A Brief History

Riseley is a civil parish located in North Bedfordshire. It has a population of 1,284 according to the last census, and is near the villages of Bletsoe, Sharnbrook, Swineshead, Pertenhall, Keysoe, Thurleigh and Melchbourne.

The nearest town to Riseley is Rushden in the neighbouring county of Northamptonshire, approximately 8 miles away to the north west.

The county town of Bedford is approximately 9 miles to the South of Riseley. The village has one watercourse, which is a tributary of the river Ouse, flowing through it known locally as the ‘Brook’ around which in medieval times the village was built.

Riseley appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 where the village’s name is spelt Riselai. The village is listed as being in the Stodden Hundred. The domesday survey also states that the village contains twenty five households which is considered large for a settlement of the time. The survey also states that in 1066 some of Riseley was overlorded by Godric the Sheriff a man who is assumed to have died in the Battle of Hastings.

Riseley in the Middle Ages

Much of Riseley’s Mediaeval history involves the Knights Hospitallers who in 1279 gained possession of land and manors in Riseley as well as possessions in surrounding areas. The knights owned both Harvies Manor and the Manor of Lawrence.

The Knights also had rights of free warren. Some of Riseley’s history also involves the Knights Templar they are involved in Riseley because the aforementioned Harvies Manor can be first separately identified back in 1279 when Walter son of Geoffrey de Riseley held 4 hides of land in Riseley of the Knights Templar.

Seeing as how both the Knights Hospitaller and Knights Templar are involved in Riseley history back in 1279 it has been suggested that the two organisations have been confused for each other somewhere along the line.

Brick making in Riseley

Riseley has a long tradition of brick and tile making, dating back to at least 1558, due in part to its clay rich soil. During the nineteenth century the village was home to a brickworks and brickmaking became one of the village’s main industries with 12 brickmakers recorded living in the village in the 1841 census and 15 brickmakers living there according to both the 1851 and 1861 censuses. The village also had a history of lace making with 80 of the 118 houses in the village being involved in the activity in 1851.

Riseley in World War 2

During World War 2 Riseley was used by the USAAF as a base to store and fill bombs which were then forwarded to local American air bases. A large camp was set up at the top of the Carriage Drive to Melchbourne House to house the troops. The camp included a cinema. The American airmen stationed in Riseley Camp occasionally held parties for local children and there are still residents living in Riseley who can recall attending the children’s parties on the camp.

In October 1943 a B17 Flying Fortress aircraft returning from a bombing raid in Germany, crashed in a cottage garden at the north end of the High Street. The crew had bailed out before the crash as the plane had been seriously damaged by a German fighter aircraft on its return from Germany. During the war, a British fighter plane crashed when it ran out of fuel at the bottom end of the village. The crew bailed out safely and no-one was harmed in the incident.

Riseley High Street

Riseley High Street runs more or less North South for a distance of one mile from end to end and was designated as a Turnpike in May 1802. A widened area in the grass verge at the southern end of the High Street where the High Street is joined by Sharnbrook Road marks where the tollbooth stood. This road junction is still known as Tollbar Corner. A Blue Plaque mounted on the end wall facing the High Street of the cottage adjoining 76 High Street commemorates the placing of the plaque 200 years after the toll road designation.
Riseley High Street has been the scene of flooding over the years, when sudden downpours of rain have caused the Brook to ‘come out’ starting at a point opposite the blacksmiths. The water has been known the rise up to the height of a small car and stretch as far as the Gold Street bridge in the south and Brook House in the north. Recent regular clearing of reeds by Anglian Water has dramatically reduced the frequency of these events.

Riseley is linear village

Riseley High Street contains a large proportion of the houses in the village and is approximately a mile long. There is no obvious centre to the village, with the church, shop, schools and village hall, all spread out over the village and some along the high street. For many areas along the high street the village is a single street with houses on either side. Riseley a linear village.