A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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The parish of Clapham lies on the north bank of the Ouse 2 miles north-west of Bedford. It contains 1,995 acres, of which 789¾ are arable land, 891¼ grass and 111¼ woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The soil is clay and gravel and the subsoil clay. The chief crops produced are wheat, barley, peas and beans. The general slope of the land is from north to south. The highest point in the parish is Littlewood Farm, which is 285 ft. above the ordnance datum, the lowest at the spot where the Bedford Road enters the village, which is but 105 ft. The main road between Bedford and Higham Ferrers traverses the southern part of the parish, running parallel with the river until clear of the village, when, forking at the 'Fox and Hounds,' a branch continues in the same direction, whilst the main road veers in a more northerly direction and leaves the parish almost immediately. Possibly this road may be identified with the 'highway under Clopham Hill,' for the repair of which John Pollard, John Croft and Thomas Clerk were granted certain customs in 1405. (fn. 2) Clapham has always been closely associated with the neighbouring parish of Oakley, so much so that in 1627 evidence was taken as to whether Clapham and Oakley were one parish or two. (fn. 3) Several witnesses stated that they formed one parish. Evidence was also given that all the water-meadows of the inhabitants of Clapham lay in Oakley, and that whenever grants were made to the king the money was paid jointly, Oakley paying two parts and Clapham one. On the other hand, other witnesses stated that the inhabitants of Clapham were wont to go the perambulation to distinguish the parish boundaries from those of Oakley. (fn. 4) The village is rapidly becoming a suburb of Bedford, and consists mainly of modern brick and slate cottages. The church occupies a position at the east end of the village on the north side of the main road, and is approached by a lane leading up to the churchyard, in which is a sundial. The old manor-house formerly stood close to the west side of the church tower; portions of it were embodied in a farm-house which was pulled down in 1871 and replaced by the present building, which is some little distance from the church. A private road near the church leads to Clapham Park, a fine modern building of the Elizabethan type standing on high ground to the south of Clapham Wood. It was built in 1872 by the late James Howard. Close by the main road, on the eastern boundary of the village, stands 'Woodlands,' the residence of Mr. W. E. Fitzpatrick. The house has recently undergone extensive repairs and is charmingly situated in well-wooded grounds. The Warren lies on the north of the village road; it is now occupied by cottages, but was formerly walled in as a rabbit warren by the lord of the manor, traces of the wall being still visible. (fn. 5) There has been a recent revival of the lace-making industry in this parish, classes having been started in order to teach the art to the cottagers. Brick-making and lime-burning are carried on here. The population is steadily increasing. The number of inhabitants in 1901 was 788. There is a Wesleyan chapel, built in 1876.
Place-names that occur in this parish are:—Bartilmewe Stocking, Thurnemede, Smithforthe Hadeland, Peneybarecoles, Scalling Carrell, Peekes Close, Fordes Close, Foure Pounde Pasture and Pulleyes Grave. (fn. 6)
Æthelstan Mannesunu, who died in 986, (fn. 7) gave CLAPHAM to his wife in dower with reversion to Ramsey Abbey. (fn. 8) It seems probable that Æthelwine Sweart, who before his death in 998 (fn. 9) transferred Clapham to the abbey, was the representative of Æthelstan. (fn. 10) In 1049 a certain Ælfric, who claimed to be the rightful heir of Æthelwine, declared the bequest to be invalid, as it had not been made with the licence of the king and consent of the heirs, but by means of judicious bribery. (fn. 11) Clapham was confirmed to the abbey by Edward the Confessor, (fn. 12) and again, in 1078, by William the Conqueror. (fn. 13) Ramsey Abbey granted the manor to a thegn called Brictric, from whom it passed to Robert d'Oilli, (fn. 14) and from him to Miles Crispin, who held at the time of the Domesday Survey. (fn. 15) The Abbot and monks of Ramsey claimed the manor from Miles on the ground that Brictric only held the manor for life. (fn. 16) Their claim was, however, ineffectual, and the valuable manor, assessed in the Survey at 5 hides paying geld and 10 hides 'inland'—in all valued at £24 (fn. 17) — remained parcel of Miles' fief.
