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
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
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