The village of Silsoe is in the county of Bedfordshire situated midway between Bedford and Luton on the A6 and between Ampthill and Shefford on the A507.

The village name is derived from the Danish word ‘hoh’, in "Sifels hoh", meaning "Sifel’s hill". The Danes were thought to have been the earliest settlers here.  The Domesday Book (1086 – Siuuilessou or Sewilessou) records two manors, the larger held by Hugh of Walter, brother of Saher, and this later became the manor of Wrest. A smaller manor, believed to be that of Newbury, was owned by a concubine of Nigel d'Aubigny.  The first market was held here weekly on Tuesdays and annual fair on May 1 from 1318.

A Latinized form of the village name may be seen as "Sevelesho", in a legal record of 1430, where the defendants William Butte, yeoman and William Clerk, husbandman lived.

By 1563 there were 21 families living in Silsoe. The village growth was largely influenced by the needs of the Wrest Park estate and most of the inhabitants were servants, gardeners, stable hands and blacksmiths who lived in thatched and terrace cottages some of which still exist today. There was also a baker, who supplied Wrest House, and in the roof of the old bakehouse off the High Street, the oven ventilation can still be seen.

From 1715 an annual fair was held on September 10 and a weekly market on Wednesdays. By the mid-19th century a number of trades were present in the village. There was a butcher, a milkman, cobbler, draper, builder and a grocer.

Silsoe is now classed as a large village with  dwellings dating from the 16th century to the present day.  Most recently, the village has grown with new houses built on the former framland and university site of Cranfiled Agricultural College. The centre of the village with its narrow High Street is dominated by the sandstone church of St James The Great. Park Avenue, the driveway past the Church leads into Wrest Park with an impressive tree lined route to Wrest Park House, at its end.  The mansion built between 1834-9, its gardens, a large area of park and farmland and historic sections of the village were designated a Conservation Area in 2005 and have been now taken over and significantly restored by English Heritage.  It has many private and public events - including the St Georges Day Festival - and is a big tourist attraction for the area, manily because of its beautiful gardens.

Other sights in Silsoe include - 

  • Millenium Green
  • St James' Church and War Memorial
  • The Cage
  • The George Public House
  • The Star & Garter Public House

Find out more at  - http://silsoe.bedsparishes.gov.uk/history-of-silsoe/

OR read the book about Silsoe by Roger Bradshaw -

 

History of Silsoe

 

This book traces the growth of Silsoe over the centuries from a loose grouping of farming communities into a coherent and popular modern village. It has been compiled from its earliest known mention through to the 21st century using the copious documents deposited in the Bedfordshire and Luton Archives plus many other sources such as censuses, wills and interviews with older residents.

 

The book's chapters have been arranged in subject form rather than in date order which will assist those carrying out school projects or further research and contains many old photographs of the village.

Reviews

An excellent book tracing the history of Silsoe from its beginnings and providing a fund of interesting information for those seeking to understand the development of the village. A real delight to read for both locals and travellers alike.

 

“A book with a distinctive local flavour which provides a context for Wrest Park. A fantastic resource. ”

Dr Andrew Hann

“This is a very well researched history of an important Bedfordshire village and well illustrated with contemporary images and maps. It is written in a lively and readable style.”

Dr Richard Smart

Any financial surplus generated from the sales of this book has been generously donated by the author, Roger Bradshaw, to the community for the benefit of our village.