Chalgrave Buildings

The History of Buildings in Chalgrave

There are a wide variety of buildings in Tebworth,Wingfield, and Chalgrave that have a rich and interesting history.

Chalgrave Castle

A castle once stood at Chalgrave, just south-east of the church. It was of the motte and bailey type, that is, a mound (the motte) on which a tower would have stood, and an area around the motte (the bailey) which would have been within protective walls. Such castles were usually almost entirely wooden structures.

In September 1970 a rescue excavation was carried out on the site by the Department of Environment and was written up in Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal Volume 6. The site was levelled for farming purposes shortly after the dig. The area now forms part of Chalgrave Manor golf course. The excavation, restricted solely to the area of the motte, showed that it was raised in the mid 12th century, possibly by the Loring family, tenants of the Manor of Chalgrave under the overlordship of the Barony of Bedford. The motte seems to have covered an 11th century manor house, the seat of Albert of Lorraine who was noted as owning the manor in the Domesday Book of 1086.

The motte was constructed by ditching round the site of the earlier manor buildings, the spoil thus dug out being thrown inwards to create the mound, a low platform perhaps sixty feet across. The mound was only about three feet high and seems to have been built to give a firm foundation to a square structure about thirty feet on each side, probably a tower. This square tower seems to have been dismantled late in the 12th century and the motte extended to form an oval, rather than circular, area. A new building, of one storey to judge by the depth of the foundations was then placed upon it. At the same time the ditch around the motte was re-cut. The castle seems to have been abandoned in the early 13th century, probably in favour of a manor house on or near the site of today’s Manor Farm or what became the Chantry House, thus having a life of less than a hundred years.


Chalgrave Manor House

The medieval manor house for the Manor of Chalgrave was built in the early 13th century when Chalgrave Castle was abandoned. It would have been the seat of the Loring family and their successors as Lords of the Manor of Chalgrave. It may have stood on or near the site of the later Chalgrave Manor Farm where ponds and a moat can be seen on early Ordnance Survey maps. Alternatively it may have been the building later known as the Chantry House.

We have a full description of the medieval manor house made after the death of Sir Nigel Loring, the last of his family to be Lord of the Manor, in or around 1386. The house seems to have been divided between Sir Nigel’s two daughters (simply noted as A and B in the document). The description is as follows.

“A shall have the whole hall with tables and screens in the same, with the chapel and all chambers next to the eastern end of the same hall, the whole garden called “le chapelgardyn” (i.e. the chapel garden) and another small garden adjoining the hall on the southern part. Item, two stables between the inner door and the granary and a moiety (i.e. half) of the same granary towards the eastern end (saving to B free entry and exit for her share of the same)”.

“Item, the whole “heybern” (i.e. the nay barn), the whole strawbarn, three bays in the large barn, namely at the end next the haybarn. Item “le bernzathous” (i.e. barn gatehouse) (saving to B free entry and exit), the whole carthouse, “le dyehous” (i.e. the dairy), the whole cowhouse and a moiety of the pigsty, namely, the eastern end: the small sheepcote and two and a half bays in the large sheepcote, namely, in the end next to the park”.

“Item, a moiety of the windmill and dovecote, one pond adjacent to “le korner” of the park by the garden called “le Netherorchard” (i.e. the lower orchard), with one moat adjacent; two ponds in the field called “Fletpond” and a moiety of the pinfold (the pound in which straying animals were detained until ransomed by their owners by payment of a fine). Item the outer “Zathous” (i.e. gatehouse), saving to B free entry and exit. Item, two moors of pasture, namely, “overmor” and “nethermor”.

“B shall have the pantry and buttery and the wine-cellar with the large chamber and two other adjoining chambers, whereof one is above the entrance to the hall, and the other within, with the latrine next to the same and one small lower chamber under the same called “le wodhous” (i.e. the woodhouse) annexed to the same chamber at the western end of the hall. Item, the whole chamber with two larders and one solar upon the old larder, the bakehouse and brewhouse, the whole malthouse, the whole well-house, with the whole well; the whole “kylnehouse” (i.e. the kilnhouse) and also “le Boorsty” (i.e. the buttery?) and one common latrine with the other small empty place of land there; the “knedhous” (the kneading house – i.e. bakery?) and the whole “zylhous” (i.e. the brewhouse). Item, three other chambers with two chambers above them called “le Gestchamber” (i.e. the guest chamber), with one garden called “kenelwyk” (it must have been adjacent to the kennels for the hunting dogs) between the said chambers and the oxhouse”.

