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Welcome to Bedford Borough Council


Advowson: the right to nominate a vicar or rector to a church

Aisle: an additional area in a church, north or south of the nave and divided from it by an arcade.

Amercement: a monetary penalty - in modern parlance a fine though in Medieval law this meant something different, a fine being statutory and only imposed and assessed by a court of record such as an eyre (see below) whereas an amercement was arbitrarily imposed by courts not of record (such as a county court before these were re-established in 1846).

Ancient Parish: a term used to describe a parish which can be identified in the early middle ages.

Appraise: things causing a death, such as a horse, a tool, or a boat were appraised, that is, their value determined in case they were declare deodand (see below)

Apse: a structure behind a chancel or chapel, semi-circular or polygonal in shape

Arcade: a row of arches, often between a nave and aisle in a church

Archdeaconry:in Bedfordshire this refers to the Archdeaconry of Bedford. A diocese is divided up into a number of archdeaconries and the archdeacon is responsible for the clergy and buildings of his archdeaconry.

Archives: documents or records selected for permanent preservation due to their continuing legal or historic value.

Argillaceous: minerals containing substantial amounts of clay which may have a silver appearance.

Ashlar: large blocks of masonry with square edges and smooth facing.

Assizes:criminal courts introduced in 1166 and held to try serious offences such as murder; they were abolished in 1972 and replaced by Crown Courts.

Attachment: people were attached in order to appear before a court. The person to appear was attached by a number of others, in other words, they undertook to assure that the person appeared at court.

Aumbry: a recess or cupboard in a church used to hold the communion plate.

Ballflower: a type of architectural decoration consisting of a ball with three petals around it looking like a flower; it was commonly used in the early 14th century.

Baptists: The Baptists were a church based on the teachings of 16th century reformer John Calvin. Towards the end of the eighteenth century Andrew Fuller modified some aspects of Baptist teaching around membership and communion. This occasioned a split between his new General Baptists and the original Particular Baptists, now often referred to as Strict Baptists. The two came together in the Baptist Union of Great Britain (formed in 1813) in 1891, although some General Baptists remained outside the Union.

Bay: an internal division of a building separated from other parts by divisions such as columns rather than solid walls. The term can also mean the segments of the exterior of a building divided by windows.

Beerhouse: a premises licensed to sell beer but not spirits. Between 1830 and 1869 beerhouses were not well regulated by local magistrates, resulting in many having a very bad reputation as the haunt of criminals or prostitutes. The last beerhouses were closed or converted into public houses in the 1950s.

Board School: a school run by a School Board

British School: a 19th century school established by a grant from the British and Foreign Schools Society. Schools were free for children to attend and sought to teach a non-sectarian curriculum (though often established with the support of local nonconformists) based on the principles of Joseph Lancaster. They were abolished by the Education Act of 1902.

Bronze Age: a period of prehistory dating from about 2350 to about 700 BC.

Capital: the top part of a column

Chalk: a soft, white sedimentary rock  found mostly in the south of the county in and adjoining the Chiltern Hills. Chalk is composed of the shells of billions of tiny organisms, which died and sank to the bottom of warm seas. It was mined in South Bedfordshire and other areas to provide a component of lime mortar. Totternhoe Stone, used in building is a very hard type of chalk.

Chamfer: a diagonal cut across a square surface at 45 degrees to the other two surfaces.

Chancel: the east end of a church where the altar is placed; often divided from the rest of the church by a screen.

Circuit: a group of Methodist churches in the charge of a single minister

Civil Parish: until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries ancient parishes carried on both ecclesiastical and civil functions. These were gradually split until in 1894 Parish Councils were created to undertake all the most local forms of civil government. The earliest purely civil parish in Bedfordshire is Everton, created in 1810.

Clay: fine particles formed over long periods by the weathering of rocks. Clay soils tend to be alkaline and are wetter and colder than sandy soils as they retain water more easily. Some types of clay are extracted to make bricks, particularly the Oxford Clay south of Bedford around Stewartby, Marston Moretaine and Brogborough

Clerestory: the upper part of the wall of the nave in a church, with windows inserted to give light.

Congregationalists: The original Congregationalist church was founded by Robert Browne in 1592. The name was derived from the fact that each church, or congregation, governed itself rather than forming part of some greater hierarchy. They were also known as independents and used either name to differentiate themselves from other early Protestant nonconformists such as the Baptists.

In 1972 about three quarters of the Congregationalist churches in Britain merged with the Presbyterians to form the United Reformed Church.

Copyhold: Copyhold property was held by the custom of the manor as opposed to freehold where possession was (and is) absolute. By the end of the Middle Ages, however, there was very little difference between copyhold and freehold. The main difference was that copyhold tenants had to pay a notional rent to the Manor and to pay a fine when they sold the property. Copyhold tenure was ended by the Law of Property Act 1925 which forced all copyhold land and property to be enfranchised, that is, turned into freehold.

