A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Millbrook, on account of its situation, lying as it does on a range of hills which intersect the parish, whose slopes are covered with woodlands, has been described as one of the most beautiful villages in England. It stands about 360 ft. above ordnance datum, and at its southern end, near Warren Farm, a magnificent view can be obtained of the surrounding country. The land slopes away to the north, where the vale of Bedford begins and falls to 200 ft.
The parish comprises an area of 1,783 acres, of which 373 are arable lands, 595 are in permanent grass, whilst woods and plantations cover 225 acres. (fn. 1) The soil is chiefly of a light sandy nature, though on the north side of the village it changes in places to a strong clay, which is worked in pits. The whole of the subsoil is sand.
Both the Midland and North Western railways run through the parish, the nearest station being Ampthill, 1 mile distant, on the former railway; Millbrook station, 1½ miles away, on the North Western line, is in Marston Moretaine parish.
Nearly three-quarters of a mile to the north of the village, upon the brook from which it takes its name, a water-mill formerly stood. The mill was demolished in the lifetime of the last owner, who died about the year 1840. Indentations in the ground give distinct evidence of the site of this mill and of an adjoining farm, which has also disappeared. An avenue of elm trees still marks the position of the entrance drive. Local tradition also records the existence of a windmill upon the top of one of the low hills to the northward.
The position of the church is very peculiar: it stands alone on an eminence said to be the original site of the cell of St. Albans, founded by Nigel de Wast, (fn. 2) which was afterwards moved to Moddry and amalgamated with Beaulieu Priory. Below the church lies a tree-clad valley, which tradition assigns as the spot pictured by Bunyan for his Valley of the Shadow of Death. (fn. 3) From the top of the church tower an extensive view can on a clear day be obtained across the vale of Bedford.
On three pillars placed against the western wall of the church are busts of Lord Holland, his wife and their daughter, who all three lie buried here. On the death of John Earl of Upper Ossory, which occurred in 1818, Lord Holland, who was his nephew, succeeded to the estate of Ampthill, which is situated in the next parish. Lord Holland was son of Stephen Fox, the second lord, by his wife Mary daughter of John first Earl of Upper Ossory, who died in 1751; consequently he was nephew of the great Whig statesman, Charles James Fox, from whom he imbibed those political principles which he was not ashamed to advocate both in and out of Parliament, for Lord Holland was ever the true friend of liberty and peace. (fn. 4)
Another celebrated person who lies buried at Millbrook is Allen, the man of letters, who lived with Lord and Lady Holland. He was one of that illustrious group of literary men who comprised what was then known as the 'Holland House set,' and which included Lord Byron, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Samuel Rogers and Lord Macaulay.
Formerly the women of the parish used to be employed in lace-making, but now this village industry has died out. (fn. 5)
Millbrook gave a title to Sir John Cornwall, K.G., who owned the manor in the 15th century, and in 1442 (fn. 6) was created Baron Millbrook. His arms, with the insignia of the Order of the Garter, still remain in one of the windows in the north wall of the church.
Amongst place-names are the following:—'Great Johnstones alias Shorte Wood, at Kembrach,' 'Lyemede a close in Falway,' Herdon Field, Courtfield, Fordeperor, all found in the 17th century. (fn. 7)
The parish was inclosed by a Private Act of Parliament in 1795. (fn. 8)
The earliest mention of the manor is to be found in the Domesday Survey, where it is stated that Nigel de Wast held it of Nigel de Albini; it was assessed at 5 hides, worth £3. (fn. 11) The manor follows the same descent as that of Ampthill (q.v.). On the death of Robert de Albini, circa 1233, this manor became divided, part passing to Azeline sister of Robert de Albini and wife of Ralph de St. Amand and part to Isabel wife of William de Hocton. (fn. 12)
Dealing first with Millbrook Manor, which passed to Azeline, it is found that her son Almeric, who held in chief of the king by the service of one knight's fee, (fn. 13) had a gallows, a market and assize of bread and ale in this parish in 1275. Almaric de St. Amand was succeeded by his brother John in 1311, (fn. 14) who, besides enjoying the privileges already mentioned, had the tolls of a fair which was held on St. Mary Magdalene's Day, 22 July. (fn. 15) His son Almaric, then aged sixteen years, succeeded him in 1330, and in 1343 he obtained licence from the king to increase his property in this parish by the exchange of half of the manor of Warden with the Abbot of Warden for the abbot's property in Millbrook. (fn. 16) In 1377 a further exchange was made between Almaric de St. Amand, grandson of the earlier Almaric, and Warden. This time the abbot exchanged land at Millbrook for land in Lower Winchendon in Buckinghamshire. (fn. 17) Almaric de St. Amand died in 1381, (fn. 18) being succeeded by his son Almaric, during whose tenure of the manor a grant was made to Sir Robert de Shottesbroke, probably as feoffee in trust. (fn. 19) With the death of this Almaric in 1403 the family of St. Amand came to an end in the male line, and Millbrook Manor passed to Gerard de Braybrook, whose father Gerard had married Eleanor daughter of Lord St. Amand. (fn. 20) As Gerard de Braybrook was only ten years old at the time of his grandfather's death, the estate was