This description, one of a series on Bedfordshire villages, is from The Bedfordshire Times and Independent of 30 August 1929, via the British Newspaper Archive. Click for full-size image. A transcript is below.
Round the county.
By ED Martell.
Have you ever thought what England will look like if we reach that state of political perfection: an acre and a cow for everyone? I am afraid that none of us will live to see it come to pass, but supposing for a moment that we could be carried forward to the day when it is all neatly arranged, with a special Office of Acres and Cows at Whitehall to look after things, and some thousands of Inspectors of Acres and Cows to draw on the public funds, this England of ours would be worth a tour of inspection. We should, of course, get the best view from the air, and I fancy it would keep us interested for a very long time. Imagine the whole of “England’s green and pleasant land” mapped out into acres like a large sheet of geometrical paper!
At Eversholt you’ll find the beginnings of the cow and acre Utopia. By ordinary village standards Eversholt does not exist; It must be one of the oldest villages in the county, but it is also a futurist village. Its houses are dotted all over the parish of 2000 acres, and are nowhere clustered more than half a dozen together. They are not spaced out at equal distances: That would be too much to expect; but they are a little groups of two or three, and often one group is quite isolated and out of sight of the next.
The stranger attempting to discover the village proper is bewildered again and again. He turns a corner and is confronted by an inn and a small handful of houses. Believing he has reached Eversholt at last he hurries forward ready to look over the church and proceed to the next village. There is no church in sight, so he comes to the conclusion that he has merely reached an outpost and that the village proper lies a little farther on. He continues on his way and reaches another small group of houses, but still there is no church to be seen. If there is someone about he inquires the way to Eversholt. “Which part did you want, sir?” he’s asked. Part! Surely villages are not split up into postal sections like cities! Why, the village of Eversholt, he says. Then it is all explained to him.
To spend an afternoon in travelling round the scattered parts of Eversholt is well worth while, for it is set in beautiful scenery of perfect naturalness. White roads and country lanes run this way and that, connecting up the groups of houses and passing on into adjacent parishes. Trees line many of the ways and are clustered in large and leafy groups. The peacefulness of some of these lanes, between the green hedges and cool trees, is indeed refreshing to those whose life is lived amid the distractions of the town. Some of the tracks must be centuries old, and if the traveller could forget his generation for a few minutes there would be nothing in his surroundings to tell him the period. The peace of centuries haunts these pleasant byways, bringing a sense of perfect contentment to those who traverse them on a warm scent-laden afternoon. The pastures and the cornfields on either side complete a living picture of all that is best in rural England.
During the summer months I can think of no task more to my liking than that of delivering their letters to the people of Eversholt. And I can think of no task I should like less in the winter. But on a summer’s day the Eversholt postman’s lot ought to be a happy one. I can imagine him setting forth with his bag of letters, disposing of two or three at the group of houses which are gathered near the church at Church End, where the general stores of the village may be seen: and then setting out for Potter’s end, then passing on to Brook End, and Wit’s End, and Higher Rads end, and Lower Rads End, and Tyrrell’s end, and Hill’s End, and Water End, and Higher Berry End, and Lower Berry End, and Wake’s end, and Froxfield End, and Tattle End; and between the disposal of each little bundle of letters, between the banging of gates and fall of knockers, he can swing along these delightful lanes.
Although they say Eversholt never ends, it is nearer the truth to say that is always ending but never finishes. I am not certain how many Ends there are at Eversholt, because directly you think you have reached the last another one crops up just round the corner. There are at least 13. In this case the word End comes from Anglo-Saxon times and means part of a certain area. It was originally used to distinguish one man’s land from his neighbour’s, and we may take it that the various prefixes to the word at Eversholt are the names of the first Saxon settlers in the district.
The name Eversholt seems to tell us that the district was the haunt of the wild boar a thousand years ago, the word actually meaning the “wood of the boar”. It is, perhaps, unkind to support Professor Skeat’s theory that the only boar who dwelt in the district was a gentleman of the name of Eofer (meaning boar), which he claims was a common Anglo-Saxon name. It does no harm to believe in the existence of the animal rather than of the man, but the serious student of the subject will find that there is a great deal to be said for Professor Skeat’s theory.
It is unlikely that Eversholt has changed much since the days when it was known as Eversolt 500 years ago. Many of the present groups of houses are probably built upon the sites of earlier buildings, for it is not unlikely that the village has kept the same form for many centuries. Although there are no records of the Eversholt of the middle ages beyond the church registers, which were started in the early part of the 17th century, we can gather from them that Eversholt was a place of considerable size. The baptisms recorded at that time averaged 16 a year, which is nearly double the present number. Even a century ago, as the figures show, the population was well maintained. In those days straw plaiting was quite a large industry in the district for those who could not find occupation on the soil.
