Described as ‘small and with an air of remoteness about its hill top position, Souldrop’s fine clean air is praised in an old rhyme:

‘Souldrop air and Sharnbrook water, Make a man live here and hereafter’

although we prefer the ending –

‘Makes a man live longer than he oughter’

– according to an old gentleman from the Biggleswade antiques fair!

From the village there are fine views to the west. the church is early decorated with an Early English tower and spire. It was completely rebuilt in 1861. (From ‘Bedfordshire’, by Simon Larkman published by the Leagrave Press Ltd, Luton MCML (1950).

All Saints Church, Souldrop

All Saints Church, Souldrop

Souldrop was originally a Danish settlement called Souththorpe, the name gradually changed over
the years ref 3 . (One spelling was Southdrope, as the land slopes away to the south of the village.)
ref 1.
Lusemere, Sortebrache and Rawedeheg are place-names associated with Souldrop, which have been found in 13th-century documents. ref 2 .

Evolution of the Souldrop name

Evolution of the Souldrop name

The first documented owner was the Bishop of Coutances, who came from Normandy in 1086 to claim the village in company with William the Conqueror. ref 3 .

Prior to the dissolution of the monasteries in 1560, the land belonged to the Melchbourne
Preceptory, a monastic house of the Knights Hospitallers of Saint John. The area includes 350 acres of common land enclosed by the Enclosure Act of 1770. It is reputed to be one of the last parishes in which serfs were employed.   ref 3 .

The Manors Of Souldrop

Some 70 odd dwellings make up the village, some dating back to the 16th century. One old cottage is part built of wattle and daub. Old articles about the village mention a manor,its exact site is unknown, although believed to be between Church Farm and Middle Farm. ref 1

There is no mention of Souldrop in the Domesday Book, as it was probably included under
Sharnbrook. The Bishop of Coutances, ‘who had three holdings there, amounting to 4½ hides in all’, also held Melchbourne in 1086. The ‘Melchbourne Preceptory’, a house of the Knights Hospitallers, was origally founded by Alice de Clermont in the reign of Henry II. ref 2

In 1278–9 the prior claimed ‘view of frankpledge’ in the manor,(then containing 6 virgates), and the following year ‘obtained a charter of free warren’. Souldrop was held by the prior, ‘by service of a quarter of a knight’s fee’. In 1302 six of the prior’s tenants, William de le Despenser, Michael in Le Lane, Warin Duke, William Bacon, William Faber and Robert Bacon, ‘combined to render this service’. ref 1

After the Dissolution :

Souldrop was granted to Thomas Cobbe of Sharnbrook. This was prior to 1573, as this was the year Thomas Cobbe died. The Cobbes were the Lords of the Manor of Souldrop until 1655, afterwhich it was conveyed to Laurence Wright, thus uniting Souldrop with Knotting.The manor then passed to  the Wrights, the Pyes, The Dukes of Bedford, then Mr.Albert Edward Bowen. ref 2

A second SOULDROP MANOR appears after the Dissolution, previously belonging to Newnham Priory. ‘Its history is identical with that of the manor of Tofte in Sharnbrook, but no mention of it has been found previous to 1539, in which year, with Tofte, it was granted to George Boteler whose family owned this manor until the late 18th century. In 1876 it was purchased by Mr. C. Magniac, who also owned Colworth Manor in Sharnbrook.

Next: The Prehistory and Romans of Souldrop

© Ella Jo Street

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