placed in the hands of trustees, one of whom was Henry (Chicheley) Archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 21) From Gerard de Braybrook the manor passed to his daughter Elizabeth, who married Sir Walter Beauchamp, by whom she had a son William, who in conjunction with his mother alienated the manor to Sir John Cornwall (fn. 22) some time previous to 1428, in which year he had succeeded the heirs of St. Amand in Millbrook. (fn. 23) This distinguished soldier was great-grandson of Sir Geoffrey de Cornewall by his wife the heiress of the Mortimers, Barons of Burford, (fn. 24) and was created successively Baron Fanhope in 1433 (fn. 25) and Lord Millbrook in 1442. (fn. 26) He had already acquired that property in Millbrook which represented Isabel Albini's share of her brother's estate, so that now the two portions once more became united under one lord. Its history here follows the same descent as that of Ampthill (q.v.) until its acquisition by the Crown circa 1524, and was attached to the honour of Ampthill on its creation in 1542. (fn. 27) Millbrook Manor formed part of the dower of Henrietta Maria, queen of Charles I, (fn. 28) and an extent of it exists taken in 1649. There was then no manor-house, and the court was held at Ampthill. The rents of assize, of free and copyhold land and royalties, amounted to £25 11s. 4d.; Millbrook Warren, stocked with game and conies, contained 450 acres, and was sublet by the Crown lessees at a rent of £30; the tenants and freeholders within the manor claimed to have common upon the said warren. A heriot of the best beast was paid by every tenant to the lord of the manor. (fn. 29)
Charles II in 1677 granted a lease of the manor for ninety-nine years to Robert Bruce Earl of Ailesbury, (fn. 30) who in the lifetime of his father Thomas Lord Bruce had been appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire. He represented the county in both the Long Parliament and the Convention Parliament, and after the Restoration held various appointments in the king's household. (fn. 31) He died in 1685.
A lease of the honour of Ampthill in which Millbrook was included was granted on 12 January 1771 to John fourth Duke of Bedford, but he died three days later, and it was not until 11 February 1773 that the lease was renewed to his widow Gertrude Duchess of Bedford in trust. (fn. 32)
Lysons (ed. 1806) says that in his time the lease was vested in the Earl of Upper Ossory, in consequence of an exchange with the Duke of Bedford. (fn. 33) This manor henceforward follows the same descent as that of Ampthill (q.v.), passing back to the Dukes of Bedford in 1842 by purchase from Lord Holland's devisees. (fn. 34)
The other moiety of Millbrook Manor passed, on the death of Robert de Albini, to his sister Isabel, and follows the same descent as that portion of Clophill and Cainhoe Manor (q.v.) which she then acquired until 1364. (fn. 35) Between this date and 1428 it was acquired by Sir John Cornwall, who also owned the other moiety of the manor with which its history is henceforward identical. (fn. 36)
In 1346 Peter de St. Croix held a fourth part of this manor of the king by the service of half a knight's fee and finding an armed man for the army in Scotland for forty days, at the cost of the tenant, when required by the king. (fn. 37) During the time Peter de St. Croix held the manor this part of the county was visited by the Black Death, of which he was probably a victim, for his inquisition post mortem is taken in 1349, and states that all the bondmen and cottars were dead of the pestilence and his son and heir Robert died a few months later. (fn. 38)
The little priory of Beaulieu (de Bello Loco) at Moddry (fn. 39) owned land at Millbrook, where originally a small cell had been founded by Nigel de Wast— as a cell of St. Albans—towards the close of the 11th century, (fn. 40) but when Beaulieu was founded, circa 1140, as a cell of St. Albans (fn. 41) the two cells (Beaulieu and Millbrook) were amalgamated and the monks of Millbrook were transferred to Beaulieu (fn. 42); but this priory was never an important one, and was eventually suppressed in 1428 (fn. 43) on account of its poverty, when the mother-house leased it to secular priests and assigned its property in Millbrook and elsewhere to Sir John Cornwall 'for his life and that of his heirs at a quit rent of £10.' (fn. 44)
During the time of its existence the prior had a grant of free warren, in 1293, in all his demesne lands at Millbrook (fn. 45); but his estate there could not have been a large one, as at the commencement of the 14th century he was returned as holding the sixth part of one-half fee, and this included not only the Millbrook property, but also that at Clophill. (fn. 46)
In 1287 the Knights Templars owned MILLBROOK MANOR, in which they claimed view of frankpledge twice yearly by charter of Henry III. It was at this date assessed at 3 carucates. (fn. 47) On the suppression of the Templars by Pope Clement V this property, like most of the estates of the Templars, passed to the Knights Hospitallers. (fn. 48) In 1337 it was said to comprise 2 carucates of land, 20 acres of meadow and 10 acres of woodland. (fn. 49) At the Dissolution it became the property of the Crown, who already owned land in Millbrook, and was granted almost immediately to Sir Richard Longe, who acquired at the same time most of the Hospitallers' lands, including Clifton Manor, in this county. (fn. 50) Like that manor, his lands in Millbrook are included in his marriage settlement on Margaret Kitson in 1541. (fn. 51) During his tenure also John Clark and others were accused by him of entering into and depasturing his lands called Nethertemple (fn. 52); but no further mention has been found of this property.
