Everton is a small rural village of about 500 people, sitting about 60 metres above sea level on the top of the Greensand Ridge in the east of Bedfordshire. Walkers starting the Greensand Ridge Walk from Tetworth will see the tower of the Norman church of St. Mary dominating the skyline and some old houses and thatched cottages dating back to the 17th century. There are glorious sunsets with views westwards across the broad green Ivel valley and spectacular sunrises in the east over to the Royston Downs.
The parish has always been an agricultural community, dominated for the last three centuries by two estates - Hasells and Woodbury. Farming and market gardening still provide a livelihood for some but employ a reduced percentage of the population. Hasells Farm, Manor Farm, Woodbury Farm and Waterloo Farm concentrate on cereals but there are also sheep and pigs. Small holders on Everton Heath grow an assortment of vegetables selling them as far afield as London.
Everton has a long history with archaeological finds dating back to Mesolithic times about 10,000 years ago. There are numerous Neolithic hut circles from between 4,000 and 1,500 years ago and a Roman settlement. The Roman Road from Sandy to Godmanchester passes along the foot of the ridge. There’s still evidence of the Saxon field system, four moated sites from the medieval period and the sites of four manors. Evidence of the Black Death can be seen in St. Mary’s where the list of the incumbents shows five rectors died during the 1340s. They presumably died of the plague. Some suggest that plague victims were buried under the strangely symmetrical Warden Hill.
The church also holds effigies and memorials to some of the village’s noteworthies. They include Sir Humphrey Winche, Elizabeth I’s attorney general, and Richard Astell, Lieutenant Colonel of the Bedfordshire Militia. William Astell was director of the East India Company. Andrew Byng was one of the clerics responsible for translating the James I bible and John Ashburnham was Charles I’s groom of the bedchamber. There’s also the Thornton and Pym families and Rev. John Berridge, who in the 1700s put Everton on the Methodist map.
Everton was very much an estate village dominated by the Pyms of Hasells Hall and the Astells of Woodbury. They were the major providers of employment in agriculture and service.
In the 19th century coprolite digging provided employment for many on Sandy Heath. This was the excavation of fossils from the base of the Cambridge Greensand, some of which included the “Potton Iguanodon”. Their value was in their phosphate content - a raw material in the manufacture of the first artificial fertiliser - superphosphate. They were washed and sorted, and a narrow gauge railway took them to Deepdale where they were then carted to Sandy Station for transhipment to manure factories across the country.
During the Second World War a secret airfield was constructed on “Tempsford Flats” which became the home of 138 and 161 squadrons. Commanded by Group Captain Fielden many thought it was used for bombing raids but it played a major role during the “moon periods.” Agents or “Joes” were dropped behind the lines in France, Belgium, Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Norway and elsewhere and people were picked up and brought back. It supplied the resistance units across Europe with sten guns, revolvers, ammunition, explosives, folding bicycles, bicycle pumps, bicycle repair kits, torches, batteries, spare tyres, wireless transmitters, newspapers, money, boots, socks, soap, needles, medicines, cigarettes, sweets and chocolate. Carrier pigeons were sent in cardboard boxes and dropped with their own little parachutes. Thin paper folded into a tiny container fastened to their leg could be written on detailing German troop and weapons placements and, when the pigeon was released it flew back to Bletchley Park where the information was used in the war effort. There are memorials in Gibraltar Farm and in the Village Hall to those who flew from here and lost their lives.
Today, the largest employer in the parish is BSG (Bedfordshire Property Services) which has a site on Tempsford Airfield. Small-scale industrial development takes with fence making in one of the sheds and motorway maintenance vehicles stored in warehousing in some of the old wartime hangars.