With the expansion going on around the Priory in the 12th century, Hugh de Beauchamp, a landowner in Eaton Socon on the western side of the river, contributed land and money for the construction of a small religious house in Staploe parish. (TL 1160). Bushmead Priory was built on land previously used as a Roman camp and is said to have been built by 1195 for canons of the order of St. Augustine, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. There were references to it during the reign of Henry II.(1216 – 1272). On 20th January 1236 Pope Gregory IX put it under the protection of Master William, the vice-chancellor. (MS British Library Cotton Augustus II. 117)
The monastic gardens, fishponds and other land belonging to Bushmead Priory covered about 100 acres and was valued at between £71 and £81 pounds. It was one of four Bedfordshire priories closed down by Henry VIII. He granted it to Sir William Gascoyne between 1537-8 who converted it into a family residence. The rectangular refectory, the monks’ dining room, was converted into a stable block. Although some parts were demolished, much of the conventual buildings were kept and are a good example of crown-post architecture. Its original timber-framed roof is almost intact and interesting medieval wall paintings and stained glass can still be seen. (Samuel Lewis Topographical Gazeetter – 1831)
The Gascoignes didn’t keep Bushmead priory long. In 1545 William’s son, John, made a settlement with Anthony Cockett and in 1562 gave the property to William Gery, the son of Thomas Gery of Royston. His son, also called William, died in 1596 leaving it to his illustrious son Richard who was Gentleman of James I’s and Charles I’s Privy Chamber. In Charles’ attempts to raise money he introduced Ship Money, a tax on coastal counties to pay for the navy. He later introduced it to the inland counties which caused concern. Richard defended the policy commenting
‘My predecessor having gathered up what was willingly paid, the residue left to collect has to be compelled, or it is not to be had, making it a work of time and difficulty. I will not be wanting in my utmost endeavours to expedite the service.’
(Cal. S. P. Dom. 1625-49, p.528)
He died before 1647 and the priory passed to his son, William, also an ardent Royalist. Living so close to Oliver Cromwell’s parliamentary seat in Cambridge must have resulted in him being considered a threat during the Civil War. He was ‘compounded for delinquency in arms’ and fined one-sixth of his estate, valued at £740. His son, William, was ‘plundered to his shirt’ for his royalist sympathies and ‘retired abroad’ where he met the exiled King Charles II at Breda. After the restoration William and his sister Anne petitioned the new regime for appointments. In 1660 she asked to be appointed Clerk to the Bills of Customs in the port of London and in 1662 to be the Dresser for the Queen. She complained that their family’s devotion to the monarchy had lost them £12,000 and that she had ‘nothing to inherit but sadness’. William asked for a commissionership as a reward for his services to the royalist cause. Whether he was successful or not is uncertain but his circumstance improved enough to move back into his Bushmead family seat. He married Katherine, widow of Richard Taylor, at St Mary’s Eaton Socon in 1675 or in the family chapel.
He had died by 1688 and Charles Gery inherited the estate. In 1738 another William Gery owned it and, probably his son William, owned it in 1788. His third daughter, Hester, was co-heir and in 1792, when she married Rev. Hugh Wade, the vicar of Thurning, he assumed the name of Gery and the family’s coat of arms. When Hester’s father died Hugh bought up his sister-in-laws portions of the estate in accordance with William’s will. Their son, William Hugh Wade-Gery succeeded his father in 1832. When he died in 1870 another William Hugh Wade-Gery inherited the estate.
(VCH, Beds. ii, pp.197-8)
When it came into the possession of the Gery family is unknown but it was said to have been in medieval times. In the 18th century William Gery (d. 1755) extended the property building a red bricked front. The grounds became parkland and part of a farming estate. In 1852 it was owned by William H. W. Gery. ( Burke, J.B. Visitation, I, 1852, 82.)
In 1924 it was the seat of Richard Wade-Gery esq and surrounded by a park of about 100 acres. (1924 Kelly's Bedfordshire Directory-Eaton Socon and surrounding hamlets)
Medieval alabaster found by David Sherlock (1980)
H. M. Larke , (1976), ‘Bushmead Priory, Eaton Socon, Beds.’ Cambridgeshire Local History Society, B.31, p.13
There was a medieval chantry house at Wyboston, just south of Eaton Socon. When it was built is unknown but these houses were for two or more priests. They were allowed to live there in return for singing masses for the repose of the souls of the contributors and reading passages from the bible on important days throughout the year..