A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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LEIGHTON BUZZARD (with its Hamlets)
Lygetune (viii–x cent.); Lestone (xi cent.); Lenton, Lehton (xii cent.); Lecton, Leghton (xiii cent.); Leyghton (xiv–xv cent.); Layton (xvi cent.); Busard (xiii–xv cent.); Buzzard, Beaudesert (xvi cent.).
Billesdon (xiii cent.); Bylindon (xiv cent.); Billendon, Billyndon (xv cent.); Ekendon (xii cent.); Rech (xiii cent.); Stanbrig, Stanbrugge (xii–xiv cent.).
The ancient parish of Leighton Buzzard, comprising the town of Leighton Buzzard and the hamlets of Billington, Eggington, Heath and Reach, and Stanbridge, covers an area of 8,910 acres, of which 1,868 are arable land, 4,528¼ permanent grass and 547½ woods and plantations. (fn. 1) In Stanbridge and Billington, to the east and south-east of Leighton Buzzard, the soil is clay or a mixture of sand, clay and marl with a subsoil of clay, and the crops are wheat, barley, beans and peas. In Eggington the soil is loamy, and much of the land is grass, while in Heath and Reach, to the north of the parish, the soil is more sandy, and produces crops of roots in addition to cereals.
The parish is watered by the River Ouzel, a tributary of the Ouse, which forms to a great extent the boundary between Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. It forms the south boundary of Stanbridge and Eggington, and separates the town of Leighton Buzzard from Linslade in Buckinghamshire, running north as a dividing line for some distance. Clipstone Brook, a small tributary which flows through Eggington near Clipstone hamlet, from which it takes its name, passes the outlying eastern portion of the town and falls into the Mill Race, a branch of the Ouzel which runs parallel with it through Leighton Buzzard. The ground slopes towards the river, and just north-west of Leighton Buzzard, which lies mostly below 300 ft., is land which reaches a height of 261 ft. only. The town is surrounded by higher ground, which on the north in Heath and Reach attains a height of 488 ft.
The town of Leighton Buzzard is built round three main streets, which form a Y, upon which all lesser streets converge. At the junction is the Market Place, where there is a remarkable pentagonal cross which dates from the 15th century. It stands upon a base of seven steps; the lower stage has a stone vault springing from a central shaft, and between the buttresses are four-centred arches springing from small shafts with moulded capitals and bases. These buttresses end in crocketed pinnacles, and the lower stage is crowned by an embattled parapet with quatrefoiled panels, below which are three grotesque faces on each side.
Over the lower stage is a second stage, being a pentagonal canopy over five figures, all of which are very much decayed; the head of each side of the canopy is cinquefoiled with featherings and terminates in an ogee-shaped pinnacle decorated with crockets and a finial, and at each angle is a buttress terminated with a crocketed pinnacle and connected with an outer buttress, placed diagonally, by a small trefoiled arch. Over this stage is a small pentagonal spire, also decorated with crockets. The cross was repaired in 1650, when a tax of 4d. was levied on each inhabitant, and was thoroughly restored in 1852 at a cost of £350. (fn. 2) At the latter date some of the ancient statues were removed to ornament the town hall, a modern Gothic red brick building in the centre of the Market Place, which was also built at that period. The 'Roebuck,' which stands on the east side of the Market Place, is an 18th-century building, as are many of the houses in the adjacent streets, especially in the High Street, the most ancient thoroughfare in Leighton Buzzard. It forms the tail of the Y, and is the main street along which the market extends on Tuesdays. It could at one time boast of seven or eight hostelries, and in the 17th century are mentioned the 'Golden Bell,' the 'Red Lion,' the 'White Horse' and Cock Inn. (fn. 3) Some of them were transformed into private houses or turned into shops during the latter half of the last century. These houses are generally fronted with a semi-vitrified purple-coloured brick, but have red brick dressings to the windows, while in many instances the back part of the building is of half-timber construction. On the south side of the High Street is a fine 18th-century red brick house with a projecting porch of the Doric order, and having a moulded brick cornice with triglyphs under, and carrying a brick parapet and tile roof. Adjoining the house on the east side is a much decayed four-centred stone archway leading into a small court, on the opposite wall of which is a blocked-up Jacobean semicircular stone archway between two fluted Doric columns standing on pedestals and supporting an entablature and triangular pediment. In the tympanum and spandrels is carved scroll enrichment. Lower down the street are two small brick buildings, one of which is now used as an inn, having doorways approached by a few steps, and wooden heads over, supported by prettily moulded brackets carried on rusticated pilasters.
South of the High Street, from which it is approached through Church Square, containing an 18th-century inn, the 'Golden Bell' (which stands on the site of an earlier building), is the church with its vicarage and the Parsonage Close.
The High Street develops into Bridge Street, which crosses the river, the parish boundary, and leads on into Linslade.
The left arm of the fork is North Street, on the west side of which is the 'Red Lion,' an 18th-century hostel. On the opposite side of the street is a small brick house having a wooden cornice and tile roof in which are dormers, while over the entrance doorway is a projecting wooden hood carried by well-carved brackets.
Between North Street and the river are the almshouses and schools. There are also here saw and corn mills. The latter were destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1868, when steam power was added.
Lake Street, the right arm of the fork, has a commercial hotel, a late 18th-century building exhibiting the sign of a unicorn. Lower down the street, which here becomes the Billington Road, are the Rising Sun and Bell and Woolpack Inns, 18th-century houses also, but of little interest.
The Grand Junction Canal, which runs parallel with the Ouse for some distance, passes by the town of Leighton, although in the parish of Linslade, and serves as a means of communication with London and the northern counties for the transport of corn, timber, seed and iron, in which there is a considerable trade. The town is also connected with London by the London and North-Western railway, which runs through Linslade, where Leighton station is situated, and there is a branch line to Dunstable, on which Stanbridge has a station, called Stanbridge Ford station, in the parish of Totternhoe.
During the last quarter of the 19th century the hamlets of Heath and Reach, Eggington, Stanbridge and Billington have been made into civil parishes. That of Heath and Reach, which includes the two hamlets of that name, lies to the north of Leighton Buzzard, with which it is connected by a continuation of North Street called Heath Road, which ascends the whole way. It is a picturesque neighbourhood, and the village is scattered over undulating ground within easy reach of the woods called Baker's and King's Woods, which cover many acres.
Opposite the church is Heath Manor House, which has been very much modernized; it is plastered, with a red tile roof with an old chimneystack, at the bottom of which, on the south side, is a plaster panel with figures in low relief, representing the Fall of Man, and a rose surmounted by a crown. The north door is iron studded, with some plain panelling.
The healthy nature of the neighbourhood, owing to its soil and elevation, has attracted many people to the parish, and on the road from Leighton, just before Heath, is a cluster of private residences situated in their own grounds. Rushmere Lodge, the seat of Mr. Henry Osborne Baldry, J.P., is a pleasant house surrounded by handsome grounds near the Heath. At Heath lived Elizabeth Studde, who died a widow on 8 August 1726 at the age of 112 years, and was buried in Leighton Buzzard churchyard. (fn. 4) There is a great deal of open heath land, part of which was brought into cultivation and sold about fifty years ago, and during the 17th century there were frequent disputes between the lessees of the manor of Leighton Buzzard and the copyholders, who resisted the claim of free warren and destroyed the rabbits. The parish is studded with sand-pits, many of which are in use, the most extensive one being in the south-east corner at Shenley Hill. From one of these pits the sand used in the composition of the Crystal Palace was dug, owing doubtless to the influence of Sir Joseph Paxton, a native of this part of Bedfordshire and architect of the Crystal Palace. The eastern boundary of Heath and Reach is formed by Watling Street, which passes by Battlesden Park on its way to Dunstable.
Three miles east of Leighton Buzzard is Eggington parish, which includes the village of Eggington and hamlet of Clipston, consisting of a few houses one mile north of the village. The greater part of the land is given up to pasture. The village of Eggington lies off the road from Woburn to Leighton Buzzard which enters the latter town on the east. In the centre is the church, and on high ground in the eastern end stands Eggington House, a fine rectangular brick building of the 18th century. The village is rich in examples of half-timber and brick cottages with tiled roofs.
A road leads south from Eggington to Stanbridge, passing an old disused windmill and the vicarage on the way, and divides into two branches, along which Stanbridge is built. It is a straggling village, almost continuous with the adjacent village of Tilsworth, and there is a green, near which the church stands. The cottages are mostly modern, with few examples of thatch. One mile further south is Stanbridge Ford station, and a road connects the village with Leighton Buzzard, along which are brick and tile works and the works which supply the town with water.
To the south-east of the town are the hamlets of Great and Little Billington, which both lie on a steep hill leading down to the river. At the top of the hill, standing behind the rectory, is the church. The village is generally modern, although there are a few examples of thatch, among them being the Cock Inn, a small hostel opposite the rectory.
At the bottom of the hill stands the Manor House, now used as a farm, and the seat of Lady Sophia Macnamara. It is a late 17th-century building, built of brick and having a tile roof, while in the yard are several old half-timber and thatched barns. There is also a barn here built of shingle on a stone base. Round the house are traces of a large moat, still holding plenty of water, the drainings from the hill at the back.
Of the early mention which has been found of Leighton Buzzard it has been thought by some authorities that the Lygeanburgh taken by Cuthwulf from the Brito-Welsh in 571 represents the Leighton of to-day, but the editors of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Rolls Series), Kemble and Green, identify it with Lenbury in Buckinghamshire. (fn. 5) Cobbe, however, attempts to identify it with Limbury, a hamlet of Luton. (fn. 6) These identifications are all impossible, for, as Mr. F. M. Stenton points out, the form of the name shows that it denoted a fortified place upon the Lea, which may well have occupied the site of the future Luton. There is mention of 'Lygetune' in a charter of Offa of Mercia, of doubtful authenticity, dated May 792, whereby he gave to St. Albans Abbey the land of five manentium at 'Lygetune,' which land 'Abbot Alhmund, who had deceitfully neglected the fyrd, gave me by way of reconciliation.' This by Kemble is identified as Leighton, but Matthew Paris—undoubtedly correctly—makes the grant refer to Luton, under which parish it has been treated. (fn. 7)
An event of considerable importance in the early 10th century took place in the immediate neighbourhood of Leighton. In 903, to adopt the most probable date, Edward the Elder made peace with the Danes at a place named in the Chronicle Yttingaford. Among the boundaries of land at Linslade given by a later charter, (fn. 8) this name reappears as denoting the point where the Ouzel against Leighton is crossed by the high road from Aylesbury to Bedford. Two branches of the Ouzel here make an island which may fairly be identified with the meeting-place of Edward and the Danish leaders.
In 914 there was a great slaughter of the Danes at ' Lygtune,' recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. In the Rolls Series version of the Chronicle ' Lygtume ' is identified as Leighton, but in the Chronica Majora and in Cobbe's History of Luton Church it is wrongly ascribed to Luton. (fn. 9) Yet another charter remains—that of Edward the Confessor in 1066, thought to be a forgery, by which ' Lygetune,' with all its appurtenances, of the gift of Adser the Black, was confirmed to Westminster Abbey. (fn. 10) The grant never came into operation, and shortly afterwards Edward died, and the kingdom was acquired by William the Conqueror.
