The borough of Bedford: Manors

Pages 21-24

A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.

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The pre-Reformation history of CALDWELL PRIORY, known later as CALDWELL MANOR, has already been traced in detail, (fn. 1) and little of the early history remains to be added. In 1279 Caldwell Priory was declared to owe suit to the borough, and a complaint was made that the prior had appropriated and inclosed a certain 'culturam' between the priory and Barkedich, which should have been common ground. (fn. 2) The prior owned lands, flocks and rents in Bedford to the value of £12 17s., (fn. 3) and the same assessment was made in 1342. (fn. 4) William Latimer died seised of the advowson worth £10 in 1380–1, (fn. 5) and in 1456 it was in the possession of William Burgoyne. (fn. 6) In 1534 the prior, sub-prior and seven canons acknowledged the supremacy of the Crown, (fn. 7) and the priory, whose temporalities in Bedford at this time were valued at £11 15s. 6d., was dissolved. (fn. 8) In 1537–8 the site with certain specified lands and rents was granted to William Gostwick and Anne his wife, (fn. 9) who transferred it to Thomas Leigh in 1563, the transfer being confirmed by patent in that year. (fn. 10) John Leigh, son of Thomas Leigh, conveyed the site to trustees in 1620. (fn. 11) Lewis Leigh, who died in 1628, (fn. 12) left a will by which Caldwell was to be sold to provide money for the payment of certain legacies to his sons and daughters. (fn. 13) A sale appears to have taken place accordingly to Sir William Butler, kt., who in 1649 is found making a settlement of this estate by fine (fn. 14) to Oliver Butler and others, who in 1652 again alienated Caldwell, called here a manor, to John Barbor. (fn. 15) It was retained by the latter until 1676, when he transferred it to Brook Bridges. (fn. 16) He held it until 1700, when it passed to John Sindry. (fn. 17) He held it in 1707, (fn. 18) and it subsequently passed to Anne Garnault, whose heirs sold it to George Livius, who held it in 1802. (fn. 19) At this time it was used as a farm, traces of the conventual buildings still remaining in the field adjoining the farm-house. (fn. 20) It was retained by the Livius family during the 19th century, but of late years the property, which is situated in St. Mary's parish, has been dispersed, and sold in lots. (fn. 21)

At the Dissolution Lincoln Cathedral had seven prebends attached, of which two, the major and minor prebends of Bedford, were endowed from property in this town known as BEDFORD MANOR or CHAPEL HERNE. (fn. 22) The origin of this endowment is to be found in the hide of land mentioned in the Survey as having been wrongfully wrested from the church of St. Paul by Bishop Remigius of Lincoln. It was then worth 100s. (fn. 23)

In the Taxatio of 1291 the value of the major prebend was given as £8, and that of the minor prebend as £4 6s. 8d. (fn. 24) Nicholas de Sale and John de Burne, prebendaries in 1331, claimed full manorial privileges in 1 carucate of land in Bedford annexed to the prebends from time immemorial. (fn. 25) At the Dissolution the major prebend was worth £15 17s. 1½d., of which 53s. 4d. was payable to Dr. Fotherby, the minor prebendary, and 42s. to the Dean of Lincoln. (fn. 26) Prebendal Courts were held in the king's name in 1546, 1547, at which the usual business was transacted. Lord Mordaunt and other defaulting suitors were amerced; the wife of Thomas Bird, a common brewer, was fined for breaking the assize, and tenants claimed entry into land by copy of Court Roll. (fn. 27) There does not appear to have been any permanent alienation of the endowment at this time, for in 1552–3 the major and minor prebends were leased for ninety-nine years by the prebendaries to William Harper at a combined rent of £10 13s. 4d. (fn. 28) The prebendal stalls were disendowed (fn. 29) on the sale of Church lands in 1650, when the trustees for such sale transferred the major and minor prebends with all their rights and appurtenances to the mayor, bailiff and burgesses of the town. (fn. 30) The ancient prebendal house known as the Chapel Herne or Harne Chapel was used as early as this date as the court-house for the yearly assizes, and was occasionally leased 'at such time as not used for public purposes.' John Bunyan was tried there in 1660. (fn. 31) Lysons (c. 1802) mentions a Gothic building near St. Paul's Church, then used as a brewery, in which the assizes were formerly held, supposed to be an ancient prebendal house. (fn. 32) This is undoubtedly Chapel Herne, which he declared to be held on lease under the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln. All trace of the building has now disappeared, but its former site is shown by Horne Lane running west of St. Paul's Square.

