Survey of London: Volume 17, the Parish of St Pancras Part 1: the Village of Highgate. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1936.

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'Introduction', Survey of London: Volume 17, the Parish of St Pancras Part 1: the Village of Highgate, (London, 1936), pp. 1-6. British History Online [accessed 15 June 2024].

. "Introduction", in Survey of London: Volume 17, the Parish of St Pancras Part 1: the Village of Highgate, (London, 1936) 1-6. British History Online, accessed June 15, 2024,

. "Introduction", Survey of London: Volume 17, the Parish of St Pancras Part 1: the Village of Highgate, (London, 1936). 1-6. British History Online. Web. 15 June 2024,


The area of the metropolitan borough of St. Pancras (2,694 acres) is practically coterminous with the pre-1899 civil parish. In Norman times the parish included land eastward to Clerkenwell, from which it was divided by the river Fleet, where Warner Street and Farringdon Road are now. A few hundred acres now in St. Marylebone, part of the manor of Rugemere, were also in St. Pancras. A rough estimate gives 3,300 acres as the area at the time of the survey of 1086, entered in Domesday Book as follows:

"Ralph, a canon, holds Rugemere. It was assessed for 2 hides. The land is 1 carucate and a half. There is 1 plough in the demense and (another) half plough can be made. Wood for hedges, and (rendering) 4 shillings. This land is worth 35 shillings; in the time of King Edward 40 shillings. It was, in the time of King Edward, and is now, in the demesne of the canons."

"The canons of St. Paul's hold Tothele. It was always assessed for 5 hides. The land is 4 carucates. There are 3 ploughs and a half, and another half can be made. There are 4 villeins and 4 bordars. Wood for 150 pigs; and 20 shillings for the herbage. With all its profits it is worth 4 pounds; the same when received; in the time of King Edward 100 shillings. The manor lay, and lies in the demesne of St. Paul's."

"At St. Pancras the canons of St. Paul's hold four hides. [Cantlowes.] The land is 2 carucates. The villeins have only 1 plough, and another plough can be made. Wood for hedges. Pasture for the cattle, and (rendering) 20 pence rent. There are four villeins who hold this land under the canons, and 7 cottagers. With all its profits it is worth 40 shillings; the same when received; in king Edward's time 60 shillings."

"At St. Pancras Walter, a canon, of St. Paul's holds one hide. The land is one carucate. There is one plough and 24 men who render 30 shillings per annum. This land lay, and lies, in the demesne of the Church of St. Paul."

An estimate of the population at that distant date may be made from the figures given by assuming that each of the 53 men represented a family of five persons, which gives a total of 265. If to these we add slaves, servants, officials and retainers it appears fairly safe to say that the total population of St. Pancras at the time of William the Conqueror did not exceed 300. This number may be contrasted with the present population of 200,000. There is no reason to think that the density of population in the rural parishes of Middlesex in the 11th century exceeded a few hundreds. We know that as late as 1674 the neighbouring parish of Hornsey, with a comparable area, had about 800 inhabitants.

In the present volume on Highgate we are mainly concerned with the manors of Tottenhall and Cantlowes, both endowments of prebends in St. Paul's Cathedral. All the northern part of the parish lay within these two manors, the boundary between them being the road now variously named High Street, Camden Town, Kentish Town Road, Highgate Road and West Hill. From Merton Lane the dividing line ran near the site of the road now called Fitzroy Park as far as the point where it turns eastward towards The Grove, at Highgate. From that point the boundary ran northwards to the parish boundary which it joined immediately eastward of the site now occupied by Beechwood. Cantlowes lay to the east and Tottenhall to the west of this line. The manors were seldom "in hand," but were leased by the prebendaries for three lives, that is, until the death of all three persons named in the lease, but the leases were always renewed by the insertion of a new life when one dropped out. In addition to the court baron belonging to every manor, the lords of each of these manors owned the Court Leet, which met yearly for the appointment of parish constables and other officers and exercised a certain control over sanitary matters, nuisances, etc., and had jurisdiction in matters affecting the king's peace. The Court Baron dealt with the titles to land within the manor, and its rolls constitute a complete land-registry so far as copyhold land is concerned.

From a survey of the manor of Tottenhall made in the time of Henry VIII (fn. 1) we learn that the lessees of the demesne lands (or home farm of the manor), who then paid a yearly rent of £38, had also to supply the Prebendary every year with three good loads of hay, carried into the manor place at their own expense, or pay 15s. instead. In the leases the manor was always described as the prebend, manor or lordship of Tottenhall or Tottenham Court in St. Pancras or Kentish Town, and also the woods and fuel lying besides Highgate, parcel of the said prebend. This phrase "woods and fuel" meant, in the words of the above-mentioned survey, "a wood att Higate parcel of the said manor and prebend which the prebendary kepith in his owne handes conteyning by estimacon two hundreth acr' of ground or more." It can be identified with Sherrick's Farm, mentioned in this volume under Ken Wood (p. 126). In the year 1314 the woodward, Henry Slademan, having charge of the wood called "Schyrwyk" was removed from office. (fn. 2) In 1650 there were five pieces of pasture called Sherrick Wood (48 acres), Sherrick Wood (50 acres), and Sherrick Wood (10 acres 1 rood), all rented by Nathaniel Syddens. (fn. 3) The farm-house stood on the road side (when Hampstead Lane followed the parish boundary) slightly to the north of the site now occupied by Beechwood, where Lady Southampton's house stood at the end of the 18th century. The old farm-house in 1650 had four lower rooms, two chambers and two garrets.

