Parishes: Little Gaddesden

Pages 208-214

A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


In this section


Gatesdene (xi cent.).

Little Gaddesden is bordered on three sides by the county of Buckingham. The northern part of the parish lies on a high spur of the Chilterns about 646 feet above the ordnance datum. There is a considerable slope to the south, and on the east the land dips to the valley of the Gade. The Leighton Buzzard and Hemel Hempstead high road strikes across the parish, and forms a sharp dividing line. To the east the county is agricultural, while the pasture and woods of Ashridge Park cover the whole of the western portion. Ashridge House, the seat of Earl Brownlow, stands in the middle of the park, and the village extends along one edge near the high road, which is bordered on either side by a broad green shaded by large trees.

Following the high road north from Hemel Hempstead may be seen near the beginning of the village Robin Hood House, a large old house of timber and stucco. It was once the Robin Hood village publichouse, but has been greatly added to, and is now the residence of Mr. Alexander Murray-Smith. Beyond this is a red-brick house, the residence of Miss Noyes.

Further again is Marian Lodge, built by Lady Marian Alford some thirty years ago. It is now tenanted by Mrs. Denison, under whose care soft cloth is woven, some of which is sent yearly to the queen. In another house lives the Hon. Alfred Lyttelton. The smaller houses and cottages are all well built, and each stands in a good garden. They are mostly of red brick with red tiles, and in the old ones is a good deal of timber. That known as John of Gaddesden's house (he was physician to Edward III, and a doctor of great note) is an interesting mediaeval building of timber and plaster, of two stories, the upper projecting beyond the lower. The body of the house stands north and south, with a fine brick chimney-stack at the north end, its upper story being a hall of two bays with an open timber roof of fifteenth-century style, now used as a reading room. The house has been a good deal repaired, and there is some eighteenth-century panelling in one of the ground-floor rooms. At the north end is a block running east and west, with no old detail of interest.

The parish, which was inclosed in 1846, covers an area of over 2,451 acres, of which (in 1905) 499 acres were arable land, 358 acres permanent pasture, and 86 acres woodland. (fn. 1) It includes the hamlet of Ringshall, and since 1885 that of Hudnall, which was formerly a detached portion of the parish of Edlesborough in Buckinghamshire. (fn. 2) The soil is clay with flint, and the subsoil chalk. At Hudnall, on the eastern border of the parish, there is a small common.

A windmill is mentioned in 1284 and again in 1305, of which there now seems to be no survival. (fn. 3)

Peter Kalm, the Swedish naturalist, paid a visit to Little Gaddesden in 1748. (fn. 4) He states that day labourers were frequently employed, and the farmers' own families worked in the fields. The parish could not boast of more than twenty cows, a farmer seldom possessing a greater number than three or four. He lived at the village inn, and he comments on the fact that the men came in very often, to pass some hours over 'pint beers,' even on Sundays, which Kalm considered hardly consistent with their careful observance of Sunday in other respects.

William Ellis, a writer on agricultural subjects, held a farm at Little Gaddesden for about fifty years. His works have now become useless owing to the advance of science; his best is The Modern Husbandman. He died in 1758. (fn. 5)

The Rev. Henry John Todd, author of The History of Ashridge, was chaplain to the earl of Bridgewater, and rector of Little Gaddesden for a short time in 1805.


The manor of LITTLE GADDESDEN was included at the time of the Domesday Survey in the fee of the count of Mortain, and was held of him by one Humphrey. Here as elsewhere the count had succeeded Edmer 'attile,' a thegn of King Edward (the Confessor), (fn. 6) and the overlordship seems to have followed the descent of the honour of Berkhampstead. (fn. 7) The history of the subtenants of the manor before 1285 is somewhat obscure, but between the time of the Domesday Survey and the early part of the thirteenth century it would seem to have come into the hands of the family of Broc, unless, indeed, the Humphrey of the survey was an ancestor of this family. However this may be, in the year 1204 Eva de Broc held the manor of Little Gaddesden 'with the socage of Forho' (co. Northants), and by a fine levied in that year sold half the manor to Simon de Vieleston, to be held by him and his heirs, of her and her heirs by the service of half a knight's fee. (fn. 8) In this transaction Eva reserved to herself the other moiety of the manor together with the socage of Forho and the capital messuage of Little Gaddesden, and the fine states that she made for Simon another messuage, de commune, (fn. 9) equal in length and breadth to the capital messuage. Juvenal of Gaddesden and Nigasia his wife evidently had some interest in the estate, as they appeared as demandants in the suit, and gave their assent to Simon's purchase. (fn. 10) This sale, with its reservations, would seem to be the origin of the two manors subsequently existing in this parish. The moiety of the estate which Eva reserved to herself may probably be identified with the manor of LUCIES (q.v.), while that which she sold to Simon de Vieleston appears to have passed from him to one Thomas de Vieleston, (fn. 11) probably his son, and to have been given by him to Edmund earl of Cornwall, (fn. 12) by whom it was granted in 1285–6 to his new foundation of Bonhommes of the college of Ashridge, together with the overlordship of the manor of Lucies, (fn. 13) which was held of the rectors of Ashridge till the Dissolution. (fn. 14)

