Leighton Buzzard after the Middle Ages

This article will be the first in a series to look at some of the major recorded events, happenings and buildings in Leighton Buzzard after the Medieval period, all of which Bedfordshire Archive service has records relating to.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

In 1473 the Fraternity or Guild of Corpus Christi was founded in Leighton Buzzard by the Lady of the Manor, the Duchess of Suffolk. The guild had two guardians and brothers and sisters from the parish and was intended to support a chaplain celebrating mass daily in All Saints' church. The Fraternity had a house which was probably in the "island site" in the middle of the Market Square called Middle Row, perhaps the building which became the Cross Keys public house, burned down and was rebuilt in 1899. The Brotherhood was dissolved at the Reformation, in 1547 and their property sold or granted to others.

The old manor site at Grovebury, established since the days of the Priory, seems to have gone into decline after the 15th century. The last mention of a functioning chapel on the site may be in a will of 1576 in Buckinghamshire Museum: "Chappell Cloase wherein the Chappell standethe". New buildings were added during the 16th and 17th centuries and the old graveyard became a rubbish heap. Then slowly the farm dwindled until only the chapel remained but it was certainly no longer used for any religious purpose, being partitioned and one end used for storage whilst the other became living accommodation. Much of the stone from the old manorial complex was used to build Grovebury Farm. The buildings were demolished in the 20th century but in 1919 antiquarian F.G.Gurney visited them and recorded features consistent with a 16th or 17th century date. In 1581 the Lords of the Manor, the Dean and Chapter of Saint George's Chapel, Windsor issued a licence to Clement Duncombe to build a dwelling at Grovebury suggesting that this was the genesis of Grovebury Farm.

Sir Christopher Hoddesdon, chief tenant of the Manor under the Dean and Chapter from the 1580s, seems to have let the manor properties fall into neglect, from which they had to be rescued by the Leigh family of Stoneleigh, tenants from 1610 onwards. Hoddesdon began to use The Heath, the area effectively between today's Heath Road and Plantation Road, as a rabbit warren [BO1335]. He then enclosed part of The Heath in an attempt to cater for more rabbits, thus infringing the common rights of tenants of the manor and giving rise to a number of lawsuits. About 1595 Hoddesdon gave up the right of warren on the Heath in return for the right to enclose part of The Heath as far as King's Wood in Heath & Reach. The tenants, however, destroyed his enclosing fences.

To visit the archives or for further information about anything you have read or the service generally email [email protected] or phone 01234 228833.

Related topics: