A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 4, Harmondsworth, Hayes, Norwood With Southall, Hillingdon With Uxbridge, Ickenham, Northolt, Perivale, Ruislip, Edgware, Harrow With Pinner. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1971.
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ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL HISTORY.
Traces of Celtic fields have been observed to the north of Edgwarebury, (fn. 1) and part of Brockley Hill appears to have been cultivated for a time in the 4th century A.D., (fn. 2) but it seems likely that a great part of the parish was covered by forest until the 12th century. (fn. 3) Nothing is known about the agriculture of Edgware before 1277, but it is probable that by 1227, by which date Middlesex had obtained total exemption from the forest laws, (fn. 4) the greater part of the parish had been cleared of wood. A survey of the manor made in 1277 provides the earliest definite evidence. (fn. 5) It does not distinguish between land in Edgware and land in Kingsbury appurtenant to the manor, but the acreage of the latter was not large. The demesne consisted of 357 a. of arable, 90 a. of woodland, and 6½ a. of meadow. Nine free tenants held between them a carucate, 4½ virgates, and at least 115 a. of land. Fifty-two customary tenants held 21¾ virgates and 184 a. of land. The holdings were not big; one of the free tenants held a carucate, another held two virgates, while two free and nine customary tenants held one virgate each, six customary tenants threequarters of a virgate, and eleven customary tenants half a virgate each. The main arable fields of the demesne were grouped around Edgwarebury: Milepondfeld (54 a.) to the south between Edgwarebury and Piper's Green Lane, Blanchepetfeld (100 a.) to the west, Mapeldereherst (30 a.) directly to the north, and Berihel (66 a.) to the north-east. (fn. 6) Melcheburnefeld (53 a.) cannot be identified, unless it is Great and Little Misburn (to the east of Edgwarebury and now bisected by the main railway line) which in 1597 were part of the manor of Edgware Boys. If any open fields existed, they must have been in the southern half of the parish.
All the customary tenants owed services to the lord, but these services did not run the whole gamut of agricultural practice. Every customary tenant owed reaping and binding services, and most of them owed carrying, hoeing, harrowing, and hedging services. A total of 598 days' work was due: 358 days of reaping, 79 days of binding, 68 days of hoeing, 33 days of hedging, 32 days of harrowing, and 28 days of carrying. In addition 29 tenants owed 80 averages between them. It is possible that such works as ploughing and sowing had already been commuted. These works were worth just under £3 a year, and with rents of £11 and the profits of the demesne the annual yield of the manor was almost £18. (fn. 7) An account of c. 1370 gives the gross income of the manor as £41, including £14 12s. from rents, £2 12s. from services, £10 13s. from the farm of the demesne, and £9 9s. from sale of stock and profits of the court. (fn. 8)
A rental of the manor of Edgware shows that in 1426 there were 3 free and 29 customary tenants. (fn. 9) It is certain that by this time much of the land must have been parcelled out, for there were no fewer than 81 crofts, fields, and pightles. Many of the crofts and fields and even a few of the half-virgates are named, and by comparing them with the maps of 1597-9 it is possible to identify 46 out of the 111 pieces of land listed, a total of some 350 a. If there were any open fields they lay immediately to the north and south of Hale Lane. The common Broad Field is mentioned four times between 1484 and 1493 in the court rolls, (fn. 10) but it is impossible to discover its location. The common wood mentioned in 1483 (fn. 11) seems to have been part of what was later called Brockhill Wood. Of the free and customary tenants in 1426, twelve (41 per cent.) held under 20 a., ten (35 per cent.) between 20 and 50 a., and seven (24 per