A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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Segenehon (xi cent.); Segenho cum Rugemound, Ridgmont (xiv–xviii cent.); Rydgemounde-cumSegenow (xvi cent.); Brakebergh (xiii cent.); Brockeborowe (xiv–xvi cent.); Brogborough (xvi–xvii cent.); Bekeryng (xiv cent.).
The parish of Ridgmont has an area of 2,308 acres, of which only about one twenty-fourth is taken up by woods and plantations, while the remainder is almost equally divided between arable and permanent grass. (fn. 1) The soil is part sand, part clay, with a subsoil of sand and clay. The chief crops are wheat, barley and beans.
The land is well over 350 ft. above the ordnance datum in the north and south, but slopes to 266 ft. in the valley which crosses the centre of the parish. The Bedford branch of the London and North-Western railway runs through the parish; the station of Ridgmont is just over the boundary in Husborne Crawley.
The village of Ridgmont lies on high ground 400 ft. above the ordnance datum in the south of the parish, near the north gate of Woburn Park. With the exception of its castle, Ridgmont has only come to the fore in comparatively recent years: the parish was generally known as Segenhoe or Ridgmondcum-Segenhoe (usually the former) before the 18th century.
The ancient church of Segenhoe stands apart in the south of the village, and is reached by a path which skirts the park surrounding Segenhoe Manor. The church is now used only as a mortuary chapel, as the modern church of Ridgmont has no graveyard.
Ridgmont is built along the high road from Ampthill to Leighton Buzzard. At the northern entrance is a Wesleyan Methodist chapel erected in 1853, and at the Woburn Park end is a Baptist chapel with the date 1811 upon a stuccoed front, which evidently dates from comparatively recent years. The buildings of the Bedford Agricultural Institute (known also as the Ridgmont School Farm) abut upon the high road at about the middle of its course through the village. This Institute was founded by the Bedford County Council in the year 1896, and courses for men and women are given in the winter and summer respectively. There are some thatched cottages erected here in 1799 by the fifth Duke of Bedford, two of which have been thrown together to form a parish hall.
A short distance to the north-east of the village is Beckerings Park Farm, a 17th-century building with later additions. Fox is said to have preached here. Adjoining is Beckering Manor Farm. There are distinct traces of the moat which must have originally encircled the former manor-house of the Beckerings.
Just to the west of Brogborough Hill, at an elevation of 300 ft., is Brogborough Park Farm, locally known as Brogborough Round House. It is a square brick house with a central chimney stack and large windows with central mullions and transoms of stone, dating apparently from the first half of the 17th century. The exterior is in a fine state of preservation, but nothing noteworthy remains of the interior. East of the house and adjacent to the earthworks marking the site of the castle Roman remains have been found at various times. (fn. 2)
The priory of Dunstable was a large owner of property in the parish, and it may be inferred that the convent was not beloved in the neighbourhood, for in 1234, upon the prior's acquiring a small portion of land in Segenhoe, 'a quarrel arose and some wounds were received.' The prior's men retaliated by damaging buildings in the neighbourhood, 'for which reason,' the chronicler complains, 'about forty of our establishment were summoned for robbery and for breaking of the peace.' (fn. 3) Again in 1264, 'twenty men and more, with arms and horses, broke into the house of the prior and of Henry de Nortwode his friend, and of William Bevan (Beywin). And whatever they found they carried off. On being pursued by the hue and cry of all the country, seventeen of them were taken near Beaulieu on the same day, with all their spoils. But these the prior foolishly allowed to go away.' (fn. 4)
In 1279 there is an entry to the effect that the 'hall' of the prior at Segenhoe with the solar annexed was burnt. (fn. 5) In the light of the two preceding episodes it seems more than likely that the cause of the fire was other than Providence. In 1246 a case of serious trespass had been committed in Segenhoe by the prior's men, (fn. 6) a state of things which, judging by the episode of 1264, was probably becoming chronic.
Besides these 13th-century scenes, the parish books of Ridgmont will prove of interest. Thus in 1617 one Thomas Glenister was to be cited 'for usually sleeping in service tyme at Ridgmond.' (fn. 7) At this period also 'they have not a sufficient churche bible' in the parish. (fn. 8) In 1605 there had been 'two notified recusants in Ridgmont,' (fn. 9) and in 1700 'there were born this yeare eight males and two females, and buryed ten' (fn. 10) in the parish.
