A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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Flamstede, Flammestede (xi cent.); Flamested (xiii cent.).
Flamstead parish, on the Bedfordshire border of the county, covers an area of nearly 5,491 acres, of which, in 1905, 3,561 acres were arable land, 1,151 acres permanent grass, and 406 acres woodland. (fn. 1) The parish was formerly of greater extent, but by the provision of a Local Government Act of 1888, confirmed in 1897, some few acres were subtracted in order to form part of the new parish of Markyate. The land slopes from a height of 534 ft. above the ordnance datum in the north and west down to the valley of the River Ver on the south-east. The chalk subsoil yields good crops of wheat, oats, and barley, and the stretches of arable land are pleasantly varied by several small woods and copses and by the well-timbered park of Beechwood. The parish is intersected by the valleys of the Ver and one of its tributaries, and the Watling Street runs through Flamstead along the Ver. This stream, which used to be the home of trout, is now almost entirely drained by the London water supply. Flamstead village itself, which stands about half a mile from the hamlet of Friar's Wash on the Watling Street, forms three sides of a square round the church, with the picturesque redbrick almshouses erected by Thomas Saunders of Beechwood in 1669 on the north. The fourth side is open towards the south.
In the extreme north-east of the parish the hamlet of Pepperstock forms a small settlement on the Luton road and near is Pepsal End Farm and Bonnor's Farm. The latter is said to have been named after Bishop Bonner, but there is no record of his ever having had any connexion with this place. The house contains some fine oak beams and a panelled parlour.
Half a mile south of the church is Trowley Bottom, a hamlet of some size and consisting mainly of poorly-built cottages.
Two miles farther south is a smaller district called Heavensgate, probably marking the site of an ancient hamlet, and beyond again and in the same line is a third hamlet called Holtsmore End. The approach to this is a grassy lane which broadens into a rough open green edged with bracken and holly trees. The only dwellings near are two farm-houses.
In the west of the parish is Beechwood Park with its modern house built near the site of the Priory of St. Giles-in-the-Wood. It is tenanted by Mr. G. F. McCorquodale.
The estate of Beechwood includes that of Cheverells, where there is a large modern house of red brick and stone, the home of Sir Edgar R. S. Sebright, bart., who also owns Beechwood.
In the extreme south-east, near the border of Redbourn parish, is Flamsteadbury Farm, an old manor house now inhabited by Mr. Stanley Greenfield.
The chief employment of the villagers is agriculture, but some straw-hat making is still done by the women. The nearest station is at Redbourn, two and a half miles south-east.
Place-names occurring in the court rolls are Wydefeld, Nutmanfeld, Mathley, Orchard Hill, St. Giles Hill, les Twenty Acres and les Selfeldes.
The manor of FLAMSTEAD was held in chief. It was apparently purchased by the two brothers, Abbots Ælfric and Leofric, about A.D. 1000, for the church of St. Albans. (fn. 2) The next abbot, Leofstan, granted it to Turnot, a valiant knight, and his companions Waldef and Thurman (fn. 3) upon the condition that they should protect the western parts of the manor, where there were numerous robbers and hurtful beasts, and should be answerable for any damage done, and if war arose should give all their power to the protection of the church of St. Albans. They and their heirs, one of whom was presumably Achi, the thegn who was holding of Edward the Confessor, are said to have held the manor until the time of William the Conqueror. (fn. 4) According to the Gesta Abbatum, King William granted it to Roger de Tony, Thoni, or Todeni, who undertook to perform all the services imposed upon Turnot. The Domesday tenant was Ralph de Tony, (fn. 5) but Mr. Round points out that his father, who was named Roger, may have been the actual grantee at the Conquest.
