A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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Hicche, Hiz (xi cent.); Hicche (xiii cent.); Huthe, Huche, Huchine, Hytchen (xiv cent.); Lutchon (fn. 1) (xv cent.). The parish of Hitchin includes besides the town the three extensive hamlets of Walsworth on the north-west covering 1,051 acres, Preston, a straggling village in the south, having an area of 1,118 acres, and Langley still further south, which extends over 1,626 acres. (fn. 2) The parish of Ippollitts, which was a chapelry to Hitchin, lies between the main portion of Hitchin and the almost detached hamlet of Langley and is inclosed by them on three sides. The parish of Hitchin exclusive of its hamlets covers the upper portion of the basin of the River Hiz, which rises at Well Head just beyond the south-west border of the parish and flows north-east. The River Oughton, rising at Oughton Head on the west, flows north-east, forming the parish boundary and joins the Hiz. The River Purwell, which has its source at Nine Springs in the parish of Great Wymondley, flows across Walsworth Common and joins the Hiz. The surface of the land near these streams is only some 190 ft. above the ordnance datum, but the ground rises to the south, east and west, gradually reaching a height of 300 ft. on the north-east border of the parish. The greater part of Preston hamlet is considerably higher and lies on a ridge of the Chilterns. In the centre of this hamlet at its highest part the ground has a height of 507 ft., and from here there is a slight incline towards the south-east which continues through the hamlet of Langley down to a height of 309 ft.
The soil is chalk, (fn. 3) and is mentioned by Norden as 'a kinde of chalke which they call Hurlocke, a stonie Marle more fit to make lime then to soyle the grounde, yet beeing mixed with a more fragile and gentle Marle, which also aboundeth there, they find it very helpfull to their corne fields.' (fn. 4) The common fields of Walsworth hamlet were inclosed in 1766–7, (fn. 5) and those of Hitchin called Bury Mead and Cock Mead in 1877 and 1886, (fn. 6) but there are several open fields in Hitchin to this day.
In the 16th century a great quantity of malt was made at Hitchin, (fn. 7) and brewing is still an important industry of the town. Corn is the chief product of the district, and there has been a famous corn market here for more than 300 years. (fn. 8) Potatoes, peppermint, and lavender are also much cultivated. Lavender is grown in the fields to the north of the town and is distilled by two large firms, Messrs. Perks & Llewelyn and Messrs. W. Ransom & Son.
Palaeolithic implements have been found in and near Hitchin, (fn. 9) and pottery of the late Celtic period has also been found in the neighbourhood. (fn. 10) A barrow of pre-Roman date to the south of the Icknield Way was opened and found to contain burnt bones, a blade of copper, and a clay urn. (fn. 11) Coins of Offa have been discovered and Roman objects have been found.
Place-names which occur in records of this parish in the 17th century are Cleypitts, Conigre, Ladder Peece, Pattens, Hyover, Toyes, Saffron Close and Silverstreet Close. (fn. 12)
The original plan of Hitchin followed that usual in country market towns. It stands on an important road and clusters around a large triangular market-place formed by the widening of the road. The market-place originally extended from the south side of Tilehouse Street on the south to Bancroft on the north, and from the east side of Sun Street on the east to the west side of Bucklersbury and High Street on the west. The actual market-place is now restricted to the small middle portion of this area, the remainder as at St. Albans, Berkhampstead and elsewhere having been built over at first by permanent stalls and then by shops. These encroachments began probably in the 13th or 14th century, but by 1470 we have evidence of continuous tenure here by the lease of two stalls for forty years. (fn. 13) By 1603 the market-place had evidently been built upon for some time, (fn. 14) the courts being held in one of the so-called 'stalls.' (fn. 15) Facing the market-place stood the numerous inns which formerly existed in the town, (fn. 16) and the houses of the townsfolk with their back premises extending as now to the river on the east side and to Paynes Park and Grammar School Walk on the west. On the east side of the market-place stands the church of St. Mary with its large churchyard. The extension of the town along Bridge Street and Tilehouse Street, and a little later along what is now Queen Street, is of mediaeval date, and was possibly made at the time of the founding of the priory in 1317. The town has been developing rapidly of late years. Houses have been built on the higher land on the east and south sides and near the railway station, which lies about half a mile to the east of the town.
Hitchin is fortunate in having retained so many of its ancient houses, though most of them have been refronted and much altered in the 18th and 19th centuries. In Bancroft or Bancroft Street, (fn. 17) at the north end of the market-place, are many old houses. On the west side is a house now known as the Croft, which was built early in the 15th century, although since much altered, and was occupied until recently by the Tuke family. A little to the south on the same side is 'The Brotherhood,' probably the hall of the gild of our Lady, founded in 1475. It is a building of the 15th century, covered with rough-cast, with a tiled roof. It was originally rectangular in plan, and the ground floor, which was divided by transverse partitions, is now used for shops, whilst the upper floor, which formed the hall 48 ft. by 17 ft., with a fine open timbered roof, now ceiled, is divided into rooms. Four trusses of this roof still remain in position. They are of oak and have moulded wall-posts with moulded capitals and bases, wall-plates and purlins, cambered tie-beams and queen posts, with curved spandrel pieces and wind-braces. The timbered mullioned windows have apparently been renewed, as has also a great part of the outer walls. At the apex of each of the two gables are terra-cotta figures of a man on horseback, which have been copied from the originals still remaining in one of the shops.
