A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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The parish of Lidlington has an area of 2,544 acres, of which 888¾ acres are arable, 1,316¼ permanent grass and 51 acres woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The southern boundary of the parish is coincident with the parliamentary county division boundary. The soil is sand, gravel and clay, the former of which is worked in the large pit to the south of the village. The chief crops are wheat, oats, barley, beans, peas and roots, and the inhabitants are principally engaged in agriculture, though some of the women make lace.
The land to the south and east of the parish reaches an elevation of over 400 ft., but it falls away sharply to the north, where there is a stretch of flat country not rising much above 150 ft., formed by the Vale, Lower End and Common Farms.
The village is situated at the foot of a steep hill along the road running north to Marston Moretaine, and has a station on the Bedford branch of the London and North-Western railway. It is remarkably compact in form, the northern end forming a square, on the south side of which are some modern brick and slate cottages with the Primitive Methodist chapel. On the north and east are half-timber work and thatched cottages, while at the south-east corner is the modern church given by the ninth Duke of Bedford in 1886.
The old church, which is now used for burial purposes only, stands in a prettily wooded churchyard on rising ground on the opposite side of the main road, and is approached by a winding path planted on either side with trees. A short way up the hill on the west side of the main road is the parish room, a daub and wattle structure with a thatch roof. It was formerly two cottages, and is of similar design to many of the cottages in Ampthill and Ridgmont erected by the fifth Duke of Bedford, some of which bear the date 1799. Opposite to it stands the Wesleyan chapel, and the road continues to the scattered hamlet of Boughton End, about half a mile further south.
Directly to the north of the village is Thrupp End, where traces of an extensive moat exist. Two other moats are to be seen in the parish—one round Lower End Farm, the other at a point midway between the latter and Vale Farm.
The following place-names are worthy of notice. Syrloklond and Tolyeshey in the 13th century. Berefield, Clanders, Claycroft, Sundon, Westwood and Longe Course were known to witnesses in a Chancery inquisition in 1612 (fn. 2) as being part of common fields granted by Henry VIII to the inhabitants of Lidlington. (fn. 3) Again, in a survey of the manor of Lidlington in the next year, (fn. 4) it is stated that 'there is an auntient comon called Westwoodd … which was for the most part taken into Broughberrowe in the time of Henry VIII.' Berriefield and Clunders also fared similarly with Westwood. In connexion with Berryfield it is interesting to find that in 1535 the manor of Lidlington was known by the alias le Berested. (fn. 5) These 'common lands,' which in 1612 had an area of 200 acres, (fn. 6) now remain in the names of North Common and Common Farm. In the above-mentioned survey the following places throw light on the past life of the parish. A cottage called 'Whyte's'; messuages called 'Barkers,' 'Meggmeade,' 'Greenewick,' and 'Balles'; yard-lands called 'Balles,' 'Fryars' and 'Goslands.' (fn. 7) Again, in the extent of Combe Park, 'vulgarly called Litlington,' in 1627–8 we find the Meadowe Lawn, the Horse Close, Church Lawn, Bowlinge Leas, Haydon Hill, Fallowhill, Coningse Corner, Foxborough Hill, and Hallow Bottome. (fn. 8) In 1637 mention is made of Throp or Thruppe End, Battles End, Fryers, Church End and Bowden End. (fn. 9) The last is clearly discernible in the modern Broughton End, to the south of the village.
In the Survey of 1086 only one mention is found of Lidlington, when the Abbess of Barking held LIDLINGTON MANOR. It was assessed at 10 hides and was worth £8. (fn. 10) She continued to hold the manor till the surrender of all estates by Barking Abbey in 1537. (fn. 11) By the time of Edward I the whole of the vill was in her fee; she held a view of frankpledge once a year, without service to the king, (fn. 12) and she had also the right of free warren. (fn. 13) In 1330 it was proved that, though she held a view, she had no pillory, as was demanded by law. (fn. 14) In 1291 her manor was valued at £17 12s. 11d., (fn. 15) a very considerable sum at that date. Two years before the Dissolution the manor was leased to William Carewrike, (fn. 16) and in 1537 Dorothy Barleigh, the last Abbess of Barking, surrendered to the Crown her estates, (fn. 17) amongst which was Lidlington. It remained in the possession of the Crown for over ninety years, (fn. 18) being in 1541 made parcel of the honour of Ampthill. (fn. 19) In 1628–9 the manor was granted to Edward Ditchfield, (fn. 20) and within the next seven years had been purchased by Sir Anthony Chester, first baronet. (fn. 21) It was then held by nine members of his family in succession, until in 1769 (fn. 22) it was sold by Sir Anthony, the ninth baronet, to Isaac Hawkins. (fn. 23) The latter in 1774 conveyed it to the Earl of Upper Ossory, (fn. 24) and in 1801, by an exchange with the Duke of Bedford, the manor became the property of the duke's family, (fn. 25) in whose possession it now is.
