A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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The parish of Little Staughton comprises an area of 1,746 acres, of which 954 are arable land and 646 permanent grass. (fn. 1) The soil is mixed and the subsoil clay and gravel; the chief crops are wheat, barley and oats. The southern half of the parish is on high ground from 216 ft. to 240 ft. above ordnance datum; towards the north the ground slopes rapidly downwards, the northern boundary of the parish being only about 100 ft. above ordnance datum. No thoroughfare of any importance traverses this parish, but the village straggles for a mile along a road which enters from Colmworth in the south-east. It is situated on high ground, the church occupying a specially fine position in the north-east, approached from the road by a lane. In 1900 its spire, a conspicuous feature in the surrounding scenery, was destroyed by lightning. (fn. 2) The scattered cottages which form the village are mainly modern and built of brick. The rectory is some distance south of the church on the west side of the street; north of the rectory on the opposite side is the Manor Farm, of considerable size, which marks the site of the ancient manor-house. Small outlying districts of the parish are Green End in the north and West End. There is a large Baptist chapel in Little Staughton, with ourial-ground attached.
At the present day there is only 1 acre of woodland, but in the 13th century the Knights Templars employed a forester, (fn. 3) and there is record of a wood called 'la Lunde,' (fn. 4) while in the reign of Henry VIII a wood known as Barewood existed in the parish. (fn. 5)
On the evening of 18 June 1271 Hugh le Prest, felon and outlaw in the county of Lincoln and murderer in the county of Huntingdon, closely pursued by the sheriffs of these counties and their men, took refuge in the house of Roger, a servant of the Templars, in this parish. His hiding-place was discovered, and, after a brief defence, he was cut down and slain. The hue was then raised, and the two sheriffs having explained to the township the reason of their intrusion, handed over the head of the outlaw and departed. Hugh's horse was found the next day grazing in a corn-field belonging to the Knights Templars, and was adjudged the property of the township. (fn. 6)
It must now be admitted that LITTLE STAUGHTON finds no mention in the Domesday Survey, for Mr. Airy's theory, expressed in his Digest of the Bedfordshire Domesday, that the entries under 'Estone' refer to Little Staughton, is disproved by Mr. J. H. Round's identification of 'Estone' with the Huntingdonshire parish of Easton. (fn. 7) The earliest document dealing with Little Staughton that has been discovered bears the date of 1206; it records that John de Stocton in that year quitclaimed a carucate of land in Little Staughton to Brother Aimery, master of the Templars, for 30 marks of silver. (fn. 8) The next year the same John quitclaimed to the Templars a plot of land called 'Estocking,' which they had previously held of him, and on which their capital messuage was built. (fn. 9) In 1253 the Templars received a charter of free warren in Little Staughton (fn. 10); their claim of frankpledge in 1287 was considered doubtful and the case was referred to Westminster for decision. (fn. 11) Throughout the 13th and early 14th centuries the Templars increased their holding in Little Staughton (fn. 12); at the beginning of the 14th century the annual value of their rents there was £3 0s. 9¼d. (fn. 13) On the suppression of the order circa 1318 (fn. 14) Little Staughton with the bulk of the Templars' property passed into the hands of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. This latter order had a preceptory in the neighbouring parish of Melchbourne (q.v.) and had previously held some land in Little Staughton. (fn. 15) The Hospitallers granted the manor to John Bishop of Ely for life, (fn. 16) who in turn granted it to John de Waldeshef, who claimed rights of free warren and a view of frankpledge there in 1330. (fn. 17) After the death of the bishop in 1337 the manor reverted to the Hospitallers. (fn. 18) At the time of the Dissolution Little Staughton Manor was granted to Anthony Cockett. (fn. 19) In 1547 he alienated it to William Gery of Bushmead, (fn. 20) who in 1572 settled it upon his son William on the occasion of his marriage with Rebecca Snowe. (fn. 21) William Gery the younger died seised of the manor in 1586. (fn. 22) His wife Rebecca took for her second husband Thomas Polge (fn. 23); she died in 1601 and was succeeded by her son Richard Gery. (fn. 24) The latter previous to his death, which occurred in 1638, (fn. 25) settled the manor on his son William on the occasion of his marriage. (fn. 26) William Gery was succeeded by his brother George, who took an active part in the Civil War on the Royalist side. He was taken prisoner at the battle of Naseby, and imprisoned in Winchester House, where he took the negative oath. (fn. 27) In 1644, being indebted to a barber-surgeon to the amount of £90, he was forced by the