Parishes: Northaw

Pages 357-360

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

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Northagh, Northaga, Northauhe (xiii cent.); Northall (xvi cent.).

Northaw is a charming parish of hill, vale, and woodland, on the Middlesex border of Hertfordshire. The general slope of the ground is from west to east, but a ridge of high ground runs into the parish from the west, and from this the ground dips slightly to the north, and about 100 ft. to the south and east. Several small streams rise on the hills, and Cuffley Brook forms part of the eastern boundary.

The parish is well wooded, especially in the north, where is Great Wood, covering many acres. The south of the parish was once open common, which formed part of Enfield Chase, but the land is now all inclosed. There are no main roads within Northaw parish, but it is connected on the west by shady lanes with the Old North Road, and a road through Great Wood leads to Hertford on the north-east.

The nearest station is that at Potters Bar, on the main line of the Great Northern Railway, about three miles south-west. A loop of this line is now being constructed from Enfield to Stevenage, and will pass through the east of the parish.

The church and village stand on the high ridge to the west, and from here beautiful views of the valleys and woods may be obtained. The houses are well built, mostly around a triangular village green near the church. About two miles to the east is the hamlet of Cuffley, which consists of a few cottages, a room used as a school and church, and Wells Farm. This last takes its name from the King's Wells, which are near. In the days of Charles II these wells had a great reputation, and it is said that so many fashionable persons visited them that the king sent down a tent for their accommodation. Not far from here new wells are now being dug to contribute water to the London supply. There are two large houses in the south, standing in their own parks, The Hook, which was bought by Mr. George Roddick in 1906, and Barvin Park, the property and residence of Mr. W. E. Balston.

Entering the parish from Potters Bar, the road turns sharply to the east, and near this bend on the right is Northaw House, a large white house faced with stone, built in 1774, the property of Mr. Henry le Blanc, and the residence of Mr. F. L. Davis. On the other side of the road is Northaw Place, a late seventeenth-century building, the property of the Rev. F. J. Hall, who keeps a preparatory school. In the north-west is Nyn Park, the manor estate, and The Woodlands, the residence of Mr. Charles Armitage. The old house of Nyn Park was pulled down in 1774, and its materials used in building Northaw House. Northaw covers an area of some 3,295 acres, of which 1,818 acres are permanent grass, 234 acres arable land, while 691¾ are woodland. (fn. 1)

The soil is clay mixed with gravel, and the subsoil London clay and Woolwich and Reading Beds. There are chalk-pits in the neighbourhood, and also disused gravel-pits and quarries. The people are agricultural, crops of wheat, beans, and roots are raised, and a large supply of milk is sent up to London daily.

King James' Fund (fn. 2) attracts people to the village, and cottages are difficult to obtain.


In the eleventh century St. Albans Abbey possessed a wood called North Haga, (fn. 3) which probably extended over the greater part of the parish, and is said to have had a circumference of 7 miles as late as 1556. (fn. 4)

During the eleventh century the title to the possession of this wood was keenly disputed by Robert de Valognes, who claimed it as heir to his brother Peter, tenant of it at his death. But though Peter and his father and grandfather had each in succession owned the property, they had only a life interest, granted by the abbots, and Abbot Robert de Gorham had extracted a confession from Peter that he had no hereditary claim. His brother Robert, however, was unwilling to give up such a valuable possession, so when he failed to obtain possession from the abbot he appealed to the king. Henry II gave orders to Robert earl of Leicester to settle the dispute, and the suit eventually went in favour of St. Albans. (fn. 5)

After Robert's death, however, Robert Fitz Walter and Gunnora his wife renewed the quarrel, claiming the wood as the right of Gunnora, who was daughter and heir of Robert de Valognes. (fn. 6) In 1200 this fresh suit was amicably settled, and the wood adjudged to the abbot, who in return surrendered all his land of Bishopscote to be held by the demandants at a rent and for homage, and also paid them 80 marks. (fn. 7)

Northaw was 'the desert' frequented by the twelfth-century hermit Sigar, described as strenuous in his subjection of the flesh, and a mighty foe of demons, who walked nightly to St. Albans, and by the potency of his prayers procured the banishment from the neighbourhood of the nightingales, which disturbed his devotions. (fn. 8) The effect of Sigar's prayers has now ceased, and many nightingales frequent the district.

Dudley. Or a lion vert with a forked tail.

Russell. Argent a lion gules and a chief sable with three scallops argent therein.

