, of whom Joan, wife to Geoffrey de Beauchamp, died without issue not long afterwards. The barony was then divided into moieties between the two heirs Isabel, wife of William de Hocton, who obtained Clophill and Cainhoe, and whose heirs have been traced above, and Azeline, whose marriage was granted in June 1234 to Aimery de St. Amand for his son Ralph, (fn. 107) a favourite of Henry III. To the heirs of this marriage her share, which included Millbrook and Ampthill, descended, and these St. Amands were summoned as barons by writ until their extinction in the male line (1402). The barony of St. Amand was revived for Sir William de Beauchamp who had married their eventual heiress Elizabeth Braybrook in 1449, but some years previously, in 1441, the Beauchamps had parted with Millbrook, Ampthill, and other lands to Sir John Cornwall, who was thereupon (1442) created baron of Millbrook. After the death of the last male Albini, the castle, following the same descent as the manor, came to the de Greys, earls of Kent. (fn. 108) Its site is marked by the fine earthworks already noticed, but there are no remains of masonry; it is stated that the castle hill was used for military purposes during the Civil War.
The old church of ST. MARY, now used as a mortuary chapel, is situated on a hill about half a mile from the present church in a north-easterly direction, and consists of an aisleless nave and a western tower. There was formerly a chancel of plain character, and said to have been modern; it was pulled down after the building of the new church in 1850.
The walls of the nave are older than the tower, but nothing more precise can be said in the absence of any details of an earlier date than the middle of the fifteenth century, to which time the three two-light windows of the belfry, the two-light west window and the tower arch belong. Recent repairs have also helped to destroy any evidence which might have been gathered from the walling. The entrance is by a door at the south-west of the nave, and at the south-east is a projecting stair to the rood-loft, the upper doorway being blocked up; the stair is continued up to the roof. Beyond a poor modern east window with wooden tracery, the only windows in the nave are two disproportionately large five-light fifteenth-century windows, one on each side; in the southern one are some fragments of fifteenth-century stained glass, among other things a shield bearing azure a saltire argent, and in the east window are some further fragments of glass. The roof is old, but patched with rough modern timber; the two tie-beams at the west are moulded, and might be as early as the thirteenth century, while the eastern tie-beam is enriched with a vine pattern of sixteenth-century character. There is one bell bearing only the initials 'R.C.'
There used to be an old stone in the church which
is not now to be found, and upon which the following
inscription was engraved, according to Hone's year
Death do not kick at me
For Christ hath taken thy sting away.
Between 1140 and 1146 the church of Clophill with two virgates of land was given to Beaulieu Priory by Robert de Albini; at the same time he bestowed upon it fifteen acres of land for the service of Cainhoe chapel three days a week. (fn. 109) The church and the chapel appendant to it continued to belong to Beaulieu Priory, but the chapel fell into decay in the fifteenth century. Before 1235 the vicarage of Clophill was ordained, (fn. 110) and in 1291 its value was £4 6s. 8d. (fn. 111) When the priory in 1428 was merged in the abbey of St. Albans, the living was constituted a rectory on the condition that the rector should say mass three times a week for the soul of the founder Robert de Albini. (fn. 112) In 1535 the benefice was worth £12. (fn. 113) In 1553 Edward VI granted the right of presentation to Sir William Fitzwilliam and Joan his wife, (fn. 114) and the history of the advowson until 1656 is identical with that of Bedlow Manor, being divided according to the divisions of that manor. (fn. 115) In the latter year, however, St. John Charnock alienated his right to Lord Robert Bruce, (fn. 116) and it remained until 1669 vested in the earls of Elgin, (fn. 117) who probably sold their right to Anthony earl of Kent, as the latter was presenting in 1690. (fn. 118) Since that date the advowson has remained in the Grey family and is at the present day in the gift of Lord Lucas and Dingwall. The chapel of Cainhoe has long fallen into disuse; in 1433 it was still existing, and it was stated then that the manor of Bedlow was granted to the priory to sustain for ever four monks to serve the chapel of Cainhoe, (fn. 119) but after this date there is no further trace of it.
In 1547 it was found that the rent of three messuages with certain meadows in Clophill, in the tenure of the churchwardens, had been given to the fraternity of Blunham for an obit, and was worth 8s.; and this chantry also owned a rent of 8d. from land in the tenure of John Hogens, which had also been granted to it for the sustentation of a lamp; (fn. 120) and another rent of 6s. 8d. from certain land, in the tenure of the churchwardens of Clophill, had been granted for an obit for Agnes Rowley, from which rent 2s. were paid to the king as to his manor of Cainhoe, and 2s. were also given to the poor in the parish. (fn. 121)
The Charity Lands, devised by will of Edward Dearman (date unknown), consist of 8 a. 3 r. let to various allotment holders, a messuage and 1 a. 3 r. 13 p., and £244 14s. 11d. consols with the official trustees, arising from sale of gravel. In 1904–5 the net income amounting to £30 12s. was applied in gifts of 4s. 6d. each to 136 poor men and women.
The Poor's Estate consists of four cottages and gardens and 12 a. in Church Field, allotted on the inclosure in lieu of divers parcels of open field lands, 2 r. 37 p. in Lammas Meadow, rentals about £30 a year. £6 a year is applicable under an order of the Charity Commissioners for educational purposes, and the remainder of the net income is applied in the supply of clothing tickets.
The Church Estate consists of land producing about £12 13s. a year applied towards the repair of the church. The Rev. John Mendham by his will, proved on 12 July, 1869, left £200 consols (with the official trustees), the dividends of £5 a year to be applied for the same purpose.
The Fuel Allotment of 20 acres, made under Inclosure Act of 31 May, 1826, produces about £20 a year, and there are also about 5 acres, known as the gravel and marl allotments, unproductive of income. The net income is applied in the distribution of coal.
Charity of John Bryan, will, 1655.—A sum of £250 10s. 3d. consols has by an order of the Charity Commissioners of 9 February, 1906, been apportioned from the endowment of this charity for various parishes for the benefit of the poor of Clophill. Nine-tenths of the dividends are applicable in gowns and shoes for four poor widows and one-tenth in bread for the poor.