In 1280 the GREY FRIARS, who had a house in Bedford, received a grant from the king of three leafless oak-trunks, with their strippings, from the forest of Wauberge, probably for building purposes. (fn. 33) Grants of land were made at various times during the 13th and 14th centuries to increase the original endowment of the house. In 1310 Ralph le Toller, the Prioress of Harrold and others granted the Grey Friars divers small plots of land in the town to increase their area, (fn. 34) whilst in 1353 Nicholas de Stukeley and Richard Frereman conveyed 3½ acres to them for the enlargement of their house (manso). (fn. 35) In 1397 they received a further gift of 2a. 36p. of land, parcel of a tenement called 'Halydayes,' (fn. 36) held of the Bishop of Lincoln by suit of court twice yearly. (fn. 37) When this house was dissolved it owned pasture valued at 100s. (fn. 38) In 1540 John Gostwick and Joan his wife received a grant from the Crown of the site of the Grey Friars House with the lands attached, (fn. 39) and obtained in the same year licence to alienate the property to William Borne and Elizabeth his wife. (fn. 40) William Borne died seised in 1544, when the site passed to his eldest son Richard, then aged twenty-one. (fn. 41) His daughter Elizabeth married William Langhorne, and held Grey Friars until her death in 1584. (fn. 42) Robert Langhorne her son alienated the property to Thomas Paradine in 1604. (fn. 43) The house appears to have been at this time in the occupation of 'one Master Lee,' for a great storm which swept over Bedford on 5 October 1607 is said to have inflicted great damage on his house, 'the Freers in Bedford having a fayre garden wherein was great store of Elme Trees where of 3 score were blowne downe. Also he had a close of conies that were cleane destroyed.' (fn. 44) In Lysons' time (c. 1802) the site, which still exhibited vestiges of cloisters and the refectory, belonged to the Earl of Ashburnham. (fn. 45) The old building, used as a farm, still existed till about 1890 (fn. 46); it was situated in St. Paul's parish in the north-west of the town, the modern Grey Friars' Walk and Priory Street perpetuating at the present day the site of the old monastic house.

The history of ST. LEONARD'S HOSPITAL has already been traced down to the 16th century, (fn. 47) and there remains little to add. The advowson, which in the 13th century had been shared by the Basset family (fn. 48) and the burgesses of Bedford, had passed (c. 1499) to Thomas Bassingbourne, who at that date relinquished his rights to John Cornwallis, apparently acting in trust for the mayor and burgesses. (fn. 49) He conveyed it in the same year by fine to Sir Reginald Bray, the Bishop of Lincoln and others. (fn. 50) It was retained by the former, (fn. 51) and is supposed to have been granted to him by the burgesses for his good offices in getting their fee-farm rent reduced. (fn. 52) In 1518 John Pitts, then master of the hospital, obtained the grant of a fair to be held there yearly on the eve and feast of St. Leonard (5 and 6 November). (fn. 53) At the Dissolution the value of the hospital was £20 6s. 4¾d. (fn. 54) In 1575 the site was granted for twenty-one years at a rental of 100s. to Richard Senhouse. (fn. 55) It seems that the hospital and farm of St. Leonard's had been concealed and detained from the queen and her predecessors for many years. (fn. 56) The lease to Richard Senhouse did not take effect, for in 1577 John Farnham received a grant of the hospital with lands attached. (fn. 57) By 1750 it had become the property of Edward Woodcock, who at that date sold it to the Duke of Bedford, (fn. 58) by whose family it was retained until the 19th century. The last remnants of the building, which was situated on the outskirts of the town approached from the south, were removed on the construction of the London and North Western Railway. A modern philanthropic association known as the Hospital of St. Leonard the Confessor was formed in 1889 to afford relief and help to needy persons resident in Bedford, preference being given to those residing in the St. Leonard's district. (fn. 59)