On the east side of Bancroft is a large 15th-century house (fn. 18) of timber and plaster, with a tiled roof. It is L-shaped in plan with a hall in the main wing facing the street. To the north was a solar wing, beyond which was a high archway. During the latter half of the 16th century an upper story was formed in the hall by the insertion of a floor projecting on the west front and a gable built at the north end, the roof being raised to give additional height. At the same time a chimney-stack was added at the north end. Nothing beyond one tie-beam of the oaken hall roof now remains, with mortise holes for curved angle brackets. A little further south is the 'Hermitage,' now a portion of the residence of Mr. Frederic Seebohm, LL.D., which mainly consisted of two houses converted into one in the 18th century with additions of that time. Another large 15th-century house, now divided into three and numbered 86, 87, 88 Bancroft, stands a little to the south. It was much altered in the 19th century, and has now a timber frame filled in different parts with plaster, rough-cast, weather-boards and brickwork. It is L-shaped in plan with a hall of four bays about 12 ft. each and 20 ft. span, facing the street. The solar wing lies to the north and has an archway with a room over. The upper story projects and has a gable at each end with a modern bay-window between them. At the north end of the hall is a panelled canopy of a dais divided into square panels by ogee-moulded ribs with bosses at the junctions which are now lost. There is some 17th-century panelling in the solar, and at the back are some old buildings, probably of the same date as the house. Numbers 89 and 90 at one time apparently formed one house of a similar type, but were very much altered and refronted in the 18th century. Portmill Lane branches off here to Queen Street. A little way down is the 'Grange,' a 17th-century house much altered in the next century. Beyond Portmill Lane stands the church. Lower down, on the north-east corner of the market-place, to the south of the church, are the remains of a 15th-century house of the court-yard plan, now used as a dwelling-house and shops. The east wing was rebuilt in the 17th century and altered in the 18th century, but the west wing of the original building remains. The over-hanging gatehouse, with an entrance archway having heavy moulded timbers with curved brackets, still exists. Traces of the north wing have been discovered, but the south wing has been entirely destroyed. Sun Street contains on its eastern side several houses of the 17th century and earlier; they have, however, been mostly refronted in the 18th century. The more important are the Angel Inn, mentioned in 1632, (fn. 19) which is of two stories of timber and plaster and has a tiled roof. It has remains of mediaeval work, although its appearance has been much changed by later alterations. It was originally an L-shaped building facing on to the market-place. It may have had shops on the ground floor facing the street and a hall and small chamber over them. In the 17th century a staircase was added in the angle between the wings and a small addition made at the back. The upper story projects both in front and at the back. An archway of a type usual in old coaching inns leads into the yard, and is supported on 16th-century brackets carved with birds and flowers. The gables at the back have carved barge-boards—the one more elaborately carved is of the 15th century, and the other of the early 17th century. There is a good 17th-century staircase with moulded hand-rail and turned balusters. A little southward is the Sun Inn, which was apparently built in the last few years of the 16th century and is of brick and plastered timber with a tile roof. It was refronted in the 18th century and later much altered. At the back is a courtyard, which is approached by an archway from the street. It was here that the Commissaries' Court was held in 1639, (fn. 20) when Joseph Wigg of North Mimms refused to remove his hat upon admonition of the judge, saying he would put off his hat if the judge would lend him a cap; 'he knew where he was: in a place made of wood, stones and other things.' Wigg's example was followed by John Clarke. A new assembly room was built at the 'Sun' in 1770. (fn. 21) At this inn, too, the courts of the manor of Portman and Foreign are still held at Michaelmas. Further on, near to Bridge Street, is an old 17th-century brick house with a tile roof. It is rectangular in plan; the windows on the first floor have wooden mullions and transoms, but those on the ground floor were altered in the 18th century. On the north side is a three-centred arch leading into a yard at the back. On the western side of the market-place there are also many houses of the 17th century or possibly earlier, but here again they have been refronted in the 18th century. In High Street, formerly known as Cock Street, is the Cock Hotel, built of timber with plaster and brick filling of probably the 16th century. It is an L-shaped building with a large yard at the back. It is mentioned in the Hitchin Registers in 1617. In Bucklersbury, which probably takes its name from a house which is referred to in the 17th century, (fn. 22) is the George Inn, a two-storied building originally built in the 16th century or possibly earlier, but now much changed owing to frequent alterations. It has in the middle facing the street a high archway leading into the yard, with a high ove-rhanging gable above. The upper story projects. A little further south is the Hart Inn, probably of the last few years of the 16th century. It is of two stories of plastered timber with a tiled roof, and was much altered in the 19th century. It has a projecting upper story and an archway leading into the yard behind, around which are plastered timbered buildings with projecting stories. At the front of this archway is a pair of 17th-century gates.
