A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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The parish of Ardeley was included in Odsey Hundred until 14 October 1843, when it was transferred to Edwinstree Hundred. (fn. 1) It consists of scattered hamlets lying on the southern slope of the chalk hills of north-east Hertfordshire, at about an equal distance from Stevenage station on the main line of the Great Northern railway and the terminus of Buntingford on a branch line of the Great Eastern railway. The River Beane flows through the northern part of the parish, and the numerous lanes connecting the outlying parts of the parish (fn. 2) are carried across it and its tributaries by means of fords. It is recorded that the water did great damage to the roads early in the last century. (fn. 3)
The village of Ardeley lies on the western edge of the hill overlooking the village of Walkern and the valley of the River Beane. It consists of the church and the vicarage (a rectangular plastered house built in 1685, (fn. 4) having a carved wooden fireplace on the ground floor) and a few cottages around the farm known as Church End. The manor-house called Ardeley Bury, the residence of Col. Hans CM. Woods, R.A., is situated a little to the west.
North of Ardeley Bury the village street of Cromer lies on the road from Walkern to Rushden. It has its own church and a hall, now converted into two cottages, and is surrounded by its own common arable fields. To the south is Cromer Farm, a timber and plaster house on a brick base, built towards the end of the 16th or early in the 17th century. It is L-shaped in plan and has two original chimney stacks. In the hall is an iron fireback bearing the date 1630, a pheon, an earl's coronet and the letters R.L. The outbuildings are probably original. Another timber and plaster house in the middle of Cromer Street, now divided into two cottages, is of about the same date. On the higher ground north-east of Cromer is a windmill probably on the site of the ancient manorial mill of Ardeley Bury, which was built on land acquired by exchange from the lords of Cromer. (fn. 5) Luffenhall Street is a hamlet also surrounded by uninclosed common fields and is partly in Clothall parish.
Wood End, a considerable hamlet in the timbered district in the south of the parish, contains the modern church of St. Alban, a Congregational chapel (fn. 6) and several farm-houses, including Lite's Farm, possibly the old manor-house. (fn. 7) Two of the farm-houses are of timber and plaster and apparently date from the 17th century. The manor-house of Moor Hall, now converted into a farm, is about a mile north of Wood End. At Gardner's is a homestead moat surrounding farm-buildings near the road from Great Munden to Rushden which here forms the boundary between Ardeley and Cottered and further north passes through the hamlet of Hare Street.
These considerable farms and houses in a purely agricultural district doubtless represent the tenements of the well-to-do yeomen freeholders, who 'dealt much in the making of malt.' (fn. 8) Chief among these were the Halfhide family, members of which lived at Gardner's End, (fn. 9) Moor Green (fn. 10) and Wood End, (fn. 11) and the Shotbolt family which occupied the tenement called 'Cowherds' or 'Cowards,' afterwards called ' The Place.' (fn. 12) By 1700, however, the prosperity of these families had much diminished. (fn. 13)
In addition to barley, wheat and beans are the chief crops grown. Of 2,424 acres, rather more than half is arable land. The permanent grass covers 660 acres. (fn. 14) Some of the grass-land consists of open greens such as Parker's Green, Munches Green and Moor Green, and in the 17th and preceding centuries the inhabitants depastured cattle along the roadside and on the ' balks' dividing the holdings in the common fields. (fn. 15) The woodland (about 80 acres) is chiefly about Ardeley Bury and in the south of the parish. In 1649 seven 'groves' appertained to Ardeley Manor; among these were Deereloves, Rooks, Cockshott, and Great Sprosewell. (fn. 16)
