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The Parish of Upper Gravenhurst in General

Upper Gravenhurst seen from Lower Gravenhurst church March 2014
Upper Gravenhurst seen from Lower Gravenhurst church March 2014


Most of the parish stands on a solid, or underlying, geology of Gault Formation, a mudstone deposited between 99 and 112 million years ago in the warm, shallow seas of the Cretaceous Period. Much of the soil is a diamicton called Lowestoft Formation, laid down in Ice Age conditions over the last two million years. In the south-west the solid geology is a chalk classified as West Melbury Marly Chalk Formation, deposited between 94 and 99 million years ago. Along the River Hit the soil is alluvium, a mixture of sand, gravel, clay and silt washed downstream, further back from the Hit is a band of head - another mixture of the same constituents formed on Ice Age slopes.

The church stands 248 feet above sea-level. The junction of the High Street with Shillington Road is 236 feet. Cainhoe Farm is 256 feet above sea-level.

 Upper Gravenhurst sign March 2014


The Place Names of Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire by A Mawer and Frank M Stenton was published in 1926 but is still the most scholarly study of the county’s place names and their origins. Gravenhurst may come from the Old English “grāfan-hyrst” meaning “wooded hill of the grove or thicket”. The name has had a number of different forms over the years:

  • Crauenhest: 1086;
  • Gravenherst: 1206-1504;
  • Graveherst: 1213-1227;
  • Gravenhurst: 1223 to date;
  • Gravehurst: 1225-1302;
  • Grauenhirst: 1227;
  • Grauehirst: 1227-1260;
  • Grauenhirste: 1232-1266;
  • Grauenhyrste: 1232-1266;
  • Grafhurst: 1240;
  • Grauynherst: 1287;
  • Cravenhurst: 1377;
  • Grovenhurst: 1428.

The Village Hall February 2016
The Village Hall February 2016

Administrative History

Upper Gravenhurst was a chapelry in the ancient parish of Shillington from the 14th century until the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) during which it became a separate parish. It lies in the Flitt Hundred. A detached part of Upper Gravenhurst lay south of Lower Gravenhurst and included Ion Farm. The civil parish was abolished in 1888 and combined with Lower Gravenhurst to form the new civil parish of Gravenhurst. The ecclesiastical parish was abolished in 1972 to create Upper with Lower Gravenhurst. The civil parish is bounded by: Campton and Chicksands to the north; Meppershall to the north-east; Shillington to the east with the former parish of Higham Gobion to the south; Silsoe to the west and Clophill to the north-west.

11 to 15 Campton Road February 2016
11 to 15 Campton Road February 2016


In 1086 both Upper and Lower Gravenhurst were held, as one manor which  contained four villagers, three smallholders and four slaves - a total of eleven. As this number represents the heads of household, to get an idea of the total population it is probably necessary to multiply this figure by a factor of at least four suggesting a total population of somewhere around forty four. Censuses have been held each year in Britain since 1801, with the exception of 1941 when World War Two made it impracticable. The figures before 1891 are for Upper Gravenhurst and those for 1891 onwards for the civil parish of Gravenhurst.

  • 1801: 201;
  • 1811: 244;
  • 1821: 291;
  • 1831: 318;
  • 1841: 373;
  • 1851: 357;
  • 1861: 337;
  • 1871: 401;
  • 1881: 354;
  • 1891: 416;
  • 1901: 364;
  • 1911: 377;
  • 1921: 351;
  • 1931: 345;
  • 1951: 387;
  • 1961: 474;
  • 1971: 541;
  • 1981: 537;
  • 1991: 504;
  • 2001: 579;
  • 2011: 595.