A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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Its area is 2,196 acres, of which 971¼ acres are arable land, 894¾ permanent grass (fn. 1) and 15 acres of land covered by water. The principal crops are wheat, barley, peas, beans and oats. Roads from Wilden to Goldington and from Ravensden pass through the south of the parish, crossing each other almost at its central point. East of the point where the roads from Wilden and Ravensden cross lies the main part of the village of Renhold, which straggles in a north-westerly direction through Salph End—the modern Salphobury—Top End and Church End. Here, at an elevation of 169 ft., the highest point in the parish, lies the church of All Saints. On the opposite side of the road is the vicarage, a late 16th-century house having a tile roof. An old farmhouse washed over on the outside with a yellow distemper and also roofed with tiles stands at the west end of the church. At a lower altitude stands the Baptist chapel, erected in 1873. Standing in well-wooded grounds off the Bedford-Kimbolton road, about a mile south of the village, is Howbury Hall, an early 19th-century mansion, the residence of Mr. Cecil Henry Polhill. Workhouse End to the south of Renhold, and Water End between the Great North Road and the River Ouse, are other hamlets of the parish. To the north of this road are to be seen the remains of the ancient Danish outpost, (fn. 2) in the entrenchments of which, early in the 19th century, many bodies were found near the surface. (fn. 3) Abbey Farm stands near the site of Salphobury Manor House. (fn. 4)
The parish is well timbered, having 111¼ acres of woods and plantations. (fn. 5) Busshey Close is in the south, Marsh Wood to the west of Salph End, and Little and Great Early Closes to the north of the village of Renhold.
The following place-names have been found mentioned in the early 13th century in Renhold (fn. 6): Askeleve, Bedeland, Colewik, Erseweye, Fleggehogrove, Horch-on-brok, le Voyt, Manefaldwyk, Pourtesherg, Robynsbrok, Rudyngebyerd, Rysshelade, Salphobridge, Ulleworth, Welfthichenes, Wyndemillefeld.
There is no mention of Renhold in the Survey of 1086, but RENHOLD MANOR appears later as parcel of the barony of Bedford. The name Renhold is first found in 1227–8, at which date Sybil de Renhold and others were seised of half a virgate of land in this parish which they quitclaimed to Cecilia of Bedford. (fn. 7) By the middle of the century Renhold was held as half a knight's fee by William de Beauchamp of the king in chief. (fn. 8)
On the partition of the barony of Bedford in 1265 among the three co-heirs of John de Beauchamp a share in Renhold Manor was assigned to each. Maud wife of Roger Lestrange appears to have acquired the least important share, and her descendants the Moubrays are found holding here by knight service down to the 15th century. (fn. 9) The share of Ela Beauchamp became later known as Hoobury Manor and will be found treated below. That portion of the property which is henceforward called Renhold Manor (fn. 10) passed to Beatrice Beauchamp, third sister and co-heir, and through her to the Latimers and Nevills, following till 1538 the same descent as that portion of the barony of Bedford (q.v.). (fn. 11)
In 1538 Sir John Nevill granted the manor of Renhold to Sir John Gostwick, (fn. 12) who died seised of it in 1545. (fn. 13) It remained in the possession of the Gostwicks till 1624, following the descent of the manor of Willington (q.v.) (fn. 14) till that date, about which time Edward Gostwick conveyed Renhold to Sir William Becher. (fn. 15) Sir William held it till his death in 1640, (fn. 16) when his son William succeeded, in whose possession it remained till 1694, (fn. 17) in which year he died, (fn. 18) leaving the manor to his eldest son William, (fn. 19) who was married in 1699 to Jane Clarke of Watford. (fn. 20) William Becher suffered a recovery of the manor in 1725, (fn. 21) and in 1769 John Becher, probably a younger son of the latter, was in possession of Renhold, (fn. 22) which in 1781 passed from this family by sale to Nathaniel Polhill, (fn. 23) an eminent banker and tobacco merchant in the borough of Southwark. He made his seat at Howbury Hall and died in 1784, being succeeded by his second son and namesake, who died, however, in his minority in 1802. (fn. 24) The whole of the parish except one small farm is said to have belonged to him at this time. (fn. 25) Nathaniel's property passed to his younger brother John, who died in 1828, when his third son Frederick inherited Renhold. The latter was Conservative member for Bedford between the years 1831 and 1844 inclusive. He suffered a recovery of his property here in 1831, (fn. 26) and held it till his death in 1848. His only son, Frederick Charles Polhill-Turner, J.P., D.L., (fn. 27) High Sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1885 and M.P. for Bedford from 1874–80, inherited from him and held Renhold till he died in 1881. It then passed to his eldest son Frederick Edward Fiennes Polhill-Turner, who held it in 1900, being succeeded on his death by his brother Cecil Henry, the present owner, late lieutenant 2nd Dragoon Guards, who in his early years went as a missionary to China and lived for some time in Tibet.