The public elementary school dates from 1834, and was enlarged in 1845. (fn. 17)
The manor of ARDELEY was held in 1086 by the canons of St. Paul's, London. It had belonged to the church before the Conquest, (fn. 18) and possibly the tradition that the canons acquired it of the gift of King Athelstan (924–40 A.D.) is correct, although the charter recording the gift must be rejected as a forgery. (fn. 19)
Apparently the manor included the whole parish in 1086, and the canons owned also 2 hides in the hamlet of Luffenhall, which lies partly in Clothall, partly in Ardeley. (fn. 20) In 1086 Ardeley was assessed at 6 hides, of which 3 were in the demesne. (fn. 21) In the time of Henry I the manor was assessed at 7 hides, but only 6 of these were accounted for; 2 hides were in the demesne, 1 hide having evidently been alienated to tenants since the time of the Domesday Survey. (fn. 22)
The manor was allotted for the maintenance of the keeper of the brew-house of St. Paul's. (fn. 23) The manor-house and demesne lands were let on lease as early as the 12th century. The rent due from Osbert of Ardeley, to whom a lease for life was granted in 1141, was paid four times a year, (fn. 24) on the ninth, twenty-sixth, fortieth and forty-sixth Sundays after the feast of St. Faith. (fn. 25) The rent paid to the brew-house at each term was 64 quarters of wheat, 12 quarters of barley, 64 quarters of oats and a money rent of 42s. At the same time there were due to the chamberlain, besides a fixed sum from the church, £11 12s. 4d. from the manor for wages, wood and alms (fn. 26) and 40s. towards the obit of John Malemeyns. (fn. 27) The 12thcentury lessee received in addition to the farm-stock and three barns filled with wheat, oats, barley and hay, a good hall (doubtless on the site of Ardeley Bury) with 'cloisters' (trisana) and a chamber leading out of the hall, courtyard, granary and kitchen, stables and a place for storing hay. In the hall were four small butts, three cups, 'lead above the oven,' a bench, a cupboard and two tables. (fn. 28)
In 1222 the farmer of the manor was Theobald Archdeacon of Essex, (fn. 29) and it became customary for the lessee to be one of the canons of St. Paul's (fn. 30) and to farm the courts as well as the demesne lands. (fn. 31)
Sir Henry Chauncy, writing in 1700, stated that the manor-house and demesne lands (only) had been held for above 200 years by his ancestors, who had had several leases for lives from the dean and chapter. (fn. 32) In 1610 Henry Chauncy of Ardeley, gentleman, evidently the writer's grandfather, (fn. 33) sublet' the Owld House' with various lands and tenements, including the great barn called 'Powles Barn,' to one John Wright of Ardeley, yeoman. (fn. 34) Chauncy then had a lease for three lives, which was renewed to his son Henry Chauncy in 1634. (fn. 35)
In 1649 the Parliamentary trustees for the lands of deans and chapters sold the manor to Montague Lane of London, esquire, Peter Burrough of Clement's Inn, gentleman, and Edward Head of Ardeley, yeoman. (fn. 36) At the Restoration the dean and chapter recovered their lands, (fn. 37) and continued to take the profits of Ardeley until 1808, when the manor-house and demesne lands were sold to John Spurrier, auctioneer. (fn. 38) The manorial rights were not included in the sale, but are now vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Ardeley Bury and the demesne lands were sold by John Spurrier to Sir David Baird, K.B., 19 January 1810. He conveyed them in the subsequent year to Commissary-General John Murray. At his death in 1834 his estate descended to his daughter Susannah Catherine Saunders Murray, wife of Major Adolphus Cottin, who assumed the name of Murray. (fn. 39) She resided at Ardeley Bury and died 21 April 1860. (fn. 40) Her son and heir Adolphus William Murray bequeathed the property to Philip Longmore of the Castle, Hertford, his solicitor. Shortly after his death, which occurred in 1879, the estate was purchased by Mr. J. J. Scott, father of the late Major J. T. Scott, (fn. 41) in whose trustees it is now vested.
