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The Dispute Between the Botelers and the Dyves

The coat of arms of the Boteler family
         The coat of arms of the Boteler family         

The following summary of material in the Trevor-Wingfield collection [TW1015-1070] forms part of the introduction to the catalogue.

Whatever were the reasons for enmity between the two families, human nature could, in fact, have been sufficient cause. Two families largely owning adjoining villages: the Dyves of Bromham older and of more noble descent and possibly without the ability to increase their fortune except by judicious marriages; the Botelers of Biddenham of perhaps more obscure beginnings but with considerable wealth gained from two generations of merchants in London. Both had property in the other's territory. The Botelers said that the original fault lay with the Dyves, who bought an estate in Biddenham from Dyve Downes which the third William Boteler claimed that he had previously contracted to purchase, and which had belonged to his father and grandfather. Whether or no this was intended as a slight, it was taken as such, and in the autumn of 1589, during his term as Sheriff for the County, William Boteler purchased the reversion of the , in which Sir Lewis Dyve has a life estate. There had presumably been an earlier dispute settled by reciprocal leases for 5,000 years in 1576, but the new move seemed to be a declaration of war. In fact one of John Dyve's faction, William Broughe, an innkeeper in Bedford, was heard to say "there is noe remedye but we must fight it out". William Boteler was protected by his office until 23rd December, when he gave up the gaol and prison to the next Sheriff, and on the following day [Christmas Eve!] found that an ambush had been laid to take him and his retinue as he went from his house at Ford End to Bedford.

Ford End Manor House about 1910 [X306/92/1]
Ford End Manor House about 1910 [X306/92/1]

On 26th December Dyve challenged him to a duel, which challenge he prudently declined, and on the following Sunday [31st December] there was a successful ambush laid for him on his way home from the parish church, when several of his men were wounded, and he himself left for dead.

The church from the south-east March 2012
The church from the south-east March 2012

 This is the case which the Botelers put to the Court of Star Chamber, but Dyve's reply is not found in any collection held by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service, nor the decision of the court.

However, William Boteler kept the Bromham manor and the next dispute for which we have evidence was after Sir Lewis Dyve's death in 1592, when the Dyve family interest terminated and the manor of Latimers and Nevilles came into the hands of the Botelers. By now the lands had for many years lain intermingled with other Dyve property in Bromham, the last terriers having been made in the regins of Henry VII (1485-1509) and Henry VIII (1509-1547), since when bounds had changed or completely disappeared in the enclosures from the common fields made by Sir Lewis when he extended Bromham Park. There was endless cause for dispute, but even if there had been good-will on both sides the situation could have been difficult.

Sir Lewis, on his deathbed in 1592, had desired that the feud might be brought to an end and in 1595 William Boteler made lease to John Dyve of certain of the disputed lands, presumably as a preliminary step to attempt to settle by arbitration in 1597, and there was another appointment of arbitrators in 1601. In 1602 William Boteler died and it was taken as a most unfriendly act that Sir John Dyve tried to obtain the wardship of the heir, Thomas Boteler. After this time legal actions were taken in the Court of Wards, probably at the instigation of the ward's mother, Ursula Boteler.

The monument to William Boteler in Biddenham church March 2012
The monument to William Boteler in Biddenham church March 2012

It woudl appear that a final settlement was reached in 1605 as there is a draft of an agreement in February of that year by which the Botelers undertook to convey to Sir John Dyve the Latimers manor in Bromham, in return for the Dyve manor in Biddenham and £230 [TW1036]. Probably this took place, for we have no evidence for further disputes, but this might be in part accounted for by the death of Sir John Dyve in 1607 and the removal of Lewis, his heir, from Bromham to the household of his stepfather the Earl of Bristol.

By 1604 the scope of  the dispute had been widened to include the right of the Botelers to hold a court leet in Biddenham. Dyve claimed that the Boteler manor, once Newnham Priory manor, was held of his own Manor of Biddenham which the Dyves had acquired from Haber and Duffield and which was the court leet held by Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) by right of the Honour of Gloucester.

The coat of arms of the Dyve family
The coat of arms of the Dyve family