The Abbess of Elstow owned a property in Bedford, sometimes known as ALDERMANBURY MANOR. In 1224 she claimed from Falkes de Breaute, subtenant of Adam the Clerk, 11s. rent from 8 acres of land in Aldermanbury (fn. 60) in this town, (fn. 61) and in 1291 the value of the abbey lands in Bedford was £7 6s. 8d. (fn. 62) In 1331 the abbess claimed as her right from time immemorial view of frankpledge twice yearly and assize of bread and ale from her tenants of Aldermanbury in Bedford. (fn. 63) The temporalities of the abbey in Bedford were worth £4 3s. 2d. at the Dissolution, when they became Crown property. (fn. 64) One further mention has been found of this property in 1545, when William Bourne died seised of a tenement called Abbas held of the king as of his manor of Aldermanbury in Bedford, late belonging to Elstow. (fn. 65)

Elstow Abbey claimed by grant from Malcolm King of Scotland (1153–65) the third penny of his rent in the town of Bedford. (fn. 66) This grant of Malcolm to the abbess is quoted in charters of St. Andrew's Priory, Northampton, together with its confirmation by King William (1165–1214) his brother and heir. (fn. 67) Malcolm held the honour of Huntingdon, from whose holders Elstow Abbey had derived most of its possessions, and much of whose property lay in the immediate neighbourhood of Bedford. In spite of the abbess' claim it does not appear certain, however, that he ever had any connexion with the borough itself, as she implied. (fn. 68) In 1336 Elizabeth Morteyn, who was then Abbess of Elstow, petitioned before the king in Parliament that the Mayor and bailiffs of Bedford had detained the rent granted to her by Malcolm 'sometime King of Scotland and lord of the town of Bedford'. (fn. 69) The king on her representation sent his writ to the treasurer and barons of the Exchequer that they should call upon the mayor and bailiffs to prove their claim. The abbess showed no confirmation from the king's ancestors, nor was it found in the records of the Exchequer that Malcolm was ever lord of Bedford. The mayor and bailiffs further declared that the abbess could not recover in the Exchequer a free tenement or anything that gave inheritance unless it was recorded on the Exchequer Rolls, and that she ought to sue by common law. (fn. 70) The case appears to have dragged on, and in 1339 the abbess is again found petitioning the king to provide a remedy, who thereupon ordered the treasurer and barons of the Exchequer to hear once more the plaint of the abbess, to examine the mayor and bailiffs upon the detention of the rent 'and to cause speedy justice to be done.' (fn. 71) The ultimate issue of the case does not appear, and no further claim of the abbess to this rent has been found.

In the 13th century the Prior of St. John of Jerusalem had view of frankpledge attached to his BEDFORD MANOR. (fn. 72) He claimed full manorial privileges here in 1330, (fn. 73) and his interest was granted in 1540 to Sir Richard Long as attached to the preceptory of Shingay. (fn. 74) It henceforward follows the same descent as Steppingley and Eversholt Manors, also attached to the preceptory (q.v.), mention being found of it in 1649, (fn. 75) and again in 1769, when, like these manors, it was the property of Lord Sandys. (fn. 76)

The Prior of Newnham claimed view of frankpledge in Bedford in 1287, saying that he had not the whole vill, but ten tithingmen there. (fn. 77) In 1317 the priory received an inspeximus and confirmation of two charters of Henry II and earlier, one granting the canons regular of St. Paul's all the liberties which the burgesses of Bedford had, and a later one which confirmed to the canons of Newnham the tithes of Bedford Castle Mill. (fn. 78) The priory continued to acquire small pieces of land in the town during the 14th and 15th centuries, (fn. 79) and c. 1363–9 (during the mayoralty of William Kempston) obtained freedom from suit at the borough courts. (fn. 80) In 1385 the prior received a grant of free warren in all his demesne lands which extended into Bedford. (fn. 81) At the dissolution of the priory the temporalities in Bedford were worth £26 12s. 11d., (fn. 82) and were granted in 1541 to Urian Brereton and his wife Joan, widow of Edmund Lord Braye. (fn. 83) A grant occurs to Henry Best in 1601 of various plots of land in Bedford specified as having lately belonged to Newnham. (fn. 84) Early in the 12th century Miles de Beauchamp, with the consent of Payn his heir, granted Bedford Mill to Bermondsey Priory. (fn. 85) In 1225 they appear to have let it to the Knights Hospitallers, who sublet to Falkes de Breauté at a yearly rent of 60s. (fn. 86) No trace of this mill, which formerly stood on the south bank of the river, now exists.