At Ardeley, as in their other manors, the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's exercised many liberties and privileges. In 1287 the tenant of their manor claimed assize of bread and ale, free warren and gallows. (fn. 42) They held view of frankpledge for the whole parish as late as 1638. (fn. 43) King Edward II exempted their tenants at Ardeley from supplying corn to the royal purveyors. (fn. 44) A grant of free warren in Ardeley was made by the same king in February 1315–16. (fn. 45) The lords of the manor were entitled to fines arising from pleas before the barons of the Exchequer, the judges of both benches, the judges on assize, and all 'Greenwax' fines. (fn. 46)
In Chauncy's time Ardeley Bury stood in the midst of an ancient park, then disparked, and was surrounded by a moat. (fn. 47) It may therefore have occupied the site of the ancient hall let to Osbert of Ardeley in 1141, (fn. 48) for in 1222 the manor-house was surrounded by a park of 60 acres. (fn. 49) The present house was built in the latter part of the 16th century, but was much altered and modernized by John Murray in 1820. (fn. 50) It is a red-brick house L-shaped in plan with three towers in the front. The hall has some original panelling reaching to about 6 ft. 6 in. from the floor, and there is panelling in some other rooms. The deep moat, with an inner rampart, which surrounded the house, is now dry.
CROMER HALL (Crawmere, xiii cent.; Cromarhall, xvi cent.) originated in 'assart' land reclaimed from the wood or waste of Ardeley Manor. (fn. 51) It is evidently identical with a 'place' next Ardeley Park, which Ralph son of William of Cromer held of the main manor in 1222 by service of rendering three capons yearly. (fn. 52) Ralph son of William also held 3 acres of the demesne, (fn. 53) which he had in exchange for land given for the site of the manorial windmill, (fn. 54) and half a virgate held in villeinage 'for Robert, servant of Nicholas the Archdeacon.' (fn. 55) From Ralph the manor apparently descended to Roger of Cromer and to his daughter Sabina, who married Ralph son of Roger of Westover (Westoouer), for they surrendered 122 acres in Ardeley, Cromer and Luffenhall to the lord of Ardeley in 1258–9. (fn. 56)
The history of the manor during the following two centuries is obscure. Chauncy (fn. 57) identifies Cromer with the 'manor' in Ardeley held in 1278 by Roger de la Lee, together with a warren which had been made by Philip Lovell (fn. 58); but it seems more probable that Roger's manor was Lite's. (fn. 59) Possibly the later tenants again took their name from their holding, for John of Cromer was living in Ardeley in 1290–1, (fn. 60) and in 1322–3 Alice of Cromer paid towards a subsidy in Ardeley. (fn. 61)
In 1526 Hugh Brabham with his wife Margaret, in whose right he was evidently holding, sold the manor of Cromer to Thomas Catesby and others for £100. (fn. 62) This Thomas appears to have been the younger son of Sir Humphrey Catesby, kt., of Northamptonshire. (fn. 63) His heir was his elder brother Anthony Catesby of Whiston, co. Northants, (fn. 64) who in 1540 sold Cromer Hall to George Clerke of Benington, yeoman. (fn. 65)
In 1550 the homage presented George Clerke for cutting down trees in the highway at Cromer. (fn. 66) He transferred the manor in 1557 to his son Thomas Clerke of Stevenage, (fn. 67) whose title was disputed by John Austen, citizen and haberdasher of London, who called himself great-grandson of William Austen and his wife Katherine, who was daughter of Sir John Clerke, kt. (fn. 68) Thomas Clerke retained the manor until his death about 1597, when his next heir was his son William. (fn. 69) Thomas and William Clerke and Beatrice Clerke, widow, dismembered the manor, (fn. 70) a process already begun by the alienation of the windmill in 1576. (fn. 71) The manorial rights with a messuage, possibly the hall, were purchased by Matthew Scrivener of Walkern and his wife Grace. (fn. 72) Cromer Hall was ultimately acquired by John Shotbolt. (fn. 73) Courts having ceased to be held, ' some of the copyholders took up their lands in Ardeley Manor, some ceased to perform any of the customary dues.' (fn. 74)
The family of Shotbolt had long resided in Ardeley, where they held a tenement called Cowards. In 1618 John and Philip Shotbolt granted an annuity of £400 out of their 'capital messuage and demesnes' in Ardeley (? Cromer Hall) to Lady Elizabeth Griffin, (fn. 75) who is also said to have purchased Cowards through the agency of Thomas Taylor. (fn. 76) Lady Elizabeth Griffin, 'uneasie in this place,' (fn. 77) perhaps owing to the difficulty she experienced in obtaining her annuity from Cromer Hall, surrendered her copyhold tenements (Cowards, &c.) to Sir Edward Baesh, kt., and his wife Mary and to Edward Adkyns in 1637. (fn. 78) In 1619 Lady Elizabeth had sought to enter upon the capital messuage and demesnes of Cromer Hall, since John Shotbolt had failed to pay the annuity due to her; but she was 'defeated' in consequence of a conveyance made to Mary Shotbolt, mother of John. (fn. 79) Shortly afterwards the house was acquired (probably by purchase) by William Halfhide, who in 1630 conveyed it to his son John Halfhide, (fn. 80) whose family had long resided at Ardeley. (fn. 81)
Cromer Hall is a late 16th-century house, now divided into two cottages. It is of two stories constructed of timber and plaster on a brick base. It still retains the oak ceiling beams, some oak doors, and the original staircase.
