Danish word ‘hoh’, in Sifels hoh, meaning Sifel’s hill gave the village its name; it is the Danes who were thought to have been the earliest settlers here. The Domesday Book (1086 – Siuuilessou or Sewilessou) records two manors, the larger held by Hugh of Walter, brother of Saher, and this later became the manor of Wrest. A smaller manor, believed to be that of Newbury, was owned by a concubine of Nigel de Albini of Cainhoe. The first market was held here weekly on Tuesdays and annual fair on May 1 from 1318. By 1563 there were 21 families living in Silsoe. The village growth was largely influenced by the needs of the Wrest Park estate and most of the inhabitants were servants, gardeners, stable hands and blacksmiths who lived in thatched and terrace cottages some of which still exist today. There was also a baker, who supplied the Wrest House, and in the roof of the old bakehouse off the High Street, the oven ventilation can still be seen. From 1715 an annual fair was held on September 10 and a weekly market on Wednesdays. By the mid-19th century a number of trades were present in the village. There was a butcher, a milkman, cobbler, draper, builder and a grocer.
The Wrest estate, in turn, provided the village with a church – St James’s, a school and a row of almhouses, so sited that a row of cottages was hidden from the gentry’s view as they drove from the Park to the church in nearby Flitton. Silsoe’s position on a main road to London and half-way between Bedford and Luton made it a favourite halt for drovers and travellers stopping at the George coaching inn (first mentioned in 1624) on the High Street. Silsoe had many inns including The White Hart, The Ragged Staff, Duke of Kent’s Arms, The Bell, The Battle of Alma (or known as The Mouse's Hole in West End Road), Lord Nelson (Newbury Lane). Now only the George and Star and Garter in the High Street remain. During the First World War Wrest House was used as a military hospital until 1916 when the house was damaged by fire. Lady Lucas, the last member of the de Grey dynasty sold the House and estate before an auction that should have been held at the Mart, Tokenhouse Yard, London EC2 on July 17, 1917.
Currently there are about 700 houses in the village and over 130 are listed. The village has a small newsagent / grocery shop, hairdresser, post office, farm shop, two estate agents and Silsoe Lower School.
Silsoe, formerly the location of the Silsoe Research Institute, a BBSRC-funded body, was best known as the home of the Cranfield University Silsoe campus, a university specialising in science and technology. The campus is being closed and the grounds will be redeveloped for housing, community and business use.
The church stands on the site of a much earlier free chapel of St. Leonard, first mentioned in the Liber Antiquus (1209-35), that became a chapel of ease in the 17th century. The chapel belonged to the abbey of Elstow. Eventually the chapel had a central tower. In the fourteenth century two chantries were founded in the chapel. In the early 19th century Thomas Philip Robinson, 2nd Earl de Grey (1781-1859), wished to construct a spire but the weight of the structure proved too much for the supporting walls and the whole building collapsed. The church was rebuilt between 1829-1831 and opened on 20 February 1831. It consists of chancel, nave, aisles and a tower containing three bells. Nikolaus Pevsner admired it as ‘an astonishing job for its day’. The architect was Smith of Hereford who achieved ’an antiquarian accuracy here extremely rare ten years before Pugin’. Other sources such as Arthur Mee suggest that the architect was Earl de Grey. Built in local ironstone, all embattled. The altar rails are made from 17th century oak taken from the chapel of the original Wrest House. Most of its stained glass windows represent the families of Wrest House
The Millennium Green is a 4.94-hectare amenity space located off the High Street.
Cranfield University landscape engineering students drew up designs in collaboration with residents of the village and won a grant totalling over £45,000 to form the Green, a tranquil centrepiece for the village.
As an integral part of the village, Cranfield University had also been invited to contribute to Silsoe Parish Council's Millennium Time Capsule which was placed there in March 2000.
The War Memorial outside the church is of stone and in addition there is within the church, an inscribed board with a further list of men.
Off-road dynamics facility: new at Cranfield University at Silsoe.(Higher Education Funding Council for England)
Nov 01, 2005; A number of international agricultural, aerospace, automotive, construction, defense, marine communications, and tire companies...