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Freeholders in Bletsoe in 1624

 Countryside looking south towards North End September 2009
Countryside looking south towards North End September 2009

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service is lucky enough to hold a highly detailed survey of the Bedfordshire lands of Richard Wade-Gery of Bushmead Priory conducted between 1623 and 1628 [WG10] which has been transcribed and is available in the searchroom library [CRT110/34]. The title is, however, misleading as the introduction makes clear: "The manors surveyed all belonged to Oliver Saint John of Bletsoe, for whom, no doubt, the survey was prepared. The volume apparently came into the hands of a Peterborough man, and was perhaps purchased by William Gery, to whose descendants it belongs. The Gery family (as far as it is known) do not own any pf the property described in the surveys. If the volume did not get into their possession through purchase, it probably formed part of the muniments of the steward of the Bedfordshire manors of Lord Saint John, and it is to be noted that the firm of solicitors (wade-Gery and Brackenbury), acted in that capacity…The watermark is the fool's cap with bells".

The survey includes a list of all the freeholders in Bletsoe in 1624. These were men of some standing in the village, who might be called yeoman farmers. The list is as follows:

In Church End

  • Sir Oliver Botteler: fifteen acres late held by Robert Stratton;
  • Jeromye Croftes and his brothers and sisters: six acres of land late belonging to Robert Smyth; also two acres, part of a parcel of four acres lately purchased from John Smyth by Thomas Woodham;
  • Randolph Foorde's son: land late held by John Roberts;
  • John Hynde: eight acres one rood of arable late held by John Roberts;
  • The Churchwardens of Bletsoe: a cottage with one rood of ground and a house called Church House [probably the parish workhouse];
  • Michaell Musgrave: one rood, part of a parcel of four acres lately purchased from John Smyth by Thomas Woodham;
  • Thomas Myllwarde: one and a half acres, part of a and a parcel of four acres lately purchased from John Smyth by Thomas Woodham; also forty feet of meadow in Eye Meadow and two and a half acres of land lying in the common fields;
  • Thomas Myllwarde's heir: four acres one and a half roods of arable land late held by John Roberts;
  • Trustram Parker: a pightle [small inclosure] at Coplow "whereon theare is a newe built howse" late held by John Roberts;
  • John Roberts alias Robynson: a house with "certeyn lande belonginge thereunto";
  • John Smyth: five acres and three roods of land held from Robert Smyth;
  • Robert Smyth: two houses and "certeyn lande belonginge to it";
  • Oliver Warde: one rood in Bolnend Field late held by John Roberts.

In North End

  • Randolp Foorde's heir: one house, late held by Robert Stratton, then by Thomas Bevis and one close containing one and a half acres; also four acres three roods and a "headen" [headland] in Moorden Slade;
  • William Gates: two and a half acres in a close and an arable close called Honnydaye Crofte of more than fourteen acres three roods;
  • [Blank] Smyth: one close lying in North End called Horrells;

In Whitwick End

  • John Hynde: a house with an adjoining croft of two acres; also a pightle and thirty four acres of arable as well as a further house with adjoining close and pightle and twelve acres of arable

In Bolnend [Bourne End]

  • John Carter: one house with an adjoining close of two acres; also about forty acres of arable and a close called Hangers Close on one acre; also a grove called The Forrest of one rood and one grove called Gooldes Grove ;
  • Francis Clarke: three acres of arable and three roods of meadow lately belonging to John Carter;
  • Thomas Cobb: two closes called Potters Pightle and Cobbes Grove as well as nine acres three roods of land; also a close called Kings purchased from Robert Stratton;
  • George Gearye: two acres of land lately belonging to John Carter;
  • William Harper: a close, formerly arable, containing three acres; a;sp a part of Hawkins Close and ten acres of arable lately belonging to John Carter;
  • Oliver Harvie: six selions of pasture and a parcel of meadow adjoining in Dod Field purchased from Robert Stratton;
  • William Hylles: a cottage "parcel of the aforesaid farm" [John Carter's] and nine acres of arable;
  • Henrye Marlyn: two acres of land lately belonging to John Carter;
  • Edward Musgrave: a close called Hartes Close; also a house with "a doble hedgrowe called Sir Williams" and forty four acres one rood of arable which Robert Musgrave purchased from John Smyth in 1584; a house and one acre; also a "dobble hedgerowe contayninge by estimacion a roode"; also a close called Parke Close containing three roods; also a grove or wood called Trunketts of five acres; also a pightle of one rood; also another grove of two acres and a piece of meadow called Dudwell of nine acres one rood; finally seventy three acres of arable;
  • Eme Sperry: six poles of sward lately belonging to John Carter;
  • John Yarwell: part of Hawkins Croft and six acres of land all formerly held by John Carter.