The Parish of Ridgmont in General
School, Church and High Street about 1900 [Z1086/6]
The highest ground in the parish is both north and south, at around 350 feet above sea level. In between lies a valley running south-west/north-east. Both the northern ridge and the valley have underlying Upper Jurassic Oxford Clay, suitable for making bricks and producing a rich, loamy topsoil. At the south of the parish the clay is overlain by Cretaceous Lower Greensand mixed with clay, it is on this ridge that the modern village sits.
A few small streams cross the parish but water supply was, historically, from wells. A low water tower was built in the 20th century just south of the church to draw up water.
Segenhoe church - interior of north chancel window - March 2007
The parish is first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, though only by its original name of Segenhoe (from the Anglo-Saxon word hoh, which was a spur of land, belonging to a man named Segga – so, Segga's spur of land). The name Ridgmont means red hill, from the French rouge mont and was first recorded in 1227 as Rugemund. It lay in the Redbornestoke Hundred and before the Conquest had been owned by Leofnoth, a thegn of King Edward the Confessor, in addition a freeman had also owned half a hide. After the Norman Conquest Leofnoth's land, amounting to ten hides, was given to Walter, brother of Sihere. The manor contained 24 villagers, 4 smallholders and 3 slaves. This total of thirty needs to be multiplied by a factor of at least four to account for these men's dependents giving a total population of 120 or more, a respectable size for the period. The manor had enough woodland for 300 pigs and had been worth £16 in 1066, this fell to £10 when Walter acquired it and had fallen still further, to £6 by 1086. This decline in value is reckoned to come from the depredations of William I's army as it moved north to crush rebellion.
Segenhoe Manor, south side, around 1900 [X265/2]
By the 12th century Walter's Segenhoe Manor, centered around Segenhoe Farm and church, was in the hands of Dunstable Priory. It may have acquired the manor at the same time as it was granted the church by Simon de Wahull - 1189.
The Priory was not popular with the locals. In 1279 it was recorded that the prior's hall and solar (presumably the manor house) at Segenhoe had been burned. In 1384 the Manors of Segenhoe and Brogborough were granted to Henry Percy, Duke of Northumberland and others. In the 16th century the de Grey family held the manor, though it passed into the hands of Woburn Abbey for a short time, before being restored to the Greys. It later passed through the Stone and Potter families in the 18th century and the Macqueen family in the 19th century before being sold to the Duke of Bedford in 1833.
A number of other manors existed in the parish. A manor of Northwood was held by the Northwood family in the 13th century. They were evidently as unpopular as Dunstable priory since it was recorded that in 1254 a group of peasants rose against Henry de Northwood. By 1277 John de Northwood held the manor but by 1388 it was in the hands of Reginald Grey; it remained in the family's hands until 1581, the last known reference to it.
A manor called Bevans is thought to have been attached to the Barony of Wahull held by the Grey family and to have derived its name from Richard Bewin or Beywin who owned a seventh and a twelfth of a knight's fee in the parish in the mid 13th century. In the reign of Elizabeth I [1558-1603] the manor came into the same ownership as Segenhoe [CRT100/16] but in 1739 was seized by Brogborough Manor, however, by 1772 the manor and farm buildings seem to have disappeared. The manor's site can be inferred from field names and documents. It was described as "above the castle of Rugemont". Ridgmont has two castle sites [q.v.] but the one referred to here seems to be seems to be that on the south-east ridge. Later documents put the manor somewhere south-east of Segenhoe.
The parish possibly had a fifth manor, suggested by a feoffment of 1517 which granted manors of Segenhoe, Brogborough, Norwood and "Rychemond" or Ridgmont Manor. No other document refers to this manor and it may have been another name for Bevans.
The parish had two mottes, visible as slight earthworks which would date from the late 11th or early 12th centuries. A lack of contemporary documentation means that one can only speculate about the reasons for two sites. One of these castle sites is now in the parish of Brogborough. The other is at the north-west end of Ridgmont village on the spur of sandstone encircled by Lydds Hill and Station Road and known as Castle Hill. The first known reference to the site being known as Castle Hill is in the 16th century [CRT100/16].
It is known that the de Wahull family had two castles, one in Thurleigh and one in Ridgmont. The castle at Brogborough has often been called Ridgmont Castle and assumed to the de Wahull seat. The earliest documentary evidence of a castle in Ridgmont is in 1276 when land was allotted to Walter Beywin [Bevan] "above the castle of Rugemont" [as quoted in the Victoria County History]. This reference could refer to either site since Brogborough is north and on a hill and thus "above" but the Castle Hill site is also physically "above" much of the land around it.
Bedfordshire County Agricultural Institute around 1905 [Z1130/67]
The population of Ridgmont peaked in the mid 19th Century, reaching its highest point at 1,029 in 1861 and then again in the mid 20th century reaching its highest point, 983 in 1951. The peak in the 20th century is easily explained by the development of the Crown Brickworks site at Brogborough, then in the parish of Ridgmont and where the modern warehouses, including Amazon, are situated near Junction 13 of the M1. On the closure of the brickworks the population once more declined. Brogborough became a separate civil parish in 1990.
1801: 581 1851: 999 1901: 540 1951: 983 2001: 418