Bedfordshire, England.



[Transcribed information from Camden's Bedfordshire, 1586]

"BEDFORDSHIRE, an inland county. The County of Bedford, commonly call'd Bedfordshire, is one of the three, which we observ'd before to have been inhabited by the Cattieuchlani. On the east and south, it joyns to Cambridgshire and Hertfordshire; on the west to Buckinghamshire; and on the north to Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire: and it is divided into two parts, by the Ouse running through it. In the north part, it is fruitful, and woody; in the south (where it is much larger) the soil is more poor, but yet tolerable. For it abounds with Barley which is plump, white, and strong. In the middle, it is pretty thick-set with woods; but eastward it is more dry, and wants wood.

The Ouse, at its entrance into this County, first visits Turvy [heretofore] the seat of Baron Mordant; which family [now Earls of Monmouth and Peterborough,] is indebted to Henry the eight for that dignity; (for he it was, that created John Mordant, Baron Mordant; a person of great Wisdom, who had married the daughter and coheir of H. Vere of Addington;) [as it is to King Charles the first, for being advanced, as we said, to the higher dignity of Earl.] Next, it glides by Hare-wood, a little village call'd formerly Hareles-wood, where Sampson sirnam'd The Strong built a Nunnery; [col. 336] and where, in the year of our Lord 1399, a little before the breaking out of those Commotions and Civil Wars wherewith England was a long time embroil'd, this river stood still, and the water retiring both ways, left a passage on foot along the chanel, for three miles together, to the astonishment of the Beholders. [The same thing happen'd again (as I have been inform'd) the 18th (or else the 28th) of January, in the year 1648. And as the first was look'd upon to be a Prognostick of the Civil Wars that ensu'd; so may this be well thought a prognostick of the death of King Charles the first.] Afterwards, it runs under Odil or Woodhill, formerly Wahull, which had also its Barons of Wahull, eminent for their ancient Nobility; where was a Castle, which came by inheritance to the Chetwoods. [Leland tells us, that the Castle in his time (then belonging to the Lord Bray) was nothing but stange ruins. This place is now the seat of the Alstons.]

From hence, the Ouse, no less winding than the Meander, is carry'd through Bletnesho, commonly Bletso, formerly the seat of the Pateshuls, afterwards of the Beauchamps; and now of the famous family of St. John, who formerly, by their Valour, became Masters of a great estate in Wales, and having had the honour of Barons confer'd upon them by Queen Elizabeth of blessed memory, were advanced [col. 337] by King James the first to the more honourable title of Earls of Bolingbroke. Of whom, Pawlet St. John dying unmarried in the year 1711, the Earldom became extinct, and this Barony devolved upon Sir St. Andrew St. John, one of the descendants of Sir Rowland St. John, fifth son of Oliver, the second Baron of Bletshoe.] To the St. Johns it came by Margaret de Beauchamp, an heiress, marry'd, first to Oliver de St. John, from whom those Barons are descended; and afterward, to John Duke of Somerset, by whom she had the famous Margaret Countess of Richmond, a Woman whose merit exceeds the highest Commendations that can be given, and from whom the Royal Family of England is descended.

