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Northill College

Northill church from south east July 2007
Northill church from south east July 2007

Northill College was founded by Sir John Trailly and his son Reynold on 8th December 1404. This college had nothing to do with learning. It was a self-governing group of priests, under a Master, which existed to say masses for the dead. Colleges were mostly created in the 14th and 15th centuries

In 1956 in Volume 36 published by Bedfordshire Historical Record Society Peter Hull quoted from the Chantry Certificate under Act I of King Edward VI [1547-1553] which stated that the college had a master, four fellows and two choristers. The master was paid £7/11/8 per annum and each fellow was paid £3/6/8 per annum [HY91]. The fellows could elect their own master but could not stand for the office themselves.

The college used Northill church and, indeed, was granted the advowson of the church by Trailly as part of its income. In Volume 2 published in 1914 by Bedfordshire Historical Records Society, C. Gore Chambers translated a rental and survey of Northill College taken close to the time of its dissolution, held in the National Archives. The document showed that the college was a small self-contained community. It comprised a hall, parlour, four chambers, called The Master Chambers and a library with a chapel either beneath it or within it. There was also a buttery, four more chambers, one for each fellow, four chambers "outside the door of the aforesaid Hall", a malt house, kiln house, two stables, a hay house, three barns and five chambers for storing grain and a granary for storing malt. "All these buildings are situated on the South side within the precinct of the aforesaid College". On the north side stood a kitchen (a separate building in those days due to the risk of fire) with a brewery and bakehouse. On the east side was a small building for geese and chicken and another for fowls. "In the same part" lay an old barn "in the outer yard". The rest of the site comprised a orchard of about an acre, containing a dovecote and a small well, and three ponds. Sadly the document does not say where these buildings lay in relation to the church.

A horse mill, let to William Wood, also lay within the site of the college. The college's land, later the basis of the secular Manor of Northill College, is listed as follows:

  • Pear-tree Close of 1 acre, 3 roods and worth 6/8 per annum;
  • Cow Close of 8 acres, ½ a rood and worth 13/6½ per annum;
  • Hall Orchard of 4 acres and worth 4/- per annum;
  • Barre Close of 6 acres, 1 rood and worth 16/8 per annum;
  • Four pightles [small enclosures] of land together called Sheepcote Pightle of 3 acres, and worth 10/- per annum;
  • Morres Close of 4 acres, 3 roods and worth 11/1 per annum;
  • Bean Close of 8 acres and worth 12/- per annum;
  • Horse Close of 5 acres, 3 roods and worth 9/7 per annum;
  • Cook Orchard "near the site of the college on the south" of 1 acre, 1 rood and worth 9/7 per annum;
  • A close adjacent to the south of Cook Close of 2 acres and worth 2/8 per annum;
  • A piece of land in the common meadow called Longlake of 2 acres ½ a rood and worth 5/8 per annum;
  • A piece of land in the common meadow called Milnehome of 6 acres and worth 16/- per annum;
  • A piece of land in the common meadow called Calcote Mede of 3 acres and worth 6/- per annum;
  • Seven pieces of meadow at Wydefane Meade at Beeston of 1 acre, 3 roods and worth 4/8 per annum;
  • Drewes Wood of 8 acres, formerly belonging to Warden Abbey and held on a forty year lease from The Crown;
  • Stacyes Grove of 9 acres;
  • Bean Grove of 1 acre, ½ a rood;
  • Morres Close hedgerow of 3 roods;
  • A small grove, or grovett, "on the site of Stacie's House now ruined and totally wasted" of 1½ roods;
  • Sheepcotes Grove of 1 acre "many thorns and brambles growing there";
  • A hedgerow between Carreols and Stacy's Wood of 1 acre, 3 roods;
  • A hedgerow within Cow Close in Beeston of 1½ roods;
  • A parcel of thirty elm trees in a clump in Calcote Common field and the stream called Small Brook;
  • 31 acres and ½ rood of arable land in Beeston Field and worth 23/5 per annum;
  • 22½ acres of arable in Calcotte Fields and worth 17/9¾ per annum.

This amounted to a total of 133 acres 3 roods.

The college continued until it was dissolved in 1547, as part of the attack on the religious houses of England following Henry VIII's break with Rome. The college's legacy is a considerable amount of 15th century work in the church, including the upper part of the tower, windows in the nave and, perhaps, the whole of the chancel.