The rectors held this manor, called Little Gaddesden, with the fullest rights and franchises, (fn. 15) return of writs, view of frankpledge, assize of bread and ale, gallows, tumbril and pillory, and freedom from all suits at the hundred court, and in 1309 the king granted to the rector free warren in Little Gaddesden, Hudnall (Hodenhale), and Frithsden. (fn. 16) The manor remained in the possession of the rector and brethren until the year 1538–9, when Thomas Waterhouse, the last rector, surrendered this house to Henry VIII. (fn. 17) Edward VI granted the manor in 1551 to his sister Elizabeth, and in 1576 it was leased to Henry Lord Cheney, under the name of Gaddesden with Frithsden, for twenty-one years. (fn. 18) Henry died in 1587 without issue, and in 1589 the manor was granted to Jane Lady Cheney, his widow, to be held of the queen as of the manor of Hampton Court for the service of a twentieth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 19) In 1601 Jane joined with Sir John Crofts and Mary his wife, her sister and heir, in conveying the manor to Ralph Marshall of Shelton (co. Notts). (fn. 20) By him and Lady Cheney it was sold in the following year to Randolph Crewe, Thomas Chamberlain, and Richard Cartwright (fn. 21) in trust for Sir Thomas Lord Ellesmere, and John Egerton, his son and heir, to whom it was conveyed in 1604. (fn. 22) From this point the descent of the manor is identical with that of Great Gaddesden (q.v.).

The quarry called 'Totternall (Totternhoe) Quarry' is mentioned in 1602–3, as annexed to the manor, (fn. 23) to which it still belongs. Much of the material used in building the mansion was obtained from this source, though in a survey of 1573–4 it is said that the quarry was not arrented, as it was supposed to be of little or no value. (fn. 24) There was also a messuage in the manor in 1602–3 known as Gaddesden House. (fn. 25)

The first mention of ASHRIDGE (Esherugge, Hesruge, Esseruge, xiii cent.; Assherugge, xiv cent.; Ashrich, xv cent.; Asheridge, xvii cent.) manor is found in the grant by the earl of Cornwall to the college of Ashridge, confirmed in 1285 and 1286. In it he gives to the rector and brethren his manor of Ashridge, (fn. 26) with the inclosure of the park of the manor, both in the parish of Berkhampstead St. Peter, and in the parish of Pitstone (Pichelestorne). (fn. 27) In this charter it is stated that Edmund had the manor by gift of Ulian Chenduit, (fn. 28) and in a suit of 1230 a Ulian Chenduit, who married Maud de Esserug, is mentioned, (fn. 29) and it was probably their son Ulian who granted Ashridge to the earl, having inherited it from his mother. In 1291 petitions and pleas were heard in a formal Parliament at Ashridge. (fn. 30)

The manor remained in the possession of the college until its suppression in 1538–9, and after the Dissolution became annexed to that of Little Gaddesden, (fn. 31) with which it passed to Lord Ellesmere.

Edward VI and Elizabeth seem to have spent a considerable part of their childhood at Ashridge, (fn. 32) and Browne Willis states that Edward VI was nursed here. Todd suggests that the western avenue, which is called the Prince's Riding, may have taken its name from him. (fn. 33) He and Elizabeth were living there in 1543, when Mary, their sister, was brought there for the benefit of her health. (fn. 34) After the coronation of Mary, Elizabeth retired to Ashridge, (fn. 35) and was living there when she was arrested and summoned to London on the charge of being implicated in Wyatt's rebellion.

The mansion was leased in 1556–7 by Elizabeth to Richard Combes for twenty-one years, (fn. 36) and in 1574 to William Gorge for thirty-one years after the lease to Richard had expired. (fn. 37) In the following year the reversion of the mansion and the church called Ashridge College Church, Ash Park, and Hudnall Park were granted to John Dudley and John Ascough, (fn. 38) evidently only as trustees, for in the same year they sold the property to Henry Lord Cheney and Jane his wife, (fn. 39) from whom it passed with the manor to Thomas Lord Ellesmere. It was confirmed to him and his son John in 1609–10 by letters patent, (fn. 40) and from this point its descent is dentical with that of Great Gaddesden (q.v.).

In a survey of Ashridge made in 1560, it is stated that though, since the first year of the reign of Elizabeth, £55 3s. 8d. had been expended in repairs, the house was still so far out of repair that 300 marks would not make it fit for the queen's residence. A good part of the building was falling down, 'namely the lodging that Master Treasurer lay in, which was accounted the fairest lodging of the house, next where the Queen's Highness lay.' (fn. 41)

The college buildings were leased by Henry VIII in 1540 to John Norrys for twenty-one years, (fn. 42) but were granted in 1551 to Princess Elizabeth, and followed the same descent as the manor.