LITE'S MANOR (Leightes, xvi–xviii cent.; Lights, xvii–xix cent.) is possibly identical with the manor of Ardeley which Roger de la Lee held in 1278. Philip Lovell had made there a warren which Roger held with the manor. (fn. 82) It may be that 'Little Lye Grove,' near the site of Lite's, is identical with this warren.
Towards the end of the 13th century Lite's was held by Richard de Harwedune, who was succeeded by his daughter Maud. About 1322 she conveyed the manor to Theobald de Bridebrook. (fn. 83) Theobald's name does not occur among the inhabitants who paid to a subsidy in 1322–3, but there was then living at Ardeley a 'Robert Lithe.' (fn. 84)
In 1414 John Morris of Ardeley sold the manor of Lite's to John Hotoft and others. They transferred their rights to John Bardolf and his wife Joan, who afterwards married Robert Carleton. (fn. 85) How long it remained in this family is unknown. (fn. 86) In 1558 William Fanne suffered a recovery of certain lands and tenements in Ardeley. (fn. 87) These may have been identical with Lite's, which was sold by William Fanne to George and Joan Brewster in about 1563. (fn. 88) Joan survived her husband, and was succeeded by his sister's son, Toby Middleton, gentleman. (fn. 89) About 1621 a settlement of the manor was made (fn. 90) whereby Toby Middleton was to hold it for life and at his death it was to pass to Henry Chauncy and his heirs. Henry Chauncy having died in 1631 before Toby Middleton, (fn. 91) the estate passed to his son Henry Chauncy of Ardeley Bury, who was succeeded in 1681 by Sir Henry Chauncy, the historian of Hertfordshire. (fn. 92) His grandson and heir, also named Henry, mortgaged the estate to John Hawkins, and Chauncy's bequest of the manor to 'the infant Japhet Crook ' was set aside in favour of Thomas Hawkins. He died in 1742, having bequeathed it to his niece Katherine, wife of William Woolball of Walthamstow. (fn. 93) Their daughter and heir Katherine carried the estate in marriage to Sir Hanson Berney, bart., of Kirby Bedon, co. Norfolk. (fn. 94) In 1789 their son and heir Sir John Berney, bart., conveyed it to trustees, from whom it was purchased by John Spurrier. He sold it in 1808 to John Simon Harcourt. (fn. 95) The latter's only son George Simon Harcourt succeeded to the estate, (fn. 96) and sold it to Commissary-General Murray, the owner of Ardeley Bury. (fn. 97) The two estates have thus been amalgamated.