This manor descended from father to son in the family of Tony till Robert, Lord Tony, died in 1310, (fn. 6) leaving as his heir his sister Alice, widow of Thomas de Leyburn. Alice shortly afterwards married Guy de Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, by whom she had a son and heir Thomas. Guy died in 1315, (fn. 7) and after his death his widow, Alice, married, as her third husband, William de la Zouche of Mortimer. They apparently lived here, as in 1332 William obtained licence from the bishop of Lincoln to have a chapel in his manor-house at Flamstead. (fn. 8) Alice predeceased her third husband, who held the manor by the courtesy till his death in 1337, when it passed to Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, as son and heir of Alice. (fn. 9) The manor of Flamstead was, in 1344, entailed on this Thomas and Katherine his wife for life with remainder to his sons Guy and Thomas in tail male. Guy died in the lifetime of his father, and at the death of the latter in 1369 the manor passed to Thomas the son, (fn. 10) who was attainted in 1397, when his honours were forfeited. Two years later, however, they were restored. He died in 1401 and was succeeded by his son Richard. In the inquisition taken after his death it is stated that this manor was held of the king by the service of protecting the highway called Watling Street from Redbourn to Markyate. (fn. 11) Richard was created earl of Aumale for life in 1417, and died in 1439. (fn. 12) His son and heir Henry was created duke of Warwick in Nevill. Gules a salfire argent and a label gobony argent and azure. 1444, and king of the Isle of Wight in 1445. He died in the latter year leading an only daughter, Anne Beauchamp, countess of Warwick in her own right, (fn. 13) who died an infant without issue in 1449. At her death she was succeeded by her aunt Anne, wife of Richard Nevill, son and heir of the earl of Salisbury, whose husband became in her right earl of Warwick. After the death of Richard earl of Warwick, called the King Maker, at the battle of Barnet in 1471, the lands of Anne his wife were settled upon his daughters Isabella, wife of George, duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV, and Anne, widow of Edward prince of Wales. This manor fell to the share of Isabella, whose husband was created earl of Warwick and Salisbury. She died in 1476 leaving a son and heir Edward, (fn. 14) and in the following year her husband, who had held the manor by courtesy since his wife's death, was attainted and executed. This manor however passed to Edward the son, as heir to his mother, (fn. 15) and we find the crown holding his lands during the minority in 1483. (fn. 16) Edward the son was attainted and beheaded in 1499, but this manor appears to have reverted to Anne, countess of Warwick, his grandmother, at some time previously, as we find that she conveyed it by fine in Hilary Term, 1488, to King Henry VII. (fn. 17) The manor remained in the hands of the crown for some years after this date, and was in April, 1520, leased to Sir John Cutt for twenty-one years, (fn. 18) at whose death Elizabeth his widow entered the manor and conveyed her interest to Nicholas Drabull of Flamstead. She also surrendered the lease to her husband, and in 1534 Nicholas obtained a renewal from the crown. (fn. 19) In 1544 the manor was granted for life to Richard Page, the king's servant, in exchange for the offices of chief steward of the lordship of Beverley and recorder of Hull. (fn. 20) Sir Richard died in 1548, and in 1552 the manor was granted to George Ferrers. (fn. 21) The lease to Nicholas Drabull was, however, still in being, and in the reign of Philip and Mary a dispute arose between George Ferrers and Robert Angell and Anne his wife, to whom Drabull's interest had been assigned, as to the right to take housebote in Flamstead. (fn. 22)
In 1558 George Ferrers conveyed the manor by fine for the purpose of a settlement to Sir Ralph Rowlatt and Anthony Stibbynge. (fn. 23) Probably on the settlement at the marriage in 1575 of his son Julius with Cicely or Susan, daughter of Sir John Boteler or Butler, he conveyed the manor to Sir John Boteler and others. (fn. 24) The manor remained in the hands of the Ferrers family, whose pedigree is given in Metcalfe's Visitation of Hertfordshire, (fn. 25) till Knighton Ferrers, grandson of the said Julius, died in 1640, leaving a daughter Katherine who married Thomas, Viscount Fanshawe of Ware.
In 1654 Thomas Fanshawe and Katherine and Thomas, father of Thomas, sold the manor to Thomas Saunders of Beechwood and Joshua Lomax, (fn. 26) and in the following year George Nevill recovered it against Thomas and Joshua. (fn. 27) In 1657 Thomas Saunders, son and heir-apparent of Thomas Saunders of Beechwood, sold half the manor to Thomas Lee and Nathan Tilson. (fn. 28) In 1725 it was held by William Peck of Little Sampford, Essex, who seems to have inherited it from his grandfather, Edward Peck. (fn. 29) It was settled by William upon his eldest son William, (fn. 30) and passed from him to his brother Randal. A conveyance of the manor was made in 1743 (fn. 31) by Randal Peck to Joseph Cole, and another in 1748 to Sir Samuel Pennant, (fn. 32) but these seem to have been made only for the purposes of settlement, for in 1753 Randal sold the manor to Richard Pearce, brewer, of Westminster. (fn. 33) Richard died in 1800, (fn. 34) and was succeeded by his eldest son Thomas, who was vouchee in a recovery of this manor by David Green against John Crutchfield in 1802. (fn. 35) Thomas died in 1802. (fn. 36) The manor then came to Richard Pearce, rector of Husbands Bosworth, (fn. 37) who held it in 1803. (fn. 38) He died in 1814 (fn. 39) and left it to Thomas Pearce of Redbourn, (fn. 40) who before his death in 1827 devised the estate to his relative, Fanny wife of Daniel Rosier. (fn. 41) She had a son Thomas, who predeceased her in 1828, (fn. 42) and two daughters, Anne and Eliza, who married Samuel Fryer and his brother Edwin. (fn. 43) Anne died before her mother in 1859, (fn. 44) and on the death of the latter in 1876, (fn. 45) Samuel and Edwin succeeded to the manor of Flamstead in right of their respective wives. (fn. 46) Under an order of the High Court of Chancery (fn. 47) Flamstead was sold in June, 1880, to Sir John Sebright of Beechwood, from whom it has descended with the manor of Beechwood to Sir Edgar Reginald Saunders Sebright.