The houses in Bridge Street are mostly of brick, but there are a few timber and plaster buildings. No. 2 is a small 16th-century house covered with rough-cast and having a tiled roof. Its principal interest is two early 16th-century barge-boards, one with a guilloche pattern and the other with dragons in low relief. On the opposite side Nos. 21 to 23 are interesting old timber and plaster houses with tiled roofs, which may be of about the year 1600. The middle house has a bay window and probably an original door. Nos. 18 and 19 originally formed one 16th-century house of timber and plaster with a tiled roof. On the west side the upper story projects over the river, and on the north over the street. It has a framed archway to the yard behind. At the east end of Bridge Street, looking on to what is called the Triangle, is an interesting timber and plaster house of the 15th century, now much altered and divided into several houses. It is L-shaped in plan with an archway to the yard at the back. The upper story overhangs and had originally an open roof.
Nos. 8 to 11 on the south side of Tilehouse (fn. 23) Street were originally one house dating from the early part of the 17th century, but have been much altered. The Three Tuns Inn with the house adjoining it, numbered 11, formed another house of the same date, which has the usual archway leading into a yard. No. 19 is also of the same date and contains some original panelling reset. On the north side is the Coopers' Arms Inn, said to have been the Tilers' Gild Hall. It is built of stone with a tiled roof and dates back to the middle of the 15th century. It was originally of the courtyard type, but only the south and west wings of it now remain. The south wing, which faces on to the street, contains what remains of the hall, which had an open timbered roof, two trusses of which are still in existence. An additional story, however, was made by the insertion of an upper floor which projected into the street, probably in the 17th century. There is an archway from the street to the yard behind.
The old Free School at the west end of Tilehouse Street, now a dwelling-house, was built about 1650, (fn. 24) but has been much altered. It is of two stories of plastered timber and brick with a tiled roof.
There are many old and interesting houses in Queen Street, formerly Dead Street and later Back Lane, with arched entrances into the yards behind. Amongst them may be specially mentioned No. 6, a small 17th-century house of timber and plaster and tiled roof, with an over-hanging gabled front. Nos. 103 and 104 were formerly one house, probably the earliest house now remaining in Hitchin. This was built at the end of the 14th or beginning of the 15th century, and has masonry foundations with a plaster and timber superstructure and tiled roof. Originally it had a central hall with a kitchen wing on the north side, which, together with a part of the hall, has been destroyed; and a solar wing of two stories on the south, the outlines of which can still be traced. No early details of the interior remain except parts of two trusses of the hall roof, of the hammer-beam type, 19 ft. span, with moulded wallplates. The next two houses, which originally formed one house, are of a little later date, being of the 15th century. The hall appears to have been in the upper story which projects over the street. On the over-hanging gable above the archway on the south is the date 1729 in the plaster, but the posts supporting the beam of the arch have 15th-century moulded capitals supporting the curved angle brackets.
To the west of Queen Street, near the River Hiz, are the Biggin Almshouses, built in the early part of the 17th century. They consist of four wings built round a small courtyard, on the west side of which is a wooden colonnade forming a cloister. Each wing contains a small set of rooms on each floor. They are of two stories and an attic and are built of timber and plaster and brickwork. They have been much altered at different dates.
There is a Corn Exchange in the town, erected in 1851. The new town hall in Brand Street is dated 1901. This has superseded an older one built in 1840. Among other public buildings may be noticed the Mechanics' Institute and public subscription library adjoining the old town hall. There is a large infirmary called the North Herts and South Beds Infirmary in the Bedford Road, which was erected in 1840. The Home for girls of weak and defective intelligence, in the Triangle, was built in 1893. The Girls' Grammar School, which was built at the cost of £13,000, was opened in July 1908. The Boys' Grammar School is a continuation of the Free School founded by John Mattock in 1650 and removed to new buildings about twenty years ago.
Among the past inhabitants of Hitchin was George Chapman the poet. He is best known as translator of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, but also wrote other poetry and plays. In Euthymiae Raptus, or the Tears of Peace, he alludes to having spent his childhood in the neighbourhood of Hitchin. (fn. 25) William Drage, a believer in astrology and witchcraft, and Maurice Johnson, the antiquary, lived here in the 17th century. (fn. 26) The 19th century claims Sir Henry Bessemer, the inventor of a new process for making steel, and Robert Bentley, botanist, who was born here. James Hack Tuke, philanthropist, spent a part of his life at Hitchin. Samuel Lucas, a well-known amateur artist, belonged to an old Hitchin family. Good examples of his art are to be seen in the town hall at Hitchin and in the British Museum. Frederick Chapman, publisher and originator of the Fortnightly Review, was born in Cock Street in a house said to have belonged to his collateral ancestor George Chapman the poet.