Corbel: a block of stone jutting out from a wall to support something; in churches they are sometimes carved into heads or other decoration.

Cornbrash: a type of shell filled limestone which crumbles easily to make fertile soil. The name comes from Wiltshire where this particular type of soil is particularly good for growing corn

County Court: a medieval county court was a tribunal held by the sheriff and was not a court of record and proceedings were carried forward to a superior court such as an eyre (see below). Coroners and Knights of teh Shire were elected at county courts. In 1846 the county court was re-established on a statutory basis to try cases of lesser value before a judge.

Cretaceous Period: the period from about 145,500,000 years ago until 65,500,000 years ago. It was preceded by the Jurassic Period and followed by the Paleogene Period. It was the great age of the dinosaurs in which such creatures as Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops lived in what is today North America. At the end of the period the dinosaurs and many other species became extinct, perhaps due to a large meteor hitting the Earth in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.

Decorated: a period of Mediaeval architecture dating from about 1290 to about 1350.

Deodand: a thing declared deodand was forfeited to the Crown and applied to pious uses.

Deraign: to prove, to justify or to refuse to clear a person from an accusation

Diamicton: a sediment with mixed contents such as sand and gravel

Document: a written, drawn, photographic representation of thought that provides information or evidence that serves as a record.

Early English: a period of Mediaeval architecture dating from the 13th century.

Ecclesiastical Parish: until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries ancient parishes carried on both ecclesiastical and civil functions. These were gradually split until in 1894 Parish Councils were created to undertake all the most local forms of civil government. The earliest purely ecclesiastical parish in Bedfordshire is Stanbridge created in 1735.

Englishry: the law of Englishry had been introduced by William I to discourage the natives from killing their Norman overlords and was not abolished until 1341, if the person killed was English no fine was imposed on the Hundred but if it could not be proved that they were English they were assumed to be Norman and the fine, called the murdrum fine, thus imposed. The law neatly served two purposes, raising tax revenue and keeping the English in their place.

Episcopal Visitations: every few years the bishop (the Bishop of Lincoln for Bedfordshire until 1837) visited the county to investigate the state of the clergy and parishes and to discover and correct any problems. Returns were made by each parish fpor each visitation answering questions which might include the number of families in the parish, the number of non Anglicans, provision for education etc.

Exact: people exacted by a court such as the eye (see below) had their money and possessions taken from them, usually before being outlawed. It could also mean to be called to a trial.

Eyre: a circuit, introduced in 1176, travelled by itinerant justices who ran the assizes; the term is used interchangeably with assizes.

Freehold: freehold property is "absolute in possession" that is, wholly owned by the person who has title to it, by contrast with, for example, copyhold property.

French Stones: millstones made of of small block of freshwater quartz, known as burrs, quarried in northern France.

Gault: a stiff, blue clay formed at the bottom of former seas.

Greensand: as its name suggests it is a type of sandstone with a green colour - as witness some of the stones in the tower of Husborne Crawley church

Hide: an Anglo-Saxon unit of land holding - it was the amount of land considered enough to sustain a family and thus varied in size depending on the quality of the soil. It is generally reckoned to be 15 to 30 acres (6 t o12 hectares).

Honour (of Ampthill): this was a grouping of numerous parishes. It was created from former monastic lands to sustain palaces. The Honour of Ampthill covered much of mid-Bedfordshire and beyond, even into Buckinghamshire; Henry VIII intended to build a palace in Ampthill and, although the palace was never built, the Honour remained as an administrative unit for some time, the last vestige being its own Coroner, that office being abolished in 1929

Hue and Cry: this could be raised by constables or by private persons. When a body was discovered the first finder had the duty of raising the hue, or hue and cry, in case felons were nearby to be pursued and caught.

Hundred: an Anglo-Saxon subdivision of a county, also called a Wapentake. It was so called as it was felt to be the amount of land sufficient to sustain a hundred families. Bedfordshire contained the following hundreds: Barford, Biggleswade, Clifton, Flitt, Manshead, Redbornestoke, Stodden, Willey and Wixamtree

Inclosure: In the Middle Ages parishes consisted of one or more large common fields divided into open strips un-enclosed by hedges, fences or walls. One person might own a number of strips in a number of fields in no close proximity to one another. Inclosure was a process by which Commissioners surveyed the common fields, calculated the size of a person's land holding, the varying quality of the land and so on and then allotted them a proportionate amount of land in one or more new, much smaller, fields created out of the common fields and inclosed by a hedge, wall or fence. This gave us our modern landscape of small fields and hedges.

