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Home > Community and living > Archives and records service > Community archives > Bedford > Later History of Cauldwell Priory Bedford

Later History of Cauldwell Priory Bedford

Cauldwell Priory in 1857 - note the Bedford to Bletchley Railway line, Britannia Road and Kempston Road
Cauldwell Priory in 1857 - note the Bedford to Bletchley Railway line, Britannia Road and Kempston Road

In 1537, the year after Cauldwell Priory| was dissolved, the Crown leased to William Gostwike of Willington “the house and scite of the late priory of Caldwelle in Bedfordshire by authority of parliament suppressed and dissolved” along with “all messuages, houses, buildings, barn, granges, dove houses, orchards, gardens, land and soil within the scite, Walke and precincte of the same [X26/1].The surrounding lands, once belonging to the priory, were itemised in the same document as:

  • Mother Felde [Field] of 34 acres;
  • Bedhoole containing 29½ acres;
  • Roiver containing 12 acres;
  • Moswelle Felde containing 25½ acres;
  • Land lying “next and near the wall of the prioury” containing 23 acres;
  • Barkes diche containing 47 acres;
  • Land in Kempston Field containing 14½ acres;
  • Arable land, leys and pasture “lying beyond Conyngree” containing 18 acres;
  • Hamme Mead containing 8 acres;
  • West Croft and Long Croft containing 18 acres;
  • Pilcroft Close containing 11 acres;
  • Water Close containing  11 acres;
  • Conyngree containing 12 acres;
  • Barne yarde containing 1½ acres;
  • Great Ramselle and Little Ramselle containing 14 acres;
  • Clay Crofte containing 12 acres;
  • Meghell Close containing 14 acres;
  • Stockinge Close, Kempston;
  • More Close, Kempston;
  • An acre of arable land in Willington

A total in excess of 306 acres. The rent was £14/9/4 per annum. Nine years later the lease was given to Thomas Leigh of London at the same rent. Then in 1563 the Crown granted the reversion of the former priory and its lands to Thomas Leigh and Anne, his wife, for £404 [X26/1]. A will of Amy Schooly of 1604 [ABP/R26 f.14] shows that she was living in the mansion on the site of Cauldwell Priory as she devised to her son John "all the wainscote, glasse windowes, portals, furnaces, brewing vessels, shelves, dressers and doores with the lockes, keyes, boltes and latches to them belonging nowe used in my mansion howse of Cawdwell and all the maungers, rackes and such lyke necessaries belonging to the barnes and stables in Cawdwell aforesaid". The fact that she merely lived there indicates that she was a daughter or other female relative of Thomas and Anne Leigh and that the house itself had been devised elsewhere, probably to her son John, either by Thomas and Anne, or their successors. It seems likely that the mansion house was built on the site of the priory and its church and was built from the stone. It was said that some of this stone came from the demolished Bedford Castle|, which, itself, was said to have used stone from parts of the old Saint Paul's church, demolished by Fawkes de Breauté in the early 13th century

In 1620 John Leigh, presumably Amy Schoolys' son, devised "the scite of the late priorye or monasterye of Caldwell" and its lands to his wife, Anne, for her life, then to their son Lewys Leigh, with several annuities secured on the premises [X26/2]. Lewys did not live long. In 1629 Henry Atkins of London "doctor of phisicke and one of His Majesty's phisitions in ordinary" sold the former priory and its lands in Bedford, Elstow, Wootton, Cardington and Kempston to Peter Paradine of London, Lewis Conquest of Houghton Conquest and William Newton of Biddenham for £1,040 [X26/3]. These lands were described as "late beinge the inheritance of Lewis Leighe late of Caldwell, esquire, deceased". Sadly, it is not clear whether Atkins was acting as Leigh's executor or whether Leigh had left him the estate, the former is more likely as Leigh's wife Lucy and brother Goddard Leigh were still living.

Two years later, in 1631, Paradine, Conquest and Newton sold the priory and its lands to Onslow Winch of Everton [X26/4]. Interestingly the former priory is now described as a manor, as it is in later deeds. It is not completely clear whether it really was a manor or whether the phrase was simply a stock phrase used in these circumstances as the priory had its own dedicated land before the dissolution in the same way a manor did. There are no other records describing a Cauldwell Priory Manor but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence! This 1631 deed also mentions four cottages in Cauldwell Street as belonging to the estate.