There was a messuage called the Dairy House, belonging to the house of Ashridge, situated outside the gate of the monastery. It was leased by Thomas Waterhouse, the last rector, in 1537 to Robert Eames, and when the college was leased by the king to John Norrys in 1540 a dispute arose between him and Eames as to the ownership of this house. (fn. 43)

Ashridge Park was inclosed before the time of the grant of the manor to the college of Ashridge, for in April 1286 Edmund earl of Cornwall had licence to close the highway through his woods of Ashridge and Berkhampstead, to enlarge his park, and make a fresh road outside. (fn. 44) It was included in the foundation charter, and in 1286 Edward I granted to the monks housebote and heybote in Le Fryth of Berkhampstead for the inclosures of their park at Ashridge. (fn. 45) John earl of Bridgewater in 1661 obtained licence to add 240 acres to the park, (fn. 46) and three years later 160 acres more were inclosed to add to the existing park, and to form another. (fn. 47) At the same time licence granted by King James to John's grandfather, Lord Ellesmere, to inclose 400 acres was also confirmed to him. (fn. 48) Two parks called Ash Park and Hudnall Park existed in 1574–5. (fn. 49)

There is no river near the park, and there was always a great want of water at Ashridge. Dogs, probably working in the same manner as turnspits, were used to draw water from a deep well sunk in the chalk, over which the modern chapel now stands. Thomas Baskerville, describing Ashridge in 1681, says that the water was drawn by a horse in a great wheel. (fn. 50) The wheel is said to have been worked by a pair of horses till 1860.

Skelton, the poet laureate, who was evidently persona grata at the college, 'that goodly place to Skelton most kind,' has left a 'distichon,' as he calls it, on the subject:

Fraxinus in clivo frondetque viret sine rivo,
Non est sub divo similis sine flumine vivo.

The monastic buildings of the college were inclosed in a court with a handsome gateway, formerly the porter's lodge, but large enough to contain several good apartments in which the last duke of Bridgewater resided at the end of the eighteenth century. The duke intended to pull down the college and build a new mansion, and for this purpose collected much valuable material, but died before this project could be carried out; the new house was completed by his successor, the eighth earl of Bridgewater.

The site of the buildings of the college lies partly to the south of, and is partly covered by the great house of Ashridge, now the property and occasional residence of Earl Brownlow, completed in 1814 from the designs of the Wyatts, father and son. The only part of the ancient buildings now to be seen is the fine vaulted cellar, 68 ft. long by 26 ft. wide, formerly under the frater of the college buildings, and now beneath the drawing-room on the south front of the present house. The general arrangements of the monastic buildings are to be deduced from several sources, the most important being a survey made in 1575, (fn. 51) while Browne Willis's description and drawings of the house before its destruction at the beginning of the nineteenth century give further details. The frater was on the north of the cloister, and the church on the south, the chapter-house and dorter as usual on the east, and the great hall on the west. The plan of the church can be accurately laid down from the survey; it was cruciform, with short transepts, north and south aisles to the nave, and a long aisleless chancel, which doubtless served as the monastic quire. (fn. 52) The aisles of the nave are called St. John's chapel and our Lady's chapel, the latter being probably on the south, but the dedication of the altars in the transepts is not given.

Little can be said of the history of the buildings before the suppression, but that a considerable amount of alteration took place in the fifteenth century is clear from a gift of £50 by Cardinal Beaufort in 1477 towards the rebuilding of the cloister, dorter, infirmary and sacristy, while Richard Peteworth, a servant of the cardinal, gave £100 towards the repair or refitting of the cloister, dorter, and quire. A series of paintings in the cloister representing scenes from the life of our Lord, mentioned by Browne Willis, may have formed part of this work. At the suppression the buildings were retained by the crown, being granted in 1551 to the Princess Elizabeth by her brother Edward VI, and it is clear that little if any destruction took place, as the church was standing complete in 1575.

Egerton. Argent a lion gules between three pheons sable.

In 1604 Ashridge came to the Egertons, and an elaborate 'Ordering of the Household' of 1652, printed in full in Todd's History of Ashridge, gives a vivid picture of the state they kept. At what time the monastic church was destroyed does not appear, but this may have happened before the Egertons came into possession. In their time the house, like all great houses, had a chapel, (fn. 53) for the warming of which, 'at a due season,' the 'ordering' makes careful provision, but there is nothing to show where it was. The view of the old house here reproduced shows the west front, with the great hall, the mediaeval guesthall, between two projecting wings at the north and south, and in front of them a courtyard and threestory gate-house, much of the work being evidently of late sixteenth or seventeenth-century date.

Thomas Baskerville, visiting Ashridge in 1681, (fn. 54) remarked on the herds of red and fallow deer, and on the 'lofty groves of trees, so thick set together that the like is scarce anywhere else to be seen.' 'The house,' he says, 'is a square containing in it a small quadrangle, and in that a little pond of water walled about with freestone . . . where do live some few hungry carp. Here doth also enclose this pool and quadrangle a fine cloister, remarkable for this, because my lord will not have it blurred out, for having in paint upon the walls some scripture and monkish stories. The hall is a noble room in which some good horses which my lord hath been owner of are drawn in full proportion. From hence at the lower end you descend into the buttery or pantry, being a fair room vaulted over and adorned with many heads and horns of stags.' From here Baskerville went to the cellars and greatly admired the beer casks, 'some might vie with the Prince of Heidelberg's tun, they look so big upon you.' Defoe also refers to the paintings in his Tour, remarking that 'the paintings in the cloister are preserved from injury except the weather and the whole so entire that with the retired situation and altogether it gives the fullest idea of the ancient state of religion of any in these kingdoms.'

