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Cockayne Hatley

Places > Cockayne Hatley

12th Century: The Church of St. John the Baptist dates from this period with its irregular plan reflecting a history of rebuilding over the centuries up to the Reformation.

1823: The church was completely restored by Henry Cockayne Cust rector from 1806 to 1861 and is well known for ornate wood carvings brought chiefly from the Low Countries.

1882: Part of the parish was transferred to Wrestlingworth.

1889: Further restoration work carried out on the church.

1903: The 19th century poet W.E.Henley buried in the churchyard alongside his daughter Margaret aged just four years. Margaret, who could only describe her father's friend J.M. Barrie as "fwendy", is said to have inspired the character of Wendy in Peter Pan.

1928: The church tower repaired by Professor Richardson.

1929: Alexander Whitehead purchased the Cockayne Hatley Estate and within a span of ten years had developed the largest apple orchards in Europe. The apples chosen for the orchards was the Coxes Orange Pippin. By 1933 30,000 young trees had been planted. At its peak the orchards employed between 200 and 300 people.

1931: A fire at Cockayne Hatley Hall destroyed the whole front of the house.

1945: The crew of the LIBERATOR KN736 crashed in Potton Wood.  A war memorial now stands in Cockayne Hatley Churchyard to the crew.

1946: In September the orchards and the estate were sold to the Cooperative Wholesale Society.

1974: With the advent of the EEC and cheap European apples, the orchards became uneconomic and the trees were grubbed up and burned.


  • The newspapers cuttings collection at Bedford Central Library.

  • PICKFORD, C.  Bedfordshire Churches in the 19th Century. Beds Historical Record Soc. Vol.77 1998.

  • CROSSLEY, A.  Apple Years at Cockayne Hatley.  1996.

Page last updated: 23rd January 2014