A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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The parish of Ravensden covers an area of 2,290 acres, of which nearly half, 1,107 acres, is pasture, while 816 acres are arable land and 97 acres consist of woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The soil is clay; the chief crops are wheat, barley, oats, beans and peas.
The village lies on high ground to the south-east of the parish, that part surrounding the church being called Church End, but the greater part of the inhabitants are scattered in the outlying hamlets of Cleat Hill, Grazehill End and Wood End. The road from Bedford to Kimbolton crosses the parish, passing by Ravensden Grange, the seat of Colonel Sunderland, which, with several cottages and houses, forms a distinct portion of the village. Where the road, entering the parish in the south, cuts across the Kimbolton Road, stand the Old White Lion Inn and one or two houses, with Zion Chapel, built in 1853 by the Baptists. The road then skirts the grounds of Ravensden House, the property and residence of Mr. F. A. W. Wythes, and passing through the hamlet of Wood End, leaving the Manor Farm on the left and Brook Farm on the right, finally reaches Thurleigh. From Wood End several bridle-paths and tracks lead to the isolated farms in the north of the parish. One passes by the site of the old Ravensden Grange pulled down some thirty years ago, picturesquely situated on rising ground with a background formed by the Great and Little Woods, and continues north to Yorkshire Farm, beyond which lies Tilwick Farm with a spinney of the same name. Another of these bridle-paths leads to Trayles Fields Farm in the north-west of the parish.
The quaint tower of the church, with its red-tiled roof, forms, with some old cottages which cluster round it, the most interesting part of the village. Next to the church is the Horse and Jockey publichouse, the principal inn in Ravensden, and across the road is the church school, opened in 1867, behind which lies the park land surrounding Ravensden Grange.
Ravensden is watered by two tributaries of the Ouse. In the low-lying ground to the south of the parish the earthworks called Mowsbury Hill form a conspicuous object. The ground is swampy and often covered with water from the overflow of the streams. The conditions are favourable to brick and tile works, of which there are many in the south of the parish, chiefly around Cleat Hill. Near Brick Farm on the Thurleigh road the ground is only 118 ft. above ordnance datum, but it rises in the north and east of the parish and reaches 255 ft. near Tilwick Farm.
Among the lands held here by Newnham Priory in the 13th and 14th centuries occur the names of Shereveslond, Hangendehull, Upmannesslade, Wowehalveacre, (fn. 2) Botildestrete, la Goridole, Gosebath, (fn. 3) Hupsenewell and Smaleyornes. (fn. 4)
The parish has been inclosed under an Act passed in 1809. (fn. 5)
There is no reference to Ravensden in the Domesday Survey, but as the whole parish was afterwards held of the barony of Bedford it must in 1086 have been included in the fief of Hugh de Beauchamp, whose grandson William died seised of lands here in 1262. (fn. 6) The estate of Newnham Priory, which, after the Dissolution, was called the RAVENSDEN MANOR, appears to have originated in land bestowed by Nicholas de Ravensden, clerk, upon the prior. The gift comprised 6 selions abutting on Wood Croft, a croft called Stocking, a close called Inwode, and 3 acres of land below Benham. (fn. 7) The estate was increased by many other grants of land, among the donors being the Engayne, Thuand, le Broc, Sauvage, Buels and Rous families. (fn. 8) Rose mother of Simon de Beauchamp, the founder of Newnham Priory, confirmed these gifts, (fn. 9) and the names of the benefactors and details of their donations are all enumerated at length in the great charter of William son of Simon, probably dating about the middle of the 13th century. (fn. 10) The priory's possessions in Ravensden are mentioned always in connexion with 'Ronhale' and 'Salpho,' (fn. 11) and were assessed with them in 1535 at £12 2s. 5d. (fn. 12)
At the dissolution of Newnham Priory this property escheated to the Crown, by whom it was granted under the name of a manor, together with the advowson, to John and Joan Gostwick in 1540. (fn. 13) In 1543 the Gostwicks obtained Goldington Manor (q.v.), with which Ravensden descended during the next 230 years, and with which it was acquired by the Duke of Bedford in 1774. (fn. 14) The latter shortly afterwards alienated Ravensden Manor to the Rev. Robert Hart Butcher, (fn. 15) whose daughter Frances Elizabeth Butcher was holding in 1811. (fn. 16) After this date the manorial rights appear to have fallen into abeyance, as there is no further mention of this manor. The property may, however, have passed to Francis Wythes of Ravensden House, mentioned as a landowner in 1854 and 1877, and his descendant, Mr. Francis Aspinall Wythes Wythes of Ravensden House, has a large estate in Ravensden at the present day.