Hitchin was undoubtedly an important manor and soke before the Conquest, but there is no evidence from the entries in the Domesday Survey that it was a borough. It was probably not till the middle of the 12th century, when the Baliols were lords, that it developed into an inchoate borough. (fn. 27) This was the time when so many such market towns arose in consequence of the prosperity of the wool trade, which enabled the townspeople to purchase rights from the nobles and other landowners impoverished by the civil wars. The market at Hitchin was held by prescription, and the right to hold a fair was obtained in 1221. (fn. 28) By 1268 we have evidence that the borough was farmed to the burgesses at a rent of 8½ marks. (fn. 29) As we find at the same time a distinction between tenants of the borough and those of the manor, we may infer there was then the borough or portmote court as well as the manor or foreign court organized in the same manner as we find them later. A reference to a fulling mill at this date (fn. 30) possibly indicates one source of wealth of the burgesses, but the position of the town on the road to the north may give a more important reason for its prosperity.
Hitchin continued to be called a borough in 1375–6, (fn. 31) and it appeared before the justices in eyre as other boroughs by twelve jurors apart from the county in 1248, (fn. 32) 1287 (fn. 33) and 1341. (fn. 34) But it was not a fully developed borough, for we find no evidence of burgage rents; it never received a charter of incorporation and never returned a member to Parliament. It was one of those numerous little manorial towns which existed throughout England with varying liberties which bordered upon borough rights.
The town was divided into three wards—namely, Bancroft Ward, Bridge Street Ward and Tilehouse Street Ward—and was governed by a bailiff appointed at the lord's court, and two constables for the town and two for the foreign and two head boroughs for each ward. Besides these there were in 1819 two ale conners, two leather searchers and sealers, one bellman, who was also watchman and town crier. (fn. 35)
In 1883 the Crown sold its market rights to the local authorities for £4,000, adding the land on which the market was held as a gift. (fn. 36) The market was always celebrated for its corn, (fn. 37) and it is said that corn was always free of tolls there. (fn. 38)
A fair, as mentioned above, was granted to the lord of Hitchin in 1221. At the beginning of the next century another fair was granted to Robert de Kendale, this fair to be held on the vigil, day and morrow of the Decollation of St. John the Baptist (28–30 August). (fn. 39) In 1475 a grant was made to the fraternity or gild here of two fairs, each of three days' duration, with courts of pie powder. These two fairs were held on Wednesday in Easter week and the feast of the Translation of Edward the Confessor (13 October) and the days immediately preceding and following. (fn. 40) After the Dissolution they were granted to Ranulph Burgh and Robert Beverley. (fn. 41) At the end of the 16th century three fairs were held, in Easter week, on St. Edward's Day, and at Michaelmas. (fn. 42) These fairs were leased to John Fitz Acherley with the mills. (fn. 43) By 1792 two annual fairs only took place, each lasting one day. The fair days at this time were Easter Tuesday and Whit Tuesday. (fn. 44) Fairs are now held on these days and on one day following each. There are also two fairs at Preston held on the first Wednesday in May and on the Wednesday before 29 October. (fn. 45)
There is record of a water mill in Hitchin in 1248, which was held by William de Lindlegh, (fn. 46) and had been held by William his father. In the 16th century there were two water mills on the demesne lands there. (fn. 47) They were called le Shotting Mill and le Porte Mill, and were leased in 1594–5 to John Fitz Acherley for thirty-one years, (fn. 48) and other leases were made later. (fn. 49) There are still two mills known by these names. (fn. 50) Shotting Mill seems to have been known also as Sheekling Mill. (fn. 51) At the beginning of the next century there appears to have been another water mill called 'le Malt-milne,' which was granted to Edward Ferrers and Francis Phelipps. (fn. 52)
In 1670 a suit arose on account of a windmill belonging to Sir Edward Papworth in Charlton, built some thirteen or fourteen years before, which was said to take away some of the trade from the king's two water mills. (fn. 53) This may have been on the site of the mill in Charlton, mentioned as early as 1177, (fn. 54) which in 1329 was held by Walter de Nevill. (fn. 55) In the 19th century there was a mill called Grove Mill, which was previously known as Burnt Mill. (fn. 56)
