Parishes: Streatley with Sharpenhoe

Pages 381-384

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

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In this section


Straillei, Stratlei (xi cent.); Stredlegh (xiii cent.); Shappenho (xiv cent.); Sharpenhoo (xv, xvi cents.).

Streatley is a village and parish with an area of 2,500 acres, of which 1,885 are arable land, 297¼ permanent grass, and 33 woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The soil is composed of chalk and clay, and is principally arable. There is no station in the parish, the nearest is Leagrave on the main line of the Midland Railway, 4 miles north-east of Streatley. The slope of the land is from south to north, the greatest height attained is 524 ft., the lowest 222 ft. above the ordnance datum.

The small village of Streatley lies a short distance south of the summit of the Barton Hills and a quarter of a mile west of the point where the Bedford and Luton road crosses the hills by a deep cutting in the chalk. Though at a height of nearly 450 ft. the position is disappointing, for to the north the view is limited by the summit of the ridge, and to the south and south-west the land falls slowly towards Luton in wide but uninteresting stretches of country.

To the east and west of the village are lines of trees and small plantations marking the broad summit of the ridge which continues irregularly, with steep grass and bush-covered spurs on the north side, running down into the tilled fields around Barton in the Clay. The parish is long and narrow, stretching from north to south, and includes the village of Sharpenhoe prominently situated on a spur of the hills one mile north of the upper village.

The chief group of buildings consists of the church, with the red brick manor-house, and several cottages on the east boundary of the churchyard, a small inn at the north-east angle, the 'Chequers,' being probably the successor of the mediaeval church-house. A little to the north is a farm-house, and the rest of the village lies to the south-east, some ten or a dozen houses in all, with a green and a pond.

The following place-names have been found in this parish—Berry Close in the sixteenth century; (fn. 2) Harthonge, Aggotts, Maggotts, Mowses, Awberry, Abbots lands, Chappellpightell (reminiscent of James de Cauz's thirteenth-century chapel in Sharpenhoe), in the seventeenth century, (fn. 3) and Rangley's Spinney, Jeremiah's Tree, George Wood, and Sharpenhoe Clappers in the twentieth century. (fn. 4)


The manor of STREATLEY WITH SHARPENHOE belonged at the time of the Domesday Survey to Hugh de Beauchamp, and had been held by Aschil a thegn of King Edward. (fn. 5) This manor continued to belong to the barony of Bedford which Hugh de Beauchamp held, (fn. 6) and the latest reference that has been found to the overlordship is in 1342, when Ralph Butler held it of John Picot as part of the barony. (fn. 7)

In 1086 William de Locels held 4 hides 1 virgate of Hugh de Beauchamp as one manor, which by 1158 had passed to Richard de Gobion, who at that date held two knights' fees in Bedfordshire. (fn. 8) In 1231 Katherine, widow of Richard Gobion, son of the above Richard, successfully claimed from Hugh Gobion, probably another son, one-third of 1⅓ carucates of land in Streatley as the dower settled on her by her father-in-law Richard Gobion. (fn. 9) In 1274 Hugh de Gobion died seised of Streatley manor, leaving as heir his son Richard, (fn. 10) who rendered feudal service in Streatley ten years later. (fn. 11) He died in 1300, leaving two daughters, Hadwisa, wife of Ralph Butler, and Elizabeth as co-heirs. (fn. 12) Streatley manor passed to the former, and was held by Ralph Butler in right of his wife until his death in 1342, when he left their grandson Ralph as his heir. (fn. 13) Hadwisa, however, retained the manor until her death, which took place in 1360, when, her grandson Ralph having predeceased her in 1348, Sir Edward Butler, his brother, inherited Streatley with Sharpenhoe manor. (fn. 14) Sir Edward died without an heir in 1412, and Philip, his second cousin, inherited his estates. (fn. 15) Sir Philip Butler died in 1420, when his widow, who after wards married Lawrence Cheyne, owed feudal service for the manor. (fn. 16) Documentary evidence concerning this manor is scanty during the sixteenth century, but proof of its descent in the Butler family may be found in an inquisition taken after the death of Sir Philip Butler in 1617. John Butler, greatgrandson of Sir Philip who had died in 1420, (fn. 17) settled the manor in 1511 on himself for life with remainder to his son Philip, to whose son Sir Philip Butler the inquisition of 1617 refers. (fn. 18) He was succeeded by a grandson Robert, (fn. 19) who held the manor till his death in 1622, when his brother John became his heir. (fn. 20)

