Parishes: Little Barford

Pages 206-209

A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.

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Bereford (xi cent.), Berkeford (xii–xvi cent.), Little Berkford (xvii–xviii cent.).

Little Barford is a small parish of 1,200 acres on the Huntingdonshire borders. The western boundary is formed by the River Ouse, and the land here is liable to floods; the south-east is given up to agriculture. The soil and subsoil of the upper part of the parish is clay, and of the lower part gravel. Little Barford contains 608 acres of arable land, 630 of permanent grass, and 17 of woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The chief crops are wheat, barley, oats, beans, and market produce. The high road from Tempsford to St. Neots runs from south-west to north-west of the parish, approaching the village from the south. The rectory lies on the east side, and beyond it on the same side stands Rowe's Cottage, where Nicholas Rowe, the dramatic poet, was born in 1673. It is a simple two-story building, which has recently received a complete coat of pebble-dash, and shows little trace of age. A picturesque row of low thatched cottages lines the road on the east opposite the entrance to Little Barford House, the seat of Mr. Julius Alington, the present lord of the manor. The church of St. Denis stands in the grounds at some distance from the road and to the west of the house, which is comparatively modern and of no architectural interest. South-west of the church is an isolated building now divided into three cottages, and probably of some antiquity, though possessing no features of much interest.

Alington. Sable a bend engrailed between six billets argent.

The land lies low, and near the church has been worked for gravel, as the broken surface shows, though now again covered with grass. The church itself stands on slightly higher ground near the river bank.

The Great Northern main line passes through Little Barford; the nearest station is St. Neots, 3½ miles off.

The parish was inclosed by agreement before 1778, when an Act of Parliament was obtained to confirm it. (fn. 2) There is a public elementary school, built in 1873.


The abbey of St. Benedict, Ramsey, held LITTLE BARFORD MANOR in chief both at the time of and previous to the Domesday Survey. (fn. 3) An early charter of the abbey records that a certain Ædgiva granted land in Barford to the abbey, (fn. 4) which probably became the manor assessed at 5 hides referred to in Domesday. (fn. 5) Be tween the years 1133 and 1160 the manor was alienated by Abbot Alwin to Hugh de Beauchamp for £10 without the consent of the monastery, (fn. 6) but in 1194 Hugh surrendered the 5 hides of land which constituted the manor to Abbot Robert, (fn. 7) and from this time until the Dissolution of the Monasteries Ramsey Abbey continued to exercise the overlordship of Little Barford, which was invariably held by the service of one knight's fee and the rent of a mark of silver. (fn. 8) It then lapsed to the crown, and the last mention of the overlordship occurs in 1563, when the manor was held of the queen 'by reason of the dissolution of the abbey.' (fn. 9) At the time of the Survey this manor was held of Ramsey Abbey by Eudo Dapifer, who had as under-tenant one Osberne. (fn. 10) Eudo appears to have been followed by the Leyhams, who were holding in Barford as early as 1194, in which year Peter de Leyham rendered homage for this manor to the abbot. (fn. 11) Matthew de Leyham, probably a grandson, who was one of the knights of Ramsey Abbey who performed service in Poiton, Gascony, and Scotland in the years 1240, 1242, and 1244 respectively, (fn. 12) confirmed his right to the manor by fine in 1243. (fn. 13) By the year 1316 the manor had passed to Thomas de la Dale, (fn. 14) probably on his marriage with Isabel de Leyham. A fine levied a year later declared the manor to be the right of Isabel formerly wife of Thomas Dale, which lends probability to this assumption. (fn. 15) Thomas Dale, son of Isabel, held the manor in 1346, (fn. 16) and was succeeded by a son Thomas, whose wife Isabel in 1408 obtained the marriage and wardship of her grandson Thomas, on payment of 100 marks to Ramsey Abbey within twenty years. (fn. 17) He rendered feudal service for the manor in 1428, (fn. 18) and in 1480 his grandson John Dale, son of another Thomas, died seised of this manor. (fn. 19) John left a son William, who at his death in 1537 left the manor to his eldest daughter Anne, wife of Alexander Fettiplace. (fn. 20) They settled the manor on their son William, and on his death in 1563— shortly before that of his father—the manor passed to his son Edmund Fettiplace. (fn. 21) In 1613 the manor passed to John son of Edmund, (fn. 22) who in 1658 alienated it to George Edwards, (fn. 23) whose son Jasper Edwards transferred it in 1692 to Sir Walter St. John and Francis St. John. (fn. 24) By the marriage of Mary daughter of the latter to Sir Samuel Browne, (fn. 25) the manor next passed to the Brownes of Arlesey, and followed the same descent as Arlesey manor (q.v.) during the eighteenth century. (fn. 26)

Ramsey Abbey. Or a bend azure ivith three rams' heads argent cut off at the neck therein having horns of gold

Leyham. Gules a swan argent, which arms were afterwards borne by the Dales.