“Two stables between the inner door and the oxhouse, with the inner door, saving to A free entry and exit by the said door. Item, she shall have the whole oxhouse and carter’s stable. Item, the whole “Pesebern” (i.e. barn for peas), four bays of the large barn, namely, at the end towards the “Pesebern” and a moiety of the pigsty, namely, the western end; and five and a half bays of the large sheepcote, namely, the end towards the small sheepcote”.

“Item, a moiety of the dovecote and the windmill, one garden called “le Neweorchard” (i.e. the new orchard) lying between “le Ymphey” (perhaps a thicket or a nursery garden) and the whole way leading from “brodbrok” (i.e. broad brook) to “le weyour” (perhaps the wier) with one pond, and one moat in the same; another garden called “le Netherorchard” with two ponds adjacent to the same garden, whereof one pond is below “le Ymphey”. Item, the moiety of the granary, namely, the western end, and a moiety of the pinfold”.

“B shall have the new postern gate with the way from the entrance to the hall on the south, for her passage to the Nether Orchard. Item, all the vivaries (i.e. fish farms) between Long Mead and her two ponds. Item, she shall have all the place of land between the carthouse and the large barn”. “Item A and B shall have all the basecourt in common. Item, they shall have the inner court in common”.


Manor Farm Chalgrave

This farm was, until recent years, part of the lesser Manor of Chalgrave. Maps showing ponds and a moat close to the house suggest that it may have been on or near the site of the medieval manor house. The property was listed by the Department of Environment in 1980 as Grade II, of special interest. It is believed to date from the 17th and 18th centuries and has three storeys beneath an old clay tiled roof. The northern part id the oldest, being 17th century half-timbered work, encased in 18th century brickwork.

About 1820 a painting of the farmhouse describes it as being “Mr. Redgrave’s”. Then, in 1827 it was in the tenancy of Robert Cooper when John Pateman of Toddington, labourer, “being a rogue and a vagabond” was found in the farm garden with a lock pick. He was sent to the New House of Correction in Bedford for three calendar months’ hard labour. By 1831 Richard William Foll was the tenant and the farm stayed in the tenancy and then ownership of the family for over a century. By the 20th century the farm had passed into the ownership of the Mercers Company of London, acting as trustees of “certain very ancient charities known as the Chalgrave Estate Charities”, in fact they were Lords of the lesser Chalgrave Manor . In 1919 they sold off a number of their Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire estates including Manor Farm. The sale particulars described the farm as “a charming old farm house”.

The house was described as containing: “two attics and a store room; approached by two staircases are two Servants’ Bedrooms, large Landing, five principal Bedrooms, dressing Room, Bathroom with fitted bath and lavatory basin, having hot and cold supplies, W. C.; spacious Entrance Hall with fireplace, Dining Room, lighted on two sides, Drawing Room and Library, each fitted with modern grates, Kitchen with range and cupboards, Scullery with brick floor, copper, sink and pump, dairy and Cellar. Outside are: – W. C. and Store, Water from pump, pretty Flower Garden and excellent Kitchen Garden, partly walled”. The tenant paid rent of £327 per annum.

