A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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Crawelai (xi cent.); Husseburne Crawel (fn. 1) (xiii cent.).
The parish of Husborne Crawley covers an area of 1,610½ acres, of which 413½ are arable land, 862¾ permanent grass and 202 woods and plantations. (fn. 2)
The village lies between Ridgmont and Woburn, on the high road which skirts Woburn Park. There are two or three examples of half-timber and thatched cottages, but generally speaking the village is modern. The mill has disappeared, and its memory only survives in the name of Crawley Mill Farm, which now forms a portion of the Woburn Experimental Farm. The church is situated about half a mile to the north of the village, on the road to Aspley Guise. This portion of the village is known as Church End, and consists of several farms and cottages, with a Methodist chapel. By the cross roads at this spot is the entrance to the grounds of Crawley House, through which a right of way exists to Aspley Guise. The house is an unpretending Georgian structure. The present owner is Mrs. Ellis Wynter, the representative of the Orlebar family, who resides there. The grounds cover about 100 acres, and include Crawley Park Farm.
Opposite the entrance to the park is the Manor Farm, past which a road leads north, leaving Crawley Hall on the west. It is a modest Georgian building, formerly known as Crawley Farm, and is rented by Mrs. Bowen from the Duke of Bedford.
The open country in the north of the parish is farmed by the Charity and Redfield Farms, and is crossed by the Bedford branch of the London and North-Western Railway, on which Ridgmont station in this parish is situated.
In 1228 a treasure valued at about 50 marks was found in Husborne Crawley churchyard and duly presented before the king's itinerant justices, by whose judgment it was granted to the new hospital at Dover. (fn. 3) An Act of Parliament for inclosing the parish was passed in 1795, (fn. 4) and awards of the commons and open spaces were made by a commission in 1800, when certain turnpike roads were appointed and the vicar was allotted certain land in lieu of glebe. (fn. 5)
Two manors appear in Crawley at Domesday, of which CRAWLEY MANOR, afterwards HUSBORNE CRAWLEY, which was held by Grimbald under Edward the Confessor, belonged to William Lovet, and was assessed at 5 hides. (fn. 6)
The overlordship of William Lovet's lands passed to the Earls of Albemarle, (fn. 7) whose interest in this manor extended from the middle of the 13th century to the year 1368, (fn. 8) when Robert son and heir of John de Lisle released his rights to the Crown. (fn. 9) The manor was held after that date by the canons of Dunstable. (fn. 10)
No tenant is mentioned at Crawley in Domesday. Philip de Saunvill granted the church, which was attached to the manor, to Dunstable Priory circa 1170, (fn. 11) and in the middle of the 13th century this manor was held in two moieties, one by Nicholas de Tingry and the other by David de Flitwick, (fn. 12) descended from the Saunvills. (fn. 13) The moiety held by the latter will be treated below.
In 1248 Nicholas de Tingry released his demesne lands in Crawley and Husborne, except one mill and half a virgate of land, to the Prior of Dunstable, who in the same year received homage, (fn. 14) and who later built a new grange, two new sheepfolds, and a cowhouse on his property there. (fn. 15)
In 1269 the prior suffered from the oppression of the bailiff of the Countess of Albemarle, who maintained that the prior had obtained his estate in Husborne Crawley without licence, and had not paid homage due on his ingress to the manor. Twelve ploughing oxen of the prior at Crawley were seized as penalty and detained for twelve weeks. Peace was afterwards made with the countess on payment of 5 marks and 20s. for the custody of the animals. (fn. 16) The prior's estate in Husborne Crawley comprised 2½ hides in 1276, (fn. 17) and ten years later he was summoned to prove by what warrant he claimed a view of frankpledge in Husborne Crawley. He replied that half of the vill was held by him for a quarter part of a knight's fee, and that his view at Flitwick was attended by the tenants on his Husborne Crawley property. (fn. 18) In 1341 the priory was granted an exemplification of the charters by which this and other properties had been acquired. (fn. 19)
The Flitwick moiety had been held by David de Flitwick in the first half of the 13th century, (fn. 20) and on his death in 1247 (fn. 21) it had passed to another David de Flitwick, (fn. 22) thence to Bartholomew de Flitwick, who held 2½ hides in Husborne Crawley in 1276. (fn. 23) The heirs of Bartholomew held in 1302–3, (fn. 24) and in 1331 this estate, extended as a messuage and a carucate of land in Husborne, was restored to David de Flitwick, a member of the same family, after having been in the king's hands for a year and a day for the felony of his brother Bartholomew. (fn. 25) He was still seised in 1346, but circa 1358 (fn. 26) he conveyed this moiety to the Prior of Dunstable. Thus the Prior of Dunstable was seised of the whole manor from this date until the Dissolution. (fn. 27)
In 1535 the priory manor of Husborne Crawley was held with the rectory on a forty-one years' lease by William Markham, and was valued at £22 a year. (fn. 28) The manor was rated at £196 15s. 5d. for Christopher Smith, a possible purchaser in 1550, but the sale was not effected. (fn. 29) Before 1597 it was acquired with the advowson by John Thompson, (fn. 30) on whose death it passed to his son Robert. (fn. 31) He had been a lunatic for five years, and later in the year another inquisition was made to discover the full extent of his property and his heir. (fn. 32) Robert died in 1633, leaving the manor of Husborne Crawley to his son Sir John Thompson, kt., (fn. 33) who had married in 1607 Judith daughter of Oliver St. John. Their son St. John Thompson (fn. 34) obtained licence 'to go beyond seas for three years to study languages' in 1638, (fn. 35) and succeeded his father in the property before 1660, when he made a settlement of the Husborne Crawley estates. (fn. 36) They descended before 1684 to his son St. John Thompson, (fn. 37) by whom the manor was conveyed in 1691 to John Lowe. (fn. 38) In 1709 Francis Lowe suffered a recovery of Husborne Crawley Manor, (fn. 39) which twelve years later was purchased from him by the Duke of Bedford for £2,750. (fn. 40) It has since remained in his family, (fn. 41) and at the present day is held by Herbrand Duke of Bedford.