The latter died in 1637 leaving a son William who was of unsound mind and whose guardian, Edward Lord Howard, was allowed to compound for the manor in 1646. (fn. 21) He died in the following year, leaving the manor of Streatley, called Sharpenhoe, to be divided among his six sisters, (fn. 22) Audrey wife of Francis earl of Chichester, Helen wife of Sir John Drake, Jane wife of James earl of Marlborough, Olive wife of Endymion Porter, Mary wife of Lord Howard, and Anne wife of Mountjoy Blount earl of Newport, and between their brother's death in 1647 and the year 1674, the manor—thus split up into sixths—was the subject of a series of settlements, and was finally at the latter date conveyed by trustees to Oliver Luke, (fn. 23) by whose family it was retained until 1725, when Nicholas Luke transferred it to John Nodes. (fn. 24) From the Nodes it passed by inheritance to the Goldsmiths. (fn. 25) William Goldsmith, who held the manor in 1790, appears to have alienated it very shortly after to Mr. Marshal, and when Lysons wrote, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, it was the subject of a suit in Chancery. (fn. 26)

In 1854 this manor was sold by Messrs. Cobb to George and John Smythe, representatives of whose family hold it at the present day. (fn. 27)

The hamlet of Sharpenhoe is not mentioned in Domesday. (fn. 28) and no definite trace of SHARPENHOE MANOR has been found before the thirteenth century when it was held of the king in chief. There is every reason to suppose, however, that the land, afterwards known as the manor, was held by the Cauz family before this date. As early as 1197 Robert Passelewe alienated land in Sharpenhoe to Richard de Cauz, (fn. 29) and in 1234 their estates in Sharpenhoe were of sufficient importance for James de Cauz to obtain the grant of a chantry in his chapel there. (fn. 30) By 1266 Sharpenhoe manor had passed to Robert, son of John de Thorp, who in that year obtained free warren in his manor there. (fn. 31)

Matilda, Robert's widow, by a settlement made in 1303, held the manor till her death, when it passed to George de Thorpe, probably a brother of Robert, (fn. 32) who held it in 1316, in which year he acquired a charter of free warren. (fn. 33)

In 1346 George Thorpe was holding this manor, which by 1417 had passed into the possession of Simon Felbrigge, though no record has been found of the transfer. (fn. 34)

He was holding in 1428, (fn. 35) and between that date and 1485 there is another break in the continuity of the descent of Sharpenhoe manor, which reappears at the latter date as the property of William Tyndale and Mary his wife, who settled it on Roger Townshend. (fn. 36) He died seised of it in 1492, and by his will he bequeathed the manor, after the death of Eleanor his wife, to his son Thomas, with remainder in default for sale 'for the benefit of his and her souls, and the souls of their friends and benefactors for whom they are most bounden.' (fn. 37) Eleanor Townshend was still alive in 1543, when the manor was settled on Roger Townshend, her son, and his heirs, Thomas having probably died in the meanwhile. (fn. 38)