The manor house of Tottenhall stood on the east side of Hampstead Road, between Tolmer Square and Euston Road. In 1757 Euston Road was made across the demesne land of this manor between Hampstead Road and the present parish church of St. Pancras.

The manor continued in the hands of the Crown after the reign of Henry VIII, subject to payment of an annual rent to the Prebendary and fines on renewal of the lease from time to time. A sub-lessee in 1609 was William Cholmeley of Highgate, who had a lease for 31 years from that date, and mentioned in his will (fn. 4) that he, as steward of the manor, had £22 or £23 in hand from fines, due to the Crown. In 1650 Thomas Harrison of London bought the manor from the Commonwealth (fn. 5) and in 1655 also purchased the Crown interest. (fn. 6) In 1661, the Crown having recovered possession, granted the manor to Sir Henry Wood, an officer of the royal household, for 41 years, on account of £500 owing to him by the late king for board wages in lieu of diet. (fn. 7) The reversionary interest belonging to the Crown was granted to Isabella, Countess of Arlington, wife of Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Grafton, a son of Charles II by Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland. She died on 7th February, 1722–3, and her son Charles, 2nd Duke of Grafton, obtained from the Prebendary on 18th July, 1723, a fresh lease for three lives. The periodical renewal of these leases for lives was terminated by an Act of Parliament in 1768, which vested the freehold in Charles Fitzroy, brother of Augustus Henry, 3rd Duke of Grafton, subject to a ground rent of £300 per annum. Their widowed mother married James Jeffries, esquire. The freehold land belonging to the manor covered 254 acres 3 roods and 17 perches, and Mr. Fitzroy (afterwards Baron Southampton) also acquired the profits arising from the Courts Leet and Courts Baron.

Regarding Cantlowes there is a record (fn. 8) that in the year 1546 William Leyton, gentleman, "Prebendary of the Prebend of Cantlowes alias Kentishe Towne alias Cantelers," with Edward, Bishop of London, and the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's, granted to King Henry VIII, the said Prebend.

Whatever the significance of this grant, the manor certainly remained in the ownership of succeeding prebendaries, and was leased by them for lives. The holding of the Courts Leet and Courts Baron, however, was sometimes kept in their own hands by the prebendaries. The manor house of Cantlowes stood on the east side of the King's Road, where that thoroughfare is now crossed by the railway, near Randolph Street. It was described in 1649 (on the Commonwealth Survey) as consisting of a little courtyard, a porch entry, hall, parlour, kitchen, milk house, a little yard, a brushing room, two pairs of stairs, two little rooms next the parlour, built with timber, an orchard, a fair garden with a brick wall on the south, a base yard, barn and two stables, cart house and little pingle, containing 3 acres 1 rood, then leased to Richard Gualter at £16 a year, together with fields which extended over the land now bounded by King's Road, Kentish Town Road, High Street, Camden Town, and Crowndale Road. The total area of the demesne lands was 213 acres. The lessee had to provide meat, drink and entertainment for one dinner for the steward, bailiff and three or four friends, and feed for their horses. This would be on the occasion of their holding manor courts. The Prebendary was entitled to the first crop of three acres of meadow. (fn. 9)

The four villeins in Cantlowes mentioned in Domesday Book were predecessors of the copyhold tenants who afterwards held all the land within the manor from the parish boundary on the north to the freehold land on the south, that is, near Leighton Road. Inheritance in the manor was by gavelkind, that is to say if a copyholder died intestate his land did not descend to his eldest son but to all his sons equally (if he had more than one), and in the absence of a son to all the daughters equally. If two or more persons holding copyhold wished to have it divided up amongst them so that each owned his own portion separately, a committee of the copyholders would divide it up into parts of equal value and lots would be cast to determine the ownership of each.