By 1640 a Humphrey Newton was the estate's owner [X26/7]. In 1631 a William Newton was, of course, one of the parties selling the estate to Onslow Winch. Presumably at some point between 1631 and 1640 Winch sold the estate to Newton. The next deed is a mortgage of 1644 when Humphrey Newton the elder and his son Humphrey Newton the younger mortgaged the "capital messuage and manor" of Cauldwell to Walter Gray and William Rushton [X26/6]. In the recitals Sir William Boteler, Onslow Winch, Thomas Rolt, William Doughty and Thomas Doughty are described as the trustees of the two Humphrey Newtons. In 1643 the advowson and parsonage of Kempston was part of the Cauldwell Priory estate [X26/7]. Gray and Rushton released the former priory and its estate to Sir William Boteler in 1649 [X26/8].

By 1676 the former priory and its estate was sold by a John Barbor and his son, Gabriel to Brooke Bridges of Inner Temple in London [X26/9]. Again there are clearly missing deeds between this and the ownership of Humphrey Newton. In 1696 Bridges mortgaged the estate to William Boteler and four years later sold the mortgaged estate to John Sindry, citizen and haberdasher of London for £2,000 [X26/10]. Sindry still owned the estate in 1704 when it was mortgaged to John Borrett of InnerTemple [X26/11-12].

A question frequently asked of Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service goes along the lines of: "Do you have anything about the secret passage between the church and the manor house?" The answer usually is is that we do not and it seems that such stories are an urban and rural myth. However they may be of quite long standing. Volume 81 published by the Bedfordshire Historical Records Society (2002) is devoted to returns made during episcopal visitations| to the county by the Bishop of Lincoln in the early 18th century, edited by former County Archivist Patricia Bell. In 1706 Oliver Pashler, the rector of Bedford, Saint Mary|, noted in his return: "Nor is there any thing remarkable in the parish except Caldwell House which stands at the West end of it, and was formerly a religious house, from which 'tis said there went a vault quite under ground to the Friers in St. Paul's parish".

In 1791 the Cauldwell estate was put up for sale by auction and as part of the sale particulars an abstract of title traced ownership from 1706 [WG455]. In that year John Sindry conveyed the, still mortgaged, estate to Elizabeth Fitzhugh of Hammersmith, widow and Christian Wallinger of London, widow, sisters of Thomas Moore, a merchant of Hammersmith for £2,845 paid to the mortgagee Borrett and £450 paid to Sindry. The sale had been contracted in Moore's lifetime and the conveyance to his sisters and executrices was carried out after his death. At that date the mansion was inhabited by George Livius.

Christian Wallinger made her will in 1724 and devised her share in the estate to her daughters Francisca and Ann. Three years later Elizabeth Fitzhugh devised her share to her grandson Josephus Hall. She confirmed this devise in 1731. In 1740 Josephus Hall used a common recovery to bar the entail of his share as laid out in his grandmother's will.

In 1746 a man named Aime Garnault, citizen and cook of London, married Sarah Arnold and the Fitzhugh half of the Cauldwell estate was a part of the marriage settlement, having been purchased by William Arnold, Sarah's father, from Josephus Hall in 1741. Then in 1754 John Arnold, grandson of Christian Wallinger and nephew of Francisca and Ann, now both dead, sold his half of the estate to William Belchier of Lombard Street, London who, in 1766, sold it to Garnault, thus reuniting the two halves split in 1706. Aime Garnault in his will of 1782 devised the estate to his wife and she died intestate in 1790 leaving three married daughters, Francisca Ann and Sarah Mary. The next year the three families put up the estate for sale. At that time it comprised the following lots [CRT130Bed152b]:

  • 697 acres 29 perches of land in the open fields of Kempston, sold to George Livius for £3,000;
  • Holmes and Meadow Closes just off Cauldwell Street comprising 4 acres 1 rood 6 perches, sold to a man named Day for £450;
  • A close of 4 acres 3 roods 38 perches of meadow sold to a man named Green for £350;
  • A close of 4 acres 3 roods 31 perches of meadow sold for £350;
  • A close of 10 acres 2 roods 28 perches of meadow and orchard sold to Livius for £585;
  • A close of 6 acres 3 roods 26 perches of meadow and arable sold for £425;
  • The Manor house itself with farm yard, barn and out buildings, dovehouse and Dovehouse Close of arable and meadow and four osier beds totalling 8 acres 1 rood 32 perches sold to Livius for £705.

