About Southill Parish
The parish of Southill occupies an area in the east of mid-Bedfordshire. The parish consists three villages and a tiny hamlet: Broom, Southill, Stanford and Ireland respectively, and covers nearly 2,500 hectares (around 6,100 acres), most of which is cropped either as arable farmland or mixed woodland.
Southill has variously been written as Sudgible and Sudgivele (11th century) and Southyevell (12th - 14th century). The name is considered to be derived through reference to the river Ivel which flows northward and at the eastern edge of the parish, and which theory appears to be borne out by the parish of Northill which lies just a mile-or-two to the north.
The parish is bounded to the north by Old Warden Parish; to the east by the river Ivel and beyond that, Biggleswade and Langford; to the south by the parishes of Clifton and Shefford, with Chicksands and Haynes to the West.
Although the parish has a relatively small population in comparison to its size geographically, it nonetheless sustains a village shop at Southill. The parish also has five public houses, each with restaurant facilities: two at Broom, and one each at Southill, Stanford and Ireland.
The villages of Broom and Southill each have well-appointed village halls which are available to hire for meetings and other community activities.
Southill village also serves the community by way of a popular Lower School which, along with several privately run groups, also offers opportunities for children of pre-school age.
Worship is catered for via the Parish Church (All Saints), and a Strict Baptist Chapel - both situated in the village of Southill.
In common with many rural parishes where agriculture is the dominant industry, most residents of the parish find employment in the broader region of Bedfordshire and surrounding counties. Residents of the parish have easy access to transport links to both London and the north through the proximity of a main line railway station at Biggleswade and the A1 trunk road.
Among several properties of historical significance within the parish is Southill Park, the seat of the Whitbread family whose growing success as London brewers encouraged Samuel Whitbread to, in 1795, acquire the property from the Byng family.
The Byngs' had some years previously been forging something of a dynasty of their own through connection with the Royal Navy. George Byng was a distinguished naval commander, and was rewarded with a title: Viscount Torrington. His son John, however, born at Southill in 1704 and later to become the Hon. John Byng, Admiral of the Blue, was tried and found guilty of 'not doing his utmost' during the French invasion in 1756 of the British held island of Minorca. Byng was sentenced to death, and on 14 March 1757 was shot by a platoon of marines on board the Monarque, at Portsmouth.
The circumstances leading to Byng's trial and the severity of the sentence caused some controversy at the time, and continues to provide meat for debate. The event is said to have inspired Voltaire to note in his play 'Candide' that the English found it necessary to shoot an Admiral from time to time 'in order to encourage the others'.
Byng's body was forwarded to the family burial place at Southill. His monument bears the following inscription: "To the Perpetual Disgrace of Public Justice, the Hon. John Byng, Esq., Admiral of the Blue, fell a Martyr to Political Persecution, March 14th, in the year MDCCLVII; when Bravery and Loyalty were insufficient Securities for the Life and Honour of a Naval Officer."