Parliament to grant the latter an annuity of £40 out of the manor of Little Staughton until the debt was paid. (fn. 28) He compounded for his delinquency in 1648 for an annuity of £10 to be paid out of this manor. (fn. 29) In 1650 he alienated Little Staughton to John Spicer. (fn. 30) He or a son of the same name sold the manor to Henry Kingsley in 1700, (fn. 31) who dying in 1712 was succeeded by his son Heylock Kingsley. (fn. 32) Elizabeth daughter and heir of Heylock Kingsley married William Pym, (fn. 33) who became lord of Little Staughton Manor on the death of his father-in-law in 1749. (fn. 34) William Pym died in 1788 (fn. 35); his son and heir Francis suffered a recovery of the manor the same year. (fn. 36) He was lord of the manor when the parish was inclosed in 1801, (fn. 37) but the property has since been dispersed by sale among many owners. Courts leet and baron and a view of frankpledge were formerly attached to this manor. (fn. 38)
That Bushmead Priory owned lands in Little Staughton in the early part of the 13th century is proved by a reference to them in a Bull of Pope Gregory addressed to the prior. (fn. 39) In 1387–8 John de Hemingford and others granted a messuage with 54 acres of arable land, 4 acres of meadow, 8 acres of wood and 5s. rent in Little Staughton to the Prior of Bushmead, to be held of the honour of Bedford. (fn. 40) At the time of the Dissolution the annual rent from the priory's possessions in Little Staughton was £3 3s. (fn. 41) Henry VIII granted these lands to Sir William Gascoigne of Cardington, (fn. 42) comptroller of Cardinal Wolsey's household. (fn. 43) Sir William's son and heir Sir John Gascoigne in 1545 obtained licence to alienate the land to Anthony Cockett, (fn. 44) who a year later was granted the manor of Little Staughton. (fn. 45) The further descent of this land is the same as that of the manor (q.v.).
Midway through the 13th century Thomas son of Jordan held land in Little Staughton, (fn. 46) which he held as a tenth part of a knight's fee of the barony of Bedford. (fn. 47) By 1284–6 this property, which amounted to half a hide of land, had passed to Walter de la Sale. (fn. 48) No further mention occurs of it, (fn. 49) but it is possible that this was the land, held of the barony of Bedford, that John de Hemingford and others granted to Bushmead Priory in 1387–8. (fn. 50)
The priory of Chicksands founded by Pain de Beauchamp (fn. 51) owned land in Little Staughton in the 13th century. Possibly it formed part of the original endowment of the priory, but the first mention of it occurs in a charter of confirmation of William de Beauchamp, grandson of Pain. (fn. 52) In 1244 the master of the Knights Templars granted the Prior of Chicksands common of pasture in Little Staughton for 518 sheep, 6 oxen and 8 pigs. (fn. 53) At the time of the Dissolution the rents of the priory's land in the parish were valued at £1 0s. 2d. per annum. (fn. 54) The further history of this land has not been traced.
In the 13th century part of Little Staughton was held of the Earl of Hereford and Essex as parcel of his honour of Kimbolton. (fn. 55) In 1286–7 the earl claimed that a tenth part of Little Staughton was his, and that he had a view of frankpledge there. (fn. 56) His tenants were the Peyvre family, (fn. 57) who were granted rights of free warren in Little Staughton in 1253. (fn. 58) This property was appurtenant to the manor of Pertenhall (q.v.), and possibly became separated from the Pertenhall property at a later date, as in 1518 the Peyvres' successors the Darells are recorded as holding a manor of WHIKEY. (fn. 59) No further mention of this 'manor' occurs, but there is a Wickey Farm in Little Staughton parish at the present day.
A family of Stocton held land in Staughton from about 1240 to about 1346. (fn. 60) Their property was held as one thirty-fourth part of a knight's fee of the honour of Betun until the beginning of the 14th century. (fn. 61) By 1346 it had become parcel of the honour of Huntingdon. (fn. 62) No further mention of it has been found.
The church has developed from an aisleless 13th-century building with a nave and chancel of equal width. The chancel was rebuilt in the 15th century, a south aisle and chapel having been added in the 14th century; the south chapel was lengthened eastwards when the chancel was rebuilt, and the clearstory and tower were added at the same time.
The east window of the chancel dates from the 15th century and consists of five cinquefoiled lights with perpendicular tracery under a four-centred head. On both sides of the chancel are two 15th-century windows of two cinquefoiled lights with tracery under four-centred heads; in the south wall there is also a small late 14th-century door. In the north wall of the chancel is reset a 14th-century tomb-recess with a crocketed gabled canopy and carved spandrels, flanked by pinnacles; the front of the tomb it contains is panelled with quatrefoils. The chancel arch is of the 15th century, of two chamfered orders with a moulded half-octagonal capital and shaft to the inner order, and has a squint in its south respond.
