Everton Manor and Story Moats
Bernard O’Connor 2000
Following the Norman Conquest, Everton Manor house was built on the spring line at the foot of Greensand Ridge, a site now called Story Moats (TL 204518). Much of the Manor’s history was detailed in the Victoria County History of Bedfordshire but additional information came from the County’s Sites and Monuments Record. Story Moats is one of Bedfordshire's best preserved moated sites and is listed as of historical importance as an excellent example of a water management complex. It lies about 400m. west of Story Farm where several springs emerge. The earliest evidence of occupation on this 8-acre field is a series of earthworks near the moat. House platforms and trackways suggest there was a small settlement there by at least 1140, known as Woodbury or Westthorpe, at the same time as the Norman church was being built. A hollow way or approach track, 1m. deep, leads down the hill to what would have been a fortified manor house surrounded by a wide inner moat and a less deep outer moat.
Ancient and more recent landslips in the field behind were caused by numerous springs which fed the moats and fishponds. The 76 x 76 m. water-filled moat, up to 2.5 m deep in places, surrounds a 91 sq. m. island on which the house would have stood. Overgrown remnants of a stone and brick building have been found. There are several ponds and leats at the NE and NW corners - breeding ponds for the fish eaten by the Catholic occupants - and a possible terraced garden nearby.
In 1206 one of the tenants of Everton Manor (TL 203513) was Roger, son of Nicholas. He levied a fine that year of lands in Everton, Tetworth and Weston with Richard de Argentein, whose family held the manor of Weston Argentein in Weston. (Feet of F. Div. Cos. 7 John no. 38) A grant of two acres in Everton was made to the monastery of Sawtry by Walter Belmaistre which Roger confirmed. (Harl. Ch. (B.M.) 8 B. 13)
The ownership of this manor was detailed in the Victoria County History of Bedfordshire. It appears to have been built originally for Nicholas Burnard who held Everton Manor in 1243. He was the under-tenant of the Earl Marshal. Other members of his family lived here as in 1247 Odo Burnard acquired 40 acres of land in the parish from Michael Burdet. He farmed it paying an annual rent of ten shillings. (Feet of F.Beds. Mich. 31 Hen III) In 1263 Nicholas Burnard and his wife Felicia “alienated a messuage and a carucate of land with appurtenances to Thomas D’Espaigne. (Ibid. 47 Hen III)
By 1245, the manor had passed on with the office of marshal to Maud, the widow of Hugh le Bigod, Earl of Norfolk. She was the eldest of five sisters, co-heirs of William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. (G.E.C. Peerage, v. p.161) It passed from her son, Roger, in 1270 to his nephew, Roger le Bigod, the fifth earl of Norfolk. He was holding it in 1286 when it was described as belonging to the Hertfordshire manor of Weston and the hamlet of Everton. (Plac.de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.) p.306)
In 1270, there was a local incident reported in the Bedfordshire Coroners’ Rolls which provides fascinating insight into life in the area at the time. It happened just over the parish boundary with Sandy.
“After vespers on 9 Oct. 1270 Gilbert the Shepherd of Kinwick (a small hamlet near Hasells Hall), went from his house in the hamlet of Kinwick in the parish of Sandy to his sheepfold a furlong outside the town on the east and did not return that night. His wife Rose searched for him with her neighbours, and on the next day through the neighbourhood in towns and fields and could not find him. On 13 Oct. Gilbert’s son Hugh was watching sheep on Sandy Heath and there found his father slain, being struck through the middle of the hattrel apparently with an axe, raised the hue and ran to the town. The neighbours came and the hue was followed. Hugh found pledges, Ralph Wybet and Henry Blanfrunt, both of Kinwick.
Inquest before the same coroner by Sutton, Potton, Everton and Sandy, who did not know who killed Gilbert or where he was killed, but they knew that he was not killed where he was found . Rose found pledges, Ralph Wybet and Peter the Shepherd of Kinwick. The neighbours were attached : Peter the Shepherd by Hugh Rikeld and Martyn Petyt; Martin Pretit by Hugh Aubre and Peter the Shepherd; William Aylline by John Ayline and Robert the clerk; Richard Muriel by Hugh Ambre and William le Marchant.