This process might be undertaken by private agreement but, in Bedfordshire, was usualy done by Act of Parliament. The inclosure of each parish was carried out by a separate Act. The first Bedfordshire parish to be inclosed by Act of Parliament was Aspley Guise in 1761 and the last Totternhoe in 1891. Altogether 103 Bedfordshire parishes were inclosed in 95 Acts of Parliament, most in the last quarter of the 18th century and first quarter of the 19th - the average date being 1811.

Iron Age: a period of prehistory dating from about 700 BC to the Roman invasion of 43 AD.

Jurassic Period: the period from 199,600,000 years ago to 145,500,000 years ago. It was preceded by the Triassic Period and followed by the Cretaceous Period. This was the era of the Ichthyosaurs in the seas (examples of which have been found in the clay quarries in Stewartby and Marston Moretaine) and huge plant eating sauropod dinosaurs like Diplodocus on land.

Knight's fee: a knight's fee was land which in the 11th and 12th century was considered sufficient to support a single knight, who in return was expected to provide military service for his lord. Over time these were often subdivided, and the holders of partial knight's fees were expected to pay feudal dues instead of providing military service in person.

Lancet: a thin window with a pointed arch.

Limestone: a sedimentary rock composed of minerals, mostly calcite and aragonite - forms of calcium carbonate. This relatively soft rock was used extensively for building churches and other fine buildings from the Middle Ages onwards

Local Education Authority (LEA): introduced in the Education Act of 1902 to set standards for schools, employ teachers and other school staff and provide ancillary services (such as Education Psychologists). In the case of Bedfordshire schools (excluding those in Luton) this means Bedfordshire County Council.

Lower School: a type of school introduced by Bedfordshire (but not Luton) during the comprehensive reorganisation of schools in the 1970s and replacing the old County Primary Schools; it teaches children from ages 4 to 9.

Marl: a type of lime-rich mudstone

Mesolithic: the Middle Stone Age dating from about 10,000 to about 4000 BC.

Messuage: a house with its outbuildings and surrounding land

Middle School: a type of school introduced by Bedfordshire (but not Luton) during the comprehensive reorganisation of schools in the 1970s; it teaches children from ages 9 to 13.

Moravians: a form on protestant nonconformity originating in Bohemia in the early 15th century with reformer Jan Hus. Unusual in Britain but represented by a number of churches in Bedford and surrounding villages.

Mudstone: a fine-grained sedimentary rock formed, as the name suggests, by the compression of clay and mud by the weight of sediments above it

National School: National Schools were run in accordance with the principles of the National Society which, in an age when education was driven by Christianity, meant it followed the religious precepts of the Church of England.

Nave: the main body of a church, west of the chancel.

Neogene Period: the period from 23,030,000 million years ago to 2,588,000 years ago. It was preceded by the Paleogene Period and succeeded by the Quarternary Period. This period saw the great development of mammals and birds including ,around the end of the period, our earliest hominid ancestors.

Neolithic: the New Stone Age dating from about 4000 to about 2350 BC.

None or Nones: the office of mid-afternoon prayer, held at the ninth hour, or around 3 p.m.

Norman: a period of Mediaeval architecture dating from 1066 to about 1200.

Oolite: a sedimentary rock formed by ooids. These are layered sedimentary grains which have the appearance of tiny eggs (oolite means Eggstone). It is, like chalk, usually composed of calcium carbonate but can be composed of other minerals too.

Palaeolithic: the Old Stone Age dating from the earliest modern humans about 500,000 BC to about 10,000 BC; divided into Lower (older) and Upper (younger) periods. Current thought is that modern humans first entered Britain about 25000 BC

Peak Stones: millstones made of Millstone Grit, quarried in the Derbyshire Peak District.

Perpendicular: a period of late Mediaeval architecture dating from about 1350 to about 1530; so called because of the long, vertical, parallel divisions in windows.

Petty Sessions: courts which tried the more trivial cases, replaced in 1972 by Magistrates Courts.

Pier: a solid support, often square

Piscina: a basin in which communion plate is washed, usually with a whole to let out the water.

Pledges: people who would stand surety that the person concerned would attend court. If the person failed to attend the person pledging them would be fined.

Pleistocene Epoch: the earliest part of the Quarternary Period, lasting from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago - the period of most recent ice ages. the epoch was followed by the Holocene which is today's geological epoch.

Ploughland: an amount of land which could be ploughed by an eight-oxen plough team in a single year.

Prime: the office of early morning, held at the first hour, around 6 a.m.

Primitive Methodists:were founded in 1811 as a breakaway movement from the Methodist church founded by John Wesley in 1740. They practised more involvement in the running of their church by laity than did the Wesleyan Methodists as well as a number of more fundamental beliefs. In 1932 they came together with the Wesleyan Methodists and other strands to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain.

Public House: A premises licensed to sell all alcoholic beverages.