The north wall of the nave is divided into three bays by buttresses running up to the parapet, and has three two-light clearstory windows of the 15th century set high in the wall, and a single round-headed window at a lower level, probably of recent date and intended to give light to the pulpit. The north doorway is plain 13th-century work of two chamfered orders. The nave arcade is of three bays, the east bay narrower than the others and cut through the old respond; like the others it is of two chamfered orders, the inner springing from a moulded corbel on the east, while the outer dies into the wall. The respond has been cut to match the 14th-century pier of the arcade.
The south-east window has 15th-century jambs and mullions and a re-used 14th-century head; a piscina is set in the angle of its east jamb, and its sill is carried down to serve as a seat, with a coffin-lid built in beneath it. There are two other windows in the south wall, one on either side of the south porch; they date from c. 1340, and have square heads over pairs of ogee trefoiled lights. The porch is embattled with two-light east and west windows and an outer archway with a pointed arch under a square head with carved spandrels; above it is a small rectangular niche. The inner doorway, c. 1340, has a pointed head and label with continuous mouldings and retains a 15th-century door with traceried panels in the head. The west tower opens to the nave by an arch of two chamfered orders, the inner resting upon moulded 15th-century capitals. The tower is of four stages with an embattled parapet and the base of a new octagonal spire, covered with a lead roof; at the angles are diagonal buttresses, and in each face of the top stage is a window of two cinquefoiled lights with a quatrefoil over. The west door has a two-centred head with continuous mouldings and over it is a window of three cinquefoiled lights with tracery. On the south side in the third stage is a single trefoiled light.
The roofs of the church are low pitched and of late 15th-century date, while the traces of an earlier 15th-century nave roof of higher pitch remain on the tower. The chancel roof has simply moulded ties and purlins, with carved heads on the soffits of the ties, and the nave roof is very simple with foliate pendants on the intermediate trusses; the eastern truss has traceried spandrels and the roof rests on carved stone corbels, one of which on the north side represents a bagpiper. There are some solid 16th-century pews in the nave and aisle and the pulpit and altar rails are 18th-century work, as is the poor-box on a baluster pedestal. The corbels for the rood beam remain on either side of the chancel arch, but there is no sign of a rood stair. Close to the squint on the south of the chancel arch is an image bracket. Two altar slabs much worn by their use as paving stones are now standing loose in the tower; they measured 4 ft. 6 in. by 2 ft. 6 in. and were bonded 6 in. into the wall. There is a plain octagonal font at the west end of the nave of 15th-century date. A few fragments of 15th-century glass remain in the heads of the clearstory and aisle windows. On the 14th-century tomb in the north wall of the chancel is fixed a brass inscription to William Lake, rector, 1679, with the arms two pairs of linked rings on a chief and a bend engrailed over all.
There are five bells: the treble recast in 1901 from a bell of 1654 by Miles Graye; the second of 1628, inscribed 'Let all men prayse the Lord'; the third by Joseph Eayre of St. Neots, 1755; the fourth by Joan Hille, a 15th-century foundress, inscribed 'Benedictum nomen domini' and bearing the 'cross and ring' shield with a lozenge over it; and the tenor by Miles Graye, 1654.
The plate consists of a communion cup and cover paten of 1740, bearing the arms of Bishop Fox of Winchester, founder of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in a wooden case of the same date covered with tooled leather.
The registers are in five books. The first has all entries 1598 to 1634, 1658 to 1661, 1686 to 1688 (part), and 1688 to 1691; the second the same, 1695 to 1739; the third the same, 1746 to 1793; the fourth marriages 1754 to 1812; the fifth baptisms and burials 1800 to 1812.
The advowson of Little Staughton apparently belonged to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem and follows the same descent as the manor (q.v.) until the Dissolution. In 1291 the church was valued at £5, (fn. 63) and at the Dissolution at £13 18s. 6d. (fn. 64) In 1544 the king granted the advowson to Sir Oliver Leader and Frances his wife. (fn. 65) Lady Leader survived her husband, and on her death in 1557 the advowson passed to her uncle Francis Baldwin. (fn. 66) It is not specifically mentioned in the inquisition held on her property, but fifty years later Francis Baldwin's successor Thomas quitclaimed it to Thomas Sherley (alias Hewes). (fn. 67) From the Sherley family it passed to Henry Gale in 1615, (fn. 68) who the next year sold it to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, (fn. 69) who are the present patrons.
The Commission of 1548 reported that land to the value of 3s. 8d. yearly had been given for the celebration of an obit, while land bringing in 4d. a year had been given for the maintenance of a rood light and a messuage worth 4d. per annum for the upkeep of a lamp. Out of this money there had to be paid 12d. to Anthony Cooke and 4d. to Sir John St. John every year. (fn. 70)