Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Carlton > Carlton Hall, Carlton

Carlton Hall, Carlton

This page was contributed by Pamela Hider

Dovecote and Cows

Part of Dairy Herd resting below the ancient dovecote (1999) [Courtesy of Carlton & Chellington Historical Society]

Historic England Listing

Carlton Hall is described by The Historic England Listing document as 'a moated enclosure'. The document goes on to tell us that 'The majority of moated sites served as prestigious aristocratic and seigneurial residences with the provision of a moat intended as a status symbol rather than a practical military defence...' and that they formed 'a significant class of medieval monument and are important for the understanding of the distribution of wealth and status in the countryside'. 

'The monument includes the well-defined remains of a sub-circular Medieval moated enclosure. In the centre of the island are the well- preserved remains of a 16th-17th century stone-built dovecote. The moated site and banked enclosure are thought to mark the site of a park keeper's house dating to around 1312'. This could refer to the early parks, today's woods, mentioned on the page re Carlton Manors. 'Adjacent to the north-west side of the moat are the levelled remains of farmbuildings associated with Carlton Hall, a 16th century farmhouse which superseded the moated site. The exact site of Carlton Hall is unknown. A stone-lined pond to the east of the modern Carlton Hall Farm is thought to date to the Post Medieval Period of the monument'.

In summary, 'Carlton Hall moated site includes a moat of unusual sub-circular form and a diversity of important features illustrating the changing use of the site over several centuries'.

Early History

The early history of Carlton Hall has been dealt with on the page Carlton Manors. The earliest date we have referring specifically to the Manor House of Carlton Hall is from the Will of John Boddington, a tenant of the Reynolds in 1657 (ABP/W1657-9/266). The Reynolds family acquired Carlton Hall in the 1650s (L3/Introduction) until 1736, but 'it is doubtful if the Reynolds ever lived in Carlton'.

18th & 19th centuries

Carlton Hall was sold to the Executors of the Duke of Kent (De Grey family)in 1764. During the 19th century, the De Grey family evolved through Cowper to Lucas. By 1910, Lord Lucas owned much of the land in Carlton. By 1913 the Lucas family sold its estates in Carlton, Harrold & Turvey, including land associated with Stayesmore Manor and the former Carlton Hall Manor to Bedfordshire County Council and was split up into Council smallholdings.

20th century

In 1927, property in Carlton was valued under the Rating and Valuation Act 1925 (DV1/218). Every piece of land and building in the country had to be valued to determine the rates to be paid upon it. By now, Carlton Hall Farm's tenant farmer was F.G.Betts overseeing 67 acres. It was described as being in 2 parishes - Turvey & Carlton - and as a 'nice little holding'. The House had a living room, parlour, pantry, scullery & kitchen plus dairy. Upstairs were 3 bedrooms. It was commented that 'House looks nice but wet' and 'yard bottoms wet'. The Homestead consisted of 'a cow shed for 4, a barn, a stable for 3, a 4 bay open hovel, a Dove House stone & thatched (in bad repair) and water from well'. It was commented that the whole was a 'fair set of buildings'.

Throughout the 20th century, the Council sold off its smallholdings, so that the house and land came into private ownership.

Theft of pigeons from the dovecote

A document of 1895 (QSR1895/4/12/1) tells of "Boys of the ages of nine and ten years respectively, unlawfully and feloniously did steal take and carry away ten live pigeons of the value of five shillings the property of the said William Bland Battams. This Deponent William Bland Battams on his Oath saith as follows:-

I am a Farmer and live at Carlton a week last Thursday about 6pm I was driving to Turvey. I saw 3 boys by the side of Carlton Hall Wood close to which I have a Dovecote. I thought the 3 boys were the Defendants. I have about 400 pigeons in the Dovecote". This document, which is held with the Quarter Sessions records (although the boys were tried at the Petty Sessions), goes on to give a very detailed account of the crime.

What's in a name?

As regards Stayesmore Manor, we know that In 1530, John Stayesmore held it. As regards Fishers, we know the Fisher family held the estate from the 16th century. It seems that at that time, the tendency was to give the manor the family name. It is a tradition that Carlton Hall was called after the Hall family. Carlton Parish Registers show that a William Hall, Gentleman, lived in Carlton in the latter half of the 16th century and several of his children were baptised in St. Mary's Church - not all of them though, which wasn't unusual then. Records tell us the Halls had moved to Carlton from Middlesex. William's father was Christopher Hall late of Edgeworth (former name of Edgware) and had owned land in Stevington (SX186, document of 1570). They appear to have moved back to Middlesex after 1590 as no Hall records are found in the Carlton registers during the next 150 years and a William Hall was buried in Acton, Middlesex in 1607. A son, John Hall, was the main beneficiary of his Will, whilst other children mentioned in the Will matched those names of children baptised and married in Carlton. John would've been born in Carlton c. 1575, the same decade as his sisters. He studied at Queen's College Cambridge from 1589 receiving his BA in 1589 and his MA in 1597 (Cambridge Alumni database). He is then thought to have studied abroad and became a physician, like his father, establishing a practice in Stratford-upon-Avon where his patients numbered many illustrious members of the English aristocracy (Z1521/1/5/12). In 1607 he married William Shakespeare's daughter, Susanna.

The Halls were obviously a well-to-do family and the parish register also contains the burial of a 'Servant of Wm.Hall, Gent.' In the late 16th century, we are aware of only three 'grand' houses in Carlton. Two of them have been accounted for, so it seems highly like that the Halls gave their name to the third. If they didn't, there is really nowhere else they could have lived but Carlton Hall.

Carlton Hall Farm Sign

Carlton Hall Farm sign, October 2019