The Hamlets of Eversholt

This text is from Bedfordshire Magazine, Volume 11, number 85, summer 1968. It’s almost certainly violating someone’s copyright. If you’d like it removed, please get in touch.

The Hamlets of Eversholt


Eversholt must surely be one of the most interesting and noteworthy of Bedfordshire villages. It is made up of thirteen hamlets, some of which have a romantic and colourful past. One of these is Wake’s; all that remains of the hamlet is Wake’s End Farm. It derived its name from Ralfe de Wake, who came into possession of the hamlet and its manor in the thirteenth century, Eliza, his wife, shared in the Barony of Eversholt with the Beauchamp family. Hugh de Beauchamp was Lord of that manor and also the keeper of Bedford Castle. The name Eversholt means ‘wood of the boar’.
Since the beginning of this century, a ghost has been associated with this place, not, I add, to the pleasant Victorian farm house that stands near the site of the old manor, but in the remains of the moat near by. Old villagers still believe it is unwise to dig there as it sets the ‘Thing’ going.
The moat, no longer filled with water, can still be seen; in a perfect square it surrounded the old manor of which no trace remains.
The names of some of the hamlets have lost their meaning in the passage of time: Froxfield – the field of frogs, New England, Potters End – which we know from old maps, reveals a thriving brick industry, going back many centuries. For generations it supplied the rosy pink and orange bricks that are to be seen in the Cromwellian and Georgian houses in the village. Every house varies in design, all are perfect examples of the gracious architecture that ended with the machine-made bricks of the late Victorian era.
Even before the Conqueror’s time, these clusters of hamlets were of some importance; lying on the borders of the Danelaw, they must have helped to keep the marauding Danes away from Alfred’s kingdom.
Near Wakes there is a coppice called ‘Briers Stockings’. Stockings is a corruption of the word stakes. These were used to divide the woodland amongst the peasants who gathered fuel there.
Not only interesting are the hamlets, but also the famous people associated with them. The old music hall veteran, Gaiety Royce was born here in 1841. Before he died at the age of 84, he claimed to be the oldest living actor. He had the distinction of playing in the company of the Terry family, and at his benefit performance which Edward VII attended, he received £1,500.
Quite by chance whilst making enquiries about the Wake’s End ghost at the school, I learnt that Frank Wild, who accompanied Shackleton on his polar expeditions, was born and brought up in the school house, his father being the village headmaster.
No large housing estates or industries mar the beauty of Eversholt for it is well away from the main roads. Its fourteenth-century church dominates the tiny high street. Dedicated to St John the Baptist, this beautiful church is well worth a visit. Amongst its interesting features are its six old bells that ring so melodiously. Rumour has it that Handel stopped his coach to listen to them.

Below here are notes from EJW in 2011:

