Sunday, 12 December 2010

Anne Allsopp's new History of Luton (see below for publication details) is particularly strong on the town's recent history over the last 100 to 150 years, although in traditional style it begins with early habitation. 

After opening chapters on the early history of the town, where incidentally the author makes the point several times that little of the early town survives to be seen above ground or in the archaeological record (the exception being the parish church, shown here), she focuses on the themes that contributed to modern day Luton with chapters on country houses, education, industry, wartime, migration, leisure and the town. Under these headings she has woven together hundreds of strands including

Luton Airport

  • brickmaking (with an account of how bricks used to be made)
  • brewing and temperance
  • Stattie fairs to the Luton carnival
  • straw plaiting schools (where young children laboured and were denied an education) to the University of Bedfordshire
  • hatmaking
  • a medieval gild, non-conformity, Quakers,
  • the multi-ethnic composition of today's population and the Luton Council of Faiths
  • the town's musical and theatrical activities 
  • roads, railways and the airport
  • Vauxhall Motors and the connection with Vauxhall Bridge in London
Wardown Park

.... and the list could go....   The book is a treasure house of information about Luton's past, often in the words of people who were there, and supplemented by wonderful photographs and maps. 

This is a book for locals, who will revel in the memories of how Luton was - and is.  For others who are curious about the towns and cities of this country, this book is more than just a history of Luton, it is also a record of how people worked and lived in a time not long gone.  

Anne Allsopp A History of Luton from Conquerors to Carnival.  Andover, Phillimore, 2010. ISBN 978-1-86077-621-2  £20

Photos:  Parish Church © Barbara Tearle; Luton Airport © Jack Hill (Creative Commons); Wardown Park© Nigel Cox (Creative Commons)

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

New History of Luton

A History of Luton: From Conquerors to Carnival, by Anne Allsopp has been published this week by Phillimore (hardback at £20)

The publisher says - 

"In the past, Luton was a market town and, for many years, was also a centre for the brewing industry. In the 19th century it became famous for hat making, and more recently it has grown into a thriving industrial centre. During the Second World War it played an important part in the manufacture of army vehicles, and children bound for school had to dodge the Churchill tanks on their way
to various theatres of conflict. 
Nowadays, Luton Airport is the gateway for all types of traveller and the town is well known for its famous football team.
Luton owes its existence to the river Lea, which is now a small stream but once powered seven mills. Archaeological discoveries have revealed that people have settled in the area for thousands of years. Julius Caesar may have passed through in A.D. 54 and William the Conqueror came this way one thousand years later. The parish church, still standing near Park Square, was built in medieval times.
The town has since acquired a reputation as a solid working class place, the sort of community where ‘almost everyone earns his living’. This independent spirit has also had its downside, particularly on the occasion when disillusioned citizens burned down the town hall, and this well-informed narrative manages to capture Luton’s distinctive character.
Luton has always provided visitors with a warm welcome and many have stayed and made the town their home. Local industry offered employment opportunities in the early 20th century and many had cause to be grateful for its relative prosperity during the Great Depression. Following the Second World War, immigrants from the Indian subcontinent and from the West Indies brought with them colourful new cultures that are celebrated in the annual Carnival.
This fascinating and illustrated account of Luton’s past will inform and delight anyone who lives in the town and inspire those who grew up there."

The author, Anne Allsopp, was born in Luton and attended Luton High School for Girls. She taught in local schools before gaining an MA and PhD at the London Institute of Education. She has published books on Luton High School and the Technical School,  another for BHRS on the education and employment of girls in the town. Her particular interest is the lives of ordinary people, and her latest research has helped her appreciate Luton’s unique character and reputation for being quite unlike anywhere else.

A review will follow.  Meanwhile the book can be ordered through bookshops or from Phillimore's online bookshop.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Friends of BLARS Association

Visiting BLARS last week, I picked up a copy of Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service News which contains an editorial on the grim financial situation facing all public services.  The editorial says that 'local services and their clients will share the pain' of efficiency savings and that users and staff of BLARS are asking 'How bad is it likely to be?'  to which the answer is 'we don't know but we need to be prepared.'

Part of being prepared, keeping people informed and seeking feedback and support is through the newly formed Friends of BLARS Association. 

