[Transcribed and edited information from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868]
"KEMPSTON, a parish in the hundred of Redbornestoke, county Bedford, 3 miles S.W. of Bedford, its post town. The village, which is large, is situated on the river Ouse. There is a meet at Kempston Wood for the Oakley hounds. It is mentioned in Domesday Survey as Camestone. Limestone is quarried for building purposes and for burning into lime." (There is more of this description).
The 1868 Gazetteer description of the following places in Kempston is to be found on a supplementary page.
The church of All Saints, standing near the banks of the river Ouse, about a mile from the largest part of the village, is a building of stone, in the Norman and Decorated styles, consisting of chancel, nave, aisles, south porch and a western tower of Norman date, originally containing 6 bells, two of which were cast in 1603 and 1619: in 1893 three of these were recast and a treble added by Walter G. H. Harter esq. of The Bury: the roof of the porch, which is stone groined, was opened and cleaned in the year 1838, and an external staircase was built in the year 1837: in repairing the floor of the porch in 1840, a monumental slab, bearing a remarkably formed cross, was discovered, which is now placed outside, against the west wall: three feet below this slab a skeleton was met with, but there was no trace of any coffin: the Decorated east window was restored and filled with stained glass, as a memorial to N. Fitzpatrick M.D. his wife and daughter; the family are interred in a mausoleum by the north wall : the chancel possesses some beautifully carved oak benches, ornamented with poppy-heads, and a handsome bench, the gift of the Rev. Henry Clutterbuck, patron and vicar from 1835: the carved oak reading desk and Perpendicular pulpit were furnished by subscription: there is a Decorated font, supported by four shafts; the sides have canopies, alternately surmounting mutilated figures : there are no monumental remains of interest, except a memorial to the "seven sones" and ten daughters of William Carter, placed here by direction of his wife, Marie, in 1605 : two panels from the rood-screen, preserved for some time in the vestry, exhibit ancient paintings of "God presenting Eve to Adam," the "Temptation," "God Pronouncing the Curse," and the "Expulsion from Paradise;" these have now been cleaned, glazed and framed, and hang on either side of the arch at the west end of the church: there is also an ancient "Book of Homeleys." The register dates from the year 1570. The church of St, John, a chapel of ease to the parish church, erected in 1868 at a cost of about £2,400, is a building of stone in the Early English style, consisting of chancel, nave and a turret containing one bell: there are several memorial windows: the church is used by the military from the barracks, who attend service on Sundays at 10 a.m.; the Vicar is chaplain to the forces here. The church of St. Stephen, an iron building, in Spring road, was built in 1888, and will seat about 200 persons. [Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898]
There is a Bunyan Meeting, Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist chapels and a Temperance Hall in Bunyan road. [Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898]
Near the village is Springfield House, a Private establishment for both sexes suffering under mental disease, conducted by Dr. Bower: it is pleasantly seated in its own grounds of about 30 acres,; the vicar acts as chaplain. Here is a large corn mill. Plllow lace and bricks and draining pipes are made in the parish. The hamlets or "ends" of the parish are, viz.:- Up End, Gravel End, East End, Hardwicke, Bell End, Church End, Green End, Littleworth End, Wood End, West End, Crow End, Thistley Green, Bridge End, Moor End and Box End. These hamlets vary in distance, from half a mile to a mile from the village. [Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898]
The Domesday Book calls it "CAMESTONE". In the British Museum and also the Bedford Museum are finds from an Anglo Saxon Cemetery, now called the Saxon Centre. The most important was a famous glass drinking horn in perfect state of preservation. The importance of this discovery is that there is evidence of a peaceful community settled in Kempston and it was a thriving place before Bedford came into the picture.
Alfred and Guthram defined the boundaries of their respective domains Wessex and the Danelaw in AD 885. It would seem that Kempston was just in King Alfred's territory. In the reign of Edward the Confessor, Camestone (Kempston) was held by Earl Gyrth, brother to King Harold (who was killed by an arrow in 1066). Gyrth was also killed at the Battle of Hastings. After the Conquest, King William gave Kempston to his niece, the Countess Judith de Balliol, wife of Waltheof who became Earl of Northampton. Unfortunately Judith is best remembered for her treachery against her husband when he was unjustly tried and executed for treason.
In 1086 she founded the Benedictine Convent for Nuns at Elstow. There were then 2400 acres of arable land in Kempston and they needed 20 teams of oxen to keep them in cultivation. However, a lot of land was uncultivated because it was too wet and marshy. The River Ouse worked a mill to which the people took their corn to be ground. There was said to be 40-45 men over 16 and their families in Kempston at this time.
The strangest and most valuable survival in Kempston. Great slabs of oolitic limestone cross the river near the Ladies Walk and on the right bank are clearly visible stepping down into the middle of the river. (Ladies Walk is just halfway down on the right in Box End Road before you come to All Saints Church.)
In 1907 R.B. Sanders and Company opened their leather works in College Street, Kempston, having moved from Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire. The wooden premises burnt down in 1910, after which they were rebuilt on a much larger scale. The original St. Stephen's Church, Spring Road (built in 1888) was replaced in 1940 by the Church of the Transfiguration and this was subsequently used by Sanders Leather factory.
In about 1237 we hear of various Manors of Kempston, the names of which are still used today.
Daubeney. 1333 the Crown granted this manor to WiIIiam Daubeney and it remained in his family till 1502 when it was sold. The Manor House next to the Manor Hall, the home of Kempston Town CounciI, is on the site of the original Daubeney Manor House. Henry Ill visited Kempston in 1224 when he was at the siege of Bedford Castle and he is said to have stayed at the Daubeney Manor House.
Kempston St. John's and Brucebury originally was granted to Isobel, wife of Robert de Bruce and claimant to the Scottish throne.
Hastingsbury or Greys was granted to Ada, the wife of Henry Hastings. It eventually was inherited by the Greys of Wrest. The Manor House stood to the west of the present Bury House.
The Victorian barracks at Kempston, the Regimental Depot of the 16th Foot or Bedfordshire Regiment, were built in 1875-6 at the cost of about £50,000. The first troops arrived on 29th May 1877 and over the next sixty years thousands of men were trained here. In 1881 they became the Depot of the Bedfordshire Regiment and in 1918 the depot for the Beds & Herts. Between 1886 and 1900 the southern frontage of the Bedford Road was developed from New Town as far as the parish boundary, linking Kempston to Bedford. During the Second World War the barracks were used mainly as a convalescent centre, other functions having been transferred to Bury St. Edmunds. In 1958 the barracks closed and after nearly 80 years of decision making, a use as a Masonic Lodge has been found for the building. At least part of the Barracks, including the Keep is to remain as is the Regimental War Memorial opposite.
Balliol, John de, founded Balliol College, Oxford, and married Devorguilla, a descendant of Countess Judith. She was the mother of a second John de Balliol who became King of Scotland.
Cater, William, bought the Kempston Greys Estate in 1624 for £7200 and the family remained in Kempston for 175 years. They lived in a house near the Bury House. They also owned Kempston Mill.
Dennis, William, a London merchant, bought the manors of Daubeney and St. Johns in c.1603 for £7356. The family eventually sold their land in Kempston in 1809 to Williamson The Rev Edmund, and in 1815 he built the "house that still stands between the street and the river", i e. the Manor next to the Manor Hall. It was a gift in Mrs. Williamson's will that made possible the building of the Church of the Transfiguration. She also built and endowed the St. Johns Almshouses as a memorial to her husband.
Littledale, Henry, a director of the Sun Insurance Company, built Kempston Grange in 1845 on the Ham Field.
Thornton, Harry, was a nephew of Henry and inherited the Grange in 1866. Eventually it was purchased In 1885 by Mc James Howard and his widow gave the Grange and the Park for ever to the people of Kempston.