Hitch Wood, in the south of the parish, was once far more extensive than it is at present. By the end of the 16th century the part of this wood near the town had begun to disappear, (fn. 57) but it still extended into Ippollitts, Langley, Minsden and Preston, (fn. 58) and its area must have been very considerable, for the woods and underwoods were then granted to the copyholders for the large sum of £266 16s. (fn. 59)
The manor of HITCHIN was the head of the group of Hertfordshire manors held by Earl Harold, to which William I succeeded after the Conquest. These at the time of the Domesday Survey were farmed out together by the sheriff, and treated for some purposes as one integral manor. (fn. 60) The manors which belonged to or 'lay in' the manor of Hitchin were Wymondley, Mendlesdene (Minsden), Welei, Westone, Waldenei (King's Walden), Wavedene (Wandon), Cerletone (Charlton), Deneslai (Temple Dinsley), Offley, Welle (Wellbury in Offley), Wilei, Flesmere, Hexton, Lilley, Flexmere, Leglege (fn. 61) (Ley Green in King's Walden [?]), assessed in all at a total of some 37½ hides. Of these manors two were attached to Hitchin by Harold himself. These were Wymondley, which he stole from the nuns of Chatteris, as the shire mote testified, (fn. 62) and Hexton. (fn. 63) King's Walden, Charlton and Offley were attached after the Conquest by Ilbert Sheriff of Hertfordshire, (fn. 64) while Dinsley, Wellbury and Welei were attached by Peter de Valoines, his successor. (fn. 65)
Hitchin itself was assessed at 5 hides only, although there was land for thirty-eight ploughs (including the land belonging to the minster). (fn. 66) The total value of Hitchin and its appurtenances was £106, whilst the sokes belonging to the manor were worth £40. (fn. 67) The services known as 'avera' and 'inward,' rendered by some of these manors, as due from the sokemen of the king, point to Hitchin's having been once ancient demesne. (fn. 68) The services, which were carrying services performed with a horse and cart, are distinctive of the two counties of Hertford and Cambridge, and in Hertfordshire the inward (inguard) is peculiar to Hitchin and its sub-manors. (fn. 69) Extents of the manor in the 13th and 14th centuries mention the services as owed by the customary tenants of the manor. (fn. 70)
According to the legend of the foundation of Waltham Abbey, as related in the 12th-century tract 'De Inventione sanctae Crucis,' Hitchin, or a part of Hitchin, (fn. 71) was held with Waltham, co. Essex, in the time of Canute by Tovi 'Pruda,' staller to Canute, a man of great importance, ranking second only to the king. He is said to have granted both Waltham and Hitchin to the church he founded at Waltham for the reception of the Holy Cross. (fn. 72) After the death of Tovi, however, his son Adelstan, who succeeded to the lands his father held as staller, forfeited these possessions, which were granted by King Edward the Confessor to Earl Harold. (fn. 73) A grant of Waltham was made by Harold to his new foundation there, and confirmed by Edward the Confessor. (fn. 74) The charter of confirmation mentions Hitchin as also in the possession of the abbey, but whether it was given by Harold at the same time as Waltham is not clear. (fn. 75) No further trace, however, of any connexion with the abbey has been found. It is certain from the Domesday Survey that Earl Harold had held the manor, but in 1086 it was in the hands of William the Conqueror.
In the 13th century it was deposed by the jurors of the hundred that Hitchin was granted by William Rufus to Bernard de Baliol. (fn. 76) Nothing, however, is known of this Bernard before the reign of Stephen, and it seems more likely that the grant, if made by William II, was to Guy de Baliol, the founder of the English house, who is said to have received lands from William. (fn. 77) Bernard de Baliol was certainly holding before 1153. (fn. 78) The Bernard de Baliol, one of the northern barons who raised the siege of Alnwick and took William the Lion prisoner, was apparently his son. (fn. 79) The younger Bernard was succeeded by his son Eustace, and Eustace by Hugh, his son. (fn. 80) Hugh de Baliol mortgaged the manor to Benedict, a Jew of London, about 1204. (fn. 81) It descended to his son John de Baliol, who died in 1268, (fn. 82) after which his widow Devorgilda held it in dower. (fn. 83) His two elder sons Hugh and Alexander died without issue before 1278, and a younger son John then succeeded to the lands. (fn. 84) This John was crowned King of Scotland in 1292. He lost the kingdom in 1296, and his lands were forfeited.