MOOR HALL was also held of the main manor of Ardeley. (fn. 98) The early tenants were called after their holding. In 1284 John 'de la More' was the wealthiest inhabitant of Ardeley, if the farmer of Ardeley Bury be excepted. (fn. 99) It is said that a John 'de la More' conveyed More Hall to John Munden about 1317, and that Munden shortly afterwards conveyed to John de Wylye, parson, of Walton-onThames, probably for a settlement. (fn. 100) In 1324 Robert of Munden, clerk, possessed a 'little manor' (manerettum) of Moor Hall in Ardeley, which he had leased for life to John 'de la Forde' of Edmonton and his wife Maud. (fn. 101) The site of the manor subsequently came into the hands of Edward Kendale. (fn. 102) John de Wylye is said to have conveyed the manor to Kendale and his wife Elizabeth, (fn. 103) but she had dower only in it after his death, (fn. 104) and his right heir was his son Edward Kendale (fn. 105) possibly by a former wife. (fn. 106)
The subsequent history of Moor Hall is uncertain. Beatrice, sister of Edward Kendale the younger, married Robert Turk. (fn. 107) Their grandchild, Joan Wallis, married Nicholas Morley. Apparently Moor Hall descended to the Morleys in the same way as the manor of Wakeley. (fn. 108) The manor of Moor Hall had been acquired by Thomas Morley, gentleman, before June 1559, when the homage returned that he was recently dead and that his heir failed to appear. (fn. 109) This heir was his son William, (fn. 110) who sold the manor in 1568 to Edward Halfhide of Aspenden. (fn. 111) In 1572 Halfhide conveyed it to William Gurney, otherwise Gornell, (fn. 112) probably in trust, for the latter transferred his rights in 1595 to Mary wife of George Shurley and daughter and heir of Edward Halfhide. (fn. 113)
From George Shurley the manor was purchased in 1598 by Richard Saltonstall, alderman and goldsmith of London. (fn. 114) He settled it on his son Peter upon the latter's marriage with Anne daughter of Edmund Waller. (fn. 115) In 1605 Peter Saltonstall sold it to Robert Spence, citizen and fishmonger of London and Master of the Levant Company of merchants. (fn. 116) Spence bequeathed it to his wife Audrey, (fn. 117) who died seised of it about 1635, and was succeeded by Robert Spence of Balcombe, co. Sussex, her son and heir. (fn. 118) In 1648 Robert Spence settled it upon his son and heirapparent William Spence of Lincoln's Inn, upon the latter's marriage with Mary daughter of Samuel Short. William Spence having died about 1678 without male issue, the manor descended to his brother John Spence, also of Lincoln's Inn. (fn. 119) He was succeeded by his son John Spence, (fn. 120) whose second son Luke Spence inherited the estate. (fn. 121) He died at Mailing, co. Sussex, in July 1800, at the age of eighty-five, having acted as magistrate for that county for more than sixty years, (fn. 122) and was succeeded by his grandson Henry Hume Spence. Moor Hall subsequently came into the possession of Lord Salisbury, and was purchased by the present owner, Miss G. Cotton Browne, whose father, the late Rev. J. G. Cotton Browne, had acquired certain land in the parish. (fn. 123)
The church of ST. LAWRENCE, which stands on high ground to the west of the village, is built of flint rubble, mostly covered with rough-cast, with stone dressings, and roofed with tiles and with lead. It consists of a chancel, nave, aisles, west tower, north porch and north vestry. (fn. 124)
In the 13th century the church probably consisted of a chancel and nave only. The nave, the oldest portion of the church now remaining, was in existence early in the 13th century, when the old chancel was rebuilt and a north aisle added. The south aisle was not built till a century later, when the present chancel arch appears to have been built, and the west tower in about the fourth decade of the 14th century. During the 15th century the clearstory was added, the north porch was built, (fn. 125) the north windows of the north aisle were inserted, and those of the south aisle altered externally; both aisles were partly rebuilt, the windows of the bell chamber inserted, and the embattled parapets of the tower and north aisle added. The church was also re-roofed and was seated with the existing pews. In the 19th century the chancel was almost entirely rebuilt and the north vestry was added.
