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The Manor of Overdean alias Overdean and Netherdean

The Segrave family coat of arms
The Segrave family coat of arms

The history of the two manors in Dean is given in Volume III of The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire published in 1912. The Manor of Overdean alias Overdean and Netherdean can be traced back to the holding of Bishop Remigius de Fécamp of Lincoln recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. The Bishops of Lincoln continued to be overlords of the manor into the 13th century, the last reference being in 1284. By 1302 Lord Segrave was overlord and so, presumably, the Bishop of Lincoln had conveyed that overlordship to him. The last mention of the overlordship, still held by the Segrave family, was in 1428.

The earliest tenant of the manor after the Godfrey mentioned in Domesday Book was John de Cheyney in 1216. The family held the manor until some time between 1316 and 1330 as at the latter date John Warin of Dean conveyed the manor to Sir Ralf de Wedon whose heirs still held the manor in 1428.

Two years later, in 1430, a Cheyney seems temporarily to have regained the manor as John Cheyney conveyed it to Thomas Broun, clerk and Thomas Compworth. They, in turn, conveyed it to the College of Higham Ferrers [Northamptonshire] in 1434. This college had nothing to do with learning. It was a self-governing group of priests, under a Master, which existed to say masses for the dead and was founded in 1422.

The Dacres family coat of arms
The Dacres family coat of arms

The manor remained in the ownership of Higham Ferrers College until it was dissolved by King Henry VIII (1509-1547). Overdean Manor was granted by Henry VIII to a member of his council called Robert Dacres. The Dacres family held the manor until the 17th century. In 1648 Sheriff of Hertfordshire Sir Thomas Dacres conveyed the manor to his younger brother Edward who had married Annabella, widow of Sir Henry Atkins of Bedwell [Hertfordshire]. The Victoria County History that his stepson Thomas Atkins succeeded him as Lord of the Manor but quitclaimed it to John Goodfellow in 1682. The archives of the Wade family of Dean Grange, deposited with Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service in 1937 show this is likely to be an error. The Victoria County History also stated that the ownership of the manor could be traced from 1682 to 1790 but, again, the Wade archive has now disproved this statement.

In his will of 1727 Sir Henry Atkins of Clapham [Surrey] devised his estate in Dean to his father-in-law Sir John Stonehouse and uncle Rev. John Goodwin in trust for sale [WA2]. In 1748 the manor was mortgaged by Atkins’ executors [WA55]. In 1750 the mortgaged manor was conveyed to Sir Richard Atkins of Clapham [Surrey], only surviving son of Sir Henry by Sir Henry’s executors [WA57-58]. In 1752, Sir Richard conveyed the manor and lordship of Upper Dean to Daniel Gromebridge of Tonbridge [Kent] including the mansion house, Upper Dean windmill and 403 acres, 3 roods of land all for £1,500 [WA3-4].

In 1754 Daniel Gromebridge conveyed the manor to Richard Lowe of Saint Paul’s, Covent Garden, woollen draper for £4,800 [WA5-7]. By the time he made his will in 1781 Lowe was living at Locke in Derbyshire  and devised his extensive lands in Bedfordshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Middlesex and Wiltshire to trustees [WA8]. However, his ownership was disputed. This notice appeared in the Northampton Mercury of 24th September, 1st October and 8th October 1781:

MANORS OF OVER and NETHER DEAN, BEDFORDSHIRE

Mr. RICHARD LOWE, Woollen-Draper, of King Street, Covent-Garden, having by an Advertisement in this Paper, claimed the above Manors; all Persons are desired to take notice, that his Claims are without any the least foundation, and that all unqualified Persons who are found trespassing on them will be acted against according to Law. 

Despite this Lowe’s estates were conveyed by his trustees to William Drury of Derby and Locke in 1790 [WA11-12] following a number of actions in the Court of Chancery [WA9-10]. The statement in The Victoria County History that the manor was conveyed to Thomas Fane and Matthew Hancock in 1794 is misleading. Thomas Fane had married Richard Lowe’s only daughter, Anne and by doing this she forfeited her right to the manor under the terms of her father’s will. The conveyance was simply an assignment of dower rights by the new owner William Drury, who took the surname Lowe on succeeding to the manor [WA60-66].

William Drury Lowe drew up his will in 1827 and devised the manor to his wife Ann for life then to their daughter Mary Ann Holden and son-in-law Robert Holden, then to their child William Drury Holden [WA87]. The statement that Lord Saint John held Upper Dean Manor in Victoria County History seems simply to be wrong. The family held Lower Dean manor and family deeds from 1706 onwards mention a Dean Manor at a time when the family held neither Upper Dean nor Lower Dean Manor [SJ143 etc.]. The likeliest explanation seems to be that this was the second Shelton Manor, which the family held at the time, and which was described as the Manor of Shelton and Dean because it also included lands in the latter parish and this, together with a lack of other documentation misled the writers of The Victoria County History.

The evidence is that the manor eventually ended up in the possession Colonel Herbert Oswald Wade who deposited the Wade Archive in 1937. He lived at Dean Grange which, it seems likely, lies on the site of the manor house of Upper Dean Manor. A succession of Law of Property Acts in the 1920s extinguished all manorial incidents, courts and copyhold tenure of land. This effectively abolished manors in all but name.