From hence the Ouse hastens to [Brumham, the seat of the Lord Trevor, who being a person of great Accomplishments, and particularly knowing in the Municipal Laws of this Realm, was for many years Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and was advanced to the dignity of a Peer of this Realm, by the Title of Baron Trevor of Brunham. Next, the Ouse goes to] Bedford, in Saxon Bedanford, the County-town and which gives name to the whole; and is so cut by the river, that one would imagin it two towns, but that it is joyn'd by a Stone-bridge. It is more eminent for the pleasantness of its situation, and its antiquity, than for either beauty or largeness; and et it has five Churches, [and hath, of late years, been much improved by new Buildings, and a fair Market-house; and the river also hath been made navigable. Although both sides of this river are govern'd by the same Magistrates, viz. a Mayor, two Bailiffs, &c. yet thus far they make their particular claims, that, whereas they have two weekly markets; the south-side has the Tuesday-one, considerable for all live-cattle; and the north-side, the Saturday-one, for all sorts of Corn. Of the five Churches also, two are located on the south, and three on the north-side. St. Pauls (as Leland tells us) is the principal Church of the town, and was before the conquest a College of Prebendaries; and so it was after too, till the Foundation of Newenham-Priory. They had their houses round the Church; till they were translated to Newenham, by Roisia, and her son Simon de Beauchamp. In this Town, ann. 1561, was built and endow'd a Free-school by Sir William Harper, a native hereof, bred a Merchant-Taylor in the City of London, and afterwards Lord Mayor.] I dare not assent to those who think Bedford the Lactodorum of Antoninus: for neither is it situate upon a military way (which is the surest guide in our search after the stations and mansions mention'd by Antoninus,) nor were there ever any Roman Coins dug-up here. I have read, that it was call'd in British Liswider or Lettidur; but this seems to be translated from the English name. For Lettuy signifies in British publick Inns, and Lettidur, inns upon a river; and our English Bedford implies Beds and Inns at a Ford. Below this Town, about the year 572. Cuthwulph the Saxon did so shatter the Britains in a set-battle, that he was ever after too hard for them, and had several towns surrender'd to him. Nor does it seem to have been neglected by the Saxons; since Offa, that powerful prince of the Mercians, made choice of this place (as Florilegus tells us) for his Burial; but the Ouse, being once very rapid, and rising higher than ordinary, swept away his Sepulchre. The town was repair'd by Edward the elder, after it had been destroy'd in the Danish wars; which [col. 338] King did likewise add a little town on the south-side of the river, call'd by that age (to follow the best Copy of Hoveden) Mikesgate. In the time of Edward the Confessor (as we find in Domesday-book) it defended it self for the half of an Hundred, in expedition and ships. The land of this village never hided. But under the Normans, it was a much greater sufferer; for after Pagan de Beauchamp, the third who was call'd Baron of Bedford, had built a Castle there, not one civil commotion arose in the Kingdom, but what had a blow at it, while it was standing. Stephen, in the first place, when he had posses'd himself of the Kingdom of England against his solemn oath, took this Castle, with great loss on both sides: afterwards, when the Barons took up arms against King John, William de Beauchamp Lord of it, and one of the Leaders in that Faction, put it into their hands; but about two years after, Falco de Breaut laid siege to it, and had it presently surrender'd to him by the Barons, and bestow'd upon him by the King. But this ungrateful man afterwards renew'd the war against Henry the third, and pull'd down the Religious houses to fortify his Castle, and very much damnify'd the Country all round; till at last the King laid siege to it, and after sixty days, having tam'd the insolence of the Rebels, possess'd himself of that Nursery of Sedition.

I hope it may not be unacceptable to the Reader, if I recite the methods by which this Castle was taken, out of an old contemporary Writer, who was an eye-witness of it: to let us understand, how that age was little inferiour to ours in the contrivances of Works and Engines for the destruction of mankind. On the east-side (says he) was one Petrary and two Mangonels daily playing upon the tower; and on the west, two Mangonels battering the old tower; as also one upon the south, and another on the north part, which beat down two passages through the walls that were next them. Besides these, there were two machines contriv'd of wood, so as to be higher than the castle and tower, erected on purpose for the Gunners and Watchmen. They had also several machines, wherein the Gunners and Slingers lay in ambush. There was moreover another machine, call'd Cattus, under which, the diggers who were employ'd to undermine the walls of the tower and castle, came in and out. The Castle was taken by four assaults. In the first, was taken the Barbican; in the second, the outer Ballia; at the third attack, the wall by the old tower was thrown down by the Miners, where, with great danger, they possess'd themselves of the inner Ballia through a chink. At the fourth assault, the miners set fire to the tower, so that the smoak burst out, and the tower it self was cloven to that degree, as to shew visibly some broad chinks: where upon, the enemy surrender'd.

Concerning these Mangonells, Petraries, Trabucces, Bricoles, Espringolds, and what our Ancestors call'd the Warrwolf, out of which, before the invention of Bombs, they threw great Stones, with so much force as to break open stong gates: concerning these (I say) I have several things to add, if they were not foreign to my purpose. But my Author goes on. Falco continu'd Excommunicate, till he had restored to the King the castles of Plumton and Stoke-Curcy, as also the gold and silver-vessels, with what money he had; and then he was carry'd to London. Orders were given in the mean time to the Sheriff, to demolish the Tower, and the outer Ballia. But the inner Ballia, after the Works were thrown down, and the ditches fill'd-up, was granted to William de Beauchamp to live in. The Stones were given to the Canons of Newenham and Chadwell, and to the Church of St. Paul in [col. 339] Bedford. Nothing is now to be seen of it, besides the bare tracks, as they hang over the river, upon the east-side of the town; [and on the site of it, is a spacious and pleasant Bowling-green.]

Below Bedford, on both sides, were two very neat, but little, Relious-houses; to the south Helenstow, now Elstow, a Nunery built by Juditha, wife to Waltheof Earl of Huntingdon, and dedicated to Helena mother of Constantine the Great: to the east, Newenham, which Roisia, wife to Pagan de Beauchamp, translated hither from the Church of St. Paul in Bedford. [Yet her son, Simon de Bello-Campoi or Beauchamp, confirming and completing the act of his mother, was look'd upon as the Founder; and accordingly, in his Epitaph, which was before the high Altar of this Church, he is call'd Fundator de Neweham. Within two miles of Bedford, was an old Castle, call'd by Leland Risingho-Castle, which he says was a little by west from Castle-mill. In his time, the building was so entirely destroy'd, that no part of it was visible; but the Area of the Castle was easie to be trac'd, and the great round hill where the Keep or Dungeon stood, complete.]

The Ouse does not go far from hence, till it comes to the footsteps of a ruinous Castle at Eaton, which was another seat of the Beauchamps; [(the place, in Leland's time, belong'd to the Lord Vaulx:)] and so it bids farewell to Bedfordshire, hard by Bissemed, where Hugh de Beauchamp, and Roger his brother, built a small Monastery for Canons of St. Augustin, as appears by the Pope's Bull. These lie beyond the Ouse; which, before it comes so far, is encreas'd by a little anonymous river from the south; and at the conflux, stands Temesford, noted for a Camp of the Danes; with a Castle, built at the time when they burthen'd those parts with winter-quarters, and demolish'd (as it is thought) that British Fort, the place whereof is now call'd Chesterfield and Salndy, which gives frequent proofs of it's antiquity, by throwing-up Roman money. [Besides, there have been discover'd at Sandye, some further evidenced; namely, glass-urns, and one red urn like Coral, with an Inscription. They have ashes in them, and are now, or lately were, in the hands of a Gentleman in Bedford. At Chesterfield also, there is a Roman Camp, where Coins and Urns were dug-up, about the year 1670; some of which were bestow'd upon the University of Oxford.] I am convinc'd from the situation, that this is the very Salenæ which Ptolemy settles among the Cattieuchlani; if Saldny be the true name, as some have affirm'd to me. I pass by Potton, a little market-town, having met with nothing relating to it, but only, that J. Kinaston bestow'd it upon Thomas Earl of Lancaster, with the lands belonging it. Nor is there much to be said of those towns which lie upon this little river; namely Chicksand, where Pagan de Beauchamp built a little Religious-house; Shelford a market-town; Bigleswade, famous for it's horse-fair, and stone-bridge. At a little distance from whence, is Stratton, which was formerly the seat of the Barons Latimer, and afterward of the Enderbies, and from them came by Inheritance to the Pigotts.

Five miles from the head of this river, almost in the heart of the County, stands Ampthill, placed upon a hill; a stately, royal seat, that may vie with a Castle; and surrounded with Parks. It was built in the reign of King Henry the sixth, by John Cornwale Baron of Fanhop, out of the French spoils; whose goods (as I have read) when Edward the fourth confiscated for his siding with the House of Lancaster, [col. 340] and had attainted him, or rather (as Fanhop himself says) the house; he forthwith gave it to Edmund Grey Lord of Ruthin, afterwards Earl of Kent: From whose Grandchild Richard, it came to King Henry the eighth, and he (as the Civilians speak) added it to the Sacred patrimony, or (as our Common Lawyers) to the Crown; calling the large Estate belonging to it, the Honour of Ampthill; [into which it was erected by Act of Parliament, in the 33d year of his reign. Here, in a Palace belonging to that Prince, dwelt Queen Katharine during the progress of the Divorce, and from hence she was cited to appear before the Commissioners at Dunstaple. The Town is much improved in Buildings, especially by its beautiful and convenient Market-house and Sessions-house, where the Assizes have beenf requently held. Here, in the middle of a most pleasant Park, is a delightful Seat belonging to the Earl of Ailesbury, and built by the Countess of Pembroke; the model whereof was devised by the incomparable Sir Philip Sidney, in his Arcadia. Here is also another Seat of the Lord Ashburnham; and at some distance, namely at Wrest, a third, the ancient Seat of the Grays, and now the Residence of his Grace the Duke of Kent. Three miles from Ampthill, a Gold-Mine was discovered, not many years since.]