In 1919 the “Wardens and Commonality of the Mystery of Mercers of London” conveyed Manor Farm, complete with 521 acres, 1 rood, 7 poles to the tenant Charles Anstee Foll. The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. The valuer visiting Manor Farm, on 24th October 1926 found that Foll was still in possession. Most of his land was land in Chalgrave but 18 acres, 1 rood, 32 poles were in Toddington. The valuer commented: “3½ miles Harlington Station. 2 miles from main road very isolated. Water from well. Cesspool drainage. House and buildings very large but good”. The farm buildings were annotated on the valuation map, as shown above. The descriptions were as follows: A – a weather-boarded and corrugated iron two-bay implement hovel; B – a brick and slate eight-bay large hovel, a brick and slate granary, two brick and slate pigsties, a five-bay open hovel and a four-bay cart shed; C – a brick and slate cow house for twenty two beasts; D – a brick and slate three-bay open hovel, two pigsties, a two-bay open hovel, two loose boxes and a three-bay open hovel; E – a brick and slate calf pen, six pigsties and a three-bay open hovel; F – a large brick and slate barn with a concrete floor, a large brick and slate barn with a loft over, a small brick and slate barn with a loft over and a loose box; G – two brick and slate pigsties, a mixing house, a loose box, a stable for twelve with a loft over, a harness place, a three-stall nag stable and a harness room; H – two weather-boarded and corrugated iron henhouses, a brick and slate henhouse, two weather-boarded and slated henhouses and a wood barn, a brick and slate coach house, a brick, weather-boarded and slated mess house and an old scullery. New farm buildings were noted as a weather-boarded and slated eight-bay sheep hovel, a weather-boarded and corrugated iron seven-bay sheep hovel, a large weather-boarded and corrugated iron barn and stone loft and a timber and corrugated iron three-bay implement shed.

In 1943 Charles Foll conveyed Manor Farm to Frank Chandler of Someries Farm, Luton for £20,500. He purchased a further 22 acres, 2 roods in Chalgrave and Toddington from butcher Horace Briden of Toddington in 1946. Frank Chandler died in 1963 and in 1970 the farm, now comprising 543.728 acres was conveyed by his personal representatives to various members of the Upchurch family. In 1988 a proposal was made to convert a barn into a dwelling.


Chalgrave Chantry

Volume III of The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire, published in 1912, gives details of a chantry at Chalgrave. This was not a separate building as the prayers said by the chantry priests would have been made in the church. However, there was a building called The Chantry House and this is, presumably, where the chantry priests lived.

A chantry was granted to Lord of the Manor of Chalgrave, Peter Loring in 1273 by Dunstable Priory. This means that the priory sent one of its canons to Chalgrave to serve as a chantry priest. This individual would have been in addition to the parish priest and his function would have been to say prayers for a dead benefactor or benefactors, in this case Loring himself and his family. It was believed that saying prayers for the dead lessened their stay in a place called Purgatory, somewhere in between Heaven and Hell where souls would be subjected to pain in order to purge their sins before being fit to enter Heaven. In addition to saying prayers for the dead the chantry priest might have had some other limited functions such as teaching children or assisting the parish priest when needed. Some churches had specific chantry chapels in which the chantry priest would say his offices at the chapel’s altar, otherwise he would simply use the main altar or another subsidiary altar already existing in the church.

When Sir Nigel Loring died about 1386 he had the Bishop of London as his executor. For several years the bishop, at his own expense, funded three chantry chaplains. This is a surprisingly large number of priests for so small a place as Chalgrave and speaks volumes for the importance of Sir Nigel himself. A licence for the creation of a chantry with three priests was granted in 1406. Three years later the church at Offley (Hertfordshire) was appropriated to help fund the chantry. In 1531 the chantry was obtained by Richard Hatton. Nine years later Dunstable Priory was dissolved by Henry VIII (1509-1547). At this time chantries were banned as their theology did not agree with the new churchmanship introduced during the Reformation. The priests’ house, called the Chantry House, was given by Edward VI (1547-1553) to Henry Parker and Peter Grey and it is last mentioned in 1586.

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record contains information on the county’s historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The entry for the chantry at Chalgrave states that the Chantry House occupied the site of the later Church Farm, which stood just east of the church but was subsequently demolished in the early 20th century.

A deed of 1822 includes the site of a mansion house called The Chauntry near Chalgrave Church, “then pulled down and part converted into a house in the occupation of Mr. Inward”. It is possible that this building was the medieval mansion of the Manor of Chalgrave, though this may have been elsewhere, perhaps on or near the site of today’s Manor Farm. In 1535 the chantry priests were recorded as having possession of a number of pieces of land which gave income to support them as well as a mansion called “Old Orchard” with a garden, dovecote, close and four acres of land. It seems likely that Old Orchard and The Chauntry were one and the same.


History courtesy of Bedfordshire Borough Council Community Archives.

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