A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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The parish of Old Warden contains an area of 3,364½ acres, the agricultural returns (including some details from other parishes) being 2,055¼ arable land, 889 permanent grass and 611¼ woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The last form quite a feature in the neighbourhood, many excursions being made to Warden Woods from the surrounding parishes. The soil is sand and clay, the subsoil principally sand. The chief crops are wheat, barley, beans and peas. The slope of the ground is irregular, the highest point attained being 277 ft. above the ordnance datum at Warden Tunnel in the west, the lowest 88 ft. in the east. The village is picturesquely situated in a hollow, the high ground which surrounds it on all sides being well wooded. Church End in the north contains the parish church of St. Leonard some distance west of the main street. Old Warden Park stretches eastwards and includes 500 acres of wellwooded and ornamental grounds. The house is comparatively modern, and is the residence of Col. Frank Shuttleworth, whose father built it on the site of the ancient seat of the Lords Ongley. South of the Park is Warden Warren of considerable extent. In the west of the parish is the site of Warden Abbey, (fn. 2) marked by a series of mounds and ditches. It lies some distance to the west of the village, close to a farm-house which is itself of some antiquity, though not apparently any part of the abbey buildings. All that is now to be seen on the site is part of a red brick house, built soon after the suppression of the abbey with stone mullioned windows and a fine brick chimney on the south side; it is about 31½ ft. from east to west and 23 ft. from north to south, with a stair-turret on the north side. It is very ruinous and only used as a pigeon-house, but the moulded ceiling beams are of excellent workmanship, and the house must in its day have been a fine building. The entrance doorway has a crocketed stone label and flanking pinnacles, but the only part of the abbey buildings still standing is a stone buttress of late 13th-century date built into the west end of the house.
Quints Hill in the north of the parish is the site of an ancient earthwork, thickly covered with wood and undergrowth, in whose neighbourhood Roman remains have been found. (fn. 3) Later Celtic remains have also been found in this parish. (fn. 4)
The counterseal of Warden Abbey shows a shield bearing a crozier between three pears, the monks of Warden being specially famed for the cultivation of a variety of this fruit which bears their name. It has continued to be grown long after the abbey has ceased to exist, and mention of the Warden pie is found in literature of the 16th and following centuries. For example, the Clown in The Winter's Tale is made to say, 'I must have saffron to colour the Warden pie.' (fn. 5) Again, in Beaumont and Fletcher's play, Cupid's Revenge, Dorialus exclaims, ' Faith I would have him roasted like a Warden in a brown paper.' (fn. 6) A last quotation may be given from the Friar of Orders Grey:
'Myself with denial I mortify
With a dainty bit of Warden pie.' (fn. 7)
The Warden pie provided a delicate dish for the municipal banquets for which Bedford borough was distinguished, and as late as the middle of the last century these pears used to be hawked about the streets of that town on winter evenings to the cry of 'hot-baked Wardens.' (fn. 8)
At the time of the Domesday Survey OLD WARDEN MANOR was held by William Spech as a manor of 9 hides. (fn. 9) It formed part of the barony of Warden, which was created before 1166. (fn. 10) After the death in 1153 of Walter Espec, certainly the descendant, probably the son, of William Spech, his possessions were divided between his three sisters. (fn. 11) Old Warden passed to Hadwisa his eldest sister and wife of William de Bussy, (fn. 12) from whom it passed to her granddaughters and co-heirs Maud wife of Hugh Wake (fn. 13) and Cecilia wife of John de Builli or Buly. The property was thus divided into moieties, of which that which passed to the Wakes will be first discussed.
In 1235 the lady of Warden was Lady Alina Wake, (fn. 14) who married James Wake, probably Maud's son, and died seised of the manor in 1254, leaving as her heir Barnabas grandson of Walter de Stivecle, her first husband, who died childless. (fn. 15) By 1284 William Coynte, husband of Alice sister and heir of Barnabas de Stivecle, was holding by knight service in Old Warden. (fn. 16) He died seised of his half of the manor in 1317, leaving as his heirs his daughters Joan the wife of Walter de Shelvestrode and Margery, then only six weeks old. (fn. 17) Walter de Shelvestrode was absent in Ireland and his wife had to obtain special licence before she could enter into possession. (fn. 18) John de Bowels was granted the wardship of Margery le Coynte, (fn. 19) who in 1341 united with her sister in granting the manor to Warden Abbey in mortmain. (fn. 20) Its history after the Dissolution will be found treated below.
That moiety of Old Warden Manor called BOWELS MANOR passed, as stated above, to John de Builli on his marriage with Cecilia de Bussy, some time before 1185 (fn. 21); his name is returned as holding one and a half fees in Old Warden in 1210–12. (fn. 22) The next mention of this family in Old Warden is found in 1274, when Peter de Bueles, or, as it now begins to be spelt, de Bowels, is mentioned as tenant-inchief. (fn. 23) His death appears to have taken place about this date, and the wardship of his son John, a minor, was granted to Thomas Inge. (fn. 24) John de Bowels proved his age in 1283, (fn. 25) and it was probably his son John de Bowels who in 1330 claimed a market and manorial rights in Warden, (fn. 26) and who two years previously had acknowledged a debt of £200 to John de St. Amand. (fn. 27) The non-payment of this sum appears to have led to an alienation of this moiety of the manor to the St. Amands, for in 1343 it was in the possession of Almaric de St. Amand, who alienated it in mortmain to Warden Abbey in exchange for land in Millbrook. (fn. 28) Thus by 1346 the subdivided manor of Old Warden had once more become one manor, which remained with Warden Abbey until 1542, (fn. 29) when it was annexed to the honour of Ampthill. (fn. 30)
In 1550 Old Warden Manor was granted to the Princess Elizabeth for her life, a similar grant being made in 1610–11 to Prince Henry of Wales and in 1616–17 to his brother Charles. (fn. 31) In the latter year a lease for ninety-nine years was made to Sir Francis Bacon. In 1628 the reversion of the lease was granted to Edward Ditchfield and other trustees for the Corporation of London. (fn. 32) It was eventually purchased by Sir William Palmer between the years 1699 and 1714. (fn. 33) His son Charles Palmer sold the manor of Old Warden in 1773 to Samuel Whitbread, (fn. 34) the founder of the well-known Whitbread Brewery, who came of an old Nonconformist family in Bedfordshire. The manorial rights remained in the possession of the Whitbread family, passing in 1796 to Samuel Whitbread, M.P. for the borough of Bedford, who was a noted politician and supporter of Fox. At his death in 1815 the property passed in succession to his sons William Henry Whitbread, (fn. 35) M.P. for Bedford for several years, and Samuel Charles Whitbread. His grandson Mr. Samuel Whitbread is the present lord of the manor. (fn. 36)
Some of the manor lands, including Old Warden Park, were exchanged for lands in Southill belonging to Lord Ongley by Samuel Whitbread at the beginning of the 19th century. (fn. 37) Robert last Lord Ongley sold this land before his death in 1877 to Joseph Shuttleworth, who died in 1883, and was succeeded by his son Col. Frank Shuttleworth, who is the present owner. (fn. 38)
A third WARDEN MANOR in this parish belonged to Warden Abbey, and had its origin in the grant of Walter Espec, who founded the abbey during the first half of the 12th century, (fn. 39) and endowed it with the wood of Ravenesholt. This grant was confirmed by King Stephen in 1135 (fn. 40) and again at a later date, and also by later kings, among whom were Henry I, Richard I and Henry III. (fn. 41) In 1204–5 Wiscard Ledet and his wife Margery gave to the abbey land and pasture in Old Warden, (fn. 42) and in 1252 free warren was granted to the abbot in the woods belonging to the grange of Ravenesholt. (fn. 43) After the acquisition of the Coynte and Bowels Manor this third manor is no longer individually distinguishable, and henceforward follows the same descent.