The present house, which has a frontage to the north of about 1,000 feet in all, with its wings and offices, consists of a main block towards the east, with a low wing running east by north from it and ending in an orangery, now fitted up as a theatre; kitchen and office court on the west of the main block, and large stables and outbuildings further to the west. Part of the precinct wall of the college, with traces of its ditch outside, still remains in the stable-yard, and its course can be traced elsewhere; a large halftimber barn or storehouse on the south of the yard is also of ancient date, though a good deal altered. The main buildings, which are best seen from the south and east, are from their scale favourable specimens of Wyatt's Gothic work, very poor stuff at its best, and the central feature of the block is a square tower containing the main staircase, from which doors open to the rooms on north, south, and east. The entrance is from the north, the entrance-hall being disproportionately high and narrow, and, like the staircase, adorned with wire-drawn Gothic details of the usual spiritless kind. In all other rooms, however, Wyatt's work has been replaced by a variety of interesting fittings, brought from many places, such as an early seventeenth-century chimney-piece from the manor-house at Hough-on-the-Hill, near Grantham, in the groundfloor room adjoining the entrance-hall on the west; carving of Gibbons' style from Belton Hall in the next room; a sixteenth-century Italian chimney-piece of stone in the billiard-room east of the hall; another chimney-piece made from a green glazed sixteenth-century German stove in the boudoir next to it; and two more Jacobean chimney-pieces in bedrooms to the east, one of them rather spoilt by the addition of eighteenth-century details.

The large drawing-room at the south-east has great door-heads and columns of various coloured marbles, and two white marble chimney-pieces supported by life-size marble figures, while the ceiling is painted with a copy of Guido Reni's 'Aurora.' In this room stands the coloured statue of Pandora, by Gibson, which was the cause of so much controversy at the time of its first appearance. West of the drawingroom is an ante-room, and beyond it the dining-room, lined with beautiful eighteenth-century panelling from the Tuileries; and a conservatory leads on westward to the chapel, a building standing north and south, with a polygonal apse and a tall tower and spire. It is well lighted, and the windows are filled with a great deal of good sixteenth-century Flemish glass, some of the panels bearing dates, but the general effect is somewhat lessened by the poorness of the modern coloured borders in which the old Flemish glass is set. In the floor of the chapel is a brass representing John Swynstede, prebendary of Lincoln, 1395, and there is also a rose brass to John Killingworth, 1412. Both of these brasses were removed from Edlesborough church, Bucks.

The house contains many good pictures, both old and new, Italian, Dutch, and English. There is a good Bellini, and the 'Victory at Waterloo' by Jones in the drawing-room; in the ante-room a Cuyp seapiece and 'Isaac and Jacob' by Rembrandt; in the library are many portraits of members of the Egerton and Bridgewater families; in the billiard-room some early Flemish paintings, and in the dining-room a good though unfinished picture by Clennell of an entertainment in the Guildhall to the allied sovereigns in 1814, which contains many portraits. The surroundings of the house are exceedingly beautiful, both as regards the garden and the park beyond and round it. The beech trees are perhaps the most notable feature, several growing to a most unusual height before throwing out branches, and the undulating character of the ground sets off the groups of trees to great advantage. The park contains a large herd of deer, red and fallow, as well as some white Cashmere goats, which appear to thrive in their unaccustomed surroundings.

The manor of GADDESDEN or LUCIES was held of the manor of Little Gaddesden in the thirteenth century by the family of Lucy. This family obtained a large portion of their property on the marriage, in the early part of that century, of Geoffrey de Lucy with Juliana daughter and co-heir of Ralph de Broc, (fn. 55) who lived during the latter part of the twelfth century, and as we find Eva de Broc, possibly the same as Edelina, sister of Juliana, party to a fine in 1203–4 dealing with the manor of Little Gaddesden, it is possible that this part of Ralph's possessions was assigned to her, and that when she died unmarried in 1221 it passed to Juliana as her sister and heir. (fn. 56) In the disturbances in the kingdom during John's reign, Geoffrey de Lucy seems to have forfeited some of his lands in Gaddesden. (fn. 57) Geoffrey de Lucy, probably the grandson of this Geoffrey, died in 1284 seised of the manor of Little Gaddesden, (fn. 58) which he held of the earl of Cornwall, except a wood called Heldewood, which he held of William de Castabrauf. His son Geoffrey died in 1305, (fn. 59) when we find he held this manor of the rector of the Ashridge, who held it by the assignment of the earl of Cornwall. Geoffrey de Lucy, his son, obtained a grant of free warren over this manor in 1332, (fn. 60) and died in 1346 seised of the manor, (fn. 61) leaving a son and heir Geoffrey, who likewise died seised of a messuage and 102 acres of land in Little Gaddesden in 1400. (fn. 62) He left a son Reginald, aged 40, but this property passed to Sir Walter Lucy, who died in 1444, leaving a son, Sir William. (fn. 63) In 1453 the said William settled the manor upon himself and Margaret his wife, and his heirs. He died in 1466 seised of the manor, leaving as his heirs Elizabeth, wife of Roger Corbet, afterwards the wife of John, earl of Worcester, daughter and heir of Eleanor, one of his sisters, and William Vaux, son of Maud, his other sister. (fn. 64) William Vaux was attainted for high treason by Act of Parliament in 1461. Roger Corbet and Elizabeth his wife, however, had licence in 1466 to enter upon a moiety of the possessions of William Lucy in right of Elizabeth. (fn. 65) Afterwards Elizabeth married Sir William Stanley and died in 1498 seised of this manor, leaving her grandson, Robert Corbet, son of her son Richard Corbet, her heir. (fn. 66) After the reversal of the attainder of William Vaux in favour of his son Sir Nicholas in the time of Henry VII, he seems to have obtained a restoration of this manor, and died seised of it in 1523, leaving Thomas, his son and heir. (fn. 67)

Lucy. Gules crusilly argent and three lucies argent.