Mention is made of a manor of NORTHAW, which was let early in the fourteenth century by Abbot Hugh (1308–26) for six years for £60. (fn. 9) St. Albans monastery held this manor up to the dissolution (fn. 10) of the abbey in 1539, when it came to the king, and was granted by him in February, 1539–40, to William Cavendish and to Margaret his wife. (fn. 11) About twelve years later Cavendish resold the manor to the crown. (fn. 12) The site of the manor was subsequently leased to William earl of Pembroke for forty years, (fn. 13) and in 1576 the entire estate was granted to Ambrose Dudley, earl of Warwick, (fn. 14) third son of John duke of Northumberland, who had been restored to the honours which he had forfeited by his support of his cousin Lady Jane Grey. Dudley died in 1589, and his wife Anne, daughter of Francis Lord Russell earl of Bedford, continued to hold the manor until her death in February, 1603–4, when it passed in virtue of a previous settlement to her brother William Lord Russell of Thornhaugh and his heirs male. (fn. 15) Five years later this Lord Russell of Thornhaugh, together with his son Sir Francis and Katherine his wife, made a conveyance of the manor, evidently for the purpose of settlement only. (fn. 16) It is recorded that in the same year Robert Ratcliffe, fifth earl of Sussex, recovered the property from Edward Alford; William Lord Russell and Sir Francis Russell being vouchees. (fn. 17) And as in 1619 Francis Lord Russell was still holder (fn. 18) of Northaw, Robert Ratcliffe was most likely only acting as trustee.

In 1632 the manor passed by sale from Francis earl of Bedford and his wife into the hands of William Leman, (fn. 19) woollen draper of London, and afterwards to his son William, who was created baronet in 1664–5, and owned the manor up to 1708. (fn. 20) His son Mansell dying in his father's life-time, the property passed to his grandson Sir William Leman, third baronet. (fn. 21)

Leman Of Northaw, bart. Azure a fesse between three dolphins argent.

Sir William Leman married Anna Margherita Brett, but died without heirs in 1744. The estate passed to his cousin Richard Alie, (fn. 22) who afterwards added the name of Leman. (fn. 23) He, dying in 1749, left the manor to his sister Lucy, who died without heirs and gave the property by her will to John Granger on condition of his taking the name and arms of Leman. This John Leman died in 1781, leaving the manor to William Strode, who married Leman's widow. After her death he married as a second wife Mary Brouncker. (fn. 24) After the death of William Strode in 1809, (fn. 25) the manor was bought in 1810 by Patrick Thompson, who mortgaged the estate to the Rev. Dr. Trenchard. The latter took possession on the death of Mr. Thompson.

Kidston. Sable three salmon set fesswise and rising with a chief or and therein three goats' heads razed sable all in a border argent.

Dr. Trenchard left the property to his son the Rev. John Trenchard Craven Ashfordby Trenchard, (fn. 26) and he was succeeded by his son John Ashfordby Trenchard, who in 1876 sold the manor and 450 acres and the advowson to Mr. John Pearson Kidston. (fn. 27) Mr. Kidston died in 1894, leaving a widow, who is now the 'lady of the manor of Northaw, Nyn, and Cuffley.' There are no manorial courts held now. (fn. 28) The present manor-house is a good red brick and tiled building near the site of the old one, the foundations of which are visible. It stands in a beautiful park which contains fine trees and a large piece of water and borders on Great Wood.

The manor of CUFFLEY (Coffele, xiii cent.) belonged in the fifteenth century to the office of almoner of St. Albans. (fn. 29) In 1540 it was granted to William Cavendish with the manor of Northaw, (fn. 30) and some few years later the manor-house was called 'Aviners.' (fn. 31) Beyond these few records there seems to be no actual mention of a manor in Cuffley, but lands there are referred to as being held by the lord of the manor of Northaw, (fn. 32) from which it may be concluded that the two manors were merged into one.

In the middle of the sixteenth century the manor of NYN was held with those of Northaw and Cuffley, (fn. 33) and since there appears to be no other mention of Nyn, presumably it has been held since the Dissolution with the other two manors.

There is a record of the existence of a mill in the thirteenth century, (fn. 34) but no trace of it is left now.

William Haines, the engraver (1778–1848) and painter, studied engraving with Thew at Northaw. He worked later with Scrivener on the BoydellShakespeare plates.

William Lewin, a Latin scholar, public orator at Cambridge, and judge of the Prerogative Court at Canterbury, was son of Edmund Lewin of Cuffley. He died at the end of the sixteenth century. (fn. 35)


The church of ST. THOMAS THE MARTYR has been entirely rebuilt, and no vestige of the former building remains except the fifteenth-century octagonal font, which is set in the churchyard near the south door of the nave. It has on its bowl floral patterns alternating with shields bearing a plain St. George's cross. The new church consists of chancel with north vestry and north chapel, and south organ chamber, nave of five bays with aisles and south porch, and a tower over the west bay of the south aisle.