In 1278 a question arose as to the relation between the lord of Flamstead and his tenants which throws an interesting light upon the customs of the manor. John de Horsindone and other villeins claimed to hold their lands by reasonable reliefs without giving merchet for marrying their daughters, and without tallage, except when the king should tally his demesne. They stated that they ought to weed three days a week, being fed by the lord, and two days without such food, and to plough for three days in the year, and not at the will of the lord. They added that when they fell into the lord's mercy they were accustomed to be amerced by their equals. The jurors, however, presented that the manor of Flamstead was not ancient demesne of the crown, nor was it ever held by any predecessor of the king, unless by custody during a minority. They said that the ancestors of the present lord came to England with William the Conqueror and acquired the manor at that time, and that they had always been accustomed to tally their men at will, and to exact merchet. John de Horsindone and the others were undoubtedly their villeins, and had not been subjected to other customs and services than were due. (fn. 48)
The lords of the manor further claimed rights of free warren here, and of holding views of frankpledge, and the assize of bread and ale. (fn. 49) In 1299, moreover, Edward I granted to Robert de Tony the right to hold a market every Thursday at Flamstead, and an annual fair for eight days on the eve, day, and morrow of Saint Leonard, and the five following days. (fn. 50) There was a windmill here as early as 1309, which is mentioned again in 1337. (fn. 51)
In the reign of Stephen, Roger Tony gave to the nuns of Saint Giles' Church, Woodchurch, certain lands in Flamstead, surrounding their house, which became the nucleus of the manor of BEECHWOOD or SAINT GILES IN THE WOOD. (fn. 52) In the foundation charter Roger stipulated that there were not to be more than thirteen nuns, except by the consent of him or his heirs, and that the priory should not become subject to any other religious house. (fn. 53) The little community having been dissolved by Henry VIII in 1537, (fn. 54) all its possessions came to the crown. The manor of Beechwood was conveyed in 1537–8 to John Tregonwell, LL.D., (fn. 55) but in 1539 Henry VIII, wishing to obtain Sir Richard Page's manor of Molesey, gave him this manor in exchange, (fn. 56) and turned out Tregonwell, who had already spent considerable sums on the estate. (fn. 57) A grant of the site of the priory of Flamstead had been made in 1538 to George, earl of Salop. (fn. 58) During Sir Richard Page's tenancy of Beechwood, Edward VI is said to have paid a visit there for his health. (fn. 59) Sir Richard Page died in February, 1548, leaving an only daughter Elizabeth, (fn. 60) who married Sir William Skipwith and brought the Beechwood estate to his family, and from her it passed to her son and heir Richard Skipwith, who married Mary the daughter of Ralph Chamberlain. (fn. 61) Richard Skipwith sold the manor in 1573 to Paul Pope. (fn. 62) In the same year licence was granted to Richard Skipwith, Fitz Ralph Chamberlain and Dorothy his wife, Paul Pope and Katherine his wife, and others to sell the manor to Richard and Thomas Smith, (fn. 63) and the necessary conveyances were made in the two following years. (fn. 64) By Thomas Smith the manor was sold in 1628 to Thomas Saunders of Long Marston, son of John Saunders of Agmondesham. (fn. 65) John son of Thomas Saunders predeceased his father in 1648, and his son Thomas married Ellen daughter of Robert Sadler, in trust for whom Thomas Saunder, senior and junior, conveyed the property to Robert and Edward Sadler in 1663. (fn. 66) Anne, the only surviving child of Thomas and Ellen Saunders, married Sir Edward Sebright, third bart., and her father by his will left the Beechwood estate to her for life, (fn. 67) after her mother's death. On the death of Lady Sebright the manor was to pass to her heirs, provision being made that they should take the name of Saunders. By this will Thomas Saunders endowed the almshouses which he had built in Flamstead. (fn. 68) On the death of Anne in 1719 the estate descended to her son Thomas, who thereupon took the name of Saunders Sebright. (fn. 69) He married Henrietta Dashwood and died in 1736, leaving sons Thomas and John. Sir Thomas died unmarried in 1736, and his brother Sir John succeeded to the baronetcy and the manor of Beechwood. (fn. 70) He married Sarah Knight, and at his death in 1794 the manor passed to his son Sir John Saunders Sebright, who built and endowed a school, and a row of almshouses for sixteen paupers in Flamstead. In 1846 he died leaving an only son, Thomas Gage Saunders Sebright, and eight daughters. (fn. 71) Sir Thomas died in 1864, and was succeeded by his son Sir John Gage Saunders, who left an only son Egbert Cecil Saunders. He died unmarried, and Beechwood passed with the title to his uncle Sir Edgar Reginald Saunders Sebright, the present possessor, a half-brother of Sir John Gage Saunders Sebright. (fn. 72)
