A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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The parish of Dean lies on the northern boundary of the county some 14 miles north of Bedford. The total acreage of the parish is 2,472½ acres, of which 1,192 acres are arable land, 875½ permanent grass and 29 woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The soil is clay and the principal crops grown are wheat, oats, beans and peas.
The village of Dean is divided into Upper Dean and Lower Dean. The main part of the village is in Upper Dean, stands on high ground and is watered by a small tributary of the Ivel. The village green, which is bounded on the west by this brook, has the church on the east. Dean House, better known as The House, stands in large grounds in the south of the village. It is the residence of Mr. Dalton and contains some good 17th and 18th-century oak panelling. North of the church is a Congregational chapel on the west side of the road built in 1863, whilst beyond on the opposite side is the entrance to The Grange, also called Dean House, occupied by Mr. Rawson Ackroyd. The small hamlet of Lower Dean, watered by the Til, is on lower ground some half-mile north of Upper Dean. It includes a Methodist chapel erected in 1846 and the Manor House Farm, the residence of Mr. William Strangward. In the extreme south of the village on the road to Melchbourne is Dean Hall, an 18th-century brick house with tile roof and wood cornice and with a panelled entrance hall.
In December 1312 commissioners were appointed to inquire touching treasure-trove at Dean and the concealing thereof by the finders. (fn. 2) It seems probable that this treasure-trove was a sum of £800, the property of Walter de Hibernia, deceased, parson of the church of Dean, for two months later the executors of Walter complained that Richard de Wotton, then parson, with Alexander his brother and others, had carried away that sum, (fn. 3) and in 1315 Alexander de Wotton was released from gaol; where he had been imprisoned for carrying away treasure which he had found under the earth at Dean. (fn. 4) Curiously enough it was at Dean on 4 June 1875 that a coroner's inquest on treasure-trove (the first in the county for over a hundred years) was held. The treasure in this instance consisted of eleven pieces of gold, five pieces of silver and thirty-four copper coins. The guineas bore dates ranging from 1685 to 1734. The treasure was discovered in pulling down the old rectory farm. (fn. 5)
Dean was inclosed in the year 1800. (fn. 6) The following place-names have been found: Catlyns and Warens End (xvi cent.). (fn. 7) The latter doubtless has reference to the Warin family, who held land in Dean in the early part of the 14th century. (fn. 8)
The first mention of the property that afterwards became known as the manor of OVERDEAN alias OVERDEAN and NETHERDEAN (fn. 9) occurs in 1086 when Godfrey held 2 hides and half a virgate in Dean from Bishop Remigius of Lincoln. This land was assessed at 40s. and had in the days of the Confessor been held by Godric, a thegn of the king. (fn. 10) The Bishops of Lincoln were the overlords of this manor until the end of the 13th century. (fn. 11) No mention later than 1284, (fn. 12) however, occurs of them with reference to Dean, and as by 1302–3 (fn. 13) the property was held of Lord Segrave it must be presumed that between these two dates the overlordship was transferred. The Segrave family continued to hold the overlordship until about 1428. (fn. 14)
The earliest tenants of the property of whom record is found are the Cheyney family. In 1216 the Sheriff of Bedfordshire was ordered to cause Geoffrey de Gurdun to have full seisin of the land of John de Cheyney with appurtenances in Dean. (fn. 15) Twelve years later seisin of the land of Nicholas Fitz Jocelin, a fugitive, was granted to Alexander de Cheyney, (fn. 16) who is mentioned in the Testa de Nevill as holding a knight's fee in Dean. (fn. 17) Alexander was succeeded by John de Cheyney, who was holding in 1284–6, (fn. 18) and who in turn was succeeded by Bartholomew de Cheyney holding in 1302–3 (fn. 19) and 1316. (fn. 20) Between this latter year and 1330 the manor passed from the Cheyneys, for in 1330 John Warin of Dean made over his lands to Sir Ralf de Wedon, (fn. 21) while the same year John Mayn (fn. 22) and John de la Penne conveyed the manor of Dean to the same Ralf de Wedon, (fn. 23) who was still holding in 1346 (fn. 24) and whose heirs are recorded as holding in 1428. (fn. 25) Two years later the name of Cheyney reappears in connexion with this manor, for in 1430 John Cheyney remitted to Thomas Broun, clerk, and Thomas Compworth all his right in the manor of Overdean. (fn. 26) Broun and Compworth in turn granted it in 1434 to the master and college of Higham Ferrers. (fn. 27) This college had been founded by Henry Chicheley, Archbishop of Canterbury, in the last year of the reign of Henry V. (fn. 28) Overdean remained parcel of the possessions of the college until the Dissolution, when it was granted by the king to Robert Dacres, a member of his council. (fn. 29) The manor place and demesne lands had been leased by the master of the college the previous year at a rent of £8. (fn. 30)