Ridgmont parish is peculiarly lacking in interesting field or place-names. We find two mentions of 'Brogborough Pastures' in the 16th century, (fn. 11) in connexion with which was Hercothe Gate. (fn. 12) These were held by Thomas Stone in 1607 at a valuation of £200. (fn. 13) Again in 1578 a complaint was lodged about the ownership of 'Ladie Close' and 'Mixhulls.' (fn. 14) Great, Long and Little Chaltons, Calffields and Coughfields are mentioned, too, at this period. (fn. 15) The only interesting document in connexion with these place-names is one in which 'the extent of the hamlet of Ridgmont' is given, dated 1606. It is described as 'beginning at Brayne Corner to the King's Way leading to Crawley, by the Park, for one mile: and then to Darkland for one mile: then to Wintroe Corner for one mile; then to the Park of Sir Thomas Snagge for one mile: then to Crosse Ash for one mile to the gate in the meadow of — Stanton, gent., for one mile.' (fn. 16) In the next year 'the vicar's House' (fn. 17) is mentioned, and a little later a messuage called 'Tilcocks.' (fn. 18)
To the east of Brogborough Park Farm well-defined earthworks consisting of mound, fosse and outworks mark the site of RUGEMONT CASTLE. (fn. 19) This castle was the stronghold of the de Greys and their predecessors the Wahulls in this parish, but no mention of it has been found before the 12th century. (fn. 20) In 1276 Walter Beywin is described as holding 7 selions 'above the castle of Rugemont.' (fn. 21) Extents of Brogborough Manor, to which it appears to have been attached, contain no mention of it, though it may have been the 'capital messuage' found in earlier accounts of the manor. (fn. 22) Cromwell is said to have slept at Brogborough during the Civil War and to have made use of the entrenchments to repulse an attack of the Royalist troops. (fn. 23)
In the Domesday Survey it is entered that Walter the brother of Seiher holds Segenhoe, assessed at 10 hides, at a value of £6. This 10-hide manor includes the manors which were ultimately formed in the parish. It was parcel of the barony of Wahull, (fn. 24) and the principal manor proceeding from it was BROGBOROUGH MANOR. The first mention of this manor as distinct from the 10-hide manor of Domesday is in 1311. (fn. 25) Previous to this Brogborough is described as a hamlet, though it included a capital messuage, pleas and perquisites of court and rents of assize (fn. 26); but now it is definitely stated that John de Grey held the manor, (fn. 27) which follows the same descent as Wrest (q.v.) until the 15th century. (fn. 28) In 1388 it was proved to be worth £24. (fn. 29) In 1524 the manor became Crown property, and some years later was annexed to the honour of Ampthill, (fn. 30) and remained in the possession of the Crown for some time. In 1530 William Brown was appointed bailiff. (fn. 31) In 1564 part of the park was leased to Peter Gray for a certain term of years. (fn. 32) In 1628 the manor was finally alienated from the Crown, and was granted to Edward Ditchfield and others, trustees for the Corporation of London. (fn. 33) They sold Brogborough Manor previous to 1676, in which year it belonged to John Stone, (fn. 34) who suffered a recovery of the manor in 1703. (fn. 35) It was about this time that the Stones sold their property to Ralph Radcliffe, (fn. 36) who suffered a recovery of the manor in 1728. (fn. 37) The family of Radcliffe were still holding in 1801, (fn. 38) and in 1825 Henry Delmé Radcliffe was in possession. (fn. 39) In 1828 this property was sold to the Duke of Bedford. (fn. 40)
Standing back about 200 yds. on the west side of the road from Marston Moretaine to Husborne Crawley, on a hill to the north of the crossing of the road from Ridgmont to Holcot, is Brogborough Manor House, a late 17th-century brick building having a tile roof and now used as a farm-house. The house faces north and south and is symmetrically planned, taking the form of a rectangle on the ground floor. The rooms are grouped round a large central staircase having moulded and twisted balusters, which is approached through central vestibules from the front and the back. On either side of the front vestibule are living rooms which adjoin the staircase. On the west is a large kitchen and on the east another living room. At the back of the staircase is a passage leading to another kitchen, on the west a lavatory, and a pantry being to the east. The fireplaces are placed across the corners of the rooms against the east and west external walls, and are carried up in two brick stacks having copings of the same material. The elevations were designed with the same regard to symmetry as is shown in the plan; the windows were originally divided by wood transoms or mullions and filled in with iron casements, but in most cases wooden casements have been substituted, while in many instances the windows themselves have been bricked up.