The historical notes in this volume do not claim to constitute a History of Highgate, but contain as many authenticated facts as possible concerning the buildings described and the sites on which they stand. A complete history would require the inclusion of the portion of Highgate lying in Hornsey, which is outside the County of London and is therefore beyond the scope of the Survey. These notes will be found to throw an interesting light on the families and personalities connected with the village. The human element is brought out in many entries in the Court Leet records, of which a few specimens may be selected as follows: In 1658 William Mollineux, Henry Lee, Rodigon Portman and others were each fined 20s. for selling ale in black pots being less than measure appointed by the statute, while others were fined for selling ale and beer without a licence. An alehouse keeper named John Buckland was fined 40s. for allowing unlawful gaming in his yard, namely play at "cloythcailes" otherwise Nine Pins. The churchwardens and constable were each fined 10s. because they had failed to give notice in church, on the Sunday after Easter, of days fixed for parishioners to "endeavour themselves to the amending of the highways." At the same court a disturbance was caused by William Peirce of Kentish Town who abused the jury for fining him and "made a great noise by talking aloud about unnecessary things," so that it was impossible for the steward and jury to hear each other speak and the business was interrupted. "Although the steward did then in a friendly manner admonish the said William Pierce" he persisted and was fined 40s. for his "uncivil gestures, scoffing, clamorous and impertinent speech," the said sum being "far less than his demerits required." In 1668 it was found that the inhabitants were wanting a Pair of Shooting Butts and that the Stocks at Highgate were decayed. In 1673 Sir Thomas Hooke (of Cromwell House) was fined for allowing his drain to run in the highway in a ditch belonging to the manor of Cantlowes, to the common nuisance. In this year also, the Pound at Highgate was found to be decayed. The parish officers in 1701 were each fined 20s. for not erecting and repairing a pair of stocks and a ducking stool. The proprietors of the Hampstead Waterworks were also fined £10 for allowing their water pipes to leak on to the highway.

Highgate Grammar School, founded by Sir Roger Cholmeley, was situated in Hornsey (outside the parish of St. Pancras and the County of London), and its site is not within the area covered by this volume. It is, however, intimately connected with the inhabitants of Highgate, and has an important bearing on its ecclesiastical history. Old Highgate was never a parish, although the chapel belonging to Sir Roger Cholmeley's Free School developed into what virtually served as a chapel of ease for both Hornsey and St. Pancras, and the school itself declined to the status of an elementary school attached to the chapel. Their relative positions were reversed through a successful agitation which led to the judgment in the Court of Chancery in 1826 which declared that it was not a chapel of ease and that the public had no right there. Henceforth the endowment was restored to its original purpose and Sir Roger's foundation developed into a great public school, while the formation of a District Chapelry by Order in Council and the erection of St. Michael's Church in 1832 provided for the spiritual needs of Highgate. Although it was not a civil or ecclesiastical entity the village was a little community with a life of its own, which, indeed, in some measure it yet retains, despite its being merged in the surrounding urban area. Until the erection of St. Michael's Church, burials took place in the chapel and in its burial ground, and the chapel possessed its own registers.

Sir Roger Cholmeley, formerly Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench, is the historical personage whose name is best known in Highgate. He founded the "Free Grammar School of Sir Roger Cholmeley, knight" in 1565, and was buried at St. Martin's, Ludgate Hill, on 2nd July in the same year. It is disappointing that the court rolls for that period are not available to determine the exact site of his house. It will be seen from the historical notes that Cholmeley owned land at the north end of Waterlow Park, as well as the site of Holly Terrace and the former Holly Lodge estate, together with land now included in the grounds of Witanhurst. He also owned property on the Hornsey side of the High Street (including Townsends Yard) and at Crouch End. We are, therefore, left to surmise the exact location of his house. The relevant facts are too numerous to work out here, but it may be tentatively placed on the site of Fairseat, or thereabouts. Jasper Cholmeley, esquire, of Worcestershire, J.P., and Quorum of Middlesex, Clerk of the Writs, to whom Sir Roger appears to have bequeathed his Highgate property, and who died on 31st October, 1586, aged 48, mentions in his will (fn. 10) a tenement which he purchased of John Martyn "next my orchard" (see p. 90). If this means next the orchard attached to his residence, it is fairly certain that he lived in the house containing 15 hearths, occupied in 1665 by Major Gunstone, represented to-day by Fairseat.


Finally, a note on the object and scope of this Survey may be of assistance to our readers. When originally started in 1894 its object was to draw attention to the architectural and historical monuments of bygone generations primarily with a view to arousing a desire for their preservation. The scope of the Survey was limited roughly to monuments dating up to the end of the 18th century that were still standing in the year 1894. The volumes were therefore in the nature of a register, with brief historical notes on the more important buildings. With the closer co-operation of the London County Council the historical side of the work has developed far beyond the dreams of the original founders. In the present volume rather more has been said about the 19th century than is usually the case, but no attempt has been made to deal with that period exhaustively. Much more can be found in the pages of Mr. John H. Lloyd's History and in the Heal and Potter Collections.

A Sketch Map of the Hamlet of Highgate
Showing the old buildings included in this Survey of 1936

This plan does not attempt to represent Highgate at any particular date. The roman numerals correspond to those of the respective sections of the book.


  • 1. P.R.O., S.C. 11/50.
  • 2. Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 42,294.
  • 3. P.R.O., E.320. L.24.
  • 4. Will of William Cholmeley. P.C.C. 9 Crane.
  • 5. P.R.O., C.54/3545 (no. 38).
  • 6. P.R.O., C.54/3815 (no. 4).
  • 7. P.R.O., C66.2967 (no. 7).
  • 8. P.R.O., E322/48.
  • 9. Eccles. Com. 243,155.
  • 10. Will of Jasper Cholmeley. P.C.C. 17 Rutland.