The Dacres family held the manor for more than 100 years. In 1610 Sir Thomas Dacres mortgaged it to the heirs of William Towse for £2,330. (fn. 31) Sir Thomas Dacres died in 1615, and was succeeded by a son, also Thomas. (fn. 32) This Sir Thomas, like his father before him, became Sheriff of Hertfordshire. (fn. 33) He lived until 1668, (fn. 34) but in 1648 he made over the manor of Overdean to his younger brother Edward. (fn. 35) Edward Dacres had married Annabella widow of Sir Henry Atkins of Bedwell, (fn. 36) and in 1658 his stepson Thomas Atkins is found associated with him in a suit concerning this manor. (fn. 37) Thomas Atkins succeeded his stepfather, and continued to hold the manor until 1682, when he quitclaimed it to John Goodfellow. (fn. 38) For the next 100 years the descent of this manor has not been traced. In 1722 and 1724 a Stephen Chase drew an annuity from this manor amounting to one-fifth of the value. (fn. 39) In 1790 William Drury Lowe was seised of Overdean Manor, (fn. 40) while four years later Francis Aickin and Eleanor his wife quitclaimed the same to Thomas Fairie and Matthew Hancock for £800. (fn. 41) By the year 1800 the manor had passed into the possession of the St. John family, (fn. 42) Lord St. John of Bletsoe owning at the present day.
Mention of a mill appertaining to this manor occurs in 1610. (fn. 43) At the end of the 18th century there were two, and there are two at the present day. (fn. 44) A view of frank-pledge was attached to the manor in the 17th century. (fn. 45)
The manor of NETHER DEAN alias OVER DEAN AND NETHER DEAN was represented by the 4 hides in Dean held in 1086 by the Bishop of Coutances (fn. 46) and the 2 hides there held by William de Warenne at the same period. (fn. 47) The Bishop of Coutances' property was valued at 60s.; in the time of the Confessor six sokemen held it of Borret, a king's thegn. (fn. 48) After the death of the Bishop of Coutances it would seem that this property was granted by the king to William Meschin, who in turn granted it to the priory of Huntingdon, (fn. 49) and his grant formed the nucleus of the Prior of Huntingdon's lands in Dean. The 2 hides which William de Warenne held in Dean in 1086 were valued at 30s.; 1 hide and half a virgate of the land, however, William de Warenne had wrested from William Spec, to whom the king had granted it. (fn. 50) By the time of the Testa de Nevill 4 virgates of this land were held by the Prior of Huntingdon as a tenth of a fee of the honour of Huntingdon. (fn. 51) By 1302–3 the prior held these 4 virgates directly from the king, (fn. 52) and so continued to hold until the Dissolution. (fn. 53) In the 16th century Huntingdon Priory enjoyed rents to the amount of £3 8s. 9½d. in Overdean and Netherdean, (fn. 54) apart from the farm of their manor (here called Overdean), which amounted to £4 13s. 4d. (fn. 55) Henry VIII, after the dissolution of the priory, granted this manor in 1545 to Sir William Butt, (fn. 56) who the same year alienated it to Richard Neale of Dean, (fn. 57) a brother of Thomas Neale of Yelden. (fn. 58) Some years later one William Hennes made complaint that this same Richard Neale had wrongfully dispossessed him of a messuage and lands in Netherdean. (fn. 59) Thomas son and heir of Richard Neale lived to a ripe old age (fn. 60); his son John Neale died seised of the manor in 1627, (fn. 61) leaving as heir his son John, who levied fines of the manor in 1650 (fn. 62) and 1664. (fn. 63) Yet another John Neale (son of the last) (fn. 64) held the manor of Nether Dean in 1682. (fn. 65) Hester widow of John Neale afterwards married Kinaird Delavere, (fn. 66) and alienated this manor to John Purney. (fn. 67) Within the next five years Netherdean Manor was alienated to the St. John family, who held it in 1706, (fn. 68) and in whose hands it has remained down to the present day. (fn. 69) Lord St. John of Bletsoe is the present lord of the manor.