BLARS was the first county record office that I used, maybe thirty-odd years ago, and I've used many others since then.   Each gives its own individual and fantastic service to anyone and everyone concerned in the history and culture of the area it covers and also plays a part in our children's education through outreach services to develop and foster their interest in the place where they live. 

I am passionate about the service that BLARS offers.  We don't know what its future is in the current climate but it is vital to ensure that BLARS and all local record offices have a future to continue their vital part in the cultural life of local and national communities.
Read the full editorial and support BLARS by emailing to join the Friends mailing list.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A Painted Landscape: Wardown Park Museum exhibition of early nineteenth century Bedfordshire watercolours

Two outstanding topographical artists, Thomas Fisher and George Shepherd visited Bedfordshire, separately, between the years 1811 and 1822 and have left us with paintings which enable us to see what places around the county looked like before industrialisation and intensive agriculture brought changes to every aspect of life. Wardown Park Museum has drawn on its collection of works by both artists to create a charming display which is open to the public, free, until 14 November 2010

Thomas Fisher was born in Kent in 1772 and employed by the East India Company in London but had plenty of time to employ his talent as a finely detailed water colourist to record the buildings, monuments and landscape scenes associated with Bedfordshire’s main landowners.  He was particularly interested in the local villages and landscapes which he visited during the summer months of the successive years from 1812 to 1822.  His work resulted in the publication of two volumes Collections Historical, Genealogical and Topographical for Bedfordshire (1817) and Monumental Remains and Antiquities in the County of Bedfordshire (1828).

George Sidney Shepherd was born in London in 1784 and became a professional artist who travelled throughout the country producing sketches and paintings for both publishers and for private commissions. On one trip to Bedfordshire he met and subsequently married a young woman from Stanbridge.

The exhibition presents some 30-odd paintings, ranging in subject matter from landscapes and street scenes to studies of particular buildings, from Luton and Dunstable in the south, and Ampthill, to Cotton End, Cardington and Turvey in the north and Potton in the north-east. Not surprisingly, some of the county’s larger houses are portrayed - Houghton House, Steppingley Park house, Harlington House (Manor), Toddington Manor (pictured, above right)

and Sundon House – but also The Red Lion Inn, Dunstable and the Old Carriage Entrance to Luton Hoo. Farms, mills and churches feature, as well as monuments such as Leighton Buzzard Market Cross and distinctive landscape features such as “Warden Hill near Luton”, “Clappershill by Sharpenhoe”, “View from the Chiltern Hills, taken near Pegsdon Barns”, “Pascombe Pit, Dunstable Downs” and “The Vale of Bedford from Lidlington Park”(pictured, above left)

Helpful captions provide useful historical background material on the subjects depicted.The exhibition, though relatively small, is a delight and I can thoroughly recommend it. Dr. Elizabeth Adey, curator, will give a talk on the two artists and the exhibition at Wardown Park Museum on Thursday 4 November at 2.30pm. Entrance to the talk is only £1 but you are asked to ring 01582 546 722 in advance to book a place.

Thanks to Stuart Antrobus and Elizabeth Adey for this contribution. 
Images may not be reproduced without permission, which should be sought from Elizabeth Adey (substitute @ for at in this address:Elizabeth.adey at

Thursday, 29 July 2010

The 2nd Bedfords in France and Flanders 1914-1918

Available now!  BHRS's 2010 volume is The 2nd Bedfords in France and Flanders 1914-1918 edited by Martin Deacon.

Martin Deacon receiving his copy of The 2nd Bedfords at Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service in July 2010.   The volume complements his edition of The Shiny Seventh published by BHRS in 2004.

The 2nd Bedfords is the official WWI war diary of the 2nd battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment who fought in the major battles of the war:  the First Battle of Ypres, Festubert and Loos, the Somme and Passchendaele.  Through the terse, even matter-of-fact, diary entries of the adjutant recording each day's events, we get to know many of the officers of the battalion by name and also the men, fewer named, but given their due in the desperate events.  Martin Deacon's careful research has given names to many of the men.  He has also provided several appendices to show the battalion's movements during the four years and the places of origin of the men - around two thirds from Bedfordshire/Hertfordshire.

A dozen photographs of officers and men show youths, most looking totally unprepared for what faced them.  Because appalling events were recorded as everyday occurrences, the awful conditions and the strain everyone was under gradually emerges as the diary goes on through the four years.

The 2nd Bedfords is available from the publisher Boydell & Brewer and from local bookshops (see side panel).