Other lands of the Beauchamp fief in Ravensden were bestowed on Warden Abbey, who held them as RONHALE or RAVENSDEN MANOR or GRANGE of the honour of Bedford. (fn. 17) Among the donors were the Engayne and Rous families and Simon clerk of Ravensden, (fn. 18) and the abbey's possessions were confirmed by Philippa (fn. 19) and by Simon de Beauchamp. (fn. 20) In 1252 the abbey received a grant of free warren in the woods belonging to their grange of Ravensden. (fn. 21) This estate, estimated at 8 virgates 3 acres in 1257, (fn. 22) was assessed with Biddenham in 1291 at £6 8s., (fn. 23) but in 1535 Ravensden alone was valued at £14 19s. (fn. 24) The abbey surrendered to the Crown in 1537, (fn. 25) and the following year the reversion of Ravensden Grange, then held on lease by William More of Ravensden, yeoman, was granted to John and Joan Gostwick. (fn. 26) The Gostwicks leased the manor to John Rawlyns of Ravensden, yeoman, on whose death in 1599 the remainder of the lease descended by will to his son and heir Stephen and the latter's children. (fn. 27) Stephen obtained possession of bonds worth £1,000, and refused to restore them to his mother Agnes or to allow her to enter the Grange. (fn. 28) In 1615, on the death of Sir William Gostwick, bart., the Grange was among the property left by him, (fn. 29) and although it is not mentioned again under its distinctive title of the Grange until 1776, it descended with the rest of the family lands to Sir William Gostwick, the last baronet, and passed from the Duchess of Marlborough to the Duke of Bedford in 1774. In 1776 it was divided into two parts, one-third being held by Henry Southhouse, (fn. 30) and it was probably his widow, Mrs. Sarah Southhouse, who owned the property at the beginning of the 19th century. (fn. 31) The other part, described as a moiety in 1804, was then held by Edward William Scrimshire Green, (fn. 32) who was succeeded by Andrew Pellett Green in possession in 1818. (fn. 33) The history of this property during the 19th century is obscure, but it may have been purchased, as a whole, by the Sunderland family, who have resided at Ravensden Grange, a modern dwelling, since the middle of the 19th century. The Rev. Thomas S. J. Sunderland lived here in 1854 and Mrs. Sunderland in 1864 and 1877. At the present day the Grange is occupied by Lieut.-Col. Sunderland, one of the principal landowners in the parish. The site of the Grange owned by the Gostwicks can still be traced about half a mile north of the present building.
Another manor in Ravensden, known as RAVENSDEN or TRAILLY'S MANOR, was held during the 13th and early 14th centuries of the Gascelins, (fn. 34) but by 1401 the overlordship had passed to the Mowbrays, Dukes of Norfolk, (fn. 35) as part of their barony of Bedford, the overlordship being last mentioned in 1525. (fn. 36)
The Gascelins subinfeudated the Traillys, of whom the first to hold this manor was John Trailly, who died seised of it in 1272. (fn. 37) The pedigree of the Trailly family has been worked out under Yelden, their chief seat (q.v.), with which their Ravensden manor was held until c. 1401. In 1276 Walter de Trailly claimed to hold view of frankpledge and have assize of bread and ale in Ravensden, (fn. 38) and these privileges were again asserted by his descendant, another Walter, in 1330. (fn. 39) The view of frankpledge was held once a year, after Michaelmas, and both it and the assize were claimed by prescriptive right; but as Walter had punished the transgressors of the assize of bread and ale by a fine of 12d., instead of by tumbril and pillory, he was obliged to pay half a mark in order to retain his privileges. (fn. 40) The manor, consisting of one messuage and 140 acres of arable land, was settled on William de Woodhull by John Trailly, but on the latter's death in 1360 it reverted to his son John Trailly. (fn. 41) Reginald, the last of the Traillys in the direct line, alienated most of his property, but retained Ravensden Manor, which at his death in 1401 was said to be worth only 33s. 4d. per annum, as 5 marks of its annual revenue had been granted by Reginald to John Harteshorne for life. (fn. 42) At this date it acquired its distinctive name of Trailly's Manor and passed to Margery wife of William Huggeford and cousin and heir of Reginald Trailly. (fn. 43) Until 1569 its descent is identical with that of the manor of Wilden (q.v.), which Margery had inherited from her father Sir James Pabenham. In 1569 Thomas Lucy conveyed Ravensden and Wilden Manors to Thomas Rolt, (fn. 44) but, although Wilden continued in the Rolt family for over 160 years, there is no further mention of Trailly's Manor. Parcel of the manor, however, called Great and Little Traillys Closes, came into the possession of John Rawlins, who died seised of them in 1599, leaving them by will to his son Stephen, after whose death Great Traillys was to revert to John, Stephen's eldest son, and Little Traillys to Robert, his second son. (fn. 45) Robert died, while still under age, in 1607, when Little Traillys passed to his elder brother John, then aged eleven. (fn. 46) John died in 1617, leaving a younger brother Francis, to whom the property, called 'lands in Woodend,' then descended. (fn. 47) The freehold estate of John Rawlins, consisting of a messuage and 100 acres of pasture, which in 1657 was forcibly entered by Edmund Cosen of Ravensden, yeoman, (fn. 48) is doubtless identical with Great and Little Traillys Closes. The present Traylesfields Farm, the property of Miss Twinberrow, in the north-west corner of the parish, near Wood End hamlet, may stand on the site of the Rawlins' messuage, and establishes the locality of this estate.
An estate, which afterwards became known as the RAVENSDEN MANOR, was held during the 13th century by the Engaynes, jointly with the Sauvage family, of the honour of Bedford. (fn. 49) The overlordship remained in that part of the honour which passed to the Mowbrays and Brays, (fn. 50) and is mentioned last in 1535. (fn. 51) The first of the Engaynes appearing in connexion with this parish is Clarice and her two sons Nicholas and Simon, whom Simon de Buels enfeoffed of 2½ virgates and 12 acres of land in 1214. (fn. 52) Other members of the family holding this fee were Eudo and William his son, with whom John le Sauvage was associated. (fn. 53) Their names constantly occur as benefactors on the Newnham Priory chartulary. (fn. 54) By 1302 this estate had come into the hands of Nicholas Godfrey and the heirs of Nicholas Engayne, (fn. 55) and in 1346 was in the possession of John Crevequer of Creaker's Manor, Great Barford (q.v.) and John Malyns. (fn. 56) John Crevequer died in 1370, leaving a nephew and heir Stephen, aged six, (fn. 57) during whose minority the Crevequer interest in this property, estimated at one messuage and 180 acres, worth 4 marks, was granted to Roger Ball, chaplain, and Maud Perdington. (fn. 58) On Stephen's death, a few months later, his younger brother John inherited his right and came of age in 1385. (fn. 59) In 1428 Stephen Crevequer and John Malyns were holding, (fn. 60) but by 1511 their interest in the estate, now called a manor, had been transferred to William Fitz Jeffrey, (fn. 61) who doubtless acquired at the same time Creaker's Manor in Great Barford (q.v.), with which Ravensden Manor was held for the next eighty years or so. The Fitz Jeffreys sold most of their Bedfordshire property towards the end of the 16th century, but retained Ravensden, which was held by George Fitz Jeffrey in 1651, (fn. 62) but in 1685 it was the property of Christopher Cratford, Oliver Davies, Daniel Foucault and Alexander Randall and Anne his wife, who in that year conveyed it to Anthony Best. (fn. 63) No further mention of this manor has been found.
