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The Manor of Chawston

Volume III of The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire, published in 1912, gives the history of Chawston Manor as far as it was known at the time. The work states that Chawston Manor was an amalgamation of the holdings of both William Speke or Espec and Eudo the Steward, alias Eudo, son of Hubert who held land in Chawston at the time of Domesday Book in 1086.

By the middle of the 13th century William de Roos was overlord of Speke's former holding and Richard de Beauchamp of the much smaller holding of Eudo. In 1290 a dual overlordship of the de Roos and de Beauchamp families is mentioned but by 1302 only the de Roos family are given as overlords. The overlordship is last mentioned in 1428.

In the middle of the 13th century our men are named as tenants of the two overlords in Chawston. Richard de Beauchamp and then Ralf Ridel were later succeeded by John de Kirkeby, Bishop of Ely in 1270, the latter dying in 1290 when his property passed to his brother William de Kirkeby who died in 1302, holding the Manor of Chawston which was called by this name for the first time.

William was succeeded by his four sisters of which Mabel Grymbaud inherited 42 acres in Chawston which had formed part of the manor [see below] but William's widow Christine held Chawston Manor and, in 1316, conveyed it to Oliver Calverly and Mary, his wife. Calverly still held the manor in 1330 but by 1343 Thomas Swathyng and Margaret, his wife, were in possession. In 1373 John Corner of Norfolk and Anora his wife conveyed the manor to John Fage. By 1414 the manor was held by Roger or Robert Hunt, who was Member of Parliament for Bedfordshire in that year. He was succeeded by his son Roger who was Speaker of the House of Commons in 1433, becoming a Baron of the Exchequer in 1438.

The Hunt family coat of arms
The Hunt family coat of arms

Chawston Manor remained in the hands of the Hunt family until the early 18th century. Thomas Hunt lost two thirds of the manor to William Bell in 1636 because Hunt was a Roman Catholic. This was regained by another Thomas Hunt in 1653. The last Hunt to hold the manor was Mary Hunt, spinster who was recorded as holding it in 1705. A short while later the manor was in the hands of the Metcalfe family. By 1854 Charles James Metcalfe had conveyed Chawston Manor to Rev. Robert Delap of Monellan [Ireland] whose son James Bogle Delap held it into the 20th century. A succession of Law of Property Acts in the 1920s abolished manorial fines and incidents as well as copyhold land tenure, thus abolishing manors in practically all but name.

Mabel Grymbaud's forty acres of arable and two acres of meadow received as dower in 1302 passed down her family until 1507 when it was reunited with Chawston manor when her seven times great grandson William Lytton, with others, transferred it to Roger Hunt.

The building Chawston Manor stands inside a moat. The current building dates from the 17th century but seems to lie on earlier foundations. Altogether it seems reasonable to assume that the current house stands on the site of the medieval seat of the Manor of Chawston.