Saturday, 19 June 2010

BHRS's President to be knighted

Congratulations to Samuel Whitbread, Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, who was appointed a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in the Birthday Honours list last week (12 June 2010)  Bedfordshire News carries a report and photograph following the announcement. The award is in the Queen's personal gift and is made for services to her or the royal family.

Sir Samuel has been Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire for 19 years and President of the Bedfordshire Historical Record Society since 1980.    The Central Bedfordshire government website gives information about the activities of the county's Lord Lieutenant and, incidentally, shows that Sir Samuel is the third member of his family to be the county's Lord Lieutenant.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Bedfordshire Local History Association Conference 2010

Potton History Society hosted the annual AGM and conference, this year, at the lovely St Mary’s Church and church hall situated on the Gamlingay side of the ancient market town. The sun shone on the 53 members from some of the 31 member societies as well as a major team of local society members working hard to make the day work smoothly. Chairman George Howe gave us all a warm welcome.

Peter Ibbett, Programme Secretary and a founder member of this leading local group (founded 1977), gave an inspirational opening presentation on ‘The Challenge to 21st Century Local Historians’, looking back to those pioneers such as Betty Chambers, editing the Bedfordshire Magazine, after the Second World War and the growth of local history societies which began in the 1970s in particular. He emphasised that it was people and their sense of local affinity which motivated much of the diverse research into local history. He reminded us how much photographs from the past provoked local interest and that personal connections were so important. Local documents enabled us to ‘time travel’ and the exhibitions of these photos and documents inspired others to get involved in researching local history.

Now, in a multi-digital era, the problem was often ‘seeing the wood for the trees’ and this was where local history groups could play their part. In a question and answer session with the Potton Society’s web master, Sean Hendry told of how he got involved in setting up and developing their web site into one with15 separate parts and a monthly update of material to be found in the ‘What’s New’ section, drawing people from around the county, the country and even internationally into revisiting the site. Content included a virtual tour of Potton and information on upcoming talks arranged by the Society as well as an extensive photographic archive (from over 7,000, all have also been digitised!) and write-ups on members’ research into a wide variety of topics.

A lively discussion took place among those attending as to how to maximise effectiveness of local history archives and web site. This was followed by an opportunity to view a sample of the range of hard-copy material the Society had produced over the last few decades, with documents and photographs carefully indexed so as to make access to related material easy.

Those who were most active and mobile were taken by Peter on a walking tour into and around the market square of the town where developments over the century, particularly the rise and fall of the market, and key people and buildings were highlighted. Others chose to stay in and around the ironstone church and its graveyard, both of which were full of interest.

All then met up for a delicious buffet lunch, provided by local people, in the well-appointed church hall, where the rest of the conference took place.

Pamela Birch of the County Record Office (BLARS: Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service, to give it its full name) discussed the county’s web scene as it related to local history. The key web sites shown or mentioned were those of BLARS (including its online public access catalogue:OPAC), Bedford Museum, Luton Museum and Bedfordshire Libraries. Local history society web sites also played their part. The OPAC catalogue currently gave references to 60% of the county archive’s holdings. Their Community Archives pages had started as resources for school but had developed into ones for adults as well, with the ambitious aim of covering every settlement in the historic Bedfordshire (including Luton), offering material on the local church, non-conformist chapels, education, interesting buildings, licensed premises and a general introduction, showing current photographs as well as related references. 69 communities, over the three local authorities, had so far been covered and completion planned by 2023.

She also outlined another long-term project to transcribe the registers for Bedford County Gaol from 1801 onwards, with 30,000 entries currently on the web site. There were also plans for digitisation of such things as the 1925 rate evaluation maps but this was expensive and hard to get grants for. They were putting the Sandy Chrystal postcard collection online as it is being catalogued. School registers 1870 – 1914 were also a priority and BLARS hoped to apply for funding within a consortium bid from a number of record offices nationally.

The problems of copyright were touched on as well as the need for the record office to derive income from copies of documents and photos, in the same way that libraries relied on fines and museums relied on shops or catering for income generation.

Pamela outlined how societies and individual volunteers could help the archives with their work by: supporting their application for grants, volunteering a day a week, helping with research and telling other people about the resources and services which BLARS offers. Pamela announced that BLARS was now accepting their first deposits of digital oral history sound recordings, bringing them in line with other record offices.

