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Noah's Ark, Shillington, Beds - - 193418.jpg
Noah's Ark, Shillington
Grid reference: TL127340
Location: 51°59’6"N, 0°21’36"W
Population: 1,831  (2001)
Post town: Hitchin
Postcode: SG5
Dialling code: 01462
Local Government
Council: Central Bedfordshire
Mid Bedfordshire

Shillington is a village in Bedfordshire. In the south of the parish, the hamlet of Pegsdon is almost encircled by Hertfordshire.


The first recorded name of the village (1060) is Scytlingedune, meaning 'Scyttle's people's hill' after an otherwise unknown founder. This name gradually evolved to Shytlington in official returns and letters of the 17th and 18th centuries[1], later softened to 'Shillington'.

All Saints Church

All Saints

Shillington's church, All Saints Church, is mostly 14th century, with an 18th-century tower and is Grade I listed. This church has been referred to as the "Cathedral of the Chilterns". Standing on an outcrop hill at the eastern end of the Chilterns, it is visible for miles around.

The church stands on the site of an Anglo-Saxon monastery, which grew richer and more influential through the mining and selling of coprolite - fossilised dinosaur dung once used as a fuel and fertilizer.

All Saints has a crypt (opened to visitors) which has led to local gossip about secret passages leading out and beyond. Mediæval graffiti can be found in the stonework. There is a carved chancel screen.


Miscellaneous Roman artefacts have been found.[1]

Shillington is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The entry is headed: "Sethlindone: St Benedict's of Ramsey. a broken mill, 2 others". It contained 34 households, of which four were slaves, however 27 were villeins, and five were homes of more independent smallholders. Each year it rendered a large £12, assessed by the Book's compilers to be the same at the conquest twenty years before, had 14 ploughlands and woodland for 100 pigs per year.[2]

The Manor of Shillington or Shillington Bury was held until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Ramsey Abbey. At the Dissolution it was valued at £88 2s. 10d per year and formed part of the (royal) honour of Ampthill, conferred on Princess Elizabeth, later Elizabeth I.

About the village

A local adage is that 'all roads lead away from Shillington' — somewhat true as more efficient routes avoid the village altogether. Shillington is still partly agrarian and mostly green-buffered village that covers a large area.

Its curious layout and modest population, is because, originally, it was made up of several 'Ends', as is not uncommon in rural Bedfordshire. These Ends gradually grew and merged into the Shillington that exists today. Many parts of the village are still referred to by their original names, by villagers and to a lesser extent officially. The elder generation of villagers have developed a colloquial geography of the village, based on the common saying Odds and Ends. The oldest parts of the villages called Ends and the newest parts, built in the twentieth century, Odds.

The village has a junior school, Shillington Lower School, and three pubs; Noah's Ark, The Crown and The Musgrave Arms.

Apsley End (historically Aspley End), 51°59’35"N, 0°22’5"W, is a small, gently sloping hamlet unusually has three moated sites in a line from north to south, all scheduled ancient monuments, two with ponds, one of which was a fishpond. The other, Pirton Grange has a settling pond, moat remains and enclosure.[3]

Sixteen houses or farmhouses are listed here for architecture, fifteen at Grade II.

Pirton Grange is a Grade II* listed house. It has 15th and 16th century parts, a hall roof of about 1690 and mostly timber-framed construction. Victorian chimneys and fireplaces intrude though.[4]

The village has a rich history of public houses, and at one time had seventeen trading. The former Five Bells is Grade II listed.[5]


The village also is home to a lesser known forerunner to the Cottingley Fairies, The Shillington Goblins. The tale has it that when Oliver Cromwell banned celebration and mirth from the land, goblins, and other magical beings, descended on the village to practice their magic and celebrate as their own quiet, secretive form of resistance. They would gather in a meadow in the centre of the village at the foot of the hill on which the church sat, each equinox, and every solstice, in the depths of the night. The villagers noted their music and laughing, and strange, tiny lights, as well as peculiar goings on around Shillington. This happened one night every spring, summer, autumn and winter until King Charles II was restored the goblins never returned. After they had left, once each year a faeryring – a henge of mushrooms – would appear in the corner of their meadow as a reminder and promise to the people of Shillington that should the monarchy ever fall again the goblins would return to that very spot and continue to until there was once more a crowned King of England.

This tale fell out of favour and almost died in the early 20th century, it is thought to be true that a mushroom henge appeared periodically in the meadow generally accepted to be the one in the story, located in the corner where New Walk and Hillfoot Road meet. But in the middle of the 20th century a house was built on the exact spot and the faeryring has never reappeared. Thus it is uncertain whether the myth of the Shillington Goblins or the faeryring they were supposed to have left behind appeared first.

Shillington at War (1939 - 1945)

In 1940 a Luftwaffe Dornier 17 was attacked over Great Offley (to the south of Pegsdon), the bomber crashed killing the pilot alongside the road at Pegsdon.[6]

On the 21st of February 1944 Lancaster LL729 (A4 B)[7][8] belonging to 115 Squadron RAF left its base at RAF Witchford for a raid on Stuttgart, several hours later the plane crashed killing its crew near Pegsdon whilst trying to return to its base.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Shillington)


  1. 1.0 1.1 Parishes: Shillington with Lower Stondon and Little Holwell - A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 2 (Victoria County History)
  2. Domesday map website
  3. National Heritage List England no. 1009586: Scheduled Ancient Monument, north of Apsley End (Historic England)
    National Heritage List England no. 1010927: Scheduled Ancient Monument (2), Apsley End (Historic England)
    National Heritage List England no. 1012348: Scheduled Ancient Monument (3) Apsley End (Historic England)
  4. National Heritage List England no. 1175572: Pirton Grange (Historic England)
  5. National Heritage List England no. 1312534: The Five Bells (Historic England)
  6. BBC People's War - Brian Limbrick’s Wartime Childhood 1938 to 1941. website accessed 20/07/10
  7. Lost Bombers (website accessed: 22/07/10)
  8. Alex Tooley, recollection. BBC Peoples War website accessed: 20 July 2010)