Roger Townshend transferred it to Sir John Huddleston before the latter's death in 1557, when he left a son William as heir; (fn. 39) and he before 1578 alienated Sharpenhoe manor to Edmund Mordaunt, who at that date sold it to Thomas Norton. (fn. 40) The latter died in 1584 seised of this manor, leaving a son Henry Norton, then aged 13, (fn. 41) who in 1604 settled the manor on his brother Robert Norton and his heirs male, with reversion to William and Walter Norton and their heirs male, (fn. 42) and they, in 1610, sold Sharpenhoe manor to their uncle Luke Norton, who held it at his death in 1630. (fn. 43) Graveley Norton, succeeded his father Luke, and in 1646 (fn. 44) sold the Sharpenhoe estates for £3,050 to William Wheeler of Silsoe, (fn. 45) whose son in 1673 alienated the manor to Hugh Smythe. (fn. 46) The manor thus acquired has since remained in the Smythe family, and is held at the present day by Mrs. Hugh Smythe and George Townsend Benison, whose wife was first cousin to James Smythe, who held the property in 1872, as joint owners. (fn. 47)

In 1087 Pirot held land in Streatley, of which one hide and one-third (the marriage portion of his wife) belonged to the fee of Nigel de Albini. (fn. 48) This holding, which became part of the barony of Cainhoe, and was situated in the hamlet of Sharpenhoe, reappears later, though it never attained the status of a manor. Testa de Nevill states that John Fitz Hugh held a fee here of this barony, and in 1264 William de Albini died seised of a fee in Sharpenhoe. (fn. 49) In 1302 William de Norton and Isabella his wife held of this barony in Sharpenhoe, (fn. 50) and in 1346 their land had passed into the hands of Peter de St. Croix. No further mention, however, has been found subsequent to the fourteenth century. (fn. 51)

The abbot of Woburn owned land and meadows in this parish which he obtained by the gift of William de Locels, probably the son of the William de Locels who owned Streatley manor at the time of the Survey. (fn. 52) In 1291 the value of these meadows was £1 13s., (fn. 53) and in 1302 the extent was 2 virgates, for which the abbot rendered service of one-eighth of a knight's fee, (fn. 54) and in 1337 the value remained unaltered. (fn. 55) These lands are probably the same as those termed 'Abbots' Lands,' which belonged in 1630 to Luke Norton, lord of Sharpenhoe manor. (fn. 56)

At the time of the Survey the bailiff of the hundred of Flitt held two-thirds of a virgate which had formerly been in Streatley, but which Bondi the Staller had annexed to the king's manor of Luton, where it is henceforward to be found. (fn. 57)

In 1266 Robert son of John Thorpe was granted a charter of free warren in his manor of Sharpenhoe, (fn. 58) and George Thorpe received a similar charter in 1316. (fn. 59)


The church of ST. MARGARET has a nave 53 ft. 6 in. by 18 ft. with north and south aisles, a chancel 17 ft. 6 in. by 17 ft. 3 in., the axis of which is deflected southwards, and a west tower 12 ft. square within the walls. The whole church is plastered or rough-cast outside and thickly yellow-washed within, and, beyond the arcades of the nave, has few architectural attractions; these arcades are of four bays, c. 1340, with arches of two chamfered orders and octagonal shafts with moulded capitals. The north and south doorways of the nave are of the same date, with continuous mouldings, but all the windows are of the fifteenth century, of two cinquefoiled lights with tracery in the head. The east window of the chancel is modern, of three lights with intersecting mullions, and at the south-east of the chancel is a modern trefoiled piscina. The chancel arch is of two chamfered orders, the inner springing from plain corbels. The tower is of the fifteenth century, with a stair at the south-west, of four stages with an embattled parapet and belfry windows and wooden tracery. In the ground stage is a west window of three lights with tracery over, and the eastern arch is of two moulded orders with half-round shafts to the inner.

The roofs of the nave and aisles are of low pitch and plain detail, apparently fifteenth-century work, and there are a good many sixteenth-century benches with linen pattern panels, whilst others are plain.

The front row of pews in the nave is pretty work of c. 1630, the heads of the alternate panels being pierced with open tracery. The pulpit is made up of old material of various dates, having linen pattern panels in its hexagonal body and an eighteenth-century tester.