Sir Nicholas was amongst those who brought their followers to the support of Henry VII against Lambert Simnel in 1487, and after the king's victory at Stoke near Newark, Vaux received knighthood. He actively devoted himself to agricultural improvements, and was in consequence returned by the commissioners for inclosures in 1517–18 as having violated the acts against inclosure in several of his manors. He married firstly Elizabeth widow of Sir William Parr, and secondly Anne daughter and co-heir of Sir Thomas Green, whose sister Maude married Sir Thomas Parr. Possibly in accordance with some settlement this manor came into the hands of Sir William Parr, earl of Essex, son of the above Sir Thomas and brother of Catherine Parr, consort of Henry VIII, who in 1544 conveyed it to Robert Dormer and William Jakeman. (fn. 68) Robert died in 1552, and his son Sir William Dormer succeeded him (fn. 69) and died seised of the manor in 1574, leaving a son Robert his heir. (fn. 70) In 1602 Sir Robert Dormer and Elizabeth his wife granted it to John Eames and Robert Eames, (fn. 71) who in 1606 joined with Sir Robert Dormer and Elizabeth in conveying it to Thomas, Lord Ellesmere, and John Egerton his son, (fn. 72) from whom it descended with Great Gaddesden (q.v.) to the present Lord Brownlow.

Dormer of Wing. Azure ten billets or and a chief or with three martlets azure.

The present manor-house, which it is thought is probably the manor-house of Lucies, stands just outside the eastern boundary of Ashridge Park, at the corner of the road leading to Studham. The oldest portion of it probably dates from the time of Elizabeth. It consists of a central block of two stories, with attics facing south-west, with a wing containing the kitchen offices at the south-east end, and a block of modern buildings at the back.

Over the bay window of the central block is a stone tablet bearing the date A.D. 1576, with the initials A. R. D underneath, and in smaller letters E. E (or B). The initials R.D. probably stand for Robert Dormer, who owned the manor at that date, and the smaller letters, which are much worn, are most likely E.B., Sir Robert Dormer's wife being Elizabeth Browne.

It is said that, at some period, a wing was burned down, but it is not known on which side of the house it stood. There is no external evidence of a destroyed wing visible at the north-west end of the house, although, curiously enough, the end chimney-stack has four shafts, and there are only two fireplaces underneath.

The central block is built almost entirely of Totternhoe stone. The north-east side of the house is faced with flint and stone in alternate squares. The ground-floor plan consists of one large room, now the dining-room, originally about 32 ft. long by 16 ft. 6 in. wide, but reduced about 5 ft. in length by the present occupier, Colonel Wheatley, in order to form a corridor to the modern block at the back.

At each end of the front of the main block is a square projecting turret carried up above the roof; that on the north-west contains a plain oak stair; the corresponding turret forms the entrance on the ground floor. There is a wide projecting bay window between the two turrets, carried up two stories. All the windows have stone mullions and transoms.

All the internal doorways throughout this central block are of stone, having moulded jambs of two orders, the inner order being carried up to form a flat four-centred arch over the opening, the outer being carried above the arch as a square lintel.

The north-west end of the dining-room is mainly occupied by a fine stone chimney-piece about 10 ft. in width. The fireplace opening, which is 6 ft. wide, has a four-centred arch over. On either side are double fluted columns standing on pedestals. The capitals are carved with acanthus leaves and small volutes, and above them is a moulded entablature, with architrave, frieze, and cornice, all richly carved, and bearing the remains of distemper colouring. The ends of the entablature project slightly over the columns, and above them are stone trusses or consoles up to the ceiling, carved with human figures. The cornice at the ceiling is carved with the egg and tongue ornament, inverted. Between the end trusses are the remains of a distemper painting on the stonework. In the centre are the royal arms of Elizabeth, the arms of France and England quarterly, with the lion and griffin as supporters, flanked by the letters E.R. The panel on the right contains the figures of three ladies, probably representing the Princess Elizabeth and her attendants in the park at Ashridge; the other panel is occupied by the figures of three gentlemen.

Beside the fireplace is a cupboard, the door of which now hangs on the wall. It bears a painting said to represent the Princess Elizabeth in Ashridge Park, receiving the summons from Queen Mary to proceed to London as a prisoner. The officers sent to escort her are seen in the back-ground.

The south-east end of the original room was inclosed by an open arcade of stone, separating it from what are now modern buildings. The piers are square with renaissance impost mouldings, and four-centred arches over, except at the narrow entrance passage, where the arch is semicircular.

The wooden partition which now divides the dining-room from the passage is largely made up of fifteenth-century traceried panelling from Ashridge.

The drawing-room is immediately over the diningroom and passage. Like the dining-room, the walls are all lined with stone. At each end of the room is a stone fireplace of simple character, with moulded four-centred arches over the openings. The fireplace at the south-east end is supported on a heavy moulded stone corbel which shows in the passage beneath.