The abbey of Warden held property in Bedford, principally in the parish of St. Peter Merton, in the north-east of the town, (fn. 87) and probably granted by the Beauchamps, who were benefactors of the house. At the time of the great siege of Bedford Castle, in 1224, the abbot claimed and obtained an annual grant of 20 marks in compensation for damage sustained to his property in Bedford. (fn. 88) This pension was claimed more than a hundred years later. (fn. 89) In 1535 this property included a tenement thatched and tiled, a stable and 'pickell,' a corner garden containing two days' work—all in St. Peter's parish—and land in Potter Street, in St. Mary's parish. (fn. 90)

The other religious houses who owned interests in this town may be summarized as follows: Bushmead received land from Simon de la Leye, confirmed in 1230 by his brother William (fn. 91); this land was granted to Sir William Gascoigne at the Dissolution. (fn. 92) Chicksands owned land, valued at £4, in the 13th century. (fn. 93) Harrold Priory had a tenement in the town, leased to John Risely in 1451. (fn. 94) Pipewell and Woburn also owned small properties in the 13th century, which still existed at the Dissolution. (fn. 95)


  • 1. V.C.H. Beds. i, 382.
  • 2. Hund. R. (Rec. Com.), i, 4.
  • 3. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 49b.
  • 4. Cal. Pat. 1340–3, p. 370.
  • 5. Chan. Inq. p.m. 4 Ric. II, no. 35.
  • 6. Ibid. 35 Hen. VI, no. 13.
  • 7. L. and P. Hen. VIII, vii, g. 1347 (5).
  • 8. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 189.
  • 9. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (1), p. 587.
  • 10. Pat. 5 Eliz. pt. vi, m. 12.
  • 11. Feet of F. Beds. Hil. 17 Jas. I.
  • 12. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), dccxxxvi, 160.
  • 13. Blaydes, Genealogia Bedfordiensis, 346.
  • 14. Feet of F. Beds. Hil. 1649. Associated with Sir William Butler are Humphrey and John Newton, and it is noteworthy that William Newton was an executor of Lewis Leigh's will.
  • 15. Ibid. East. 1652.
  • 16. Ibid. Hil. 18 & 19 Chas. II: Mich. 28 Chas. II.
  • 17. Com. Pleas Recov. R. Trin. 12 Will. III; Feet of F. Beds. Trin. 12 Will. III. Brook Bridges made a settlement in 1696 (Feet of F. Beds. Mich. 8 Will. III).
  • 18. Feet of F. Beds. Trin. 5 Anne; East. 6 Anne.
  • 19. Add. MS. 9408.
  • 20. Lysons, Mag. Brit. i (1), 47.
  • 21. A close called 'Paradise, 'originally used by the monks for exercise, extended into Kempston parish. It was purchased by the Rev. Paul Wyatt, late chaplain of the Savoy, who has built there a fine modern house, known as Austin Canons.
  • 22. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 8.
  • 23. V.C.H. Beds. i, 221. The site of the property of the major and minor prebends is in St. Paul's parish.
  • 24. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 35a.
  • 25. Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 51.
  • 26. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 190.
  • 27. Ct. R. (P.R.O.), portf. 153, no. 8.
  • 28. Close, 1650, pt. lxxx–iv.
  • 29. They are described as unendowed in the Lincoln Diocesan Calendar, 1909.
  • 30. Close, 1650, pt. lxxx–iv.
  • 31. Bedford Corporation, Minutes of Council Hall.
  • 32. Lysons, Mag. Brit. i (1), 49.
  • 33. Cal. Close, 1279–88, p. 27.
  • 34. Cal. Pat. 1307–13, p. 276.
  • 35. Ibid. 1353 4, p. 487; Inq. a.q.d. file 312, no. 19.
  • 36. The Halydays were tenants in Bedford as early as 1206–7, when Clarice wife of Maurice Halyday held a messuage here.
  • 37. Inq. a.q.d. file 426, no. 2.
  • 38. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 198.
  • 39. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xv, g. 436 (9); Pat. 31 Hen. VIII, pt. ii, m. 30.
  • 40. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xv, g. 613 (14).