There are image brackets in the north aisle to the south of the east window, in the south aisle to the north of the east window, and in the nave to the north of the chancel arch. The font in the west bay of the south arcades is a very fine example of mid-thirteenthcentury detail, having an octagonal bowl with panels of foliage or tracery on each face, and a moulded base to the bowl carried by four engaged shafts with moulded capitals and bases and vertical lines of dogtooth between the shafts.

There is one bell by Mears, 1832, and a small bell without inscription.

The plate consists of a communion cup of 1685 and a paten of 1879.

The first book of the registers contains baptisms and burials from 1768 to 1811, and the second is the printed marriage book from 1754 to 1778. The vestry book from 1794 is preserved.


The Lincoln Episcopal Registers prove that the advowson, vicarage, and rectory of Streatley belonged to Markyate Priory from its foundation in 1145. (fn. 60) The church was confirmed to Markyate in 1402, (fn. 61) and remained in its possession till the Dissolution, at which time the rectory was valued at £15. (fn. 62) In 1544 the rectory, church, and advowson of the vicarage were granted by the crown to Thomas Norton, (fn. 63) whose descendants, Richard, William, and Walter Norton, conveyed the rectory and vicarage in 1606 to George and Richard Barbour alias Grigge, (fn. 64) who, in 1624, transferred their rights to Richard Meade. (fn. 65) Ten years later the rectory and vicarage passed from him to Thomas Harris, (fn. 66) in whose family it remained till 1688, when Francis Harris alienated the rectory and vicarage to Hugh Smythe, (fn. 67) who at that time owned Sharpenhoe manor. In 1771 James Smythe made a settlement of both rectory and vicarage on William Hale, (fn. 68) and from this point their history diverges. The rectory appears to have remained with the Smythe family, who were impropriators in 1836, (fn. 69) and at the present day the great tithes are shared by G. T. Benison, the trustees of the late Mr. Hugh Smythe, and Mr. F. A. Page-Turner. In 1781 James Buchanan Riddell, lord of Sundon manor, had acquired the right of presentation to Streatley vicarage, (fn. 70) and it appears to have since followed the same descent as the advowson of Sundon (q.v.), with which it is now consolidated, (fn. 71) the present patron being Mr. Page-Turner. Between 1652 and 1704 the lords of Streatley manor claimed the advowson of the church of Streatley. (fn. 72)

In the thirteenth century Sharpenhoe contained a chapel of St. Giles, which was erected by James de Cauz, who in 1234 founded a chantry there, (fn. 73) at which Bishop Repingdon (1405–20) granted the inhabitants of Sharpenhoe licence to worship. In the dry summer of 1775, an ancient stone font was discovered in the moat of Sharpenhoe Bury, the old manor-house, and a farm known as the Chantry Farm still exists. (fn. 74)

Streatley has a Baptist chapel.


Free school founded by will of Richard Norton, 1686, endowed with a rent-charge of £10 issuing out of the manor of Sharpenhoe. See article on 'Schools,' above.

Charity of Rodenham Rouse; 10s. a year is paid by the trustees of this charity in Barton le Clay, and distributed among the poor at Christmas.

The Rev. James Tyley by will proved 24 May, 1856, bequeathed £95 9s. 4d. in consols (with the official trustees), the dividends to be distributed amongst the most deserving poor of the parish.


