A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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The parish of Westoning covers an area of 1,626½ acres, of which 524 acres are arable land, with crops of wheat, barley, peas and beans, and 820½ acres are permanent grass. (fn. 1)
The average height of the land is 250 ft., except in the south near the brickworks, where the highest point is 360 ft. above the ordnance datum. The soil is varied, on a subsoil of strong clay, which has been worked in a now disused claypit at Westoning Wood End, and is used in the manufacture of bricks, the works being in the south of the parish close by the Midland railway line.
The village lies in the west of the parish and consists of a group of small cottages on either side of the road from Toddington to Flitton. These are mostly modern, with one or two examples of halftimber and thatch.
At the south entrance of the village is the Chequers Inn, a half-timber and thatch building of 18th-century date. Further along the street on the eastern side are the Methodist and Baptist chapels, the latter founded in 1816. They are separated by the clock tower, of brick and stone, erected by Major Coventry Campion to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, and by the Bell Inn, an 18th-century brick and tile house, having its sign displayed from an old oak standing by the roadside.
A short distance to the west of the village, and approached by a lane bordered by high hedges and trees, stands the church on rising ground. Behind it to the north-west, standing in a park of 103 acres, is the manor-house, the property of Mr. Howard Spensley, a comparatively modern building of brick and stone, although a large quantity of old woodwork said to have been taken from the house at Wrest Park, then being demolished, and from the old Houses of Parliament, has been incorporated in the design of many of the rooms and staircases, while at the back of the house are several much-restored 18th-century half-timber and brick barns. In front of the house to the south-west the site of the old manor-house can still be traced, with the moat surrounding it. The site of another manor-house can also be seen at Westoning Wood End, near the farm of the same name.
In the east of the parish are Upper and Lower Samshill, two farms dating back to the 17th century, though the present buildings are modern. At Lower Samshill Bunyan is traditionally supposed to have held the service which led to his apprehension. Ruins of the outbuildings existed till within a few years ago.
A polished stone celt was found at Westoning in 1864. (fn. 2)
The manor of WESTON, later known as WESTON TREGOZ and WESTONING, was held by King Harold as part of his manor of Hitchin, and so continued under the Conqueror in 1086. It is not mentioned in the Bedfordshire Survey, though its assessment was in and always had belonged to the hundred of Manshead. (fn. 3)
So far as is known the manor of Westoning remained royal demesne until 1173, (fn. 4) at which period it was worth £15 yearly. Shortly after that date it was granted to Roger de Sanford, (fn. 5) who owed 5 marks for default in Westoning in 1176, (fn. 6) and who held the manor until his death in 1189. (fn. 7) In the latter year it was released to William de Buckland, who paid £100 for seisin of the vill, (fn. 8) and who was still in possession in 1210. (fn. 9) In 1216 the sheriff was ordered to deliver the manor to Robert de Ferrar, (fn. 10) whose wife was Joan daughter and co-heir of William de Buckland. By a settlement of the estates of William de Buckland made in 1223 Westoning Manor was allotted to his daughter Matilda. (fn. 11) She married William d'Avrenches, who died before 1230, leaving a son William, who died without issue before 1235, (fn. 12) and a daughter Matilda, who inherited the manor of Westoning through her mother, and married Hamon de Crevecœur. (fn. 13) The latter is returned as tenant in chief of the king in Westoning in the Testa de Nevill, (fn. 14) and was succeeded by a son William, (fn. 15) whose widow Mabel held Westoning Manor in dower for life, (fn. 16) and married as her second husband John Tregoz. She died in 1297, and the next heirs to the estate (fn. 17) were found to be Juliana de Weylondon daughter of John son of Agnes, a sister of Mabel's first husband, John