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The Manor of Elstow

Volume III of The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire was published in 1912. It contained a description of the two manors which existed in Elstow. Elstow Manor was described in the Domesday Book of 1086. It has held by Countess Judith, niece of William the Conqueror (1066-1087) who founded Elstow Abbey. It comes as no surprise that the nuns of the abbey held the manor from her.

Countess Judith’s lands later formed part of the Honour of Huntingdon and the abbey held Elstow from the honour, which was the overlord. The abbey continued to hold the manor until it was dissolved by King Henry VIII (1509-1547) in 1539 at which time it was valued at £30/17/3½. It was immediately attached to the newly created Honour of Ampthill and remained in royal hands until the reign of King Edward VI (1547-1553). The site of the abbey and its immediate lands, called the demesne lands, was granted to Edmund Harvey in 1541. His daughter married Sir Humphrey Radcliffe (younger brother of the Earl of Sussex) and he was granted the manor in 1553 at a rent of £85/17/10 per annum. He lived at the abbey until his death and has a memorial in the church above the altar.

Radcliffe monument at the east end of the chancel February 2012
Radcliffe monument at the east end of the chancel February 2012

On Radcliffe’s death his Elstow property was divided between his son Edward and his daughter, wife of Henry Cheeke, M. P. for Bedford from 1572 to 1583. Cheeke’s son quitclaimed his right to Elstow to the Edward Radcliffe in 1598. In 1616 Edward Radcliffe and Thomas Cheeke both sold the manor to Thomas Hillersdon for £700.

Hillersdon family coat of arms
Hillersdon family coat of arms

Hillersdon died in 1623 and was succeeded by his son Thomas who died in 1632 aged twenty one and left a son, also Thomas, just eighteen months old. The Hillersdons continued to hold the manor until 1728 and the death of William Hillersdon. His daughter Elizabeth inherited the manor. She was the wife of Denis Farrer of Cold Brayfield [Buckinghamshire]. His second son Denis took the surname Hillersdon and was High Sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1756. He died in 1787 and the manor was divided between his four daughters Harriet Hadden, Anne, Sarah and Elizabeth who sold it in 1792 to Samuel Whitbread and the Whitbread family owned the manor into the 20th century.