Another manor in Ravensden, called MORINSBURY MANOR, which was held of the barony of Bedford for fealty and one white capon, (fn. 64) originated in the possessions of Ralph Morin, who held land in Ravensden in 1195 and 1207. (fn. 65) The ownership passed to the Tyringham family, one of whom, Geoffrey, was holding towards the end of the 13th century (fn. 66) and Roger in 1302 and 1346. (fn. 67) The next owner, John Tyringham, who leased it in 1405 to John Prior of Newnham for a term of forty-four years, died in 1416, leaving a son John, to whom the manor reverted at the termination of the lease. (fn. 68) John died in 1465, and was succeeded by his son, another John, (fn. 69) but after this date there is no further mention of this manor, though traces of it may perhaps be found in the name of Morsebury, a field owned by the Gostwicks in the middle of the 16th century, (fn. 70) which included the earthworks, consisting of a mound and moat, now called Morsbury or Mowsbury Hill. This artificial elevation, which has been described in the article on 'Earthworks' in an earlier volume, (fn. 71) may have once been the site of the manor owned by the Morins.
Other lands held of the barony of Bedford in Ravensden, comprising three messuages, 100 acres of land, 10 acres of meadow and 7 acres of wood, afterwards called RAVENSDEN MANOR, were settled in 1512 by Robert Bulkeley on his son Robert, doubtless on his marriage. (fn. 72) Robert, the father, died in 1514, and the estate passed to his son Robert, (fn. 73) who in 1522 acquired lands called Tilwick in Ravensden, on a lease of eighty years, from the Abbot of Warden. (fn. 74) In 1581 William Bulkeley died seised of this property, called Ravensden Manor, and left it by will to his son John, (fn. 75) who two years later joined with Ann his wife to alienate the estate to Nicholas Luke. (fn. 76) No further mention has been found of this manor.
An estate in Tilwick, in the north of Ravensden parish, formed part of the Beauchamp fief, (fn. 77) and was held by the Boteturts, Latimers and Nevills successively. As the Boteturts owned the manor of Dylywyk in Stagsden, some confusion may have arisen as to the two estates, and have thus led to the description of the Ravensden property as TILWICK MANOR in 1330 and 1351, (fn. 78) for manorial rights do not appear at any time to have been attached to it. A small portion of these lands was acquired from the Beauchamps and their tenants by Newnham Priory, (fn. 79) but the greater part was conferred upon Warden Abbey. (fn. 80) A dispute arose between the two religious houses as to 3 acres of land which Geoffrey Rous, a tenant of Newnham, had bestowed upon Warden without permission. (fn. 81) The matter was finally settled by the payment to Newnham Priory, on the part of Warden Abbey, of an annual rent of 3d. (fn. 82)
In 1522 lands called Tilwick, formerly in the tenure of William Harte, were leased by Augustine, the last Abbot of Warden, to Robert Bulkeley for a term of forty years commencing at Michaelmas 1527, at an annual rent of 28s. 4d. and three capons or 9d. (fn. 83) After the dissolution of the abbey in 1537 (fn. 84) the lands were granted in reversion to John and Joan Gostwick in 1538, (fn. 85) and on the death of William Gostwick in 1549 Tilwick Farm was included in the property which descended to his son and heir John, (fn. 86) who in 1562 apparently alienated it to Richard Stonley. (fn. 87) The latter, as owner of the farm, brought an action against Thomas Webbe of Thurleigh, whose 14 acres of arable land and 20 acres of sward were intermixed with the farm lands. (fn. 88) Richard Stonley claimed that Webbe had obtained possession of documents which showed his right to common of pasture on the defendant's lands, after the latter had cut down and carried away his first crop of grain and grass—a right which lasted on the arable land until it was sown again, and on the 2 acres of meadow until Lady Day. (fn. 89) By 1618 the farm, comprising a message, cottage and lands, was in the hands of George Franklin, on whose death in that year it was inherited by his eldest son Edmund. (fn. 90) There is no further documentary evidence forth-coming for the descent of this property during the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1877 it was farmed by Charles Hartop, and there is at the present day a farm of that name, owned by John Franklin, situated near Tilwick Wood.
