A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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The parish of Tilbrook until 1888 formed a part of Bedfordshire, but in that year it was transferred to Huntingdonshire. The parish lies some 15 miles north-east of Bedford and rather over 2 miles south of Kimbolton. There are here 1,044¾ acres of arable land, 579¼ acres of permanent grass and 32 acres of woods and plantation. (fn. 1)
Tilbrook is watered by the River Til flowing through the centre of the parish, which is uniformly level. The ground rises rapidly, however, towards the north and south, where the height above the ordnance datum varies from 243 ft. to 262 ft.
The village is situated partly on the main road from Kimbolton to Higham Ferrers and partly on a small road at right angles to it. The church, with the rectory adjacent, stands in fields to the east of the latter road, and is approached by a lane from the south. In its neighbourhood are found most of the houses of which the village consists; they are chiefly brick or half-timbered, though here and there a thatched cottage is to be seen. Beyond the river, north of the church, is the Manor Farm, now used as two cottages, an old 16th-century brick and half-timbered building, with tiled roof. The ancient doors and windows have been replaced by modern work, but the interior still contains some exceedingly fine oak panelling. Tilbrook Hall, a modern building, is situated on an eminence half a mile north of the church and is the property of Capt. Robert Fitzgerald Dalton. Tilbrook Grange is the residence of Mr. Benjamin Measures.
Across the Til, which is here spanned by a brick arch, in the northern half of the parish is Kimbolton station, on the Kettering, Thrapston and Huntingdon branch of the Midland Railway. A few modern brick houses are springing up in the neighbourhood of the station and close by are the Tilbrook bone and flour-mills.
Hardwick Farm, a modern cottage in the south of the parish, has interesting remains of the former Hardwick Manor House. They are situated on high ground, north of the farm, and consist of old barns, almost entirely surrounded by a moat containing water and spanned by a rude bridge formed of a few wooden planks. There is also a disused windmill in this part of the parish.
The parish was inclosed by Act of Parliament in 1800. (fn. 2)
In 1086 Tilbrook belonged to William de Warenne. It was assessed at 5 hides and valued at 100s. There were twenty sokemen there, who had held in the time of the Confessor, and could assign their land to whom they pleased and put themselves under another lord. (fn. 3) William de Warenne had added this property to his fief by force, and Hugh de Beauchamp as the successor of Ralf Taillebois claimed the land from him, but without success. (fn. 4) Documentary evidence is wanting concerning the early history of Tilbrook, but as William de Warenne also held the manor of Kimbolton in Huntingdonshire, (fn. 5) and as Tilbrook in 1298 is spoken of as a hamlet appertaining to Kimbolton Manor, (fn. 6) it is probable that their early history is identical, and that by 1199 Tilbrook, like Kimbolton, was in the hands of Geoffrey Fitz Piers Earl of Essex, the husband of the heiress of the Mandevilles. (fn. 7) Some time after the death of William de Mandeville (the younger son of Geoffrey Fitz Piers) the earldom of Essex with much of his property passed to his sister's son Humphrey de Bohun second Earl of Hereford. (fn. 8) Six portions of knights' fees were held of the latter in Tilbrook of his honour of Kimbolton. (fn. 9) His son Humphrey de Bohun declared in 1287 that the whole vill of Tilbrook belonged to his fief, and that the tenants there attended the view of frankpledge that he held at Kimbolton. (fn. 10)