The suffix to the name of this parish has given rise to much discussion. It occurs under the form 'Busard' as early as the reign of Henry III. (fn. 11) The family of Busard or Buzzard were lords of the manor of Knotting in the 13th and 14th centuries, but no connexion has been traced between them and Leighton Buzzard. The other derivation, 'Beaudesert' or 'Beau Assart' ('a good clearing') was first used in the 16th century, and is seldom found. It probably owes its origin to the fertile imagination of an Elizabethan antiquary who knew that this district was formerly forest land. (fn. 12)
The market of Leighton is mentioned in the Survey of 1086, when the tolls were computed at £7 a year—a considerable sum in those days. (fn. 13) In 1343 the profits were £10. (fn. 14) It has always been appurtenant to the manor, and was bestowed with it on the abbey of Fontévrault. (fn. 15) In 1708 the toll charged for each cow or ox was 2d., for a calf or hog 1d., and 8d. for twenty sheep, half of which was paid by buyer, half by seller. The copyholders and tenants residing without the manor who were drivers, buyers and sellers always paid full toll; and all copyholders, whether dwelling within or without the manor, paid for stallage, but those living within did not usually pay their 'shew-pennyes.' (fn. 16)
When the manor was acquired in 1863 by Colonel H. Hanmer of the Dean and Canons of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, the market was included in the conveyance, and with it the toll-house, now called the Town Hall. (fn. 17) These rights are now vested in Mr. Mills, the present lord of Leighton Buzzard, and the town hall has to be hired from the lord of the manor. Copyholders are charged only one-half of the tolls. The market day has always been Tuesday, when a cattle and general market is held, and an extra market for provisions has been established on Saturday during the 19th century. (fn. 18) The prosperity of the town is attributed to its market, and the custom of holding it along the High Street is so firmly established that stout resistance would be offered to any attempt to change the locality.
In 1256 Henry III granted to the Abbess of Fontévrault the right to hold a fair in the manor for three days once a year—on the eve, feast and morrow of St. Dunstan. (fn. 19) During the tenure of the manor by Eton College two extra fairs were bestowed in 1447 —one on the vigil of the Ascension for three days, and the other on 4 January for four days, but it is doubtful if this grant took effect. (fn. 20) In 1466 Alice Duchess of Suffolk obtained a confirmation of the charter of Henry III, (fn. 21) and in 1630 Sir Thomas Leigh was granted two fairs yearly—one on 25 January and the other on 15 July. (fn. 22) At the inquiry of 1708 these two fairs were stated to be held with the addition of two others—one on Whit Tuesday and the other on 13 October. To these fairs came 'great numbers of all sorts of cattle,' especially horses, for which a toll of 4d. was charged. (fn. 23) In 1792 the fairs were held on 5 February, Whit Tuesday, 26 July and 24 October; and in 1888 two others, on the second Tuesday in April and first Tuesday after 10 December, were held. (fn. 24) Fairs are still held on these dates, and are among the most important in the county for the sale of horses. The statute pleasure fair is on the first Tuesday after 11 October; and a wool fair, established about 1840, now one of the largest in the county, is held on the first Friday in July.
Leighton Buzzard left no striking impression on the antiquaries and travellers who visited the town in the 16th and 17th centuries. Francis Thynne, Lancaster Herald, who passed through on 2 September 1582, marvelled at the absence of noble families in these words: ' In the churche of Layton-Busarde in Bedfordshire, a fayr church and a reasonable great towne and yet I found never an arms in the windowe nor any more than one epitaphe.' (fn. 25) Camden, writing about a generation later, says: 'As for Leighton Buzzard on the one side of Dunstable and Luton on the other, neither have I read nor seen anything remarkable in them.' (fn. 26) Thomas Baskerville, in his journey from Oxford to Cambridge in May 1681, went ' from Aylesbury to Layton Busard another market towne … with one church and a small river in the county of Bedford,' (fn. 27) and Gough, in his additions to Camden's Britannia, 1789, finds nothing more to say than that ' the town forms a Y and by the church is the seat of Lord Leighton.'
The inhabitants of Leighton Buzzard were ordered in 1347 to make a bridge over the Ouzel from the town to Fenny Stratford, and were prohibited from taking falcons by the bank, as the king proposed ' to have sport by the banks of that bailiwick with his falcons for the present season.' (fn. 28)
Several foreigners from Holland and Brabant had settled in Leighton during the 15th century, and in 1436 obtained licence to remain there with their goods. (fn. 29)
This neighbourhood was the scene of some of the struggles of the Civil War during 1644 and 1645. Major-General Richard Browne, writing to the Committee of Both Kingdoms in 1644, says ' the enemy number 10,000 about Dunstable and Layton.' (fn. 30) Troops were quartered on the inhabitants, who suffered for their loyalty to Parliament, and on 23 July 1645 they addressed a piteous appeal, stating that a disastrous fire had happened on 7 March by which great damage was done to the town, amounting to £14,368 17s., and that as they had been forward in all payments to Parliament, they had been plundered by the Army, and they therefore asked for a collection in London and elsewhere. (fn. 31)
The belief in witchcraft lingered on here till late in the 18th century, and in May 1751 a cutting from a newspaper of that period runs as follows: 'Thursday 7 night some ignorant People assembled together at Layton in Bedfordshire and proclaimed at the Market Cross, Jane Massey and Catherine Haukes witches; from thence they proceeded to Luton to act the same kind of cruelty as was practised lately at Tring, but were prevented by several gentlemen who advised them to return home.' (fn. 32)
Leighton, with its hamlets of Billington, Eggington, Heath and Reach and Stanbridge, was not subject to the jurisdiction of shire and hundred, but formed a soke. As early as 1194 the Prior of Leighton, acting for the Abbess of Fontévrault, claimed as lord of the vill to be exempt from suit of county and hundred, and brought an action against the Sheriff of Bedfordshire, Simon de Beauchamp, who, ' contrary to the charter of the king,' exacted these services and took the cattle of the prior as pledges. The men sent by the prior to demand the cattle were seized by the sheriff and imprisoned until they had paid a fine. (fn. 33) The disputes which arose between the prior and his tenants over feudal dues during the 12th and 13th centuries were judged by a jury empanelled by the soke of Leighton, but in two cases the tenants refused to abide by the decision of the jurors, who were customary tenants of the prior, and appealed to the judgement of the three towns of Leighton, Houghton and Luton, two of which were accustomed to judge the third whenever any contention arose. (fn. 34)
In 1247 the prior and his bailiffs refused to allow the king's bailiffs to enter the liberty and distrain for dues which were owing to the Crown, (fn. 35) and these privileges were claimed in 1286 by the Abbess of Fontévrault, who said she had twenty-four tithingmen within the manor, and that they and the reeve did not go to the sheriff's tourn. (fn. 36)
In 1330 she put forward a definite plea of exemption from all attendance at the hundred court, and based her claim on a charter of King John. (fn. 37)
The soke is mentioned in 1390, (fn. 38) and in 1635 the jurisdiction of the lord of the manor is evinced by the appointment of ale-tasters, flesh-tasters, tithingmen, field-letters, leather-sellers, a registrar, jurors and constables for the town and its hamlets at the court baron of Sir Thomas Leigh. (fn. 39)
The town at the present day is governed by an urban district council under the provisions of the Local Government Act, 1894.
The following place-names occur in documents referring to the parish: in the 16th century Lekend, closes called Winle Hill, Wyndell, Thertye and Lestburye, and meadow called Colake Mantells and Debdiche. In the 17th century there are Brigandine, Piece, Packmanns, Friday and Gigg Lanes, Rackley Nookes, Naldwick Field, Coker Way, Bentham's Place, Outwood alias Baker's Wood, Rotbery Field, and pasture called Hichens and Sedgers.
The remains of a circular earthwork, probably British in origin, once existed in Craddock's field, near St. Leonard's Church, and about a mile south-west of Leighton Buzzard a well has been discovered lined with sandstone, said to be Roman. On the Heath there are still traces of two tumuli, remains of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery, near which burial urns and ornaments have been found. (fn. 40)
The manor of LEIGHTON, later known as GROVEBURY, appears at Domesday as part of the ancient demesne of the Crown. It was the largest of the royal manors in Bedfordshire, and consisted in 1086 of 47 hides. Seventeen of these had been added by Ralph Tallebosc, whereof ten had been held by Wensi the Chamberlain and seven by Starcher, a thegn of King Edward. (fn. 41)
The manor was retained by the Crown during the ensuing century, and Henry I granted a yearly rent of £56 from its issues to the abbey of Fontévrault, a Benedictine house in Normandy. (fn. 42) In 1164 Henry II made a grant of the manor itself to the abbey. (fn. 43) Fontévrault had at the time of this grant no cell in England, but after the suppression of Amesbury Priory, Wiltshire (an independent Benedictine house) (c. 1174–80), on account of the evil lives of the prioress and nuns, (fn. 44) Fontévrault established a cell there. (fn. 45) In consequence of this foundation Leighton is found described in confirmatory charters as appurtenant to Amesbury, (fn. 46) but in the reign of Richard I (fn. 47) a cell of Fontévrault was founded at Leighton itself, known as La Grove or Grovebury, to which this manor became attached.
The Abbess of Fontévrault obtained a confirmation of the grant from King John in 1200 and from the pope in the following year, (fn. 48) and in the reign of Henry III a survey of the manor was taken. The rents were £60 a year 'Henepanes,' or henpennies, 'Cynepanes,' and Peter's Pence £6, the farm of the forest £8, and the wood was worth a great deal yearly because of pannage. The whole demesne, which included 2 carucates of land at Clipston and 2½ at Reach, called the manors of Clipston and Reach, worth £8 and £13 respectively, could support 8 carthorses, 20 farm-horses, 60 oxen, 80 cows, 200 lesser animals, 4,000 sheep and 200 pigs. (fn. 49) In 1286 the abbess had to prove her right to the liberties of view of frankpledge, waif and stray and other manorial rights, and based her claim on John's charter, which was confirmed by Edward I and afterwards by Edward III. The manor was worth £82 6s. 8d. in 1291. (fn. 50)
The manor was given by the abbess to Mary of Woodstock, daughter of Edward I, a nun at Amesbury, to hold for her life, and she was in possession in 1316 and in 1324. (fn. 51) Its history during the reign of Edward III is similar to that of all property belonging to foreign religious houses, and it was often in the possession of the Crown on account of the wars with France. The custody of the manor was obtained in 1338 by Matilda de Burgh Countess of Ulster to hold to the value of £77 15s. a year during the continuation of the war. (fn. 52) In 1344, during a temporary truce, the abbess managed to obtain a confirmation of her lands in England, (fn. 53) but was unable to regain possession, for the pope in 1349 wrote to Edward requesting him to allow the abbess to re-enter the house of 'La Grave,' of which she had been despoiled. (fn. 54) In 1363 she paid £200 to the king for licence to alienate the manor to John Bele alias Fletcher and Joan his wife for the term of their lives. (fn. 55) After John's death Joan married Walter Galoys, and, left a widow again, took to husband John Worship, to whom in 1390 licence was given to cross into France in order to treat with the Abbess of Fontévrault for the acquisition of the manor, (fn. 56) and in 1391 the royal licence was obtained for John Worship and Joan to hold Grovebury for their lives. (fn. 57) The priory was dissolved with the other alien religious houses in 1414, and the manor and house of Grovebury were granted to Sir John Philip, by whom they were settled on himself and his wife Alice daughter of Thomas Chaucer, son of the poet, and on their issue. (fn. 58) Sir John died in 1415 without issue, and his widow Alice married William de la Pole Duke of Suffolk. (fn. 59) In 1444 she and her husband, with the consent of William Philip, brother and heir of her first husband, granted the reversion of Grovebury to Eton College, (fn. 60) and in 1446 a further alienation took place, whereby Eton entered into possession at once for the rest of the life of Alice, to whom a yearly rent was paid. (fn. 61) Alice's title to alienate the manor was contested by the king on the ground that it had been settled on her and her issue only by Sir John Philip. (fn. 62) The trustees of the manor in 1429 had conveyed the reversion to Richard Beauchamp Earl of Warwick, (fn. 63) whose son Henry exchanged it with Henry VI for the reversion of the Channel Isles. (fn. 64) As a debt of 2,800 marks, however, was due to Alice on the part of the Crown, she obtained a grant of the manor in 1472 to herself and her heirs, (fn. 65) and on her death in 1475 it passed to her son John Duke of Suffolk, (fn. 66) who with his wife Elizabeth, sister of Edward IV, alienated it in 1480 to the Dean and Canons of St. George at Windsor, (fn. 67) with whom it remained until after the middle of the 19th century. The dean and canons farmed out the premises, and a lease of ninety-nine years was obtained in 1566 by Robert Christmas, by whom it was surrendered and the premises granted in 1576 for the remainder of the term to Francis Barnham and George Barnes, aldermen of London. (fn. 68) Their interest was doubtless transferred to Christopher, afterwards Sir Christopher, Hoddesden, who was lessee in 1587. (fn. 69) He, who was sheriff for the county in 1591–2, was continually involved in disputes with his tenants over rights of warren on the Heath and accused them of encroaching on his demesne lands. (fn. 70) On his death in 1610 his daughter and heir Ursula wife of Sir John Leigh of Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, son of the first baronet of that name, inherited his right in the lease. (fn. 71) Their son, Sir Thomas Leigh, bart., who held a court baron here on 21 May ('Le Triming Day') 1635, was created Lord Leigh in 1643. (fn. 72) He espoused the royal cause, and suffered heavily for his adherence to Charles. Leighton Buzzard was farmed out to Sir Samuel Luke in 1644 for one year at a rent of £460 to the State and £60 to the dean and canons, but one-fifth of the rents of the estate were ordered to be paid to Lady Leigh. (fn. 73) His case was before the Committee for Compounding during the years 1648 to 1653, and the estates at Leighton paid £135 in 1655 on the assessment of the Decimation Tax. (fn. 74)
At the abolition of deans and chapters in 1649 the estate was sold by the trustees to William Haveningham and others. It then comprised, among other items, land called Turneyes Ground, pasture called Chappell's Groundes and Windmill Hill and a close called Olive Ground. (fn. 75) But the dean and chapter recovered possession of their lands at the Restoration, and Lord Leigh put forward his claim to a renewal of the lease, the reversion of which he had sold in 1654 to Richard Mead and Colonel Okey, one of the regicides. On the attainder of Okey in 1660 the reversion escheated to the Crown, by whom it was granted to the Duke of York, who transferred it to Lord Leigh. (fn. 76) The claim was contested by Richard Mead, but Lord Leigh was successful, and the manor continued to be held at lease by the Leigh family during the 18th and first part of the 19th centuries. (fn. 77) The leasehold interest was purchased of the Leighs some time after 1831 by Colonel H. Hanmer, K.H., M.P., who also acquired the freehold interest of the Dean and Canons of St. George in 1863. (fn. 78) On his death without issue in 1868 the manor passed to his nephew Sir W. E. Hanmer, bart., in whose descendants it remained (fn. 79) until within recent years it was purchased by Mr. J. T. Mills of Stock Grove, Soulsbury, Bucks., who holds courts leet and baron for the manor twice a year in Whitsun week and on the last Thursday in October.
A second GROVEBURY or LA GROVE MANOR in this parish dates from the foundation of the priory temp. Richard I. Until the 17th century it followed the same descent as that of Leighton Buzzard (q.v.), only occasionally being mentioned as an individual manor. Such separate mention occurs in 1293, when the Abbess of Fontévrault acquired seisin of Leighton and La Grove, which the escheator had temporarily taken into the king's hands. (fn. 80) In the 17th century the Leighs were declared to hold this manor, as well as that of Leighton, on lease under the Dean and Canons of St. George's, Windsor. (fn. 81)
The lease of both manors was vested in the Leighs until 1668, when Thomas Lord Leigh conveyed his interest in that of Grovebury to Dr. George Bates, physician to Charles II. It passed from this family to the Powneys, and afterwards, about 1776, to William Villiers Lewis, whose son William Villiers Villiers was lessee at the beginning of the 19th century. (fn. 82)
From the end of the 12th century till nearly the end of the 13th century the prior and his tenants were frequently at variance. The case of William the Clerk, one of the tenants, was taken into the king's court in 1194. He held 1 hide and 1 virgate in Leighton and half a virgate in Billington by the service of 18s. yearly, and owed to the prior three ploughings and harvest work with one of his men, when he had to supply their own food called 'hungribedripe.' These could be commuted for 2s.; but there were two other harvest works, one with all his men whom he ought to superintend and direct, and the other with one man alone. On both of these occasions the lord was bound to provide the food. (fn. 83) In 1195 five tenants were indicted for refusal to perform the services due from 1 hide of land which they held and which they and their fathers had done for thirty-three years. For each virgate they ought to plough 12 selions, to mow three days, scythe for one day and harrow for one day. (fn. 84) In 1202 the men of Leighton and Billington paid 10 marks in order to have an inquisition by the next halmote, as to the customs they owed under Henry II (fn. 85); but the dispute does not appear to have been settled to the satisfaction of either party, and in 1212 the question came up again. It was said that the men of Leighton ought to do three ploughings of half an acre each, and with forks and rakes to make the hay, cut down, assist with and hoe the corn for one day, and also in autumn to do one day's fishing. The men of the hamlets were required to do similar works, and in all cases they had to supply their own food. (fn. 86) These suits continued to be brought before the king's courts until 1289, after which nothing more is heard of them. (fn. 87)
The right of free warren attached to the manor of Grovebury dates from 1256, when Henry III bestowed it on the Abbess of Fontévrault. (fn. 88) The exercise of the right gave rise to bad feeling between the tenants and the lessees of the manor during the 16th and 17th centuries, and the controversy was complicated by the inclosure of part of the heath and of the Outwood or Baker's Wood with the purpose of increasing the number of rabbits. In 1587 Sir Christopher Hoddesden brought an action against the tenants, who were ordered not 'to marre, pluck up or spill any dich, hedge or house' during the hearing of the case. (fn. 89) A temporary reconciliation was effected about 1595, whereby Sir Christopher agreed to relinquish the right of warren on Leighton Heath in return for the right to inclose part of the heath as far as King's Wood; but the peace was broken by the tenants, who pulled down the pales of the inclosure. (fn. 90)
During the next thirty-six years no fewer than five cases were brought into Chancery, but in 1631 a decree was issued by the court, after which the disputes ceased. The lessee of the manor might inclose a house and orchard upon Rushmere pond and a parcel of the heath called the Park, 100 acres in extent, which had been inclosed before by Sir Christopher Hoddesden. He could hedge, ditch, mound or fence it from the south-east end of Gladley Wood to the end of Coker Way, the tenants being obliged to give 8d. for every pole of ground to be ditched and also to repair the inclosure when necessary. They were also to provide the paling, &c., but need not go more than three miles in search of timber. For £50 the tenants acquired the right to exterminate all rabbits in the park till the following Easter and the rabbits upon the heath during the next year. The lessee was to put no more conies in the park, and the heath was to be used by the tenants as heretofore. (fn. 91)
The manor of GLADLEY, comprising 2½ hides in 1086 (fn. 92) and situated partly in Buckinghamshire, was held of the king in chief; but during the 13th and 14th centuries the holders of the honour of Gloucester appear as intermediary lords between the lords of the manor and the Crown. (fn. 93)
The tenant of the manor at the date of the Survey was Gozelin le Breton, (fn. 94) from whom it descended to his son Hugh and grandson Walter. The latter left a daughter and heiress Amabilla, whose daughter and heiress married as her third husband Geoffrey de Lucy, to whom she brought the manor in dower. (fn. 95) Gladley then passed through their son Geoffrey to Geoffrey his son, who died in 1284, leaving a son another Geoffrey, who obtained Woodcroft alias Halyard Manor in Luton (q.v.), with which Gladley descended until the middle of the 15th century. (fn. 96)
In 1330 Geoffrey de Lucy claimed to hold a view of frankpledge in his manor by prescriptive right, (fn. 97) and in 1332 a grant of free warren in the demesne lands was made to him and his heirs. (fn. 98) In 1460 the manors passed out of the Lucy family by the death of Sir William Lucy without issue, and Gladley was inherited by Walter Hopton and Elizabeth wife of Roger Corbet, children of Sir William's sister Eleanor, while Woodcroft was allotted to William Vaux, son of Maud, another sister. (fn. 99) Walter Hopton died within half a year of his uncle, and his interest in Gladley was acquired by his sister Elizabeth. (fn. 100) By her first husband Roger Corbet Elizabeth had a son Richard, who in 1475 enfeoffed trustees of his right in the manor on the occasion of his journey with the king into foreign parts (fn. 101); from whence he seems never to have returned, for on the death in 1498 of his mother Elizabeth, the widow of Sir William Stanley, Richard's son Robert entered into possession. (fn. 102) The manor, never a large one, had doubtless sunk into insignificance by this time, and for the next hundred years or so the name of Gladley Manor is not applied to this estate, which consisted of three messuages, 100 acres of land, 10 acres of meadow and 40 of pasture, of which Robert died seised in 1513. (fn. 103) His son Roger, who succeeded him, died in 1538, leaving a son Andrew, (fn. 104) whose eldest son Robert died without male issue, but had two daughters and co-heirs, Elizabeth who married Sir Henry Wallop of Farleigh, Hampshire, and Anne the wife of Adolphus Carey. They with their husbands brought an action in 1599 against Christopher Hoddesden, lessee of Grovebury Manor, for refusing to accept a settled fine paid by them as copyholders for admission to lands (fn. 105) in this parish. Anne Carey died without issue in 1602, and her right in the lands was inherited by Elizabeth Wallop, (fn. 106) who was also heiress of her uncle Sir Richard Corbet, who died in 1606. (fn. 107) The property descended in the Wallop family and was sold by Robert Wallop in 1652 for £2,500 to Stephen and William Sedgwick, and was afterwards purchased by the Duncombes of Battlesden. William Duncombe was holding it in 1697 under the name of Nares or Nares Gladley Manor. (fn. 108) In 1704 it was sold by him and his wife Elizabeth to Edward Stare, (fn. 109) and a member of the same family, William Stare, with Mary his wife, alienated it in 1754 to John Mortimer. (fn. 110) During the 19th century it was conveyed to the lords of Grovebury Manor, and is held at the present day by Mr. J. T. Mills under the name of the manor of Heath and Reach (in which parish Gladley is situated).