The portion of Ela Beauchamp which was included in the manor of Renhold until 1265 after this date forms a separate property known as HOOBURY MANOR. Ela, who married Baldwin Lord Wake, had three daughters, of whom Elizabeth wife of John de Horbury or Hoobury (whence the manor derives its distinctive name) held in Renhold in 1275–6. (fn. 28) Her husband held here by knight service in 1284, (fn. 29) whilst both claimed view of frankpledge here two years later. (fn. 30) On her death in 1313 her co-heirs were John Patishull, representing her sister Ida Wake, and John Pigott, representing her sister Joan. (fn. 31) The Patishulls appear to have received a money rent as representing their share of the manor, of which rent last mention is found in 1359–60, when William de Patishull died seised of £15 6s. 8d. rent in Renhold (fn. 32); it appears to have been commuted about this time, for no further reference has been found to it. Hoobury Manor passed to John Pigott and was held by his family (fn. 33) until in 1351 John Pigott effected an exchange with Elizabeth Latimer, by which the latter secured Hoobury Manor in exchange for Cardington. (fn. 34) Hoobury thus became attached to the larger manor in this parish and has since followed the same descent; its name and identity have both been preserved, Howbury Hall being the residence of Mr. C. H. Polhill, present lord of the manor.
The only manor in Renhold that is mentioned in Domesday is that of SALPHOBURY, SALCHOU or SALVHO. (fn. 35) In 1086 it was held by Hugh de Beauchamp as a 5-hide manor. (fn. 36) In the 13th century these 2 hides in Salpho were held of the barony of Bedford as one-fifteenth of a knight's fee. (fn. 37) Salphobury was held till the Dissolution by the Prior of Newnham, (fn. 38) who acquired it from the family of Flamville, who made three grants in the time of Richard I, (fn. 39) one of which included 20 librates of land. By a later grant all the property which they held as one-ninth part of the barony of Bedford in Renhold and other places (fn. 40) was granted to Newnham in the 14th century. (fn. 41) In 1291 the property was worth £7 1s., whilst the prior owned £1 12s. 3d. in fruits and flocks. (fn. 42) A further grant by Hugh Haselden and others in 1408–9 (fn. 43) increased the value of Salphobury, so that the monks held £10 temporalities here in 1534, including 16 acres of wood, valued at 16s. (fn. 44) In 1540 the manor was granted to Sir John Gostwick, (fn. 45) after which date it follows the same descent as the manor of Renhold (q.v.). (fn. 46) The name is marked by Salph End.
The family of Flamville was resident in Renhold as early as the time of Richard I, when Hamo Flamville was a benefactor of Newnham Priory. (fn. 47) Their property was subsequently known as FLAMWELLES or FLAVELLS MANOR, and at the time of the Testa was held by John as 3 virgates of the honour of Bedford. (fn. 48) John was succeeded by his son Henry, who held in 1302–3 one-tenth of a knight's fee here, of which the Prior of Newnham held one-third part. (fn. 49) In 1326 John son of Baldwin the Miller granted Robert de Flamville two mills in Renhold, (fn. 50) and the latter still held the property in 1341. (fn. 51) It then passed to James Flamville, upon whose conviction of felony it was granted by the king to Stephen Romylo, the king's esquire, for life. (fn. 52) James was pardoned in 1395, (fn. 53) and it seems probable that the remainder of the family property was granted to Newnham, (fn. 54) who thus held by the end of the 14th century the whole of the original estate. The convent held £7 6s. 8d. in temporalities in 'Flavels' in 1534. (fn. 55) After the Dissolution it was granted to Sir John Gostwick, (fn. 56) and follows the same descent as the principal manor of Renhold (q.v.).