A second manor in Lidlington was known as GOLDINGTONS MANOR, of which the site is marked at the present day by Thrupp End Farm. This manor also was held of the Abbess of Barking, and its earliest traces appear in 1415–16. (fn. 26) In that year it was proved that John Goldington of Lidlington held two messuages and 2 carucates of land of the abbess, valued at £10. No earlier evidence can be found that the Goldingtons held lands in this parish before this date. The family was undoubtedly holding these lands till we have a definite mention of the manor in 1521, (fn. 27) for in Lidlington Church there is a memorial tablet (fn. 28) of William Goldington and his family dated 149-. In 1503–4 his son Thomas Goldington held land in Lidlington to the value of 10 marks. (fn. 29) In 1521 it was held of the Abbess of Barking by Richard Decons, (fn. 30) whose son, Thomas Decons or Dycons, succeeded him in that year and held it still in 1548. (fn. 31) Eleven years later it was in the hands of his son and namesake. (fn. 32) Elizabeth, the daughter of this Thomas, in 1572 married Thomas Snagge of Marston Moretaine. Elizabeth's husband was Attorney-General for Ireland from 1578 to 1582 and Speaker of the House of Commons in 1588–9. (fn. 33) Their eldest son was knighted (fn. 34) and was high sheriff of the county in 1607. (fn. 35) A later Thomas Snagge was sheriff in 1665. (fn. 36) The family of Snagge continued to hold the manor, (fn. 37) which in 1737 was in the hands of Edward Snagge (fn. 38) of Marston Moretaine, who before his death in 1739 sold it to Sarah Duchess of Marlborough, from whom it passed by will to her grandson John Spencer. (fn. 39) By 1775 it had come into the possession of John second Earl Spencer, who continued to hold it four years later. Thrupp End Farm is now in the occupation of Mr. R. W. Inwards. The site of the ancient manor can still be distinctly traced in a field near Lidlington station.
There is still in existence an interesting letter, dated from Lidlington (fn. 40) 5 March 1665, from which the following is an extract:—
There being now a person condemned in Bedford Goall [it runs] for unfortunately striking a tobacco pipe into ye eye Brow of a Man who is since Dead, And ye person prosecuted by one sole witness …, And since Sentence passt, A Gentlewoman Surgeon of sound Judgment and good repute, has been before severall Justices of ye County, (being much troubled in mind she was not call'd to the Barr to give in her evidence) which she is since ready to attest on oath, that she first dresst the person of his wound, and soe continued her care of him to ye Last, and that the wounded person dyed noe more of that wound then of a Cutt finger.
The old church of ST. MARGARET is now in a ruinous condition and disused, and is of no interest architecturally, consisting of a classic nave about 31 ft. long by 25 ft. wide, a chancel about the same length and 16 ft. wide, built of yellow brick with windows of 15th-century style, and a west tower 8½ ft. square, dated 1809.
There is a fine brass in the chancel to William Goldington, 149-, with effigies of himself and his wife. There is an inscription—part of which is missing—round the stone having symbols of the Evangelists at the corners, and beneath the effigies are smaller brasses of two sons and four daughters. At the corners were four shields: (1) and (4) on a bend three fleurs de lis; (2) now gone; and (3) same impaling Party palewise in sinister chief a quarter charged with two stags' heads caboshed.
The registers before 1812 are in six books, containing: (1) all entries 1564 to 1639; (2) the same, 1653 to 1706, burials ceasing in 1677; (3) burials 1678 to 1754; (4) all entries 1705 to 1767, marriages ceasing in 1754; (5) baptisms and burials 1767 to 1812; and (6) printed marriages 1754 to 1812.
There appears to be little doubt that Lidlington Church belonged to Barking Abbey, which owned the whole parish from before the Survey down to the Dissolution. No definite mention of it in connexion with the abbey has been found, however, previous to 1409–10, in which year the abbess, to whom the patronage is stated to belong, received a licence to appropriate the rectory. (fn. 41) Barking Abbey retained the advowson till the Dissolution, when the living, which is a vicarage, became Crown property. (fn. 42) The right of presentation was exercised by the Crown certainly as late as 1641, (fn. 43) but early in the 18th century had passed to Sir John Chester, lord of Lidlington Manor, (fn. 44) and has since followed the same descent as that manor (q.v.). (fn. 45)
Lidlington rectory was appropriated to Barking Abbey in 1409–10, (fn. 46) and followed the same descent as the advowson (q.v.) down to the Dissolution. In 1543 it was leased by the Crown to Thomas Griffin, (fn. 47) and in 1559–60 sold to Richard Champion, an alderman of London, and John Thompson. (fn. 48) By 1558 it had passed to Thomas Lillingston, (fn. 49) who in 1609 conveyed the rectory by fine to Roger Hacket, Doctor of Theology. (fn. 50) He did not long retain it, for in 1621 (fn. 51) it was the subject of an alienation by fine from Robert Fountain and Katherine his wife to Richard Jones, the latter having married Dr. Hacket's eldest daughter. (fn. 52) It remained in the latter's family until 1716, (fn. 53) in which year Charles Jones suffered a recovery of Lidlington Rectory. (fn. 54) Three years later it was in the hands of Sir John Chester, (fn. 55) lord of Lidlington Manor (q.v.), and henceforward follows the descent of the latter. In 1775, (fn. 56) at the time of the Inclosure Award, the tithes, then the possession of the Earl of Upper Ossory, were commuted. (fn. 57)
In 1624 Thomas Johnson by deed granted to trustees an annuity of £16 issuing out of a mill and mill-house at Eaton Bray and closes adjoining containing 8 acres or thereabouts, to be applied in education, clothing, and for the benefit of poor aged men and women attending church on certain days.
The trustees became possessed as owners of the property charged, which is now let at £45 a year. The charity is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 15 October 1881, one moiety of the net income, after deducting £1 6s. 8d. for sermons, being applicable for educational purposes and the other moiety for eleemosynary purposes. In 1909 £1 6s. 8d. was paid to the vicar, £9 10s. in respect of school children's money, £11 8s. in coals, and £10 11s. 9d. in drapery, coats and hats, and in making of gowns for poor women.
See article on 'Schools.' (fn. 58)