Eaton Socon (and Hamlets)
Eton (xii - xv cent.), Eaton-cum-Stoka (xvi cent.), Eaton
Soken, Socon (xvii-xx cent.).
Ninteenth and Twentieth century Directories of Bedfordshire state that 'Eaton Socon is an extensive parish on the borders of Huntingdonshire'. The area of the parish was over 7000 acres and had a population of around 2000. The Great North Road, running from London to Edinburgh, ran through the village of Eaton Socon. The parish Church was in Eaton Socon village (sometimes referred to as Eaton Town) and the hamlets included in the parish were: Basmead, Begwary, Bushmead, Duloe, Eaton Ford, Honeydon, Staploe, Upper Staploe, Wyboston, and several outlying farms.
During the latter half of the 20th cent., great changes have taken place around the original village areas of Eaton Socon and Eaton Ford. The A1 highway, opened in 1971, has effectively split the old parish. Since then, the original village areas have seen extensive house building. Now, there are very few fields between the A1 and the river but, in the rest of the parish, the fields and hamlets remain.
In the last 40 years of the 20th century, the county boundaries have also changed. In 1965 the villages of Eaton Socon and Eaton Ford joined with St Neots across the river and became part of Huntingdonshire. When Huntingdonshire was merged with Cambridgeshire in 1974, the residents could truthfully say that in the space of a few years they had lived in three counties whilst still living in the same house! Meanwhile, the old ecclesiastical parish remains (with the exception of Wyboston, which moved out of the Eaton Socon parish in 1999) and those residents in the hamlets and farms to the west of the A1 still remain in Bedfordshire.
The land slopes from west to east attaining 224 ft. above sea-level at its highest point, and sinking to 52 ft. in the east where it is subject to floods. Most of the parish is arable land but a third of this is permanent grassland. The soil is rich loam and the sub-soil is gravel in most parts - the remainder of the soil being mixed and the sub-soil clay. Principal crops are wheat, barley, oats and beans. Over the past 100 years or so, an increasing proportion has been changing to market gardening which has become a flourishing industry. The parish was well-wooded with over 100 acres of woods and plantations.
In 1086, Eaton Socon was the seat of Eudo Dapfier (or Eudo Fitzhubert according to the Domeday Book), who had succeeded Wulfmar, the great Bedfordshire thegn. His land became known as the barony of Eaton. As its name implies, Eaton Socon was a Soke, or Liberty, in the 13th cent., which meant it was free of suit and of the Hundred Court of the Barford Hundred. In 1247, on the occasion of a trial concerning the murder of a man at Eaton, the plea was brought forward that Eaton, as a Soke, did not share in the jurisdiction of the Hundred.
The Manor of Eaton was once owned by the Knights
Hospitallers; it had two water-mills in the Domesday Survey of 1086 which were
still worth 100 shillings in 1358. Three water-mills were in existence in 1485,
and four were there in 1625.
Eaton Socon is well watered by the River Ouse which forms its eastern boundary. It has a number of tributaries (including Begwary Brook, which enters from Colmworth in the south-west and flows in an easterly direction to the River Ouse, and Duloe Brook, which rises in the north-west of the parish and flows south-east to enter the main stream).
Eaton Socon village is situated in the east of the parish on both sides of the Great North Road, through which at one time 36 coaches ran daily to and from London. Consequently, it was of some importance and gave the appearance of a small county town, with shops and modern residences. There are still a few thatched cottages remaining, and several inns reflect its previous importance in coaching days.
The church stands in a spacious graveyard, and occupies one side of the village. In its rear, nearer the river, is Castle Hill - the site of an old castle. Eaton Socon was inclosed by an Act of Parliament in 1795. As Eaton Socon village has grown, the smaller hamlet of Little End (between Eaton Socon and Wyboston) has been absorbed. The Wesleyan chapel in Eaton Socon village has closed and the building converted into appartments.
Hamlets (transferred to Huntingdonshire in 1965)
Eaton Ford (Forde (xv cent.)). Eaton Ford, on
the banks of the Ouse, is some two miles north and is directly opposite St
Neots - of which it became a suburb early in the 20th cent. Between it and
Eaton Socon was the St. Neots Union Workhouse, once a large building in
extensive grounds. The Workhouse is no more; its buildings have been converted
into appartments. The Methodist Chapel in Eaton Ford can seat 250 people. It
was built in the 1870s and is still in use at the end of the 20th cent.
As Eaton Ford grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so the smaller hamlets have been absorbed. Maltmans Green and CrossHall Ford are no longer signposted, but Crosshall retains direction signs and the crossroads are marked by Crosshall Manor and the Eaton Oak Public House - both are former farmhouses.
Hamlets (still in Bedfordshire)
Wyboston (Wiboldstone (xiii cent.), Wyboldston,
Wyboston (xvi cent.)). Wyboston is a straggling hamlet in the south-east of the
parish. A moat to the south of the Great North Road, which runs through it, and
the Manor Farm mark the site of former Manors. There is a Methodist Chapel in
the village built in 1870 and seating 150 people.
In 1999, Wyboston moved out of Eaton Socon parish.
· Duloe, (Divelho (xiii cent.), Delowe (xvi cent.)). Duloe is a small village comprising a few cottages and farms.
· Staploe, Upper Staploe and Basmead (Stapelho (xiii cent.)). Staploe is a small hamlet with a few houses and a Gospel Hall built in 1884 with 50 seats. North of Staploe is Basmead Manor with a Manor house and a few cottages. Upper Staploe, just to the south of Staploe, consists of just a few houses.
