The history of Clophill, Bedfordshire, UK
Including historical descriptions, maps and statistical analysis.
Compiled from Bedfordshire Federation of Women's Institutes from notes and illustrations sent by Institutes in the County.
Clophill is a popular, pretty village surrounded by woodlands and delightful walks. Chestnuts are gathered in plenty during October and November.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s Clophill had 12 shops, three blacksmiths and six public houses. Today, Clophill post office is the only remaining grocery shop and there is one butcher. There are still five pubs.
Clophill was renowned for its hat plaiting and a factory was in the High Street. The ladies each day would take their plait to the Flying Horse public house from where a carrier would take it to Luton to be made into hats. The reading room, now in a state of ruin, was also a plait school.
At Christmas each year the Clophill Charity comes to the fore with a worthwhile cash gift for every lady over 60 years and every man over 65 years and also for anyone in need, and organisations also benefit from donations. This charity was left to the Clophill labourers by a gentleman named Thomas Dearman. The story goes that Thomas Dearman worked in one of the bigger houses in this area. One day his mother arrived at the door of where he worked as a valet or manservant. She was begging for help but Thomas turned her away. But on his death he left all he had to Clophill's poor and needy. He was buried in the old churchyard on the hill.
It is said that anyone who misbehaved in Silsoe was banished to Clophill to live in the Slade. There is a pound and a lock-up on the village green for animals and drunks. Also at the top of the Slade, animals were taken for slaughter. This is the meaning of Knives Lane, so called today.
On St Thomas's Day each year, the widows of the village would go around to the bigger houses begging. They were invited in and given food and clothing, this day being known as Goodening Day.
Clophill has two churches, one in the village dating from 1845 and the old one on the hill out of the village. Services used to be held twice a year in the old church, until thieves stripped the roof of its lead. Since then the ruins have been repaired, the tombstones removed to surrounding walls and grass seed set. Now green grass surrounds the ruins of this lovely little church.
Clophill had two chapels, a Wesleyan and a Primitive Methodist, but one disappeared some 50 years ago. The other still stands, but is now used for the sale of animal foods (Chapel Feeds). During the past 50 years, a new Methodist chapel has been built in the centre of the village.
Clophill has always been noted for its sand and quarry pits. Many years ago gault was dug too in this area for the making of bricks. At the other end of the village, Jacques Lane, digging for fullers earth was quite an industry and has recently been started again, covering the landscape with piles of earth and deep sided workings that hopefully will be re-landscaped in the future.
Clophill was always noted for its agriculture. Laden lorries of fresh fruit and vegetables would go off in the early hours of the morning, on their way to London, several times a week. The wooden boxes were made by Frank Groom in Great Lane. Clophill now has a woodyard in Old Silsoe Road, where garden sheds and chalets are made as well as all types of fencing.
Clophill children used to dance around the Maypole. Mothers would get busy making dresses and garlands of pink and white paper. Now the children at the school have a new Maypole and learn the intricacies of plaiting and skipping, conjuring up many memories and scenes of the past, at local fetes and festivals.
Published jointly by Countryside Books, Newbury and the BFWI, Bedford in 1988.