Quarter Sessions: established in 1388 they met, as the name suggests, four times per year to deal with serious offences but not the most serious (those demanding the death penalty or, later, life imprisonment) which were tried by the Assizes.

The Sessions also had the following civil powers: construction and repair of county buildings such as the gaol; supervision of lunatic asylums; licensing of public houses and beerhouses; oversight of the militia; setting the County Rate; repairs of roads and bridges. Quarter Sessions were abolished in 1972 and replaced by Crown Courts.

Quarternary Period: the period from 2,588,000 years ago until the present day. It was preceded by the Neogene Period.

Quitrent: a fixed fee paid by manorial tenants to the Lord of the Manor to escape feudal obligations. Quitrents paid on properties indicate that they are freehold.

Record: a piece of evidence kept in writing or some other permanent form.

Reredos: a structure behind or above an altar, such as a frieze, painting or carved board.

Romano-British: the period of Roman occupation of Britain - 43 to 410 AD.

Rood Screen: a screen dividing the chancel from the nave in a church, called a rood screen because it had a figure of Christ on the cross, or rood, attached to the top of it or suspended above it.

Rubble: pieces of stone of varying shapes and sizes not laid in regular courses.

Sand: particles of silica from weathered rocks. Sandy soils trend to be acidic and both drier and warmer than clay soils because they drain more easily as the particles, and thus the spaces between them, are larger. Sand is extracted from riverine locations in the county for builders' use. In some parts of the county, notably around Leighton Buzzard and Heath and Reach, it is extracted for a wide variety of uses depending on the fineness of the grains. the finest sands are used in gladd making.

Sandstone: a coarse-grained sedimentary rock formed, as the name suggests, by the compression of sand (quartz and feldspar, the most common minerals in the Earth's crust) by the weight of sediments above it.

School Board: introduced in the Education Act of 1870 and designed to secularise education which had hitherto been dominated by Anglican National schools and nonconformist British schools. School Boards were elected by the rate payers of a parish and ran the local school, or schools. Despite the intention they were often either chaired by, or at least had on the Board, the local parson or nonconformist pastor. School Boards were abolished by the Education Act of 1902 which replaced them by the Local Education Authority.

Sedilia: seats for the clergy in a church carved into the walls of the chancel, often on the south side.

Sedimentary Rock: rocks laid down as sediments, which filtered to the bottom of water and solidified into rock by the pressure of other layers gradually falling on top. This type of rock includes chalk, limestone and sandstone.

Selion: an open strip of land or a small field often owned by or rented to a peasant farmer, in the latter case often by religious houses which had been gifted them by benefactors. There would usually be several selions in an acre.

Sext: the office of midday prayer held at the sixth hour, or noon

Strict Baptists: The Baptists were a church based on the teachings of 16th century reformer John Calvin. Towards the end of the eighteenth century Andrew Fuller modified some aspects of Baptist teaching around membership and communion. This occasioned a split between his new General Baptists and the original Particular Baptists, now often referred to as Strict Baptists. The two came together in the Baptist Union of Great Britain (formed in 1813) in 1891, although some General Baptists remained outside the Union.

Terce or Tierce: the office of mid-morning prayer, held at the third hour, around 9 a.m.

Thegn (or Thane): a retainer or official, a thegn would be a position not dissimilar in status to a Norman knight or a lesser Baron; the next step up the ladder was to become an Earl.

Till: an unsorted sediment deposited by glaciers, particularly at the end of the last Ice Age about 11,500 years ago. It will include clay and sand, limestone and sandstone from fine particles to large boulders.

Tithing: a group of ten households.

Tracery: ribs of stone used to separate glass in windows or used as decoration in blank arches or vaults

Transept: projecting north and south aisles sticking out from the main body of a church to form a cross.

Tympanum: a space between the door and the arch above it, often decorated in early mediaeval churches with carved figures

Upper School: a type of school introduced by Bedfordshire (but not Luton) during the comprehensive reorganisation of schools in the 1970s; it teaches children from ages 13 to 19.

Vespers: the office of evening prayer, held at dusk, or "the lighting of the lamps"

Virgate: a quarter of a hide.

Voluntary Aided: voluntary aided status means that the LEA funds the school but the governing body, rather than the LEA itself, runs the school.

Voluntary Controlled: voluntary controlled status means that the buildings are owned by the diocese but the LEA employs the staff and has a number of representatives on the Board of Governors.

Waive: a woman was waived when she was removed from protection of the law.

Weatherboarding: overlapping horizontal boards covering a timber-framed wall

Wesleyan Methodist: Methodism was founded in 1740 by John Wesley. Over the years various differing strands of Methodism broke away from the main church, which came to be called the Wesleyan Methodist Church. In 1932 a number of the strands, including the Wesleyans, reunited to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain.