Brandefelle, Brantefelde (xi cent.); Brauntesfeld
(xiii cent.); Brantfeld, Branfeld, Brantefelde or Brantefeldbury (xvi cent.); Braintfield (xvii cent.).
The parish of Bramfield lies in the centre of the
county, about 3½ miles to the north-west of Hertford, and 4½ miles east from Welwyn. It is a parish
of pasture and woodland lying on a plain sloping down
towards the south. The surface is undulating in
the north, and there are extensive woods here and in
the west. The timber is chiefly oak and ash, and the
underwood is hornbeam, which grows freely. The
little village with its population of only 188 inhabitants is grouped in the middle of the parish. A road
runs through the village from Knebworth to Hertford,
and another leading south connects it with the Hertford and Welwyn highway. There are stations at all
three of these towns, and Bramfield is some four miles
from each. There is one large modern house here
called Bramfield House, which was built as a dower
house to the estate of Woodhall in the parish of Watton-at-Stone, and was much added to in 1878. Mrs.
Browning has lately come into residence there. It
is suggested that Bramfield House occupies the site of
the old manor-house. About half a mile west of
the church and standing at the edge of the woods is a
plain rectangular red brick house with large beams
across the open roof, now used as three cottages,
which may be on the site of the dwelling-house said
to have been built by Robert Ware, bursar of St. Albans, at Bramfield. (fn. 1) It is generally called Bramfieldbury or Nancy Bury.
There is one hamlet belonging to Bramfield in the
south-east of the parish, but being attached ecclesiastically to the hamlet of Waterford in the parish of Bengeo,
it is practically severed from its mother church.
There is a little bricked-in
muddy pond in the vicarage
farmyard called Becket's pond,
associated by tradition with
Thomas Becket, whose first
cure, according to Matthew
Paris, was that of Bramfield.
The chronicler speaks of
Becket's gratitude towards
St. Albans: 'because from
that house he received the
first earnest of future promotion, that is the little church
(ecclesiola) of Brantefeld.' (fn. 2) The
use of this word and the fact that in 1428 the
parish, having no inhabitants, contributed nothing
towards the two subsidies granted by the last Parliament, (fn. 3) throw some light on the condition of the
neighbourhood during the Middle Ages.
Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. Argent three Cornish choughs.
The whole parish of Bramfield belongs to Mr. Abel
H. Smith, of Woodhall, Ware, with the exception
of the public house and Bacon's Farm. This latter
is a small estate in the south, and is held with the
Panshanger estate in which Lady Cowper has a life
The subsoil is chalk and the surface soil gravel
with some clay.
There are several disused chalk and gravel-pits in
the neighbourhood. Extensive woods lie to the
north and west of the parish, and the chief crops
raised are grass, wheat and barley. The parish contains 1,609 acres of land, of which in 1905 about
632½ acres were arable, 432½ permanent grass and
5 acres woodland. The pasture of this parish is
very good, and Place Farm, the largest here, is almost
entirely given up to dairy farming, great quantities
of milk being sent up to London. But there is
no other trade here and the small population is
In the Domesday Survey BRAMFIELD was assessed at five hides. It was
held by Harduin de Scalers, and had been
the property of Achi, one of Harold's thegns. (fn. 4) In
1086 (fn. 5) Harduin gave the manor to the abbot and
convent of St. Albans, (fn. 6) and it seems to have continued in their possession until the time of the dissolution of that house in 1539.
In the thirteenth century Abbot John withdrew
Bramfield from the hundred of Hertford, to which
it formerly belonged, and
attached it to the liberty of
St. Albans and hundred of
Cashio. (fn. 7)
Dacres of Cheshunt. Argent a cheveron sable between three roundels azure with a scallop argent upon each.
In 1540, after the dissolution of the monastery of
St. Albans, the king granted
the manor and the church to
Robert Dacres of Cheshunt, (fn. 8)
to be held of the crown in
chief at a service of one twentieth part of one knight's fee. (fn. 9)
From Robert it descended to
his son George, who in 1557–8
obtained licence to alienate to
John Forster and Margery his
wife. (fn. 10) On his death in February, 1559, Forster
bequeathed the manor of Bramfield to his wife for
the term of her life, with remainder to his son
Humphrey, (fn. 11) and in 1565 Humphrey conveyed it
to John Spencer, gentleman, John Spencer, citizen
and grocer of London, and George Smyth, (fn. 12) from
whose hands it passed in 1567 to Edward Skegge or
Skegges. (fn. 13) A conveyance of the autumn of the same
year between Skegges and Humphrey Forster (fn. 14) seems
to have been made merely in confirmation of title.