The manor of CLAPHAM GREENACRES or FITZJEFFRYS MANOR has its origin in a portion of Miles' land, and was held of the honour of Wallingford. (fn. 18) The last mention of the overlordship of this manor occurs in 1617. (fn. 19)
The first tenant of the property of whom mention has been found is William Mauduit Earl of Warwick, who before the year 1268 alienated it to William le Brun. (fn. 20) The property then comprised land to the value of £4 12s. 6d., with 17s. 6d. rent from the free tenants and a fishery and villeinage customs of the annual value of 50s. (fn. 21) Ten years later John le Brun, a descendant of the above, held rather more than 3 hides in Clapham, (fn. 22) being two-fifths part of the whole manor, (fn. 23) the remainder at this date being held by John de Burnaby, Ralf de Wedon and Walter Burdun. (fn. 24) John le Brun's daughter and heir Sarah married Henry Spigurnel. (fn. 25) Henry and Sarah continued to increase their Clapham property, (fn. 26) and at the time of the former's death in 1328 they were seised of the whole manor except a few acres. (fn. 27) Their son and heir Thomas Spigurnel alienated the manor in 1344 to Sir Bartholomew de Burgherssh. (fn. 28) The latter died in 1355 seised of the manor, then worth £20 a year, leaving a son and heir Bartholomew, aged twenty-six. (fn. 29) The date of the transfer of the manor from this family is uncertain. In 1379 Richard Whytacre held two knights' fees in Clapham, Oakley and elsewhere, (fn. 30) whilst in the following year Richard Greenacre died seised of the manor of Clapham. (fn. 31) At this period there were in the manor 402 acres of arable land, two parts of which were worth £4 9s. 4d. per annum and the third part nothing, as every year it lay fallow and in common; 16 acres of meadow worth 24s. and several pastures worth 40d. per annum. (fn. 32)
Richard de Greenacre succeeded his father the elder Richard. His wife Isabel (fn. 33) afterwards married John Dymoke and died seised of the manor in 1415, leaving John, a son by her first husband, as heir. (fn. 34) Nothing further has been discovered about John Greenacre, who was a clerk, but he appears to have been succeeded by Henry Cokayn, who in 1428 held two parts of a knight's fee in Clapham which Thomas Spigurnel once held. (fn. 35) Possibly his heir was a daughter Elizabeth, for in 1455 a Thomas Strathum and Elizabeth his wife made over the manor of Clapham to John Fitz Jeffrey, (fn. 36) who died seised of it in 1480, leaving a son and heir John, aged nine years. (fn. 37) The manor for the next fifty-six years remained in the hands of the Fitz Jeffrey family. In a list of fines for knighthood in 1536 there appears the name of John Fitz Jeffrey of Clapham, (fn. 38) whilst in 1542 his widow, who had taken for her second husband William Rowse, was with her husband enfeoffed of the manor by trustees to hold for their lives with remainder to Francis Fitz Jeffrey, probably a son of John. (fn. 39) The latter duly succeeded and died seised of the manor in 1548. (fn. 40) His son and heir Leonard alienated the manor in 1562 to Thomas Rowe, an alderman of London, (fn. 41) who was afterwards knighted. (fn. 42) Sir Thomas Rowe died in 1570 (fn. 43) and was succeeded by his son John, on whose death in 1586–7 the manors of Clapham passed to Thomas Rowe of Trumpington (co. Camb.). (fn. 44) In 1591 Thomas Rowe owed £6,000 to Arden Waferer, a bencher of Lincoln's Inn and a recusant, (fn. 45) the money to be raised on all his lands and estates in England. (fn. 46) The debt was considered cancelled on the carrying out of an arrangement made the same year by which Thomas Rowe sold the manor of Clapham for £3,644 to George Wyatt, Edmund Scanden, John Wright and Valentine Saunders acting as trustees for Arden Waferer. (fn. 47) Two of the trustees having died, others were appointed in 1610 to act with Valentine Saunders. (fn. 48) At their will Arden Waferer enjoyed the profits of the manor during his life. (fn. 49) He died in 1617, and by his will dated 4 May 1609 he left his Clapham property to his wife Elizabeth until his son James should be twenty-five years old. (fn. 50) Elizabeth resided at Clapham Manor at the pleasure of Valentine Saunders. (fn. 51) She was a recusant, and on her refusal to pay her fine for non-attendance at church two parts of her property were seized by the Crown officers pending payment. (fn. 52) Her son James, having succeeded her by 1627, (fn. 53) alienated the manor in that year to Richard Taylor, serjeant-at-law. (fn. 54) On the latter's death, in accordance with his will dated 8 May 1641, his brother-in-law Sir John Sanders held the manor on lease for ten