It’s worth noting that the legend of the ghost of Wake’s End seems entirely to have vanished from the village in 2011, although digging up the manor moat nowadays would probably raise the ghost of English Heritage. A search for “Wakes End” Eversholt” “ghost” turned up nothing relevant at all.
It’s also worth noting that Gaiety Royce seems completely unknown on the web. Freebmd knows of nobody named Royce born in Woburn or Ampthill registration districts before 1850, and Ancestry can find no Royce in Bedfordshire in the 1851 census.
Aha! Here’s a Royce. Edward William Royce was born in the right year, too.
karen2cv wrote on rootschat:
Re: Eversholt My Family Lines
« Reply #1 on: Wednesday 21 December 05 20:58 GMT (UK) »
I’m tracing Reddalls from Eversholt.  My husband’s great grandfather was Edward William Reddall (aka E W Royce, his stage name) born in Eversholt on 11 Aug 1841, son of James and Charlotte Reddall.  Edward had a brother, James Ambrose  born in 1840.  they were baptised a week apart – Edward on 7 Aug aged 17 and James on 14 Aug 1859 aged 19.
Please let me know if these names ring any bells!
From: “Karen Curthew-Sanders” <>
Subject: [SXP] E W ROYCE and family
Date: Sun, 23 Dec 2001 12:49:53 -0000
Edward William (Reddall) born in Woburn, Beds on 11 Aug 1841 is the 3rd
Grandfather of my husband. He was a member of the Gaiety Theatre and used
the name Royce. His 1st son James Royce b. 1871 followed in his father’s
profession (some say he was more famous!) and went under the name of Edward
Royce. E.W’s daughter, Marie Elizabeth Royce aka Dolly Royce b. 1873 is my
husband’s great grandmother and also “trod the boards” along with stage
directing pantomimes up and down the country. Dolly does not appear on the
1881 census and none of the children were christened. According to the 1881
census they lived at:
44 Larkhall Rise
I would be very grateful for any advice on locating Dolly, or information
about any of them.
Thank you in anticipation, Karen Sanders (nee Chitty)
Which is all very well but there is no Reddall anything like Edward William born around 1840 in Woburn registration district. I’m not sure I believe in this chap!
IMDB says that his birthname was Edward William Royce.
Here is a picture, in a library in Australia.
The NPG knows about him. In fact, the web is full of the story of “Edward William Royce”. He got a namecheck in Ulysses!
Freebmd doesn’t have a dying Royce but does have a dying Reddall, born around the right time. There’s an Elizabeth Sarah Reddall born in Woburn RD in 1841, but that really would be a stretch!
ROYCE; EDWARD WILLIAM, was bom at Eversholt, Beds, August 11, 1841, and entered the dramatic profession in the year, 1860, as an auxiliary at Covent Garden Theatre, in the opera of ‘ Un Ballo in Maschera,’ having specially studied operatic and character dancing. In 1861 he was engaged at the Lyceum Theatre, and danced in the “Fair Scene” of Edmund Falconer’s drama ‘ Peep o’ Day.’ Christmas, 1863, at the old Theatre Royal, Leeds, he first sustained the part of Harlequin in the pantomime of ‘ The Yellow Dwarf.’ Mr. Royce has since played Harlequin with great success at theatres at the following principal towns, viz. Leeds, York, Sheffield, Hull, Lincoln, Nottingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh. While playing the character at the York Theatre in 1868 he was happily able to save the life of a little girl of the ballet whose skirts had unfortunately become ignited. For this act of bravery he received a testimonial from the Royal Society for the Protection of Life from Fire. 
At Leeds Mr. Royce performed the ” original ” Welch in Charles Reade’s drama of ‘ Foul Play,’ concerning which the author, in a letter to the editor of the Manchester Examiner (June 26, 1868), said that ” it owed a large share of its success to the talent and zeal of the performers, and especially of those who played the minor characters.” Mr. Royce has been a member of the travelling companies of Mr. John Coleman and Captain Disney Roebuck. In 1872, at the Prince of Wales’s Theatre, Liverpool, he played the part of Varney in Halliday’s revived burlesque of ‘ Kenilworth,’ entitled ‘Little Amy Robsart.’ The same year, having accepted an engagement from the management of the Gaiety Theatre, in London, he first appeared at that theatre in September, in the part of Whiskerandos in ‘The Critic’ At the St. James’s Theatre,’ during the management of Miss Litton, he played Totn Cobb, first performance of W. S. Gilbert’s farcical comedy of that title. At the Gaiety Theatre he has since played the following original parts, viz. Dick Evergreen (‘My Awful Dad’), Derrick (‘Young Rip Van Winkle’), José (‘Little Don Caesar de Bazan”), Count Smiff (‘The Bohemian Gyurl’), Valentine (‘Little Doctor Faust’), Elvino (‘II Sonnambulo’), and Radapolam (‘Rajah of Mysore’), &c., &c. 
In 1873 and 1874 Mr. Royce produced the Christmas pantomime for the Messrs. Gunn, of the New Gaiety Theatre and Theatre Royal, Dublin, and on various occasions he has undertaken the responsible duties of stage-manager and master of the ballet. He is still (1879) a member of the Gaiety company. 
There’s a substantial obituary of Royce in the Sydney Morning Herald for 30 Jan 1926. That states that he was born in Eversholt on 11 August 1841.

Leave a comment for publication