  • 1. Inf. from Bd. of Agric. (1905).
  • 2. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), cciii, No. 12.
  • 3. Ibid. xxxii, No. 51; cccclxv, No. 38.
  • 4. Ord. Surv.
  • 5. V.C.H. Beds. 239a.
  • 6. Liber Niger, i, 199; Red Bk. of Exch. i, 17, 320; Testa de Nevill (Rec. Com.), 249b; Feud. Aids, i, 7, 33; Chan. Inq. p.m. 3 Edw. I, No. 15.
  • 7. Chan. Inq. p.m. 16 Edw. III, No. 28.
  • 8. Liber Niger, i, 199. William de Locels held in Higham of the same overlordship at Domesday and was succeeded by Richard Gobion whose family gave their name to the place.
  • 9. Bracton's Note Bk. case 518. In the same year a fine was levied between Hugh Gobion and Lescelina, widow of William de Brachull, concerning 30 acres of land in Sharpenhoe (Feet of F. Beds. 16 Hen. III, No. 21).
  • 10. Testa de Nevill (Rec. Com.), 249b; Chan. Inq. p.m. 3 Edw. I. No. 15. The year after Hugh's death (1275) a settlement was made by Richard concerning the dower of Maud, Hugh's widow (Feet of F. Beds. 4 Edw. I, No. 8).
  • 11. Feud. Aids, i, 7.
  • 12. Chan. Inq. p.m. 29 Edw. I, No. 49. The extent of the manor at this time included a capital messuage with a garden worth 3s. per annum, 140 acres of arable land worth 3d. per acre, 2 acres of meadow worth 12d., windmill worth 6s. 8d., 10 acres of woodland worth 6d., rents of free tenants worth 29s. 4½d., rents of customary tenants 22s., 2 virgates of land in villeinage worth 28s. 1d., the total yearly value being £6 14s. 1/12d.
  • 13. Ibid. 16 Edw. III, No. 28; Feud. Aids, i, 22; Cal. of Close, 1341–3, p. 441.
  • 14. Feud. Aids, i, 33; Chan. Inq. p.m. 14 Hen. IV, No. 16; Waters, Chesters of Chicheley, i, 139.
  • 15. Waters, Chesters of Chicheley, i, 139 et seq.
  • 16. Feud. Aids, i, 46.
  • 17. Waters, Chesters of Chicheley, i, 139.
  • 18. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), ccxcix, No. 149.
  • 19. Ibid.; Feet of F. Div. Cos. East. 19 Jas. I.
  • 20. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), ccccii, No. 144.
  • 21. Cal. of Com. for Compounding, p. 1499.
  • 22. Waters, Cbesters of Cbicbeley, i, 139.
  • 23. Feet of F. Beds. Hil. 1652; Mich. 16 Chas. II; East. 20 Chas. II; Div. Cos. Hil. 1658; Hil. 15 & 16 Chas. II; East. 17 Chas. II; Recov. R. Mich. 15 Chas. II; Mich. 16 Chas. II; Hil. 26 & 27 Chas. II. See also under Haynes for the Lukes.
  • 24. Feet of F. Beds. Mich. 12 Geo. I.
  • 25. Ibid. Mich. 30 Geo. III, Lysons, Mag. Brit. i, 136.
  • 26. Lysons, Mag. Brit. i, 136.
  • 27. Information supplied by Mr. Benison.
  • 28. Pirot held a manor in Streatley in Domesday of 4⅓ hides of which 1⅓ hides belonged to the Cainhoe Barony and were in Sharpenhoe (V.C.H. Beds. i, 244b). It is probable that in the remaining 3 hides which were held in chief is to be found Sharpenhoe manor.
  • 29. Feet of F. Beds. 9 Ric. I, No. 9.
  • 30. Ann. of Dunstable (Rolls Ser.), iii, 141; cf. also hist. of advowson.
  • 31. Col. Rot. Chart. (Rec. Com.), 95.
  • 32. Feud. Aids. i, 14; Feet of F. Beds. 32 Edw. I, m. 2.