[At the eyre it was presented that Gilbert, who was called Gilbert the Shepherd of the prior of Chicksands, was slain by unknown felons’ who immediately fled. No Englishry were presented so murdrum was imposed upon the hundred. The neighbours did not come and were not suspected; their pledges were therefore amerced (fined). Martin Petit’s first pledge was called Hugh Auvore. The four townships were amerced for not coming to the inquest. (sic) J.I. 1/10, m.29d]”
(Bedfordshire Coroners’ Rolls, Bedfordshire Historical Record Society vol. 41)
Ralph de Beauchamp had been enfeoffed of Everton Manor by Peter de Exton. He already owned land in Eaton, near St Neots which the family had held since 1120. (VCH. Beds. i, p.201) He owned property in Sandy which included free warren (Feet of F. Beds. Mich. 25 Hen. III; Hund. R. (Rec. Com.), i, 3) as well as Tempsford Manor. (VCH. Beds. i, p.201; Feud. Aids i, 3) Ralph, son of William, rendered feudal service in 1284 for one and a half knight’s fee in Sandy held of the king in chief and was followed by Roger de Beauchamp, who held the manor in 1316. (Plac d Quo War. (Rec. Com.) iv, 51; Feud. Aids i, 3, 19)
Ralph, his wife Sybil, and son Roger were to hold Everton manor by service of the eighth part of a knight’s fee to son Nicholas, who was born in Everton in 1260. When Ralph the under-tenant died in 1293, he left a chief messuage (homestead) and lands described as sandy and poor to Nicholas. Until he came of age in 1281, custody of the manor was in the hands of Richard de Clifford. (Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.) i, p.198; Cal. Inq, ii, p.503, iii, p. 186) The church and its land was valued at £11 6s. 8d. in 1291. (Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 36)
The manor house was finally completed in the early 1300s. Whilst Norman manors were initially fortified houses, by this time there was no need for defence. Moats had become a picturesque element of Norman gardens and used for rearing fish. In 1306 Nicholas, son of Ralph de Beauchamp, granted the manor of Everton to Walter de Langton, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, for £100. At that time, Everton must have been quite a busy settlement as the bishop gained permission to hold a market every Wednesday, (presumably in the field near the manor) and an annual three-day fair on the Vigil, Feast and Morrow of St Bartholemew (August 24th). (Chart. R. 35 Edw. II, No. 44; Ibid. No. 100) He was also allowed free warren to catch and sell all the rabbits from the sandy hills of Everton, Tetworth, Offord Daneys (D’Arcy) and Offord Cluny as well as the income generated from a three-weekly court baron. A view to frankpledge was also obtained. (Cal. of Close, 1313-18, p.406; 1318-23, p.602) Five years later it was recorded that the Bishop received twelve oaks from the royal forest of Wanberge to repair his houses at Everton and Offord D'Arcy. (Cal. of Close, 1307-13, p.406)
It needs to be made clear that the lord of the manor did not necessarily reside in the manor house. They sometimes leased it to a tenant, who farmed it themselves, or allowed locals to farm it for them.
