Ravenstone in the past
Ravenstone village is situated 4km west of Olney along the valley of a stream falling to the River Great Ouse, which is 2km to the south. The village is situated near to the county boundaries of Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire. Great Wood lies on the north-eastern boundary and the disused Midland railway line cuts across the north-eastern corner of the parish.
It is assumed that the name of the village derives from the Raven, image of the Danes. The village was first mentioned in English History in 898 AD when it came under Danish Law following the Treaty of Wedmore 879 AD, when Olney and villages north of the Ouse were separated from the area to the south, which was under the law of King Alfred.
Ravenstone appears in the Domesday Survey and there is reference to a mill and a Manor then “holden by Hugh of Walter Giffard”. It was conveyed to Peter de Chaceport in the mid-13th century and the manor was conveyed to King Henry III with a request that a Priory might be founded. An Augustinian Priory was founded in 1254.
Following the dissolution of the Priory in 1525 the manor was granted to Cardinal Wolsey, thus “the better to enable him to endow his colleges then building in Ipswich and Oxford”. After Wolsey’s fall from grace it returned to the crown.
King Edward VI subsequently granted the manor, the site of the Priory, the Mill and other lands to Sir Francis Bryan. In time it passed to Sir Moyle Finch and remained with the Finch family into the 20th century. Lady Elizabeth Finch succeeded to the estate following her father’s death in 1595.
Heneage Finch, (1621-1682) Lady Elizabeth’s grandson, was the first earl of Nottingham and became Solicitor General and Baronet of Ravenstone in 1660. He was buried in Ravenstone.
Ravenstone historical context, Ordnance Survey map c1899
The village nestles alongside a brook as it flows towards the Great Ouse. All three of the roads into the village drop down between hedges so that it rarely impinges in the horizon and gives an element of surprise on arrival.
The essential linear form of the village is made more interesting as the road almost doubles-back on itself as the road climbs through the village, providing interesting views over the rooftops of Common Street from Weston Road. The fact that there is relatively little through traffic using the village means that most vehicle movements in the village are associated with residential or commercial activities.
The village has a notably open character with modestly scaled cottages, intervening paddocks and gardens and the recreation area running alongside the brook.
Essentially the village buildings comprise farmhouses and farm buildings and cottages built for agricultural workers. The village hall was previously a school dating from the late 19th century. The village has retained the black and white painted timber signposts, one standing prominently on the grass triangle at the junction with Northend.
View along Common Street circa 1907
There are numerous Listed Buildings spread throughout the village, reflecting the historic nature of many buildings found within Ravenstone.
North and west of Abbey House, is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, covering part of the site of the Priory. There are no remains of the building itself and only the moat and fishponds are evident. It was probably the site of the old manor house. There are no references to the actual manor house later than 1588.
The Parish Church of All Saints is the building of greatest architectural and historic interest. The original building probably dates from the 11th century. The following century the short south aisle was added and the tower about 1250. The Church was considerably restored and altered in 1670 and the Finch Chapel was built in 1675 as a mortuary chapel for the Finch family. The impressive monument of black and white marble in the chapel has a life-size effigy of Heneage Finch, Earl of Nottingham. A new stained-glass window was dedicated in 1965 depicting a series of buildings representing those of the village.
The red and black brick Almshouses were built by Sir Heneage Finch, originally six for men and six for women now combined into six cottages. The original inhabitants had to be single and members of the Church of England and received a small pension, firewood and a new cloak every Christmas. The village also has the Union Chapel, founded in 1790 and rebuilt in 1907. This building is now used as a domestic residence.