After the Dissolution an estate known as HILL MANOR, previously belonging to Warden Abbey, appears in this parish. (fn. 44) In 1550 John Harding died seised of a messuage and land in Hill, leaving a daughter Cecilia as heir. (fn. 45) The relationship, if any, beween her and Cecilia wife of George Mordaunt, who in 1585 held 'the reputed manor of Hill,' has not been ascertained. About this date Cecilia and John Mordaunt conveyed the manor to Lewis Lord Mordaunt and his son Henry, (fn. 46) who sold it in 1604 to William, afterwards Sir William, Plomer, High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, who died seised of it in 1626. (fn. 47) His relative, William Plomer, in the following year conveyed it for £1,000 to Robert Palmer, whose son Sir William Palmer was knighted by Charles I in 1641. (fn. 48) He conveyed it to his son William in 1643 for £900, (fn. 49) and in 1713 Thomas, William's son, sold it to Sir George Byng, Lord High Admiral of England, who met with uniform success in his engagements with the Spanish fleet, notably off Cape Passaro in 1718. (fn. 50) Hill Manor remained in the possession of the Byng family, belonging in 1762 to George Viscount Torrington, grandson of Sir George Byng, who in that year suffered recovery, (fn. 51) but by 1824 it had passed to Robert third Lord Ongley, (fn. 52) owner of Old Warden Park, after which its identity as a manor has not been preserved, though its name survives to the present day in Hill Farm.
In 1086 Walter, styled 'monachus,' held half a hide of Azelina widow of Ralf Tallebosc, which was part of her marriage portion, but the holding does not reappear. (fn. 53)
During the first half of the 12th century Walter Espec founded WARDEN ABBEY, whose history has already been traced. (fn. 54) The abbey was surrendered in 1537, (fn. 55) when the clear value of the property at that time in its possession was estimated at £389 16s. 16½d. (fn. 56) In 1544 the site of the abbey, together with all lands within the precincts of the monastery, was leased to Robert Gostwick for forty-one years and bequeathed by him to his son William in 1562. (fn. 57) Other leases were granted in 1568 to Arthur Lord Gray of Wilton, in 1587–8 to Sir Charles Morrison, and in 1610 to John Eldred, and finally in 1628 the manor was granted to Edward Ditchfield and others, trustees for the Corporation of London, (fn. 58) from whom Sir Charles Morrison probably purchased the reversion in fee of his lease. The manor in 1652 was in the possession of his daughter Elizabeth's husband, Sir Arthur Capel. (fn. 59) He, who was an ardent Royalist, surrendered at Colchester and was beheaded 1648–9. (fn. 60) After his death his estate at Old Warden was sequestered for a year, (fn. 61) and in 1652 rents were levied on the tenants for two and a half years with arrears by the committee for compounding. (fn. 62) Before 1667–8 the estate had been sold. (fn. 63) In 1669 it was the seat of Sir Ralph Bovey, who died without issue in 1679. (fn. 64) About 1784 the site of the abbey and the abbey farm were acquired by Samuel Whitbread, (fn. 65) whose great-grandson, Samuel Whitbread, is the present owner.
A grange, known as PARK GRANGE, originally part of the Warden Abbey lands in this parish, has a separate descent after the Dissolution. It was one of the original clearings made by the monks of Warden Abbey and was enumerated in the list of granges in the woods in which they claimed free warren in 1252. (fn. 66) Park Grange was granted to the Princess Elizabeth in 1550 (fn. 67) and leased by her in 1555 to Anthony Lawe for a term of twenty-one years. No later specific mention of it has been found. The name still survives in Park Farm, belonging to Mr. Whitbread, and Park Wood, belonging to Col. Shuttleworth. (fn. 68)
In the 14th century the lords of Old Warden Manor claimed view of frankpledge (fn. 69) and a court baron held twice yearly in April and October. (fn. 70) The right of free warren was also attached to the manor. (fn. 71) In 1308 John de Bowels acquired the right to hold a market on Tuesday and a yearly fair of three days on St. Leonard's Day (5 to 7 November). (fn. 72) No mention has been found of this privilege after the 14th century. The Abbot of Warden claimed view of frankpledge and right of free warren in Old Warden (fn. 73) in the 14th century.