Next the fireplace at the north-west end is an arched seat recess, having a small recess on each side; one of these is only 8 in. wide, and may have contained the hour-glass. On either side of the room are various recesses in the wall.

The first floor of the south-east turret, over the entrance lobby, forms part of the drawing-room, from which it is separated by two stone four-centered arches of unequal span, with an octagonal pier between them which has a moulded cap and base of sixteenth-century character.

Above the drawing-room is an attic in the roof, to which access is gained by the turret stair. On the outer jamb of the doorway between the drawing-room and the stair someone has carefully incised a cross about two and a half inches high, standing on a circular line to represent the summit of Calvary, and flanked on either side by a gibbet.

In the attic room the slope of the front part of the roof has been altered and flattened so as to come out to the front parapet. There was, originally, a wide flat passage-way behind the parapet, giving access to the upper part of the south-east turret, which is now entered from the attic itself.

This small room, measuring about 6 ft. square, appears to have been used as an oratory. It has two shallow arched recesses on the south-east wall, one being 1 ft. 8 in. from the floor, the other 3 ft. 8 in. There is another small recess beside the door, and a fireplace on the wall opposite the niches. It is said that Lord Brownlow's clerk of the works discovered, some twenty years ago, traces of an outside stair from this room to the ground.

In the apex of the gable of the stair turret is an old stone clock dial, divided up and figured, the divisions being reproduced on the inner face of the wall. The gables of the turrets are finished with moulded crowstepped gables.

There is a large chimney-stack of wrought stone over the north-west end of the building, consisting of a row of four circular shafts with octagonal moulded bases, their tops being connected by a heavy stone entablature with small moulded cornice. Between the top of each shaft and the entablature is a plain square impost, supported at the angles by small circular moulded corbels.

On the front wall is an old lead rainwater head bearing the date and lettering 16.E.84/I.M.. The manor at that date was in the possession of the Egerton family. It is now the home of Colonel William F. Wheatley.


The church of ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL stands at some distance to the east of the village, being approached by a field road only. It is surrounded by a walled churchyard, and consists of chancel 32 ft. 6 in. by 17 ft. 9 in. with north and south chapels, nave 38 ft. by 17 ft. with aisles and south porch, and west tower 9 ft. 6 in. square, all measurements being internal.

Repair and rebuilding have left little history to the church; the nave arcades and tower date from the fifteenth century, and seem to be the oldest parts of the building, while the chancel, which is slightly wider than the nave, has scarcely a trace of mediaeval work. The walls are of flint rubble, covered with cement except on the tower and the new parts of the chancel and north chapel, and the south side of the church has embattled parapets.

The east and north walls of the chancel, with the north chapel, have been rebuilt, and the south wall, the masonry of which may be old, has a window of late fifteenth-century style, of three cinquefoiled lights, the stonework being entirely modern; there are traces of a similar window, blocked, further to the east, and between the windows a small doorway which may have a little late fifteenth-century detail in its jambs. Both door and window open to the south chapel, and the window has no glass or glass grooves, having been renewed since the building of the chapel. The chapel has no east window, though a blank lancetshaped recess shows in the outer face of the wall, but on the south is a doorway between two three-light windows, copying the arrangement of the south wall of the chancel. The whole was built to serve as a place for the monuments of the earls of Bridgewater, and on its walls are marble tablets of various degrees of merit to John, 1700; Francis (the maker of the Bridgewater canal), 1803; John William, 1823; Francis, 1829; and Elizabeth, Viscountess Brackley, 1669, beside a monument to Henry Stanley, 1670. In the floor are several black marble slabs with curious inscriptions to the Stanley family, and another to Lady Anne Egerton, 1625. The chancel seems to have been refitted, if not rebuilt, in the seventeenth century, and till a late 'restoration' had an interesting carved and panelled wood ceiling, at a lower level than the present, as is shown by the carved stone corbels which still remain in the walls, two on the north side and four on the south. The quire seats are of the same date, with heavy poppy-head bench ends and panelled fronts, though only the front of the north seats is old. The screen across the chancel arch is also in the main contemporary, though much patched and with a new top rail, and is an interesting survival of Gothic tradition. The chancel arch is modern, and there is no step between nave and chancel.

The nave is of three bays, with north and south arcades of fifteenth-century date, but so scraped down as to show little traces of their age. The shafts are octagonal with simply moulded capitals and bases, and the arches are of two hollow-chamfered orders. There is no clearstory, and the north aisle is lighted by two windows on the north—one of three cinquefoiled lights, the other of two, of late fifteenth-century style, but mostly modern, and one at the west of a single trefoiled light. In the south aisle are two three-light south windows, and a little window in the west wall. The north doorway of the nave, a plain four-centred arch, is blocked, and the south doorway is of nineteenth-century Gothic, under a porch of the same character.

