The name Henlow is believed to derive from the old English ‘henna hlaw’, ‘hill frequented by wild birds’ and was mentioned in the Domesday survey of 1086, when the village came under the possession of 3 separate manors: Henlow Warden, Henlow Llanthony and Henlow De Grey.

This accounts for the abundance of Manor Farms in the village. There was a moated manor house on the ‘island’ of land which runs about 40 yards to the north of the High Street behind the War memorial along to the rear of Manor Farm at 87 High Street, which formed part of the De Grey manorial system. Henlow Grange, the earliest parts of which date from 1680, was built on land that formed the heart of the Henlow Llanthony estates.

The Parish church is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin. The church is in a beautiful setting on a rise above the Pit with the village pump in the foreground and a horse trough built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The current church building has a tower and north aisle constructed of clunch and the remainder is of ironstone. The North arcade dates to the 13th century, the Eastern bays are early 14th century and the entire is mainly in the perpendicular style, although the later Victorian Chapel incorporates a Norman window from the original aisle-less church. The church has Registers dating from 1558. Although the tower now contains a ring of 8 bells, enhanced from 6 in the 1980s, prior to 1925 there was a ring of 5 bells, wherein the origin of the name of the local Public House.

Core Theme About Henlow - Henlow SignTwo Henlow families were amongst the passengers on the Mayflower in 1620. They were John Tilley, his wife Joan (Nee Hurst, previously Rogers) and his daughter Elizabeth and Edward Tilley, his wife Agnes (nee Cooper) and nephew and niece Henry Samson and Humility Cooper. This has led, through Rev Ashford, a former vicar, to a link with the Pilgrim John Howland Society in Rhode Island, USA. Their members have made pilgrimages to the 12th century church of St. Mary’s making generous donations including a pewter spoon, a replica of one carried on the Mayflower.

Henlow Grange’s most notable occupant was Alan Tindall Lennox-Boyd, who represented Mid-Bedfordshire in Parliament from the 1930s until the 1950s. Later he became Colonial Secretary and finally Lord Boyd of Merton and was responsible for the granting of independence to most of the former British overseas colonies.

The gates leading to the Pit recreation ground were erected in his memory and his family donated the Boyd Field (formerly known as Paddling Ditch Meadow) to the Scouts of the district. A much earlier occupant of the Grange in the 17th century was a Richard Raynsford, reputed to be Chief Justice of the King’s Bench. Raynsford Lower School bears his name. For several hundred years, the squire made contributions to the parish houses, schools and employment on the estate and farms. The majority of families depended in one way or another on the land and were very poor, often existing on a staple diet of turnip and potatoes and living in grossly overcrowded conditions. The main cottage industry was straw plaiting and quite young children had to do their share, often before going to school. This seems to have died out at the end of the 19th century. In medieval times Henlow was best known for bowstring making. On 23 June 1885, in The Sun Hotel in Hitchin, almost half of the physical areas of the village of Henlow was sold at auction by Firbrothers, Ellis & Clarke Ltd of London. The sale was the result of the bankruptcy of one Thomas Alexander Addington, who had inherited the Grange from his kinsman Rev. Henry Addington who had held the estate since 1868.

Henlow 1Other more noteworthy inhabitants of Henlow Grange since that time have been the Gribble family from 1896-1909. George James Gribble endowed the village with the original Cricket Pavilion and the Pyghtles (meaning enclosure) recreation ground. His wife, Nora Gribble was a well-reputed Slade artist who decorated several rooms of The Grange in murals, executed in tempera. Of their children who spent some of their formative years in Henlow, the youngest, Julian Royds Gribble, won a VC at Harmies Ridge. Philip Gribble became a war correspondent for the News Chronicle during WWII and later a racehorse owner and trainer. Leslie Gribble married Hugh Exton Seebohm and was later mother of Lord Seebohm the Banker and social work innovator.

In 1961, after spending several years uninhabited, Henlow Grange was acquired by Leida Costigan who transformed the near derelict house into the first Beauty Farm in the United Kingdom.

Henlow Bridge Lakes 2In 1819 Thomas Hare built a smock windmill, which had a revolving cap to turn the sails into the wind. Sadly, this fell into disrepair and was finally demolished when the flourmill was extended.

In modern times the village has become best known for RAF Henlow, first established in 1918 for the then new Royal Flying Corps. It later housed the School of Aeronautical Engineering and Parachute Testing Unit. This gave name to the ‘Parachute’ Public House on the High Street in Henlow Village. This Public House no longer exists. Later RAF Henlow became an RAF Officer Cadet Training Unit.