years to the end that Richard Taylor's younger sons might each receive a sum of £600 on coming of age. (fn. 55) The Royalist sympathies of his elder son Richard caused the sequestration of the manor in 1649, but the younger sons having an interest in the profits of the manor until 1651 the sequestration was later confined to Richard's share. (fn. 56) The third son William Taylor was captured near Chester fighting for the king; a fine was levied by the committee for compounding on his interest under his father's will. (fn. 57) Thomas Taylor, probably a son of Richard above named, was lord of the manor in 1655. (fn. 58) His eldest daughter Katherine, eventually sole heiress, married William second Lord Ashburnham. (fn. 59) Thomas Taylor left his Clapham property to his wife Ursula for life, (fn. 60) but by 1708, some years before her death, Lord Ashburnham and his wife appear to have had possession of the manor, and in that year levied a fine of it. (fn. 61) Lord Ashburnham died in 1710 (fn. 62) and his wife the following year (fn. 63); the former's brother John first Earl of Ashburnham succeeded him in the tenure of the manor. (fn. 64) John second Earl of Ashburnham was lord of the manor in 1751. (fn. 65) His son George levied a fine of the property in 1813. (fn. 66) The latter's grandson Bertram sold a large part of his Clapham estates to James Howard in 1862, who established there a model farm and farmed the land under new and scientific methods. (fn. 67) The property was sold piece by piece during the last century by the Ashburnhams, and all manorial rights have lapsed. (fn. 68)
Henry and Sarah Spigurnel had a grant of free warren in Clapham in the 14th century. (fn. 69) Mention of a mill worth 40s. is made in the Survey of 1086. (fn. 70) A windmill is mentioned in 1652, (fn. 71) whilst John Rowe, lord of the manor in 1582, owned a 'milne house wher a mault milne standeth.' (fn. 72) In the reign of Edward I John le Brune owned two parts of a free fishery, whilst John the Fisher enjoyed free fishing from Milton Mill to Holywelle. (fn. 73) A free fishery in Clapham is frequently mentioned in documents of the 17th and 18th centuries.
The manor of OCLE-CUM-CLAPHAM alias CLAPHAM BAYEUX alias VAUXES MANOR lay partially in Clapham and partially in the neighbouring parish of Oakley. (For the early history of the Oakley portion of the manor see Oakley parish.) The overlordship of this manor, like that of the manor of Clapham Greenacres, follows the descent of the honour of Wallingford. (fn. 74)
The first tenant of whom mention has been found is Simon son of Richard de Bayeux. He was a minor in the year 1276, and his overlord, the Countess of Albemarle, is found that year recovering his wardship from William de Bayeux. (fn. 75) The same year William de Bayeux quitclaimed his right in the manor to Simon. (fn. 76) The manor two years later comprised some 4 hides and half a virgate of land with 50 acres of wood and rights of common fishery from Oakley Church to Oliver's Ditch. (fn. 77) In 1306 Simon de Bayeux settled the reversion of the manor on Alexander de Stoppesley and Matilda his wife, the latter being probably Simon's daughter. (fn. 78) Simon was still holding in 1316, (fn. 79) but by 1346 Alexander de Stoppesley had succeeded him. (fn. 80) The Stoppesley family continued to hold the manor until 1413–14, (fn. 81) when one Alexander de Stoppesley (fn. 82) quitclaimed it to Sir Gerard Braybrook and others. (fn. 83) This may have been preliminary to an alienation to Sir William Thirning, as in 1428 Lady Thirning was seised of this manor. (fn. 84) Lord Vaux of Harrowden succeeded to Sir William Thirning's Northamptonshire property, (fn. 85) and though no record can be found of the transference of this Clapham manor, yet such transference must have taken place about the same time, as in 1464 it is included in the forfeited lands of the attainted Lord Vaux which were granted by the king in that year to Ralph Hastings, an esquire of the body. (fn. 86) The attainder was reversed by Henry VIII, (fn. 87) and Nicholas Lord Vaux, son of William, (fn. 88) died seised of the manor in 1523. (fn. 89) His grandson William Vaux made a division of the property, separating the Oakley lands from the manor. (fn. 90) Both portions of the estate had manorial rights attached and both were termed 'manors.' The Clapham portion he sold to Thomas Rowe in 1564 for £300. (fn. 91) The latter, however, was obliged to take proceedings in the Chancery court before Lord Vaux would deliver up the deeds of sale. (fn. 92) The further descent of this property is the same as that of the manor of Clapham Grcenacres (q.v.).