References to the old church occur in the St. Albans wills as follows: a bequest to the fabric in 1416, giving the dedication as St. Thomas the Martyr; (fn. 36) to mending the chapel, 1434; to the altar of our Lady and the beam of the great Rood, 1453; to the lights of the Rood, the Holy Sepulchre, and our Lady, 1477; and a burial 'in the steple of Northehawe' in 1498. (fn. 37)

There are six bells.

The plate consists of a silver-gilt cup and cover paten of 1636, like that at East Barnet, and given by Mr. Thomas Hodges, a paten of 1668, with the date 1727 engraved on it, a second paten of 1785, given in that year by Mrs. Elizabeth Strode, and a flagon of 1749, given in 1750 by Mrs. Lucie Alie.

There are seven volumes of parish registers, containing entries from 1564 to 1812. These books were all much damaged in 1881, when the church was destroyed by fire. The writing on some of the leaves is scarcely legible. (fn. 38)


Northaw was a chapelry of St. Peter's in St. Albans (fn. 39) till the middle of the sixteenth century, (fn. 40) and all tithes and oblations were held by the sacristan of the monastery of St. Albans in the fourteenth century, and were leased to the chaplain for the yearly rent of 110s., with obligation to do necessary repairs to the houses. (fn. 41) These leases made the chaplain answerable to the ordinary of the vicar of St. Peter's (fn. 42) In 1540 a grant was made to William Cavendish which included the 'rectory and church or chapel of Northawe and advowson of the vicarage and parish church or chapel of Northawe,' (fn. 43) from which it would seem that the chapel was about this time being transformed into a parish church. From this date the church has followed the descent of the manor to the present day.

In 1708 Sir William Leman added a chapel to the church. (fn. 44)

No record exists of there ever having been a dissenting chapel in this place, but Nonconformity existed there in 1685. (fn. 45)


The charity formerly known as King James the First's Fund. In 1618 about 20 acres known as Totteridge Close, and great and little Gibbfields, and cottages near the Woolpack Inn, Barnet, were purchased with money given by the king as a consideration for having inclosed Northaw Common to enlarge Theobald's Park, the rents and profits to be applied for the common good and advantage of the inhabitants of Northaw. The greater part of the real estate has from time to time been sold, and that now left to the charity consists of premises in the High Street and Victoria Lane, Barnet, and garden ground in the rear let at £78 a year. The personal estate consists of £9,283 11s. 8d. India 3 per cent. stock held by the Official Trustees of Charitable Funds, representing the reinvestment in 1902 of sale moneys producing in annual dividends £278 10s. making the total gross income of the charity £356. By an order made on 24 April, 1896, under the Local Government Act, 1894, it was directed that one fourth part of the net income should be apportioned as the endowment of an Ecclesiastical Charity to be called the Church Estate, the vicar and churchwardens to be the trustees, and the remainder to be called the Town Estate, the trustees to be the governing body constituted under the scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 15 April, 1865. The onefourth part is applied for purposes connected with the church, including salary of the organist; from the three fourth parts about £80 was in 1905 applied to the Northaw and Cuffley schools, and about £140 in making good dilapidations to the Barnet property.

In 1620 Richard Coulter by his will left £60 to be laid out in land, and directed that out of the rents 10s. should be paid to the minister of the parish church to preach a funeral sermon on the first Sunday in Lent yearly for ever, the residue to be distributed on the same day to twelve of the most aged poor people dwelling within the parish.

A field in Chipping Barnet containing 1 a. 2 r. 2 p. called the Home Close, was purchased with the legacy. It is let at £10 a year. The official trustees also hold £144 18s. 3d. consols, in trust for this charity. The annual sum of 10s. is paid to the minister, and the balance given in money among twelve aged poor.

In 1671 Mrs. Rachel Bradgate, who died 12 July, 1687, by her will left £50 to be put out to the best profit, income to be applied as to 10s. for a sermon to be preached in the parish church on the day she should happen to die, the residue to be distributed amongst the poor on the same day. Land at Cheshunt containing 4 a. 2 r. 11 p., called the Osier Close, was purchased with the legacy.

In 1686 Babington Staveley, a merchant tailor of London, by his will gave £50 to be laid out in land, the rents to be divided among the poor at Christmastime yearly for ever, with a trust over in case of default for the poor of St. Albans, Wood Street, London. The legacy was laid out in the purchase of land at Cheshunt known as the 'two-acre piece,' containing 3 a. or. 35 p., adjoining the land purchased with Mrs. Bradgate's legacy.

