A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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The parish of Potsgrove on the Buckinghamshire border adjoins that of Battlesden and covers an area of 1,416 acres. Of these 246 are arable and 920 permanent grass. (fn. 1) The woods and plantations are estimated at 130 acres, (fn. 2) and include part of Speedwell Belt, which skirts Woburn Park. Home Wood, southward of Potsgrove village, is similarly part of Battlesden Park.
Otherwise, with the exception of Bushycommon Wood on the west, the surrounding country is open pasture land. The subsoil is clay and gravel, the latter being formerly worked in pits near the village.
The land lies high, reaching 514 ft. in the north and sloping to 400 ft. in the south at Battlesden Park. It is watered by a brook called Clipston Brook flowing in the same direction.
The village, in the centre of the parish, is approached by bridle paths from the high roads running from Woburn to Leighton Buzzard and Hockliffe and from Watling Street, its western boundary. It consists of the church with a modern rectory, two or three cottages and a school built by the Duke of Bedford in 1897. To the north of the church is the Manor Farm, a modern building, and beyond lie Arnold's Farm and the Hill Farm, apparently an early 18th-century house. The site of the manor-house can be plainly distinguished to the south of the church, a portion of the moat still containing water. The present Manor Farm stands to the north of the church and rectory.
The greater part of the population reside at Sheeplane, a hamlet about a mile west of Potsgrove. Here are Union and Methodist chapels, and the children attend St. John's School, which stands at the head of the street. From here a bye-path leads past Whitehouse Farm to a moat in the north-west of the parish.
At the time of the Domesday Survey the manor of POTSGROVE, comprising 7½ hides, was held of the king by Gozelin le Breton, who was preceded in the time of King Edward by four thegns. (fn. 3) From the middle of the 13th century the honour of Gloucester appears as intermediary between the lords of Potsgrove Manor and the Crown. (fn. 4) Potsgrove, like Biddenham, remained attached to this honour until the death of Humphrey Duke of Buckingham in 1460. (fn. 5)
Gozelin le Breton was tenant of Potsgrove at the time of the Survey. (fn. 6) He was succeeded by his son Hugh, whose great-granddaughter Juliana married Geoffrey de Lucy, (fn. 7) in whose family Potsgrove Manor is subsequently found. In the early 13th century he appears as overlord of the Blankfronts (fn. 8) (whose manor is treated below). The descent of the manor is the same as that of Woodcroft in Luton (q.v.) until 1461. (fn. 9) In 1275–6 the whole vill of Potsgrove was held for a fee and a quarter of Geoffrey de Lucy. (fn. 10) In 1330 Geoffrey de Lucy, grandson of the lastnamed, claimed view of frankpledge in Potsgrove and Gledly as appurtenant to his adjacent manor of Gledly. (fn. 11)
An inquisition taken in 1461 on the possessions of Sir William Lucy states that he held Potsgrove Manor (here first definitely so called) for one-twentieth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 12) His heirs were Elizabeth and Walter, children of his sister Eleanor Hopton, and William Vaux, son of another sister Maud. (fn. 13) To William passed Woodcroft, which henceforward followed a different descent. Potsgrove and Gledly were divided between Elizabeth wife of Roger Corbet and Walter Hopton her brother, whose heir she became on his death within half a year of his uncle. (fn. 14) The manor, which appears to have included little more than the site and a view of frankpledge, (fn. 15) now follows the same descent as Gledly (q.v.). No mention has been found of it after 1602, but as the Duncombes, who owned Blankfront Manor, eventually obtained Gledly it seems likely that it became absorbed in their Potsgrove estate.
The manor of POTSGROVE or BLANKFRONT, which formed part of the 7½ hides which Gozelin le Breton owned in 1086, was later held of the Lucys, (fn. 16) the last mention of the overlordship occurring in 1428 when the fee was subdivided into nine parts, and of the service owed nothing was declared to be due to the king. (fn. 17) Blankfront Manor derived its distinctive name from Henry and William Blankfront, who held one fee in Potsgrove about the 13th century. (fn. 18) In 1247 Henry was summoned to do service to William for half a hide in Potsgrove, but proved that he held nothing of the latter. (fn. 19) In 1275–6 Robert Blankfront, a member of the same family, held two parts of the 1¼ fees at which this vill was assessed. (fn. 20) The Blankfronts continued to hold by knight's service in Potsgrove until 1346. (fn. 21) In 1392 John Chastellon and Margaret his wife, possibly a descendant of the Blankfronts, owned the manor, (fn. 22) here so called for the first time, and in 1415 granted it to John Goldington of Lidlington, (fn. 23) who in his turn granted it the same year to the Abbot of Woburn. (fn. 24)
After the Dissolution Potsgrove Manor was granted by Edward VI to Edward Fiennes Lord Clynton and Saye in exchange for other lands given to the king. (fn. 25) Lord Clynton granted it to William Saunders, (fn. 26) who died seised of the manor in 1559, leaving a son Thomas to succeed him. (fn. 27) Thomas died in 1560, his heir being his sister Ellen, through whom the manor, like that of Battlesden (q.v.), passed into the hands of the Duncombes, (fn. 28) and from this date the descent of the manor is similar, having been bought by the Duke of Bedford in 1884 from the trustees of Sir Gregory PageTurner. (fn. 29)
A third manor is found in Potsgrove, known as LOVELLS or LOVELLS BURY, which, as in the case of the other manors in this parish, appears to have been originally attached to the honour of Gloucester, for in 1278 Gilbert de Clare Earl of Gloucester quitclaimed to John Lovel his right in the manor. (fn. 30) The Abbot of St. Albans, who owned the advowson of Potsgrove, was overlord of Lovells Bury in 1465, (fn. 31) which rights he retained until the Dissolution. In 1638 Sir Edward Duncombe held Lovells of the king as of the dissolved monastery of St. Albans. (fn. 32)