The manor of STANBRIDGE, which was carved out of the demesne of the royal manor of Leighton, was held of the Crown by the serjeanty of taking care of two of the king's falcons and of paying £4 yearly to Newnham Priory. (fn. 111) The former part of the serjeanty was commuted before 1258 for £3 paid into the Exchequer for the service of the chief falconer, but by 1439 this service was represented by the hundredth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 112) The rent of £4 was paid yearly till the dissolution of Newnham in 1535, when it escheated to the Crown. (fn. 113)
The manor, which is not mentioned before 1166, (fn. 114) was bestowed on Audufus de Gatesden, or Gaddesden, whose descendants continued to hold it till the 16th century. (fn. 115) The relationship between the various members of this name who held Stanbridge during the 13th century has not been clearly established. William de Gatesden was lord of the manor in 1204, (fn. 116) and in 1240 Peter is mentioned in connexion with half a virgate of land. (fn. 117) In 1247 the manor was held by John de Gatesden, (fn. 118) who died in 1258, leaving a daughter and heir Margaret, (fn. 119) who married another John de Gatesden. (fn. 120) He died in 1291 and the manor, which then comprised among other items a messuage, with garden, herbage, fishpond and dovecote worth 13s. 4d. annually, was valued at £16 8s. 9½d. and descended to his daughter and heir Joan. (fn. 121) She carried it in marriage to Richard Chamberlain, who in 1314 settled it on his son John and his wife Joan sister and eventual heir of John Morteyn. (fn. 122) On the death of Joan, John Chamberlain married as his second wife Aubrey, and in 1324 made a settlement of Stanbridge on his son Richard and Margaret his wife, (fn. 123) who in 1330 claimed to hold by prescriptive right a view of frankpledge in the manor once a year. (fn. 124) Richard, who was afterwards knighted, owed his brother Thomas a considerable sum of money, and as pledge of payment in 1353 mortgaged to him two-thirds of the manor with the reversion of that third which his father's widow Aubrey, then wife of Sir John Gatesden, held in dower. (fn. 125) The mortgage was afterwards redeemed, and from 1373 until the end of the 16th century Stanbridge was held with the manor of Tilsworth (q.v.), which was inherited by Sir Richard Chamberlain on the death of his cousin John Morteyn without issue in 1373. (fn. 126) The Fowler family, who held both manors in the latter part of the 16th century, seem to have alienated a great deal of their property, and Stanbridge was sold by Richard Fowler to John Iremonger in 1601. (fn. 127) He died seised of it in 1613, leaving a son and heir John, on whose death in 1635 his son, another John, inherited the estate. (fn. 128) He was succeeded by Humphrey Iremonger, who suffered for his Royalist convictions and died in 1659, leaving twelve children, (fn. 129) of whom the eldest William died without issue in 1655 and left Stanbridge by will to his sisters Martha, Judith, Margaret and Frances, and brothers Thomas, Humphrey and John, (fn. 130) who in 1678 combined to alienate their right in the manor to Ralph Baldwin. (fn. 131) Thomas, Ralph's eldest son, was in possession of Stanbridge in 1747, but the reversion was vested in his brother William, who mortgaged it about that date. (fn. 132) It is difficult to trace the history of the manor during the next fifty years, but it is said by Lysons to have descended by inheritance about 1767 to the Reverend John Pitman, who sold it in 1781 to Thomas Gurney, whose wife was lady of the manor at the beginning of the 19th century. (fn. 133) The manorial rights were afterwards acquired by the Hanmers, lords of Leighton Buzzard Manor, but are no longer exercised.
The manor of KIMPTONS in Stanbridge, held of the principal manor of Stanbridge by the yearly rent of 6s. 4d., may have originated in land held by the Kimpton family, one of whom was a witness to a settlement in Billington in 1393. (fn. 134) It came into the possession of the Billingtons, lords of Billington Manor, with which it was held in 1496 by Joan wife of Edmund Haslewood and daughter and heir of John Billington. (fn. 135) Both manors were conveyed to Robert Dormer in 1527 by Joan Haslewood, then a widow, and her son John. (fn. 136) Robert Dormer alienated Kimptons in 1539 to William Jackman of Wing (co. Bucks. (fn. 137) ), who in 1543 settled it on himself for life with reversion to his three sons William, Clement and John and their male issue successively, (fn. 138) and it was doubtless the third son John who in 1556 quitclaimed it to Robert Brocas. (fn. 139) The latter died in the following year, leaving a son and heir Barnard, (fn. 140) but the Stanbridge property was left to a younger son William in the wardship of his brother. (fn. 141) In 1571 William Jackman released to Barnard Brocas all claim to the manor, (fn. 142) which in 1573 was settled on William for life with the remainder to his wife Elizabeth, (fn. 143) and was alienated by them in 1579 to Henry Honnor. (fn. 144) During the next 130 years this estate was enjoyed by the Honnor family, (fn. 145) but was purchased by Thomas Cowslade in 1712 of Henry Honnor and other representatives of the family. (fn. 146) John Cowslade was lord of the manor in 1774, (fn. 147) but its history during the next fifty years is obscure, and it appears in 1822 in the possession of Richard Thomas Gilpin. (fn. 148)
A third manor in Stanbridge, which was held of the principal manor of Stanbridge, was distinguished by the name of the manor of MORRELLS after a family who held it in the reign of Henry VI. John Morrell, who was lord of the manor in 1446, appears to have left a daughter and heir Anne, who in 1462 was the widow of a Brocas, into whose family the manor passed. (fn. 149)
In 1490 it was in the possession of John Brocas, and he was succeeded by Barnard, whose son John died in 1518, leaving a son and heir Robert, then aged two. (fn. 150) The latter in 1556 acquired the manor of Stanbridge alias Kimptons (q.v.), with which it was held until 1577, when William Brocas and Elizabeth his wife alienated it to William Bawdery, junior. (fn. 151) About 1596 it became the property of Thomas Ellingham, whose descendants retained the manor for nearly a hundred and fifty years; but the last Thomas Ellingham who was lord became involved in financial troubles and was declared a bankrupt. (fn. 152) The estate, comprising 'Brocks' and 'Kimpton's' closes, was sold in 1744 to John Capon, of whom a moiety was purchased in 1747 by John Franklin. (fn. 153) The death of both these took place before the end of the century, and in 1797 and 1799 respectively the devisees of their wills sold the moieties to John Franklin, a relative, in whom they were vested at the beginning of the 19th century. (fn. 154)
Another manor in Stanbridge which appears at the beginning of the 16th century was held of the chief manor of Stanbridge and was called the manor of MORTEYNES or REYNES after the family names of the lords of the manor, who were also lords of Marston Moretaine (q.v.). Thomas Reynes died seised of a messuage and land here in 1471, (fn. 155) and this estate was eventually carried by a female heir of the Reynes to the family of Decons, one of whom was lord of the manor in 1511. (fn. 156) In 1544 Thomas Decons alienated it to Richard Bury and William Duncombe, from whom it was acquired in 1562 by William Draper alias Rawlyns. (fn. 157) He died seised of it in 1585, leaving a son and heir Gabriel, who was in possession in 1604 (fn. 158); but it afterwards passed to the Wiggs, by whom it was conveyed to Alice Brandreth in 1700. (fn. 159) The Brandreth family continued to hold the manor during the 18th century, and on the death of Henry Brandreth about 1760 it passed by will to his sister Anne the wife of William Duncombe, at whose death about 1778 it was inherited by their son Brandreth. (fn. 160) The latter in 1786 sold it to John Franklin lord of Morrells Manor, by whom it was held at the beginning of the 19th century. (fn. 161)
An estate which in the 15th century became known as the manor of BILLINGTON was held during the 14th and 15th centuries by a family who bore the same name as the place. In 1349 John Billington made a settlement of this estate in Leighton, Billington and Stanbridge on himself, with remainder to his son John, (fn. 162) and his descendants continued to hold the property, first called a manor in 1496, (fn. 163) until 1527, when Joan Haslewood conveyed it to Robert, afterwards Sir Robert, Dormer at the same time that she alienated the manor of Kimptons (fn. 164) (q.v.), with which Billington descended until 1556, when the Jackmans parted with Kimptons but retained Billington. (fn. 165) An epitaph in Leighton Buzzard Church to William Jackman of Billington, who with his two sons William and Reginald died in 1597, (fn. 166) probably records the death of the son and grandsons of the William who purchased the manor in 1539, and Billington passed to Gabriel Jackman, the brother of Reginald, who with his wife Elizabeth alienated it in 1636 to John Huxley. (fn. 167) The Huxley family continued to hold the manor during the 18th century, (fn. 168) but it passed out of their possession some time before 1808, and became the property of the Pottingals, (fn. 169) from whom the manorial rights appear to have been acquired before 1869 by the Hanmers, lords of the manor of Leighton Buzzard. These rights are now vested in their successor, Mr. J. T. Mills.
The manor of EGGINGTON first appears in 1518, in the possession of William Man. (fn. 170) The family of Man had for long been associated with Eggington and the John Man who was trustee in a settlement of 1393 was doubtless the ancestor of William. (fn. 171) It is difficult to trace the connexion between the various members of the family who held the manor during the 16th and 17th centuries, as they did not enter their pedigree in the Herald's Visitations and the documents relating to Eggington during this period are few. (fn. 172) A John Man who was lord of the manor died in 1657, and it was probably his son John who married Mary Elkin widow in 1675 and alienated Eggington before 1710 to John Gardner. (fn. 173) By 1722 it was in the possession of Susannah Calfe, whose family was still holding in 1741. (fn. 174) It was afterwards held for a short time by Sarah Huxley, but by 1787 John Bond was lord of the manor, (fn. 175) which he alienated in 1790 to Thomas Goodwin, and at the beginning of the 19th century the manorial rights were vested in George Goodwin. (fn. 176)
When the church of Leighton was converted into a prebend in the cathedral of Lincoln part of the bishop's estate was taken to endow the prebendal stall and was known as LEIGHTON PREBENDAL or RECTORIAL MANOR. The manorial rights were exercised by each prebendary in virtue of his office in conjunction with those of patron and rector, and, as Leighton Buzzard was a particularly wealthy prebend, there was great competition to secure it. The origin of the bishop's estate in Leighton would seem to be twofold. In 1066 the church, with 4 hides of land, was held by Bishop Wulfwig of Dorchester. It duly descended to his successors. On the other hand, in an original charter of Henry II, (fn. 177) the king confirms to the church of Lincoln Leighton (Lectona) 'which earl Waltheof gave by the hand of King William.' The charter, though unusual in form, is authentic; the grant by Waltheof agrees with other evidence which suggests that in his time Bedfordshire was annexed to the earldom of Northampton (fn. 178); his gift probably represents the origin of the rectorial estate, which is described below.
