A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.
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The manor of STAPLEFORD ABBOTS was held by the abbey of Bury St. Edmunds before the Conquest. It was recorded in the abbey's registers that one night in 1013 the lord of the manor of Stapleford was miraculously cured of a lingering illness by the presence of the body of St. Edmund, on its way back to Bury Abbey from London, and that in return for his recovery he granted the manor to the abbey for ever. (fn. 1) Whether the grant was made then and in those circumstances cannot be confirmed but the abbey certainly owned the manor by 1066. (fn. 2) It was then worth 45s. (fn. 3) In 1086 it was worth 50s. (fn. 4) The abbey retained (fn. 5) Stapleford until the Dissolution and the manor and the parish became known as Stapleford Abbots.
In the early 12th century the abbey's possessions were divided between the abbot and the convent: (fn. 6) the manor of Stapleford was apportioned to the abbot. (fn. 7) Abbot Hugh (1157-1180) let or confirmed the lease of this manor to Walter of Hatfield. (fn. 8) In September 1182, soon after his election, Abbot Samson took all his manors into his own hands. (fn. 9) He pardoned Walter of Hatfield £19 arrears of rent in return for which Walter surrendered Stapleford and three other manors. (fn. 10) In 1207 a meeting took place in Abbot Samson's chamber at Stapleford between King John and his nephew Otto IV; (fn. 11) as a result of the meeting John supplied Otto with 6,000 marks. (fn. 12) Later in the 13th century the abbots again leased the manor of Stapleford. In about 1260 Abbot Simon (1257-79) granted it to Sir Philip Basset for life. (fn. 13) In 1278 Simon granted it to Laurence de Offinton for life at a rent of £10 a year. (fn. 14) Afterwards Simon's successor John (1279-1301) granted a life interest in the manor to Hervey de Stanton, king's clerk. (fn. 15)
In 1539, after the Dissolution, a man whose name is lost but who was perhaps George Cely, petitioned Thomas Cromwell to grant him in exchange for his house and lands in Havering 'the lordship in Essex called Stapleford Abbot, lately belonging to the monastery of Bury and worth £20, within which lordship I have £15 over and besides the £20 now the King's'. (fn. 16) The petitioner added that he would not have 'Mr. Chancellor's favour therein as he has promised it to Mr. Tuke who has refused it unless he may have my lands lying within the same'. (fn. 17) In 1541 the manor was granted in fee to John Maynarde, mercer, of London, who immediately received licence to alienate it to Sir Brian Tuke, Treasurer of the Chamber. (fn. 18) Sir Brian held his first court in October 1541 and three more courts before the end of February 1543. (fn. 19) By April 1545, however, the Crown had regained the estate, possibly by an exchange, (fn. 20) and thenceforth retained the freehold until 1835 or soon after.
During this period the estate was let on long leases. At first it was leased in parcels and the leases did not include the manorial rights, although, occasionally at least, a lessee was appointed bailiff of the manor. Later the manorial rights were leased as well as the rest of the estate.
