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The Manor of Westoning Aynells

Gonville and Caius College coat of arms
Gonville and Caius College coat of arms

The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire, published in 1912 states that this manor can probably be traced to the middle of the 14th century and was held of the King as overlord by John, son of William Aynell. The fact that the manor was held from the crown might suggest that the manor was an offshoot of the Manor of Weston Tregoz and Westoning which was also held from the king in chief and had been since at least 1066.

The manor was granted to Andrew de Bures and Katherine, his wife, during the minority of the heir and in 1391 the lands formerly held by John Aynell were released to by Gawin Elmele to Thomas Pever and others, perhaps as trustees for Elmele.

In 1418 the manor of Westoning Aynells was held by John Shathewell and Isabel, his wife. Thomas Rufford died in possession of the manor in 1480 heaving his son, John, as heir, who died in 1504. At this date Aynells was held as a sub-manor of Weston Tregoz and Westoning and John's son, another John, succeeded to it. In 1541 he released the manor to John Stirman who was acting on behalf of Gonville and CaiusCollege, Cambridge. In 1543 the manor was described as having paid ten shillings per annum to the upkeep of Westoning chantry (chantries, along with religious houses, were abolished in the latter years of Henry VIII (1509-1547) following his break with Rome and establishment of an independent Church of England).

The manor remained a possession of the college until a succession of Law of Property Acts in the 1920s abolished manorial fines and incidents, which provided the income for the manor as well as copyhold tenure of land, thus abolishing manors themselves in practically all but name.

The Victoria County History quotes the college annals of 1708 regarding the Manor of Westoning Aynells: "The house with the appurtenances both arable and pasture, as valued and let, April 18 1668, £132 per annum. Corn rent, wheat, 9 quarters; malt, 8 quarters. An outrent to the king 10 shillings". The last item is clearly the former chantry support money, now paid to the Crown.

View at Samshill August 2009
View at Samshill August 2009

Aynells Manor House may have lain near Samshill Farm, south-east of the village. The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER 3418] deacribes the site thus: "A probable moat, the remaining part of which is wide and irregular, and in use as a duckpond. A local tradition says that in the late 18th century there was a house on the island in the centre of the moat, which was reached by a drawbridge. It is thought to be the site of Aynells Manor".