The church of ST. THOMAS OF CANTERBURY was rebuilt, with the exception of the tower, the west bays of the nave arcades, the chancel arch and parts of the chancel walls, in 1861, and consists of a chancel 23 ft. long by 12 ft. wide, a nave 33½ ft. long by 12½ ft. wide, north and south aisles 10½ ft. wide and a west tower 15 ft. 8 in. long by 16 ft. 2 in. wide, all inside measurements.
The nave arcades are of three bays, but before 1861 were of two only, a bay having been added on the east; both arcades are of late 13th-century date, but differ considerably in detail. On the south arcade a good deal of masonry pattern in colour remains. The chancel arch is built in small stones, and is semicircular, setting back at the springing; it is old work, rebuilt stone by stone, and in its original form may have been coeval with the tower.
The tower, 21 ft. square by some 85 ft. high, is the most interesting feature of the church, being of pre-Conquest date. Its width is greater than that of the nave, in this resembling the towers of Barton-on-Humber and Broughton. It is entirely plastered without, being built of small stones without wrought quoins, and rises with unbroken outline for three stories, setting back below the top or fourth stage. It has a west doorway with a rounded segmental head in large wrought stones, which is either altered or a later insertion.
The tower arch leading into the nave is semicircular and rests on square jambs with a chamfered abacus, and there are no windows in the ground stage. In the next two stages, however, there are single double-splayed plastered lights on each face, except the east face of the lower stage, in which is a triangular-headed doorway which opened to the roof space over the old nave. The belfry has two roundheaded openings on each face, under a round inclosing arch of wrought stone, setting back considerably at the springing. There is a chamfered string at the springing, and between the two openings a shaft with a cubical capital which has angle volutes, except in the case of the north window. The tower finishes with an embattled parapet, and there is nothing to show what form its original roof took.
At the west end of the south aisle is a large monument to Thomas Taylor, who died in 1689, and in the chancel is a brass inscribed to Anne Waferer, 1617, wife of Sir Thomas Turner of Audley End; arms: Three millrinds between two bendlets with the difference of a martlet and a label, impaling a fesse wavy between three roundels. A small wooden board with a handle for suspension is kept in the church, and bears the date 1627 and the words 'Remember thy selfe.'
There are six bells, the first inscribed 'God save thy church, 1607'; the second, by Bowell of Ipswich, 1906; the third as the first, but recast in 1906; the fourth, by John Dier; the fifth, recast by Bowell, 1906; the sixth, by Christopher Graye, 1662.
Clapham Church was originally a chapel attached to Oakley Church. (fn. 93) Until the Dissolution it was in the patronage of the Prior and convent of Caldwell. (fn. 94) Henry VIII separated the two churches, and in 1545 granted the rectory, together with the advowson of Clapham Church, to Henry Audeley and John Maynard. (fn. 95) The vicarage at this date was valued at £5 14s. 4d. yearly. (fn. 96) John Maynard transferred the rectory and advowson to Francis Fitzjeffrey, the lord of Fitzjeffrys Manor, the same year. (fn. 97) Henceforward the advowson followed the same descent as this manor (q.v.) until the early half of the 19th century, when it passed from the Ashburnham family to John Thynne Lord Carteret, who was patron in 1840. (fn. 98) The advowson remained in the hands of the Thynne family until the end of the century. (fn. 99) It was later purchased by Mr. J. H. Twamley, who is the present patron.
From a document bearing the date 1627 we learn that Clapham Church was without a churchyard, and stood in a close called the Cunningry. (fn. 100) The people of Clapham buried their dead in the churchyard of Oakley Church. (fn. 101) They continued to do so until the beginning of the 19th century.
Three acres of land in Clapham were in 1547 found to have been dedicated to the maintenance of a light in the church. (fn. 102)
Ursula Taylor, wife of Thomas Taylor, by her will, proved 18 November 1724, devised £24 a year, charged upon certain lands in Marston Moretaine and Wootton, in this county, for the putting out to apprentice one or two poor children.
In 1726 Sir John Coldbatch and Elizabeth his wife, the only sister and heir-at-law of the said Ursula Taylor, by deed of lease and release vested the lands charged in trustees for the said charitable uses.
The trust property now consists of farm, stables and other buildings and brickyard, containing 31 a. 1 r. 3 p., let at £63 a year, and £408 2s. India £3 per cent. stock, held by the official trustees, producing £12 4s. 8d. a year. The stock arises from investment of royalties under lease of brickfield. The income is applied in the payment of £7 10s. (fn. 103) a year to the school committee and the balance in premiums in apprenticing six poor boys.