In 1545 George Cely was granted a lease for 21 years of the capital messuage and some of the lands appurtenant to the manor at a rent of £21 13s. 4d. a year. (fn. 21) Cely mortgaged the lease to one Buckland for £20. (fn. 22) Shortly afterwards George Cely died having devised the lease to his eldest son Walter who immediately redeemed the mortgage. (fn. 23) Walter was already bailiff of the manor, having been appointed in 1546. (fn. 24) In 1548 he purchased the manor of Albyns. (fn. 25) He died in 1549 having devised his lease of Stapleford Hall to his wife Elizabeth. (fn. 26) Afterwards Elizabeth married Thomas Smythe, clerk of the bakery, who in 1557 was appointed bailiff of the manor. (fn. 27) In 1558 Smythe surrendered to the Crown the remaining term of the lease granted to George Cely in 1545 and received a new lease for 30 years at a rent of £21 13s. 4d. a year. (fn. 28) This lease was apparently surrendered before its term, for in 1585 the queen granted a lease of the same property to William Dove for 21 years at £21 13s. 4d. a year. (fn. 29) Later Dove surrendered this lease to the Crown with the request that it should be granted to Roger Gittins and his wife Anne and their daughter Anne. (fn. 30) In 1591 a lease was granted to Roger and Anne Gittins and their daughter Anne for their lives in survivorship at the same rent as that paid by previous lessees. (fn. 31) In 1594 the Crown granted a lease of the same property in reversion to John Wood, clerk of the signet, for 30 years at a rent of £21 13s. 4d. a year. (fn. 32)
In January 1617 James I demised the manor with all its lands rents and profits to Sir Francis Bacon and others for a term of 99 years. (fn. 33) In July 1629 this lease was assigned to Henry, Earl of Holland, and others in trust for Queen Henrietta Maria for her life with the power of letting the estate. (fn. 34) In March 1641 the queen leased the capital messuage and some lands appurtenant to the manor to William Crofts, one of her servants, for 21 years at a rent of £21 13s. 4d. a year. (fn. 35) Crofts was also granted the manorial rights for 21 years at a rent of £17 10s. a year and, for the same term, a tenement called Hammonds, which was also part of the manor and which had been leased at an annual rent of £8 10s. since 1541 or earlier. (fn. 36)
By letters patent of 7 February 1650 Charles II mortgaged four manors, including Stapleford Abbots, to Sir George Carteret, 1st Bt., for £4,000, part of a larger sum which Sir George had expended in the service of Charles I and which Charles II had bound himself to repay. (fn. 37) He made this grant in ignorance, it seems, of the lease held in trust for Henrietta Maria. (fn. 38) Later Sir George Carteret discovered the existence of Henrietta's lease and in April 1663 he bought it in so as to protect his mortgage. (fn. 39) In 1675, the principal sum of £4,000 and most of the interest thereon having remained unpaid, Sir George took the view that the sums outstanding greatly exceeded the value of the estate and that he therefore had an absolute interest in the estate for the term of 99 years granted to him in the mortgage. He proceeded to settle the manor of Stapleford Abbots on Grace wife of his grandson and heir George, later 1st Baron Carteret, as part of her jointure. Lord Carteret died in 1695 leaving his younger children unprovided for. In order to help provide portions for these children his widow Grace, Lady Carteret, wished to sell the Stapleford Abbots estate. There were doubts, however, about the validity of her title to this estate on the grounds that the letters patent of 7 February 1650 could not be found and that an enrolled copy showed them to be, in any case, defective, because they did not recite some former demises. Moreover, even if the grant of 1650 were deemed valid, the fact that the Crown was not foreclosed from its equity of redemption constituted a bar to sale. To clear her title Lady Carteret obtained an Act of Parliament, (fn. 40) in February 1704, which confirmed the grant of 1650 and barred all right or equity of redemption in the Crown. By the same Act the estate, with others, was vested in trustees for the purpose of sale.
