A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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AYOT ST. LAWRENCE or GREAT AYOT
The parish of Ayot St. Lawrence has an area of 750 acres, of which about three-fifths are arable, about 200 acres grass, and over 100 acres wood. (fn. 1) The greater part of the parish is about 300 ft. above the ordnance datum, but rises to 400 ft. towards the north-west, where the manor-house and park are situated. The new church of St. Lawrence lies on the western side of the park. The little River Mimram or Maran forms the eastern boundary. The subsoil is chalk and gravel, and the surface soil is chalk. There is an old chalk-pit to the south of the village and a disused gravel-pit to the east.
The road from Wheathampstead to Codicote forms the south-eastern boundary of the parish, but the village of Ayot St. Lawrence is situated about a mile to the north, and is reached by three branch roads, of which the central one passes by Hill Farm.
The village lies on the southern side of a winding road, upon which stand the schoolhouse, a timber and plaster house of the 17th century, and the post office, a 16th or 17th-century brick and timber cottage. The rectory, a modern house, contains in a staircase window some 17th-century glass said to have been taken from the old church. The glass is heraldic, and shows shields of France modern quartering England with a label of three points argent; Bristowe; and Bristowe impaling Bibbesworth and Barley quartering possibly Skipwith (Gules three bars or in chief a running greyhound argent). On the opposite side of the road are the ruined church and the grounds of Ayot House, the property of Mrs. A. C. Ames, and now the residence of Mr. Roger Cunliffe, J.P. In the park of Ayot House is the old manor-house, a red brick building, the lower part of which is probably of the 16th century.
The manor of AYOT ST. LAWRENCE was given by Alwin of Godtone or Gottun, in the time of King Edward the Confessor, to the abbey of Westminster, and was confirmed to the abbey by that king about 1062. (fn. 2) Alwin continued to hold Ayot as sub-tenant of the abbey during Edward's reign, but in 1086 it was held of Westminster by Geoffrey de Mandeville, and assessed at 2½ hides. (fn. 3) A portion of 9 acres in Ayot, which had been held by Siward, a man of Alwin of Godtone, was in 1086 held of the king by the reeve of the hundred. (fn. 4) The overlordship of Westminster apparently lapsed, for direct possession seems to have been obtained by the Mandevilles, who sub-enfeoffed a tenant before the end of the 13th century. Geoffrey de Mandeville's lands descended through his son William to his grandson Geoffrey de Mandeville, created first Earl of Essex in 1140. (fn. 5) The latter died in 1144, and his eldest son Ernulf being outlawed soon after, his earldom and estates were conferred upon his second son Geoffrey, who died childless in 1166. His brother William, who succeeded him, also died without issue in 1189, his nearest heirs being the descendants of his aunt Beatrice, the sister of Geoffrey first Earl of Essex. (fn. 6) This Beatrice, who had married William de Say, had two sons William and Geoffrey, the elder of whom predeceased his father, and left two daughters Beatrice and Maud. (fn. 7) The earldom of Essex was eventually conferred upon Beatrice's husband Geoffrey Fitz Piers, and was held in turn by their two sons Geoffrey and William, who both took the name of Mandeville and died childless before 1227. Their sister Maud, to whom their title and estates then passed, married Henry de Bohun sixth Earl of Hereford, and Ayot St. Lawrence was held of that earldom until its extinction on the death of Humphrey de Bohun, twelfth earl, in 1373. (fn. 8) His lands then passed to his elder daughter Eleanor, wife of Thomas of Woodstock, who was murdered in 1397. (fn. 9) Eleanor died in 1399, (fn. 10) and the overlordship of Ayot St. Lawrence passed to her sister Mary, the wife of Henry Duke of Lancaster, who in the same year became king as Henry IV, (fn. 11) and hence his lands were merged in the Crown. In 1489 Ayot St. Lawrence was said to be held of the king as of the honour of Mandeville, parcel of the duchy of Lancaster, by service of a sparrow-hawk at the feast of St. Peter ad Vincula yearly, or payment of 2s. (fn. 12).
