St Mary's, Meppershall
|Population:||1,810 (2007 est.)|
Meppershall is a hilltop village in Bedfordshire near Shefford, Campton, Shillington, Stondon and surrounded by farmland. The village and its then manor house are mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.
The entry in the Domesday Book tells that Malpertesselle or Maperteshale belonged to Gilbert FitzSolomon.
The Manor House belonged to the De Meppershall family for nearly 300 years following 1086; however, the present house is early 17th century.
St Mary's church is a cruciform Norman church. It has a 12th-century font. Its bells are unusually hung above the crossing and rung from there. It has a Walker barrel organ.
The Parish Records of St Mary's have been published on CD by the Parochial Church Council.
This Bedfordshire village is technically across the boundary of Bedfordshire with a detached part of Hertfordshire; this detached portion (on the east side of the village) was though deemed part of Bedfordshire for all purposes following the Counties (Detached Parts) Act 1844. Within the detached part of Hertfordshire is another, tiny detached part of Bedfordshire. A slip of detached Hertfordshire appears along the River Hiz to the west of the village too.
G L Apperson's Wordsworth Dictionary of Proverbs notes the expression "If you wish to go into Hertfordshire, hitch a little nearer the fire", which he considers to be a childish play on "Hertfordshire" with "Hearth". He also notes though an origin of the phrase in "The distich on the old beam which separated Bedfordshire from an insulated portion of Hertfordshire in the dining-room of the late parsonage house at Mappershall, near Shefford".
Before the advent of greenhouses, Meppershall was a very poor community with large families living in two up, two down type thatched cottages built of brick with stone floors. However so many greenhouses were built in the village that it was known as "glass city" growing salad crops for local markets and shipped further afield via the railway.
As well as farming the village earned its income from coprolite digging. Coprolite is the fossilised dung of pre-historic creatures, which when ground and treated with sulphuric acid produces a superphosphate fertiliser. To extract it a long trench was dug on one side of a field. The overlaying clay was then dug out until the nodule bed was reached. If the depth of clay to be removed was more than eight to nine feet, the trench was made in two or three steps and as the nodules were taken out, so the trench was re-filled with the earth already removed. The nodule bed was shovelled into barrows and taken to the washing mill. This consisted of a circular iron trough with a pivot in the centre to which a set of travelling rakes was attached, these being dragged round by horses and a constant stream of water was kept running through the trough until the clay washed off. The dirty water then was drained off and the nodules carted away. The coprolite was worth about £3 a ton in 1890, yielding some 300 tons per acre. A good fossil digger could earn as much as £2 a week. This industry has also died out.
| ("Wikimedia Commons" has material|
- Parochial Church Council Information February 2011.