In 1086 there was a water-mill attached to the manor, (fn. 74) of which no later mention has been found.
It would appear from depositions taken in 1615 that during the reign of Mary and the early years of Elizabeth's reign there was intercommoning between the inhabitants of Old Warden and Hill, so that when George Mordaunt, owner of Hill, impounded cattle belonging to the inhabitants of Warden in Hill Field they were delivered without 'replevin.' He inclosed Hill Green about thirty years before, but the witness quaintly added, 'the inhabitants of Warden have put in their cattle by stealth sometimes.' There was a common pound in Hill called Hill Pound. (fn. 75)
The church of ST. LEONARD consists of a chancel 28 ft. 8 in. by 18 ft. 1 in., nave 40 ft. 9 in. by 21 ft. 5 in., south aisle 9 ft. 4 in., with south porch and west tower 10 ft. 11 in. by 11 ft. 3 in. The earliest part of the church is the tower, the lower part of which dates from the 12th century, and the north wall of the nave may be of the same date. In the second half of the 13th century the chancel was rebuilt and the north aisle added, but beyond this little is left to show the history of the building. The roofs of the chancel and nave are hipped at the east and are of very low pitch, and between modern repairs and patchings and an excessive amount of ivy the exterior of the church is quite uninteresting. The interior, however, is remarkable from the extraordinary woodwork with which it is crowded, set up some seventy years since by the Lord Ongley of the time. A good deal of 16th and 17th-century material is worked up into the seating, gallery and panelling—Italian, English and Flemish— but the bulk of the work is of modern date and the general effect can only be called oppressive. The roofs are treated in the same way, and the result entirely overpowers the effect of the mediaeval building. The chancel retains but little old work; the head of the large west window is 14th-century work, and so is that of the window over the south door. The chancel arch is of late 13th-century date, of three chamfered orders, and a round shaft with moulded capital to the inner order; and the south arcade of the nave, of three bays with octagonal pillars and moulded capitals, is of the same date.
The north wall of the nave is plastered and covered with ivy, and in it are three windows, two having 15th-century two-light tracery in 14th-century jambs; while the middle window of the three, consisting of three cinquefoiled lights, with a four-centred head and label, is apparently of the end of the 15th century. Between this window and that towards the west is a plain blocked 14th-century doorway.
At the east end of the south aisle is a late 15th-century window of three cinquefoiled lights, and at the south-east a square-headed 16th-century window of three uncusped lights, which has an unusually good external dripstone to its label, with carved foliage. The south doorway and porch are modern, the latter a pretentious piece of brick and plaster Gothic.
The west tower, which is almost entirely covered with ivy, is rendered in cement and crowned with an embattled parapet; the belfry windows are of 15th-century date, in two chamfered orders, with a pointed head and label, but without mullions or tracery. The lower part of the west wall has been rebuilt with a two-light window. The tower arch, which is semicircular, is cut square through the wall, and springs from a plain chamfered abacus, the keystone having on it sunk star ornament.
The font is much mutilated and patched; it has twelve sides and stands on a circular pedestal, and at each angle beneath the bowl of the font are the tops of plain round shafts; it stands by the western respond of the nave arcade, and may be 14th-century work.
The roof of the aisle dates from the 15th century; the timbers are moulded, but have been stained and varnished, and over the nave arcade are 15th-century corbels, carved with heads, that supported the braces of a previous roof, but otherwise the woodwork is as already noted.
South of the tower arch is the monument of Sir Samuel Ongley, 1726, in white marble, with two Corinthian pilasters supporting an arched pediment over a standing figure in Roman dress with a cherub on either side of the base, and there is a large modern monument of alabaster and white marble at the south-east of the nave to Caroline Shuttleworth.