A view of frank-pledge and a court baron were attached to the manor in the 17th century. (fn. 70)
Robert de Saleby held land in Dean in the latter half of the 13th century. (fn. 71) Together with land in Hargrave, in Northamptonshire, this land was held as a quarter fee as of the barony of Bedford. (fn. 72) The Knights Templars also owned land in Dean. (fn. 73) They were granted rights of free warren there as appurtenant to their manor of Riseley in 1280. (fn. 74)
For the descent of the lands in Over and Nether Dean appertaining to Swineshead Manor, see the descent of that manor. In the Domesday Survey eleven sokemen of King William are recorded as holding 7¼ virgates in Dean worth 30s. The same sokemen held the land in the time of the Confessor. (fn. 75) Mr. J. H. Round has pointed out that these sokemen did not hold jointly, (fn. 76) consequently the 7¼ virgates had no common descent, and probably much of this land was later absorbed in the manors of Overdean and Netherdean. In 1086 Godwin Dere of Bedford held half a virgate of land in Dean worth 12d. (fn. 77)
The parish church of ALL SAINTS consists of chancel 30 ft. by 13 ft. 6 in. wide, nave 43 ft. 6 in. by 15 ft. 6 in. wide, north and south aisles about 11 ft. wide, extending eastward of the chancel arch to from chapels, a south porch and a west tower 9 ft. 8 in. by 9 ft.
The 13th-century chancel arch is the oldest part of the building, but the plan of the chancel and nave is probably at least as early. Aisles appear to have been added in the 14th century, and the west tower is of this date. In the 15th century the whole building except the tower was remodelled, the arcades being raised and a clearstory added, the aisle walls rebuilt, chapels added on the north and south of the chancel, and new windows set in the chancel walls. All parts of the church except the chancel received new roofs, that of the nave being a splendid piece of work, admirable in design as in detail. At the present day for want of money the whole is slowly falling to decay, the walls bare of plaster and green with damp from leaking roofs, and the beautiful carvings of the roofs threatening to fall. The mediaeval seats remain, in great part much in need of repair, and the floors are broken and uneven, patched with rough stone, in places showing the ground beneath.
The chancel has a simple 14th-century roof of three bays, with moulded tie-beams and braces springing from small half columns, which in two bays have fallen away, and is lighted by three 15th-century windows, each of three trefoiled lights. The west bay opens by moulded four-centred arches to the north and south chapels, and the chancel arch of 13th-century date is of two chamfered orders with moulded octagonal capitals with nail head, and marks of the fitting of the rood screen timbers on the soffit. In the north wall of the chancel is a locker, and a large piscina in the south, and the altar rails are of early 17th-century date.
The nave is of four bays, with tall octagonal pillars, the bases and lower parts of which are 14th-century work, as are the moulded capitals, while the upper parts of the pillars, in larger stones, are 15th-century additions to heighten the arcade. The arches of two chamfered orders are the 14th-century arches raised and reset, and in the eastern pair the label is cut away for a rood loft, the marks of whose beams remain in the walls. The clearstory windows are of three cinquefoiled lights, and on the east wall of the tower is the weathering of the steep-pitched 14th-century roof, the plate of which was below the level of the crowns of the arcade as it now stands. The aisles and chapels are lighted by three-light windows like the rest, except that the east windows—and in the south chapel the south-east window also—are more elaborate, with traceried heads. The middle foil in each light in the north aisle window is very broad.
Fine wooden screens remain at the west ends of both chapels and one in better condition across the chancel arch, with crocketed labels to the arched openings; the seats in the nave are also in great measure mediaeval.
