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Stanfordbury Manor

The arms of the Barony of Bedford
The arms of the Barony of Bedford

Volume III of The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire, published in 1912, gives details of all manors in the parish of Southill. Stanfordbury Manor is traced back to a grant to Warden Abbey which was confirmed by Richard I (1189-1199) in 1198. By 1257 the abbey had four and a half hides of land in Stanford, attached to the Barony of Bedford, suggesting that the land had its origin in one of the two holdings (one hide and half a virgate and one hide respectively) held by Hugh de Beauchamp, later Baron of Bedford, in 1086 as recorded by Domesday Book.

The arms of Warden Abbey
The arms of Warden Abbey

Warden Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII (1509-1547) in 1537. In 1543 the Crown granted Stanfordbury to Edward Gostwick and Dorothy, his wife. In 1564 Gostwick's son William conveyed the manor to Oliver, Lord Saint John of Bletsoe.

The Saint John family coat of arms
The Saint John family arms

Oliver Saint John, 1st Earl Bolingbroke was killed fighting for Parliament at the Battle of Edgehill, the first major battle of the First Civil war, in 1642. The Victoria County History states that Stanfordbury Manor followed the same lineage as Southill Manor, which was in the hands of the Saint John family.

At some point the manor passed from the Saint John family to the Ongley family of Old Warden because in 1792 Robert, 2nd Baron Onlgey held it. the greater part of the Ongley family lands in Southill were exchanged with the Whitbread family for lands in Old Warden in the early 19th century. The Victoria County History states that in 1912 Stanfordbury Manor was owned by the Whitbread family. This statement conflicts with its earlier statement that Stanfordbury followed the same lineage as Southill Manor because the Ongleys retained Southill Manor and Robert, 3rd Baron Ongley sold it to Joseph Shuttleworth of Old Warden between 1869 and 1873. The Shuttleworth family held the manor into the 20th century. A succession of Law of Property Acts in the 1920s abolished manorial fines and incidents as well as copyhold land tenure, thus abolishing manors in practically all but name.