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Overend Green and the Dispersed Settlements of Leighton Buzzard by Bernard Jones
A study of the ordnance survey map of Leighton Buzzard will show that it is surrounded by a number of small settlements, or hamlets such as Nares Gladley, Bragenham, Clipstone, Overend Green, Old Linslade, Southcott, Grove, Chelmscote and Sheep Lane.
None of these, with the exception of Old Linslade, was recognised as a parish in its own right although some had chapels such as Grove and Sheep lane, a slightly deeper study will show that they were once larger settlements with more houses (Overend Green), a school (Sheep Lane) or a mill (Southcott).
What is the history of these settlements and the people who lived there? Why did they largely fade away?
Grove, for example, has a surprising and extremely complicated history which is well documented and it has been investigated by detailed archaeological excavations in the 1980s. A full report of this work is awaited but extracts have already been published.
An undated map of Sheep lane, possibly from around 1880, has recently been discovered showing the location of a dozen or so houses, a school and a chapel, but only about four houses remain today, close to the Flying Fox restaurant.
Some documentary evidence of these settlements is easily available for research, such as the registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, wills and the census records. This should make it possible to reconstruct family trees and histories. Other documents possibly remain to be found.
Archaeological investigation may confirm what the documents tell us, or may reveal presently unknown information.
The Society has started to investigate Overend Green and it is hoped to carry out field work during 2012. Firstly, we hope to carry out resistivity surveys over an area where house platforms appear to exist, and then possibly follow this by targeted excavations.
Before the field work, we are carrying out desktop documentary research to find out as much as possible about what was going on in Overend Green in the past.
We believe that Overend Green may have a Roman past. During sand working in Double Arches Quarry, a Roman well was found, a complete rotary quern stone, animal bones, pottery and good evidence for the existence of a Roman villa. It is said that Roman tiles can be found in the walls of some buildings in Overend Green today.
Work is ongoing on the history of the enclosure of Heath & Reach and Overend Green and an enclosure map dated 1776 has recently been found in the archives of the Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service.
Some research on the Census records has found families with the names of Swinstead, Janes, Cook, Boyce, Bowler and Tame.