After a discussion on how the BLHA might co-ordinate or encourage local history web activity, George Howe and Peter Ibbett shared a ‘two Ronnies’ audio-visual presentation on local people and places, ‘They Walked Potton Streets’, which was lively, informative and entertaining.

The atmosphere of the day was friendly, welcoming, inclusive and altogether uplifting. The friendly folk of Potton were mostly to thank for that but the sun and the glorious setting did help.

Stuart Antrobus

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Tribute to Liz Day, BEM, 1913-2010 - a Bedfordshire Land Girl

Liz Day, former Bedfordshire Land Girl died on 8 April 2010.  This Tribute is taken from the funeral ceremony arranged by Stephen Brand and held as a celebration of her life at Norse Road Crematorium, Bedford, on Tuesday 27 April 2010 at 11.30am.  The service was conducted by Carolanne Gibson, Civil Funeral Celebrant.

Liz was a very sociable, well-liked lady who had many friends. She was certainly determined and strong minded and she liked to get the most out of life.

Elizabeth Mary Blair Day was born on the 26th April 1913, the eldest of seven children. She had two brothers and four sisters, and is survived by her sister Jane in Canada. She came from a farming background and the family lived at Dungee Farm in Odell. Later they moved to Bedford.

At the beginning of the Second World War, Liz joined the ATS, having been a part-time member of the Women’s Legion of Motor Transport, a territorial organisation which trained in the evenings.

At the age of 27, she left the ATS and started her long Land Army career in Bedfordshire at Isaac Godber’s nurseries at Willington, where she stayed for three years. [She then became a Forewoman at Cople Hostel and later had a roving brief for the Bedfordshire War Agricultural Committee.]

Most of the time, Liz worked in the outdoor gang at the nursery but in the summer season she would take an over-laden 2 and half ton Commer Lorry at least once a week to deliver 12 pound boxes of tomatoes to the wholesale markets in Coventry. Sometimes she had to find alternative routes, following bomb damage in the Midlands.

She could appreciate more than most just how difficult it must have been for young women from towns and cities who found themselves doing hard physical work in the open air. Liz was used to the work and the weather.

In terms of social life, she would meet friends at The Anchor Pub in Great Barford on Friday nights. There were May festivities and gymkhanas were very popular.

Because of her previous experience with horses, Liz could be seen annually in Russell Park in Bedford on Farm Sunday driving horses from Godber’s Nursery. She also cycled to the BBC Music symphony concerts when they were resident in Bedford. For recreation she liked to play hockey and cricket.

One of Liz’s personal highlights in the Women’s Land Army was when, at Cople Hostel, there was a visit by the Duchess of Gloucester to inspect the land girls. Liz was chosen to present to the Duchess a basket of apples and eggs surrounded by snowdrops, daffodils and anemones, picked from the hostel garden.

In February 1946, Princess Elizabeth visited Bedford. In the victory parade along the High Street Liz drove a tractor past the Princess who took the salute. Later, the Princess opened an exhibition of agricultural work and handicrafts. Luton Museum had loaned some old farming implements to the exhibition and Liz’s father was called upon to identify some of the rare items for labelling.

Rather than being demobilised, as the majority of Bedfordshire Land girls were after the February 1946 parade, Liz decided to stay on. In total she served for 10 years in the Land Army.

In 1947, Liz took four Women’s Land Army proficiency tests and gained three distinctions. She transferred to horticulture, where the work was somewhat lighter than general farm work. She worked briefly with gangs doing experimental work with Unilever at Colmworth.

Because of Liz’s interest in agriculture she had already completed a correspondence course on ‘Elements of Agriculture’. At the end of the war she was one of the fortunate ones who got a grant to do a full-time course in horticulture at the Kent Horticulture Institute at Swanley.

It was while she was there that she heard she had been awarded the British Empire Medal for services to the Women’s Land Army. She was one of only thirty-one nationally to be honoured in this way. The letter was in an envelope marked ‘prime minister’ and informed her not to say anything to anyone for three weeks. The letter was signed ‘George Rex’ (King George VI)

Once the news was out she was ribbed by all her fellow students at Swanley who came up with their own rude abbreviations as alternatives to BEM. They wrote ‘NBG’ on her dormitory door which stood for ‘no bloody good’ [but only in jest].