More to the north, lies Haughton-Conquest, so call'd from a famous and ancient family that was long possess'd of it. [Here, in two Common-fields, one call'd Great-Danes-field, and the other Little-Danes-field, are a great many Pits, fifteen foot diameter, or thereabouts. In which Parish is also a House and a considerable Estate, of the Lord Haversham. Near this place, is Hawnes, the seat of the Lord Carteret; from which, Sir George Carteret, was, for his lyalty, created by King Charles the second a Baron of this Realm, by the Title of Baron Carteret of Hawnes; and, upon his death, the title descended to John his son and heir, a person of early and great Accomplishments, and every way qualified to do Honour and Service to his Country; to whom also are to descend the Titles of Viscount Carteret and Earl Granville, in right of his mother, who was youngest daughter of John Earl of Bath, and on whom the said Titles have been confer'd since the accession of King George to the Throne.] To the [south] west is Woburn, where is a little School built by Francis Earl of Bedford; and here was formerly a famous Monastery, built by H. de Bolebec. [Not far from whence, there is dug-up great store of Fullers-earth, commonly call'd from the place Woburn-earth; a thing so very useful in Cloathing, that the transportation of it has been strictly forbidden.] Below Woburn [also,] at Aspely Gowiz, they say there is a sort of Earth that turns wood into stone; for an evidence whereof, I have heard that a wooden Ladder was to be seen in that Monastery, which had been for some time buried under-ground, and was dug-up a perfect stone.

More to the East, Tuddington shews its beautiful house, built by H. Lord Cheney; where also formerly Paulinus Pever, a Courtier, and Sewer to King Henry the third, did (as Matthew Paris tells us) build a seat with such Palace-like grandeur, such a Chapel, such Lodgings, with other houses of stone cover'd with lead; and surrounded it with such avenues and parks; that it rais'd Astonishment in the beholders. We had not gone far from this place (by Hockley in the hole, a dirty road, extreme troublesome to travellers in winter-time; and through fields of excellent Beans, yielding a pleasant smell, bu by their [col. 341] fragrancy spoiling the scent of dogs, to the great regret of the hunters;) till we ascended a white hill, into Chiltern, and presently came to Dunstable, seated in a chalky ground; pretty well inhabited, and full of Inns. It has four Streets, answering the four quarters of the World; and, because of the dryness of the soil, each quarter has a publick Pond; which, tho' supply'd only with rain-water, is never dry. As for Springs, they can come at none without digging twenty four fathom deep. In the middle of the town, there is a Cross, or rather Pillar, which has engraven upon it the Arms of England, Castile, and Pontieu, and is adorn'd with Statues: it was built by King Edward the first, in memory of his Queen, Eleanor; as some others were, in places through which she was carry'd in Funeral-pomp to Westminster. There is no manner of doubt, but this was the Station which Antoninus the Emperor, in his Itinerary, mentions under the name of Magiononium, Magiovinium, and Magintum; nor need it be sought in any other place. For, setting aside that it stands upon a Roman Military way; the Swine-herds now and then, in the neighbouring fields, find Coins of the Emperors, whcih they call to this day Madning-money; and at a little distance, on the very descent of Chiltern-hills, there is a round military fortification, such as Strabo tells us the British towns were. It contains nine acres, and is call'd Madning-bowre and Madin-bowre; a name, wherein (with little variation) one easily discovers Magintum. But after that Magintum, either by the storms of war or time, was destroy'd, Henry the first built another Town here with a Royal seat at Kingsbury, and plated a Colony to be a curb to the insolence of Robbers (as the private History of the little Monastery, which he founded for an ornament to his Colony, plainly testifies.)

