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The Manor of Dame Ellensbury Houghton Conquest

Volume III of the Victoria County History for Bedfordshire was published in 1912 and contains details of the manors of Houghton Conquest. The Manor of Dame Ellensbury was probably in the hands of the Malherbe family in the early 13th century. It remained in the family until the death of John Malherbe in the late 13th century, at which point it was inherited by his daughter, wife of Richard de Kersey.

Saint Amand family arms

By 1346 the manor was recorded as being held by John de Lymbotseye and Eleanor Adingrave. Eleanor (presumably origin of the name Dame Ellensbury) may have married Almaric de Saint Amand as by 1372 the manor was in his possession. The Saint Amands held the manor into the 15th century though Eleanor Saint Amand (not the same woman as Eleanor Adingrave) suffered depredations of her estates by a violent neighbour, Reginald de Grey of Silsoe.

By 1428 John Cornwall was Lord of the Manor. He placed it in the hands of trustees, including Nicholas Assheton and, at his death in 1443, Ralph, 3rd Baron Cromwell and Henry Holland, later 3rd Duke of Exeter whose stepmother had married Cornwall. The manor was put in the hands of Thomas Bourchier. The guess is made by the writer of the article in the Victoria County History, that the successful candidate was the duke, whose estates were forfeit in 1461 as he had supported Henry VI (1422-1461 and 1470-1471) against Edward IV (1461-1470 and 1471-1483).

 De Grey
de Grey family arms

Following his victory at the Battle of Northampton Edward IV granted the manor to Richard de Grey of Wrest, later created 1st Earl of Kent. The Greys held the manor until 1524 when it passed into the hands of the Crown. Henry VIII (1509-1547) granted the manor to Sir William Gascoigne of Cardington. In 1542 Gascoigne yielded the manor to the Crown in exchange for Bushmead Priory and Dame Ellensbury was annexed to the Honour of Ampthill.

Conquest family arms

The manor remained in the Crown’s possession until 1628 when Charles I (1625-1649) granted it to Edward Ditchfield, John Highlord and others as trustees for the Corporation of London. Two years later the corporation alienated the manor to Sir Francis Clerke whose brother, Lewis Conquest, had it nine years later. In 1640 Conquest alienated the manor to Henry Pigott, whose estates were seized by parliament in 1646 as he had sided with the King in the civil war (1642-1646), though the manor was restored to him and in 1665 he alienated it to Robert Bruce, 1st Earl of Ailesbury of Houghton House.

Bruce family arms

The Bruce family held the manor until 1738 when it was sold to the Duke of Bedford and the dukes held it into the 20th century. A succession of law of Property Acts in the 1920s effectively abolished manors in all but name