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The Harvey Family

Ickwell Bury September 2007
Ickwell Bury September 2007

The Harvey family came to Bedfordshire in the 17th century, possibly from Wiltshire, although Wiltshire Archives Service has no record of the family until the end of that century. The family seemed to have an interest in rope mills in Godmanchester [Huntingdonshire] from letters addressed to Robert Harvey there between 1652 and 1661. His eldest son was born in Ipswich [Suffolk] and at the time of his death Robert lived at Quainton [Buckinghamshire].

Robert Harvey's son John was a lawyer at InnerTemple and bought the Manor of Ickwell in 1680 from Robert Barnardiston and his son George for £3,390 [HY9-21] and set about building Ickwell Bury. He died in 1692 leaving his heir, John, and six other children. John Harvey II enlarged the Ickwell estate by ten separate purchases including Northill College Manor, Northill Rectory (not the building but the advowson of the living of Northill) and tithes and two large holdings of 83 and 66 acres respectively. His son, another John, was born in 1703 and added two small properties to the estate before his death, childless, in 1771.

John Harvey III's heir was his nephew, yet another John, son of his brother James who lived at Old Warden. He added a property known as Ladyfields to the estate, just before his death in 1793. His son, not surprisingly called John, succeeded him. John Harvey V died suddenly at Rottingdean [Sussex] in 1819 with his son, inevitably called John, only four years old. A letter to Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service in 1969 notes that a memorial called Harvey's Cross stood between Swanborough and Seaford "in a very desolate part of the Downs". The plaque was lost during the Second World War thanks to military use of the area and by 1969 only the base of the cross remained. The plaque noted Harvey's sudden death on that spot on 20th June 1819. The writer recounted the experience of a neighbour who rode her horse near the cross and saw a figure in a tricorn hat, also mounted on a horse, at which point her horse refused to go any further. The local story was that Harvey was killed whilst hunting and haunted the spot.

The remains of the Harvey Cross in February 1970 [CRT180/83]
The remains of Harvey Cross in February 1970 [CRT180/83]

During the minority of John Harvey VI his brothers-in-law John Gibbard and William Astell administered the Ickwell Estate. John Harvey VI died in 1879 and added a number of properties to the Ickwell Estate, including Sweetbriar and Highlands Farms and a farm at Thorncote Green. He bought the estate of the Fish Palmer family in 1842. Their connection with Ickwell began with the marriage of William Fish of Southill with Margaret Barnardiston in 1574. Their land included a cottage and smith's shop on Ickwell Green, occupied by Edward Aspital in 1793 which had formerly been the home of Thomas Tompion. At the beginning of the 18th century the Fish family, now known as the Fish Palmers, began to get heavily into debt. The struggled on for a century before selling out to John Harvey VI.

The Harvey family also had estates at Hinxworth [Hertfordshire], Great Stukely [Huntingdonshire], Finningley [Nottinghamshire], Blackstone, Stockwell and Aukley [Yorkshire], Wroote [Lincolnshire], West Cole Park, near Malmesbury [Wiltshire] as well as in Middlesex and the City of London. A rough calculation from surviving deeds shows that the following sums were spent on building up the Bedfordshire estate:

  • £16,000 between 1680 and 1700;
  • £5,000 in the 18th century;
  • £68,000 in the 19th century.

The estate was sold in 1924 [AD1147/16] by John Harvey VII, who died three years later.