Fettiplace. Gules two cheverons argent.

In 1764 Mrs. Schutz (granddaughter of Sir Samuel Browne) made over this estate to a son, who sold it to an attorney. He transferred it to Mr. Hutchinson, a partner in the original Security Bank, and on his failure in 1799 Little Barford manor was sold to Mr. Williamson of Baldock, 'a great dealer in malt, and of very considerable landed property in the county of Hertfordshire.' (fn. 27) His daughter Sara married the Reverend William Alington, who died in 1849, leaving a son John, who at his death in 1864 left two sons, William, who died in 1874, and Julius Alington, who is at the present day lord of Little Barford manor. (fn. 28)

The Domesday Survey mentions a second manor in Barford, consisting of 3 hides, which at the time of the Confessor had belonged to Ulmar of Eaton, but in 1086 was held in chief by Osbern son of Walter. (fn. 29)

These 3 hides, as did other lands formerly held by Ulmar of Eaton in Bedfordshire, became part of the barony of Eaton, and were granted in 1120 to one of the house of Beauchamp. (fn. 30) In 1194 Hugh de Beauchamp claimed the homage of the holder of this land, (fn. 31) and again in 1284 the same 3 hides were held of Ralph Beauchamp of Eaton. (fn. 32) One further reference has been found to the overlordship, when in 1396 Eleanor wife of Reginald de Grey of Ruthyn held a manor in Barford of Thomas Dale. (fn. 33)

Osbern son of Walter had no tenant under him at the time of the Survey, but in 1194 the manor was held of the overlord by Peter de Leyham, who also held the more important manor of Barford. (fn. 34) In 1284 John de Leyham held it, (fn. 35) and from that date till 1380 no further reference has been found to this property. In that year, and again in 1384, Reginald de Grey and Eleanor his wife conveyed Barford manor into the hands of trustees, (fn. 36) and in 1396 Eleanor wife of Reginald de Grey died seised of the manor, of which further trace has been lost. (fn. 37)

One mill is mentioned in the Survey of Little Barford in 1087. It was valued at 12s. and belonged to Little Barford manor held by Eudo Dapifer. (fn. 38) To the same manor was also attached in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a free fishery in the waters of the Ouse, and a view of frankpledge. (fn. 39)


The church of ST. DENIS has a chancel 30 ft. 10 in. by 12 ft. 7 in., with south vestry and organ chamber, nave 36 ft. by 15 ft. 4 in. with north aisle 7 ft. wide, and west tower 8 ft. by 8 ft. 8 in., all measurements being internal.

The earliest building of which any evidence remains had an aisleless nave 36 ft. by 15 ft. 4 in. and a chancel probably of the existing width, but shorter. There is no trace of enlargement before the early years of the fourteenth century, though a north aisle may perhaps have existed previously. About 1310–20 the present north arcade was built, the aisle being probably somewhat narrower than at present. A south chapel was added to the chancel shortly afterwards, the chancel being probably lengthened or rebuilt at the same time, and the chancel arch is of this date. The east arch of the west tower being also of fourteenth - century work presupposes the existence of a tower at this time, but the present tower belongs to the late part of the fifteenth century.

In 1834 the church was 'restored,' a three-light east window of the chancel being replaced by a larger window, copied from one in Eaton Socon church, and at the same time the south chapel was pulled down and its arcade blocked up. A window of imitation twelfth-century detail was cut in the south wall of the nave to light the reading desk, and old wooden north and south porches were destroyed.

In 1869 the chancel was pulled down and rebuilt, the blocked arcade on the south being reopened, and a vestry and organ chamber—the latter in transept form—built. The nave and north aisle were repaired in 1871, and much decoration and new fittings added. The high pulpit with a sounding board at the northeast of the nave, and the reading and clerk's desks at the south-east, disappeared at this time. The fifteenthcentury screen now in the vestry was till 1871 in position at the chancel arch.

