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Nether Shelton Manor

When Domesday Book was compiled in 1086 Shelton was divided into four separate land holdings. The largest of these was held by Albert of Lorraine and was linked to his manor of Wootton. This later became known as the manor of Wootton Shelton. It seems likely that the origins of the manor of Nether Shelton would have been on one or more of the remaining Domesday estates.  

Records held by Bedfordshire Archives provide more detailed information about the descent of Nether Shelton than the account given in the Victoria County History. These are mainly held as part of the collection for solicitors Garrard & Allen [reference GA] and the Vorley collection [reference V434-474] and have been summarised in CRT130Mar3. The first evidence for this manor is a rental dating from 1500. By 1550 the manor was owned by Sir Thomas Cheyney, knight and Dame Anne, his wife. Generally it would seem that the lords of this manor lived elsewhere and leased the house and land to a tenant farmer. The Cheyneys, for instance, when in Bedfordshire lived at Toddington, and Thomas’s widow Anne leased the manor in 1559 to a Marston yeoman, John Odell for 21 years.  

In 1563 the manor was sold to William Clarke of Benington, Hertfordshire, who three years later sold the manor to William Bourne. In 1564 a deed of common recovery listed the property of the manor of Shelton as being three messuages, one garden, one dovecote, 100 acres of land, 10 acres of meadow, 40 acres of pasture, 4 acres of wood, and 5 shillings rent in Marston Moretaine and Wootton. Manorial records show that between 1583 and 1585 the manorial court was being held by William Bourne’s widow, Joan. In 1594 John Bourne conveyed the manor to John Mansell of Haversham (Buckinghamshire). Sometime after this the manor came into the hands of the Stoughton family. In 1605 the will of John Stoughton left annuities to his nephews and widow chargeable to the manors of Wootton and Shelton. The manor came into the hands of Gilbert Stoughton, who is mentioned in a mortgage deed of 1623. It appears from this deed that the original mortgage was with Robert Barber, alias Grigg, who is recorded as the owner of the manor by the Victoria County History.  

The Stoughtons held the manor of Nether Shelton until the death of George Stoughton in 1699, after which the manor, including a "mansion or manor house" was sold to William Pryor of Clifton Reynes (Buckinghamshire); over the next 32 years prior purchased additional land in the parish to add to his estate. In 1746 Pryor’s grandson, another Wiliam sold the estate to Robert Crichton of Newport Pagnall (Buckinghamshire) for £3350. When Crichton died in 1758 the manor was used to provide for his daughter, Jane Buchanan, and in 1782 it was put up for sale to provide funds for a £2400 legacy left by Robert Crichton to her children. One of her three children, Dame Jane Riddell, a widow living at Sundon, bought the manor for herself, partly funded by her share of the legacy. A deed of common recovery dated 1768 lists the property belonging to the manor, which had increased slightly since 1564 and now included three messuages, one dovehouse, three gardens, 180 acres of land, 60 acres of meadow, 80 acres of pasture, 10 acres of wood, 100 acres of furze and heath, 10 acres of marsh, 10 acres covered with water, and 10 shillings rent.  

In 1793 Dame Jane Riddell sold the manor of Nether Shelton to John Foster of Tong in Birstal (Yorkshire) for £5200. The deeds recording this transaction give a detailed description of the transferred land, which can be seen in the catalogue entry [reference V470-471]. Foster was a noted agriculturist and lived at Brickhill House in Bedford. He died in 1831 and appears to have left the Shelton estate to his eldest daughter Margaret, the wife of Rev. Maurice Farrell, rector of Woughton in Buckinghamshire. Rev. Farrell is named as the owner of the house on a map and valuation of 1838 and on the tithe map and text of 1842. The farm homestead was leased, together with about 255 acres, including the field across the road from the house called Grinsdale (9 acres) to a tenant farmer, Thomas Bennett. A list of Bedfordshire landowners in 1863 records Rev Farrell as owner of the estate. 

The deeds mention various tenants of Nether Shelton manor, including John Odell in 1559, Thomas Cowley early in the 17th century and Robert Pedder in 1699. In 1793 the manor was occupied by William Busby on a lease at a rent of £210 per annum, and in 1842 to Thomas Be.  

Manorial records for Nether Shelton survive only from the 16th century and with the exception of ministers’ accounts for 1541-1547 which are at the National Archives are all held by Bedfordshire Archives. These include: 

  • GA104-106: Rentals 1500-1502   

  • GA96-97: Draft court rolls 1550 & 1583 

  • GA102-103: Lists of freeholders and suitors 1562 

  • GA100-101: Estreat rolls 1583-1585 

  • AD1986: Partial court roll 1525-1575 

  • GA98-99: Court orders 1585 & 1601 

  • T48/38: Court roll 1592