But take the very words of that private History, tho' they savour something of the barbarity of that age. It is to be observ'd, that that structure at the meeting of the way of Watling and Ikening, was first contriv'd by Henry the Elder of that name King of England, to prevent the mischiefs of one Dun a famous Robber, and his Gang: and that, from this Dun, the place was call'd Dunstable. Our Lord the King built a burrough there, and a Roayl seat for himself near it. The Burgesses were free in every thing, as the other Burgesses of the King's Realm. The King had in the same village a Fair and Market; and afterwards built a Church, wherein by the authority of Pope Eugenius 3. he plac'd Canons Regular, enfeoffing the said Religious in the whole Burrough, by Charter, and granting them several immunities. [But we must not believe, upon the authority of a Monkish writer, that it is denominated from a robber (who seems to have the name of Dun given him, for the purpose;) when the Saxon Dun, and the old Gaulish or British Dunum do so well answer the situation of the place, which is hilly and mountainous; and when we know also, that it is very ancient (a). More to the west, is Leighton or Leyton, call'd also Layton-buzzard, corruptly from Beaudesert; about half a mile from which, is a Roman-Camp. And as this shews the presence of that people there; so the Eminence of this town, even in the beginning of the Saxon times, seems to be prov'd from those [col. 342] Conquests of Cuthwulph, in the year 571; wherein, among others, he is said by the Saxon-Annals to have taken Lygeanburh, which seems more properly to belong to this Leyton, than to Loughborough in Leicestershire, where it has been formerly placed. For, setting aside, that the Saxons generally fix'd in such places as the Romans had been in (an Observation, that may be confirm'd by numbers of instances;) the old name and new do very well agree. the termination burh has particular reference only to the fortification that was then there; and why might not the Lygean be as well melted into Lay or Leigh, as the river Lygea is now is now into Lee or Ley? Besides, the course of his Victories doth best suit this; for he went from Lygeanburh to Ailesbury, and then to Bensington in Oxfordshire; which lie almost in a direct line: whereas Loughborough lies quite out of the road. Nigh to Leighton, is Battlesden; from which place, Allen Bathurst (eldest Son of Sir Benjamin Bathurst, who for many years enjoy'd the Office of Cofferer under her late Majesty Queen Anne,) was by her said Majesty created a Peer of this Realm, by the title of Baron Bathurst of Battlesden.]

Now, of the Lords, Dukes, and Earls of Bedford. First, there were Barons of Bedford of the family of Beauchamp, who, by right of inheritance, were Almoners to the Kings of England on their Coronation-day. But the estate being divided by daughters among the Mowbrays, Wakes, and Fitz-Otes; King Edward the third made Engelram de Coucy (Earl of Soissons in France, to whom he had marry'd his daughter,) first Earl of Bedford. Afterwards, Henry the fifth erected Bedford into a Dukedom, and it had three Dukes; the first, John, third son of Henry the fourth, who beat the French in a sea-fight, at the mouth of the Seine; and again, being Regent of France, in a land-fight at Vernoil. He was bury'd at Roan, and the Fortune of England, as to the French wars, was bury'd with him. Whose monument while Charles the eighth King of France was viewing, and a Nobleman stood by who advis'd him to pull it down; No, said he, let him rest in peace, now he is dead; whom France dreaded in the field, while living. The second Duke of Bedford, was George Nevil, very young, and the son of John Marquess of Montacute; both whom, King Edward the fourth did, by Act of Parliament, deprive of their honours, almost as soon as he had rais'd them: the Father, for treachery in deserting his party; and the Son, out of revenge to the Father: tho' it was, indeed, urg'd for a pretence, that he had not Estate enough to support the grandeur of a Duke; and that great men, when they want answerable Fortunes, are always a grievance and burthen to their neighbours. The third was Jasper de Hatfeld, Earl of Pembroke, honour'd with this title by his nephew, King Henry the seventh, whom he had sav'd in very great Dangers: but he, tho' he liv'd to a great age, dy'd unmarry'd.