The chancel has two of the original early 13thcentury lancets rebuilt into the north and south walls. The east window is modern. At the north-east is a 13th-century tomb recess with shafted jambs and dogtooth ornament, which may have been used as an Easter sepulchre, and at the south-east is a piscina of the same date, also with shafted jambs and dog-tooth ornament. The chancel arch, which is apparently of the 14th century, is plain, of two chamfered orders. It may have been altered when the south arcade of the nave was built. The rood-loft was approached by a staircase at the north-east of the nave, of which remains exist, but the upper door is blocked.
The nave, of three bays, has on the north side an arcade of the early 13th century, consisting of two-centred arches on octagonal columns with plain bell capitals. The south arcade is similar, but more massive, and is a century later in date. None of the detail of the original nave now exists, but the walling over the arcades is a survival from the first fabric, dating from before the 13th century. The rather late 15th-century clearstory consists of three two-light windows on each side.
The walls and north door of the north aisle are of 13th-century date. The east and west windows are either original or not much later, but the two north windows are of the late 15th century, and contain fragments of 15th-century glass, some of which occupy their original positions. The south aisle largely escaped the 15th-century alteration, for though the windows are externally of that date the openings are of the same date as the erection of the aisle, the 14th century. The south door is modern.
The tower arch has shafted jambs, and both it and the west window are of the late 14th century. The font is octagonal and the workmanship is rough, dating probably from the early 15th century, while the cover is of the early 17th century.
The roof of both nave and aisles is a good example of 15th-century woodwork. The principals are moulded, and there are carved bosses at their intersections. At the feet of the principals are carved figures of angels playing upon various musical instruments, and the nave principals have brackets containing tracery. One of the beams at the east end of the nave bears traces of decoration in colour, and the eastern half of the first bay of the roof is panelled to form a canopy over the rood. The open seating, with ends adorned with poppy heads, is of the same date.
There are three ancient brasses in the church. The oldest, in the chancel floor, is fragmentary. It consists of the lower part of a woman's figure, with an inscription to John Clerke and his wife; the date is about 1430. On the chancel wall is a brass of Philip Metcalf, vicar of the parish, dated 1515, and on the south jamb of the chancel arch is another of Thomas Shotbolt, his wife, four sons, and two daughters.
Of the six bells in the tower the first is by Pack & Chapman, of 1771; the second by James Bartlett, 1685; the third and sixth are mediaeval, but of uncertain date, inscribed 'Vocor Maria' and 'Sit Nomen Domini Benedictum ' respectively; the fourth is by John Dier, 1587, and the fifth, probably by Robert Oldfeild, 1613.
The registers are contained in four books: (i) baptisms, burials and marriages from 1546 to 1701; (ii) baptisms, burials and marriages from 1702 to 1753; (iii) baptisms and burials from 1754 to 1812; (iv) marriages from 1754 to 1812.
The chapel of ST. ALBAN, Wood End, was built in 1853, largely, it is said, of the stones picked up in the fields by the children of the parish. (fn. 126)
From 1690 onwards meeting-places were certified for Protestant Dissenters in Ardeley. The chapel at Wood End was built in 1820, as a preaching station for students at Wymondley Academy, and was rebuilt in 1855. (fn. 130)
The Ardeley charity estates are regulated by a scheme of the high court of Chancery, 2 March 1836, as varied by schemes of the Charity Commissioners dated respectively in 1887 and 1897. They comprise:—
3. Pearson's gift, being a close called 'The Ainage,' containing 3 a. 3 r. 14 p., the rents and profits to be applied in bread to the poor, one half on the first Sunday in January and the remainder on the first Sunday in February.
5. Edward Hoad's gift, founded by will 1655, under which the testator gave £20 to be laid out in land, the interest to be applied in apprenticing poor children. The endowment consists of a piece of land now called the Apprentice Land, containing 2 a. 2 r.
The 'Reedings' shall be used for poor people to live in rent free, and two loads of fuel, to be provided out of the rent of the Pightle, shall be delivered at the 'Reedings' at Michaelmas and Christmas.
From the income arising from the remaining property a sum of £5 yearly shall be applied towards the support of the master or mistress of a school, and the residue for the general benefit of the poor. The gross income from the estates in 1907 was £15 9s. 8d.