The ancient priory building has long ago given place to a more modern house, which was built during the reign of Queen Anne. One room still remains with a carved oak mantelpiece and a wide fireplace dating from early in the sixteenth century, formerly no doubt, part of the old house. Till 1854 the great hall in the centre of the house was an open courtyard, across which ran a covered passage uniting the two sides of the house. Sir Thomas Sebright, the eighth baronet, turned the yard into a hall, and in other respects made the house what it now is. (fn. 73) The house is now the residence of Mr. G. F. McCorquodale.
The manor of PEPSALL (Pypyshill, Pepeselles xv cent., Peppeshull xvi cent., Pepsall Burrough xvii cent., Peppyshall Burrow xviii cent.) was held of the lord of the manor of Flamstead by the service of rendering yearly a pair of spurs of the value of 6d. (fn. 74) In 1330–1 Robert Kendale died seised of half a messuage and land in Flamstead, (fn. 75) held of the lord of Flamstead. The tenement descended to his son Edward, who also died seised of it in 1373. (fn. 76) He left a son Edward, who died in 1375, (fn. 77) but the tenement was held by his mother Elizabeth until her death a few months after that of her son. (fn. 78) Thomas Kendale, clerk, her second son, succeeded her, but died in the same month as his mother, leaving his sister Beatrice, wife of Robert Turk, his heir. (fn. 79) Sir Robert Turk died seised of this tenement in 1400, and was succeeded by his daughter, Joan, wife of John Waleys. (fn. 80) Joan in 1420 died seised of half a tenement called Pepishull, in Caddington and Luton, (fn. 81) which may have been identical with the tenement above mentioned, and also with the manor of Pepsall. Joan left a son, John, who died a minor in 1422, and four daughters, Beatrice wife of Reginald Cockayn, Joan wife of Robert Leventhorp, Agnes and Joan, then unmarried. (fn. 82) Agnes subsequently married John Bury or Burgh, (fn. 83) and in 1434 the manor of 'Pepeselles' was settled on her and her husband, and on the heirs of Agnes. (fn. 84) Agnes, it is said by Cussans, married John Padyngton as her second husband, (fn. 85) and died in 1453 seised of this manor, leaving a daughter Joan, who had married Ralph Grey the younger. (fn. 86) Joan afterwards married Edward Goldesburgh, and died in 1497, (fn. 87) leaving her granddaughter Elizabeth, daughter of her son Ralph Grey, who died in 1492, her heir. (fn. 88) Elizabeth married Anthony Walgrave, and livery of this manor was made to her and her husband in 1512. (fn. 89) The manor passed in 1572 from Francis Sill and William Cocke to Sir Richard Rede, (fn. 90) who died in 1576, and was succeeded by his son Innocent. (fn. 91) The manor was sold by Innocent in 1589 to Thomas Slowe, (fn. 92) who came to the court of Flamstead and acknowledged that he held this manor of the lord of Flamstead for fealty and suit of court every three weeks. (fn. 93) Thomas Slowe died about 1595, and was succeeded by his son George. (fn. 94) In 1652 Edward Slowe of Pepsallend sold the manor to Michael Slowe of Flamstead, (fn. 95) and in 1683 William Slowe conveyed it to William Rolls, clerk, under the name of Pepsall Burrough. (fn. 96) The descent of the manor is lost from this date until 1724, when we find that Charles Lloyd and others conveyed two-thirds of the manor by fine to Joseph Osman, (fn. 97) and in 1747 John Hamilton conveyed it by recovery to Philip Price. (fn. 98) In 1753 it was conveyed by George Hamilton and Bridget his wife, and John Hamilton, clerk, to William Bridges, under the name of Peppyshull Burrow. (fn. 99) From William Bridges it apparently descended to Elizabeth and Mary Bridges, who appeared in 1790 as vouchees in a recovery by Thomas Brockhurst against Robert George. (fn. 100) The descent of the manor is not traced from this date. Mr. Cussans suggests the identification of the site of the manor with Pepperstock hamlet, which lies to the north of the village. Pepsal End farm-house is probably built on the site of the manor house.