When the bishop died in 1322 (1332 according to VCH, ‘Beds.’), Everton manor was described as being a capital messuage with a garden. It had 275 acres of arable land and its annual rents from free tenants were £6.10s.0. Other tenants work and rents amounted to 7s.6d. and there was also income from fines and profits of court. (Chan. Inq. p.m. 15 Edw.II, No.44) It was being leased to Sir Robert de Brotherton, Earl Marshal, for one knight’s fee. (Cal. Inq. vi. p.330; Cal. Close, 1318-23, p.601)
The lordship of the manor passed to the bishop’s nephew, Edmund, son of Robert Peverel. (Ibid.) Edmund continued to take advantage of the charter of free warren passed in 1331, a privilege claimed up until the eighteenth century. (Chart. R. 5 Edw. III, No. 78; Recov. R. East. 1653; East 2 Will. and Mary; Trin. 12 Anne) He passed it on to his son John who in turn passed it on to his sister Margaret in 1354. She married William de la Pole. (Cott. MSS, xxvii, p.152; Feet of F. Div. Cos. 27 Edw. III, No. 95) By 1359 it had passed to their son, John de la Pole, who married Joan, daughter of John de Cobham (Topham). (Ibid. 37 Edw. III, No. 46) In 1403 it was in the possession of Joan, Baroness Cobham and the second of her five husbands, Sir Reginald Braybroke, until her death in 1433. (Harl. 47 B. p.15; G.E.C. Complete Peerage, vol.ii. p.317; Feud. Aids, vol.ii, p.477; Chan. Inq. p.m. 12 Hen. VI, No. 37; Ibid. 16 Hen. VI, No. 28)
Joan’s last husband, Sir John Harpenden, was recognised as having manorial rights in Everton in 1427 by her daughter Joan’s husband, Sir Thomas Brooke. (Close, 6 Hen VI, m.5) At this time the manor included various sites worth 26s. 8d. per annum. There were 200 acres worth 2d. per acre, 100 acres of wood worth 18d. 20 acres of pasture worth 4d. and 20 acres of meadow worth 13d. The annual rent of assize and a court baron held every three weeks was worth 12d. Other place-names in the parish from the fifteenth century have been noted as Sibbesyard, Wendewood, Grognes, Ballardes (a messuage) and Gores. (Harl.Chart. 83 E. p.16)
When Joan died in about 1442, the manor went to her granddaughter, Elizabeth Brooke. She married Robert Tanfield who held the manor at her death in 1503. (Chan. Inq. p.m.dclxxv, 3; G.E.C. Complete Peerage, vol.ii, p.318) It then passed to Elizabeth's grandson, fifteen-year old William, who held it until 1530. (Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), 1 No. 131) He made a settlement of Everton Bury on his wife Isabella in 1516-17 and 1520-21. (Ibid. (Ser.ii) 1, p.131) In his will of 27th January 1528, he confirmed it to her and left directions for his burial in the precincts of St Mary’s Church or churchyard. Following the Catholic tradition, he also arranged for anniversary masses and obits, prayers for the repose of his soul, to be said. They and bequests to the poor of Everton were to be paid for out of lands he had earlier bought from James Staunton and held by the manor. If they weren’t enough, then it was to come from the manor itself. He also bequeathed an annuity out of lands lately bought by himself and his wife lying “within the village bounds and fields of Tetworth within the parish of Everton within the county of Huntingdon”. (P.C.C. 5 Jankyn)
On William’s death the following year the manor went to his son Francis. His wife, Isabella may have returned to her maiden name or remarried as she died a widow in 1546 as Isabella Humphreys. (Chan. Inq. p.m. (ser.ii), lxxiv, p.6) Their son Francis survived her and he died seised of the manor in 1557. Seised in geneological terms means property taken over as freehold possession. (According to VCH. ‘Beds.’ it was in 1587.; Chan. Inq. p.m. (ser.ii), ccxi, No. 46; Add. Chart. 6136; Feet of F. Div. Cos. Trin. 12 Eliz.) He was succeeded by his son, Clement, who made a settlement at the time of his marriage in 1563 to Anne, daughter of Lord Mordaunt. (Chan. Inq. p.m. (ser.ii), ccxii, 46) In 1570 Clement Tanfield granted an annuity out of the manor and died seised of it in 1585. (Add. Ch. 6136)
Today there is no sign of the house on Story Moats. Over time the timbers have rotted away. Some preserved oaken sluice gates or hatches have been found submerged in the moat. They separated the ponds from each other. Other excavations in the moat have revealed broken pottery from the 13th - 14th century and roof tiles, clay pipes and other pottery from the 16th - 19th century. The whole site is now much overgrown with trees and undergrowth and the island is used a pheasant run. (Beds. County Hall Archaeology Dpt. file on Everton - Story Moats) A pond above the site has been banked up to provide a reservoir for Story Farm.
There used to be primroses, violets, kingcups, horsetails and other wild flowers and plants around the site and wild birds which nested on the water's edge. Here and in the nearby meadows villagers used to gather cowslips, elderberries, crab apples sloes and blackberries for making wine and jams, and “conkers” and acorns to play with. It is now a Conservation Site on private property,