However, in the memory of the last age, it return'd to the title of an Earldom; when King edward the sixth created John Russel, Earl of Bedford; who was succeeded by his son Francis, a person of that piety, and genteel temper,

(a) A woman who liv'd, dy'd, and was bury'd in this Town, had (as appears by her Epitaph) nineteen Children at five births. Five at two several births, and three together, at three others. And, after the Coronation of King Charles the second, the Wives of two Blacksmiths, were at the same time deliver'd of three Children each; one, of three boys, and the other, of three girls.
[col. 343] that whatever can possibly be said in his commendation, will fall infinitely short of his Virtues. His successor was Edward; his grandchild by Francis his son, who growing up to the honour of his Ancestors, [marry'd the daughter of John Lord Harington, and dy'd in 1627. without issue. Upon which, this title came to Francis Lord Russel of Thornhaw, son of William, fourth son to the last Francis Earl of Bedford. Which Francis was father of William Earl of Bedford, who, in the sixth year of King William and Queen Mary, was created Marquess of Tavistock and Duke of Bedford; in which honourable titles he was succeeded by Wriothesley his Grandson; who having marry'd Elizabeth, only daughter and heir of John Howland of Streatham in the County of Surrey (from whence he had the title of Baron Howland of Stretham,) died in the year 1711, and left, among other issue, Wriothesley, the present Duke of Bedford.]

This little County has 116 Parishes.

More rare Plants growing wild

Caryophyllus minor repens nostras. An Betonica coronaria, sive Caryophyllata repens rubra J. B. Creeping wild-Pink. On Sandy-hills, not far from an ancient Roman Camp.

Gentianella fugax Autumnalis elatior, Centaureæ minoris foliis. An Gentianella fugax quarta Clus? The taller Autumnal Gentian with Centory-like leaves. On Barton-hills upon a waste chalky ground, as you go out of Dunstable-way towards Gorckambury, Park. p. 407.

Glastum sativum Ger. Park. Isatis sativa vel latifolia C. B. Isatis seu Glastum sativum J. B. Woad. This Plant is cultivated in this County, in this manner. They every year sow the seed (it is never sown above two years together,) and pluck up the old Woad, unless it be saved for feed.

It is sown about the beginning of March, and cropt about the midst of May, thereafter as the leaf comes up.

[col. 344] It is best in a fair and dry Summer, but most in a moist; then they crop it four or five times according as it comes. The first crop is best, every crop after worse in order, and the last worst of all.

As soon as it is cropt, it is carried to the Woad-mill, and ground as small as it can be, until it becomes fit to ball.

When it is ball'd, they lay the balls on hurdles to dry: and when it is perfectly dry, they grind the balls to powder in the Mill as small as is possible.

Thus ground, they throw it upon a floor, and water it, which they call couching, and let it smoke and heat, turning it every day till it be perfectly dry and mouldy, which they call silvering.

When it is silvered, they weigh it by the hundred and bag it, putting two hundred weight in a bag; and so send it to the Dier as fit for sale, who tries how it will die, and they set the price accordingly.

The best Woad is usually worth eighteen Pounds per Tonn.

With the tincture of this Plant the ancient Britains were wont to die their bodies, that they might appear more terrible to their enemies. The Romans call'd this herb in Latin Vitrum, witness Cæsar, Vitruvius, Mela, and Marcellus Empyricus; which word being manifestly an inerpretation of Glastum, it appears thence that Glasta or Glasse signified the same thing to the ancient Britains that it doth to us: and not to a blue colour, as Mr. Camden tells us it now doth to the Welsh. Why the Britains should call this herb Glasse, I know no better reason than because it resembles some kind of Glass in colour, which we know hath often a tincture of blue in it, whence also a dilute blue is call'd color hyalinus.

Glaux Dioscoridis. Dioscorides his Milk-tare. Upon Barton-hills four miles from Lewton, Ger. pag. 1242. This hath been already mentioned in several Counties.

Melampyrum crystatum. Crested Cow-wheat: See the Synonymes in Cambridgeshire. It is no less plentiful here than there about Blunham and other places.

Ribes nigrum. Black Currans, Squinancy-berries. By the river-side at Blunham and elsewhere.

[Description(s) transcribed by Craig Pickup ©2002]