A small estate in Ravensden was held by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, who acquired land from the tenants of William de Ferrars. This gift was confirmed to them in 1199. (fn. 91) In 1253 Henry III bestowed upon them a view of frankpledge, confirmed by Edward I in 1280, and this charter was produced by the prior in justification of his claim in 1287, when he was said to have two tenants only in Ravensden, the view being held twice a year at Bedford. (fn. 92) In 1330 his right to hold the view was again contested. (fn. 93) In 1540, on the dissolution of this religious order, the lands held by the prior as appurtenant to Shingay Preceptory in Cambridgeshire, among them the Ravensden estate, were granted to Sir Richard Long. (fn. 94) The Ravensden property is not afterwards separately mentioned.
There was a mill attached to the Beauchamp fief in Ravensden, of which William de Beauchamp died seised in 1262. (fn. 95) It is probably identical with the mill situated at Tilwick (Dilewyk), owned by Ida de Beauchamp in 1265, from which Richard de Braham took one iron fusil, an iron chain and the sails, carrying them off to his house at Ravensden. (fn. 96) The next mention of a windmill is in 1610, when Gerard Fitz Jeffrey, a member of the family who owned a manor here, left it by will to his mother. (fn. 97) The Gostwicks owned a water-mill, which was alienated, with the rest of their Ravensden property, to Sarah Duchess of Marlborough in 1731. (fn. 98) In 1802 John Covington, yeoman, was indicted for erecting two windmills in Ravensden, near the Bedford to Kimbolton highway, and so obstructing the king's road. (fn. 99) They were doubtless demolished at this time, and at the present day there are no mills, either water or wind, in the parish.
The church of ALL SAINTS consists of a chancel 23 ft. 7 in. by 15 ft. 3 in., a nave 32 ft. by 18 ft. 8 in., with a north aisle 8 ft. wide and a west tower 10 ft. square. In the 12th century the church seems to have consisted of a nave, chancel and west tower, and early in the 13th century the nave was widened on the north side and an aisle added. In the 14th century the chancel was probably widened in order to be again central with the nave, and the east window is of that date; in the following century the walls of the aisle were heightened and new windows inserted, whilst the tower was rebuilt. The south wall of the chancel is of 18th-century brickwork, with square windows, now fitted with modern Gothic tracery. The east window of the chancel is of fine early 14th-century work, with three cinquefoiled lights and three spherical triangles in the head, and there is a square-headed 14th-century window of two trefoiled lights in the north wall. The chancel arch is new, but the moulded corbels supporting the inner order are 14th-century work re-used, and the base of the modern chancel screen is made of the 17th-century altar rails.
The nave has a north arcade of three bays, c. 1260, in two chamfered orders with quatrefoiled piers; the capitals are moulded and all the bases chamfered except one, which has a filleted round on a square plinth with spurs at the angles. The south wall is built of rubble, with 14th-century buttresses, and contains a 14th-century window of two lights. There is a plain south doorway, the rear arch of which is made from a 12th-century tympanum carved with a chequer pattern. The porch is in a ruinous condition, and is built of wood filled with red bricks. The nave roof is plastered, but the ties and king-posts, with their struts, appear to be old.