There is no indication in deeds that the manor house and dovehouse of 1791 was substantially different to that of the 16th century. By 1818 George Livius was dead and the devisees in trust of his will again put up the manor house and lands for sale by auction [CRT130Bed152c]. The house and immediate grounds were Lot 1 of seven lots and the preface to the sale particulars reads: "The Land herein after described, comprises many most inviting Spots for erecting Dwellings, being situated on the Banks of the Ouse, at one of the Approaches to the Town of Bedford, which from its singular Neatness and Respectability, as well as the Beauty of its River and Environs, may be ranked among the most agreeable in the Kingdom. This Property therefore will be found no less interesting to Strangers, than to Individuals in the Neighbourhood, to whom the Value of it will be particularly obvious. Limestone, Brick Earth and Gravel are to be found on the Estate to forward the Objects herein adverted to".

Lot 1 is described as: "the REPUTED MANOR and SITE of the late dissolved PRIORY of CALDWELL in the Parish of St. Mary in the Town of Bedford, also FIVE exceedingly RICH INCLOSURES of Arable Meadow and Pasture, adjoining to the Kempston Road, entered by an Avenue of Elms, and extending from the said Road to the River, on which it has a fine Command, by a Breadth of Old Meadow, ornamented with some Timber Trees. A very pleasing Spot may be here selected for erecting a Dwelling, for which an old Farm House, and two capital Weatherboarded and Tiled Barns, a double Dove Cot, and various Farm Buildings at the Water side, would contribute many valuable Materials".

"IN this Lot, are comprised also, the several Piscary and Right of Free Fishing in the River which appertains to the Manor to the extent of nearly one Mile in length, also four small Islands therein, planted with Oziers, and all the Profits and Commodities thereto belonging, lying in or along the River, and the Rushes growing in the River". Sadly the sale particulars are not annotated with the name of the buyer of the lot but may not have been sold.

The house was put up for auction a third time in 1857 by the Trustees of the Will of the late G. P. Livius, suggesting that the house had either not been sold in 1818 and had remained in the family or had been bought by another member of the family [CRT130Bed152]. The sale was in 14 lots - Lot 10 was "the elegant and commodious family residence, called "Caldwell Villa", lately built of Stone, and containing Paved Entrance Hall, large Dining, Drawing & Breakfast Rooms, Kitchen, Back ditto, Washhouse, Mangle Room, Larder, Beer and Wine Cellars, Seven Bedrooms and Dressing Room, capital Three-stall Stable & Coach-house, barn, Cow Hovel & Offices, the whole well placed upon 10 acres 1 rood 20½ perches of EXTREMELY RICH LAND, part as Pasture and part planted and beautifully laid out in Pleasure Grounds and Gardens, in the occupation of JOHN HOWARD, Esq, together with TWO COTTAGES and BARNS thereon".

Lot 12 was described thus: "the Manor or Reputed Manor and Site of the late dissolved Priory of Caldwell, and all that superior and modern built mansion known as "Caldwell Priory" Containing handsome Dining, Drawing, and Breakfast Rooms, Kitchens, Servants' hall, Pantries, larder, excellent Cellarage, Offices, Eight Bedrooms, Dressing Rooms, and Water Closet, Three-stall Stable and Loose Boxes, Harness Room, Coach-house, large Barn, Dovehouse, Piggeries, Cow Hovels, & other convenient Appurtenances. The House, as illustrated in annexed lithographic Sketch [see below], is lately built in the most substantial manner upon the well-selected site formerly occupied by the Old Priory, on the banks of the River Ouse, and commands most charming views of the adjacent country, and will be offered with the surrounding RICH OLD PASTURE LAND … containing, with the tastefully arranged and beautifully planted Pleasure Grounds and Gardens 9 acres 3 roods 31 perches, more or less. The whole approached by a Carriage Drive through a noble Avenue of Elm, and superbly Timbered Park-like Grounds". The lot included fishing rights and osier beds, which had been part of the estate ever since the dissolution in 1536. Sadly, it looks as if the old manor house had been pulled down between 1818 and 1857 and this new house built on the site. The building materials are not stated and one wonders if any of the medieval stone was re-used. Again, the particulars are not annotated with any description of the purchaser.

 Cauldwell Priory in 1857 seen from the opposite bank of the River
Cauldwell Priory in 1857 seen from the opposite bank of the River

The new house did not have a very long history. It is shown on an Ordnance Survey map of 1926 but by the time of the 1967 map it had been demolished and the site (immediately east of the Bedford to Saint Pancras railway line) built over by an expanding Britannia Iron and Steel. Cauldwell House, just east of Whitbread Avenue, lasted a little longer but was itself demolished during the 1960s, though the entrance lodge (itself now called Cauldwell House), on Kempston Road, survives.