A farm forming part of the estate was acquired in the 16th century by John Bosgrove, (fn. 57) whose daughter Frances married Thomas Ardys, a cousin of William Gostwick. (fn. 58) Upon his death in 1576 John Bosgrove left the farm to his son-in-law, (fn. 59) who left it to his wife in 1605, (fn. 60) when it consisted of 193 acres of land. John Ardys son of Thomas succeeded him, and upon the marriage of his niece Dorothy with Sir Edmund Wilde, Flavells became the property of the latter, (fn. 61) who held it till his death in 1620. (fn. 62) In the following year John Ardys is again found leasing it at a pepper-corn rent for 200 years to Sir Anthony Chester, with the reversion to William later of Kempston. (fn. 63) The latter subsequently conveyed the property to his younger brother George in 1626, (fn. 64) who in turn re-conveyed it to William in 1631. (fn. 65) Five years later the latter died seised of it, (fn. 66) leaving it to his second son George. (fn. 67) The family were here during the 17th century, (fn. 68) and it was probably they who held 'the small farm in Renhold' in 1801, which was the only property there not then owned by the Polhills.
In 1333 John Pygot received licence to alienate in mortmain two messuages and 1½ virgates of land in Renhold for a chaplain to celebrate daily in Renhold Church. (fn. 69) The chantry was subsequently annulled (fn. 70) and the lands fell into the king's hands, who in 1386 granted them to John Wakefield, a yeoman of the Chamber. The latter in 1390 enfeoffed Richard Ronhale. (fn. 71) In 1408–9 this property was again in the king's hands, when it was granted to John Morker (fn. 72) and Spigurnel his chancellor for life. (fn. 73) In 1464 it was temporarily granted to William Pole (fn. 74) and in 1475 to Thomas Maister. (fn. 75) Within the next hundred years these lands had passed to Joan Scroggs, mother of Oliver Scroggs, the queen's ward, who petitioned William Clarke of Watford (fn. 76) for a 'close called Adingreves (fn. 77) and certain lands called Chantrie lands and Chantrie Close in Renhold, now in lease to Mr. Snagge for sixty years.' (fn. 78)
The nave arcade and the north aisle date from the 14th century; the font is much older, of about the middle of the 12th century, and very probably part of the nave may be older than the 14th century, as apparently the south wall required rebuilding in the 15th century, when the west tower was built. The present chancel roof and all the others are quite modern.
The church walls generally are in random rubble. The east window is entirely new, consisting of three cinquefoiled lights. At the south-east angle are two square buttresses in two stages, and between the chancel and vestry, the east walls of which are level, is another square buttress in two stages; in the north wall of the chancel is a 15th-century doorway with a four-centred head, leading into the present vestry, which is comparatively modern, but there must have been an old one; and, visible only from the outside, a blocked window of two cinquefoiled lights under a square head, being covered on the inside by an 18th-century monument; in the south wall is a window of the 15th century, consisting of three cinquefoiled lights. Next to it, on the west side, are a square buttress like the last, a small priest's doorway like the one into the vestry, and a window like the last, but of two lights only. The chancel arch is new.
The nave arcade, which is of the 14th century, but has been restored, is in three bays, in two wave-moulded orders, with moulded labels stopped on heads, and resting upon columns consisting of four rounds, with moulded capitals and bases; over this arcade is a clearstory of three windows, each of two cinquefoiled lights under a square head, similar to the south chancel windows, the wall string below the parapet acting as label. In the south wall of the nave (restored) are the remains of the external wall of a circular staircase to a former rood-loft, a window of three cinquefoiled lights over this high in the wall, to light the loft, and on either side of it a square buttress in three stages, reaching to the top of the nave. To the west of these are two restored 15th-century windows, each of three cinquefoiled lights. Between these two windows is the south porch, which is quite plain; there is a blocked window in each side, and the external doorway is new; the internal doorway is like it, with the exception that its outer order is a plain chamfer. There is a sundial stone built into the angle.
