Shillington, Bedfordshire

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Shillington is located in Bedfordshire
 Shillington shown within Bedfordshire
Population 1,831 (2001)
OS grid reference TL127340
Civil parish Shillington
Unitary authority Central Bedfordshire
Ceremonial county Bedfordshire
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town HITCHIN
Postcode district SG5
Dialling code 01462
Police Bedfordshire
Fire Bedfordshire and Luton
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament Mid Bedfordshire
List of places

Coordinates: 51°59′06″N 0°21′36″W / 51.98488°N 0.3601°W / 51.98488; -0.3601

Shillington is an English village and civil parish in Bedfordshire. In the south of the parish, the hamlet of Pegsdon is almost encircled by Hertfordshire, and since 1985 the parish has included the village of Higham Gobion to the west.[1] It has a population of 1,831.[2]



The first recorded name of the village (1060) is Scytlingedune, literally translating to 'hill of the people of Scyttle'. Scyttle being a Saxon. This name gradually evolved into an unfortunate Shytlington in official returns and letters of the 17th and 18th centuries[3] so was later bowdlerised.

Early history[edit]

Miscellaneous Roman artefacts have been found.[3]

Shillington is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The entry is headed: "Sethlindone: [overlord] St Benedict's of Ramsey. a broken mill, 2 others". It contained 34 households, of which four were slaves, however 27 were villagers or villeins, and five were homes of more independent smallholders. Per year it rendered a large £12, assessed by the Book's compilers to be the same at the conquest twenty years before, had 14 ploughlands and woodland for 100 pigs per year.[4]

The chief hamlets were: Lower Stondon in the north-east, Pegsdon on high ground south of the village on the hills which form the Hertfordshire border, Aspley — with Aspley Bury manor — to the south, Little Holwell, to the east, and Woodmer End and Bury End close to the village on the north.[3]


Shillington of Shillington Bury

Until the Dissolution of the Monasteries the powerful Ramsey Abbey held this, with its noble arms of three rams heads with golden horns on a blue band, set on a gold (or yellow backdrop), i.e. "or a bend azure".[3]

Including much of Pegsbury as well as the hub of the village, at the Dissolution it was valued at £88 2s. 10d per year and formed part of the (royal) honour of Ampthill, conferred on Princess Elizabeth, remaining in the Royal Family until after James I (or VI of Scotland).[3]

Its mesne lords (intermediate landlords) included George Rotherham (21 years), Sir Henry Hobart (99 years) for Anthony Chester (assumed title three years later), Dr. Peter Barwick, Roger Gillingham, John Borrett and finally the 1764 will of John Briscoe bequeathing Shillington Bury to Henry Earl of Essex for life, remainder to the daughters of the late chivalric Bath King of Arms, Grey Longueville. As such, it settled in 1800 on Grey Arnold and cousin Bridget Frances Anne. Little is known of the mid-19th century except for a sale by a Miss Profit to the father of William Hanscombe, the 1908 lord of the manor.[3]

Shillington or Apsley Bury (Tudor to Georgian subdivision)

This secondary manor was sold in 1760 to Joseph Musgrave, and henceforward it follows the same descent as Aspley Bury manor below.[3]

In 1476, when Thomas Lawley first transferred this so-called manor held of the Abbey to Thomas Rotherham Archbishop of York who left it at his death in 1500 to Thomas Rotherham, son of his brother John. His grandson Thomas and his wife Alice, for their lives were later heirs, then George, their son, who held the manor from 1561 to 1599. Then came his son John, having succeeded him, who appears to have alienated (sold or lost) this manor, as in the case of Luton to Sir Robert Napier, who held manorial court here in 1651 and like Luton it remained in this family to the death of Sir John Napier in 1714. In 1748 the manorial court was held by Sir Conyers D'Arcy, and in 1759 by his kinsman, the former Ambassador at Venice (to Italy), and at the Hague (to the Netherlands) Robert Darcy, 4th Earl of Holderness.[3]

Apsley or Apsley Bury

Owners in succession from 1504, for this is a later manor, have been only four families: Lane, Eton, Sir John Franklin's and his grandson-in-law's, that of Sir Christopher Musgrave (with subsequent Musgraves until 1908).[3]


Charity of Edward Pilsworth produced in 1908 a sum of £12 14s "received annually from the Clothworkers Company, London", applied as follows: £10 8s. in money generally among fifty parishioners, £1 to the vicar, 16s. for repair of church, and 10s. to the churchwardens who assisted in its administration.[3]

In 1796 Samuel Whitbread, esq., by will, left £10 10s a year, charged on the manor of Cardington, for providing clothing for the inmates (occupants) of the four almshouses situated in the churchyard. In 1897 this annuity was redeemed making an India stock transfer.[3]


A local adage is that 'all roads lead away from Shillington' — somewhat true as more efficient routes avoid the village altogether. Shillington is still partly agrarian and mostly green-buffered village that covers a large area.


