Our virtual walk starts at Lancelot’s Piece, in the centre of the village. We will go a little way up Carlton Road before returning to move westwards towards the bridge looking at items of interest on our right before crossing to Ye Three Fyshes and walking the length of Bridge Street and High Street. We will cross the road at Turvey Abbey and make our way back to Lancelot’s Piece.
You will find more information about many aspects of this walk on this website. Clicking on an underlined word or phrase will take you to further information. You can use the pins on the map at each stop to view the walk. First it will be helpful to have a very brief introduction to the history of the village.
A Potted History
The name Turvey comes from Old English meaning Turf Island or low lying land. Turvey is built on a network of underground springs, perfect for fresh water; wells and water pumps were once a common sight in the village. Then there is the river Great Ouse which provided access, food and a natural barrier for early villagers. The surrounding land was wooded providing further food. Its situation at the end of the Cotswold Stone Belt provided, stone and wood for building material.
About 2,500 years ago, at the time of the Bronze Age, the Beaker people, so called because of the beakers they buried with their dead, arrived in this region. . Around 750 BC the Bronze Age gave way to the Iron Age and there is evidence of a settlement in Turvey from this period shown by aerial photography and scatterings of pottery found at Picts Hill and Crown Farm.
The Romans followed and there is evidence of a Romano-British pottery kiln north east of Hill Spinney near Crown Farm. Turvey was clearly not a Roman settlement but there is evidence of Romano-British settlements in the area.
The Romans were followed by the Anglo-Saxons who clearly settled in Turvey. Parts of All Saints Church were built around 980 AD. The Norman invasion of 1066 followed and the Domesday Book of 1086 records that at the time of the invasion there were eight major land owners, all with Angle-Saxon names. Twenty years later the names had changed to those of men loyal to William the Conqueror. The major land owner in Turvey was now Geoffry, Bishop of Countances and it is clear that Turvey was a large and important settlement.
Another follower of William the Conqueror was Robert St Giles who was rewarded with land in Bedfordshire. His descendants were the Mordaunts who acquired their main residence in Turvey, Turvey Old Hall , through marriage at the beginning of the 13th century. Turvey Old Hall no longer exists but it was once located where Hall Farm off Newton Lane now stands. Over the next five generations a steady expansion of Mordaunt estates occurred with land and property acquired in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire. The Mordaunts seem to have been particularly skilful at marrying sons to rich heiresses.
The Mordaunt family became prominent in both local and national politics, Sir John Mordaunt (1465 – 1504) became Speaker of the House of Commons. The family continued to thrive and in 1533, Sir John’s son also a John became the first Baron of Turvey. He married Elizabeth De Vere and acquired the magnificent Drayton House in Northamptonshire. The second Baron, another John, sided with Queen Mary at the time of the Tudors, suggesting a Roman Catholic sympathy.
The fourth Baron, Henry, was taken to the Tower of London on suspicion of being connected with the Gunpowder plot, something he denied on his deathbed. He was accused because he employed Robert Keyes who was trusted by Robert Catesby, the plot’s author, to guard the explosives at his lodgings in London until they were moved to the houses of Parliament. After the plot was discovered Keyes came to Turvey Old Hall to bid a last farewell to his wife Christina who was governess to the Mordaunt children.
The 5th Baron Charles, who became the 1st Earl of Peterborough was subject to considerable and ongoing fines as a result of his Catholic faith. From the 16th century the Mordaunts regarded Drayton House as their main residence and they became, in effect, absent landlords as far as Turvey was concerned. From the 17th century there was minimal investment or development in the village, leaving many villagers living in dilapidated housing with a hand to mouth existence. Records from the Hearth Tax in 1671 show that a half of Turvey’s 107 properties had no heating. Following Turvey’s Enclosure Act of 1783, when the Parish boundary was designated and ownership of land within determined, Charles Mordaunt decided to sell all his land and properties in Turvey and Clifton Reynes
The Higgins family
In the auction of 1786, Turvey was split into 6 lots and bought by three wealthy individuals. Charles Higgins was a wealthy Grocer from Weston Underwood, at that time living in London and current Sheriff of London. John Higgins was a yeoman farmer from Weston Underwood. William Fuller was a Banker from London. Over the next fifty years various transactions took place which resulted in the village having two main estates, The Turvey House Estate ( centred around the Higgins family of Turvey House) and the Abbey Farm Estate (centred around the Longuet-Higgins of Turvey Abbey). Both these families had a major impact on life of the village and many of the buildings on this walk exist as a result of their endeavours. Many old and dilapidated cottages were demolished and rebuilt, particularly between 1840 and 1860 ( an outbreak of cholera in the 1840s had drawn attention to the unsanitary conditions in many dwellings). Hence much of the village you see today on the High Street and Bridge Street dates from the mid 19th century and is built of “golden stone” from the quarry where Bakers Close now stands.
The auction in 1786 was also a pivotal turning point in that major land ownership passed from the gentry to the new wealthy middle classes of the day. Over the last two hundred years the Turvey House estate has mainly held on to many of their properties and still have a presence in the village through the Hanbury line. The Longuet-Higgins have, over the years, sold their land and properties. The current Lord of the Manor, a Longuet-Higgins, resides in Gloucestershire.
Road and Rail
As the village began to prosper, light industry and shops began to appear so that by 1860 it was possible to say that the village was fully self-sufficient. There was no need to leave the village and many of its inhabitants rarely did so. The arrival of the railway station at Station End in 1872 had a major impact in that it not only provided villagers access to towns such as Bedford and Northampton but also enabled those living in such towns to visit Turvey.
The existence of the Railway Station resulted in the development of Station End at the end of the 1800’s and the creation of Turvey commuters. It would not be long before cars, vans, buses and lorries made their impact on the village.
20th and 21st Century
Turvey has continued to grow with some significant housing developments. All of these are located away from the High Street and Bridge Street but will be referred to in the various stops that follow. As far as the main thoroughfare is concerned, little visually has changed since the properties were built although many have changed their original purpose.
A number of stopping-off points have been identified for the walk. You can go through the walk or move to a specific location to learn of the heritage relating to the stop.