A second manor in this parish is that of SEGENHOE or SEGENHOE-CUM-RIDGMONTMANOR, which belonged to Dunstable Priory and probably originated in the grant made in 1189 of the church of Segenhoe by Simon de Wahul to the Prior and convent of Dunstable. (fn. 41) Smaller grants of land made during this and the ensuing century (fn. 42) helped to form the manor. By 1283 the prior was holding a court at Ridgmont. (fn. 43) At this time the manor was reckoned as being 3 carucates, (fn. 44) and the lord had the right of free warren in Segenhoe. (fn. 45) After the Dissolution the manor was granted in 1566 to Peter Gray, (fn. 46) who still held it ten years later. (fn. 47) By the end of the century it had come into the possession of the Stone family, (fn. 48) for in 1593 William Stone died seised of it, (fn. 49) and in the following year his son Richard suffered a recovery of it. (fn. 50) Richard died in 1611, his eldest son and namesake inheriting his father's property. (fn. 51) This was conveyed about the time of the Restoration to Elizabeth Dodsworth, (fn. 52) in whose family the property remained (fn. 53) till they sold their estates, about 1667–70, to Francis Lowe. (fn. 54) In 1747 Thomas Potter, M.P., acquired this estate by marriage with the daughter of Francis Lowe, a descendant of the above. (fn. 55) One of the daughters by this marriage married Malcolm MacQueen, M.D., who succeeded in 1759, on Thomas Potter's death, to the family estates. (fn. 56) In 1829 Dr. MacQueen was still in possession of the manor, (fn. 57) which was sold in 1833 by the trustees of T. Potter MacQueen to the Duke of Bedford. (fn. 58)
A third manor in this parish was BEVANS MANOR. It was held as of the barony of Wahull of the De Greys. The manor undoubtedly derived its name from the family of Bevan (Bevin, Beywin or Beyum), a member of which, named Richard, in the middle of the 13th century, held one-seventh and one-twelfth of one knight's fee. (fn. 59) Part of this property, described as land above the castle of Ridgmont, was held in 1276 by Walter, (fn. 60) then by William, (fn. 61) and in 1346 by Thomas Bevan. (fn. 62) This land reappears in 1593, when William Stone, who also held Segenhoe Manor (q.v.), died seised of two-thirds of Bevans Manor, (fn. 63) which follows the same descent as Segenhoe (q.v.) till 1738, (fn. 64) in which year it was the property of Simon Taylor, (fn. 65) who suffered a recovery of it in 1772. (fn. 66) By 1801, however, the manor was again following the same descent as that of Segenhoe (fn. 67) (q.v.), and was finally absorbed in the greater holding. (fn. 68)
Much akin to the history of Bevans Manor is that of BECKERINGS PARK. Though never a manor, like the former, it owes its origin to a grant by the de Greys, and was held of the barony of Wahull. Before the middle of the 14th century Reginald de Grey had granted John de Bekering one-fifth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 69) No further mention of the family is to be found, and this property appears to have returned to the Greys and followed the same descent as their manor, eventually passing to the Crown. In 1541 we find that £100 10s. was paid for the carting of '201 quyk [live] deares red' into the park. (fn. 70) The Crown still owned the park in 1571, (fn. 71) and in 1613 Thomas Viscount Fenton was appointed 'master of the deare hounds in the Park of Bickeringe.' (fn. 72) In 1634 Sir William Crayford, of a well-known Ampthill family, (fn. 73) who had been knighted by James I in 1621, (fn. 74) was living there. (fn. 75) During the reign of Charles I the park was granted to John Ashburnham, (fn. 76) a grant which was confirmed by Charles II. (fn. 77) John, grandson of the above John Ashburnham, held Beckerings Park in 1670. (fn. 78) He, who was created Baron Ashburnham, died in 1709–10. (fn. 79) The park was owned by the Radcliffes in this century, Lady 'Farnaby' Radcliffe holding it in 1801. (fn. 80) It was purchased by the Duke of Bedford in 1828. (fn. 81) Beckerings Park Lodge Farm, together with the park itself, is mainly outside the parish of Ridgmont.