The manor of Hitchin was shortly afterwards granted by Edward I to Roger l'Estrange, formerly justice of the forest for the south of Trent, for the term of his life. (fn. 85) In 1306 the reversion of the manor was granted to John of Britanny, the king's nephew, together with the other Baliol lands, (fn. 86) but two years later the reversion was granted to Robert Kendale while John of Britanny was still living. (fn. 87) Robert Kendale, who was Constable of Dover Castle and Warden of the Cinque Ports, (fn. 88) held the manor with his wife Margaret until his death in 1330. (fn. 89) His son Edward succeeded to the property on the death of his mother in 1347. (fn. 90) Edward Kendale died in January 1372–3, (fn. 91) and was succeeded by his eldest son Edward, who, however, only survived his father by about two years, dying in July 1375. (fn. 92) Elizabeth his mother and Thomas his brother and heir both died in the following September. (fn. 93) Elizabeth widow of Edward, who married Thomas Barre, received dower in one third of two thirds of the manor. (fn. 94) Beatrice wife of Robert Turk was her brother's heir, (fn. 95) but could not inherit Hitchin, as it was held in tail-male. The two thirds of the property therefore reverted to the Crown and were granted to Alice Perrers, the king's mistress, for her life. (fn. 96) She forfeited in 1377 under an Act of the Good Parliament, (fn. 97) and in 1380 the manor was granted to Hugh de Segrave for life. (fn. 98) In 1382 he further received a grant of an annual payment in compensation for the third still held by Elizabeth widow of Edward Kendale. (fn. 99) After the death of Hugh de Segrave the manor was granted in 1387 to Edmund Duke of York, (fn. 100) and confirmed to him by Henry IV in 1399. (fn. 101) The duke died in 1402, his widow Joan surviving until 1434, when the manor descended to Richard Duke of York, grandson of Edmund, (fn. 102) who was killed at the battle of Wakefield in 1460. His son Edward Duke of York was crowned King of England in 1461. In the same year he granted Hitchin to his mother Cicely Duchess of York for life. (fn. 103) The reversion was granted by Henry VII to his queen Elizabeth in 1491. (fn. 104) In 1509 Henry VIII granted the manor to the Princess Katherine of Arragon on his marriage with her, (fn. 105) and in 1534 it formed part of the dower of Queen Anne Boleyn. (fn. 106) Ralph Sadleir, gentleman of the King's Privy Chamber, was appointed steward and bailiff of the lordship in 1539 in place of William Coffyn deceased. (fn. 107) In 1603 James I granted the manor to his queen Anne, (fn. 108) and in 1619 it was conveyed by the king to trustees for the use of the Prince of Wales. (fn. 109) A Parliamentary survey was taken of it in 1650, as having lately belonged to Queen Henrietta Maria. (fn. 110) From the survey it appears that quit-rents were payable to the manor from tenants in Hitchin, Offley, Walden, Preston and Kimpton. The freeholders paid for relief one year's quit-rent, but nothing on alienation; the copyholders paid half a year's quitrents on alienation and were admitted for a term of forty years, renewable on the payment of another quit-rent, but owed no heriots. The woods on the manor had been granted in 1619 to trustees to the use of the copyholders for a sum of £266 16s. The courts baron and leet were kept in one of the stalls in the market-place belonging to the lord of the manor. The common fines, law-day money, headsilver, and tithing silver paid at the Michaelmas leet amounted to £1 15s., the fines, &c., from the courts to £6. In the same year the trustees for the sale of the royal lands conveyed the manor to Samuel Chidley. (fn. 111) After the Restoration the queen mother resumed possession. (fn. 112) It was held by Catherine, queen of Charles II, and after her death was granted on a lease to Francis Lord Holles for seventy-five years. (fn. 113) Leases of the manor continued to be made down to 1843, (fn. 114) when the last expired, and Hitchin has since remained in the hands of the Crown.
In the 13th century Devorgilda de Baliol claimed assize of bread and ale, but on what grounds was not known, as this privilege had previously always been in the hands of the king. (fn. 115) Free warren was granted to Robert de Kendale and his heirs by Edward II in 1318. (fn. 116)
In the survey of 1650 the boundaries of the manor are given as follows: 'The bounds of Hitchin begin at Altonheade, thence to a place called Burford Ray, thence to a water-mill called Hide Mill, thence to a hill called Welberry Hill, thence to a place called Bosrendell, thence to a water-mill called Purwell Mill, thence to a river called Ippolletts Brook, thence to Maiden Croft Lane, thence to a place called Wellhead, thence to Stubborne Bush, thence to Offley Cross, thence to Fiveborrowe Hill, and thence to said Altonheade.'