The west tower has belfry windows of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in the head, all the tracery being modern, and an embattled parapet above. On the ground stage it has a three-light west window with modern tracery, and below it a fifteenth-century four-centred doorway under a square head, the spandrels containing angels holding blank shields. In the south-west angle is a vice, which led to a now destroyed first floor, and the east arch of the tower is of poor fifteenth-century character, much scraped, with half-octagonal responds and moulded capitals. The nave has a low-pitched fifteenth-century roof, with cambered tie-beams and moulded timbers, and rests on moulded stone corbels. The simple lean-to roof of the north aisle is also in part old, and that of the south aisle is modern. With the exceptions already noted, there is no other old woodwork in the church. The font, at the east end of the south aisle of the nave, is modern, octagonal with panelled sides.

Besides the monuments already noted in the south chapel there are two in the north aisle, one with a grey marble pediment carried by Corinthian columns, and surmounted by an attic with a panel of heraldry, flanked by cherubs, in memory of Jane, countess of Bridgewater, 1716. On the base are two oval marble tablets with inscriptions to Elizabeth, countess of Bridgewater, 1713, and her son John, Viscount Brackley. The second monument is of white marble with Ionic columns and a flat cornice carrying a large shield of arms, and bearing inscriptions on black marble tablets to John, earl of Bridgewater, 1649, and Elizabeth and Frances, countesses of Bridgewater, 1669 and 1635.

On the wall of the south aisle is the large monument of Elizabeth Egerton, 1611, removed from St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, London, in 1730. It is of black marble and alabaster, with a kneeling figure in a central recess below a flat canopy, the soffit of which is carved with cherubs' heads among clouds. On the canopy stands a figure of Time, and the inscription is cut on a carved panel of black marble below. Over the south door is a white marble monument to John, earl of Bridgewater, 1686.

There are two bells, by John Briant of Hertford, 1820.

The plate comprises a plain communion cup of circa 1650, unmarked, a flagon of 1635, and a paten of 1781, given in 1803.

The registers begin in 1681, the first book going to 1743, the second to 1787, the third to 1811, while a fourth contains marriages, 1810–13.


The church of Little Gaddesden belonged to the abbot and convent of St. James, Northampton, (fn. 73) within a century of the foundation of the abbey (1104–5), (fn. 74) but it is not known by whom the church was granted to them. It became appropriated to the abbey before the end of the thirteenth century, and remained in its possession until the surrender in 1539, when it came to the crown. In 1606 James I granted the rectory and advowson to Thomas Marbury and Richard Cartwright in consideration of their good services, and at the request of Thomas, Lord Ellesmere. (fn. 75) From that time it became appendant to the manor of Little Gaddesden, and passed with it to the present Lord Brownlow.

The Nonconformists do not seem to have obtained a footing in Little Gaddesden until 1778, when a house there in the occupation of Joseph Austin was registered. The house of Robert Austin in Little Gaddesden was certified in 1812 for Protestant Dissenters. (fn. 76) There are no chapels in this parish at the present time.


In 1597 Mrs. Elizabeth Winchester by her will charged her freehold tenement in this parish with the payment of 6s. 8d. a year for ever for the behoof of the poor, or towards the bringing up of fatherless children born in the parish in learning. The charge has been redeemed by the transfer to the official trustees of £11 2s. 6d. consols.

In 1617 Philip Power by his will devised his property in Little Gaddesden to the town for the only use, benefit, and relief of the poor. In 1827 the land was exchanged under the Act of 1 & 2 Geo. IV, cap. 92 for lands belonging to the earl of Bridgewater containing about 20 acres; the lands received in exchange were sold with the sanction of the Charity Commissioners and net proceeds invested in £1,193 0s. 5d. consols.

In or about 1679 John, earl of Bridgewater, gave to trustees £90 to be laid out in lands of the yearly value of £4 10s. for the relief of the poor. The annuity of £4 10s. is regularly paid by Earl Brownlow out of Ringshall Marshes in the parish of Ivinghoe.

The Rev. George Burghope, according to the Table of Benefactors, gave in his lifetime £30, the interest to be divided between the rector and the poor equally, the rector to read prayers and preach a sermon on Mortality yearly on 26 May, and to distribute bread to the poor on that day. The legacy is represented by £33 consols.

In 1724 George Alsop by his will gave £70 for the benefit of poor people of seven parishes, including the parish of Little Gaddesden, £10 apiece. The sum of £8 8s. consols has been transferred to the official trustees in respect of the share of this parish.

In 1792 Lady Caroline Egerton by her will left £50 to the poor, which was invested in £91 17s. 2d. consols; it has been augmented by accumulations and now amounts to £184 4s. 7d. consols.

In 1849 the countess of Bridgewater, by will proved in the P.C.C., left £1,073 16s. 6d. consols, income to be applied in the distribution of fuel and clothing among the poor.

The several sums of stock are held by the official trustees of charitable funds, and the dividends, amounting to about £62 a year, were, together with the rent-charge of £4 10s., applied in 1904 in payment of £10 to a nursing fund, in the distribution of about 60 tons of coal among 128 cottagers, 10s. 6d. to the rector for sermon on Mortality, and 10s. 6d. in bread.