The Cistercian abbey of Warden owned property in this parish, the earliest mention of which is in a confirmation by Edward I of a charter of Richard I, who granted a grange at Millbrook in perpetual alms to the abbey of Warden. (fn. 53) This property the abbey, as before-mentioned, exchanged with Almaric de St. Amand. (fn. 54) During the time the abbey owned land at Millbrook the abbot had the grant of a free warren on his property there. (fn. 55)
A blocked 13th-century lancet in the south wall of the south aisle is the oldest feature visible, the south arcade being circa 1340; it may have been moved out from the wall of an aisleless nave. The north aisle was added in the 15th century, and the tower is of the same time; the chancel has been entirely rebuilt during the last century, and the whole church has undergone much restoration.
The chancel has a 15th-century three-light east window, and in the north wall is a single cinquefoiled light under a 15th-century square head; there is a modern window of the same kind in the south wall and a modern priest's doorway.
The north arcade of the nave is of three bays, having octagonal shafts with moulded capitals and bases, and to the east of it is a pointed opening leading into the aisle; the south arcade is of a similar description, but the details show its date to be circa 1340. Above each arcade is a range of three modern clearstory windows, each of two cinquefoiled lights. The tower arch is in three orders, with capitals like those of the north arcade. The nave roof is entirely modern.
The north aisle has an east window of two cinquefoiled lights under a square head, and in the north wall are two 15th-century three-light windows, much restored; there is a blocked north doorway of the same date. In the north-east angle of the aisle is a 15th-century canopied niche, and there is a cinquefoiled piscina, the basin of which has disappeared.
The south aisle has a restored 15th-century east window of two cinquefoiled lights under a square head, and the south doorway is of the same period. A little to the east of it is a narrow blocked 13th-century window, and next to it a modern three-light window. The south porch is modern, and to the west of it is a three-light window, a few stones of its tracery being of 15th-century date.
The tower is built of rubble in three stages, with an embattled parapet, high plinth and buttresses to the two lower stages. There is a modern west window of three cinquefoiled lights, and the belfry windows are also modern of two cinquefoiled lights.
On the north wall of the chancel is a panel between two pilasters ornamented with arabesque work, and on it is an inscription to William Huett and his wife Mary, who died in 1602. In the north aisle is an inscription painted on canvas to George Lawson, rector, who died in 1684; he had been 'imployed by the Rt Honble the Earl of Ailisbury in severall messages in order to the King's restauration.'
The registers previous to 1812 are in eight books: (1) all entries 1558 to 1650; (2) 1653 to 1689; (3) 1689 to 1704; (4) 1705 to 1739; (5) baptisms and burials 1740 to 1812; (6) marriages 1740 to 1754; (7) marriages 1756 to 1800; and (8) marriages 1801 to 1812. The registers for 1651 and 1652 are on the cover of the first book and are illegible.
The earliest mention of the church at Millbrook is in the foundation charter of the priory of Beaulieu, to whom was granted the right of presentation to the living, (fn. 56) and with whom it remained till the suppression of the priory in 1435. (fn. 57) By 1443 it had passed to Sir John Cornwall, (fn. 58) and henceforward follows the same descent as the manor (q.v.).
Charity of Arthur Wichalse (see under Maulden).
Under the Inclosure Act, 1796, a cottage and half an acre adjoining were allotted to the churchwarden and overseer for the use and benefit of the poor in exchange with Lord Upper Ossory for a cottage and garden settled upon the like trusts by deed, 15 April 1701. The cottages erected thereon were occupied by the poor rent free.
In 1842 John Allen by deed granted two fee-farm rents of £4 and £2, charged upon certain lands then the estate of Lord Holland, upon trust for providing shoes, petticoats and other articles of dress to ten poor girls under the age of ten years, the distribution to be made in church before the tomb of the Hon. Georgina Fox, the charity to be called Georgina Fox's Charity.
The fuel allotment consists of 8 acres known as The Moors, allotted to the poor on the inclosure in 1803 in compensation for any ancient usage in cutting peat or turf. The land is let at an annual rent of £13, which is applied in the distribution of coal.