In 1247 the tenants of this manor brought an important action against John, the prebendary at that date, who wanted to impose servile services on them. They stated that, as freeholders, they paid 4s. a year for each virgate and owed two works in winter, during one of which the lord was bound to feed them. In summer, too, they were to make hay in 'Bellammede,' the lord providing four men, a horse and sled. These services and these only had been attached to the land since Domesday. They had refused the prebendary's orders to do suit at his court, to pay tallage and merchet for their daughters and sisters, and could not be called upon to act as his reeves. (fn. 179)
Nicholas de Hegham, who held the office of prebendary in 1286, claimed in that year to hold view of frankpledge and waif and stray in his manor, (fn. 180) and these privileges were again called in question in 1330, when John de Podio Barsaco, an Italian who was also Archdeacon of Stow, was prebendary of the church. (fn. 181) In 1340 the manor with its appurtenances was valued at £22 10s. 8d., (fn. 182) and in 1498 the executors of the will of William Pykenham, the late prebendary, were called upon by Hugh Oldham his successor to repair the waste in houses buildings and stock of cattle. (fn. 183) The manor was afterwards held at lease by Sir Christopher Hoddesden and the Leighs under the prebendary. William Johnson, who was one of the defendants in an action brought by Sir Thomas Leigh in 1620, said that he and many of his ancestors lived in the principal dwelling-house called the Prebend Fee, which had since been decayed 'in the willfulness or negligence and meere default' of Sir Christopher Hoddesden. (fn. 184)
During the troubles of the Commonwealth the trustees for the sale of church lands entered into an agreement with George Smith of London in 1650 for the conveyance of the prebendal estate, comprising the Prebend House, Dovehouse Close, Parsonage Close, Parsonage Hooke and 'Robery' Field, (fn. 185) but the sale was nullified at the Restoration and the Leighs acquired a renewal of the lease.
A small estate at Nares Gladley was granted by Hugh son of Gozelin in the 12th century (fn. 186) to Dunstable Priory, which claimed also an interest in the vicarial tithes and maintained its right to the same in 1240 against John rector of Leighton, to whom an annuity of 2s. was granted in compensation. (fn. 187) The estate was farmed out during the 13th century and was obtained in 1280 at a rent of 1 mark for the term of his life by William de Chaurugge, who at the same time gave 25 marks for a corrody. (fn. 188) In 1291 this property was valued at 10s. only, (fn. 189) but in 1535, when it was stated to consist of pasture land leased to Thomas Duncombe, it was assessed at 40s. (fn. 190) At the Dissolution it escheated to the Crown, and was bestowed with other lands in 1545 on Henry Audley and John Maynard. (fn. 191)
On the royal demesne at Domesday were two mills worth 30s., one of which passed with the rest of the manor to Fontévrault Abbey. (fn. 192) A windmill was afterwards built which in 1212 figured in the dispute between the prior and his tenants, the latter declaring that the one-sixteenth of each quarter which the prior demanded as toll was excessive. In his answer the prior said it was agreed to by the men of the soke, but the jury, although admitting that the tenants ought to do suit, would not themselves pronounce on the question of tolls. (fn. 193) In the survey of the manor taken in the reign of Henry III the water-mill is described as two under one roof, one for corn and one for brewing, and the windmill is included in the inventory. (fn. 194) The water-mills seem to have been acquired temporarily by Richard Saunders, who died seised of them in 1588, leaving a son and heir Richard (fn. 195); but they were among the possessions of the Dean and canons of St. George which were sold by the trustees at the dissolution of the chapter in 1649. (fn. 196)
There is a water-mill in the town of Leighton Buzzard at the present day, used for grinding corn, which may represent the two mills under one roof mentioned in the reign of Henry III.
One of the original mills on the Crown estate in 1086 was given before 1159 to Woburn Abbey, and was then worth 32s. (fn. 197) Its value remained stationary during the 13th and 14th centuries, (fn. 198) and during this period the abbey received an additional rent of 6s. from a dairy. (fn. 199) Camden, writing in the early part of the 17th century, speaks of a cell to Woburn Abbey which was in this parish, but, although Woburn owned the estate above-mentioned, no proof of a cell is found. In 1566 a William Wright obtained livery of a grange or tenement called the Hermitage next Pannells Grove in Leighton Buzzard, late of George his father, but there is no evidence that this refers to the cell mentioned by Camden. (fn. 200)
There was a windmill appurtenant to the manor of Stanbridge mentioned first in 1291, when John de Gatesden died seised of two parts of it worth 16s. (fn. 201) yearly. It passed with the manor to the Chamberlains and Iremongers, (fn. 202) and William Iremonger by his will in 1662 left it to the use of his brothers and sisters, (fn. 203) but when the manor was sold by them in 1678 the mill is not specified, although the sale included 'all that pasture in Stanbridge upon which a windmill lately stood, containing about 3 half-acres.' (fn. 204) An old windmill stands north of Stanbridge at the present day near the vicarage, at a height of more than 400 ft. above the ordnance datum.
In 1086 there was a mill worth 16s. attached to the manor of Gladley, (fn. 205) with which it passed to the Lucys. On the death of Geoffrey de Lucy in 1346 it is called a water-mill, (fn. 206) and, although no further trace of it is found in the documents relating to this manor, there is a water-mill at the present day known as the Grange Mill a short distance south of Nares Gladley Farm, which may stand on the same site as the original of the Domesday Survey.
The church of ALL SAINTS consists of a chancel 60 ft. by 23 ft. 6 in., with a north vestry, central tower 19 ft. square, north and south transepts 23 ft. 6 in. by 30 ft. 6 in., nave 63 ft. by 23 ft. 6 in., with north and south aisles 11 ft. wide, and north porch. The church was built in the second half of the 13th century, and the only alterations of importance have been the renewal of the windows and heightening of the walls in the 15th century, a clearstory being added to the nave and flat-pitched roofs substituted for the higher original roofs. In modern times a good deal of restoration has been done.
The walls are built of rubble, and all have embattled parapets except in the south transept, where the parapets are plain.
The chancel windows are all 15th-century insertions, the east window being of five cinquefoiled lights, divided into two heights by an embattled transom, and in each side wall are three three-light windows.
The double piscina and triple sedilia form a range of five trefoiled arches with Purbeck marble shafts, and west of them is a plain south doorway. On the north side of the chancel is a 15th-century vestry with two stories over; there is a doorway from the chancel and another on the east side of the ground story with a square head, which was formerly that of a window of two trefoiled lights. In the second story are two small lights, one rectangular and one with a trefoiled head, and in the north wall is a squareheaded window of three trefoiled lights in two chamfered orders, with two trefoils over the head of each light. Over this window is a square-headed window of two trefoiled lights lighting the third story. Between this vestry and the north transept is a modern quire vestry.
The walling of the north transept resembles that of the chancel. The east side is divided by buttresses into two bays, in each of which is a 15th-century window of three cinquefoiled lights. In the internal jambs of that in the north bay are square-headed niches, one of which is cinquefoiled. Between the two windows in the east wall is a trefoiled piscina that has been restored. The north window is modern and consists of five cinquefoiled lights. The west side is plain except for a doorway having a four-centred head with a square label over.
The east side of the south transept is also divided into two bays by square buttresses, in each of which is a window of three cinquefoiled lights. In this wall are an early 14th-century trefoiled niche, a locker, and a piscina. The south window of the transept is like those in the east wall, but has four lights instead of three. At each angle are two square buttresses, on each of which is a sundial with these inscriptions: (1) 'Dum (spectas ?) fugit'; (2) 'Vigila oraque, tempus fugit'; (3) 'Vita fugax'; (4) 'Deus adest laborantibus.' The transepts open to the aisles by chamfered arches with moulded capitals. The central tower is carried by four arches in three chamfered orders, springing from responds with moulded capitals. In the southeast respond arch are remains of the rood stair, the tower stair being in the north-east pier.
The weathering of the original steep-pitched roofs remains on the tower walls, with narrow arched openings below them formerly leading to the roof spaces. The tower rises one stage above the roofs, each face having an arcade of three bays, the middle bay being pierced, and from this stage rises a tall stone octagonal spire with angle pinnacles and three tiers of spire lights, which on the north side towards the town have cusped lights and quatrefoils, but on the other three sides are plain.
The nave arcades are of four bays in two chamfered orders, with octagonal shafts and moulded capitals and bases, like those of the tower arches. The clearstory has four pairs of three-light windows on each side, with embattled transoms and tracery under four-centred heads.
The north and south aisles are alike, lighted by three three-light windows of 15th-century date. The north doorway has been restored, and, in fact, is almost entirely new; it is in two wave-moulded order with a pointed head, and over it are three 15th-century niches with traces of coloured decoration. The north porch has been restored and has a new embattled parapet; the outer doorway is in two chamfered orders with a pointed head.
The south doorway is like the north and has also been restored, and the south porch has been rebuilt. The west windows of the aisles are like the rest, and that of the nave is also of 15th-century date, with five cinquefoiled lights. Beneath it is the west doorway, of the same detail as the north and south doors. The door itself is modern, but is ornamented with beautiful wrought-iron 13th-century hinges; over it is a modern porch.
At the west end of the nave is a 13th-century font with a round bowl on a central and four-angle shaft.
On the tower piers are a number of rough-scratched designs, and two figures with traces of colouring on them on the south-west pier; on the south-east pier a design for a window of four trefoiled lights with geometrical tracery in a pointed head, two or three birds, a rose window, two shields, &c.
The church roof dates from the 15th century; those of the chancel, transepts and aisles are of a low pitch, but that of the nave is steeper, and is in four bays with moulded timbers and figures of angels at the wall plates, a very fine piece of mediaeval carpentry. The aisle roofs are of similar character and date, though the pitch is lower, and have carved leaf bosses at the intersections of the timbers. The roofs of the chancel and transepts are of plainer work, and resemble one another in style and ornamentation. The vestry has a plain 15th-century ceiling, and the tower has a flat ceiling divided into nine panels.
There is a fine 15th-century screen at the entrance to the chancel, of two wide bays with cinquefoiled heads on either side of the middle opening, which has an arched head with feathered cusps ending in grotesquely carved animals; the base of the screen is solid, with trefoiled panelling.
In the chancel are 15th-century oak stalls, fourteen on either side, with traceried panelling and carved poppy heads. The misericordes are carved with heads and leaves or flowers, or in some instances with heraldic shields: (i) On a fesse three roundels and in chief three rings with a fleur de lis in the middle ring; (ii) checky a cheveron; (iii) a cheveron between three leopards' heads (this shield occurs twice, in one case with a molet on the cheveron); (iv) a fesse between six crosslets; (v) a saltire; (vi) a cheveron between three birds; (vii) two cheverons.