Liz ended her working life as a ‘groundsman’ at the women’s physical education teacher training college in Bedford. She worked at the college for 30 years. A well travelled representative from Fisons, who knew all the leading groundsmen once pointed out to her that she was the only female head ‘groundsman’ in the country.

Liz had many hobbies throughout her life. She enjoyed carpentry, working mainly with oak, and the family still have the wonderful tables and stools that she made. She loved the outdoors and wildlife and had many happy holidays travelling around Britain with the Ramblers Association.

In later life she enjoyed adult learning courses at the Retirement Education Centre and she made many friends there.

With her health failing, Liz moved into Henrietta House in December 2008. The family would like to thank all the staff for the excellent care that they gave to Liz during her time there.

The family have gained strength from Liz. She was a dear aunt to Stephen, Hazel and Tom and a special great aunt to Jackie.

She was a very special, inspirational woman who will be sadly missed.


For more details of Liz Day’s experience in the Bedfordshire Women’s Land Army, and period photos see We wouldn’t have missed it for the World by Stuart Antrobus (Book Castle Publishing, 2008), pp.82-3; 172-6.
Photograph courtesy of  Stuart Antrobus who also contributed this piece.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service

Last week I was reading a disturbing editorial in The Oxfordshire Local Historian complaining about the stop-go 'policy' for developing the local studies centre and record office in Oxford - the local studies centre being squeezed of staff and space to accommodate a building development that is unlikely to take place - and the record office's ideas for a combined local studies centre and record office on a new site having to be reduced drastically to a redesign of the current record office (in a former church) to accommodate both.

The editorial was expressing a deep-felt frustration about Oxfordshire services and there seemed to be something substantial to complain about.  But in comparison with Bedfordshire, there's no cause for complaint.

I've been hearing about what sounds like indifference or ignorance in the 'support' given to Bedfordshire Archives and Records Service (BLARS) since the local government changes in the county twelve months ago.  (Is it significant that the change was implemented on 1 April?)  I hear that the service does not have a budget; that it has no strategic head for policy development; that it was not going to be able to re-apply for Charter Mark status.

I may have misunderstood the situation.  I hope so.  I'd like someone to explain what is happening.

BLARS is a jewel amongst county record offices and a Bedfordshire treasure that the three local authorities  should be exploiting (in the best sense of the word) for the advantage of the county, all those who have an interest in its history and - not least - for the enhancement of  their standing.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Do you think your surname is native to Bedfordshire - again

The post about surnames has produced an almost instant reply from Richard, who says:

I wonder whether the website which I manage might be of help in the study of surname distribution?  It is the website of the National Archive of Memorial Inscriptions, NAOMI for short.  The address is:

There are at present 29,263 people from 108 burial grounds named on the site .  To read the inscriptions on their memorials searchers have to pay (£4), but searching is free of charge.  If you enter first the county's name on the home page and the name you are interested in, pressing 'Search' will bring up a list of all the names at present included in the database from Bedfordshire, together with their first names, dates of death, age at death and the place of their burial. 
Then you can use the search facilities to help you find spelling variants of the names. The two most useful ways of doing this are by employing in your search box the signs? (question mark) and * (asterisk). The ? works like a wild card – it can represent any letter. So, for example, the surname ‘Grey' can be spelled 'Gray'. To search for both, enter 'Gr?y.

The * works in a similar way, but it can bring up any number of letters. Try ‘Gr*y’.Other names are found in a wider variety of spellings. An example is 'Sewell'. The only common factor in the various versions is that they begin with an 'S' and end with an 'l'. Enter ‘S*l and you will get all the examples that are available which begin with ‘S’ and end with ‘l’. As you can see, this is a powerful tool from which a surname distribution map could be drawn, taking account of migration and of variant spellings.

Richard Smart

And Richard has supplied a photograph from NAOMI.  It is of the much loved and mourned daughter Florence Jane (known as Edris) of Edward and Charlotte Bousfield.  Charlotte's diary was published by BHRS and has recently been reprinted in paperback at £14.95.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Do you think your surname is native to Bedfordshire?

The forthcoming BHRS volume is the WWI War Diary of the 2nd Battalion, the Bedfordshire Regiment and reading it (OK, proof-reading) I noticed Acting Corporal Vincent Ivory from Luton among the casualties in July 1917.  This rang a bell as the surname cropped up in another context recently - again from the Luton area, but in this instance from the early sixteenth century, when the family were playing a leading part in the pre-Reformation Luton Fraternity (a secular religious gild).

