The selected names all relate to individuals or families that have played a significant role in the history of the village of Henlow. With Henlow being predominantly a village made up of poor, working class farm labourers, it is not surprising that four of the five names refer to gentry who lived at Henlow Grange. The wealthy Lord of the Manor had the power to totally influence life for the village’s inhabitants, in both a good and negative way. Until 1885 the vast majority of Henlow belonged to the Grange.
In Norman times the village was divided in to five holdings. By the 1600’s there were three manors: Henlow Warden, Henlow Llanthony and Henlow de Grey. In 1663 Henlow Warden passed to the Edwards family, who through succession saw four George Edwards own the manor up to 1809. The earliest part of The Grange was built in 1680. In 1739 the Edwards family purchased part of Henlow Llanthony, and acquired the whole in 1775. The two manors only joined under the one person in 1807.
During the 16th and 17th Centuries there were huge changes taking place in religion, as our country changed from Catholicism to Protestantism. The Puritans believed that the Protestants hadn’t gone far enough in cleansing the Church of corruption and in Sept 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for America on ‘The Mayflower’. On board were members of the Tilley family.
John Tilley and his brother, Edward, and their wives, Joan Hurst and Agnes Cooper respectfully, were passengers. John and Joan were accompanied by their youngest daughter, Elizabeth Tilley. Sadly, John, Edward and their wives died within months of arriving in the New World, but Elizabeth survived. In 1623 Elizabeth married John Howland, another local pilgrim, in Plymouth County, USA. They had 10 children and 80 grandchildren. There is now a famous Pilgrim John Howland Society in Rhode Island, USA and members quite frequently visit Henlow to trace their roots. Hundreds can trace their lineage back to the early settlers and the Tilleys.
In 1766 Frances Edwards, whose family owned Henlow Grange, married Richard Raynsford. Richard went to live at the Grange but had no possession of either Warden or Llanthony Manor. Richard and Frances had 10 children (8 sons and 2 daughters). One son, Robert, fought alongside Nelson on the Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Richard died in 1800, but his children had a major effect on Henlow up to 1868.
In 1809 the Grange, and two Manors, passed to George Nigel Raynsford, the eldest surviving son of Richard and Frances Raynsford. For some reason he renounced the name of Raynsford and assumed the name and arms of the Edwards family. He married Catherine Peers in 1803 but this proved to be a childless marriage. He was made High Sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1827.
Revd. W.B. Hayne, vicar of Henlow, built the first school in Park Lane in 1826 for boys of the village. In 1840 Catherine Edwards (Raynsford) died and George Nigel Edwards (Raynsford) built the first part of the new High Street school, opposite the pump/well, for girls and infants in Catherine’s memory. The initials GNE appear above the door. Then in 1846 George died and left an annual endowment for the school, plus money to pay for a schoolmistress and repairs to a school house.
The name of Raynsford finally gained possession of the Grange and Manors in 1846 when George’s brother Thomas Alexander Raynsford succeeded him. He married Bridget Elizabeth Lightfoot and had one child, a daughter, Matilda. In 1852 Matilda married the vicar of Langford, the Revd. Henry Addington.
In 1853 Thomas Raynsford provided money for the extension of the new school with a schoolmaster’s house and an endowment for repairs. He died in 1854 and the remaining brother, Major General Hanbury Raynsford took possession of the Grange at the age of 71. In 1857 he conveyed funds for an adjoining cottage to be added to the High Street school (thus three brothers had played a part in developing what later became Henlow Mixed School, and this explains why their name is remembered with the new Raynsford Lower School. Apparently, there had been suggestions that the new middle school should carry their name!).
In 1868 Hanbury Raynsford died. Thus, the Raynsford dynasty came to an end. The only surviving child from the ten Raynsford children was Maltilda, who had married Revd. Henry Addington. So the Vicar of Langford became the Lord of the Manor!
Henry Addington quickly put in place a house building programme and twenty four houses were built in the village to provide homes for working class families. The family crest of a tun (a barrel) can still be seen on these properties. Other building projects and good deeds to help the village inhabitants quickly followed. He established a school in Langford, gave up the Ministry, and built cottages to commemorate his son, Thomas, coming of age. In 1883 Henry died and his son Thomas inherited the Grange. Henry refused to be buried in the Raynsford family vault, and his wife’s remains and his body were buried in the Henlow churchyard among the common people (a beautiful cross marks their grave). Sadly, Thomas who was 24, filled his life with gambling and partying! In 1885 he was declared bankrupt and about half of Henlow was sold off for private ownership; but no-one would buy the Grange and it fell in to disrepair.
In 1891 the Gribble family purchased the Grange. They moved to the Grange in 1892 and they remained there until 1909. George Gribble was the High Sheriff, and he gave the village four acres of land and paid for a cricket field to be constructed up on it, with a cricket pavilion, over a two year period. This is the present day Recreation Ground or Pyghtles (meaning enclosure) and the original pavilion still remains alongside Park Lane, although new changing rooms and a social club have now been built.
The well, near to the church, had a hexagonal roof built at a cost of £91 17s 6d, and Mrs Nora Gribble opened the new pump in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 60th anniversary on the throne. Mrs Gribble was a fine artist and several rooms at the Grange still retain her decorative artwork.
The Gribble children grew up in Henlow and went on to achieve fame. Julian won a VC at Harmies Ridge in WW1; Philip became a famous WW2 war correspondent and later a race horse owner and trainer; and Leslie married Hugh Seebohm and their child became Lord Seebohm, the famous banker and social work innovator.
In 1936 the Lennox-Boyd family moved in to the Grange. Alan Tindall Lennox-Boyd was an MP throughout the 1930s to 1950s. He became Colonial Secretary and Lord Boyd of Merton. He was responsible for granting independence to most of the former British colonies. He donated the Boyd Field to the local scouts. The gates at the Pit Recreation Ground are erected in his memory.