The manor of TILBROOK can first be separately identified in the property held in 1302 by the son of the above earl in Tilbrook and Hardwick (fn. 11) as of his honour of Mandeville by service of a quarter of a knight's fee. (fn. 12) Humphrey the fourth Earl of Hereford was still holding in 1316 (fn. 13); his son and heir John de Bohun (ob. 1335–6) would appear to have settled the property on his wife, who survived him, as 'the Countess of Hereford' was holding in 1346, (fn. 14) and Humphrey de Bohun, the then earl, was unmarried. (fn. 15) This Humphrey de Bohun was later succeeded by his nephew William, whose daughter and co-heiress Eleanor married Thomas Plantagenet Duke of Gloucester. (fn. 16) Her daughter and heiress Anne married Edmund de Stafford Earl of Stafford (fn. 17); she is recorded as holding this Tilbrook property in 1428. (fn. 18) On her death her son Humphrey Earl of Buckingham (afterwards Duke of Buckingham) received the property, here for the first time called a 'manor,' from John Harpur, probably a trustee of the late countess. (fn. 19) The Duke of Buckingham espoused the Lancastrian cause and was slain at the battle of Northampton in 1460; his heir was his son Henry, (fn. 20) but his property remained in the hands of the Crown. Richard III in 1484 granted this manor with other property to Thomas Lord Stanley and his son George Stanley Lord Strange. (fn. 21) But Henry VII on his succession restored to Edward Duke of Buckingham the lands of Humphrey Duke of Buckingham, his grandfather. (fn. 22) The manor of Tilbrook once more passed to the Crown on the attainder and execution of the Duke of Buckingham in 1521. (fn. 23) Henry VIII in the next year granted it to Henry Norris, an esquire of the body. (fn. 24) Suspected of undue intimacy with the king's wife Anne Boleyn, Henry Norris was attainted and executed in 1536 (fn. 25); the income derived from his manor of Tilbrook together with that from his Huntingdonshire manor of Southoe amounted to £36 10s. at the time of his death. (fn. 26) Though much of his property was restored to his son and heir by Henry VIII, and more by Elizabeth, (fn. 27) the manor of Tilbrook was not included. By 1540 it had come into the hands of Charles Wingfield, who in that year died seised of it. (fn. 28) At the time of his death it was stated that the manor of Tilbrook had been granted to Richard Wingfield, father of Charles, in 1523, (fn. 29) but the manor here referred to must be Hardwick Manor (q.v.), and Tilbrook Manor cannot have been in the possession of the Wingfield family until after 1536. (fn. 30) Thomas Wingfield son of Charles held this manor for over fifty years, dying seised of it in 1592. (fn. 31) But the Wingfields' title seems to have been defective, (fn. 32) and the property about this date reverted to the Crown, and was granted by Elizabeth in 1600 to William Hawkins, (fn. 33) a grant subsequently confirmed by James I in 1610 on payment of a sum of £55 8s. 4d. (fn. 34) William Hawkins died in 1625 (fn. 35); he bequeathed Tilbrook Manor to his daughter Rebecca and her husband Sir Beauchamp St. John, with contingent remainders to William Hawkins of Bedford. (fn. 36) This grant was later confirmed by Charles I. (fn. 37) Sir Beauchamp St. John died in 1631, (fn. 38) and in 1643 William Hawkins suffered a recovery of the manor. (fn. 39) He apparently, however, transferred the property again to the St. John, and in 1684 Sir St. Andrew St. John, bart., nephew of Sir Beauchamp, (fn. 40) is found as plaintiff in a suit concerning the manor. (fn. 41) By 1755 it had passed into the hands of John tenth Baron St. John of Bletsoe, (fn. 42) grandson of Sir St. Andrew St. John last-named. This property has remained in the hands of the Barons St. John down to the present day, (fn. 43) Lord St. John of Bletsoe being the present lord of the manor.