In the east end of the north aisle is a wide 15th-century window of three cinquefoiled lights and tracery containing a little old glass, taking up nearly the full width; a recess has been made in the north-east angle for the image of the patron saint of the altar formerly here. This north wall of the aisle is divided by external buttresses, which are in two stages, into four bays; in the east is a 14th-century window of two trefoiled lights; there is a similar window in the next bay, but the tracery differs in form. It preserves some contemporary glass with a shield Gules three picks argent. The third bay contains the north doorway, which has been restored; it is in one wave-moulded order with a pointed head and label. In the west bay is a chamfered window of two cinquefoiled lights. The buttress at the north-west angle of the aisle is placed diagonally; in the west end is a 15th-century window of three cinquefoiled lights.
The west tower is supported by buttresses in five stages, square at the eastern angles and diagonal at the western. It is finished by a small leaded spirelet. and has shields on the cornice, one bearing two bars and in chief three molets. In each top stage of the tower is a window of two trefoiled lights. In the lower part of the west side is a window of three lights. Above it is a chamfered niche with a cinquefoiled ogee arch under a square head with pierced quatrefoils in the spandrels. There are three small lights to the stairs, which are at the south-west. On the south side is a trefoiled light under a square head and label. The tower arch is in three orders, the two outer being moulded, and the jambs have attached shafts with moulded caps and bases.
The font, which is near the south door, is a plain cylinder, with, on its east face, a band of two acanthus leaves and the unfinished shape of a third. It is probably of the 12th century. By the north door a few late Gothic seat fronts are worked into the pews. In the chancel are several monuments to the Beecher and Polhill families. At the north-east is an altartomb of clunch to Edmund Wayte, 1518, and Agnes his wife with their brasses inlaid in a slab, with indents for one son and two daughters. There are also shields with unintelligible heraldry and the letters EA and W, and the inscription 'HIC IACENT EDMUNDUS WAYTE GENEROSUS & ANGNES UXOR EI' QUO[rum] [pro animabus propiciet deus] A.D. 1518.' There is also an inscription in English on the slab: 'Here lyeth Edmunde Wayte Gen[t] & Agnes his wyfe which Edmunde dyed the xi day of August an° dñi M° D° xviiii of yor charite sei a p[ater] n[oster] and an ave.'
There are five bells: the first and third are of 1658, by Christopher Graie; the second is old, without inscription; the fourth is by Thomas Russell, 1721; and the fifth was recast by R. Peck, 1890. On a timber is the date 1657.
The plate consists of a flagon of 1674, gift of Elizabeth Beecher, 1675, with the arms: Vair on a canton a hart's head caboshed, impaling ermine on a bend cotised three crescents, which seem to identify her as a Huxley; a paten of 1683, gift of Wm. Beecher, 1684; a communion cup and cover paten of 1725, given by 'E.B.' 1734.
The registers previous to 1813 are in five books. The first contains all entries 1654 to 1707; the second baptisms and burials 1708 to 1760, marriages 1708 to 1754; the third marriages 1755 to 1812; the fourth baptisms and burials 1760 to 1802; and the fifth baptisms and burials 1803 to 1812.
The original grant of the advowson of the church of All Saints by Simon de Beauchamp (fn. 79) was confirmed by William de Beauchamp (c. 1260) to the Prior and convent of Newnham, (fn. 80) who held it till 1534, when it was worth £12. (fn. 81)
In 1540 the patronage was granted to Sir John Gostwick, (fn. 82) and has since followed the descent of the manor (q.v.).
The Charity Estate, the origin of which is unknown, consists of five cottages and 3 a. 1 r. 2 p., producing £21 a year. In 1906 the net income, augmented by contributions from members of the coal club, was applied in the distribution of coals to the value of £28 14s. 3d.
The Town Estate, which consisted of 1 a. 0 r. 15 p. near the church and five cottages built on the waste, the rents of which were applied in aid of the rates, has been sold by order of the Poor Law Commissioners.
In 1723 William Becher by his will directed his executors to lay out £600 in the purchase of lands for the maintenance of a schoolmaster. The legacy was laid out in the purchase of £678 18s. 6d. consols, now producing £16 19s. 4d. a year.
Two ancient rent-charges, one of 12s. issuing out of a farm called Lamb's Farm and the other of 13s. 4d. out of a house and lands in this parish, are also paid to the school. (fn. 83)