It seems, however, that for some reason Lady Carteret did not after all dispose of her interests in the manor of Stapleford Abbots for as lady of the manor she granted a tenancy of a piece of manorial waste to Sir John Fortescue-Aland of Knolls Hill in 1735. (fn. 41)
Moreover there is no doubt that after her death in 1744 successive Barons Carteret were granted further leases of the estate which they held until 1805-9 when Henry, Lord Carteret (d. 1826) transferred his lease, which had been renewed in 1805 for 30 years at a rent of £538 14s. 6d. a year, to John Rutherforth Abdy, owner of Albyns manor. (fn. 42) J. R. Abdy still held the lease when it expired in 1835. (fn. 43) The Crown then offered the estate for sale. (fn. 44) At that time it comprised 582 acres of demesne land, which included Stapleford Hall farm (163 acres), Hammonds farm (123 acres), several other parcels (totalling 162 acres) in Stapleford Abbots, and Wolves and Joyes farm (134 acres) in Romford and Navestock; freehold and copyhold rents totalled £15 7s. 4d. a year; fines averaged £65 a year. (fn. 45)
The Crown was evidently unable to sell a large part of the estate. By January 1844 John Barnes had purchased the manorial rights (fn. 46) but apparently he did not buy any of the demesne land. In 1845 he owned no land in Stapleford Abbots; the Crown, however, still owned 349 acres in the parish, comprising Stapleford Hall farm (226 acres) and Hammonds Farm (123 acres). (fn. 47) John Barnes was dead by November 1849 when his widow Ann held a court as lady of the manor. (fn. 48) By 1851 William Pemberton Barnes was lord of the manor. (fn. 49) Afterwards the ownership of the manor remained in the family of Pemberton Barnes until 1912-14. (fn. 50) The Crown still owns Stapleford Hall farm and Hammonds farm. (fn. 51)
Stapleford Hall farm-house was probably built late in the 17th or early in the 18th century. It is timberframed and roughcast and has an L-shaped plan. It was much restored in the 19th century and most of the farm buildings are of the same date.
The manor of ALBYNS has not been traced before 1409 when it was held by Sir Richard Walton, lord of Batayles, (fn. 52) at the time of his death. (fn. 53) In 1414 Robert Newport and others, who were probably trustees under the will of Sir Richard Walton, founded a chantry of two chaplains in Wivenhoe church for the souls of Sir Richard and his wife Isabel and made Albyns a substantial part of its endowment. (fn. 54)
Immediately after the Chantries Act of 1545 (fn. 55) the lands with which Wivenhoe Chantry had been endowed were taken into the king's hands on the ground that in about 1538-9 John, 15th Earl of Oxford, lord of Batayles, had dissolved the chantry and given its revenues to Robert Rochester. (fn. 56) In December 1545 the king leased Albyns to William Luther for 21 years at a rent of £13 6s. 8d. a year. (fn. 57) It is not clear whether Luther was granted the perquisites of court which amounted to 2s. 4d. a year. (fn. 58) In 1548 Edward VI sold the manor for £339 18s. to Walter Cely and his heirs to hold in chief by the service of 1/40; knight's fee. (fn. 59) Cely evidently began to build a new manor house but died in 1549 before it was completed. (fn. 60) He left the house to his wife Elizabeth 'so that she and her friends will see it finished'. (fn. 61) The heir to the manor of Albyns was Walter's son George, then a minor. (fn. 62) George Cely held his first court in 1567. (fn. 63) In 1570 he granted the manor to George Wiseman. (fn. 64) At that time the estate consisted of 5 messuages, 240 acres of arable, 40 acres of meadow, 140 acres of pasture, and 50 acres of wood. (fn. 65) Rents amounted to 40s. a year. (fn. 66) In 1572 George Wiseman settled the manor on his daughter Anne and her husband William Fitch. (fn. 67) In 1578 Fitch died, leaving the reversion of the manor after the death of his wife to his youngest son Francis. (fn. 68) In 1587 Francis Fitch sold the manor to John Wood (kt. 1603). (fn. 69) In 1610, shortly before his death, Sir John Wood settled the manor on his daughter Magdalen, wife of Sir Thomas Edmunds. (fn. 70) Magdalen died in 1614 and Sir Thomas held Albyns until 1636 when he settled it on his eldest daughter Isabella, widow of Henry, Baron De La Warre (d. 1628). (fn. 71) In 1637 Isabella mortgaged the manor to Hugh, 1st Baron Coleraine, for £3,000. (fn. 72) After this debt, and the interest accruing on it, had remained unpaid for more than ten years, Coleraine began a suit for the recovery of £5,400. (fn. 73) In 1653, after incurring legal costs exceeding £1,000, he came to an agreement with Lady De La Warre, whereby he obtained ownership of the manor in return for cancellation of the debt. (fn. 74)