In the time of Edward the Confessor the manor of DINSLEY (Deneslai, xi cent.; Dineslea, Dineslega, xii cent.; Dunsle, Dynesle, Dinglo, xiii cent.; Dyonyse, xvii cent.) was in the possession of Earl Harold, and in 1086 it was held by King William. (fn. 117) It was assessed at the time of the Survey at 7 hides. It had been held of Harold by two sokemen as two separate manors, but when it came into King William's hands he gave it to Ilbert his sheriff for his term of office, and he held the two manors as one. (fn. 118) Each of these two manors rendered the service of 2 'averae' and 2 'inwardi.' (fn. 119) At the end of this time Ilbert refused to find the customary 'avera' due from the manor, and it was forcibly taken from him by Peter de Valoines, his successor, and Ralph Taillebois, who laid it to the king's manor of Hitchin. (fn. 120)
Dinsley was apparently included in the grant of the manor of Hitchin made to Guy or Bernard de Baliol (see above), for in the reign of Stephen Bernard de Baliol granted 15 librates of land at 'Wedelee' (a name used elsewhere for Dinsley), a member of his manor of Hitchin, to the Master and Brothers of the Knights Templars. (fn. 121) Other grants of land were made to this order, and together formed the manor of TEMPLE DINSLEY. A grant of free warren there was made to them in 1253. (fn. 122) They also claimed view of frankpledge, assize of bread and ale and gallows there. (fn. 123) In 1309 Ralph de Monchensey and John de Kyreton were appointed to report on the state of the manor (fn. 124) preparatory to the suppression of the order, which took place shortly afterwards. (fn. 125) With the other lands of the Templars it passed to the Knights of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, and in 1330 the prior of that order demised it to William Langford for life. (fn. 126) The priors held the manor of the lords of the manors of Hitchin, Dinsley Furnival and King's Walden by finding two chaplains annually to celebrate divine service in the chapel of the manor for the souls of the former lords of those manors who had been the feoffors of the Templars. (fn. 127) At the suppression of the Hospitallers the manor of Temple Dinsley came to the Crown, and was granted to Sir Ralph Sadleir in March 1542. (fn. 128) He settled the manor on his son Edward Sadleir and Edward's wife Anne. (fn. 129) Sir Ralph died in 1587, when it descended to Lee son of Edward, (fn. 130) the latter having died in 1584. Anne, widow of Edward, who married Ralph Norwich, retained a life interest. (fn. 131) Lee died in 1588, and was succeeded by his son and heir Thomas, (fn. 132) from whom the manor descended to his eldest surviving son Edwin, (fn. 133) who was created a baronet in 1661. (fn. 134) He died in 1672. His son Sir Edwin Sadleir sold the manor in 1712 to Benedict Ithell of Chelsea. (fn. 135) His son Benedict died without issue in 1758, when the property passed to his sisters Elizabeth and Martha. The former died in 1766 and Martha one year later. Neither left any children, and Martha bequeathed the estate of Temple Dinsley to her steward, Thomas Harwood, who at his death in 1786 left it to a nephew, Joseph Darton. (fn. 136) It is now the property of Mr. H. G. Fenwick.
The manor of MAIDECROFT (Medcroft, xiii cent.; Maidecroft, xiv cent.) or DINSLEY FURNIVAL was another part of the manor of Dinsley which is said in the 13th century to have been granted by William Rufus to Richard de Loveceft. In 1268 it was in the tenure of Thomas de Furnival, who conveyed to his younger brother Gerard de Furnival two parts of the manor. (fn. 137) In 1287 Gerard de Furnival son of Gerard de Furnival granted the manor to William Hurst, with remainder in default of issue to Gerard son of William de Eylesford and of Christine Gerard Furnival's daughter, then to Loretta daughter of Gerard de Furnival, wife of John de Useflet. (fn. 138) In 1315–16 Gerard son of William de Eylesford (fn. 139) recovered the manor against John son of William Hurst. (fn. 140) Soon after this the manor came into the hands of the overlord, Robert Kendale, who in March 1317–18 received a grant of free warren in his demesne lands there, (fn. 141) and it descended with the manor of Hitchin (q.v.) until the death of Edward Kendale the younger in 1375. (fn. 142) It then passed to his sister Beatrice, wife of Robert Turk, as apparently it was not held like Hitchin in tail-male. Beatrice and her husband conveyed the manor in the following year to Sir William Croyser, kt., and Elizabeth his daughter, (fn. 143) apparently in confirmation of an earlier grant made by Edward Kendale in 1372. (fn. 144) A life interest in the manor was retained by Elizabeth widow of Edward Kendale. (fn. 145) In 1379 Sir William Croyser received a grant of free warren. (fn. 146)
In 1377 Croyser conveyed the reversion of the manor to Reginald Lord Grey of Ruthyn. (fn. 147) In 1391 John Grey and Elizabeth his wife, on whom apparently a settlement had been made by Lord Grey, (fn. 148) granted the manor to trustees for conveyance of the reversion after the death of Elizabeth to Sir Thomas Beaufort, kt., who was created Earl of Dorset in 1411 and Duke of Exeter in 1416. He died in 1426, when the manor passed, according to a settlement, to his nephew John Beaufort, created Duke of Somerset in 1443. (fn. 149) The manor descended to his daughter Margaret, wife of Edmund Earl of Richmond, and to her son King Henry VII, (fn. 150) and thus became vested in the Crown. In 1524 a lease of the manor was made to Morgan Morice (fn. 151) and afterwards to Henry Morice, probably his son. (fn. 152)
In 1544 John Cock (Cokke, Cooke) bought the manor of Maidecroft from the king, and with it a wood called Weyndon (Wendon Wood). (fn. 153) John Cock by his will of 1553 left the estate to his two sons William and Thomas. A partition was made after 1558, by which William held the capital messuage and some of the land, while Thomas had the residue of the property, including the manorial rights. (fn. 154) Thomas conveyed his share of the estate in 1606 to Ralph Radcliffe, (fn. 155) who ten years later had a grant of a court leet there. (fn. 156) From this date the manor has descended with that of Hitchin Priory (q.v.).