The altar rails are beautifully carved, of 17th-century workmanship.
The pulpit is a finely carved and panelled hexagonal example of 17th-century work in cedar-wood. Near the north door is a 17th-century oak table, and the eagle lectern is a fine specimen, and retains part of the chain by which the Bible was attached to it.
In the north-east corner of the chancel is a mural monument in alabaster, partly coloured and gilt, with kneeling effigies of Robert Wyngate, son and heir of George Wyngate of Harlington, and his wife Anne daughter of Roger Warre and his wife, who was the daughter of Sir John Popham. He died in 1603. Above is a shield in a broken pediment, quarterly (1) and (4) Sable a bend ermine cotised or between six martlets or, (2) and (3) Azure a fesse between three scallops or.
On the frieze of the monument are seven shields: (1) Wyngate impaling the second; (2) Wyngate impaling Ermine a cross engrailed gules; (3) the same impaling Gules a cheveron or between three unicorns' heads argent; (4) Wyngate impaling Azure two bells argent and a canton ermine; (5) Wyngate impaling Bendy wavy of six argent and azure, on a chief gules three cinquefoils or; (6) Wyngate impaling Sable a molet gules and a chief gules a label of five points or; (7) the first impaling Gules crusilly fitchy argent a lion rampant sable.
Near this monument is a marble slab to Alicia first wife of Altham Annesley, first Lord Altham. She was daughter and co-heir of Hon. Charles Leigh second son of Thomas first Lord Leigh. She died 4 June 1682, aged 24. Over it is a wronglycoloured shield of the arms of her husband and herself.
On the opposite side of the east window is a monumental slab to Anna Leigh, 1680.
In the south-east angle is a Corinthian monument to Charles Leigh and his wife Elizabeth, 1704; also to Anne wife of Sir Thomas Holt, 1697. Over it are the arms of Leigh; of Leigh impaling Or a cheveron sable between three escallops; and of Or two bends sable between two martlets.
On the north chancel wall is a monument to the Sclater family, 1690, and a brass slab to Katherine wife of Richard Whitlock, died 1649. On the opposite wall is a marble slab to Edward Wilkes, 1646, and Joan his wife, 1657. Above is a coat paly of eight or and gules, on a chief argent three lozenges gules; beneath another coat, the same impaling argent (no charge). Another slab to his son Luke: Above on the left is a coat paly of eight or and gules, on a chief argent three quatrefoils or and gules; on the right a coat or, a cheveron sable between three griffins' heads razed sable; in the centre a coat quarterly, (1) and (4) the first, (2) and (3) the second.
There is a mural brass with three kneeling figures, and an inscription to William Jackman of Billington, 1597. Another brass, with two kneeling figures, is of Francis Welles and Margaret his first wife, daughter of Richard Saunders, 1636, and there is an alabaster monument to John Welles, late of Heath, 1645.
On the floor of the chancel is a slab with the matrices of a brass figure under a crocketed canopy with pinnacles; another slab to Mr. John Leigh, treasurer of the Company of Stationers, who died 1686; on it a shield, divided palewise dexter half a bend lozengy, sinister a stag leaping. Built into the west wall of the south transept are four stone slabs, with extremely primitive lettering and spelling: (1) to Sir Christopher 'Hodsdin,' kt., 1610; (2) to his wife 'Ales Carlil,' 1602; (3) to Ursula Leigh, wife of the Hon. Leigh (esquire) and daughter of Christopher 'Hodden,' esq., 1595; (4) to Mary Legh, daughter of Sir Thomas Legh, 1641. In the floor is a slab to William Pym, 1672, with the arms on a fesse three crosslets between three owls. There are many memorial slabs in the church of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Between the south porch and the south transept are two stone coffins.
There are ten bells: (1) and (2) by Mears & Stainbank, 1906; and the others by W. & T. Mears, 1787.
The communion plate consists of a communion cup and cover paten, the cup is chased and has the inscription, 'This Challice belongeth to Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire'; and on the paten is 'Meliora pro nobis quam sanguis Abell,' and on the foot is a hawk. Neither cup nor paten has a date letter, but they are of Elizabethan pattern. There are a second cup and cover paten, copies of the preceding; a large foot paten of 1673, inscribed 'Ex Dono Domini Leigh Holt'; a paten given by Robert Shepherd, 1689; a large silver flagon of 1676, given by Charles Leigh 29 May 1677; and a foot paten of 1751, with an engraved monogram, 'I.K.S.': 'A Gift to the Parish Church of Leighton Buzzard for Sacramental use by a humble Communicant 1833.'
The registers previous to 1813 are in five books: (1) baptisms 1562 to 1732, marriages 1562 to 1731, burials 1562 to 1730; (2) all, 1732 to 1774; (3) all, 1774 to 1805; (4) baptisms and burials 1806 to 1812; (5) marriages 1806 to 1812.
The church of ST. MICHAEL at Billington consists of a chancel 20 ft. 4 in. long by 14 ft. 4 in. wide and a nave 44 ft. long by 18 ft. wide, having a modern north vestry. The plan of the church dates from the latter part of the 13th century, and of that date are the arch of the west window of the nave and the piscina in the chancel, the chancel itself having been rebuilt in modern times.
The chancel is built of red sandstone rubble with larger pieces of clunch—fragments of the old wall—built amongst it. The east window is restored 15th-century work with three cinquefoiled lights and perpendicular tracery under a pointed head, the jambs alone being old. In the north wall is a square unmoulded recess, and nearer to the nave is a window of a single trefoiled pointed light, the head being modern and the jambs of late 13th-century date; a little of the walling round it is also part of the old chancel, and is in coursed blocks of clunch. In the south wall is a trefoiled pointed piscina in two hollow-chamfered orders and a half-round label, and this is also late 13th-century work; near it is a square-headed window of two uncusped lights, and further west a single-light window like that opposite. The chancel arch and walling are modern, as also are the chancel and nave roofs.
The nave has two 15th-century windows in the north wall, one of three cinquefoiled lights and the other, west of it, of two uncusped lights, and those in the south wall are similar. The walls of the nave are plastered and strengthened by low buttresses, and at the west end two modern buttresses are arched over to carry a modern octangular bell turret containing one bell. The west window consists of two uncusped lights under a square head, but this replaces a pointed window of which the label inside rests on shafts with foliate capitals, bases and moulded bands of late 13th-century date. The south doorway of the nave is in two chamfered orders with a scroll moulded label, and the porch is modern.
The octagonal font is 15th-century work of plain design.
The communion table is of the 17th century, and there are two carved chairs of a rather later date.
The plate consists of a cup and cover paten, maker R.W., date mark 1624, a modern flat paten and a silver-plated flagon.
The registers previous to 1812 are in one book: births 1653 to 1835 and deaths 1653 to 1692 and the years 1734 and 1736; there is no record of any marriages.
The church of ST. MICHAEL at Eggington consists of a chancel 20 ft. 10 in. by 14 ft. 6 in., with a north organ chamber and vestry and a nave 44 ft. 6 in. by 21 ft. with a south porch, and has been entirely restored, but as far as the walls are concerned dates from the early part of the 14th century; all the windows are new with the exception of a few old stones in the jambs of the nave windows. The roofs are tiled and at the west end is a tiled bell turret set on the roof of the nave. The chancel windows are tall trefoiled lancets of modern date, and the only old features are the image brackets on either side of the east window and a square locker in the south wall. The chancel arch is in two chamfered orders with a label, springing from responds with 14th-century capitals and modern bases. The two north windows of the nave have a little old stonework in their jambs, and are of two trefoiled lights with tracery; between them is the blocked north doorway moulded with a double ogee, and preserving a good deal of old stonework. The south doorway is like the north, and partly old, under a modern porch, and at the south-east of the aisle is a trefoiled piscina with an ogee head. At the west angles of the nave are diagonal buttresses with a square one in the centre of the west end, over the top of which is a modern circular window with tracery in the gable of the roof. Above the roof at the west end is a modern wooden and tiled bell-cot. The font, which is at the west end of the nave, is formed of a circular bowl with four shafts round it, which have moulded capitals and a base of 13th-century type; it is built in stone with horizontal joints, the middle section is original, dating from the 13th century, but the top and base are modern, made to match. There are modern timber roofs to the church. In the vestry are a 17th-century carved chest and an old moulded piece of oak, to which are attached hanging hooks, but which appears to have been formerly the top of a screen. (The bell is inaccessible.)
The plate consists of a communion cup, with the inscription, 'Meliora pro nobis quam sanguis Abel; The Communion Cup of the Chappell of Eginton and made 1635'; date letter 1635, maker's mark RM/O, and a cover paten 'For the Chappell of Eginton 1635' and a modern glass flagon.
These are no registers previous to 1813.
The church of ST. LEONARD at Heath and Reach has but little history, the oldest part being the west tower, which dates from the end of the 16th century. The nave, 49 ft. by 28 ft., is of the most unattractive early 19th-century Gothic, with its detail worked in Roman cement, and the apsidal brick chancel is quite new. The main entrance to the nave is by a modern south porch. The west window of the tower is of three flat pointed lights probably coeval with the tower, but the belfry windows are single lights covered with Roman cement, like the whole of the exterior of the tower. There are no fittings of any interest.
There is one small bell with the date 1695 and 'Richard Wige Gentman, oner of me.'
The plate is modern and electro-plated.
The church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST at Stanbridge consists of a chancel 31 ft. 6 in. by 16 ft., nave 41 ft. 2 in. by 16 ft. 11 in., north aisle 6 ft. 9 in. wide, south aisle 6 ft. 7 in. wide, and a west tower 10 ft 2 in. by 11 ft.
The chancel, which has a distinct deviation to the south, was built in the 13th century and lengthened and nearly rebuilt in the 15th. The south arcade of the nave dates from c. 1300 and the north arcade from 1330; the chancel arch is of the same date. In the 15th century the west tower was built and the clearstory added and the aisles re-modelled. The south aisle and east wall of the nave were rebuilt in 1892.
The tower is earlier than the clearstory, and shows on its east wall the weathering of a steep-pitched 14th-century roof.
The chancel has a rebuilt three-light east window of the 15th century; at the north-east is a restored two-light window of the same date, and at the south-east a modern copy of it. To the west of this window are a south doorway and a square-headed two-light window of 15th-century detail, and at the northwest of the chancel a small 13th-century light with a trefoiled head, the head not being pierced. In the south wall is a trefoiled piscina. The chancel arch, c. 1330, has been restored; it is in two chamfered orders with moulded capitals and bases; in the north jamb is a squint with a trefoiled head.
The nave arcades are of four bays in two chamfered orders springing from octagonal shafts with moulded capitals and bases, those on the north side being like those of the chancel arch, the details of the south arcade being earlier in type. There are traces of colour decoration on the soffits of the south arcade and the chancel arch. There are three two-light square-headed clearstory windows on each side.