The only mention of the manor of the RECTORY of Flamstead which has been found is in 1826, when it was conveyed with the manor of Beechwood, for the purposes of a settlement, by Thomas Gage Saunders Sebright to Duncombe and Philip Pleydell Bouverie. (fn. 101)
The church of ST. LEONARD, FLAMSTEAD, consists of chancel 31 ft. by 16 ft. 6 in., with north vestry 16 ft. 3 in. by 9 ft. 3 in., formerly of two stories; nave 67 ft. by 21 ft., with north aisle 10 ft. 6 in. wide, and south aisle 9 ft., north and south porches, and west tower 17 ft. square, all measurements being internal.
The tower, c. 1120, is the oldest part of the building, and the nave and chancel with which it was contemporary were probably of much the same size as those now existing, omitting the aisles and north vestry. The lower parts of the side walls of the aisleless nave, 4 ft. thick, have been uncovered in the west bays, and show that the internal width of the nave was not altered when the present arcades were built in the thirteenth century, the thinner thirteenth-century piers being set on the inner half of the older wall. There is nothing now to show if any building older than the tower ever stood on this site, but the twelfth-century church was evidently an important one with a nave of about three squares in plan, and of a size not uncommonly found in the larger country churches. In the first quarter of the thirteenth century north and south aisles were added, and the present nave arcades of six bays built, but there is nothing to show whether the chancel was materially altered at this time. In the second half of the century the east arch of the tower, which is of considerable span, was under-built, having doubtless shown signs of failure. In 1332 a chantry was founded by Sir W. de la Zouche, perhaps at the altar in the north aisle of the nave, where a north-east window of this date remains. (fn. 102) About this time the chancel was remodelled, its east end probably rebuilt, and the two-story vestry added on the north. The width of the chancel must be approximately that of the twelfth-century chancel, so that it is possible that the latter was never entirely pulled down, and part of its masonry may yet remain. The north aisle, which is wider than the south, may also have been rebuilt in the fourteenth century. In the fifteenth century the clearstory and the upper stage of the tower, with the short leaded wooden spire, were added, and the diagonal western buttresses of the tower may be part of the same work. The north and south porches may be of this date, and the rood-loft stair is clearly so, marking the setting-up of a loft of which the screen still remains. The east arch of the north arcade was probably widened, as it now appears, at this time, but after this date the only additions to the structure were the various buttresses supporting the tower, which, already in shaky condition, was further tried by the added load of the belfry stage. The blocking of the porches and addition of brick buttresses are due to the eighteenth century and later, and in 1791 the nave roof was partly renewed; but otherwise, with the exception of a repair of the chancel by University College, Oxford, some forty years since, no work of any moment was done to the church till the last few years. The tower has now been made sound, and further repairs are in progress.
The chancel has an east window of five lights and two two-light south windows of early fourteenth-century style, the tracery being a modern copy of older work. Near the west end of the north wall is a thirteenth-century lancet, and just west of the altarrails a doorway to the vestry. In a recess in the wall east of the doorway is a monument of the Sebright family, surmounted by a large urn between figures of Faith and Hope; on the base is Flaxman's name and the date 1782. On the south of the chancel are a cinquefoiled fourteenth-century piscina and a single cinquefoiled sedile with a wider cinquefoiled recess giving room for the other two seats, immediately to the west. Next to it is a priest's door, and above the sedilia a moulded string runs round the chancel at the level of the window sills. (fn. 103) The chancel arch is also of this date. The vestry on the north of the chancel has undergone much repair and even rebuilding, but retains many traces of its former arrangements. The ground stage was lighted by a narrow square-headed light on the east and two on the north, with a fireplace between them, while in the west wall is a water-drain and a curved recess made to accommodate a spiral stair in the south-west angle. Of the upper floor the corbels alone remain, and there is no trace of a fireplace at this level. The roof is tiled and of no great age, having succeeded a flat roof with a parapet. The chancel roof is of high pitch with braced collars and wind-braces, and two cambered tie-beams, and is, perhaps, of fourteenth-century date.