In 1654 Coleraine sold the estate for £5,360 to Robert Abdy, later 1st Bt. (created 1660) of Albyns. (fn. 75) Afterwards the manor descended with this baronetcy until the latter became extinct on the death of Sir John Abdy, 4th Bt., in 1759. (fn. 76) In accordance with the terms of Sir John's will the estate then passed to his aunt Mrs. Jane Crank, afterwards to Sir Anthony Thomas Abdy, 5th Bt. (created 1641) of Felix Hall, and on his death in 1775 to his nephew the Revd. Thomas Abdy Rutherforth. (fn. 77) Rutherforth, who adopted the surname of Abdy on succeeding to the estate, died in 1798. (fn. 78) His son and heir John Rutherforth Abdy died in 1840 leaving as his heir his nephew Sir Thomas Neville Abdy, 1st Bt. (created 1850) of Albyns. (fn. 79) Afterwards the estate, which in about 1845 consisted of 585 acres, (fn. 80) descended with this baronetcy until the death of Sir Anthony Abdy, 3rd Bt., in 1921. (fn. 81) Shortly after this Albyns was purchased by an American (fn. 82) and later by a Mr. Veryard, (fn. 83) but by 1929 it was in the ownership of F. G. Mitchell who retained it until the Second World War. (fn. 84) After the war it was purchased by Mr. W. H. Twyneham who is still the owner. (fn. 85)
There was formerly a very fine manor house at Albyns, most of which dated from the early 17th century. It incorporated parts of a smaller house which was probably built by the Cely family in the middle of the 16th century. The building was fully surveyed in 1920 by the Royal Commission on Historial Monuments. (fn. 86) A few years later the American owner removed most of the elaborate 17th-century fittings and transported them to the United States. (fn. 87) The subsequent owner demolished the north side of the house and rebuilt the façade farther back. (fn. 88) In 1945 the building was partly destroyed by a rocket bomb and it is now (1954) in process of demolition. (fn. 89)
In the 18th century it was generally believed that the design of Albyns was by Inigo Jones. Horace Walpole considered this unlikely: 'if he had any hand in it, it must have been during his first profession and before he had seen any good buildings. The house is handsome, has large rooms and rich ceilings, but all entirely of the King James's Gothic.' (fn. 90) Later opinion confirms Walpole's view. (fn. 91) Although the exterior with its tall windows and pedimented dormers is advanced for its period, there is no sign of the more mature classical work which is generally associated with Inigo Jones.
The house, which was built of brick, was arranged round four sides of a square courtyard. Parts of the south and east ranges were of the 16th century and one of the four stair turrets in the courtyard was of the same date. A rainwater head dated 1620 has been taken to indicate the time at which the courtyard plan was completed and most of the interior work carried out. The external elevations had plain gables and large brick dormers with pedimented heads and flanking consoles. The windows were mostly of the mullioned and transomed type and on three of the fronts there were splayed bays of two stories. The symmetrical entrance front, facing north, had a central two-storied porch, the lower stage being of rusticated brickwork with moulded brick pilasters and a semicircular arch.
In the older part of the house there were three stone fireplaces and a ribbed plaster ceiling of the 16th century. The bulk of the interior fittings, which were extremely rich, are thought to date from 1620. A long gallery occupied the whole of the west range on the first floor and this had fine panelling, an elaborate chimneypiece, and a plaster ceiling with strapwork designs and enriched ribs and panels. The room adjoining it had a coved ceiling of similar type but including moulded pendants. The only fitting of this period which is still in situ is the fine oak staircase: it has a balustrade of carved strapwork panels and heavy square newels with moulded finials. The female figures which crowned the newels and which probably represented the Arts and Virtues have now disappeared.