de Lenham son of Isolda, another sister, and Eleanor wife of Bertram de Kiriel, a third sister. (fn. 18) John de Lenham sold his purparty of Weston Manor in the same year to William Inge, (fn. 19) who also acquired the portion of Eleanor de Kiriel in 1299. (fn. 20) William Inge obtained a grant of a weekly market and annual fair in his portion of the manor in 1303, (fn. 21) and five years later obtained the remaining third part from Juliana de Weylondon. (fn. 22) He was chief justice of the King's Bench in the reign of Edward II, and in 1310 he received a grant of 100 marks as recompense for wages and horses lost by him in the Scotch war. (fn. 23)
By his first wife Margaret William Inge had a son Fremund, on whom the property was settled in 1310, (fn. 24) and a daughter Joan. The former quitclaimed his right in the estate during the lifetime of his father, (fn. 25) who by his second wife Isolda (fn. 26) left no issue. By a settlement of 1313, however, Isolda retained a life interest in Westoning Manor. After the death of William Inge, (fn. 27) and at her own death in 1371, the estate passed to William la Zouche son of Joan daughter and heir of William Inge. (fn. 28)
The history of Westoning Manor during the next hundred years is the same as that of the manor which the Zouches held in Eaton Bray (q.v.) until 1485, when on the attainder of John la Zouche his lands were confiscated. He regained possession of this manor on the reversal of his attainder in 1495, and died in 1525–6. (fn. 29)
George son and heir of John la Zouche was summoned to show by what service his ancestors had held Westoning in 1533. He proved that the manor was and always had been held of the king by great serjeanty, but paid £4 for relief from the next services due therefrom. (fn. 30) Nine years later Westoning Manor passed from George la Zouche to the Crown in exchange for a manor in Derbyshire, (fn. 31) and in the same year it was annexed to the royal honour of Ampthill. (fn. 32)
In 1555 Westoning was granted to Thomas Curzon, one of the clerks of the Controller of the Household, and Agnes his wife in tail. He died the same year, leaving an infant daughter Mary as sole heir, (fn. 33) the manor of Westoning being held by his widow during her life. (fn. 34) In 1615 Mary Curzon, then wife of Sir George Farmer, received a confirmation of her right to the estate, (fn. 35) which descended at her death in 1630 to her eldest son Sir Halton Farmer, kt. (fn. 36) He married firstly Elizabeth daughter of Sir Edmund Anderson, and secondly Anne daughter of Sir William Cockayne of Rushton, by whom he had a son and heir William. William Farmer succeeded to Westoning on his father's death in 1640, and in the following year was created a baronet. (fn. 37) He took the Royalist side in the Civil War, and was colonel of horse for the king. At the Restoration he was made K.B., but dying in the same year he was succeeded by a son William, the second baronet. (fn. 38) He made a settlement of Westoning Manor upon his heirs male in 1669, (fn. 39) was member of Parliament for Northampton from 1670 to 1679, and in 1692 was created Lord Leominster. By his third wife Sophia daughter of the Duke of Leeds he had a son Thomas, who succeeded to the title and estates in 1711, (fn. 40) and in 1722 was created Earl of Pomfret or Pontefract. (fn. 41) He suffered a recovery of the manor in 1720, (fn. 42) and his son and heir George remained in possession of Westoning until 1767, (fn. 43) when it was purchased from him by John Everitt. (fn. 44)
John Everitt, a son of the latter, (fn. 45) was sheriff of the county, (fn. 46) and was knighted in 1800. (fn. 47) He held Westoning Manor at the beginning of the 19th century, (fn. 48) and was succeeded by another John, who settled the manor upon himself in 1829, (fn. 49) but died before 1836. (fn. 50) The estate was sold by his executors within the next six years to the Rev. J. W. C. Campion, in whose family it remained for nearly seventy years. (fn. 51) After the death of Major Coventry Campion in 1903 his widow, afterwards Mrs. Blyth King, sold the house and lands in 1904 to Mrs. Howard Spensley, by whom they were given to her son Mr. Howard Spensley, the present owner and occupier. The manorial rights and advowson were, however, retained by Mrs. Blyth-King, in whom they are now vested.
