Swineshead, Bedfordshire

Swineshead, Bedfordshire

Swineshead is a civil parish in the borough of Bedford in the county of Bedfordshire, England.

Until 1896 Swineshead was a detached part of the county of Huntingdonshire, when it was transferred to Bedfordshire. The parish was part of Eaton Socon rural district from 1896 to1934, becoming part of Bedford rural district until 1974.

Suineshefet (1086), Swynesheved (xiii cent.), Swineshead (xvi cent.).

Swineshead was formerly a detached part of Huntingdonshire, to which county it historically belongs, but in 1888 it was transferred to Bedfordshire. The parish of Swineshead is entirely detached from the rest of the county of Huntingdonshire and is surrounded by Bedfordshire. The reason of this is that the parish stood within the great manor of Kimbolton, once the property of Harold II of England – the last Saxon king of England- and, as part of this manor was held to be in Huntingdonshire though separated from the rest of the county by about half a mile at the nearest point, and, though King Harold's lands were granted to different persons by the Conqueror, Swineshead and Stonely both passed to Fitz-Piers and both remained in the county of Huntingdonshire. We find that at the time of the Domesday survey land in Kimbolton and in Swineshead was held by William de Warenne, and his influence would naturally be used to keep his property in the same county.

The soil in the parish is loam and gravelly and the sub-soil mainly blue galt. The chief crops grown are wheat, barley beans, and peas. The surface is undulating and is between 139 ft. and 236 ft. above sea-level. The village itself stands at about 155 ft. The parish was once well wooded, Swineshead and Spanoak Woods in the north of the parish still remain but now are not as large as they once were.

The Church of St Nicholas consists of a chancel, nave, north aisle with vestry, south aisle, west tower and south porch. The walls are coursed rubble with some pebble rubble, and with stone dressings. The roofs are covered with stone slates, tiles and lead.

The church is not mentioned in the Domesday survey of 1086, but there was a rector here before 1271. The whole church seems to have been rebuilt during the 14th century, beginning with the chancel about 1330; about the same time, the south aisle and porch were built. The north aisle with the base of a tower at its west end followed about 10 years later, but the proposed tower was almost immediately abandoned in favour of one at the west end of the nave.

Towards the end of the 15th century, a clearstory was added to the nave, a vestry was added at the east end of the north aisle, with a chamber above it, and a narrow slip-way communicating with the chancel. At the same time the chancel arch was widened, rood-stairs built on the south side, and a rood-screen and loft erected.

The nave roof was repaired in 1706 and in 1841. A general restoration seems to have gone on from 1847 to 1853. The tower and spire were again repaired in 1907.

The village is in the middle of the parish, and the houses of which it consists include many old ones. The "Three Horseshoes" Inn dates from the early 17th century. The cottages are of brick and timber with tiled and thatched roofs. The former rectory, now used as a farmhouse, is an ancient plastered building of brick and timber opposite the church. When it was undergoing restoration in 1846, a copy of the Solemn League and Covenant (signed by the then Rector of Swineshead) was discovered in the roof where it was, perhaps, hidden by the cautious rector of the time. There are the traces of two moats in the village.

Swineshead was inclosed by Act of Parliament in 1803.

*Population in 1801 – 214.
*Population in 1851 – 267.
*Population in 1901 – 160.
*Population in 1951 – 115.
*Population in 1971 – 116.
*Population in 1991 – 137.

The parish of Swineshead was in the St Neots Union for Poor Law administration.

Births and Deaths registered in the St Neots Union Workhouse (1913 – 1952) are available, as fiche set D11, from the Huntingdonshire FHS.

The parish of Swineshead occupies 1353.5 acres of land.

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