Mention is found in the early 17th century of a rent called 'helpesilver' appurtenant to this manor. (fn. 44)
The manor of HARDWICK or HERDWICK can be traced to the 8 virgates held (as a sixth part of a knight's fee) by Peter de Lekeburn of the honour of Kimbolton at the time of the Testa de Nevill. (fn. 45) This property was held in 1302 by Peter de Herdwyk, (fn. 46) who granted it to Bartholomew de Enfeld for life, (fn. 47) and in 1311–12 made over the reversion of it to his overlord Humphrey de Bohun Earl of Hereford and Elizabeth his wife. (fn. 48) The latter settled the reversion of this property (here for the first time called a manor) on his son William for his life in 1315. (fn. 49) The latter was created Earl of Northampton in 1336–7 (fn. 50); in 1345 he granted the manor of Hardwick for life to Sir Adam de Swenebourn, (fn. 51) who is found holding the next year. (fn. 52) On the death of William de Bohun in 1360 (fn. 53) the manor under the terms of the grant reverted to his brother Humphrey, who died seised of it the next year. (fn. 54) He was succeeded by his nephew Humphrey, son of the William de Bohun Earl of Northampton above mentioned. (fn. 55) From this date until the attainder and execution of Edward Duke of Buckingham in 1521 the descent of this manor is the same as that of the manor of Tilbrook (q.v.). In 1523 Henry VIII granted Hardwick Manor to Sir Richard Wingfield. (fn. 56) It remained in the hands of the Wingfield family until 1612, (fn. 57) when Sir James Wingfield alienated it to William Hawkins. (fn. 58) The further history of this manor thus again becomes identical with that of Tilbrook (q.v.).
A confirmation charter of the year 1300 states that a grove in Hardwick, then in the tenure of Peter de Hardwick, had been afforested by King Henry, ancestor of King Edward. (fn. 59) Rights of free warren were attached to this manor in the 14th century. (fn. 60)
The manor of TILBROOK or PORTER'S FEE (fn. 61) is probably the 2½ virgates of land in Tilbrook quitclaimed by Rohese de Tilbrook to Simon Porter in 1203–4 for 10 marks of silver. (fn. 62) William the Porter, who held 5 virgates there at the time of the Testa de Nevill, was presumably a successor. (fn. 63) The property was held of the honour of Kimbolton as a quarter of a knight's fee. (fn. 64) By 1302 it had passed to Joan de Holcote. (fn. 65) An extent made in 1324 of the possessions of Richard de Holcote in Tilbrook records that he had a capital messuage worth 12d., 96 acres of arable land worth 32s. and 4 acres of pasture worth 8s. (fn. 66) By 1346 this property had passed to Hugh de Crofte, (fn. 67) whose heirs are recorded as still holding in 1428. (fn. 68) The descent of this manor for the next fifty years is obscure, but it seems probable that it came into the hands of John Heton, living 1468, Receiver-General of Anne Duchess of Buckingham, (fn. 69) as his son Richard Heton was enjoying the profits of it at the time of his death. (fn. 70) Previous to his death he had placed the manor in the hands of John Dickson of Kimbolton as feoffee to his use. (fn. 71) His brother and heir William Heton is found complaining that John Dickson refused to give him possession. (fn. 72) Three years later William Heton sold the manor to William Catesby and the Duke of Buckingham for £200, (fn. 73) John Dickson enfeoffing them of the property four months later. (fn. 74) Catesby being captured at Bosworth forfeited his estates, and Henry VII in the first year of his reign granted this manor to Sir Charles Somerset, a natural son of Henry Duke of Somerset, (fn. 75) who eight years later obtained leave to alienate the same. (fn. 76) He became Lord Herbert in the right of his wife and in 1513 levied a fine of the manor. (fn. 77) He was created Earl of Worcester in 1513–14 (fn. 78); his son George, to whom he bequeathed the manor of Tilbrook by will dated 1524, (fn. 79) predeceased him, and he was succeeded on his death in 1526 by his son Henry, (fn. 80) who in turn was succeeded by his kinsman Sir William Herbert, who was created Earl of Pembroke in 1551. (fn. 81) The latter alienated the manor to Richard Neale and four members of the Pickering family in 1553. (fn. 82) Richard Neale in 1575 placed the manor in the hands of trustees to his own use, and to the ultimate use of his younger son Richard Neale with reversionary interest to his elder son Thomas. (fn. 83) Royal licence was not obtained for this transfer, but pardon was granted in 1587. (fn. 84) In March 1589 Richard and Thomas Neale alienated the manor to William Hawkins. (fn. 85) In August of the same year the Crown granted the manor to the famous 'fishing grantees,' who probably contended that it was concealed from the Crown after the attainder of William Catesby. (fn. 86) William Hawkins probably compounded with Tipper and Dawe, for he died seised of the manor in 1625. (fn. 87) Its further history is the same as that of the chief manor of Tilbrook (q.v.), but no separate mention of it is found after the end of the 17th century.
