Steppingley village stands on high ground in the centre of a small parish of about 562ha on the Greensand Ridge. People have lived here for several thousand years, flint tools over 8,000 years on have been found in the southwest of the parish. Stepigelai (Steppingley Manor) is mentioned in the Doomsday Book.

 

Probably the most famous resident of the village was one of the early rectors, John Schorne, who took up office in 1273 (it has been said that the French Horn pub was named after him). He became well known as a healer and was credited with having imprisoned the devil, or demon of pain, in an old boot. He moved to North Marston church in 1283 and when he died North Marston became a place of pilgrimage. Small models of Schorne holding a boot with the devil’s head poking out were sold as pilgrim tokens and this is believed to have been the inspiration for the Jack-in-the-Box, so popular in Victorian times. John Schorne’s remains lie in St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

 

In the late medieval period the poor quality agricultural land was swapped for hunting and timber production. Beckerings Park lay in the northwest of the parish and Steppingley Park occupied most of the south of the parish. Routes running through the parish were redirected around the parks, restricting further growth of the village.

 

In the 16th century, Beckerings became one of the local deer parks providing entertainment for Henry VIII. Timber from the park and other parts of Steppingley became the most important element in the village economy at this time and much of it was used to build ships for the navy. Two hundred years later, Steppingley was one of a group of parishes in the area with a high proportion of pasture land producing dairy products for the growing London market, which brought a measure of prosperity to the village and an increase in population. Steppingley Kiln (where Kiln Farm stands today) was producing bricks for the local gentry and provided the materials for the Earl of Ossory’s Ampthill Great House in 1762-64.

 

In 1839 the 7th Duke of Bedford purchased almost all of the parish that he didn’t already own and began a programme of improvements. Hedges were removed to make larger fields, the church, farm buildings and cottages were rebuilt. A few older buildings survive, but most of Steppingley was created between 1840 and 1872.

 

Today the village retains much of this character and the conservation status helps to preserve this.