The capital messuage was held by William Cock at his death in 1610, and probably passed to his wife Elizabeth, who survived him, and after her death to her daughter Anne, wife of William Fryer, (fn. 157) but this portion of the estate is not further traceable.
In the time of Edward II there was a park at Maidecroft which was visited on one occasion by Isabella his queen and her daughter the Queen of Scotland. (fn. 158)
Charlton alias Moremead
The reputed manor of CHARLTON alias MOREMEAD was at the time of the Survey in the possession of King William. Before the Conquest it had been held by two sokemen of Earl Harold, but had been attached by the sheriff Ilbert to Hitchin, in which its soke lay. (fn. 159) The history of this manor is scanty, (fn. 160) but apparently it came into the possession of the Knights Templars, who received a grant of free warren there in 1269. (fn. 161) It was probably held by the Templars (fn. 162) and then by the Hospitallers with the manor of Temple Dinsley (q.v.) until the suppression of the latter order. The manor subsequently came to Edward Pulter, who sold it in 1582 to Ralph Radcliffe, (fn. 163) from which time it has descended with Hitchin Priory (fn. 164) (q.v).
Mendlesden, Minsden, or Minsdenbury
The manor of MENDLESDEN, MINSDEN, or MINSDENBURY was a member of Hitchin, and passed with that manor from Earl Harold to the Conqueror. (fn. 165) In the 12th century Minsden seems to have been held by Guy de Bovencourt, whose heir (unnamed) forfeited his lands in the reign of John. It was then granted to Hugh de Baliol, (fn. 166) the lord of the manor of Hitchin. After the forfeiture of John de Baliol (see Hitchin) the manor of Hitchin was granted to Robert Kendale, and on the strength of this grant he took possession of Minsden. A suit in Chancery was brought by the king against Edward Kendale, his son (to whom the manor descended), who contended that Minsden was not a separate manor but a hamlet within the manor of Hitchin. (fn. 167) The result of the suit seems to have been that the king recovered Minsden, for in 1366 the king's esquire John de Beverle was holding the manor and received a grant of free warren. (fn. 168) He held it with his wife Amice until his death in 1380, leaving as heirs his two daughters Anne and Elizabeth. (fn. 169) The mother and two daughters appear to have taken one-third of the manor each. Elizabeth married John Dauntesey, who died in January 1404–5. (fn. 170) She had died in 1395, (fn. 171) leaving a son and heir Walter, then aged twelve, who on reaching his majority received his mother's third, which had been given by the king after John Dauntesey's death to John Cockayne. (fn. 172) Anne's husband, William Langford, who survived her, died in 1411. Their heir was their son Robert. (fn. 173) Amice married as her second husband Robert Bardolf. (fn. 174) Probably Dauntesey sold his share in the manor to Langford, for in 1419 Robert Langford died seised of the whole, and was succeeded by his son Edward. (fn. 175) At his death in 1474 his son Thomas inherited the property (fn. 176) and held it for some twenty years. It passed at his death in 1493 (fn. 177) to his son John, who was afterwards knighted. In 1501–2 he and his wife Katherine sold the property to William Lytton, (fn. 178) who died in 1517, leaving as heir his son Robert, aged five years. (fn. 179) Robert at his death left three daughters, of whom Ellen wife of John Brockett bought up the shares of the other two. (fn. 180) From this date the manor descended with the manor of Almshoe in Ippollitts (q.v.).
There was a small religious house in this parish called NEW BIGGING, belonging to the order of St. Gilbert of Sempringham. (fn. 181) This house was founded by Edward de Kendale before 1363, when he obtained licence to divert a grant made by his mother Margaret de Kendale of a rood of land at Orwell, co. Cambridge, and of the advowson of the church there to the warden and chaplains of the chapel of St. Peter within the parish church of Hitchin, for the benefit of the prior and canons of this house. (fn. 182) In 1372 two chaplains granted to them, probably on the behalf of Edward de Kendale, certain lands in Willey and Hitchin. (fn. 183) The lands of the priory were valued in 1535 at £13 16s. (fn. 184) After the Dissolution the priory was granted in 1544 to John Cock, together with a messuage called Barkers Dalles Place in Bancroft Street and nineteen messuages in Hitchin. (fn. 185) It apparently descended with his manor of Maidecroft (q.v.), as this is the last mention of it. In the 17th century the manor-house called the Biggin was in the possession of Joseph Kemp, schoolmaster, who in 1654 devised it for charitable purposes (see under Charities). There was also a free chapel at Bigging, of which Robert Turk (lord of the manor of Maidecroft in right of his wife) died seised in 1400. (fn. 186)