Village History
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The village of Carlton owes its existence to the River Great Ouse, used by Stone Age man, whose tools have occasionally been uncovered in the area. Aerial photographs show signs of ‘ring’ ditches near the river, which may be Bronze Age burial sites. Excavations have been undertaken on Iron Age settlements close to the parish. A Roman road is thought to have existed between the villages of Harrold, Carlton and Stevington, and various pieces of Roman pottery and rare, enamelled Roman brooches have been discovered in the fields.

When the Vikings arrived, the Ouse Valley became an armed frontier and the border of King Knut’s Danish empire. The name Carlton is derived from the Viking name ‘Karla’, meaning free man, and the Saxon ‘tun’, which means a farm or a collection of dwellings. Our village of Carlton is the most southerly in England bearing the name and therefore indicates how far south the Vikings came.

Carlton is mentioned in the Domesday Book (as Carletone). William the Conqueror gave land in the parish to his niece, Countess Judith, and a deer park to his stepbrother, the Bishop of Bayeux. A study performed by Leicester University suggested that this was likely to have been centred on the moated site and associated earthworks at Carlton Hall Farm. However, the square stone dovecote with 1000 nesting holes is much more recent, probably dating from the 17th century.


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The parish church, which is dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, lies outside the village, although medieval trackways and old maps show the original village to have been much closer. The building, is of local stone, and was begun around 950AD. Over the years it has been altered and enlarged, but by the end of  the 15th century, the church building as we can see it now was complete. The list of incumbents goes back to 1229AD, and includes some interesting characters. One Thomas Wells was Parson for ‘three score years and ten’ and died at the age of 100 years.  However the next Parson was dismissed after only five years for alleged drunkenness and is reputed to have kept his horse in the church during a service! The diary of Benjamin Rogers (Rector from 1720 to 1771AD) still exists, and gives a detailed account of life in the 18th century, including details of the farming year, the social life of the local gentry and medical remedies of the day.


Carlton Church

Carlton parish church of St. Mary the Virgin

Chellington Church

St. Nicholas' Church Chellington


First mentioned in 1218AD, the parish of Chellington merged ecclesiastically with Carlton (to become Carlton-cum-Chellington) in 1729AD, but for civil purposes, the parishes remained separate until 1934AD. The name of the village is from an Old English woman’s name ‘Cęolwynne-tun’, meaning ‘the farm of Cęolwynne’. The church and a farm are now all that remains of the medieval village, although the position of some old dwellings and trackways can still be seen. Ridge and furrow are also visible and correspond to the ancient, open field system, shown on a map of 1798AD. The reasons for the desertion of the hilltop village are unknown. Suggestions include the ‘Black Death’ or it may simply have been the attraction of the better facilities of the main road and bridge, together with easier working of the land. The redundant church of St. Nicholas is built mainly in the Early English style of the 12th century. In the churchyard can be found the tomb of Sir Robert Darling, who was Sheriff of London in 1767, he is reported to have kept cows on Chellington Hill as a boy. The church itself was converted into a Diocesan Youth Centre in 1975.


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Harrold Bridge is built of limestone and has been in existence since before 1140AD. It has been repaired and altered over the years, and in medieval times the Lords of the Manors of Odell, Harrold, Carlton and Chellington were each responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of one river arch between them (which accounts for their different shapes). The 20 arched, raised causeway leading to the bridge from the Carlton side of the river is also of medieval origin. Carlton once had its own watermill, sited at Mill Holme Island. There were many such mills on the Ouse, and the slowing of the river current caused, by the numerous number of dams caused silting up of the river. The river itself is nowadays controlled by automatic sluices. After a storm, the water meadows in Carlton are allowed to flood in order to prevent the valuable topsoil in the Fens from being washed out to sea.


Harrold Bridge - showing the differing shapes of the arches.


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The Carlton Baptist Meeting was first granted a licence to hold services in a barn at Fishers Farm belonging to a William Brown, who was married to John Bunyan’s daughter, Sarah. The first chapel was built in 1760AD and over the years has attracted congregations of up to 1000. It has a three-decked pulpit and a gallery around 3 sides. Descendants of some of the early benefactors still live in the village today. Baptist meetings ceased to be held in 2001AD, with the cemetery being made over for safe keeping to the Carlton and Chellington Parish Council in 2002AD. The chapel is now a private dwelling.

Baptist Chapel

Carlton Baptist Chapel


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In 1844AD, an enlightened local landowner, Thomas Higgins of Turvey, instigated the building of a reform school in Carlton for young offenders. There were workshops for carpentry, shoemaking and engineering, and the boys also had to undertake farmwork. It is now no longer used as a corrective establishment, but has since passed from being St. Margaret’s School, a training and conference centre funded by the Bedfordshire County Council to its present incumbent EMMAUS Community Centre.


The first village school was built in the village in 1872AD with a Mr. Simpson being recorded as the first Headmaster, this was situated next to the Post Office in Bridgend. Attendance at the time was not good, because at certain times of the year, priority had to be given over by the children to local farm work, like potato picking. However, there are references to a Parochial school in 1869AD with a Miss Beattie as Mistress and a second to a mixed Parochial School being built in 1859AD for 105 children. During the Great War of 1914-18AD, refugee children came to the village from afar a field as Belgium, and during the Second World War of 1939-45AD, evacuees from the town of Eastbourne shared the school. In 1972AD, a new school, the Carlton V.C. Lower School was built in The Moor. This Lower School shares its hall and related facilities with the local community as a Village Hall. The previous Village Hall had been an old army hut, which had been erected soon after the First World War, situated opposite The Fox Public House.

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The oldest remaining buildings of Carlton and Chellington are the groups of stone dwellings to be found at opposite ends of the present village. In the 19th century, a few red brick houses were added to the two settlements, but it was not until the 1960’s and 70’s, when there was considerable expansion of private housing development, that the two groups of buildings became joined to form the continuous settlement comprising of the village layout today. The major ‘infilling’ was the building of properties, which now forms Rectory Close, which was carried out on the grounds of the old Rectory and Rectory Farm, and farmland on the perimeter of the village. The building of Beeby Way on Angel Field soon followed, with the latest development of Carriers Way on the site of Rockingham Farm land was completed in 1981AD

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Information provided from the Carlton & Chellington Village Appraisal