The chancel at the present time has three lancets at the east, and two two-light north windows of fourteenth-century style, all being modern. In the south wall is an arcade of two bays, with wide pointed segmental arches, moulded capitals and bases, and shafts of quatrefoiled plan, which opened to the former south chapel, and now to the modern vestry organ chamber. In the south-east angle of the vestry is a fifteenth-century piscina, found in the south wall of the chancel, which is now set to project from the wall face, with the unusual feature of a narrow arched opening in its west side, the head worked in imitation of a ribbed vault. It may have opened originally into a sedile immediately adjoining it on the west, but this cannot now be determined. The screen at the west of the vestry, of mid-fifteenthcentury date, has been repainted from indications of the old colour, and has a design of large single roses on the lower panels, open tracery above, and a cornice with paterae, over the central opening bearing a shield with I H S.

The chancel arch is of early fourteenth-century detail, like the north arcade of the nave, which is of three bays, with octagonal pillars, pointed arches of two chamfered orders, and moulded capitals. The north aisle of the nave shows in its east and west walls the traces of a steeper-pitched roof, which may have belonged to a narrower aisle, and has at the west a small round-headed twelfth-century light, and another, much altered, at the east. Both were perhaps at first in the north wall of the aisleless nave. The north wall of the aisle has no ancient features, door and windows being alike modern. The nave has three windows on the south, the imitation twelfth-century light, a twolight window which is a modern copy of a window of c. 1320 previously existing, and to the west of the south doorway, and at a rather higher level in the wall, a sixteenth-century window of two uncusped lights under a four-centred head. The south doorway is good work of c. 1160–70, with a square head, not in its original condition, and perhaps replacing a carved tympanum, under a semicircular arch with a late form of zigzag and an engrailed label which has been copied in the modern window to the east. The arch has nook-shafts with scalloped capitals of advanced style, and close to its east jamb is a holy water stone projecting from the wall, but formerly sheltered by a porch. (fn. 40) In the west jamb is an incised sundial. Till late in the fifteenth century the nave had a highpitched roof, but a clearstory was then added, and a lower-pitched roof put on, with two two-light windows on each side, the western bay being blank.

The tower, of three stages, has an embattled parapet and two-light belfry windows with cinquefoiled lights and four-centred heads. In the ground stage is a three-light west window, a good deal repaired, of fifteenth-century date. The roofs of the church have no old details, and there is little old woodwork beyond some plain and heavy bench ends and rails in the nave, a seventeenth-century church chest, and an altar table now cut in half. At the east end of the north aisle, where marks of a parclose screen show in the arcade, is a large iron-bound chest with rounded top, 7 ft. long, and of considerable though uncertain age.

The font, in the north aisle, has an octagonal bowl with beaded angles, standing on five small columns, and is plain and perhaps unfinished as regards the panels of the bowl—it may be of fourteenthcentury date and shows traces of red paint.

The only old monument is a brass on the nave floor with the figures of Thomas Perys, 1535, and Agnes his wife, with an indent for a large rectangular plate below them.

There are four bells, the treble by Richard Chandler, 1681, the second by Christopher Graye, 1661, the third blank, and the tenor of 1759, bearing the name of the Rev. J. Gamble, rector 1733–63.

The plate consists of a communion cup and cover paten of 1571, the latter a good deal modernized, and a modern set of parcel gilt plate of 1865, chalice, paten, flagon and spoon.

The earliest registers preserved date from 1653, and are extracts in a MS. book. The first original book now left begins with a loose sheet of entries 1661–70, and there are consecutive entries from 1678.


The first mention that has been found of the church of Little Barford is in 1178, when a papal bull of Pope Alexander confirmed the church to the abbey of Ramsey, to whom the overlordship of the manor also belonged. (fn. 41) In 1317 the church was in the possession of the lords of the manor, (fn. 42) since which date the right of presentation appears always to have remained in their hands. (fn. 43)

In 1535 the living, which is a rectory, was worth £ 13 16s. 2d. (fn. 44)


Little Barford (Charities). See Parish of Dunton.—The Rev. Robert Bamford also charged his house in St. Paul's parish, Bedford, known as the Black Bull Inn, with the following annual payments, namely: 10s. to the rector for preaching a sermon on the anniversary of the donor's death (24 August, 1720), 20s. to buy bread for distribution in the church among the poor not receiving collection every Sunday between Michaelmas and Lady Day, £3 to teach six poor children to read and write, with the Church Catechism, and 10s. to the parish clerk. The several charges, amounting to £5, are regularly paid by Mr. E. P. Rose of 50, High Street, Bedford, the owner of the property charged. In 1905 2 cwt. of coal were given to each of twenty-seven householders, £3 was paid to the school, and 10s. each to the rector and clerk.