The manor-house and rectory of Husborne Crawley were not sold with the manor, but were retained by St. John Thompson till his death in 1710, and were then left to his daughters Catherine and Ursula, to be sold to defray expenses, the remainder to pass to his son St. John. (fn. 42) The property was purchased by Edmund Williamson, who died at the manor-house in 1737. (fn. 43) He was succeeded by his eldest son Talbot, who continued his father's policy of buying up all the surrounding farms and pieces of land, and died in 1752, leaving the Husborne Crawley estate to his widow for life, with reversion to the children of his brother Edmund. (fn. 44) She lived until 1792, and Edmund Williamson, nephew of her husband, sold the estate and rectory two years afterwards to the Duke of Bedford (fn. 45) for £9,444. The latter pulled down the old house, of which the site is now uncertain, and the wall of the garden, of which interesting details are found in the Williamson Account Book. (fn. 46)
The second Domesday manor of HUSBORNE CRAWLEY was held by Nigel de Albini, (fn. 47) and thus became part of the barony of Cainhoe (fn. 48) (q.v.), whose overlordship is mentioned at the beginning of the 16th century. (fn. 49) Traces of an intermediary lordship occur in the 13th century, when this manor was held of Robert son of Walter, who held of the heirs of Henry de Pinkney and they of the barony of Cainhoe. (fn. 50)
Nothing is known of the heirs of Turgis, who held the manor of Nigel de Albini in 1086, (fn. 51) but 4 hides of this Domesday manor subsequently passed to the Northwood family, which was settled in Husborne Crawley in the middle of the 13th century. (fn. 52) In 1276 and 1284 John de Northwood held 3 hides of land of the Cainhoe fee (fn. 53) and 1 hide of the Hospitallers. In 1302 this estate was still in the same hands, (fn. 54) and in 1316 John de Northwood is returned with the Prior of Dunstable as holding half the vill. (fn. 55) Before 1346, however, it was held by Roger de Grey, kt., and Henry de Northwood. Reginaldde Grey, son of Roger, acquired the remainder by a release in 1360, (fn. 56) after which date the Northwood interest in Husborne Crawley ceases, and the Greys only continue. Reginald succeeded his father Roger de Grey before 1368, (fn. 57) and this property in Husborne Crawley descended with Wrest Manor (q.v.) until the beginning of the 16th century.
On the death of Richard Earl of Kent without issue in 1524 this estate passed to his half-brother Henry, (fn. 58) who conveyed it in the following year to Sir Richard Wingfield, Sir Henry Wyatt and Richard Weston. (fn. 59) They were possibly acting on behalf of the king, who held this property in 1527, (fn. 60) and who in 1542 annexed it to the newly-formed honour of Ampthill. (fn. 61)
In 1570 the lands formerly held by the Greys Earls of Kent in Husborne Crawley were leased to Robert Rookham, and nine years later were granted to John Thompson. (fn. 62) From this date the Grey estate shares the history of his Husborne Crawley manor (q.v.).
