Millbrook Priory (The Priory of St Michael) Male Benedictine

I started to pull together the information below from public, non-copyright sources with a view to undertaking further researches. Unfortunately, time and other commitments have prevented this to date but I nevertheless set out here the information I have been able to glean so far. If you have further details which you think should be included here (or, indeed, any corrections or observations), do please make contact with me.

The little village of Millbrook has a wider fame than one would ordinarily imagine it to command. 

First, it is close to a number of features which are reputed to have inspired locations in John Bunyan’s classic allegory “ The Pilgrim’s Progress” and now lies on “ The John Bunyan Trail”, a 77 mile circular route encompassing many places of historic interest connected with Bunyan and his book.

Secondly, “Millbrook Proving Ground”, just outside the village, has been famous for many years as one of the largest vehicle testing centres in Europe, its circular, banked outer circuit being somewhat reminiscent of the old Brooklands race track.

Millbrook Church

Thirdly, thanks to the opening in 2014 of a substantial “holiday village” just to the other side of the main A507 south of Millbrook, other people are discovering this area and perhaps making their way (up the narrow, lonely rutted tracks or by way of the steep steps) to the church, parts of which date from the thirteenth century, standing 360 feet above see level and providing outstanding views across the vale of Bedford and beyond. 

It is here that there once stood a small Benedictine cell of St Albans Abbey. This had been founded during the tenure of Richard, fifteenth Abbot of the Abbey (1097-1119) by one Neel de Wast, who held the Manor of Millbrook from the D’Albini family.  

Little is known about this outpost of the Abbey, of which there were many at that time. Its possessions seem to have comprised a wood, various crofts and meadows. One fact which is, however, indisputable is that around 1143 it was amalgamated with the newly built Beadlow Priory and the few monks at Millbrook were moved permanently to Beadlow, after which time the cell was dissolved.  

However, it appears that Beadlow Priory may have continued to hold rights of what were known as “free warren”, a privilege to permit the killing of game, usually within a wooded area. Sometime around 1320 it looks like the Prior of Beadlow was summoned to show by what authority he was exercising this right. His reply states that he had received a grant of this from Edward I in 1294.  

A further writ was issued shortly afterwards regarding the Prior’s title to undertake two matters. The first was a right hold a “court leet”, that is ensuring that oaths of peacekeeping and good standards in trade, such as the sale of food and drink, were adhered to. The second was a right to “claim waif”, that is the forfeited goods of felons and outlaws in Millbrook. This writ was answered in person by the Prior.

There is now no trace of the Priory.

© Richard Farquharson, Maulden, Bedfordshire July 2016