The rights claimed by the lords of Westoning Manor in the 14th century included those of holding a weekly market on Monday, an annual three days' fair at the feast of St. Thomas the Martyr (21 December), and free warren, granted to William Inge in 1303. (fn. 52) Isolda his widow was called upon to substantiate her claim to these rights, with those of a view of frankpledge, waifs and strays, infangtheof and outfangtheof in her manor of Westoning in 1331. (fn. 53)
In the 18th century rights of free fishery, free warren, courts leet and court baron, with fairs and markets, were attached to the manor. (fn. 54) With the exception of the market and fair, which had fallen into abeyance before 1800, (fn. 55) these rights are mentioned till 1829. (fn. 56)
Certain lands in the parish of Westoning held of the king in chief by John son of William Aynell in the middle of the 14th century were granted to Andrew de Bures and Katherine his wife during the minority of the heir. (fn. 57) In 1391 all those lands in Westoning formerly held by John Aynell were released by Gawin Elmele to Thomas Pever and others, possibly as trustees for himself and his heirs. (fn. 58)
This property is probably the nucleus of what is called later WESTONING or AYNELLS MANOR, which in 1418 was held by John Shathewell of Priestley and Isabel his wife, (fn. 59) and of which Thomas Rufford died seised in 1480, leaving as heir a son John. (fn. 60) The latter died in 1504, and his manor of Aynells, described as held of the lord of the manor of Westoning, descended to his son, another John. (fn. 61) He with his wife Eleanor in 1541 released all claim in their manor of Aynells to John Stirman clerk, (fn. 62) acting on behalf of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, of which he was then master. (fn. 63)
This property is described in 1543 as a messuage with certain lands called Aynells, on which was a charge of 10s. payable to Westoning chantry. (fn. 64) It continued as a possession of this college, and in an account of it given in the College Annals in 1708 are the following entries: 'The house with the appurtenances both arable and pasture, as valued and let, April 18, 1668, £132 per annum. The money rent paid to the College £9 6s. 8d. per annum. Corn rent, wheat, 9 quarters; malt, 8 quarters. An outrent to the king, 10s.' (fn. 65) The last item represents the 10s. formerly paid to Westoning chantry before its dissolution.
A manor called YOUNGES, which was mostly in Westoning, is found mentioned for the first time in 1682, when it was held by Henrietta Maria Baroness Wentworth with her manor of Toddington. (fn. 66) It descended with Toddington (fn. 67) up to the beginning of the 19th century, (fn. 68) but all trace of it is lost after 1803.
At the time of the Dissolution the abbey of Woburn held lands in Westoning of the annual value of £2 18s. 2½d., (fn. 69) but no further mention of the property has been found.
There is mention of a water-mill in an extent of Westoning Manor made in 1297, (fn. 70) and in 1322 two mills are found attached to the manor. (fn. 71) Another extent dated fifty years later again mentions one mill, then worth nothing, (fn. 72) and reference is found to it in a document as late as 1615. (fn. 73) There are no mills in the parish at the present day.
The church of ST. MARY MAGDALEN consists of a chancel 30 ft. 10 in. by 17 ft. 3 in., with a modern northwest vestry, a nave 45 ft. 6 in. by 17 ft. 3 in., north and south aisles about 7 ft. wide, a south porch, and a west tower 9 ft. 3 in. by 11 ft.
A few late 12th-century carved stones are built into the inside of the south aisle wall, and a good deal of ruined material of this date is to be seen elsewhere, but the church seems to have been entirely rebuilt at the beginning of the 14th century on the existing plan, with the exception of the tower, which was added a century later; the 14th-century church had a steep-pitched nave roof extending over the aisles, but in the 15th century the walls of the aisles were heightened and the present low-pitched roof put on.
The eastern part of the chancel has been refaced and the steep-pitched roof is modern; the east window was inserted in the middle of the last century and consists of three uncusped lights with geometrical tracery. On the north side are two restored 14th-century windows of two uncusped lights with tracery consisting of a septfoiled spherical triangle in a pointed head; between them a doorway leads into a modern vestry. On the south side are two similar windows, a restored 14th-century pointed doorway in two orders moulded with a sunk quarter round and a modern label, and a moulded pointed 14th-century piscina with trefoiled cusping. The bowl of a pillar piscina is built into the chancel wall at the north-west. The chancel arch is in two chamfered orders with scrolled stops, half-octagonal responds, and moulded capitals and bases.
The nave has a 15th-century roof in three bays with moulded timbers having carved bosses, and it extends over the aisles; the line of the earlier roof can be seen in the outside walling over the chancel arch. The arcades are in three bays of the same character as the chancel arch. The tower arch is in two double-ogee moulded orders separated by a large casement, and has a moulded label; the jambs have engaged round shafts with moulded capitals and bases of good early 15th-century detail.
Both aisles have 14th-century east windows of three uncusped lights with a cusped sixfoil in a circle in the head; in the north aisle are two original north windows of three pointed lights, the middle one alone being trefoiled, and a 14th-century pointed doorway moulded like that in the chancel. The walling changes above the windows to larger-sized rubble, and shows clearly where the 15th-century heightening took place, the embattled parapet and the west window, which is of three cinquefoiled lights under a depressed arch, having been built at the same time. The door and windows in the north and east walls have moulded labels with either head stops or returned ends.