The nave roof is in four bays with steeply cambered ties with beautiful central bosses, and braces with carved spandrels springing from the canopied heads of niches, of which the lower parts have been lost. A band of openwork carving runs along below the wall plates; in the eastern bay a line of angels with open wings, which is carried across the east wall, and in the west bay a line of blank shields, also returned across the nave. The purlins and ridge are moulded, and in the eastern bay, which has originally been ceiled, the intersections of the timbers are plain, but in the other bays have elaborate bosses of foliage, and angels at the bases of the intermediates with instruments of the Passion or musical instruments.
The aisle roofs are plainer work of the same style, and the chapels have had panelled ceilings, in the north chapel only in the east half of the east bay, but in both parts of the corresponding bay on the south, and part of the engrailed applied ornament is still in existence, nailed to a modern deal boarding.
The tower is in three stages, the middle one being shorter than the others, and has a plain 14th-century parapet and octagonal spire. Below the parapet is a moulded string carved with a running ornament and grotesque heads, and in the middle of each side is a gargoyle. The west window is of two trefoiled lights with net tracery under a pointed head and a label with head stops, and the belfry windows are similar but have richly moulded outer orders. Under the west window is a later doorway with a wood lintel.
In the east window of the south chapel is a shield of old glass bearing Ermine a bend gules cotised or, and in the west window of the south aisle are the figure of a priest and the words 'John[']s lysset.'
At the east end of the north aisle is a 14th-century canopied recess inclosing a tomb, ornamented with cinquefoils between blank shields, and having on its Purbeck marble covering slab the remains of an inscription '[PRI] ES FOR SA ALME DEU MER [CI].'
In the south chapel is a plain raised tomb with the brass of a priest in almuce, surplice and cassock, and at his head a scroll with 'Miserere mei Deus secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.' Above is the indent of a figure of the Trinity, and below that of the priest the inscription:—
There are four bells: the treble by Hugh Watts, 1603; the second, a 15th-century London bell inscribed 'Celorum Xpe placeat tibi rex sonus iste'; the third by Tobie Norris, 1671, and the tenor an alphabet bell by Hugh Watts, 1610.
The communion plate consists of a cup and cover paten of 1569 and a large flagon and salver of 1723, the gift of Thomas Boswell, 1722. They bear his arms which were Argent a fesse indented gules with three bears' heads razed sable in the chief.
The church of Dean was granted by Alice de Clermont to the Knights Hospitallers in the 12th century. (fn. 78) It was confirmed to them by Richard de Clare Earl of Hertford, (fn. 79) and later by King John in 1199. (fn. 80) The Hospitallers held it until the Dissolution and Edward VI granted the church to the Dean and chapter of Worcester in 1547. (fn. 81) The vicar's stipend at that period was £12 14s. 3½d. (fn. 82) The living has remained in the gift of the Dean and chapter of Worcester down to the present day.
The commissioners of 1548 reported that messuages and land in Dean rented at 13s. 2d. had been given for the continuance of an obit and the sustentation of a lamp in the church. (fn. 83) A chantry in the church of Dean founded by Walter de Hibernia was ordained in 1312. (fn. 84)
Joseph Neale's educational charity, founded by deed 1702, (fn. 85) is endowed with a freehold cottage at Dean let at £5 a year, 70 acres, more or less, at Great Catworth in the county of Huntingdon, and 2 a. 3 r. at Easton in the same county, let at £54 a year. The trust is administered under a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 24 December 1875, whereby one half of the income is applied in the awarding of exhibitions in this parish, one-fourth in the parish of Shelton, and one-fourth in the parish of Swineshead.
The Poor's Land consists of 1 a. 1 r. in Dean, the method of acquisition of which is unknown, and 4 acres or thereabouts in the parish of Yelden, acquired by the town feoffees in 1681, let at £8 10s. a year.
In 1802 John Fox by deed, enrolled for effectuating the intentions of his mother, Mary Fox, granted unto the Rev. James Pye, the then vicar, and to the then churchwardens a yearly rent-charge of £6 6s. charged on 19 acres in the new inclosure of Dean, to be distributed among the poor. The annuity, together with the rents of the Poor's Land, is applied in doles to about fifty recipients.