Similar to the history of Beckerings Park is that of BROGBOROUGH PARK, which must be distinguished from the manor of Brogborough. The first mention we have of it is in 1246, when the canons of Dunstable were accused of trespass there. (fn. 82) It was then in the possession of one Walter Wynum, (fn. 83) and was held of the de Greys as of the barony of Wahull, (fn. 84) just as the manor of Brogborough was. (fn. 85) Its extent in 1326 was 30 acres. (fn. 86) In the reign of Henry VIII it became Crown property, (fn. 87) and followed the same descent as Beckerings Park (fn. 88) (q.v.) till the middle of the 17th century, about which period it was in the hands of Mr. Johnson. (fn. 89) In 1654 it was bought by Thomas Okey, (fn. 90) who had started life as a drayman in Islington and rose to hold the command of a regiment under Cromwell. He was present at all but three meetings of the court which sat to try the king, and his name is amongst those who signed the death warrant. (fn. 91) At the Restoration, therefore, his lands were sequestrated, and he himself beheaded a few years later. (fn. 92) The Crown granted the park in 1661 to John Ashburnham, (fn. 93) after which both parks follow the same descent (q.v.).
Though the details of the property are very vague, there is still another tenement, mention of which must not be omitted in the history of the parish. The family of Northwood during the 13th and 14th centuries were intimately connected with Ridgmont. For example, in a riot which took place in 1264 Henry de Northwood was one of those against whom the villeins rose. (fn. 94) Mention of the Northwoods' land, however, is very scarce, though from their position they must have been leading people in the parish. We know that John de Northwode held a tenement which was one knight's fee (fn. 95) in Segenhoe in 1277, (fn. 96) that in 1333 Henry de Northwode alienated 3½ acres of land in two parcels, (fn. 97) and by 1346 the property was diminishing in size. (fn. 98) Seven years later the same man was on the jury for the Inquisition of the Ninths (fn. 99)—a position in which he would not have been found had he not held considerable property in the parish.
The Northwoods must have held their property from the de Greys, just as was the case with other holdings above mentioned, for in an Exchequer Inquisition of Elizabeth's time mention is made of a 'Close called Norwood' which belonged at some time to the de Greys Earls of Kent. (fn. 100) No subsequent mention has been found of this property.
The church of ALL SAINTS is entirely modern, and consists of a chancel, north organ chamber and vestry, nave, side aisles and west tower and spire. The old church, situated some distance away at Segenhoe, is now derelict, and consists of a chancel, nave, south aisle and porch and west brick tower with round-headed 18th-century windows throughout the church. The whole church is so plastered over and modernized that it is only possible to say that a north chapel was added to the nave in the 13th century and in the 14th century this was extended westward as an aisle, the present arcade being in four bays, of which the east bay is 13th-century work, with a half-round east respond, and the others of the 14th century, with two sunk wavemoulded orders on short and heavy quatrefoiled shafts with rolls in the angles and moulded capitals and bases. The pier at the junction of the two dates is octagonal. On the east wall of the aisle is a pretty 15th-century niche, to which a painted canopy and shafts have been added. The south porch has single 15th-century lights on the east and west, but in the chancel all evidence of mediaeval date is hidden, the chancel arch being a plain semicircle with a chamfered string at the springing, which is continued along the north and south walls. The braces of an old roof, however, show through the plastered ceiling. The font, although scraped and painted, is a good 15th-century specimen, with crocketed arches on each face of the octagonal bowl, springing from corbels at the lower angles.
There are five books of registers previous to 1812: (1) all entries 1539 to 1680; (2) 1678 to 1761, marriages ceasing in 1754; (3) baptisms 1762 to 1800, burials 1762 to 1788; (4) marriages 1754 to 1812; and (5) burials 1789 to 1812 and baptisms 1801 to 1812.
The church of Ridgmont was granted in 1189 by Simon de Wahull to Dunstable Priory, (fn. 101) which retained it till the Dissolution. In 1534 the vicarage was worth £9. (fn. 102) After the Dissolution the advowson followed the same descent as the manor of Ridgmont (fn. 103) (q.v.), diverging in the 18th century, when it was purchased by the Duke of Bedford in 1794 from the Rev. T. B. Burnaby. (fn. 104)
Charity of Arthur Wichalse (see under Maulden).
The Town or Charity Lands, the origin of which was unknown, formerly consisted of 35 acres awarded on the inclosure in lieu of open fields and other lands. The property was sold in 1869 to the Duke of Bedford, and proceeds invested in £2,630 11s. 2d. consols with the official trustees, producing £65 15s. a year.
By an order, 16 October 1903, made under the Board of Education Act, 1899, the sum of £876 17s. consols, being one-third of the endowment, was determined to be applicable for educational purposes in connexion with the school. (fn. 105)