  • 1. Information supplied by the Board of Agric.; Ret. of Com. Incl. 63; and Midd. and Herts. N. and Q. i, 59.
  • 2. a Census of England and Wales (1891), ii, 279.
  • 3. Chan. Inq. p.m. 12 Edw. I, No. 16; ibid. 33 Edw. I, No. 67.
  • 4. Midd. and Herts. N. and Q. iv, 139–42.
  • 5. Dict. Nat. Biog.
  • 6. V.C.H. Herts. i, 280–1, 319a.
  • 7. Feud. Aids, ii, 452.
  • 8. Feet of F. Herts. East. 5 John, No. 78.
  • 9. If this statement is taken to mean that the lady withdrew land from the common, she must be supposed to have obtained the consent of the freeholders of the vill, for as yet there was no Statute of Merton to secure the lord the right to 'approve' the waste within reasonable limits, cf. Pollock and Maitland, Hist. of Engl. Law, i, 622–3.
  • 10. Feet of F. Herts. East. 5 John, No. 78.
  • 11. Mins. Accts. bdle. 863, No. 8.
  • 12. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 516.
  • 13. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 516; Cal. of Chart. R. ii, 324.
  • 14. Feud. Aids, ii, 425, 452; Inq. p.m. 33 Edw. I, No. 67; ibid. 20 Edw. III, No. 34; ibid. 23 Hen. VI, No. 9, &c.
  • 15. Cal. of Chart. R. ii, 325, and Assize R. 325.
  • 16. Chart. R. 3 Edw. II, m. 9, No. 26.
  • 17. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiv (2), 261.
  • 18. Pat. 5 Edw. VI, pt. 3, m. 27; ibid. 18 Eliz. pt. 7.
  • 19. Ibid. 32 Eliz. pt. 8, m. 1.
  • 20. Feet of F. Div. Cos. Hil. 44 Eliz.
  • 21. Close, 45 Eliz. pt. 9; Feet of F. Div. Cos. Hil. 1 Jas. I.
  • 22. Close, 2 Jas. I, pt. 13.
  • 23. Ibid. 45 Eliz. pt. 9.
  • 24. Todd, Hist. of Ashridge, 62.
  • 25. Close, 45 Eliz. pt. 9.
  • 26. Cal. of Chart. R. ii, 324, 331.
  • 27. Pitstone in co. Bucks. of which Ashridge seems to have formed part.
  • 28. Cal. of Chart. R. ii, 324.
  • 29. Maitland, Bracton's Note-book, 429 and 471.
  • 30. a Rot. Parl. (Rec. Com.), i, 66.
  • 31. Pat. 5 Edw. VI, pt. 3, m. 27.
  • 32. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xix (2), 726 and 794.
  • 33. Todd, op. cit. 31.
  • 34. Cussans, Hist. of Herts. Dacorum Hundred, 138.
  • 35. Cal. of S.P. Dom. 1547 80, pp. 29 and 60.
  • 36. Pat. 17 Eliz. pt. 5, No. 1.
  • 37. Ibid.
  • 38. Ibid.
  • 39. Close, 17 Eliz. pt. 16.
  • 40. Pat. 7 Jas. I, pt. 33.
  • 41. a S.P. Dom. Eliz. xii, No. 38.
  • 42. Todd, op. cit. App. ii.
  • 43. Ibid.
  • 44. a Cal. of Pat. 1281–92, p. 231.
  • 45. Cart. Antiq. N.N. 71.
  • 46. Cal. of S.P. Dom. 1660–1, p. 578.
  • 47. Ibid. 1664–5, pp. 47–8.
  • 48. Ibid.
  • 49. Pat. 17 Eliz. pt. 5, No. 1.
  • 50. a Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. xiii, App. pt. ii, 306.
  • 51. Printed in Todd's Hist. of Ashridge, 32.
  • 52. Ibid. 62.
  • 53. a A new chapel was built in 1699.
  • 54. b Welbeck Abbey MSS. (Hist. MSS. Com.), ii, 306.
  • 55. Red Bk. of Exch. (Rolls Ser.), iii, 1013.
  • 56. Feet of F. Herts. John, No. 78, and Excerpt. c Rot. Fin. (Rec. Com.), i, 63.
  • 57. Rot. Lit. Claus. John (Rec. Com.), 277.
  • 58. Inq. p.m. 12 Edw. I, No. 16.
  • 59. Ibid. 33 Edw. I, No. 67.
  • 60. Chart. R. 6 Edw. III, No. 35.
  • 61. Inq. p.m. 20 Edw. III, No. 34.
  • 62. Ibid. 1 Hen. IV, pt. 1, No. 26.
  • 63. Ibid. 23 Hen. VI, No. 9.
  • 64. Ibid. 6 Edw. IV, No. 29.
  • 65. Pat. 6 Edw. IV, pt. 2, m. 2.
  • 66. Chan. Inq. p.m. vol. 13, No. 21.
  • 67. Ibid. vol. 42, No. 97.
  • 68. Feet of F. Div. Cos. Trin. 36 Hen. VIII.
  • 69. Inq. p.m. 6 Edw. VI, pt. 1, No. 5.
  • 70. Chan. Inq. p.m. vol. 170, No. 2.
  • 71. Feet of F. Div. Cos. Mich. 44 & 45 Eliz.
  • 72. Ibid. Hil. 4 Jas. I.
  • 73. Bridges, Hist. of Nortbants, 502–3, quoting Reg. Abbat. St. Jac. fol. 143b–188a, 236b.
  • 74. V.C.H. Northants, ii, 127a.
  • 75. Pat. 4 Jas. I, pt. 21.
  • 76. Urwick, Nonconformity in Herts. 414.