Some of the woodwork on the first floor dated from
the time of Robert Abdy, 1st Bt. The shields in the
spandrels of the older fireplaces were painted with the
date 1654 and the initials
(for Robert and Katherine Abdy) and the panelling bore the arms of Abdy and Gayre. A finely executed estate map of Albyns, (fn. 92) drawn by John Kersey, survives from this period. It shows the layout of the grounds with stables and a dovehouse to the east of the mansion and a straight avenue leading south from the main entrance. An enlarged elevation of the north front proves that this side of the house suffered remarkably little change between 1654 and its final demolition in the 20th century.
In 1754 the building was restored: an inscription in a bedroom recorded that 'this house was repaired, sashed and beautified by Sir John Abdy Bt. 1754'. (fn. 93) Morant (1768) commented that this was done 'very judiciously, he keeping in his repairs to the old taste' in which the house was built. (fn. 94)
In the first half of the 19th century the straight approach from the north was abandoned and the present curving drive constructed. (fn. 95) The octagonal brick lodge is of the same period. (fn. 96) Later in the century a large brick water tower was built over the north range of the house.
Two of the outbuildings at Albyns are of interest. East of the mansion is a contemporary red-brick range, formerly used as staff quarters and harness rooms. It has now been converted into a residence. Farther to the north-east is a coach-house block, now garages, which was probably rebuilt in the 18th century. (fn. 97) In the centre is a clock turret surmounted by a domed cupola. The bell which hangs inside is said to carry the inscription: 'Anthony Bartlett made mee for Robert Abdy Esquire 1638.' (fn. 98)
In 1066 the estate which became known as BATAYLES and later as BATTLES HALL was held by five free men as 2½ hides and 6½ acres and was worth 50s. (fn. 99) In 1086 it was worth 60s. (fn. 100) Part of it was then held by Robert Gernon in demesne. (fn. 101) One hide and a half, worth 28s. was held of Robert Gernon by Nigel. (fn. 102)
After Robert Gernon's fief had escheated to the Crown, Henry I granted it to William de Montfichet. (fn. 103) In 1267 on the death without issue of Richard de Montfichet, great-grandson or great-great-grandson of William, his inheritance was divided between the issue of his three sisters Philippe, wife of Sir Hugh de Plaiz, Aveline, wife of William, Count of Aumale, and Margaret, wife of Hugh de Bolbec. (fn. 104) The manor of Batayles was held of Richard, 2nd Lord Plaiz, great grandson of Philippe and Hugh de Plaiz, at the time of his death in 1327. (fn. 105) For some time afterwards the tenancy in chief descended with the barony of Plaiz. In 1389 John, 5th Lord Plaiz, died leaving as his heir his daughter Margaret, wife of Sir John Howard. (fn. 106) After her death in 1391 her husband obtained livery of her inheritance for his life. (fn. 107) He died in 1438. (fn. 108) His heir was his granddaughter Elizabeth, only child of his son John, Lord Plaiz (d. 1409). (fn. 109) Elizabeth had, however, already obtained the tenancy of the manor of Batayles through her mother Joan (see below) and the estate was therefore presumably held of the Crown in chief after 1438.