cent.) over 50 a. Rents and services were worth together over £24, with a net income to the lord of £17 9s. (fn. 12) In 1525-6 there were 2 or 3 free and 27 customary tenants. (fn. 13) Nine half-virgates, 14 quarters, and 3 halfquarters were held by the customary tenants, together with 81 crofts, fields, pightles, and the like. Out of the 107 pieces of land listed, 60, including 7 of the half-virgates, can be identified. There is a blank space in the Hale Lane area where the remnants of the open fields, if there were any, were situated. The holdings of the tenants had become more differentiated in size. Fifteen (54 per cent.) held under 20 a., eleven (39 per cent.) between 20 and 50 a., and only two (7 per cent.) over 50 a.; one of these two tenants, William Blackwell, held about 118 a. and the other, William Goodyer, about 138 a. These figures do not include the demesne land and its farmers or the free land held by the Prior of Clerkenwell. Rents and services in 1483 (fn. 14) and 1525-6 (fn. 15) were valued at just over £11, and the net profit of the manor in one year between 1533 and 1536 was estimated to be just under £15. (fn. 16) Quit-rents for the manor in 1548 were reckoned to be worth nearly £22, (fn. 17) and in 1613 quitrents for the manor of Edgware and Kingsbury 'by the ancient rule' were worth £21 and decayed rents 'by way of purchase and excheat' £4 or £5. (fn. 18) The annual value of the copyhold land in Edgware manor in 1599 was reckoned to be £276 (fn. 19) and by 1680 this had increased to £1,161, although at the same date the total rents for the manor were worth under £16. (fn. 20) The manorial income must have depended more and more on fines for entry, for in 1751 the combined rents for the manors of Edgware and Kingsbury were worth under £24. (fn. 21) A good deal of enfranchisement occurred during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and by 1845 only 604 a. were owned by the college. (fn. 22)
Surveys made during the reign of Elizabeth I show that the demesne land was divided into five portions. (fn. 23) Earlsbury Farm, with the house at Edgwarebury, was reckoned to contain 191 a. in 1574 and 216 a. in 1597. The George farm, which included the inn of that name, contained 74 a. in 1574 and 56 a. in 1597. Both these farms had been leased since the mid 15th century at the latest. Another farm, called Strensham's Farm, contained 65 a. in 1597, and a fourth contained 27 a. There are no leases surviving for either of these farms. The remainder of the demesne, 251 a., was woodland in the hands of the lords, who made it their usual practice, at least in the 16th century, to sell the standing timber. By 1597 the manor was totally inclosed; most of the fields were small, and, apart from Brockhill Wood (137 a.), only three fields were reckoned at more than 20 a.-Bury Bush (28 a. of wood in the hands of the lords), Great Broadfield (24 a.), and Long Broadfield (21 a.), both belonging to Earlsbury Farm. Around most of the fields were hedgerows wide and thick enough to produce valuable timber; many were retained by the lords when the fields which they surrounded were leased. In addition to the leaseholders there were 28 tenants. Six held 91 a. of free land and 27 held 757 a. of copyhold, and with the tenants of 29 a. not specified the total extent of the manor was 1,493 a. Nineteen of the free and customary tenants (68 per cent.) held under 20 a., four (14 per cent.) held between 20 and 50 a., and five (18 per cent.) held over 50 a. Apart from Earlsbury Farm, there were two other large holdings: Richard Franklin's of 238 a., and William Blackwell's of 177 a. Earlsbury Farm was arranged compactly around Edgwarebury. Blackwell's holding consisted mainly of land in the middle of the parish between Piper's Green Lane, Edgwarebury, and Clay Lane, but Franklin's was more scattered, the main portions being situated in the extreme north of the parish around Deacon's Hill and Woodcock Hill, in the middle between Clay Lane and Edgwarebury Lane, and in the extreme southern tip of the parish.
In 1597 the agriculture of the parish was still very mixed. Only 21 per cent. of the land was used as arable; 32 per cent. was pasture, 13 per cent. was meadow, and 29 per cent. was woodland. Even if the large acreage of demesne wood is not included, 15 per cent. of the rest of the manor was woodland, a figure which contrasts strongly with the 1½ per cent. (11 per cent. if the demesne wood is included) of Kingsbury manor, also in the hands of All Souls College, at the same date. (fn. 24) The woodland was for the most part situated on the northern heights of the parish. The arable land was spread fairly evenly over the manor, but pasture occupied most of the central area and the meadowland was concentrated in the flat and well-watered area in the south. Apart from Franklin's holding, which, perhaps on account of its disposition over the three areas of the manor, was divided evenly between meadow, pasture, arable, and wood, those holdings which were more than 50 a. concentrated on arable or pasture or both. Earlsbury Farm had 61 per cent. pasture and 33 per cent. arable; the George farm was 80 per cent. pasture, while Strensham's Farm of 65 a. was 70 per cent. arable and had no pasture at all. The larger holdings of free and copyhold land were used in a similar way. Lynford's holding of 50 a. was 58 per cent. pasture and 31 per cent. arable, and Blackwell's holding of 183 a. contained 47 per cent. pasture, 18 per cent. arable, and 18 per cent. wood. A common feature of the larger holdings was the relatively small amount of meadow, only Franklin's containing more than the average acreage for the manor. In all the holdings of under 20 a. 36 per cent. of the land was meadow, while pasture and arable accounted for only 22 per cent. and 18 per cent. respectively. Seven of the smaller tenants held meadowland, six held pasture, five held arable, and only one held woodland. The use to which four of the smaller tenants put their land is not stated. Again, there is a contrast with the land use of the manor of Kingsbury. In that manor 50 per cent. of the land was pasture, 32 per cent. was arable, and only 7 per cent. was meadow. In Kingsbury there was little significant difference in the uses to which the land was put by large or small tenants; moreover, only one of the fourteen tenants holding under 20 a. had any meadow, while ten held some pasture and seven some arable. It is probable that by this date Edgware was beginning to assume an important role as a supplier of hay to the London market, and it is certain that cattle intended for Smithfield were grazed there. (fn. 25)
Some occupations of Edgware men other than those engaged directly in agriculture can be gathered from the Middlesex sessions records. Between 1608 and 1617 nine individuals were licensed as badgers, kidders, or drovers. (fn. 26) Ralph Haley, collier (i.e. a vendor of coal or charcoal), is recorded in 1612; he is mentioned again in 1616, along with two other colliers of Edgware, and in 1618. (fn. 27) In 1612 Thomas Wilson of Edgware, tailor, was sentenced to be hanged for stealing from a house in Edgware. (fn. 28) In 1615 Edward Wharton of Edgware, draper, was taken at Uxbridge for abusing the constable of Little Stanmore, telling him that he would not come to the musters and dissuading others, 'asking them if they would go see a football play'. (fn. 29) A brewer of Edgware was indicted in 1617, and butchers are mentioned in 1610 and 1613. (fn. 30) A surgeon resided in Edgware in 1608. (fn. 31) In 1621 John Pooley of Edgware, carrier, was indicted for driving more than five horses in his cart. (fn. 32) The parish was visited by the plague in 1630; the constable neglected to keep the sick persons isolated and finally abandoned his office altogether. (fn. 33)
A survey of the woods of Earlsbury Farm and the George farm in 1662 shows that 1,236 out of 1,256 trees counted by the surveyors were oaks. (fn. 34) Brockhill Wood seems to have continued to be woodland until the end of the 18th century. Rocque's map of 1754 (fn. 35) appears to indicate that the woods had been cleared and inclosed, but the field boundaries bear so little resemblance to those of the 1845 tithe award, or, indeed, to those of the 1597-9 maps that Rocque's map must be regarded as extremely untrustworthy. Brockhill Wood was leased, along with two other and smaller pieces of woodland, in 1795 (fn. 36) and again in 1802 (fn. 37) but in the latter year, although the 140 a. was still called Brockhill Wood, Rush Wood, and Rush Mead Wood, it was noted that it was now 'for the most part stocked up, grubbed up, and converted into arable, meadow or pasture land'. The lessee of this demesne land also had all common of pasture for all commonable cattle on all fields and commonable pastures in Edgware, but there is no indication of the practical extent of these rights. It is obvious, however, that timber was no longer regarded as a very profitable crop for most of the land in Edgware. In 1791 it was remarked that the fields between Edgware and London were kept constantly in grass; there was scarcely any arable land, and it was chiefly from here that London was supplied with hay, 'so that it is no uncommon thing to see one hundred loads of hay go up to London on a marketday, and each of the teams bring back a load of dung for dressing the land, which preserves the ground in good heart'. (fn. 38) Middleton, writing in 1798, considered these upland meadows and pastures to be of the finest quality. (fn. 39) In 1808 Samuel Ridge of Edgwarebury Farm was one of many farmers and landowners in the neighbourhood who signed a protest against hunting over the area. The land was of great value, they said, and hunting over it by 100-150 horsemen was injurious. Fences were broken, cattle were allowed to stray, lasting damage was wrought on the heavy, retentive soil, and trespasses were committed by huntsmen who were not even residents or neighbours. The hunt pledged itself to make good any damage, but in 1809 Mr. Ridge suffered fresh trespasses upon lands 'which had been recently hollow-drained, and were thereby materially injured'. Several legal actions were brought against the hunt and damages were awarded to the plaintiffs. (fn. 40)
In 1811 there were 55 families chiefly employed in agriculture, 61 in trade, manufactures, or handicrafts, and 33 in neither category. In 1821 the figures were 58, 45, and 49 respectively, and by 1831 they had become 34, 45, and 56. Although the population figures showed a steady rise over this period (543, 551, 591), the number of families declined (149, 142, 135). (fn. 41) During the hay harvest the population was swollen by the influx of a large number of labourers; in July 1816 upwards of 300 poor Irish and other strangers were found to be 'almost in a starving condition, the weather having been so unfavourable as to prevent their being able to earn anything for many days'. A subscription was opened, and within six hours £39 was collected. (fn. 42) The Revd. Thomas Hitchin recalled that when he and his family arrived in Edgware for the first time (c. 1833) it was pouring with rain, and they had to witness' a most savage encounter between the English and Irish labourers'. (fn. 43) A commercial directory of 1832-4 gives the names of 56 individuals engaged in 31 different trades, and includes 5 grocers, 5 shoemakers, 6 shopkeepers, 2 innkeepers, 4 tavern keepers, and 4 retailers of beer. Besides other traders to be found in any village of this size there were a cabinet maker, a breeches maker, a straw-hat maker, a watchmaker, and a printer. (fn. 44)
The tithe award of 1845 shows how completely the agriculture of the parish had been given over to the production of grass. Taking the area within the bounds of the manor for the purpose of comparison with earlier figures, it can be estimated that only 105 a., or 7 per cent. of that area, were arable, while 1,376 a., or 86½ per cent., were meadow or pasture. There were only 18 a. of woodland left. In the whole of the parish, 1,683 a. (83 per cent.) were grassland, 172 a. (8½ per cent.) were arable, 63 a. (3 per cent.) were built over or used as gardens. Only three farms contained more than 30 a. of arable each. The largest farm was that of Henry Child, who held 391 a. from 11 different owners, and six other farms were between 100 and 200 a. These seven farms contained almost two-thirds of the agricultural land of the parish. Only 15 per cent. of the land was occupied by its owner. The common land mentioned in the tithe award was inclosed in 1854. (fn. 45) In 1597 this land had been leased by All Souls College as part of Strensham's Farm, and although two-thirds of it had borne the name 'common wood' only seven acres were in fact woodland, the remainder being cultivated by Strensham as arable. (fn. 46) Both in 1845 and 1854, however, it was clearly regarded as common land and not as part of the manor.
It was said of Edgware in 1862 that 'all its importance as a market town has long since vanished, and it may now be ranked among the suburban districts of the metropolis'. (fn. 47) The market had indeed vanished, but it was a little premature to call the village a suburb, for it was not until its expansion began in the 1920s that Edgware really became a part of the London sprawl, and in 1963 two-thirds of the parish was still outside the blanket of suburban housing, thanks largely to the preserving influence of the Green Belt. Edgware still had some local importance in the later 19th century. Lysons could find no charter for the weekly market, (fn. 48) but a market certainly existed in 1607. (fn. 49) The market-house, or at least the site of the market, was conveyed by Sir Lancelot Lake to trustees for a public school for Little Stanmore in the mid 17th century. (fn. 50) No market-house is readily distinguishable on the map of 1597, but if the school house on the tithe map (1838) of Little Stanmore is on the 17th-century site, it seems that the market-house in 1597 was one of the few houses on the Stanmore side of Watling Street showing its gable-end to the road, being almost exactly half-way between Edgware Bridge and Whitchurch Lane. (fn. 51) In spite of the loss of its site, however, the market was still being held in the earlier 18th century. (fn. 52) It seems to have been discontinued at some date between 1792 and 1795. (fn. 53) In 1867 the Privy Council licensed the holding of a cattle market on the last Thursday in every month, (fn. 54) but no market was noted by the Royal Commission in its report of 1888. (fn. 55)
There is no record of a fair in Edgware before 1760. On Ascension Day in that year a large fair for cattle was held in the yard and field belonging to the George Inn, but the dealers, finding their horses detained for the payment of toll and standing, 'naturally forsook it to return no more'. (fn. 56) The fair continued but degenerated into a pleasure fair with bull-baiting and throwing at cocks, until it eventually became extinct. In 1810, however, the lack of amusement for the inhabitants induced some of the principal tradesmen to organize a fair for the first three days of August, when a large quantity of cattle, shows, booths, and stalls was displayed in the field just above Edgware Bridge called Bakers Croft. Apart from the sale of animals, events such as 'wheeling barrows blindfolded for a new hat, jumping in sacks for a smock frock, grinning through horse collars for tobacco, and climbing a lofty pole for a shoulder of mutton' amused 'a very numerous attendance of the respectable families in the neighbourhood'. (fn. 57) The fair continued to be held, with an increasing emphasis on its lighter side, on the first Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in August until about 1855; from at least 1834 to 1855 races were held on the Thursday and Friday, (fn. 58) but attempts to revive them in 1869 and 1873 did not succeed. (fn. 59)
In spite of its relatively small population in the 19th century the village of Edgware seems to have prospered commercially. In 1870, for instance, there were six insurance agents in the village. (fn. 60) The opening of the Great Northern Railway branch in 1867, (fn. 61) however, seems to have had little effect on the expansion of the village, and plans to extend the railway met with strong local opposition. A Bill to establish a line from Watford to Edgware, brought before Parliament in 1896 and 1897, (fn. 62) was opposed by residents, and it was said that the real harm of the railways was the opening up of building sites 'which are quickly covered with architectural atrocities'. (fn. 63) By this time the parish had begun to display a tendency to split into an opulent north and a workaday south, separated by a buffer of agricultural land. By 1896 several large houses had been built in the Elstree area or along the Elstree-Barnet road, while the old village gained the post office, the infants' school, the station, and the Railway Hotel. (fn. 64) The southern part of the parish was unable to repel the tide of suburban development, but the threatened dichotomy of the parish was to a large extent averted by the nature of new buildings erected between the two world wars. Although the Elstree region of Edgware remained almost exclusively an area of large and expensive houses, the new estates which spread northward from the old village were widening ripples of working-class housing, and of the detached and semi-detached dwellings favoured by the middle classes. The shopping facilities of Edgware grew in proportion to the increasing size and diversity of the population. A branch of the Hendon Chamber of Commerce was formed in 1929 with an initial membership of 37, and in 1931 the Edgware Chamber of Commerce was founded. After the Second World War it was re-founded, and in 1963 it had 200 members, (fn. 65) including perhaps half the business and trading concerns in Edgware.
Industry has never played an important part in the economy of Edgware. Gravel pits were probably being worked by 1802 (fn. 66) and certainly by 1834, partly at least by the labour of the able-bodied poor as a parish employment, (fn. 67) and in 1963 gravel was still being extracted on the eastern side of the parish. In 1831 there were no persons engaged in manufacturing in the parish, (fn. 68) and in fact there were no industries until in 1900 the firm of Chas. Wright Ltd., manufacturing engineers, moved from Clerkenwell to Edgware. During the First World War this firm was employed on government contracts and after the war it struck some two million Mons Stars and Victory medals. During the Second World War the most remarkable contract was for the metal parts of respirator filters, 94½ million being made between 1937 and 1943. In 1963 the company was chiefly engaged in the manufacture of motor car registration plates. There were 70 workmen employed, together with an office staff of 30. The firm of A.E.W. Ltd., founded in 1923 and established in Edgware in 1927, has a labour force of 50 and manufactures laboratory and industrial electric ovens and furnaces. (fn. 69)