The History of Our Village
Our village has a long and interesting history. In the 1230’s, the ancestors of the Grey family probably held the manor of Silsoe including the site of the future Wrest Park between 1230 and 1236. When the house was built is uncertain but by 1308 there was a capital messuage, a dove-cote and a substantial amount of land. A capital messuage was a chief house on a manor or estate.
The Early Years 1300s – 1500s
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. By 1319 a Royal Charter was granted for a weekly market and a twice yearly fair.
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 – Wrest Park house was a substantial house that had been expanded from its medieval core of great hall, great staircase chamber and kitchen – 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.
In 1796, Silsoe Lock Up was built and between 1829-31, St James’ Church was built, replacing an earlier chapel first mentioned in the early 13th century. The cost was £5,000 of which £4,000 was given by Earl de Gray. The first service was held on Sunday 20th February 1831. The old chapel consisted of a chancel, aisled nave, south porch and a wooden bell turret. Major restoration work on church with complete seating and re-flooring took place in 1884. The centre of the village with its narrow High Street is dominated by this 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.
In the 1830s, the New House at Wrest Park rebuilt, some 200 yards north of the site of the original house. The foundation stone was laid on the 12th February 1834 and the family took up residence in Autumn 1839. As the new house went up the old one was demolished bit by bit.
Silsoe was originally part of the parish of Flitton but in 1846 became a separate parish.
1900s to Current Day
From 1906 until 1911 Wrest Park was leased to the American Ambassador and King Edward VII visited Wrest Park in 1909. Between 1914-16, Wrest Park was a military hospital until it was damaged by fire in 1916.
Wrest Park was sold to the Essex Timber Company in the 1930’s, and after the Second World War Wrest Park was brought by the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works. The new national college for agricultural engineering to be taught to residential students was established in 1962 at a cost of £350,000.
In 1981, the A6 Silsoe Bypass opened in February at a cost of £1.6 million. Major restoration on the church started in 1985, and the Village Hall was modernised in 1988 at a cost of £100,000.
In 1999, Silsoe was awarded a £46,000 grant from the Countryside Agency towards building a Millennium Green. The Green was built on six and a half acres of allotments in the High Street.
In 2003, The Lord Nelson Public House closed on the 15th January, and planning permission was granted to turn the Lord Nelson Public House into a private house. The George Public House closed its doors in January 2015 and planning permission was granted to build houses in the gardens in 2016 and flats above the pub in 2017.
In 2017 Cranfield Way, a non-residential road was named to access the Mander College developments and Silsoe Indoor Bowls Club founded. Then in 2019 Whitebeam Close is developed from agricultural land north of Newbury Lane, The Laurels are developed on the site of the recently closed Silsoe Lower School on the High Street opposite the Telephone Exchange, Blackthorn Close a development of apartments, offices and shops and businesses on Mander College site opened and the Silsoe Cricket Club takes over new facilities on the Bloor Development.
In 2020, Leigh Wood Place development north of the village opposite the Millennium Green becomes available for new homebuyers.
Silsoe is on lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic stretching over 2020 and 2021.