The three manors of Henlow known as Henlow Warden, Henlow Llanthony and Henlow de Grey are mentioned in the Domesday Book.

13th Century
Church of St May the Virgin dates to this period.

Two Henlow families, John Tilley, his wife Joan and daughter Elizabeth and Edward Tilley, his wife Agnes and nephew and niece Henry Samson and Humility Cooper set sail from Plymouth on 6th September aboard the Mayflower. They reached America 66 days later.

The earliest parts of Henlow Grange date to this time.

Miles Smith gave 10 shillings ‘for ever’ in his will so that the people of Henlow could be taught to sings the psalms of David in the area between Henlow, Clifton and Ampthill once every three years.

General Stores at 48 High Street opens. The shop was still in business some 200 years later!

Smock windmill built by Thomas Hare.

Henry Addington succeeded to the Henlow Grange Estates.

The 24 houses known as the Addington Houses were built by Henry Addington for ‘working class people’.

Henry Addington died at the age of 63. His son, Thomas Alexander Addington inherited the Grange and its estates.

Almost half of Henlow sold at auction following the bankruptcy of Thomas Alexander Addington.

The ‘Vicars Clubroom’ opened on December 14th for the use of the young men of the village and for parochial meetings. It was given by Mrs Holesgrove, wife of the Rev. W. Holesgrove. It is more commonly referred to nowadays as The Parish Hall.

Henlow pump built.

Site purchased south of the village to function as an Aircraft Repair Depot. This site was to developed to become RAF Henlow.

Henlow War Memorial erected, inscribed with the names of 27 village men who lost their lives in the Great War.

Henlow Aircraft Repair Depot expanded from 220 acres to 380 acres as land purchased for a landing ground.

The airmen of Henlow pull the R101 out of its hangar before its disastrous maiden voyage. A week later 800 of them lined the streets of Bedford for the funeral.

Alan Tindall Lennox Boyd and his family come to live at Henlow Grange. Lennox Boyd represented Mid Bedfordshire in Parliament from the 1930’s to the 1950’s.

RAF Henlow was bombed by the Luftwafe. Eight bombs fell on the airfield damaging two hangars.

Seven more names added to the War Memorial following the Second World War.

Lord Boyd of Merton gave the Boyd Memorial field to the Parish when the family left the village.

Henlow Grange purchased and refurbished as a Health Farm by Mr. and Mrs. F. Costigan.

RAF Henlow given the freedom of Bedford. The parade was formed by the Queen’s Colour Squadron of the RAF, with three squadrons and a band from Henlow. Four Canberras from RAF Bassingbourne flew over in formation. The Mayor of Bedford, Alderman Ron Sharman, presented the scroll to Captain N.F. Curtis, Officer Commanding RAF Henlow.

Henlow Middle School opened.

The hexagonal well house restored to mark the Queen’s Jubilee. The well had originally been opened on the 29th September 1897 by Mrs Gribble of Henlow Grange whose husband was High Sheriff at the time. The total cost of the well, pump and pump house (built by Redhouse and Son of Stotfold) was 91.17s.6d.

Officer cadet training ceases on the 24th April at RAF Henlow. The station is passed to the Radio Engineering Unit.

Planning permission granted for a new residential estate of 78 homes off Henlow High Street.

Shefford-Clifton-Henlow bypass opened on the 4th July.

RAF Henlow launched as a Defence Agency with the role of designing and installing ground and airborne electronic systems, such as communications and navigation aids. At this time the base supported 753 civilian posts and 818 servicemen with an annual budget of 41 million.

New village sign erected thanks to a legacy of 500 left by Mr. Robert Purdew.

Henlow Grange shut for three months after a fire breaks out causing up to 3 million of damage.
Golden Jubilee celebrations get underway with a marquee dance and family entertainment including a pram race and a marching display band.

Henlow pump granted Grade Two Listed Building status.

The War Memorial is fully refurbished, with new lettering and a new ornamental wall surround.

Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Henlow include a summer ball attended by 500 people and a fun day opened by a parade through the village. Jubilee mugs were presented to each child at Raynsford and Derwent lower schools. A commemoration mosaic designed by Henlow schoolgirl Harriet Bailey is laid at the Pump and the planted troughs at the pump are restored using funds raised at the Ball.

The new Henlow Park Pavilion is completed and opened by Alastair Cook MBE, England Cricket Captain.

Henlow enjoys a magnificent Summer Ball and Family Fun Day. A spitfire and Hurricane from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight grace Henlow with a special display.