The north and south aisles are alike, but the south aisle has been rebuilt. Their east windows are of two cinquefoiled lights, like the clearstory windows, but with piercings over the heads of the lights, and there are two similar windows in their side walls, with a doorway between them. The north doorway is of 14th-century type, and the south doorway is 13th-century work reset, and over it is a modern porch.
In the south aisle is a trefoiled 14th-century piscina, and to the east of the south doorway is a 15th-century stoup with a four-centred head. In the west end of the north aisle is a small circular quatrefoiled window, cut from a single stone. The west tower is divided into three stages by string courses, and has an embattled parapet. Its eastern arch has continuous mouldings separated by a small hollow, the outer being a wave mould and the inner a double ogee. The belfry windows have been restored; they consist of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil over. In the west wall is a modern doorway with a square-shouldered head, and immediately over it is a window like those in the belfry stage, but larger, which has been rebuilt; in the stage above is a small chamfered rectangular light; the tower staircase is in the south-west angle, and has several small rectangular lights.
In the nave roof are some 15th-century tie-beams, ridge pieces and purlins, but the chancel and aisle roofs are modern.
The font has a plain circular bowl on a pedestal formed of three engaged shafts, an unusual arrangement; it probably dates from c. 1300.
On the north wall of the chancel is a brass inscription to Henry Honner, who died 1627, and Jane his wife, 1629.
On the north wall of the nave is a monument to Daniell Ellingham, who died 1713, and Elizabeth his wife, 1723.
There is an octagonal Jacobean pulpit, the panels of which are carved at the top, and in the vestry is a 17th-century oak chest.
There are five bells: (1) By John Briant, Hertford, 1807; (2) 'Richard Chandler made me 1702'; (3) '1637, I. K. (James Keene) ✠ William Prentis C. W.'; (4) 'Be it known to all that do me se William Emerton of Wootton made me 1775'; (5) 'George Chandler made me, 1725.'
The plate consists of a communion cup, date 1683, bought by Daniel Ellingham, C. W.
The following are the registers previous to 1813: (1) a few loose leaves, incomplete, 1560 to 1642; (2) baptisms 1649 to 1696 and 1699 to 1707, burials 1659 to 1680, and two marriages only, in 1703 and 1704; (3) burials 1684 to 1705 and 1724 to 1727 (no cover); (4) baptisms and burials 1709 to 1738; (5) baptisms and burials 1739 to 1793, marriages 1751 to 1767; (6) baptisms and burials 1793 to 1825.
There was a church attached to the royal manor of Leighton at the Domesday Survey, richly endowed with 4 hides. In the time of King Edward it had belonged to the Bishop of Dorchester, in which diocese Bedford then was, and in 1086 was held by Remy or Remigius Bishop of Lincoln. (fn. 207) Hugh of Wells, who was Bishop of Lincoln from 1209 to 1235, converted the church into a prebend, (fn. 208) and in 1276 a vicarage was ordained, after which date the prebendaries ceased to act as parish priests and presented to the church. (fn. 209) The right of patronage was exercised by the prebendary till about 1860, (fn. 210) when it was acquired by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and it is now vested in the Bishop of Lincoln.
In 1291 the vicarage was assessed at £4 6s. 8d., and in 1340 at the same sum. (fn. 211) In 1399 when the prebendal churches were visited by Bishop Beaufort he found that the proper vestments were not provided and that there was no holy water clerk for the parishioners. The salary of the vicar was quite inadequate and was augmented by Bishop Gray in 1436. (fn. 212) The vicarage was valued at £15 in 1535, (fn. 213) and in a petition which the inhabitants of Leighton brought forward in 1642 it was stated that it was worth £50 a year, and that the late vicar Christopher Sclater, who held the living for fifty years and died in 1620 nearly a hundred years old, 'was a promoter of superstitious innovations and of scandalous life.' During his vicariate they had been obliged to maintain a lecturer 'for their better instruction and godliness.' (fn. 214) In 1643 and again in 1647 they prayed for £200 a year out of the prebendal revenues for the maintenance of their minister. (fn. 215) John Whitlock and Reynolds preached here from 1645 to 1649, but as they refused the 'engagement' they were ejected from office in the latter year. (fn. 216)
The whole church of Leighton was worth £95 13s. 4d. in the reign of Henry III (fn. 217) before the vicarage was ordained, and was valued at the same sum in 1291. (fn. 218) This total value must have comprised, besides the rectory, the vicarage assessed at £4 6s. 8d. in 1291 and the prebendal manor worth £22 10s. 8d. in 1340. (fn. 219) The remainder, £68 16s., consisted of the rectorial estate, which was assessed at exactly the same sum less one penny in 1535. (fn. 220) The rectory was vested in the prebendary and was leased with the prebendal manor to the Hoddesdens and afterwards to the Leighs, who were disturbed in their tenure during the Civil War. Before these troubles the rent was £460, but had diminished to £76 13s. 4d. in 1646, although in 1642 the rectorial estate was estimated at £600 a year. (fn. 221) The Leigh family continued to hold the rectory at lease and were the impropriators at the beginning of the 19th century. (fn. 222)
The church of St. Andrew in Leighton Buzzard is a chapel of ease to the mother church. It was erected in 1866–7.
There are two Baptist chapels in Leighton, one in Lake Street dating from 1775, and one in Hockliffe Street built in 1892. There is also a Wesleyan chapel in Hockliffe Street built in 1864 and a Primitive Methodist chapel in North Street, built in 1890. The Society of Friends have a meeting-house with cemetery attached, and there is a Roman Catholic church in Beaudesert.
The ancient parish of Leighton Buzzard included the chapelries of Billington, Eggington, Heath and Reach and Stanbridge, which during the 19th century have been formed into ecclesiastical parishes, that of Billington in 1810 and Heath and Reach in 1826. These chapelries were served by the church of Leighton, the vicar of which appointed the ministers, who in the exercise of their duty made use of the 'Towne howse' of the hamlets, as no parsonagehouse was provided. (fn. 223) During the year 1646 the stipends of the ministers were increased out of the rectorial tithes of Leighton Buzzard sequestered from Sir Thomas Leigh, a delinquent. Billington and Eggington received £40 a year each, Heath and Reach £30, and Stanbridge £50, and it was said that the salary of the minister of Eggington was 20s. only and that of the minister of Stanbridge £12. (fn. 224) In a dispute which arose over the Town Lands of Eggington in 1704, Valentine Cressy, a former curate, said that 8s. was deducted from the stipend of 20s. every Sunday that he omitted to serve the cure. Part of the profit of the Town Lands went toward the payment of the minister and part to the payment of the 'Moldcatcher' and 'Heyward,' and one of the witnesses asserted that there was formerly a chapel at Clipston, a hamlet north of Eggington, which had been removed to the latter place. (fn. 225)
The living of Billington is now a rectory in the gift of the inhabitants; that of Eggington is a vicarage in the gift of such parishioners as are householders. Heath and Reach and Stanbridge are both vicarages, of which the vicar of Leighton Buzzard is patron.
There are Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist chapels at Billington and Stanbridge, Congregational and Wesleyan at Eggington, and Baptist and Wesleyan at Heath and Reach.
There was a chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the church of Leighton Buzzard, served by a priest whose presentation was vested in the prebendary. It is mentioned in 1474, (fn. 226) and its lands and properties were valued in 1535 at £5 6s. 8d. (fn. 227)
In Stanbridge 1½ acres of land worth 10d. a year in 1547 were given for the maintenance of a light, and two cows valued at 20s. were given for an obit in the church there. (fn. 228) In the valuation for the sale of Crown Lands in 1556 the rent derived from this land was only 5d. (fn. 229)
A controversy arose in the reign of Elizabeth over 'one yard of meadow in Billington Long Mead' which had been left by Thomas Knighton for the maintenance of an anniversary in the chapel there. On the ground that it had been given for religious purposes, it was confiscated by the Crown at the dissolution of the chantries in 1547, and granted by Queen Mary in 1554 to George Rotheram, by whom it was alienated to Richard Buckmaster. (fn. 230) After the latter's death the trustees of Knighton's will brought an action against his son John Buckmaster, but were unable to regain possession, and the land remained in the Buckmaster family, one Richard dying seised of it in 1624, when it passed to his son John. (fn. 231)
In 1473 licence was obtained by Alice Duchess of Suffolk, the lady of Grovebury Manor, and by John Duke of Suffolk her son and others to found a fraternity or gild called Corpus Christi in the parish church of Leighton Buzzard. It was to consist of two wardens or guardians and ten brethren and sisters who could acquire lands to the value of 10 marks yearly, for the maintenance of a chaplain who was to celebrate divine service daily in the church for the good estate of the king, queen, Prince of Wales, and of the founders and brethren and sisters and for their souls after death. (fn. 232) In 1535 the value of its possessions was £7 14s. 9d., (fn. 233) and in 1547 the sum had increased to £8 1s. 6d. The goods and ornaments were valued at 30s. 8d., and there were three and a half ounces of gilt plate and three and a half of white. There was no grammar school connected with it, and the incumbent was meanly learned. (fn. 234) After the dissolution of the brotherhood, part of the lands were obtained by the Duncombe family, who were in possession of the gild lands in 1616. (fn. 235) The capital messuage of the fraternity, known as the Brotherhood Hall, was acquired by John Moore, on whose death in 1634 it passed to his daughter and heir Bridget Neale, widow. (fn. 236) Lysons writing at the beginning of the 19th century says that part of the Hall of the Fraternity was still standing at that period in Broad Street. (fn. 237)
The almshouses originally erected in 1630 by Edward Wilkes, and endowed under the will of his son Matthew Wilkes, 1692, consist of ten houses occupied by ten widows. Endowment: a public-house and farm of 50 acres at Long Stowe, Cambridgeshire; a house, wharf, and 5 acres at Linslade, Bucks.; a farm of 20 a. 2 r. at Bradenham, Bucks.; 13 acres in Leighton Buzzard; 4 a. 3 r. in Billington, and 2 acres known as the Hartwell Ground, producing in 1907 a gross rental of £245. The net income was applied in weekly cash payments to the almswomen amounting to £130 10s., with allowances for clothing, shoes, and fuel; also for dinners to the trustees and almswomen, 10s. to the vicar for a sermon on 24 March, and fees are occasionally paid for apprenticing. A sum of £4 payable every two years for the teaching of two boys as directed by the donor's will was by an order of the Charity Commissioners of 28 July 1903 determined to be applicable for educational purposes.
The town lands consist of cottages and 46 acres or thereabouts of copyhold land producing about £40 a year, which in accordance with the earliest admittance on the Court Rolls extant (1742) is in trust for the use of the inhabitants of the town, repairs of bridges, and other public uses.
The recreation ground consists of 5 a. 2 r. in Parsons Close, awarded under the Inclosure Act of 6 & 7 Vict. cap. 13 (Private) as a place of exercise and recreation, with power to let the herbage, producing about £16 a year, which is also applied for public uses.
Charity of William Duncombe (see under Dunstable).
The share of this parish, amounting to £10, was in 1908 applied in paying the expenses of five cases sent to the hospital, and the balance in the distribution of 1 cwt. of coal each to 120 recipients.
