Pages 24-28

The Environs of London: Volume 4, Counties of Herts, Essex and Kent. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1796.

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The name of this place has been variously written;—Eaglestree, Elstree, Ilstrye, Idlestrye, &c. Norden says that it is called, in Ossa's grant to the Abbey of St. Alban's, Eaglestree, that is, says he, "Nemus aquilinum, a place where it may be thought that eagles bred in time past (fn. 1)." It has been derived also from Idel-street, i. e. the noble road; and Ill-street, the decayed road (fn. 2). May it not have been, rather, a corruption of Eald-street, the old road, i. e. the ancient Watling-street, upon which it is situated?

Situation, boundaries, extent, &c.

Elstree lies in the hundred of Caisho, about three miles beyond Edgware, and eleven from London. The parish is bounded by Edgware and Whitchurch on the south and south-west; by Aldenham and Shenley on the north; and by Chipping Barnet on the east. It is to be observed, that the village stands in four parishes, a few houses only, near the church, being in that of Elstree; the remainder are in Edgware, Whitchurch, and Aldenham. The parish of Elstree contains about 3000 acres of land, which is divided between arable and pasture nearly in an equal proportion. The soil is, for the most part, clay. Boreham Wood, a waste of nearly 700 acres, was inclosed about the year 1778, and is now in culture. This parish pays the sum of 151l. 11s. to the land-tax, which is raised by a rate of about 1s. 9d. in the pound.

Manor of Elstree, or Boreham.

Elstree was formerly included in the manor of Parkbury, which belonged to the abbey of St. Alban's, and was granted, on the dissolution of that monastery, to Anthony Denny, Esq. whose grandson Edward, in the year 1607, sold that part of the estate, which was within this parish, with all manerial rights, to Robert Briscoe, Esq. (fn. 3); in whose family it continued till about the year 1748, when it was sold to James West, Esq. M. P. for St. Alban's, who, in or about 1751, aliened it to — Gulston, Esq. of Widdial: Mr. Gulston sold it to Pigfatt, a gunsmith, who, within a few years, conveyed it to Thomas Jemmet, Esq. In 1774 it was purchased of Mr. Jemmet by the late George Byng, Esq. M. P. for Middlesex, whose son is the present proprietor. This estate is now called the Manor of Boreham (fn. 4).

Parish church.

The parish church, a small structure, is supposed to have been built out of the ruins of the ancient city of Sulloniacæ, about a mile distant. It is dedicated to St. Nicholas; and consists of a chancel, nave, and south aisle, separated by octagonal pillars and pointed arches. On the east wall of the chancel is the monument of William Sharpe, Esq. (fn. 5); on the north that of Olive, daughter and heir of James Harman, Esq. and wife, first of Nicholas Atwood of Sanderstead in Surrey, and secondly of John Buck of Aldenham, Gent. (fn. 6); ob. 1603. On the floor was formerly the tomb of John Blake, minister of Elstree, who died in 1638. There is now only a memorial for Mrs. Elizabeth Baldwin, 1712.

On the south wall of the aisle is the monument of Samuel Nicoll, Esq. (fn. 7) of Hillingdon, who married Margaret, daughter of Robert Beale of Gray's Inn, ob. 1723; on the north wall, that of Jane, wife of P. Buhet, 1767. In the nave is the tomb of Mary Oxenham, 1773.


The church of Elstree is a rectory, in the deanery of St. Alban's. The advowson, which formerly belonged to the monastery at that place, has since its dissolution been vested in the crown. The commissioners appointed to inquire into the state of ecclesiastical benefices in 1650, found by their inquest that the rectory of Ilestrey, with two acres of glebe, was worth 40 l. per annum; that it had been sequestered from Abraham Spencer (to whose family a fifth of the rectory was allowed); and that the cure was supplied by William Marketman, put in by the committee of plundered ministers (fn. 8). This rectory is rated in the King's books at 8l. per annum. The present rector is the Rev. William Hawtayne, instituted in 1778.

Parish register.

The earliest date of the parish register is 1656.