It set me thinking about the continuity of names in very small areas of the country and in particular in Bedfordshire where for example Ellingham, Docwra, Cleaver, Honor/Honour, Baldwin, German/Jarman, Mann, Pedder, Tearle, Peppiatt were prominent in south Bedfordshire in the early sixteenth century and are still there and in adjoining counties today.  How long had these families been living there before the sixteenth century?

That question may soon be answered, or at least evidence provided to assist in further research.

A far-reaching study of surnames in Britain is being undertaken by Professor Richard Coates and a team at the University of the West of England's Bristol Centre for Linguistics.  The study, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, was announced at the end of last year and sounds as if it will be a major contribution to source material for population studies.  The press release includes this explanation of its purpose and aims and some of the information it will provide:

"Using published and unpublished resources, dating from as far back as the 11th century, a team of researchers will collect information about individual names such as when and where they were recorded and how they have been spelled. This information will be used to give new and detailed explanations of those names. This new knowledge will be far more reliable and up to date than that found in the books on surnames currently available. This resource will be a permanently publicly accessible database that people can use for a range of information. Each name will have separate fields which include: the meaning of the surname; the linguistic origin, the geographical origin and the distribution."
So, how will this affect Bedfordshire history? For a start, it will be a considerable aid to plotting the distribution of a surname in different periods and, consequently, the internal migration of individuals and families. Migration means contact and contact means influence, and it may be possible to extrapolate familial networks which will tie Bedfordshire people in with other areas of Britain.

It will be several years before the information will be available of course but I'm looking forward to the potential for widening research that it will provide.

Friday, 8 January 2010

More on Where is Bedfordshire

Last year I posed the question of Bedfordshire's place in regional history - midlands, eastern counties, home counties, etc.  A book from English Heritage has just come my way, although published in 2006, that answers that question by placing the county firmly in the East Midlands. 

It draws upon topography, forests and hills, settlement patterns, weather and agriculture to define the East Midlands region as running in an arc southwest from the North Sea coast of Lincolnshire to west Oxfordshire.  At its eastern and southern boundaries it excludes the Fens and the Chilterns, thus including the majority of Bedfordshire firmly within the region.  The exception is those extreme southern parishes at the intersection of Beds, Bucks and Herts, which fall within the South East region and the outer limits of the pull of London.

The book is a sweeping survey of climate, communications, settlements, housing, industry and religion over several millenia.  Despite this wide sweep, there is much to interest and instruct the historian of Bedfordshire, not least the importance of placing a county in its wider geographical context.  The maps, diagrams and photographs illustrate the text superbly.

The book:
David Stocker, England's landscape: the East Midlands. Collins for English Heritage, 2006.

The photos here, courtesy Ewart Tearle:
Above: a signpost in Toddington, Bedfordshire.
Right: Airship hangers at Cardington - a bit of modern landscape.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Goldington people in the early sixteenth century

Before the censuses of the nineteenth century the existence of lists of inhabitants or householders depends on the survival of a variety of documents created for reasons other than recording all people in a place - taxation lists and hearth tax returns, parish registers and jury lists, manorial court documents and pew lists amongst others.

A less obvious source for the inhabitants of a town or village are wills.  Normally they only mention the testator's family and a few friends.  Rarely do they contain as much about the testator's neighbours as that of Alice Gray of Goldington who made her will on 20 October 1505.  It must have been a deathbed will as it was proved six days later.  Deathbed or not, she remembered the local religious houses and forty six people amongst whom she distributed her cows, barley, clothing and household goods.  She also remembered the poor of Goldington, giving 12d to each of ten named people.  She made no mention of husband or children which would account for the distribution of her goods amongst friends, neighbours and servants.

An abstract of Alice Gray's will, including the names of all these beneficiaries, is in BHRS volume 37 (1956) together with nearly 200 other wills of Bedfordshire people for the period 1498 to 1526.  It is probable that she was the widow of John Gray of Goldington who died in 1500, apparently without children, leaving a few  modest bequests and appointing his wife Alice as one of his executors.  His will is also abstracted in a BHRS volume, number 45 for 1966.

This list in Alice Gray's will provides a snapshot of some, at least, of the inhabitants of this village on the outskirts of Bedford and is particularly important because it was made twenty years before the taxation returns of the mid-1520s and fifty years before the earliest extant parish records.