The convent of Stoneley, a house of Augustinian canons founded in 1180 by William de Mandeville third Earl of Essex, (fn. 88) held lands in this parish probably as part of their original endowment. In the Testa de Nevill their holding in Tilbrook amounted to 2 virgates. (fn. 89) In 1302–3 the prior held the property as a tenth part of a knight's fee, (fn. 90) by 1346 he held it in free and perpetual alms. (fn. 91) At the Dissolution the rents of Stoneley Monastery in Tilbrook were valued at £1 14s. (fn. 92)
At the time of the Testa de Nevill (fn. 93) Alan de Wavyle or Wanwyle held 1 virgate in Tilbrook of the Earl of Hereford. (fn. 94) By 1302 he had been succeeded by Roger de Wavyle, who held it as a twentieth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 95) The latter was succeeded in the tenure by John Felmersham, who was holding in 1346. (fn. 96) At the time of the Testa also Walter son of Alexander held 1 virgate of the Earl of Hereford in Tilbrook (fn. 97); he was succeeded by Walter de Billing, who in 1302 held the property by service of a twentieth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 98) By 1346 John de Wavyle and William de Ilefeulde held in his stead. (fn. 99)
A third fragment of a knight's fee recorded in the Testa de Nevill is the half virgate held of the Earl of Hereford as a fortieth part of a fee by Walter the Falconer. (fn. 100) He was succeeded before 1302 by Ingeramus de Bowels, (fn. 101) who in turn had given place to John de Clare (fn. 102) before 1346, after which date no further mention is found of any of these small holdings.
The church of ALL SAINTS consists of a chancel 27½ ft. by 16 ft., with a north vestry and a north chapel, a nave 44½ ft. by 16 ft., with a north aisle 10 ft. wide and continuous with the chapel, and a west tower 8½ ft. by 8 ft.
The 12th-century church had a narrow chancel and a nave of which the east wall was about 12 ft. and the west wall about 6 ft. westward of those of the present nave, and the east end of the chancel was a few feet eastward of the present chancel arch. About 1180 a narrow north aisle was added and some forty years later extended eastward for the full length of the chancel, the chancel arch being entirely removed. During the 14th century the south wall of the nave was rebuilt and the present south porch built; in the latter part of the century the chancel was lengthened eastwards, a vestry was built on the north side and the aisle was widened and lengthened eastward to join the vestry, one bay being added to the arcade.
The west tower was then built, partly within the lines of the west end of the nave, taking up half of the western bay; presumably the churchyard boundaries did not then admit of its being built clear of the west end of the church. In the 15th century the chancel arch was built, a clearstory was added and some windows put in the north aisle. The south wall of the nave and the clearstory have been rebuilt in modern times.
The chancel has a 14th-century parapet, under which is a string ornamented with ball flowers and heads, and a chamfered plinth; under the windows the walling sets out slightly below a string which forms a label to the priest's doorway and continues round the buttresses. The east window is of three cinquefoiled lights with 15th-century tracery under a pointed head. On the north side is an arch of two chamfered orders on an octagonal shaft and semi-octagonal respond with 14th-century moulded capitals. To the east of the vestry door is a small opening towards the chancel, having a groove in its sill on the chancel side and vertical grooves in the upper parts of its jambs on the vestry side; in the sill is an irregular hole going down to the floor level of the chancel. There is also a squint from the chapel to the chancel. In the south wall of the chancel are two two-light windows with a little 15th-century glass, a figure of St. Christopher and some quarries with scallops, like those at Dean; the lower parts of the lights in the western of the two windows are cut off by transoms, to form low side openings: between the windows is a pointed doorway. In the east jamb of the eastern of the two windows is a 14th-century piscina; the seat of the window has served as sedilia, and near the door is what appears to have been a holy water stoup. The chancel arch is of two wave-moulded orders and has a semi-octagonal shaft in each jamb with moulded capitals.