  • 1. Statistics from Bd. of Agric. (1905). The details include land in other parishes.
  • 2. Acts Priv. and Local, 41 Geo. III, cap. 34.
  • 3. V.C.H. Beds. i, 229a.
  • 4. Chron. Abbat. Rames. (Rolls Ser.),. 200.
  • 5. V.C.H. Beds. i, 229a.
  • 6. Cart. Rames. Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 272.
  • 7. Madox, Formulare Angl. 218.
  • 8. Feud. Aids, i, 23, 38; Cart. Rames. Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), iii, 209; Feet of F. Beds. 27 Hen. III, m. 2; Anct. D. (P.R.O.), A. 550; Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), lviii, No. 48.
  • 9. Ibid. cxxxv, No. 134.
  • 10. V.C.H. Beds. i, 229a.
  • 11. Dugdale, Mon. ii, 553; Madox, Formulare Anglicanum, 218.
  • 12. Cart. Rames. Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), iii, 209.
  • 13. Feet of F. Beds. 27 Hen. III, m. 2.
  • 14. Feud. Aids, i, 19.
  • 15. Feet of F. Beds. 11 Edw. II, m. 19. Further in 1346 Thomas Dale held the fee which Oliver de Leyham had held (Feud. Aids, i, 23).
  • 16. Feud. Aids, i, 23.
  • 17. Anct. D. (P.R.O.), A. 550. This Thomas Dale appears to have assumed Fulthorpe as an alternative surname (Feud. Aids, i, 38; Pedigrees from the Plea R.).
  • 18. Feud. Aids, i, 38.
  • 19. Chan. Inq. p.m. 19 Edw. IV, No. 9; Pedigrees from the Plea R. p. 465.
  • 20. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), lviii, No. 48.
  • 21. Ibid. cxxxv, No. 134; cccxxxiii, No. 42.
  • 22. Ibid.
  • 23. Recov. R. Trin. 1658; Feet of F. Beds. Trin. 1658.
  • 24. Ibid. Trin. 4 Will. and Mary.
  • 25. Blaydes, Genealogia Bedfordiensis, 339.
  • 26. Feet of F. Beds. Trin. 5 Geo. III; Hil. 25 Geo. III; Acts Priv. and Local, 18 Geo. III, cap. 65.
  • 27. Add. MSS. 9408.
  • 28. Burke, Landed Gentry, 1906.
  • 29. V.C.H. Beds. i, 254a. It seems very probable that this Osbern is identical with the under-tenant of the same name of Eudo Dapifer in Barford.
  • 30. V.C.H. Beds. i, 201; see also Tempsford.
  • 31. Madox, Formulare Anglicanum, 218. This property is here declared to be of the fee of the Eudo of Domesday.
  • 32. Feud. Aids, i, 3.
  • 33. Chan. Inq. p.m. 19 Ric. II, No. 30. Thomas Dale at this time held the larger manor in Little Barford, but no previous reference has been found to his overlordship of the second manor.
  • 34. Madox, Formulare Anglicanum, 218.
  • 35. Feud. Aids, i, 3.
  • 36. Feet of F. Div. Cos. 3 Ric. II, No. 38; 7 Ric. II, No. 10. Here the manor is described as 2/3 in Beds. and ⅓ in Hunts.
  • 37. Chan. Inq. p.m. 19 Ric. II, No. 30.
  • 38. V.C.H. Beds. i, 229a.
  • 39. Recov. R. Trin. 1658; Feet of F. Beds. Trin. 4 Will. and Mary; Trin. 5 Geo. III; Hil. 25 Geo. III.
  • 40. a See Fisher, Collections for Beds. pl. viii.
  • 41. Cart. Mon. Rames. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 136.
  • 42. Feet of F. Beds. 11 Edw. II, m. 19.
  • 43. Inst. Bks. (P.R.O.). Cf. also history of Little Barford manor.
  • 44. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 197.