The church of Old Warden formed part of the original endowment of Warden Abbey by Walter Spech, and was especially named in Stephen's confirmation of 1135, inspected in 1286. (fn. 76) William de Bussy confirmed the grant of his brother-in-law Walter, but in spite of that his grandchildren Cecily and Maud claimed half the advowson in 1199–1200, though the Abbot of Warden eventually secured seisin. (fn. 77) In 1291 the church was valued at £8 13s. 4d. (fn. 78) A licence of appropriation was granted to the abbey in 1376, when the church was stated to be worth 20 marks a year, beyond the stipend of a chaplain. (fn. 79) At the Dissolution in 1535 it was worth £12, (fn. 80) and passed into the hands of the Crown, by whom it appears to have been retained save for occasional grants till the 18th century, the last Crown presentation being made in 1727. (fn. 81) Sir William Smith presented in 1738 and 1739 and Smith King in 1770, (fn. 82) whilst in 1787 the advowson belonged to George Byng, fourth Lord Torrington, (fn. 83) who sold it in 1795 to Samuel Whitbread (who consolidated the vicarage of Old Warden with that of Southill). (fn. 84) The advowson remained in the possession of the Whitbread family (fn. 85) until about 1902, when it was purchased by Colonel Frank Shuttleworth, who is the present owner. (fn. 86)
WARDEN RECTORY was granted by Henry VIII to John Barnardiston with the exception of a close called Bromeclose and all large timber, at an annual rent of 3s. 4d. from the close, which were reserved to the Crown for a term of forty-five years at a rent of £12 a year, the reversion of this lease being granted in 1562 to Thomas Marbury (sergeant of the pantry to Queen Elizabeth), his wife Elizabeth and their son John for eighty years. (fn. 87) James I made a grant of Warden Rectory in 1612 to Francis Phillipps and Francis Morris to hold to them and their heirs in free socage for ever, (fn. 88) and their right in this estate descended by conveyance to Thomas Haselfoote (probably in 1631, when he secured a quitclaim from the descendants of Thomas Marbury). (fn. 89) He died in 1636, leaving his property to his sister Bridget Bridges, and after her to his nephew Thomas Bridges and his heirs, with contingent remainder in fee-tail to his nephew Haselfoote Bridges, his niece Elizabeth Bridges and his cousin William Haselfoote. (fn. 90) In 1662 Warden Rectory belonged to John Smyth and his wife Susanna, and was by them conveyed in that year to Charles Constable. (fn. 91) In 1719 James Duke of Chandos and Cassandra his wife gave up all claim to an annual rent from it of £12 to Sir Matthew Decker. (fn. 92) There is now, so far as can be ascertained, no lay rector, nor anyone receiving rectorial tithes from property in the parish. (fn. 93)
At the dissolution of the chantries the Fraternity of Blunham owned land worth 8d. yearly for a lamp and an obit. (fn. 94)
In 1615 it was matter of common report that there was anciently a chapel at Hill adjoining the 'chief house,' which was then used as the parlour. It was also said that in the church of Old Warden there was an 'Ile' called 'Hill Chappell' set apart solely for the inhabitants of the chief house of Hill. (fn. 95)
Lord Bolingbroke's charity.
An ancient annual payment was formerly received from the lords of the manor out of lands belonging to the Bolingbroke family in respect of a sum of £150 charged thereon. The trust fund now consists of £159 11s. 6d. consols, held by the official trustees, producing £3 19s. 8d. a year, which in 1906 was applied in the payment of 2s. to forty persons by way of bonus to a blanket club.
The Charity Estate and Edward Peake's charity, the trusts whereof were declared by deed of feoffment, dated 4 November 1650, consisted of 1 a. 0 r. 7 p. on the south side of the village street and three cottages thereon, a house formerly used as a workhouse, and a building used as a schoolroom. In 1876 the trust property was sold for £700, which together with £80 accumulated income was invested in £814 14s. 7d. consols with the official trustees, producing £20 7s. 4d. a year. In 1906 ten widows received £1 each, seven old men and women £1 each, and the balance was divided among six large and poor families.