  • 41. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), lxxiii, 6.
  • 42. Ibid. ccxiii, 70.
  • 43. Feet of F. Beds. Mich. 2 Jas. I.
  • 44. Beds. N. and Q. i, 351.
  • 45. Lysons, Mag. Brit. i (1), 48.
  • 46. Blythe, History of Bedford, 33.
  • 47. V.C.H. Beds. i, 398.
  • 48. Probably Barescot or Bascot is meant. The confusion may have arisen early.
  • 49. De Banco R. Hil. 13 Hen. VII, m. 333; East. 14 Hen. VII.
  • 50. Feet of F. Beds. 15 Hen. VII.
  • 51. Pat. 17 Eliz. pt. xiii, m. 5.
  • 52. Lysons, Mag. Brit. i (1), 48.
  • 53. Pat. 10 Hen. VIII.
  • 54. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 190.
  • 55. Pat. 17 Eliz. pt. xiii, m. 5.
  • 56. Exch. Dep. Mich. 18 & 19 Eliz., no. 12.
  • 57. Pat. 19 Eliz. pt. vii, m. 16.
  • 58. From title deeds in the possession of the Duke of Bedford.
  • 59. Information supplied by Rev. Vitruvius Wyatt.
  • 60. The history of this name is interesting. Further mention of it is found in 1299–1300 when the king granted at a rent of 12d. per annum a certain vacant area (placeam) called Aldermanbury. It is described as extending in the shape of a shield (extendit se ad modum scuti) containing in length 152 ft. and in breadth 92 ft. at the north, tapering to 2½ ft. in the south (Inq. a.q.d. file 32, no. 3). Mr. C. Gore Chambers points out the interest of the expression 'vacua placea' which was also applied to a site in London immediately adjoining that of the present Guildhall (Stow, Surv. of Loud. i, 292; ii, 337). Aldermanbury was on the south side of the town.
  • 61. Rot. Lit. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i, 617b; ii, 10; Close, 10 Hen. III, m. 9.
  • 62. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 49b.
  • 63. Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 35.
  • 64. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 189.
  • 65. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), lxxiii, 6.
  • 66. Cott. MSS. Vesp. E. 17, g. 282 et seq.
  • 67. Ibid.
  • 68. Kempston was so near the Bedford suburbs as to lead to occasional friction; thus in 1278–9 two robbers were taken with two bushels of barley by Ralph the bailiff of Kempston and William Sirlok, the men of Devorguilla Balliol, who took them in the suburbs of Bedford and led them to Kempston, outside the liberty of the burgesses, to the prejudice of the latter (Hund. R. [Rec. Com.], i, 4).
  • 69. Cal. Close, 1333–7, p. 726.
  • 70. Parl. R. ii, 96a.
  • 71. Cal. Close, 1339–41, p. 314.
  • 72. Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 6.
  • 73. Ibid. 19.
  • 74. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xv, g. 613 (1).
  • 75. Recov. R. Trin. 1649.
  • 76. Ibid. Mich. 9 Geo. III, rot. 140.
  • 77. Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 10.
  • 78. Chart. R. 11 Edw. II, m. 16.
  • 79. Cal. Pat. 1334–8, p. 248; Inq. a.q.d. files 238, no. 15; 244, no. 6; Harl. MS. 3656, g. 93 d., &c.
  • 80. Harl. MS. 3656, fol. 94 d.
  • 81. Chart. R. 9 & 10 Ric. II, m. 14, no. 22.
  • 82. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 187.
  • 83. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xvi, g. 678 (40).
  • 84. Pat. 44. Eliz. pt. xii, m. 1.
  • 85. Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), iii, 445.
  • 86. Rot. Lit. Claus. (Rec. Com.), ii, 17.
  • 87. Rentals and Surv. portf. 24, no. 13.
  • 88. Rot. Lit. Claus. (Rec. Com.), ii, 27; Parl. R. i, 54b.
  • 89. Cal. Close, 1330–3, p. 112.
  • 90. Rentals and Surv. portf. 24, no. 13.
  • 91. Feet of F. Beds. 15 Hen. III, no. 3.
  • 92. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 200; L. and P. Hen. VIII, xii, g. 796 (18).
  • 93. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 49b.
  • 94. Add. Chart. 15726.
  • 95. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 49b; Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 212, 294.