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The Manor of Whipsnade

Volume III of The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire was published in 1912 and gives full descriptions of all the manors in the county. Whipsnade is not mentioned in Domesday Book of 1086 and so must have been part of another parish at that date, possibly Eaton Bray, though in later years until 1897 part of Whipsnade was in the Bedfordshire Hundred of Manshead and part in the Hertfordshire Hundred on Dacorum.

William de Cantlowe held Whipsnade as part of Eaton Bray and this area of the parish was always held with the Manor of Eaton Bray. In 1228 Adam de Whipsnade conveyed land to the parson of the church. The de Whipsnade family continues to be mentioned into the 14th century when the Manor of Whipsnade is first recorded. Philip de Whipsnade died in the middle of the century and left four daughters as co-heirs. Margery married Richard de Raven and in 1361 he acquired Margery's sister Christina de Walton's quarter of the manor. He acquired the third sister, Joan's share in 1369. The fourth sister was Alice and, presumably, de Raven acquired her share too at some point.

By 1412 the Manor of Whipsnade was in the possession of John Tettesworth who conveyed his right to John Haldenby and Margery, his wife in that year. In 1453 Haldenby alienated the manor to William Cantlowe. By 1517, when held by John Cantlowe the manor was valued at £10 per annum and was described as held from Edmund Bray as overlord as part of his Manor of Eaton Bray.

By 1532 the manor was held by Sir William Hawte and Margaret, his wife, of the King as overlord instead of the Bray family. The manor was held in the right of Margaret, who was the daughter of Oliver Wood and was widow of Walter Mantell. After Hawte's death she married Sir James Hales and settled the manor on her two sons Walter and Thomas Mantell in 1551. Walter was convicted of high treason in 1554 after the failure of Thomas Wyatt's rebellion against Mary I (1553-1558) and so James and Margaret Hales sold the manor to William Dobson.

William Dobson died in 1562 leaving the manor to his brother Miles who left two-thirds of the profits of the manor to his daughter Frances and younger son John during the minority of his eldest son William. In 1598 William conveyed the manor to Gamaliel Cruys to sold it to Robert Vaux in 1606 for £1,500. At this date the manor house was described as containing sixteen rooms, twenty one bays of barns and stables "with a fair brick dovehouse, all tiled". The demesne lands included three orchards covering six acres, a piece of land called The Backside of four acres, the Inner and Outer Clapps of eleven acres, Studham Field of twenty three acres and other lands totalling 268 acres. The manor also included common rights for four sheep and sixty hogs in Dedmansey Wood and Buckswood in a "mast year", that is a year when the trees produced an unusually large amount of acorns. The total annual value of the manor was £100 and the value of the timber £300.

The Lords of the Manor continued to be the Vaux family for the next two centuries. In 1800 the manor was sold by Thomas Vaux to Luton banker Leonard Hampson. During the century the manor passed to the Earls Brownlow who were still the owners in 1912. A succession of Law of Property Acts in the 1920s extinguished all manorial incidents, courts and copyhold tenure of land. This effectively abolished manors in all but name.