The nave arcades, of six bays, have pointed arches of two hollow-chamfered orders, with octagonal shafts, foliate capitals, and moulded bases. The arches have labels towards the nave, and in the case of the two eastern arches of the north arcade, towards the aisle also, marking the importance of the altar at the east of the north aisle. The details of the south arcade are better than those of the north, the foliage on the capitals being admirable work in the easily-wrought Totternhoe stone. The spacing of the arcades also is not identical on both sides. The responds are of a different character from the arcades, with slender round detached shafts, but only that at the south-west remains perfect, while the north-west respond has a capital made up in plaster and a wooden shaft. The south-east respond has been cut away, and the north-east destroyed at the widening of the arch here, as already noted. The clearstory has four windows a side, each of two cinquefoiled lights, under a square head; the windows are arranged to come in the alternate bays, beginning from the west, with an extra window in the east bay to give more light to the rood and nave altars. The roof is of flat pitch with curved braces to the tie-beams, and partly contemporary with the clearstory, as are the corbels from which the braces spring; many of the timbers, however, are rough, and probably date from the repairs of 1791.
The north aisle of the nave has two fifteenth-century windows of two cinquefoiled lights on either side of the plain fifteenth-century north doorway, and another two-light window of the same date at the east end. The north-east window, as already noted, is fourteenth-century work. On the north side of the east window is the bracket for an image, and over it a wall painting representing our Lady, and giving the dedication of the chapel. In the respond of the north arcade is a trefoiled piscina recess, and over the head of the east window is a black-letter inscription apparently recording some early seventeenth-century parish clerk, doubtless in connexion with a repair or 'beautifying' done during his term of office. The south aisle has three-light south windows, of which that west of the south porch retains its cinquefoiled fifteenth-century heads, the other two having flat heads of late seventeenth-century date. The east end of the aisle is taken up by the monument of the Saunders family.
The tower has a wide semicircular eastern arch with a chamfered label, now under-built with a late thirteenth-century pointed arch of two orders with half-octagonal responds. At the west is a plain fifteenth-century doorway with a two-light window over it, and in the south-east angle an original stair, entered by a round-headed doorway from the inside of the tower space. It was till recently blocked in its lower part on account of the weak state of the tower. The upper stage of the twelfth-century tower had double round-headed belfry lights on each face, of which traces yet remain, blocked with masonry to carry the fifteenth-century story above. This has square-headed windows of two cinquefoiled lights in each face, and is finished with a plain parapet, from within which rises the small leaded spire of Hertfordshire type.
The church retains for the most part its deal box pews, a little cut down from their former height, and at the west of the nave are a few late mediaeval benches. The chancel screen is good fifteenth-century work with four openings on either side of the central doorway, and has had a loft over projecting on half canopies, now replaced by a moulding on the top beam. The altar rails have twisted balusters of late seventeenth-century date, and the altar table belongs to the earlier part of the same century.
In the third bay of the north arcade is an altar tomb with the effigies of a man and woman, with a large crocketed canopy at their heads, and pinnacled shafts at either side of the figures. There is nothing to show to whom the tomb belongs, but its date may be c. 1420.
In the chancel floor is the brass figure of John Oudeby, rector, 1414, in processional vestments, and over his head a small canopy formerly containing a figure of our Lady and Child. Near by are the fifteenth-century brasses of a man and wife and their children, the inscription plate and heraldry being lost.
At the south-east angle of the chancel is the mural monument of Sir Bartholomew Fouke, 1604, of alabaster and marble, with a kneeling figure under an arch, over which is a broken pediment with heraldry. In the north aisle is a framed wooden tablet, evidently from its inscription formerly in the nave, to George Cordell, Sergeant of the Ewry to James I and to Charles I, the date of death not being given.
The Saunders monument at the east end of the south aisle is of very considerable merit, the small kneeling white marble figures of the children being beautiful work of their kind.
On the first pillar of the north arcade, and the first and second of the south, are cut three rhyming inscriptions relating to burials near by. The first on the south runs thus:—
At this seate's end in the middle alley
There lieth buried John Pace of ye valley.
Ano 1596. June xiiij.
The second is :—
Within this pier where bricks are laide
there buried lieth a virgin maide
Ffrauncys Cordell was hir name
she lived and died in godlye fame.
Ano 1597. June vij.
The verses on the north are :—
In this middle space and at this seat's end
There lieth buried our neighbore friend
Olde John Grigge of Cheverill's end.
Ano 1598. April 15.
The font, in the fifth bay of the north arcade, shows no signs of antiquity; it is mentioned in the registers as having been repaired in 1852.