· Bushmead (Bissemed (xiii cent.). Bushmead is a small hamlet in the far west of Eaton Socon parish. There are a few houses and part of an old Priory founded in the time of Henry II by Hugh Beauchamp for Canons of the order of St Augustine.
· Honeydon. (Honydene (xv cent.)). Honeydon is a small hamlet with a few cottages near to Bushmead. It has a Wesleyan Chapel seating 50 and built in 1872.
· Goodwich Farm (Godewyk (xiii cent.)) and Tithe Farm to the south-west also recalls an ancient estate. There are now associated farm cottages.
· Begwary (Beger (xii cent.), la Beggerye (xiv cent.), Begarry) is a small hamlet in the south-west of Eaton Socon parish.
Eaton Socon parish has always been closely associated with Huntingdonshire because of its proximity to St. Neots. It was in a Huntingdonshire Poor Law Union and has always been enumerated as part of Huntingdonshire for the censuses. To all intents and purposes, Eaton Socon and Eaton Ford villages are now part of St. Neots. As a result, part of the parish, although across the river from St. Neots, was formally transferred from Bedfordshire into Huntingdonshire in 1965, although many of its hamlets remained in Bedfordshire.
There are only two burial grounds in the parish of Eaton
Socon and both are in Eaton Socon village. These are: the churchyard around the
church, which was closed in the 1990s, and the cemetery in Little End Road
which opened in the 1930s.
Monumental Inscriptions from the Parish Churchyard (fiche set M-28 consisting of approximately 626 entries) are available from the Huntingdonshire FHS.
A surname index of Eaton Socon parish in the 1851 Census of Bedfordshire (Vol. 2, Book 1) is available from the Bedfordshire FHS. The full 1851 Census of Eaton Socon Parish is available as fiche set C38.
A full transcription of the 1891 Census of the Kimbolton Registration District (RG12/1243) which took place on 5th April 1891, in which Eaton Socon was enumerated, and which also included the St Neots Workhouse, is available, as fiche set C14.
The above mentioned fioche numbers are those available from the Huntingdonshire FHS.
OS Grid Square TL 171588
The church of St. Mary the Virgin originally consisted of a
chancel, nave with north and south aisles and a west-facing tower. The walls of
the church were built of cobblestones with a good deal of squared ironstone in
the Tower, and all were finished with embattled parapets. To the north was a
vestry dating from the 15th cent., but was built at a later time than the
chancel. An organ transept was added in the latter part of the 19th century.
The south porch was more recent.
The church appears to have originally been built in about the beginning of the 15th century, but with the re-use of older nave arcades - the arches of which, except for those on the east bay on each side, were early 14th cent. The columns, with their capitals and bases, were of the 15th cent.
The chancel arch and those in the east bay of the arcades were in larger stones than the rest, and were probably from the 15th cent. date. The nave was probably lengthened by a bay eastwards at that time. Other evidence of older work were the south door of the nave - with an early 14th cent. head, and the 12th cent. font, built of purbeck marble. The west window of the south aisle was of the 14th cent. style and was probably a copy of an older one.
This church was unfortunately burned down in 1930, but it was immediately rebuilt and consecrated in 1932.
The original Eaton
Socon parish registers of St. Mary's church are in the Bedfordshire Record
Office. The following are available in the Huntingdon
Baptisms: 1566-1812 (indexed transcriptions), 1813-1953 (microfiche).
Banns: 1956-1971 (microfiche).
Marriages: 1572-1812 (indexed transcriptions), 1813-1964 (microfiche).
Burials: 1566-1812 (indexed transcriptions), 1813-1925 (microfiche).
Bishops Transcripts: 1602-1873 are only held in the Bedfordshire Record Office.
The Eaton Socon parish registers are available in two parts in the Bedfordshire Parish register series on 7 microfiche, at a cost of £16.00, inclusive of postage and packing worldwide, from the Bedfordshire FHS.
Eaton Socon was originally in the St. Neots Registration District, which itself became a sub-district of Huntingdon. From 1st April 1997, it has been in the Huntingdon Registration District.
Description and Travel
A GENWEB page for Eaton Socon is available.
Old maps of the parish of Eaton Socon, and its component places, are available.
The war memorial with detailed information about those who fell is available on Genweb Huntingdonshire.
Population in 1801 - 1625.
Population in 1851 - 2802.
Population in 1901 - 2080.
Population in 1951 - 3032.
Population in 1961 - 3264.
Population figures from 1971 are included in those of St. Neots Urban District.
Poorhouses, Poor Law etc
The parish of Eaton Socon was in the St. Neots Union for
Poor Law administration.
The St. Neots Union Workhose was built in Eaton Socon parish in the village of Eaton Ford. The Workhouse buildings are now known as 'The White House' and have been converted in appartments.
Births and Deaths registered in the St Neots Union Workhouse (1913 - 1952) are available, as fiche set D11, from the Huntingdonshire FHS.
The Eatons Community Association (ESCA) have produced a number of booklets on the Eatons (Eaton Socon and Eaton Ford). Details can be obtained from ESCA, 3 Collingwood Road, Eaton Socon, St. Neots, Cambridgeshire PE19 3JQ.
The parish of Eaton Socon occupies some 7602 acres of land and water.
[Last updated: 7 December 2001 - Martin Edwards]