A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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Souldrop is a small parish on the borders of Northamptonshire consisting of 1,075 acres, of which 364 are arable land, 592 permanent grass and 63¼ woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The slope of the ground is from north-west to south, the highest point attained above the ordnance datum is 346 ft. in the west. The soil is clay, the subsoil gravel and clay; the land is chiefly arable. The church and rectory of All Saints are situated on the brow of a hill on the west of Forty Foot Lane as it approaches the village. It is said that forty parish churches can be seen from the steeple of Souldrop Church. The village is quite small and contains a number of model cottages built by the Duke of Bedford in the middle of the last century; there are still a few thatched cottages. Water is obtained from wells and by means of pumps. The population, which is mainly agricultural, is steadily decreasing. The manufacture of pillow lace is still carried on in the parish. Part of Colworth House grounds (Sharnbrook) extend into Souldrop.
Souldrop was inclosed by Act of Parliament in 1770, when the open fields consisted of 350 acres, and the waste or common known as Souldrop Would of 150 acres. (fn. 2) Colworth Thicket is a wood of some size in the south of the parish.
There is no mention of Souldrop in the Domesday Book, but it seems probable that it may be found included under Sharnbrook as part of the land of the Bishop of Coutances, who had three holdings there, amounting to 4½ hides in all. (fn. 3)
As in the case of Melchbourne (q.v.), where the bishop also held in 1086, Souldrop appears as part of the original endowment of Melchbourne Preceptory, a house of the Knights Hospitallers, founded by Alice de Clermont in the reign of Henry II. (fn. 4) Down to the dissolution of the religious houses Souldrop Manor remained in the possession of Melchbourne, its history presenting little of importance. In 1278–9 the prior claimed view of frankpledge in the manor, which then contained 6 virgates, (fn. 5) and the following year obtained a charter of free warren. (fn. 6) Souldrop was held by the prior by service of one-fourth of a knight's fee, and in 1302 six of the prior's tenants, William de le Despenser, Michael in Le Lane, Warin Duke, William Bacon, William Faber and Robert Bacon, combined to render this service. (fn. 7)
There is no mention of this property in the Valor, but after the Dissolution it was granted to Thomas Cobbe of Sharnbrook. This grant took place before 1573, at which date Thomas died seised of both manor and advowson. (fn. 8) The Cobbes held Souldrop until 1655, and their pedigree will be found traced under Sharnbrook, where was their seat. (fn. 9) In 1655 Thomas Cobbe and others conveyed the manor to Laurence Wright, (fn. 10) and Souldrop Manor thus became united to that of Knotting, and has followed the same descent through the families of Wright, Pye and the Dukes of Bedford. Mr. Albert Edward Bowen is the lord of the manor at the present day. (fn. 11)
A second SOULDROP MANOR appears after the Dissolution, previous to which date it belonged to Newnham Priory. Its history is identical with that of the manor of Tofte in Sharnbrook, but no mention of it has been found previous to 1539, in which year, with Tofte, it was granted to George Boteler. (fn. 12) It remained with the Boteler family until the late 18th century. In 1765 it was sold by Sir Philip Boteler to Sir Samuel Cornish, (fn. 13) from whose nephew it passed to the family of Gambier some time in the 19th century. (fn. 14) In 1876 it was purchased by Mr. C. Magniac, and henceforward follows the same descent as Colworth Manor in Sharnbrook (q.v.), being at present the property of Mr. Albert Edward Bowen.
The church of ALL SAINTS consists of a chancel 23 ft. by 13 ft. 10 in., a nave 47 ft. 10 in. by 16 ft. 5 in., a north aisle 8 ft. wide, a north transept 13 ft. 6 in. by 12 ft. 6 in., and a west tower 7 ft. 7 in. square.
The only ancient part of the church is the west tower, which dates from the second half of the 13th century. The old church fell down towards the end of the 18th century and was replaced by a barn-like structure, which was succeeded by the present building of 13th-century style. The chancel is vaulted in stone in two bays, and the nave is of four bays with arcades of two chamfered orders, without a clearstory; a south porch is also vaulted.
The tower is in four stages with diagonal buttresses at the western angles. All the details of the spire and windows are modern copies of old work, the belfry windows being of two uncusped lights with a quatrefoil in the head; in the ground stage on the west is a single trefoiled light; in the stage above small lancets on south and west. The tower is surmounted by an octagonal broach spire, having two tiers of spire lights; it has been entirely rebuilt. On the south wall of the tower there is a brass plate with a kneeling figure and an inscription to John Hunger, 1608.
The church of Souldrop formed part of the original endowment of the preceptory of Melchbourne, and continued to belong to the Knights Hospitallers until their dissolution, when the living, which is a rectory, was valued at £9 10s. 6d. (fn. 15) The descent of the advowson is the same as that of Souldrop Manor (q.v.) until 1771, between which date and 1792 Henry Pye lord of Souldrop alienated it to William Vollans, who in that year sold it to the Rev. J. W. Hawksley. (fn. 16) From him it was purchased in 1801 by the Duke of Bedford, (fn. 17) with whose family it remained until 1884, when it was sold to Mr. C. Magniac. The present patron is Mr. Vernon Magniac. In 1735 this living was joined to that of Knotting. (fn. 18)