The Leighton poor estates, which were derived in part from investment of town stock, donations and legacies, consist of 17 acres or thereabouts at Shenley Hill, acquired in 1611, let at £12 a year, comprising the charities of John Wilkes (£10), Edward Hargrave (£10), Thomas Thurston (£20), and Mary Baskerfield (£20).
Allotments in Stanbridge Fields, containing 18 a. 2 r. acquired in 1689, comprising the charities of Mrs. Ann Leigh (£40),—Chadd,—Duport and — Doggett (£70), producing £23 10s. 6d. a year; and £483 4s. 5d. consols arising from the sale in 1901 of 9 acres at Soulbury, Bucks., known as Ladysgrove, acquired in 1694, comprising the charities of Mrs. Lucy Seayres (£100) and Charles Leigh (£40), producing in dividends £12 1s. 4d. a year.
The sum of £7 10s. 10d., apportioned out of the dividends to Lucy Seayres' charity, was in 1907–8 applied under this title in bread for poor frequenting the parish church, and £4 2s., representing three-tenths of the allotment rents, was paid to the vicar for providing religious books for the instruction of the poor.
The following charities also are regarded as Church charities:—
Richard Jones', mentioned on the benefaction table, being an annuity of £1 1s. out of the Bell Inn, 10s. whereof is payable to the vicar for a sermon on May Day and balance to poor for bread.
Lockington's charity (see under Dunstable). The sum of £10 is received annually in respect of this charity and applied in tickets for clothing, and £20 is payable in augmentation of the vicarage.
Blandina Marshe's Charity.
£4 a year is received and applied in the distribution of coal in respect of an annuity of £5 (less land tax) under will dated 25 November 1730, payable out of an estate called Kingsbury Farm.
In 1796 Jane Hunt, as recorded on tablet in the church, by her will left £200 stock for clothes, now represented by £200 consols, the dividends of £5 applied in 1907–8 in providing three coats for poor men.
Bishop Maultby's Fund consists of £106 7s. 8d. consols, given and transferred to the official trustees in 1857, producing £2 13s. a year, applicable about Christmas in warm clothing or blankets for aged and infirm poor women.
In 1609 Sir Christopher Hoddesden, kt., by his will, appointed a messuage situated in the Leeke End and a piece of sward ground to the bailiff and churchwardens, for the benefit of poor and impotent widows, subject to the payment of £1 for a sermon every half-year. The trust property was sold in 1858 and invested in £775 3s. 10d. consols. The annual dividends, amounting to £19 7s. 4d., are duly applied.
The charities for the poor generally, applied on St. Thomas's Day, in addition to the remainder of the income of the poor estates, include three ancient rent-charges of 10s., 20s., and 10s., the gifts of — Deacon, Thomas Leachland and John Gearman respectively.
Also £30 18s. 8d. consols, arising from sale in 1884 of cottages and site in Woodhouse Lane devised by will of — Dudley prior to 1682;
£24 5s. 11d. consols, Sir Andrew Corbet's charity for bread; and
£173 10s. 4d. consols, representing investment of accumulations.
Also £1,783 13s. 3d. consols, representing a legacy by will of Richard Walker proved 14 October 1896, producing in annual dividends £44 11s. 8d. a year applicable in bread and coal on 10 January.
The several sums of stock are held by the official trustees.
In 1907–8 the sums received under the respective charities amounted to £75, which, less expenses and 10s. to the vicar for a sermon in respect of Thurston's charity, was applied in the distribution of coal to the value of £49 10s. 6d. and bread to the value of £18 3s.
There is also a yearly sum of £1 1s. payable to the poor out of the prebend of Leighton Buzzard.
The Pulford School founded by will of the Rev. Joshua Pulford, dated 10 May 1710. (fn. 238)
The charity is regulated by scheme of the Court of Chancery of 6 June 1853. The present endowment consists of the school buildings, formerly in Church Square, but re-erected in 1884 in Parsonage Close, 56 acres at Billington let at £60 a year, and £118 14s. 3d. consols accumulating with the official trustees for replacing a sum of £522 17s. 7d. consols sold out and applied towards the cost of the erection of the new school buildings. The primary object of the trust was for the purpose of augmenting the value of the benefice to £100 a year.
The Hon. Charles Leigh, by his will dated 5 June 1704, devised certain leasehold estate held for lives under the Dean and Canons of Windsor to his nephew John Isham subject to the payment of £20 a year to the vicar for keeping up a daily church service; also 20s. for a Passion sermon on Good Friday, and 20s. for the parish clerk, and directed such payments to be settled so as to render the same perpetual on all renewals. The testator likewise charged the same estate with £10 a year for the schoolmaster to educate ten boys. It is understood that the Dean and Canons of Windsor sold their interests, with notice of the charges. The payments, however, to the vicar and parish clerk ceased to be made in 1872, and the payment of £10 to the schoolmaster was made up to Lady Day 1884.
In 1900 William Sharp Page, by his will proved at Northampton 5 March of that year, bequeathed to his executors £1,200 to be laid out in the purchase of land and for the erection thereon of six almshouses, of which two were to be occupied by two married couples, two for two single men (widowers or bachelors), and two for single women (widows or spinsters).
The testator likewise bequeathed £7,000, income—subject to keeping in repair a monument and stainedglass window erected by the testator in All Saints' Church to the memory of his father and mother—to be applied in paying to each couple 8s. per week, and 6s. to each single person and an allowance for clothes and coal, and £1 to the vicar of All Saints' for preaching a sermon on 20 September, the anniversary of the birthday of testator's father, Charles Page, £10 a year for the secretary, and £10 a year for prizes for Sunday school scholars on 25 April, being the anniversary of testator's becoming a Sunday school teacher in 1841; any surplus income to be distributed at the monument between twenty poor men upwards of sixty years of age, regular attendants at All Saints'.
The charity is regulated by scheme of the High Court dated 16 January 1904. The present endowment consists of £7,870 Midland Railway 2½ per cent. stock with the official trustees, producing £196 15s., and a sum of £200 consols was under an order of the Charity Commissioners of 1904 set apart for providing the £10 a year for Sunday school prizes.
The church trustees of St. Andrew's hold a sum of £2,096 16s. 1d. consols, representing the gifts of Edward Lawford, Richard Walker and Charlotte Wilkes towards the augmentation of the benefice, producing £52 8s. 4d. a year.
The official trustees also hold a sum of £445 16s. 8d. consols, producing £11 2s. 8d. a year, arising under the will of Richard Walker above-mentioned, which is applicable on 10 January for the benefit of five indigent spinsters who have regularly attended St. Andrew's or All Saints' Church; and a sum of £53 9s. 2d. consols, under the will of the same testator, producing £1 6s. 8d. a year, to be paid to the vicar of All Saints' for preaching a sermon on 20 June.
Miss Jane Hunt, above referred to, also gave in her lifetime £50, to be laid out in the purchase of freehold lands, the rents thereof to be applied for the benefit of the choir of All Saints' Church. In 1803 a piece of land called 'the Clossetts,' containing 1 a. 2 r. 24 p., was purchased, which is let at £7 a year and paid to the treasurer of the choir.
The Town Lands estate of the chapelry of Billington was in 1650 the subject of an inquisition and a decree of Commissioners of Charitable Uses. The trust estate now consists of a farm, homestead and land (copyhold), containing 128 acres, let at £166 8s. a year; 10 a. 3 r. let in allotments, known as Stevens' Field; and 10 acres of garden allotments, producing £40 a year; and £267 18s. 4d. consols, with the official trustees. (fn. 239) Under the decree the income is applicable as to one moiety for the minister to celebrate divine service in the chapel, as to the half of the remaining moiety for the poor, and as to the other half for the repair of the chapel and minister's house.
In 1907 the rector's share amounted to £81, the share for the poor £40, and the share for the repairs £40.
The administration of the poor's share is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 29 October 1869, which is applicable for the benefit of the most deserving and necessitous inhabitants by providing them with clothes or fuel, medical nursing or other aid in sickness. The trustees are also empowered to apply a competent part of the income in aid of any school or schools for the education of the poor. There is a sum of £128 due to the bankers in respect of a loan for payment of admission of new tenants on the Court Rolls.
Countess of Bridgewater's Charity at Billington.
A sum of £5 a year or thereabouts is received from the trustees of this charity, and applied one-half to the day school and one-half to the Sunday school.
The Town Lands estate of the chapelry of Eggington was in 1650 the subject of an inquisition and a decree of Commissioners of Charitable Uses, and found to have been anciently given for providing a curate, also for the poor, and for the repairs of the chapel and other common charges for the ease of the inhabitants.
The trust property now consists of the vicaragehouse and garden, occupied by the vicar; a farm of 102 acres or thereabouts; 10 acres, numbered 63 and 64 on the tithe-map, known as the Town Land; 3 roods in Leighton Field; 6 a. 1 r., no. 108 on the tithe-map, let in allotments; and £179 0s. 6d. consols, with the official trustees, arising from sale in 1879 to the school.
In 1906 the sum of £120 5s. was received in rents from the Charity Farm and Town Land, and £4 8s. 9d. from allotment rents, which, with £4 18s. 4d. dividends, is divisible as to one moiety for the vicar, one-fourth for the poor, and one-fourth is paid to the churchwardens for repairs of church and vicarage.
The Bentham or May Day money at Eggington consists of an annuity of 10s., payable out of certain Lammas ground arising from the gift of the Rev. Joseph Bentham by deed of 20 June 18 Charles II, in testification of his joy and thankfulness for the return of his sovereign to his crown and dignity. It was usually distributed on 29 May.
The Poor's Land of the hamlet of Heath and Reach comprises land known as the Chapel Land and 22 a. 2 r. 13 p., known as the Copt Hill Land, awarded in 1844 for the poor in lieu of a number of small encroachments on the waste and a small piece of land in Gig Lane. The trust property is held under deeds of arrangement dated 10 May 1844 respectively in trust to let the same to poor persons of the hamlet, the income to go to charitable purposes for the benefit of the poor at the discretion of the trustees.
The land is let to numerous small holders at low rentals, producing about £14 a year, which is applied in the distribution of coal.
The Town Lands of the ecclesiastical district of Stanbridge, the origin of which was unknown, formerly consisting of 6 acres or thereabouts in the open fields, for parish purposes and finding bell ropes, have become merged in the glebe land.
Three ancient rent-charges of 5s. each in Stanbridge are paid by Messrs. P. P. Gilpin, C. Buckmaster and William Merry respectively, and distributed to ten poor persons.
By an award under the Inclosure Act of 6 & 7 Will. IV, cap. 115, a piece of land at Stanbridge containing 1 a. 0 r. 21 p., known as the Hayward's Land (Washbrook Bank), situate in the East Field, was awarded for the office of Hayward.
That office having ceased to exist, the annual rent of £1 15s. is being accumulated pending the establishment of a scheme by the Charity Commissioners. On 31 March 1907 there was a balance in hand of £13 1s. 8d. The legal estate was in 1899 vested in the official trustee of charity lands.