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The Parish of Shillington in General

The view south-west from Marquis Hill April 2015
The view south-west from Marquis Hill  April 2015

Landscape

Volume II of The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire was published in1908. At that date the parish of Shillington contained 5,003½ acres of which 3,126¾ acres were arable, 834½ used for grazing animals and 74¾ woods and plantations.

Shillington's underlying, or solid, geology is a mixture of chalk and clay. The area around the church and the junction of Marquis Hill and Upton End Road is a type of chalk known as West Melbury Marly Chalk Formation. This was laid down between 99 and 94 million years ago in the warm, shallow seas of the Cretaceous Period. The remainder of the parish is mostly Gault Formation, a mudstone laid down earlier, between 112 and 99 million years ago in the same, shallow Cretaceous seas, though more chalk is found in the south of the parish around Pegsdon. As The Victoria County History states, the soil in the parish is mostly thick clay, though with a small area forming mixture of gravel, sand, silt and clay called Head at Hillfoot End and a diamicton called Lowestoft Formation around Shillington Bury.

The land slopes roughly south to north, the highest point, south of Pegsdon, being 581 feet above sea-level and the lowest 156 feet. The church, on its prominent hill, is 213 feet above sea-level.

 Shillington Village Hall April 2015
Shillington Village Hall  April 2015

Administrative History

Shillington is a salient, thrusting deep into Hertfordshire. It has a somewhat intricate history. It is an ancient parish and was historically divided between the Odsey Hundred of Hertfordshire and the Bedfordshire hundreds of Flitt and Clifton. The village of Shillington itself lies at the northern end of the parish with the hamlet of Pegsdon at the south end.

From the 14th century until the later 16th century Upper Gravenhurst formed part of the parish, this part being in the Flitt Hundred. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, however, Upper Gravenhurst became a parish in its own right (as Lower Gravenhurst had always been).

Traditionally Lower Stondon also formed part of the parish of Shillington, Upper Stondon, again, being an ancient parish in its own right. On 1st April 1985, however, Upper and Lower Stondon were combined to form one civil parish simply called Stondon. At the same time the ancient parish of Higham Gobion was brought into the civil parish of Shillington, thus becoming a hamlet. Finally, one of Shillington's neighbouring parishes, Holwell, an ancient parish in the Clifton Hundred and part of Bedfordshire was transferred to Hertfordshire in 1897, though the ecclesiastical parish remained part of the Shefford Rural Deanery until 1914 when it transferred to the Deanery of Hitchin.

Shillington sign

Name

Shillington is derived from an Anglo-Saxon personal name, Scyttel or, perhaps, Scytla, with the suffixes meaning people ("ingas") and hill ("dun") – thus "hill of Scyttel's (or Scytla's) people. It has had many different forms over time, including the following:

  •  Scytlingedune: 1060;
  •  Sethlindone: 1086;
  •  Scetlingedon: 1202;
  •  Scetlingdon: 1207;
  •  Sutlingedon: 1220;
  •  Setlingdon: 1221;
  •  Shitlingdon: 1222-1276;
  •  Schitlingdon: 1222-1276;
  •  Sutlingdon: 1227-1286;
  •  Suthlingdon: 1227-1286;
  •  Sytlingdon: 1227;
  •  Schutlingdon: 1236;
  •  Shutlingedon: 1239;
  •  Sitlingedon: 1240;
  •  Sutlindon: 1242;
  •  Schittlingdon: 1247;
  •  Shittlingdon: 1247;
  •  Schitlingdon: 1251-1504;
  •  Shitlingdon: 1251-1504;
  •  Schitlingedon: 1253;
  •  Schetlindon: 1262;
  •  Sitelyndon: 1276;
  •  Sitelyngdon: 1276;
  •  Shittelington: 1276;
  •  Shutlyngdon: 1276-1381;
  •  Schutlyngdon: 1276-1381;
  •  Shutlingdon: 1276-1381;
  •  Schutlingdon: 1276-1381;
  •  Shelyngton: 1287-1400;
  •  Schelyngton: 1287-1400;
  •  Schettlingdon: 1287;
  •  Schudlyngton: 1287;
  •  Shytlington: 1287-1830;
  •  Schytlington: 1287-1830;
  •  Shitlington: 1287-1830;
  •  Shutlyngdene: 1302-1316;
  •  Shutlyndon: 1327;
  •  Shutlyngton: 1367-1372;
  •  Shetlington: 1526-1535;
  •  Shetlyngton: 1526-1535;
  •  Shedlington: 1675;
  •  Shidlington: 1675-1780;
  •  Shilindon: 1780

The Old Post Office March 2014
The Old Post Office March 2014

Population

The Domesday Book of 1086 tells us that there were manors in Shillington and Pegsdon as well as Stondon and Higham Gobion. The Manor of Shillington itself contained 27 villagers, 5 smallholders and 4 slaves – a total of 36. These would have been the heads of household, so to arrive at an approximate figure for the total inhabitants we need to multiply this by a factor or four – suggesting around 144 people. The manor was held by the Abbey of Saint Benedict at Ramsey [Huntingdonshire] as were manors at Pegsdon, Holwell and Stondon. The Shillington manor is described as part of the Clifton Hundred whereas the manor at Pegsdon is described as part of the Flitt Hundred. Pegsdon contained 37 villagers, 7 smallholders and 5 slaves – so perhaps nearly 200 people. The two manors are the same size, suggesting a roughly north-south split and suggesting that the population of what today comprises the civil parish of Shillington (minus Higham Gobion, held by Hugh de Beauchamp and with about 84 people) was around 350 people, a very populous parish for this date.

Censuses in England have been held every decade since 1801, with the exception of the 1941 census which was cancelled due to World War Two. The figures for Shillington are as follows:

  •  1801: 899;
  •  1811: 968;
  •  1821: 1,149;
  •  1831: 1,307;
  •  1841: 1,411;
  •  1851: 1,598;
  •  1861: 1,788;
  •  1871: 2,173;
  •  1881: 2,226;
  •  1891: 1,873;
  •  1901: 1,629;
  •  1911: 1,588;
  •  1921: 1,625;
  •  1931: 1,622;
  •  1951: 2,278;
  •  1961: 2,787;
  •  1971: 3,180;
  •  1981: 3,130;
  •  1991: 1,711;
  •  2001: 1,836
  •  2011: 1,842
The drop in figures in 1891 is probably accounted for by local conditions such as the movement of people to nearby towns to find work as the near quarter century Long Depression (1873-1896) bit. The great drop in 1991 shows the effect of Lower Stondon being transferred to the new civil parish of Stondon.