The walling and buttresses of the north aisle are of 13th-century date, but all windows are 15th-century insertions. The north doorway is blocked, and consists of two pointed chamfered orders. The roof is now in two gables northward, an arrangement dating from the 17th century.
The tower has very plain 16th-century belfry windows and parapets and a stair at the north-east angle; above the parapet rises a low spire. The west doorway is of the 15th century, like that of the north aisle, and above it is a late two-light uncusped window. The arch into the nave is of the 15th century, of two chamfered orders.
The 17th-century communion table has panelled fronts and cupboards at each end. The font, at the south-west of the nave, is modern.
In the south wall is a monument to John Wigstaffe and his wife Elizabeth, 1718.
There are three bells: the treble of 1711; the second by Mears, 1847; and the tenor by Hugh Watts, inscribed 'Praise the Lorde 1603.'
The communion plate is all modern, and consists of a silver cup and paten and an electro-plated flagon.
The registers previous to 1812 are in five books: (1) has all entries, 1558 to 1640; (2) the same, 1644 to 1716; (3) baptisms and burials 1716 to 1763, marriages 1716 to 1754; (4) baptisms and burials 1763 to 1812; and (5) marriages 1756 to 1812.
The church of Ravensden was bestowed upon Newnham Priory by Simon de Beauchamp and included in the foundation charter c. 1166. (fn. 100) With Goldington Church (q.v.) it remained in the possession of Newnham Priory until the Dissolution.
About 1218 a vicarage was instituted by Bishop Hugh of Wells. It was to consist in all the altar offerings, in tithes from the lands of Alan de Orewell and William Engayne in Ravensden, and in 10s. from the tenements of the church. This was estimated to produce an income of 5 marks, and if it should be less the archdeacon was to make up the difference from the goods of the church. (fn. 101)
After the Dissolution the rectory and advowson were bestowed by the Crown in 1540 upon John Gostwick and Joan his wife. The grant included the manor of Ravensden (q.v.), with which the advowson and rectory were held by the Gostwicks for nearly 200 years, (fn. 102) and with them alienated in 1731 to Sarah Duchess of Marlborough, (fn. 103) from whom they were purchased in 1774 by the Duke of Bedford. (fn. 104) In 1854 Francis Duke of Bedford was patron, but the incumbent, the Rev. Thomas Syer, shortly afterwards purchased the advowson. Some time after 1877 his heirs alienated it to the Bishop of Ely, the present patron.
In 1547 there was 1 pightell in the hands of George Fitz Jeffrey, given for the maintenance of a lamp, worth 6d. yearly. (fn. 105)
The Town and Poor's estate consists of two cottages and 4 a. 3 r. 10 p. of grass land, part of which was awarded on the inclosure under Act of 49 Geo. III in lieu of other land conveyed to trustees in 1631 for the relief of the poor and in ease of the common charges of the town, and the remainder of the land and a cottage was a purchase made by the parish in 1633 worth £40, accepted in lieu of a rent-charge of 40s. a year devised by Agnes Martin in 1565 to be distributed among the poor upon the feasts of St. Anne and St. Thomas. The rental amounts to £32 a year.
The charity is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 3 December 1897, whereby one-third of the net income is made applicable for educational purposes and two-thirds for the general benefit of the poor in such manner as might be deemed most conducive to the formation of provident habits.
In 1907 the outgoings, including £8 10s., being an instalment of a loan from the Bedford Crown Building Society borrowed in 1902 for the completion of a cottage on the site of some cottages destroyed by fire, amounted to £14 5s.; the sum of £5 was paid to the school, (fn. 106) 40s. distributed in bread, £1 to the clothing club, £4 19s. 6d. in coal and the balance in temporary relief