The south windows in the south aisle have 15thcentury tracery and rear arches, but the external detail suggests that the jambs and heads are original 14th-century work. The doorway is 14th-century work of three orders and a label, each moulded with a sunk quarter round, and there is an inside label with a head stop on one side. The east and west windows are like those in the north aisle, and there is a 14th-century trefoiled pointed piscina with moulded jambs and a moulded label. The porch is restored late 14th-century work with an embattled parapet and diagonal buttresses; the doorway has a wave mould and a double ogee mould separated by a casement. There is a parvise over, lighted by a squareheaded cinquefoiled light in the south wall, under which is a small niche; the entrance to the parvise is up a staircase on the north side, but its doorway into the nave has been walled up.
The tower has diagonal buttresses and an embattled parapet with a short leaded spire. There is a west doorway with a sundial on one of the stones, and a west window of three cinquefoiled lights over it; its rear arch and label once formed part of the west window of the 14th-century nave. The belfry windows are modern, and there is a modern stair at the north-east.
The register books are: (1) all entries 1560 to 1611; (2) 1653 to 1725; (3) 1724 to 1793, marriages to 1754; (4) marriages 1754 to 1802; (5) baptisms and burials 1793 to 1812; and (6) marriages 1802 to 1812.
The church of Westoning was granted to the nuns of Elstow by Henry II with the church of Hitchin in Hertfordshire. (fn. 74) In 1291 its value was £4 6s. 8d., (fn. 75) and in 1535 Elstow Abbey derived £10 from the rectory, paying to the vicar as stipend £4 6s. 8d. (fn. 76) The total value of the vicarage was returned as £9 17s. yearly. (fn. 77) After the Dissolution the advowson of the vicarage was held by the Crown, but it was apparently included in the grant made in 1615 to Lady Mary Farmer, who died seised of both manor and advowson in 1630. (fn. 78) From that date its history is identical with that of the manor (q.v.).
The rectory of Westoning was granted to Thomas Hungate and Simon Aynesworth in 1550, (fn. 79) but by a settlement made in 1562 half was assigned to Ralph Astrey and the other half to Richard Johnson, (fn. 80) who also held the manor of Wadlowes in Toddington in equal moieties. The rectory shares the history of this manor (q.v.) down to the beginning of the 19th century, when Francis Penyston was impropriator of the rectorial tithes. (fn. 81) They subsequently passed to his daughter, who held them in 1836, (fn. 82) and are at present vested in the Penyston trustees.
In 1314 William Inge obtained licence to endow a chantry, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, in the church of Westoning with a messuage, 30 acres of land and 4 acres of meadow and 60s. rent, to support a chaplain to celebrate divine service there daily. (fn. 83) The advowson of the chantry belonged to successive lords of Westoning Manor, and in 1535 the chantry priest returned the whole value of the endowment as £4 16s. 8d. (fn. 84) At the dissolution of chantries in 1549 the priest of the chantry is described as 'but meanly learned, not able to serve a cure and hath no other living but this chantry.' The mansion-house of the incumbent stood near the church and was worth 6s. 8d., and beyond the rents, which amounted to the clear value of £4 11s. 2d., the chantry had no other possessions, jewels or ornaments. Owing to the age of the incumbent the rental was allowed to him as a pension for life, reverting at his death to the Crown. (fn. 85)
The charities subsisting in this parish were by an order of the county court of Bedfordshire holden at Ampthill on 9 June 1856 vested in the official trustee of charity lands, and are now regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners, dated 25 July 1899, under the title of the United Charities, comprising the following charities, namely:—
The Town Lands, consisting of allotments containing 6 a. 2 r. 22 p. in the Hooks, 6 a. 3 r. 7 p. in the West Field, and 1 a. 3 r. in Tingrith Mead, and two cottages and gardens, producing a gross yearly income of £29 12s. 4d.
The scheme provided that a moiety of the net income of the Town Lands Charity should be applied by the trustees thereby appointed in apprenticing or defraying the cost of the outfit of deserving and necessitous persons under the age of twenty-one entering upon a trade or into service, or towards the maintenance of evening classes or lectures; the other moiety and the whole of the income of the Bread Lands Charity to be applied in such way as should be considered most advantageous to the recipients and most conducive to the formation of provident habits. The yearly income of the Widows' Lands Charity was directed to be applied to the relief of deserving poor widows by the distribution to them of food, fuel, clothing or other necessaries. In 1907 eighteen widows received 2s. 6d. each, £6 was spent in apprenticing, and the remainder of the net income was applied in contributions to coal and clothing clubs.