The manor remained in the family of Skegges for
some twenty years. Edward died in 1579 leaving
two-thirds of his property to his widow Joan and her
heirs and one tenement to his daughter Mary. (fn. 15)
Some time before 1597 Joan sold the estate to James
Smyth and Anthony his son. (fn. 16)
By 1637 the property had passed by sale from the
Smyths to John Lord Butler, and from him to his
son William. (fn. 17) And since William was an idiot, Lord
Butler settled the estate on Francis Lord Dunmore
and Endymion Porter, husbands of two of his
daughters Audrey and Olive respectively, as trustees
to pay annuities to William for life, the remainder
to go to his six daughters and their heirs. (fn. 18)
Between 1658 and 1732 there were several fines
levied concerning various sixth
parts of the property, (fn. 19) but in
the latter year James Fitzgerald Villiers, great-grandson
of George Villiers, 4th Viscount Grandison, appears to
have obtained possession of
the whole estate. (fn. 20) It remained in the same family (fn. 21)
till 1828 when Henry Villiers
Stuart, great-grandnephew of
James Fitzgerald, conveyed it
by fine to Edward Majoribanks and others. (fn. 22) This may
have been only for the purpose of settlement. It is
now in the possession of Mr. Abel Henry Smith, of
Woodhall Park, Ware. Manor courts in Bramfield
have now entirely lapsed.
Villiers. Argent a cross gules with five scallops or thereon.
The church of ST. ANDREW is a
small building of chancel with north
vestry and organ chamber, nave with
south porch, and west tower with spire.
The simple plan of nave and chancel has probably remained unaltered from
an early date, but a drastic
restoration in 1840 has removed nearly all traces of antiquity from the building. It
is entirely faced with Roman
cement, the walls being built
of flint rubble, and the roofs
of nave and chancel covered
with red tiles.
Smith of Woodhall. Or a cheveron couple-closed sable between three demi-griffons sable, the two in the chief facing each other.
The chancel has an east
window of three lights with
net tracery in Roman cement,
and two square-headed south
windows, each of two cinquefoiled lights, which retain for
the most part their late fifteenth-century Totternhoe
stonework. On the north side are no windows, the
whole space being covered by the modern vestry and
organ chamber, and there is no chancel arch, its
place being taken by a modern truss. In the south
wall near the east end is a trefoiled piscina which
seems to be of the fourteenth century, the bowl
being level with the floor, which was considerably
raised in both nave and chancel about 1840.
The nave is lighted by two two-light windows on
each side, only the eastern window on the north
side showing any old masonry. The rest are in
Roman cement, of two cinquefoiled lights with a
quatrefoil in the head. The south doorway and
porch have nothing ancient to show, with four-centred arches worked in cement like the rest.
The west tower was entirely built in 1840, and
is of two short stages with angle buttresses and plain
square-headed windows, and a west doorway now
blocked up. It is finished with a battlement, in
which are luffered openings serving as belfry windows,
and from it rises a short ribbed spire, in cement like
the rest, and ending in a point without any finial.
On the tower are lozenge-shaped dials for a clock.
The ground story of the tower is occupied by a
modern font, and the only access to the upper part
is from outside by a ladder through one of the upper
None of the fittings of the church are ancient, but
some of the roof-timbers of the chancel are old,
though hidden internally by a plaster ceiling, as are
those of the nave.
On the north wall of the chancel is a good white
marble monument to George Viscount Grandison,
1699, with scroll work and heraldry, and on the south
wall another to the Rev. Edward Bourchier, 1775.
The tower stands over an ancient well, which is
locally said to have been a holy well; it is now
covered over, but the font drains into it.
There are two bells, (fn. 23) one of 1757, without further inscription, and the second a late fourteenth-century London bell, by William Founder, whose
surname was probably Dawe, inscribed:
'Cristus Perpetue Det Nobis Gaudia Vite.'
The plate consists of a communion cup of 1562,
with an engraved band of hyphens at the lip and base
of the bowl, a cover paten of 1617, and a flagon and
bread-holder of 1714, with the Grandison arms.
The first book of parish registers begins in 1559, (fn. 24)
and contains the baptisms to 1723, the marriages to
1716, and the burials to 1730. The second book
contains baptisms and burials from 1731, the third
the same from 1770; the fourth marriages from
1755, and the fifth the same from 1813. The three
books now in use contain respectively the baptisms
from 1813, the marriages from 1838, and the burials
from 1813. There is a book of parish accounts,
beginning in 1826.
The patronage of the church of St.
Andrew in the parish of Bramfield
belonged to St. Albans Abbey and was
part of the grant of Henry VIII to Robert Dacres
with the manor, and they were held together from
that time till 1740. (fn. 25) In 1775 Edward Bourchier
was patron and in 1786. (fn. 26) John Calvert and James
Forkington presented jointly. The present patron is
Mr. Abel Henry Smith, who is also lord of the