Before 1147 the family of Batayle obtained the tenancy of the whole manor which subsequently took its name from them. Between 1108 and 1147 Sir Hubert Batayle granted to the priory of Holy Trinity, Aldgate (Lond.) all the tithes of his demesne of Stapleford except 2 acres tithable to the churches of Stapleford and Lambourne. (fn. 110) His sons William and Matthew were mentioned in the grant. (fn. 111) In 1166 Richard Batayle held 2 fees of Gilbert de Montfichet. (fn. 112) Soon after William, son of Richard Batayle, confirmed the grant made by his great-grandfather by placing a gold ring on the altar of the priory church. (fn. 113) William Batayle was dead by 1200. (fn. 114) He was apparently succeeded by Richard Batayle. (fn. 115) In 1216 the Sheriff of Essex was ordered to put Stephen of Oxford in possession of land which the king had granted to Richard Batayle in Stapleford because Batayle had joined the king's enemies. (fn. 116) It is not surprising that Batayle was a rebel: his overlord, Richard de Montfichet, was a prominent rebel at this time and he also had had his lands seized in consequence. (fn. 117) Batayle probably regained his estates at the same time as Montfichet, in October 1217. (fn. 118) He or another Richard Batayle was holding of Montfichet in 1235-6. (fn. 119) Afterwards the manor was held by Simon Batayle who was alive in 1272 but was succeeded shortly afterwards by Richard Batayle, apparently his son. (fn. 120)
In 1298 the estates of Richard Batayle were divided between his two daughters Margery, wife of William de Sutton, and Anne, wife of Peter de Taleworthe. (fn. 121) The manor of Batayles fell to the share of Margery and William, whose son John succeeded his father by 1318. (fn. 122) John, son of John de Sutton, died in 1393 leaving as his heir his brother Sir Richard de Sutton who died in 1396. (fn. 123) At that time the annual value of the manor was £7 6s. 8½d. (fn. 124) Richard's heir was his son Thomas who apparently died without issue. (fn. 125) The estate passed to the heirs of Margery, who may have been the sister of Richard or Thomas de Sutton and who was the wife of John Walton. (fn. 126) In 1409 her grandson Sir Richard Walton, son of John, died in possession of the manor leaving as his heir his sister Joan, wife of John, Lord Plaiz (d. 1409). (fn. 127) She died in 1424. (fn. 128) Her heir was her daughter Elizabeth, later the wife of John de Vere, Earl of Oxford. (fn. 129) The earl was beheaded in 1462. (fn. 130) In 1475, after the attainder of her son John, Earl of Oxford, Elizabeth was forced to surrender her property to Richard, Duke of Gloucester. (fn. 131) She died shortly afterwards but the earl evidently recovered the manor of Batayles after his attainder was repealed in 1485. (fn. 132) He was lord of the manor by Michaelmas 1488. (fn. 133) He died in 1513 having settled Batayles on his wife Elizabeth for her life. (fn. 134) She died in 1537. (fn. 135) The manor then passed to the 15th Earl of Oxford and on his death to the 16th earl, (fn. 136) who in 1548 was forced to convey a large part of his estates, apparently including the manor of Batayles, to the Protector Somerset. (fn. 137) These estates were declared forfeit to the Crown in 1552 after Somerset's execution. (fn. 138) By an Act then passed, (fn. 139) the manor of Batayles was settled on Aubrey de Vere, brother of the 16th Earl of Oxford (d. 1562). (fn. 140) By 1574 the reversion of the manor had been acquired by Edward de Vere, the 17th earl, for in that year he granted a lease of the manor for 31 years to William Byrd, the composer, to take effect after the death of Aubrey de Vere. (fn. 141) Soon afterwards William Lewyn, apparently acting on behalf of his brother-in-law Anthony Luther, negotiated with Byrd for the purchase of the lease. (fn. 142) Byrd agreed orally to the transaction but later, considering that the oral agreement was not binding, transferred the lease to his own brother John Byrd. (fn. 143) After Aubrey de Vere's death in 1579-80 Anthony Luther claimed that the lease had been lawfully conveyed to him by 'parol' from William Byrd in about 1574. (fn. 144) Luther obtained the verdict of a Queen's Bench jury in his favour but Byrd was not satisfied, alleging that the jury was packed. (fn. 145) In 1580 the parties agreed that the case should be referred to arbitration. (fn. 146) In December 1580 the arbitrators declared