The old Poor House, which at one time provided a home for the feeble and infirm, is supposed to have been one of the original Poor Houses erected by Queen Elizabeth in 1601. From an early print of the place it looks grim enough for anything, with a useful-looking pair of stocks besides the main entrance, the sight of which must have brightened the hopes of those who were entering it for the first time. A much more cheerful spot is the recreation ground presented to the parish by the Duke of Bedford. It is situated to the north of the church and contains a cricket table used by the local team. The wall encircling Woburn Park runs along one side, forming the boundary, and between this and the table are several tall trees standing like silent fieldsman waiting for a catch which they rarely hold; when they do, they generally refuse to release the ball. At Tyrrell’s End is a very pleasant reading room, given by Mrs Wing, which is much used and appreciated. At Wit’s end there is a Wesleyan Chapel, built in 1849, and before the existence of this building there was a conventicle as early as 1669. It can thus be seen that Eversholt, although so scattered, has everything to bind it together. It is fortunate in having facilities for enjoyment both for brain and body which many another village lacks.
Two famous old boys.
Of those who have gone forth from Eversholt into the wider world there are doubtless records within each family. Two, at least, in recent years have achieved fame. Frank Wild, who succeeded Sir Ernest Shackleton at the head of the South Pole explorers, was the son of the village schoolmaster. After spending his early years in the village he took to the sea and by dint of perseverance and hard work came to the notice of Sir Ernest Shackleton, with and for whom he did many notable deeds. Probably only a few old-timers will remember that “star” of another day, “Gaiety” Royce, who had London at his feet time and time again. He was one of those who gave the old Gaiety Theatre the reputation it upheld for so many years, and his, like Wild’s, performance of rising to such heights is one of which his native Eversholt may well be proud. It is not and never has been an easy matter for a village lad to force his way to the fore as an actor, but Edward William Royce accomplished it, and the extent to which he won the hearts of his patrons may best be gauged when we learn that at a benefit performance for “Gaiety” Royce no less than £1500 was taken, and King Edward VII attending in person.
Eversholt Church is one of the largest village churches in the district, and contains many features of interest both to archaeologists and ordinary sightseers. It stands nearly in the centre of the village at Church End, the churchyard adjoining Woburn Park, part of which is in the parish. The building consists of a western tower, nave, two aisles, chancel with northern aisle, and vestry. The earliest parts of the building are late Norman work, and the whole church shows signs of gradual development from a simple nave and chancel building. There are six bells, and they form one of the sweetest peals in the district. Legend has it that Handel was once driving through the village when the bells were ringing, and he was so attracted by their mellow sweetness that he stopped his coach to listen. It is a legend that may well be true, and in any case it cannot be contradicted.
Mr Aveling Green’s Paintings.
The interior of the church has been richly decorated by an artist who still lives in the parish. Mr E Aveling Green has devoted many years to the care of his parish church, and one cannot look in any direction without encountering signs of his handiwork. In the nave are paintings of the Rise and Fall of Man, showing Adam and Eve leaving the garden of Eden, and the Day of judgement, the first above the tower arch and the second above the chancel arch, connected along the nave walls by portraits of the prophets and evangelists. Perhaps the finest example of the artist’s skill is in his portrayal of Eve. He shows her as a young woman with a bright open face, but with a look of wistfulness in her eyes as if she did not quite understand. We are too apt to imagine her as a kind of nondescript woman with no feeling or sense of life within her. All see her as Mr Green shows her on the wall of Eversholt Church cannot help but change their impression.
The sanctuary is almost filled with Mr Green’s work, and some of the carving is very fine indeed. The east window was also designed by Mr Green, and the panels of the altar table are his work. In the vestry, which must have at one time have been a Lady Chapel, is a broad broad recessed niche of which it is difficult to give a satisfactory explanation. Also in the vestry is a stone carving of a boar’s head, similar to the one to be seen in St Albans Cathedral. It would seem from this fact that the William of Eversholt who helped to restore the cathedral must have assisted in the building of Eversholt Church. This has caused the interesting suggestion to be made that William probably took his skilled masons from one place to another with him, and they were therefore formed into a lodge, being the forerunners of the present society of stonemasons. If this is so, and there is a lot to be said in support of the theory, it’s beholds every Freemason in Bedfordshire to travel to Eversholt, not only to make the acquaintance of a delightful spot, but to pay due homage to the memorial of one of their founders.
Area and population.
Hong KongThe area of Eversholt is 2146 acres, a great deal of which is pasture land. The soil of the district consists of loam, gravel, and clay, and the chief crops grown are wheat, barley, oats, beans, and peas. The population in 1801 was 715; 1871, 899; 1901, 574; and 1921, 502. At present it remains steady at about 500. “Domesday” spelt the name Eureshot, and later forms include Eversolt, and Everrsholt