The three west bays of the nave arcade, the western of which is now reduced to a half span, are late 12th-century work with pointed arches of a single order and round columns, one of which has a capital carved with a series of round arches under an abacus, the other being similar on one side and carved with masks on the other; the next two bays have similar arches resting on smaller shafts with 13th-century capitals and bases. The clearstory has three two-light windows a side.
There are two modern south windows of 14thcentury style and between them a doorway of two double ogee orders and a label, over which is a window like those in the clearstory. The porch is 14th-century work and has a plain parapet, under which is a row of masks; in the east and west walls are two-light windows with square heads and over the entrance is a stone carved with the figures of a man and a dog. On the east side of the nave doorway is a stoup. The door of the rood stair remains at the south-east of the nave. In the north aisle are two 13th-century windows, a lancet in the west wall and near it in the north wall a two-light window with a pierced quatrefoil between the heads of the lights, which are modern; the doorway is of the same date, and consists of two pointed chamfered orders, of which the outer has detached shafts with 13th-century capitals. To the east is a three-light 15th-century window and in the chapel is a similar window on the north.
The tower, which opens into the nave by an arch of two chamfered orders, has an embattled parapet, under which are carved grotesque figures and flowers; from it rises an octagonal stone spire with two rows of spire lights. The belfry windows are of two lights with tracery and have transoms quatrefoiled on the lower side; the west window of the ground stage is similar but without a transom and over it is a single trefoiled opening. The west doorway is like that on the south side of the nave.
The nave and chancel roofs are modern, but 15th-century figures of angels holding musical instruments or shields are re-used in the former; the aisle roof is, however, good 15th-century work. The rood screen is exceptionally fine, retaining its loft, which is carried on a richly traceried cove; the parapet of the loft, removed some time since, is still in existence. In the lower part of the screen are traceried panels with much damaged paintings, a figure of St. Helen being alone recognizable, and the whole still retains much of its old colouring. The chancel stalls are modern, but some 17th-century bench ends are used up in them, and an angle post in a buttressed style of late Gothic character. In the chapel floor is an early 15th-century brass, with figures of a man in civil dress and his wife, but the inscription has disappeared.
The registers before 1812 are in three books, the first containing all entries from 1573 to 1719, the second containing baptisms and burials from 1720 to 1812 and marriages 1720 to 1753, and the third the marriages between 1754 and 1812.
Although no mention of the advowson of Tilbrook Church has been found until the year 1336, when Margaret widow of John de Bohun held it in dower, (fn. 103) it may safely be presumed to have been in the hands of the Bohuns from a much earlier period. (fn. 104) Its history from 1336 onwards is the same as that of the manor of Tilbrook (q.v.). The present patron is Lord St. John of Bletsoe.
The value of the church in 1291 was £10 13s. 4d., (fn. 105) while forty-five years later it was assessed at 50 marks. (fn. 106) The rectory at the time of the Dissolution was valued at £14 0s. 6d. per annum. (fn. 107)
The Commission of 1548 reported that land rented at 4d. a year had been given to the church for the maintenance of a lamp, whilst for the maintenance of a light lands to the annual value of 4s. 2d. had also been given, though from the latter amount 12d. was deducted each year for the poor of the parish. (fn. 108)
In 1857—Day by will bequeathed a legacy, the income to be applied yearly in the distribution of bread and clothing. The trust fund consists of £91 14s. 5d. consols, producing £2 5s. 10d. a year, which is duly applied.