Under the Cheshunt Inclosure Act, 3 r. 17 p. were awarded in respect of the two properties. The two charities are administered jointly, the lands being let at £8 15s. a year. The official trustees hold two sums of £22 5s. 9d. India 3 per cent. stock, each in trust for the respective charities. The income of the two charities, after payment of 10s. for the sermon, is divided among twenty to twenty-five poor persons. The three above-mentioned charities were likewise included in the scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 15 April, 1865, above referred to.

The Countess of Warwick's Charity.

—The parish was formerly entitled to nominate two poor widows to the almshouses at Chenies, county Bucks. By a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 7 December, 1886 (supplemented by a scheme of 16 February, 1894), a yearly sum of £20 issuing out of the manor of Northaw, and certain lands in the county of Hertford belonging to Mrs. John Pearson Kidston, is divided between two pensioners, who, among other qualifications, are required to have been bonafide residents in the parish of Northaw for not less than three years next preceding the time of their appointment.

The 'Kidston Institute' was founded by Mrs. Janet Maitland Bruce Kidston by deeds dated in 1902 and 1903 (confirmed by deed of 15 October, 1904) as a reading room or club, subject to certain rules and regulations. The same donor, by deed dated 25 March, 1903, gave a sum of £1,000 to be invested, and the income to be applied for the benefit and upkeep of the said institute so long as it should exist, or in the event of failure the principal and interest to be transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in trust for the benefice of Northaw. The sum of £1,000 was invested in the purchase of £998 14s. New South Wales 3½ per cent. inscribed stock (1918) in the corporate name of the Official Trustees of Charitable Funds.


  • 1. Bd. of Agric. Returns, 1905.
  • 2. See post, under 'Charities.'
  • 3. Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), i, 63.
  • 4. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. 391, fol. 18d.
  • 5. Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), i, 159– 66.
  • 6. Pipe R. 2 John, m. 3d. A full account of this dispute between the de Valognes and the abbey is given by Chauncy and borne out by the Gesta.
  • 7. Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), i, 220; Abbrev. Plac. (Rec. Com.), 27b and 30.
  • 8. Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), i, 105.
  • 9. Ibid. ii, 180.
  • 10. Mins. Accts. 32–3 Hen. VIII, No. 71, m. 28.
  • 11. Pat. 31 Hen. VIII, pt. 2, m. 25.
  • 12. Pat. 6 Edw. VI, pt. 4, m. 15.
  • 13. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. 391, fol. 8d.; 3 & 4 Phil. and Mary.
  • 14. Pat. 18 Eliz. pt. 14, m. 18.
  • 15. Inq. p.m. 2 Jas. I, pt. 2 (Ser. 2), vol. 286, No. 184.
  • 16. Feet of F. Herts. East. 7 Jas. I.
  • 17. Harl. MS. 75, fol. 5.
  • 18. Feet of F. Div. Cos. Mich. 17 Jas. I.
  • 19. Com. Pleas Recov. R. Mich. 8 Chas. J, m. 3.
  • 20. Feet of F. Herts. East. 7 Anne.
  • 21. Feet of F. Herts. East. 7 Anne.
  • 22. Wotton, Engl. Baron. iii, 460; Dict. Nat. Biog. ix.
  • 23. Recov. R. Trin. 17 & 18 Geo. II, rot. 287; ibid. East. 19 Geo. II, rot. 273.
  • 24. Burke, Commoners, iv, 404.
  • 25. Cussans, Hist. of Herts. Cashio Hundred, 12; Clutterbuck, Herts. ii, 414.
  • 26. Burke, Landed Gentry, 2.
  • 27. Information given by Mr. J. Ashfordby Trenchard.
  • 28. Information given by Mrs. Kidston, 1906.
  • 29. Cott. MSS. Nero, D. 7.
  • 30. Pat. 31 Hen. VIII, pt. 2, m. 25.
  • 31. Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. 3 & 4 Phil. and Mary.
  • 32. Feet of F. and Recov. R. 8 Chas. I.
  • 33. Mins. Accts. 32–3 Hen. VIII, No. 71, m. 28.
  • 34. Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), i, 478.
  • 35. a Dict. Nat. Biog.
  • 36. Wills, Archd. of St. Albans, Stoneham, 5d.
  • 37. Ibid. 23d. 68; Wallingford 29, 91d. 136d.
  • 38. Midd. and Herts. N. and Q. iii, 181.
  • 39. Pope Nich. Tax. 37b.
  • 40. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 451b; Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. 391, fol. 18d.
  • 41. Cott. MS. Julius, D. 3, fol. 84b, 85.
  • 42. Ibid. fol. 86.
  • 43. Pat. 31 Hen. VIII, pt. 2, m. 25.
  • 44. Wotton, Engl. Baron. iii, 460.
  • 45. Urwick, Nonconformity in Herts. 288.