The remaining hide of the five held of Nigel de Albini in 1086 was held by the Abbot of Thorney in the latter half of the 13th century, (fn. 63) and in 1291 his lands in Husborne Crawley were valued in rent at £2. (fn. 64) The abbey retained this land in Husborne Crawley during the next century, (fn. 65) and in 1343 their property was further increased by a grant of a toft and 9½ acres in Bolnhurst and Husborne Crawley from John de Jakesle. (fn. 66) At the Dissolution the value had decreased to £1 11s. 10½d. In 1541 the manor of Bolnhurst and the lands in Husborne Crawley, both part of the possessions of the late abbey, were granted to Sir John St. John, (fn. 67) who obtained licence to settle this property on his son Oliver on his marriage with Agnes daughter of Sir Michael Fisher. (fn. 68) From this date the Husborne Crawley property descended with Bolnhurst Manor, the lords of which claimed free warren extending into Husborne Crawley at the end of the 18th century.
A manor of HUSBORNE CRAWLEY, afterwards called BRAYS, was held in chief of the Crown by Nicholas Ravenhill in 1422, (fn. 69) and descended with his manor of Stagsden (q.v.) to his daughter Agnes, whose son John Finaunce (fn. 70) is described as of Husborne Crawley in 1472. (fn. 71) It passed from this family to Sir Reginald Bray, (fn. 72) who died in 1509, and descended with his Eaton Bray estate (fn. 73) to Edmund son and heir of Edward Bray, who conveyed it in 1566 to John Thompson, (fn. 74) having obtained a quitclaim of the property from the reversionary heirs under a settlement of 1538, (fn. 75) and also acquired the manor of Husborne Crawley formerly held by Dunstable Priory, whose subsequent history (q.v.) this manor shares. (fn. 76)
During the reign of Henry III the Abbot of Woburn did suit at the hundred court of Manshead for 2 virgates and a cotland in Crawley. (fn. 77) In 1291 his property there was of the total value of £2 12s. (fn. 78) In 1368 the abbot received a grant of meadow from Reginald de Grey. (fn. 79)
At the Dissolution the monks of Woburn held in rent and farm in Husborne Crawley £10 16s. 6¼d., and paid to Dunstable Priory for certain tenements there 1s. 6d. (fn. 80) Lands in this parish are mentioned in the Ministers' Accounts of 1543, (fn. 81) but no further trace of this property can be found.
The parish church of ST. MARY consists of a chancel 29 ft. 4 in. by 18½ ft., a nave 34 ft. by 19 ft. 4 in., north aisle 10½ ft. wide, south aisle 9½ ft. wide, south porch, and west tower 12½ ft. by 14 ft. The south arcade of the nave is 13th-century work, and the aisle walls are perhaps of this date or rebuilt c. 1330; the chancel seems to be 14th-century work, though much altered; the north arcade and aisle seem entirely of the 15th century, as does the tower, and the south porch may be c. 1500. There are traces of a wooden north porch. The materials of the church are, in the tower and north aisle and in parts of the chancel, a dark brown stone mixed with a peculiar deep green stone, making a very effective and unusual combination. The south aisle is built of small thin stones. The exterior of the church has been mended up in Roman cement, which still covers most of the stonework details. The chancel walls have been thrust out of the perpendicular by the roof, which is of fairly steep pitch and covered with modern slates. The east window has a square head and three cinquefoiled lights of 15th-century work fitted to the jambs of a 14th-century window which had a pointed head, and near it on the south side is a two-light window with divisions of repaired tracery. At the south-west is a square-headed 15th-century window of two cinquefoiled lights, to the east of which is a blocked doorway, and opposite is an uncusped two-light window, probably of the 17th century. The piscina has a pointed trefoiled head, and east of it is a plain square recess. In the north-east corner of the chancel, against a blocked window, is an alabaster tomb with effigies of John Thompson and his wife Dorothy; he was an auditor of the Exchequer. The west wall of the chancel was probably destroyed when the rood loft was fitted up, and there is now a modern arch. The nave has a north arcade of three 16th-century bays with octagonal piers and responds with moulded capitals; to the east is a corbel which once supported the rood loft, and on one of the columns is a small bracket. The south arcade is of three bays with octagonal shafts and moulded capitals, which are perhaps not original, and to the east are the blocked doorways of the rood loft. The tower arch is in three orders, the inner resting on half-octagonal shafts with foliate capitals. The roof is flat, and has a plaster cornice cutting across the crown of the tower arch. The north aisle has an east window of three cinquefoiled lights and two three-light north windows, between which is a blocked doorway with the marks of a porch; at the west end is a squareheaded window of three cinquefoiled lights. In the east wall of the south aisle is a niche with 14th-century foliage in the spandrels, and near it in the south wall is a trefoiled piscina. There are two 16th-century windows of three cinquefoiled lights, and between them a moulded 14th-century doorway with an external holy water stone in its east jamb. The porch is large and lit on each side by a squareheaded 16th-century window of two cinquefoiled lights; the doorway is in two hollow-chamfered orders with a four-centred head. The tower is in three stages, with an embattled parapet, moulded plinth, and south-east stair turret, the angles being strengthened by diagonal buttresses in four stages. The west doorway has a square head with an inner order forming a four-centred arch, and the label has a carved figure stop on the north side, that on the south having disappeared. The window above it has three cinquefoiled lights and perpendicular tracery; the top story is lighted on all sides by twin windows of two trefoiled lights. Besides the monument already described there is a small mural tablet on the east wall of the south aisle to Robert Slingsby, who died 1634, and his wife Abija, and in the chancel are several of the 18th century to the Williamson family. In the tower is an old chest with a rounded top bound all over with iron, and having three locks and three hasps for padlocks; the south door is also old and probably of the 16th century. One part of the rood screen remains and is used in the reading desk. The font is a plain cylinder of stone set against one of the pillars of the south arcade; it is ancient, but there is nothing to fix its date.