There are six bells, the tenor by John Waylett of London, 1729, and the others by Chandler of Drayton Parslow, 1664. The plate consists of a silver cup and paten, unmarked, but of seventeenth-century date, a second cup, copied from the other, and given in 1860, a bread holder given in 1700 by Lady Sebright, a flagon of 1690 given in 1858 by Sarah Hinde, a modern alms dish given by the same donor in 1850, and a strainer spoon with a pointed handle. There is also a large pewter flagon with an inscription, 'Thomas Halsey and Philip Coot, Churchwardens of the Parish of Flamstead, 1675.'
The registers begin in 1548. Book i contains baptisms, burials, and marriages, 1548–1723; Book ii has baptisms 1727–81, burials 1723–81, and marriages 1742–53; Book iii, baptisms and burials 1782–1812; Book iv, marriages 1754–1811; and Book v, marriages 1811–12. (fn. 104) Book i has been rebound by the vicar.
The church of Flamstead was originally a chapel annexed to the church of Redbourn, and belonged to the abbey of St. Albans, but at the beginning of the twelfth century it was sold by the abbot and separated from Redbourn. (fn. 105) The name of the purchaser is not given, but it was probably the lord of the manor, for the church afterwards seems to have passed with the manor, (fn. 106) and to have followed its descent (q.v.) till 1488, when it was granted with the manor by Anne, countess of Warwick, to Henry VII. After this date the right of presentation remained in the hands of the king until 1546, when it was granted to Sir Philip Hoby. (fn. 107) In the following year it was given to Edward VI by Sir William Herbert in exchange for manors in Wiltshire, (fn. 108) and a few months later the king granted it with the rectory, church, and tithes, in exchange for manors in Lincoln, to the dean and chapter of the collegiate church of Thornton, and from this time it became a perpetual curacy. (fn. 109) The rectory had previously been conveyed in 1543 by Henry VIII to Sir Robert Tyrwytt, (fn. 110) and he continued to be lessee under the dean and chapter for a term of twenty-one years. (fn. 111) In 1563 the rectory was leased to William Skipwith and Christopher Smith for twenty-one years, (fn. 112) and this lease was twice renewed to Christopher Smith for further terms of twenty-one years in 1568 and 1575. (fn. 113) Christopher's son Thomas left it by will to Joan his wife, who afterwards married Sir John Luke. (fn. 114) Sir John was holding it in 1607–8, (fn. 115) but in 1604 a lease of thirty-one years was granted to George Smith, son of Joan by her first husband. (fn. 116) James I, in 1612, granted it to Francis Morrice and Francis Phelipps, (fn. 117) who sold it in 1614 to Robert Gunsley. (fn. 118) By his will, dated 30 June, 1618, Robert left the reversion of the rectory and parsonage to the Master and Fellows of University College, Oxford, after forty-two years, when the leases made by Elizabeth and James I should have expired, reserving to his heirs all tithes from Roe End or Cheverells, Wood End and Maryot (Markyate) End. The conditions of the legacy were that the Master and Fellows should maintain two scholars until the expiration of the forty-two years, when they should maintain four; two chosen from the grammar school of Rochester and two from the grammar school of Maidstone, being only such as are born in Kent. Each of the scholars was to be paid £15 a year. A further condition was that the Master and Fellows should pay £60 yearly to the curate of Flamstead. (fn. 119)
In the grant of the rectory to Christopher Smith, the advowson was also included, and it apparently passed with the rectory to Robert Gunsley, and from him to University College, in which the presentation is now vested. The advowson is entered in the inquisition on the death of George Ferrers as belonging to him, and similarly to his descendants, Julius and Sir John Ferrers (fn. 120) and Katherine Fanshawe, (fn. 121) but no grant of the advowson to them has been found, so that it would appear that it was wrongfully claimed by them.