The first sub-tenant of the manor to be recorded is William de Ayot, who is mentioned in 1253 as the son of Roger de Ayot, (fn. 13) and was certainly lord of the manor in 1257. (fn. 14) He held the office of king's steward, (fn. 15) and appears among the witnesses of many documents up to the year 1291. In 1303 the manor, consisting of half a knight's fee, was held by his heirs, who were under age, (fn. 16) and in 1346 by Lawrence de Ayot (fn. 17) and Joan his wife, who in 1347 granted it to Thomas, parson of the church of Ayot, for a settlement. (fn. 18) Lawrence died in 1353 and was succeeded by his son William, who was in prison for felony in the Bishop of Winchester's gaol. (fn. 19) He conveyed the manor in 1363 to Richard de Pembrugge. (fn. 20) There was also a conveyance to Richard in the same year by William de Wotton and Margaret his wife, (fn. 21) but the nature of their interest is not clear. Richard de Pembrugge and his son Henry both died in 1375, (fn. 22) and the manor passed to his nephews Richard de Beurlee, son of his sister Amice, and Thomas Barre, son of his sister Hawise. Richard de Beurlee apparently died soon after or quitclaimed his moiety, for in 1383 the whole manor was settled on Thomas Barre and Elizabeth his wife. (fn. 23)
Thomas Barre was appointed justice of the peace for Herefordshire in 1384, (fn. 24) and surveyor of the king's hay in that county in the same year. (fn. 25) At this time he also received a grant for life of 40 marks yearly from the issues of the county, instead of from the Exchequer, from whence it had previously been drawn. (fn. 26) In 1397 this was augmented by an allowance of 3 tuns of red wine yearly. (fn. 27) He was J.P. for Herefordshire again in 1385 (fn. 28) and for Hertfordshire in 1401. (fn. 29) In 1393 he was appointed with others to deal with Walter Bent 'and other sons of iniquity' for preaching false doctrines in the diocese of Hereford. (fn. 30) Early in 1394 he received protection for half a year to go to Ireland on the king's service, (fn. 31) which was later extended for another six months, to remain there in the king's company. (fn. 32) In 1404 he was exempted for life, on account of his great age, 'from being charged with being sheriff, escheator, collector or other officer of the king, and from all labours in person, provided that he find a competent person to serve the king in his place and to ride with the king when required' (fn. 33); nevertheless he served as justice of the peace for Hertfordshire in 1406 and 1407. (fn. 34) He survived his wife and his son Thomas and died in 1420, being succeeded by his grandson John Barre. (fn. 35) John's daughter Isabel married first Humphrey Stafford Earl of Devon, who was beheaded in 1469, (fn. 36) and upon her father's death in 1482 or 1483 (fn. 37) Ayot St. Lawrence passed to her and her second husband Thomas Bourchier, (fn. 38) who survived her and died in 1491. (fn. 39) Isabel died in 1489.
Isabel and Thomas Bourchier had a daughter Isabel, but she predeceased them, and upon the death of Thomas the heirs were declared to be three cousins, viz. Richard Delabere son of Joan sister of John Barre, Thomas Cornwall great-grandson of Elizabeth, a second sister, and Edward Hanmer grandson of Ancret, a third sister of John Barre. (fn. 40) These three each received a third part of the manor. (fn. 41) In 1505 Edward Hanmer granted his share to Sir William Say, Thomas Cornwall did the same in 1506, and finally in 1508 Richard Delabere released his portion, (fn. 42) so that in that year Sir William Say was seised of the whole. From Sir William Say the manor descended to his daughter and co-heir Elizabeth, wife of William Blount, fourth Lord Mountjoy, and to their daughter Gertrude, who married Henry Courtenay Earl of Devon, in 1525 created Marquess of Exeter. (fn. 43) Henry Courtenay was attainted for treason and beheaded in 1539, and his wife being attainted in the same year her lands were forfeited to the Crown. (fn. 44) In 1543 Ayot St. Lawrence was granted to John Brockett, John Alway and Nicholas Bristowe. (fn. 45) Nicholas Bristowe held the manor in 1572 and made his title secure against possible heirs of Sir William Say. (fn. 46) He died in 1585, (fn. 47) leaving a widow Lucy, and the manor descended successively to his son Nicholas (fn. 48) and his grandson Nicholas, the latter inheriting in 1616. (fn. 49) In 1661 the manor was held by Robert Bristowe, according to Cussans the brother of a fourth Nicholas. (fn. 50) He was succeeded by William Bristowe, his third but eldest surviving son, whose widow was lady of the manor in 1700. (fn. 51) She sold it in 1714 to Thomas Lewis, (fn. 52) who died in 1718 (fn. 53); and five years later his estates were sold by Thomas Lewis and Henry and Margaret Hensleigh to Cornelius Lyde. (fn. 54) Rachel, the daughter of Cornelius, with her cousin and husband Lionel Lyde (fn. 55) conveyed half the manor and advowson in 1749 to her mother Rachel widow of Cornelius. (fn. 56) It perhaps reverted to the daughter Rachel and her husband before 1758, for Lionel Lyde then presented to the church. (fn. 57) This Lionel dismantled the old church of Ayot St. Lawrence and built a new one. (fn. 58)
Lionel Lyde, who was created a baronet in 1772, died in 1791 and was succeeded by Samuel Lyde, his brother, who presented to the rectory in 1799, (fn. 59) after which it passed to his nephew Lionel Poole, (fn. 60) who assumed the surname of Lyde. From this Sir Lionel it passed through his sister Anna Maria, the wife of Levi Ames, to their son Lionel, (fn. 61) who assumed the surname of Lyde and died unmarried in 1851. He had five brothers, through whom it descended to the youngest George Henry, whose grandson Lionel Neville Frederick also assumed the surname of Lyde. He died in 1883 and Ayot St. Lawrence passed to his brother Lieut.-Col. Gerard Vivian Ames, who died in 1899, (fn. 62) leaving a son and heir Lionel Gerard Ames. (fn. 63)
Free warren was also granted to William de Ayot in 1257. (fn. 66) A park is mentioned in 1268 when the same William sued Henry, son of Thomas de la Leye, for trespass in it. (fn. 67) At the present day it has an area of 200 acres.
In 1274–5 the lord of the manor claimed view of frankpledge, amendment of the assize of bread and ale, and gallows, (fn. 68) and in 1277–8 a tumbrel in addition. (fn. 69) In 1278–9 he is said to have claimed a trebuschet, the meaning of which is doubtful. (fn. 70)
The old church of ST. LAWRENCE, (fn. 73) which stands to the west of the village, is built of flint with stone dressings. It has now fallen into disrepair, having been somewhat unnecessarily superseded in 1779 by the present parish church. It consisted originally of a chancel and nave built probably in the 12th century. Early in the 13th century a north aisle was added, with an arcade of two bays. A century later the nave was partly rebuilt, the chancel was rebuilt from the foundations, and a north chapel was added. At the beginning of the 15th century the north arcade was destroyed, and one of its arches was reset in the west end of the chapel. The aisle was rebuilt a little further to the north, increasing the width of the nave, and a tower was added at the north-west.
The church is now roofless, with the exception of the tower, which retains the flooring of the upper stage, with moulded wall plates. The walls are being torn to pieces by ivy, and the north wall of the chancel is badly out of the perpendicular. The chancel, of which the south and east walls are now almost completely destroyed, has at the south-west the western jambs of an internal wall recess and of a window set in it. The chancel opens into the north chapel by a two-centred chamfered arch of the early 14th century with shafted jambs and moulded abaci, which is now leaning badly.
The north chapel has an east window of three lights, and in the north wall are two two-light pointed windows with hollow-moulded jambs; very little of the tracery remains in the heads. The south wall is mainly occupied by the opening of the arch into the chancel already described. On the west the chapel communicates with the north aisle through a 13th-century arch, reset, which was formerly one of the arches of the north arcade. The arch, which is of two moulded orders, is very badly out of true. The responds consist of circular shafts with foliate capitals. A small much defaced figure is inserted in the wall over the north jamb of the arch, and at the northeast of the chapel are a large moulded image bracket and an ogee-headed piscina now blocked. At the north-west is a rough recess, with what appear to be the remains of a flue.
The nave is not separated structurally from the aisle, and the north-western bay is covered by the tower. The windows, two in the south wall and one in the west wall, are all 15th-century insertions, and very little of their tracery and none of the mullions remain. The south door retains work of the 12th century in the lower part of the internal jambs, but the rest of it is of the 14th century. There is a blocked door at the west end. The aisle has one window in the north wall, of the 15th century, with scanty remains of tracery. The tower, which is of three stages and embattled, opens to the aisle on the east and to the nave on the south side by early 15th-century high two-centred arches of three chamfered orders with shafted jambs. On the north are a small door and a two-light window, both of the 15th century, and on the west a window, now blocked, which was apparently the west window of the aisle before its widening; and at the south-west are traces of a stair-turret, which has been destroyed. The windows of the bell chamber are, in common with the rest of the tower, of early 15th-century date, and are much mutilated. They are of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil over, in a two-centred head. The tower contains one bell.
The font, which is very much broken, is of early 15th-century date, and has an octagonal panelled bowl. In the north-west corner of the tower is an altar tomb with panelled sides and the mutilated and defaced remains of the effigies of a knight and lady. The work is of early 15th-century date. In the recess of the blocked window in the tower is a defaced mural monument of 1626 to Nicholas Bristowe, with small kneeling effigies of alabaster.
The registers are contained in four books: (i) all entries from 1566 to 1720; (ii) baptisms from 1720 to 1799, burials from 1718 to 1799, with a hiatus from 1727 to 1731, and marriages from 1716 to 1754, with a hiatus from 1728 to 1738; (iii) baptisms and burials from 1800 to 1812; (iv) marriages from 1756 to 1810.
The modern church of ST. LAWRENCE in Ayot Park was built in 1778 by Sir Lionel Lyde, bart., and consecrated in 1779. It was designed by Nicholas Revett in the classical style, and consists of an apsidal chancel and nave with a gallery at the west end.
The church of Ayot St. Lawrence is first mentioned in the Taxation made by Pope Nicholas IV in 1291. (fn. 74) The advowson is found pertaining to the manor in 1383, when it was conveyed to Thomas Barre, (fn. 75) and, from lack of contrary evidence, it may be presumed that it had always passed with the lordship of the manor. After this date the advowson followed the descent of the manor, except in 1429, when the presentation was made by the king. (fn. 76) In 1505, when the manor was divided between three heirs, the advowson was held in turn, (fn. 77) but the whole came to Sir William Say in 1508. (fn. 78) In 1697 presentation was made by George Halsey, who appears with Elizabeth Bristowe, lady of the manor, in a recovery of 1714. (fn. 79) Since then it has followed the descent of the manor to the present day, Mr. L. G. Ames being the present patron.
A terrier of 1638 states that the parsonage was surrounded by a close of two acres, with 'one litle Pikle and a spot of ground cald the Orchyarde.' The glebe lands then consisted of 14½ acres besides the churchyard, half an acre lying in Sandridge, and included closes called Hyemares and Kingsland. (fn. 80) In 1693 the parsonage-house was said to be 'new built,' and gardens and orchards lately planted. The half-acre or 3 roods in Sandridge was then known as Penly Park. (fn. 81)
The school, referred to in deeds of 11 May 1837 and 26 March 1872, was erected by Lionel Lyde, and endowed by the Rev. John Olive, who died in 1851, with £1,000 consols, which is now held by the official trustees. The annual dividend, amounting to £25, is applicable in the instruction of children of the Sunday and day school in the doctrines of the Church of England.