There are six bells: the treble and fifth are by Taylor of St. Neots, 1820; the second, fourth and tenor by Newcombe of Leicester, 1611, 1616 and 1613 respectively; the third by Emerton of Wootton, 1779. There is also a small priest's bell of 1661.
The church of Husborne Crawley was granted to Dunstable Priory by Philip de Saunvill circa 1170, (fn. 82) and confirmed to the canons there by Osmund de Saunvill and the Countess of Albemarle, (fn. 83) and by David de Flitwick in 1286. (fn. 84)
The vicarage was ordained in 1220 by Bishop Hugh of Lincoln, (fn. 85) who appointed that the cost of the hospitality due to the archdeacon on his annual visit, and the providing of books, vestments and utensils for the church, should be borne by the prior, (fn. 86) and other expenses by the vicar. The total value of the church at this time was 12 marks, and that of the vicarage 5 marks 4s. (fn. 87) In 1291 the latter value is given as £4 6s. 8d., (fn. 88) and in 1535 it was £9, including £1 received for the site of the vicarage and the adjoining pasture. (fn. 89) Both rectory and advowson passed to the Crown at the Dissolution. The latter was acquired by John Thompson with the Dunstable Priory Manor in Husborne Crawley before 1597, (fn. 90) and shares its subsequent history (q.v.).
The rectory was held on a forty-one years' lease from 1534 by William Markham, who conveyed it for the latter part of the term to Humphrey Fitzwilliam. (fn. 91) He received an extension of the lease from the Crown in 1569, (fn. 92) but ten years later it was granted to John Thompson for three lives, (fn. 93) and in 1590 was purchased by him for £492. (fn. 94) The rectory then descended with the manor (q.v.) until 1691. The great and small tithes, with considerable lands, were sold by Mrs. Ursula Thompson and her brother St. John Thompson, according to the will of their father, to Edmund Williamson for £3,000. (fn. 95) The rectory and advowson passed with the manor-house (q.v.) to the Rev. Edmund Williamson, who sold them in 1794 to the Duke of Bedford. His successors have since been both patrons of the vicarage and impropriators of the great tithes. (fn. 96)
The living was consolidated with that of Aspley Guise in 1796, (fn. 97) but after the middle of the 19th century they were again separated. (fn. 98) The tithes of the rector and vicar were commuted and allotments of land made to them in 1800. (fn. 99)
In 1546 lands to the value of 15s. 8d., and money in the hands of various persons, yielding 30s. a year, formed the endowment for perpetual obits and lights in Husborne Crawley Church. (fn. 100)
The Charity Estate, of which the original settlement or acquisition is unknown, consists of a farm of 50 a. let at £70 a year, a house and garden let at £12 10s., and two cottages producing £8 9s. a year, together with £212 0s. 5d. consols, with the official trustees, the annual dividends being £5 6s.
By an order dated 28 January 1896, made under the Local Government Act 1894, a yearly sum of 40s. out of the income and a fourth part of the residue of such income was apportioned as an Ecclesiastical Charity, to be called the Church Estate, of which the vicar and churchwardens were appointed the trustees, and the remainder to be called the Poor's Estate Charity, to the governing body of which the parish council might appoint four additional members.
On the inclosure in 1795 an allotment containing 19 a. 0 r. 36 p. was awarded for fuel for the poor. It is let at £30 a year, which in 1907 was applied in the distribution of faggots to sixty-four recipients.
In 1728 Mark Slingsby by will, proved in the P.C.C. on 17 January, devised to the minister, churchwardens and overseers two closes of pasture grounds in the parish of Moulsoe, Bucks., containing 7 a. more or less, upon trust that the yearly rents and profits should be distributed amongst the poor of Husborne Crawley upon the feast day of St. Mark the Evangelist, such gift to be inscribed on his gravestone. The land is let at £15 10s. a year, which in 1907 was distributed in doles to seventy-two recipients.