In a survey of church livings supposed to have been made in 1654 it is stated that a rent of £32 was paid out of the rectory to University College, and that the rectory belonged to the crown, and had been leased to Lady Barrington by King James for a term of years of which eleven or twelve still remained unexpired. The cure was supplied at the charge of Lady Barrington, by such as the parish made choice of. The name of the patron is not given. (fn. 122)
The church was from time to time during the Middle Ages the scene of stirring incidents. During the invasion of England by Louis of France (1216–17) some robbers, presumably taking advantage of the general disorder of the country, plundered Redbourn church. One of them, unknown to his fellows, stole the cross and put it in his breast, whereupon he was immediately seized with madness. The other robbers, ignorant of the cause of his malady, took pity upon him, and led him with them to Flamstead church, which they had meant to spoil as they had already spoiled Redbourn. Hardly had they begun their sacrilegious work when they were met by the parish priest, on whose appearance the mania of their companion was redoubled, and they held their hands in fear. At this moment the precious relic fell to the ground, and the undaunted priest, holding it aloft, asked what it might be. The robbers, fearing that the evil spirit might attack them also, confessed that it must have come from Redbourn, and adjured him to restore it before supper-time. (fn. 125)
Not many years later a vacancy occurred in the church of Flamstead during the minority of Ralph de Tony, whose wardship had been entrusted by Henry III to the queen. She, as guardian of Ralph's lands, forthwith presented her chaplain William to the benefice, never doubting her right to make the presentation. But when the king heard what had been done he was exceedingly wrathful, exclaiming : 'To what heights will the pride of women rise if it is given free play!' Accordingly he annulled the presentation and appointed one of his own clerks, Hurtold, a Burgundian. The queen was deeply hurt by the insult and shame, but when the story came to the ears of Grosteste, the bishop of Lincoln, he excommunicated Hurtold, and placed the church under an interdict (fn. 126) —a course which speaks well for Grosteste's fearless attitude towards Henry III, but punished the innocent parishioners for the fault of the king, as divine service could not be held in the church, and the dead had to be buried elsewhere than in the churchyard of Flamstead. (fn. 127)
The house of William Eeles at Flamstead was licensed as a Congregational meeting-place in 1672. Among the Nonconformists there were Anabaptists as well as Congregationalists, judging from the frequency with which we find after the entry of the burial of a child the words 'not baptized,' or 'unbaptized,' a case occurring as early as 1615. Other certificates were taken out in 1690, 1691, 1699, 1752, 1781, 1798, 1800, and 1820. In 1806 a messuage at Trowley Bottom was appropriated by Independents, and in 1731 a newly-erected house at or near Markyate Street was certified as being intended to be used for religious worship by Protestant Dissenters. The Independents were the first Dissenters who appeared in this parish in the licence of 1672, and the Quakers came next. The Baptists also obtained a footing at an early date, and retain it to the present time. They erected a chapel in 1731, and the place was a station of the old Baptist church at Luton. In 1813 a church was formed, and the chapel was enlarged in 1832. A new chapel was built in 1873. The Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists likewise have places of worship at Flamstead. (fn. 128)
In 1669 Thomas Saunders of Beechwood founded almshouses for two poor widowers and two poor widows, and endowed the same with £20 a year, charged upon the Beechwood estates, which is paid by Sir Edgar Reginald Saunders Sebright, bart. The four inmates receive 8s. a week.
In 1839 Sir John Saunders Sebright, bart., by deed gave a fund, now £1,049 3s. 7d. consols, known as the Beechwood Woollen Charity; the income to be applied in blankets, petticoats, and waistcoats, to poor residing within one mile of Beechwood.
In 1843 the same donor by deed gave £2,744 10s. consols, known as the Beechwood Widows' Charity, income to be applied in fuel, clothing, and furniture, to the inmates of the sixteen almshouses, erected in 1869, on the Beechwood estate.
In 1845 the same donor gave £2,000 consols, known as the Beechwood Coal Charity, income to be applied in coal and fuel amongst poor persons residing in Flamstead and the cottages in that and the adjoining parishes belonging to the Beechwood estate.
The several sums of stock are held by the official trustees, and the charities are administered together, producing a total income of £144, which is applied proportionately in accordance with the trusts affecting the principal funds.
The Sebright School, Cheverell's Green, was built in 1866 by Sir Thomas Sebright, bart. There is an endowment of £1,904 15s. 3d. (of which the vicar of Flamstead and the master of Beechwood are administering trustees) in connexion with the religious education of the parish. At present this endowment is being applied at this school at Cheverell's Green. It was left by Sir John Saunders Sebright, who died in 1846.
The parish was formerly in possession of 4 a. 2 r. called the Church Field, and certain cottages. The property is understood to have been sold some years ago by order of the Poor Law Board, and proceeds applied in building the union.
In 1894 William Newman by his will bequeathed £300 2½ per cent. annuities, the dividends to be applied for the benefit of the poor.
The said William Newman also bequeathed £200 like stock, the dividends to be paid to the minister of the Baptist chapel, Bucket Lane, Markyate Street, and £100 like stock, the dividends to be applied in the purchase of books to be distributed among the children attending the Sunday school connected with the same chapel. The several sums of stock are held by the official trustees.