A brief history of Arlesey

Arlesey is a long village with an equally long chronicled history. The entry in the doomsday book of 1086 reads;

Alricesei (a)/eie: Bishop of Durham; Bernard from Willaim d'Eru; Herfast from Nigel d'Abigney; Wulfusi. 3 Mills.

This entry records the principle landowners as being the Bishop of Durham (Arleseybury, which he gave to the monks of Waltham Abbey); William d'Eu Count of Eu, second son of Robert d'Eu, who came from the port of Seine-Maritime and owned Arlesey Manor (Etonbury - land to the north of Stotfold Road to Astwick) and Nigel d'Aubigney who came from St Martin d'Aubigney near Coutances.

The village eventually became three distinct manors. Etonbury with land to the north of Stotfold Road, reaching as far as Astwick, Arleseybury from land south of Stotfold Road to around where Howberry Green now is, and the manor of Lanthony from Howberry Green to the south of the parish. This manor was owned by a Welsh order of monks.

Around 1646 records show Sir Samuel Browne becoming principle landowner in the village having purchased Arlesey Manor (Etonbury) from John and Florence Farwell and it eventually passed to the Bedford Edwards family. The whole estate was split up and sold off in the late 1800's. This period also saw the economic growth of the village with the excavation of coprolite (phosphate rich fossilised dung which was processed into artificial fertiliser) and clay for brick making.

The coming of the Great Northern Railway in 1851 saw further growth and the 2,000 feet of sidings along the GNR line exported over 1,500 tones of lime and 'Eddystone' cement from the village weekly, dug from the 'Blue Lagoon'. Records also show that there were six operational brickworks in the village. During this period Robert Beart moved from Godmanchester to Arlesey and revolutionised brick making by using mechanical presses to shape the bricks. Previously the clay was puddled (usually with bare feet) and thrown into the brick mould. The wet brick was then carefully stacked into sheds to dry out the excess water before they were fired. This could be days or weeks depending on the weather. Bearts' method enabled a brick to be pressed and then fired much more quickly.

The brickworks have now all closed but signs of them can be seen by the water filled pits at the Green Lagoon, at Arlesey landfill site and at Etonbury Farm on the A507 by-pass.

Relics from the monastic past can be seen at St Peter's Church and on the (old) bridge over the River Hiz alongside Arlesey Railway Station. The original church of St Peter's was constructed in 1180 by the monks of Etonbury Monastery. The river bridge is listed in a survey of the monastery in 1566 but dates from earlier times. The date stones on the cut waters show when the bridge was repaired.