The manor takes its name from a certain Philip Lovel, who had free warren in Potsgrove in 1256. (fn. 33) In 1278 John Lovel, possibly his son, was lord of the manor. (fn. 34) Before 1362 it was acquired by the Everards, who in that year sold it to John de Morton of Woburn Chapel for 200 marks of silver. (fn. 35) Thomas Rufford held one quarter of a knight's fee in 1428, (fn. 36) and his widow, Joan Fitz Geoffrey, died in 1465 in possession of a messuage called Lovells Bury. (fn. 37) The manor passed to her son Thomas Rufford, who was succeeded by his brother John in 1479. (fn. 38) John's death occurred in 1504, (fn. 39) his son being at this date twenty-one years of age. The manor must have passed later to the Saunders, Ellen Saunders, who married William Duncombe, owning it in 1588. (fn. 40) From that date until 1647 its descent is identical with that of Battlesden (q.v.). In 1799 Sir Philip Monoux, bart., who held Lovells Bury in right of his wife Elizabeth daughter of Ambrose Riddell, quitclaimed it to Thomas Lodington and his heirs. (fn. 41) By 1854 it had passed to Sir R. H. Inglis, in which year it was bought by the Duke of Bedford. (fn. 42)
Other holders of land in Potsgrove at Domesday were Herbert, a king's bailiff, owner of a hide, and a groom of the king, holding half a hide. (fn. 43) William the Chamberlain also held 1 hide of the king at the time of the Survey, formerly held by Morcar, a priest of Luton. (fn. 44)
A family called Savage held by knight service in this parish for nearly two centuries. Robert and Ralph Savage held a quarter of a knight's fee in 1275–6, (fn. 45) the last reference to this family occurring in 1428, when Alice widow of Ralph Savage is mentioned as having formerly held one-fourth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 46)
Henry Blankfront held 1 virgate of land in Potsgrove of the barony of Bedford at the time of the Testa. (fn. 47) By 1275 it had passed to Edmund Everard, (fn. 48) who in 1286 was fined for holding a whole knight's fee when he was not yet a knight. (fn. 49) Traces of the barony of Bedford paramountcy in this parish are found as late as 1500. (fn. 50)
The church of ST. MARY was 'entirely restored' in 1881, as an inscription records, and from outside seems completely modern. Inside, however, the old plastering and the stonework of the jambs and heads of some of the windows show that a good deal of the mediaeval church remains, a well-proportioned building 70 ft. by 20 ft., with nave and chancel in one range, divided from each other by a wooden screen. The whole belongs to c. 1320–40, though a few 12th and 13th-century stones built into the north wall of the nave show that an earlier church existed. The east window is of 15th-century style, but all the rest are two-light windows with tracery of 14th-century character, a few fragments of original stonework being re-used in them. A recessed tomb on the north of the chancel retains a little of its 14th-century detail, and has two lockers in the spandrels over its arch, which seems to be old. The sedilia and piscina are entirely modern.
The chancel screen is of considerable interest, as its framework and the tracery heads on the south side are contemporary with the 14th-century rebuilding; it has five openings on each side with turned baluster shafts, which are all modern.
The piscinæ for the nave altars have been reproduced, the drain of the northern piscina being old work, and there are holy water niches on the east of both nave doorways, only that in the north wall having any old work in it. The doorways themselves have some old stones undisturbed, and there are a few in the south porch, which is, however, completely rebuilt. The lower part of the bell-turret in the north-west angle of the nave is original, but its top is entirely modern.
The nave walls were heightened in the 15th century, when the present flat-pitched roof was put on, and the chancel roof is new.
The font, of Purbeck marble, is modern, as are all the other fittings except the screen, but in the west window of the nave are many pieces of the original 14th-century glass, both heads of lights and parts of roundels containing the evangelistic symbols. There are also part of a figure of our Lord and a few pieces of 15th-century glass.
Two brasses are fixed to the nave walls—one to Richard and Joan Saunders, 1535, and the other, much broken, to William Saunders, patron of this church, and Isabel his wife, of late 16th-century date.
There are three bells: the treble, blank; the second of 1743; and the tenor by Mears, 1813.
The communion plate consists of a plated two-handled flagon and a modern plated chalice and paten.
The registers previous to 1812 are in three books: (1) all entries 1663 to 1785; (2) baptisms and burials 1787 to 1812; and (3) marriages 1783 to 1812.
The church of Potsgrove was granted by Henry II to the monastery of St. Albans, (fn. 51) in whose hands it remained until the Dissolution. It was subsequently granted to the Duncombes, in whose possession it is found in 1588, (fn. 52) and thenceforward follows the same descent as the manor, the Duke of Bedford presenting at the present day.
The rent of a balk in Potsgrove in the tenure of William Saunders was given towards the maintenance of a lamp. This rent amounted to 8d. A rent amounting to 2d. in the tenure of the churchwardens was also given for the same purpose. (fn. 55)
This parish is entitled to share in the charity of William Duncombe, founded by will 26 March 1603 (see under Dunstable).
Under a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 23 November 1897 the annual sum of £10 is received for the benefit of the poor and is applied in the distribution of coals and groceries.