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Heath and Reach Manor

Grange Water Mill June 2008
Grange Water Mill June 2008


Heath & Reach is not mentioned directly in the Domesday Book of 1086, but a settlement in the far west of the modern civil parish, up against the county boundary with Buckinghamshire is mentioned - Nares Gladley, then simply called Gladelai. The manor there was held by Jocelyn the Breton directly from King William I. The manor contained two and a half hides of land, a mill valued at sixteen shillings and woodland for a hundred pigs.

Before the Norman Conquest of 1066 the land had been held by one Wigot, King Edward the Confessor's huntsman and it had been worth forty shillings. By the time of Domesday Book the value had fallen to twenty shillings.

 River Ouzel on the Heath and Reach-Linslade border November 2008
The River Ouzel on the Heath and Reach-Linslade border November 2008

Gladley Manor

Jocelyn le Breton's family continued as tenants of the manor after Domesday. His son Hugh divided the manor into two, however, some time between 1131 and 1141. The larger, northern, part was given to Dunstable Priory whilst the smaller, southern section, including the mill remained in the family. Hugh's son Walter left only a daughter as his heir, Amabilla, whose daughter and heiress married Geoffrey de Lucy as her third husband. Part of this much shrunk manor seems to have become part of the Royal Manor of Leighton around the middle of the 12th century as the mill was mentioned as having been part of that manor before the manor was given to the Abbey of Fontevrault in France by King Henry II in 1164.

The whole history of this tiny manor is very difficult to construct from the few surviving medieval sources and so what follows must be regarded as speculative. The Lucy family continued to hold what remained of the manor until 1460 when Sir William Lucy (who was also tenant of Linslade Manor) died without issue.

Gladley Manor was inherited by Walter Hopton and Elizabeth, wife of Roger Corbet, the children of Sir William's sister Eleanor. Walter died within six months of inheriting and his half share duly went to his sister Elizabeth. On Elizabeth's death in 1498 (then widow of Sir William Stanley) her son Robert Corbet inherited. He also inherited Linslade Manor. He died in 1513 by which time the manor comprised three dwellings, a hundred acres of land, ten acres of meadow and 40 acres of pasture. Clearly this came nowhere near encompassing the whole of the modern parish of Heath & Reach. Given the name of the manor it seems reasonable to assume that it included the modern Nares Gladley and parts of Rushmere, the rest of Heath & Reach forming part of the Manor of Leighton alias Grovebury.

woodland off Old Linslade Road at Nares Gladley May 2008
Woodland off Old Linslade Road at Nares Gladley May 2008

Robert Corbet's great-grandson Robert died without a male heir, his heirs being his daughters Elizabeth, wife of Sir Henry Wallop and Anne, wife of Adolphus Carey. Anne died without issue in 1602 and her half share of the manor passed to her sister. She was also heiress of her uncle Sir Richard Corbet, who died in 1606. The manor stayed in the Wallop family until sold in 1652 to Stephen and William Sedgwick. They must have sold it to the Duncombe family as William Duncombe of Battlesden is known to have held it in 1697, when it was known as The Manor of Nares alias Nares Gladley.

Heath and Reach Manor

Duncombe sold the manor to Edward Stare in 1704 and in 1754 William Stare alienated it to John Mortimer. At some point in the 19th century it was conveyed to the Lord of the Manor of Leighton alias Grovebury and by the beginning of the 20th century was held by J.T.Mills under the name of The Manor of Heath & Reach. In the early 1920s a succession of laws of property acts abolished copyhold tenure leaving the Lord of the Manor nothing but an empty title.

Grange Mill Stream May 2008
Grange Mill Stream May 2008