Comparative state of population.

Average of Baptisms. Average of Burials.
1680–9 151/5 151/5
1730–9 122/5 16 3/10
1780–9 10 9/10; 91/5
1790–4 133/5 8

The present number of houses is fifty.

Extracts from the Parish Register.

Instances of longevity.

"John Yates, aged 90, buried Nov. 7, 1690."

"Elizabeth Holland, aged near a hundred years, buried May 12, 1720. Francis Arnott, aged 96 years, was buried April 6, 1729."

"John, son of John Paddy, Esq. and the Rt Hon. Lady Anne his wife, baptized Oct. 6, 1738."

Martha Ray.

"Martha Ray, buried April 14, 1779." The story of this unfortunate victim to the violence of an ungoverned passion is well known. She was shot by her hopeless lover, Mr. Hackman, as she came out of Covent Garden theatre on the evening of the 7th of April. After an unsuccessful attempt to destroy himself, the wretched murderer was seized, tried within a few days at the Old Bailey, and executed at Tyburn on the 19th of the same month.


Robert Briscoe, Gent. of Aldenham, anno 1616, gave 2l. per annum to the poor, and 1l. to the repairs of the church, being a rent-charge upon a field called Churchmead. Samuel Nicholl of Elstree, Gent. anno 1684, bequeathed 20s. per annum to the poor, charged upon a field called Penscroft. William Nicholl, Gent. anno 1697, charged the same field with a farther rent of 2l. for the poor. John Nicholl, Gent. anno 1709, made another rent-charge of the like amount upon it for the same purpose; since which time, another William Nicholl has given the whole field (now let at 6l. per annum) to the parish. Robert Warren of Elstree, Gent. by his will, bearing date 1735, gave 4l. per annum to the poor of this parish, and 5l. per annum for the purpose of apprenticing poor children.

John Rudge, Esq. pays 2l. 10s. for a piece of ground allotted to the poor when the common was inclosed.


  • 1. Spec. Brit. Hertfordshire, p. 16.
  • 2. See Gough's Camden, vol. i. p. 350.
  • 3. Chauncy's History of Hertfordshire, p.494.
  • 4. For the descent of this manor from the Briscoes, I am indebted to the Rev. Mr. Newcome of Shenley.
  • 5. Inscription—"Underneath this place lies interred the body of William Sharpe, Esq. who died of an operation for the stone, to which he submitted himself with the greatest patience and resignation, and with the same firmness and constancy of mind which he showed in all the circumstances of life. He was for 40 years employed in the service of the Crown, wherein he acquitted himself with the greatest justice and integrity; and out of a just regard thereto his employments were continued to his family. His diligence and capacity in business were equal to his fidelity; and in all his transactions, whether public or private, he distinguished himself by the clearness of his apprehension and the foundness of his judgment. He was a sincere good Christian, without guile or ostentation, and as such was a friend to every virtue and an enemy to every vice. He was equally to be esteemed in his several relations of husband, father, and friend; and he embraced all opportunities that offered of doing charitable and good offices. After a life thus spent, he died the 19 day of January 1732–3, in the 68th year of his age, leaving behind him his most disconsolate widow, Margaret, the daughter of Thomas Beake, Esq. by whom he had sixteen children, whereof nine sons and four daughters survived him."—Arms—Arg. three falcons' heads erased Sab. within a border Az. charged with eight bezants, impaling G. a cross cercelé, Or—Beake.
  • 6. Arms—G. semée of acorns and a lion ramp. Arg.—Atwood, impaling, quarterly, 1 and 4. S. three currycombs Arg.—Harman. 2 and 3. Quarterly, A. and S. on a bend of the second between two fl. de lis, three martlets of the first. There is also the coat of Buck—Per fesse nebuleé A. and S. three bucks' attires counterchanged.
  • 7. Arms—Az. three lions' heads erased, Or, impaling Az. a chevron between three ducal coronets, Or; in chief, a sun in its glory—Beale.
  • 8. Parliamentary Surveys, Lamb, MS. Lib.