that the agreement of about 1574 was lawful but that in their view Luther should surrender his claim on the ground that Byrd, having guaranteed the lease to his brother John, faced financial ruin if he could not fulfil his pledge. (fn. 147) Meanwhile in April 1580 the Earl of Oxford had sold the manor to John Byrd for £620 so that before the arbitration award was announced, John Byrd had become owner of the estate which then comprised 50 acres of arable, 40 acres of meadow, 100 acres of pasture, 160 acres of wood, 300 acres of heathland, and £10 in annual rents. (fn. 148) It is not clear whether the dispute about the lease continued after 1580 but in 1583 John Byrd sold the manor to Philip Smith, haberdasher, of Henley-on-Thames (Oxon.). (fn. 149)
Smith held his first court in 1584, when there were 8 freeholders and 8 customary tenants of the manor. (fn. 150) In 1594 he sold the manor for £1,950 to Richard Wiseman of London, goldsmith, who died in 1616 leaving as his heir his son Sir Robert Wiseman. (fn. 151) In 1616 Sir Robert leased the estate for eighteen years to Francis Springham at £92 10s. a year but reserved to himself the rents and services of freeholders and copyholders and all the manorial rights. (fn. 152) He died in 1641 leaving as his heir his brother Sir Richard Wiseman. (fn. 153) In 1648 Richard mortgaged the manor to Robert Edwarde for £1,500. (fn. 154) In 1650 Richard mortgaged it to Sir Thomas Hewett for the same sum in order to pay his debt to Edwarde. (fn. 155) Wiseman died in 1654 leaving his debt to Hewett unpaid. (fn. 156) He was succeeded by his son Richard who immediately sold the manor to Carew Hervey Mildmay of Marks Hall, Romford, for a total of £4,410 of which £2,850 was paid to Wiseman and the remainder to Hewett in order to redeem the mortgage. (fn. 157) The estate then consisted of 583 acres. (fn. 158) Afterwards the manor of Battles Hall descended with Marks Hall. (fn. 159) After the death in 1784 of Carew Hervey Mildmay, great-grandson of the purchaser of Battles Hall, the estate passed to his daughter Anne and afterwards, in 1789, to his greatniece Jane, wife of Sir Henry Paulet St. John, 1st Bt., who in 1790 adopted the surname of Mildmay. (fn. 160) After the death of Sir Henry in 1808 his widow held Battles Hall until after 1845. (fn. 161) At that time the estate was exactly the size it had been in 1655. (fn. 162) Later it was sold to the Crown, probably with Marks Hall in 1854. (fn. 163) It is still Crown property. (fn. 164)
At the end of the 14th century KNOLLS HILL alias KNOWLES HILL was apparently owned by Henry Despenser, Bishop of Norwich (d. 1406), who also held the manor of Bishops Hall in Lambourne (q.v.). (fn. 165) By 1604 it had passed to the Stoner family of Loughton (q.v.). Francis Stoner (d. 1604) made it his seat and left his son Clement as heir to the messuage and to the 94 acres appurtenant to it. (fn. 166) In 1606 Knolls Hill was the centre of an estate which comprised some 285 acres, including Knolls Hill farm (94 acres), Wrights farm (51 acres), both of which were held as freehold tenements of the manor of Battles Hall, two copyhold tenements totalling 35 acres, and the manor of Bishops Hall. (fn. 167) Clement Stoner died in 1612 leaving his son Francis as heir to this estate. (fn. 168) Francis was succeeded by his daughter Amy, wife of George Waldron. (fn. 169) George died in 1690 and Amy in 1712. (fn. 170) They left no issue. (fn. 171) Meanwhile, before 1675, the manor of Bishops Hall had become separated from the estate. By 1734 (fn. 172) Knolls Hill had been purchased by Sir John Fortescue-Aland, lord of the manor of Lambourne (q.v.) and it descended with that manor until the 20th century. (fn. 173)
Sir John Fortescue-Aland made Knolls Hill his residence and 'by several judicious improvements, at a very considerable expense, rendered it a most delightful place'. (fn. 174) The house itself stood on part of the present farm-yard. By 1835 part of the mansion had become a farm-house but 'well executed portraits of the family are yet to be seen in one of the rooms'. (fn. 175) The mansion was demolished in the middle of the 19th century; a pair of mid-19th-century cottages, said to have been built with bricks from it, have recently been converted into a house for the present owner of Knolls Hill farm, Mr. D. Kelly. Traces of the former terraced gardens of Knolls Hill can still be seen.