Wrestlingworth is not mentioned in the Domesday Book. However, by the mid-12th century two manor houses – Kendale’s and Hereford’s - are recorded as the village which was being established along the banks of a tributary of the River Cam.
The Church of St. Peter was established in about 1300. Graves from the Great Plague are still clearly visible in St. Peter’s churchyard, together with low set ‘leper’ windows.
More information on the Lords of the Wrestlingworth Manors and St. Peter’s Church can be found on the British History website.
Through the centuries Wrestlingworth flourished as a rural farming community partly due to its close proximity to the old Great North Road and the historically influential towns of Potton and Biggleswade.
The last woman to be Publicly Hanged in England
In the 1840s, notoriety hit the village when the case of the murderess Sarah Dazley came to the fore. By the age of 25 Sarah had poisoned two husbands and a child. She was about to marry a third husband when villagers warned him of her past and subsequent investigations took place. These commenced with exhumation of the bodies and a Coroner’s Inquest which was held in The Chequers Pub. Traces of arsenic were found and several local residents gave evidence against Sarah during her trial at Bedford Assizes.
At the end of the case, Sarah was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged outside Bedford Goal. She was the last woman to be publicly hanged in England and it is said that the entire Wrestlingworth community walked or rode over to Bedford to see the event.
Cockayne Hatley - St John the Baptist Church
St John the Baptist Church dates from the 13th Century and is situated at the gates of an ancient hall. It contains high quality works of stained glass (the east window contains 14th century glass from a church in Yorkshire), and Flemish monastic carved wood which came from the Abbey of Alne in 1689.
The churchyard contains a monument over the grave of poet W E Henley who visited Cockayne Hatley Hall. Henley, who had a wooden leg, was Robert Louis Stevenson's model for Long John Silver and was also a friend of J M Barrie (author of Peter Pan). Henley is more importantly remembered as the author of the poem 'Invictus'.