  • 33. Chart. R. 9 Edw. II, No. 20; Feud. Aids, i, 22; Plac. de Quo War. (Rec. Com.), 44.
  • 34. Close, 7 Hen. V, m. 16.
  • 35. Feud. Aids, i, 46.
  • 36. Feet of F. Beds. 3 Ric. III, m. 1.
  • 37. Cal. of Inq. Hen. VII, i, 440.
  • 38. Feet of F. Beds. Trin. 35 Hen. VIII.
  • 39. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), iii, No. 15.
  • 40. Feet of F. Beds. Hil. 21 Eliz. Recov. R. Hil. 21 Eliz.; Com. Pleas D. Enr. Hil. 21 Eliz.
  • 41. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), cciii, No. 38.
  • 42. Feet of F. Beds. East. 2 Jas. I; Hil. 4 Jas. I.
  • 43. Ibid. Trin. 8 Jas. I; Mich. 8 Jas. I; Harl. Soc. Publ. xix.
  • 44. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), ccclxv, No. 38. In 1626 a settlement was made of the manor on the occasion of the marriage of Graveley Norton, son and heir of Luke Norton, with Helen Angell (Feet of F. Beds. Hil. 2 Chas. I). Lettice, sister of Graveley, and wife of Richard Norton, was receiving an annual rent of £40 out of the manor in 1647 (ibid. Trin. 23 Chas. I), in which year she renounced her claim to William Wheeler, who had bought the manor.
  • 45. Blaydes, Beds. N. and Q. i, 311.
  • 46. Ibid. Feet of F. Beds. Hil. 25 & 26 Chas. II.
  • 47. Recov. R. East. 23 Geo. II; Com. Pleas, East. 23 Geo. II.; Feet of F. Beds. Mich. 48 Geo. III; Hil. 1 & 2 Geo. IV; Trin. 3 & 4 Will. IV. Information supplied by Mr. G. Benison.
  • 48. V.C.H. Beds. i, 224b.
  • 49. Testa de Nevill (Rec. Com.) 250b; Cal. Inq. p.m. Hen. III, i, 27.
  • 50. Feud. Aids, i, 14.
  • 51. Ibid. 33.
  • 52. Plac. de Quo War. (Rec. Com.), 36.
  • 53. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 49.
  • 54. Feud. Aids, i, 14.
  • 55. Cal. of Pat. 1334–8, p. 493.
  • 56. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), cccclxv, No. 38.
  • 57. V.C.H. Beds. i, 264a. Other Domesday holders of whom no further trace can be found are Hugh, who held 2/3 virgate of William Spec (V.C.H. Beds. i, 246a) and Walter, who held 1 hide of William d'Eu (ibid. i, 233b).
  • 58. Chart. R. 51 Hen. III, pt. i, No. 7.
  • 59. Ibid. 9 Edw. II, No. 20; Plac. de Quo War. (Rec. Com.), 44.
  • 60. V.C.H. Beds. i, 358; Dugdale, Mon. iii, 368.
  • 61. Cal. of Pap. Letters, v, 510.
  • 62. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 209.
  • 63. Pat. 36 Hen. VIII, pt. 8.
  • 64. Feet of F. Beds. Mich. 4 Jas. I.
  • 65. Ibid. Mich. 20 Jas. I; Hil. 22 Jas. I.
  • 66. Ibid. Trin. 10 Chas. I.
  • 67. Ibid. Div. Cos. Mich. 15 Chas. II; Beds. Mich. 35 Chas. II; Hil. 4 Jas. II; Hil. 1 Will. and Mary; Inst. Bks. P.R.O.; Recov. R. Mich. 35 Chas. II.
  • 68. Feet of F. Beds. Hil. 11 Geo. III.
  • 69. Clerical Guide, 1836.
  • 70. Inst. Bks. P.R.O.
  • 71. Clerical Guides; Clergy Lists.
  • 72. Feet of F. Beds. Hil. 1652; Mich. 16 Chas. II; East. 20 Chas. II; Div. Cos. Hil. 1658; Hil. 15 & 16 Chas. II; East. 17 Chas. II; Recov. R. Mich. 15 Chas. II; Mich. 16 Chas. II; Hil. 26 & 27 Chas. II; Hil. 3 Anne.
  • 73. Ann. of Dunstable (Rolls Ser.), iii, 141d.
  • 74. Information supplied by Mr. Townsend Benison.