Its curious layout and modest population, is because, originally, it was made up of several 'Ends', as is not uncommon in rural Bedfordshire. These Ends gradually grew and merged into the Shillington that exists today. Many parts of the village are still referred to by their original names, by villagers and to a lesser extent officially. The elder generation of villagers have developed a colloquial geography of the village, based on the common saying Odds and Ends. The oldest parts of the villages called Ends and the newest parts, built in the twentieth century, Odds.

Apsley End[edit]

51°59′35″N 0°22′05″W / 51.993°N 0.3680°W / 51.993; -0.3680
Historically Aspley End (see manors above),[3] this small gently sloping hamlet unusually has three moated sites in a line from north to south, all scheduled ancient monuments, two with ponds, one of which was a fishpond. The other, Pirton Grange has a settling pond, moat remains and enclosure.[5]

Sixteen houses or farmhouses are listed here for architecture, fifteen at Grade II.

Pirton Grange

At Grade II*, this is the highest listed secular building of the parish and has 15th and 16th century parts, a c. 1690 hall roof and mostly timber-framed construction, however Victorian chimneys and fireplaces.[6]

Other localities (clusters of homes)[edit]

  • Handscome End
  • Upton End
  • Bury End
  • Hillfoot End
  • Greenfields Odd
  • Bryant's Odd
  • Marquis Odd
  • Scytles Odd

The village is home to Shillington Lower School and has pubss:

  • Noah's Ark
  • The Crown and
  • The Musgrave Arms.

The village has a rich history of public houses, and at one time was home to seventeen simultaneously, the former Five Bells being architecturally grade II listed.[7]

All Saints Church[edit]

Shillington's church, All Saints Church, is mostly 14th century, with an 18th-century tower and is grade I listed, the highest category.

It has been referred to as the "cathedral of the Chilterns", on an outcrop hill, seemingly the most easterly of the Chiltern Hills however geologically linked to the . The building was originally a Saxon monastery, which grew richer and more influential through the mining and selling of coprolite, fossilised dinosaur dung, once used as a fuel and also a fertilizer. The church also has a secret underground passageway, leading to the basement of a local and equally antiquated house. It is believed that there used to be more secret passages, possibly leading all the way out of the village, but they have never been found.


The village also is home to a lesser known forerunner to the Cottingley Fairies, The Shillington Goblins. After the English Civil War, the Puritan Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell had banned celebration, magic, and general mirth from England, regarding it as sin. According to the legend, during this time Goblins, and other Magical Beings, descended on the village to practice their magic and celebrate as their own quiet, secretive form of resistance. They would gather in a meadow in the centre of the village at the foot of the hill on which the church sat, each equinox, and every solstice, in the depths of the night. The villagers noted their music and laughing, and strange, tiny lights, as well as peculiar goings on around Shillington. This happened one night every spring, summer, autumn and winter while the Commonwealth was in place, but when it fell and the monarchy was restored the Goblins never returned, now free to practice their magic wherever and whenever their mischievous selves felt the need. Although, they did leave their mark: After they had left, once, every year a faeryring – a henge of mushrooms – would appear in the corner of their meadow as a reminder and promise to the people of Shillington that should the monarchy ever fall again the Goblins would return to that very spot, as a protest, and continue to until there was once more a crowned King of England. Although this tale fell out of favour and almost died in the early 20th century, it is thought to be true that a mushroom henge appeared periodically in the meadow generally accepted to be the one in the story, located in the corner where New Walk and Hillfoot Road meet. But in the middle of the 20th century a house was built on the exact spot and the faeryring has never reappeared. Thus it is uncertain whether the myth of the Shillington Goblins or the faeryring they were supposed to have left behind appeared first.

Other interesting facts[edit]

Shillington was featured on Channel 4's Property Ladder TV program in 2005 when developers undertook a renovation project on a small terraced cottage in the village. The episode is referenced as "Hitchin and Wroxham" as Hitchin is the nearest town, being about 6 miles south-east of Shillington and actually lying in the neighbouring county of Hertfordshire. Shillington is in Hitchin post town and shares in postcode SG5 with neighbouring villages.

Shillington at War (1939 - 1945)[edit]

Avro Lancaster

In 1940 a Luftwaffe Dornier 17 was attacked over Great Offley (to the south of Pegsdon), the bomber crashed killing the pilot alongside the road at Pegsdon.[8]

On the 21st of February 1944 Lancaster LL729 (A4 B)[9][10] belonging to 115 Squadron RAF left its base at RAF Witchford for a raid on Stuttgart, several hours later the plane crashed killing its crew near Pegsdon whilst trying to return to its base.


External links[edit]