Parishes: Thorley

A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.

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'Parishes: Thorley', A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 3, (London, 1912), pp. 373-377. British History Online [accessed 17 June 2024].

. "Parishes: Thorley", in A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 3, (London, 1912) 373-377. British History Online, accessed June 17, 2024,

. "Parishes: Thorley", A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 3, (London, 1912). 373-377. British History Online. Web. 17 June 2024,

In this section


Torlei (xi cent.); Thorleia (xii cent.); Thorley (xiii cent.).

Thorley Hall: West Front

Thorley is a small parish of 1,536 acres adjoining the county of Essex on the east. (fn. 1) The road from Sawbridgeworth to Bishop's Stortford passes through the east of the parish. The parish lies on the London Clay and consists for the most part of agricultural land, the chief crops being wheat, barley and beans. Thorley Wood in the south-east is the only wood of any size. From the road the ground slopes upward towards the west, this higher part lying about 300 ft. above the ordnance datum. On the high ground about three-quarters of a mile from the road are situated Thorley Hall (now a farm-house) and the church of St. James. Thorley Hall stands in a moated inclosure to the east of the church. It is a building of two stories, the older parts of which on the west are timber-framed and plastered. It probably dates from the early part of the 16th century. It now consists of the southern end of the old hall, with a south wing and a projecting staircase in the internal angle. The south wing contains the old parlour; the north end of the hall and probably a north kitchen wing have disappeared. The eastern part of the south wing is modern and the whole of the south front has been encased with brick. The hall was originally open to the roof, part of which remains, but a floor is now inserted under it. The original roof, of which only one queen-post truss remains, has a span of about 25 ft.; the tie-beam, which is 12 in. square, has been cut away between the queen-posts, which stand on coarsely moulded octagonal bases, the profiles of which resemble capitals more than bases. The tie-beam and straining-beam above are supported by curved brackets and the purlins are strutted; the tie-beam with the brackets and wall-pieces under is splayed; the roof is ceiled on the rafters and at the level of the strainingbeam. There is a wide fireplace with ingle seats at the south end of the hall, now the kitchen, and above the tiled roof is a large early 17th-century brick chimney stack of square shafts set diagonally.

The old parlour adjoining the south end of the hall is lined with early 17th-century oak panelling with a fluted frieze. The room above projects about 18 in. on the west; its orginal fireplace, now in a passage, is built up. The external plastering on the west front is in flush-beaded panels decorated with combed work. Close to the house is a large barn of preReformation date; it measures externally about 146 ft. by 33 ft., and is divided into nine bays; there are two large transeptal entrances on the east side. The building is timber-framed and weatherboarded and rests on dwarf walls of thin bricks; the roof is tiled, and the end gables are slightly hipped.

The stocks and whipping-post stand in the churchyard protected by an iron railing. The rectory and school (built in 1875) lie a little to the north-east. Close by are some gabled cottages of two stories with tiled roofs (once forming one house) of about 1600. This is all the village of Thorley there is, if village it can be called. Probably Thorley was originally part of the vill of Sawbridgeworth. (fn. 2) Thorley Street is a hamlet on the main road.

Thorley Place is the residence of Mr. G. S. Streeter, the lord of the manor; Stone Hall, close by, is the residence of Mrs. Clark. Thorley House is the property of Mr. Laurie Frere. On the east of Thorley Street a group of buildings is formed by Twyford House, Twyford Bury, and Twyford Mill. Twyford House is the residence of Mr. Laurie Frere. It came into the Frere family through the marriage of Elizabeth Raper Grant (daughter of William Grant and Elizabeth daughter of William Hale of Twyford Elizabeth daughter of William Hale of Twyford House) with George Frere, who died in 1854. His son Mr. Bartle John Laurie Frere, who died in 1893, was of Twyford House. Twyford Bury is the residence of Mr. T. Cornwell.

No inclosure award has been made for the parish, but there were common fields when the tithe commutation award was made. Thorley Common lay on the north-east of the parish, Limestead Common to the west of Butler's Hall on the south side of the road leading from Thorley Place to that house, Dunnings Common on the north side of the same road, Harris Common to the south-east of Butler's Hall. (fn. 3) Appurtenant to Thorley Hall were lands in some of the Sawbridgeworth common fields adjoining Thorley, (fn. 4) an additional argument in favour of the intimate connexion between the two parishes. Other place-names found in Thorley are the Vineyard, a field north of the road leading from the main road to the church, Further Park near Thorley Houses, the Moors, Church Field west of the churchyard, Mill Field (marking the site of the mill) on the north of the church, Alderbury Pasture opposite the rectory, and Sedgwick, a very large field on the north of Thorley Place. (fn. 5)



The manor of THORLEY was held in the reign of Edward the Confessor by a certain Godid, a 'man' of Asgar the Staller. After the Conquest it was purchased from the king by William Bishop of London, to whom Godid remitted her right. Before 1086, however, it had been acquired by Geoffrey de Mandeville (elsewhere the successor to the lands of Asgar the Staller), and he was holding it at the time of the Domesday Survey, although the Bishop of London was still trying to make good his claim. (fn. 6) The manor was then assessed at 4 hides and had land for eight ploughs, of which four were on the demesne; a mill is mentioned in the extent. (fn. 7) The overlordship descended with the honour of Mandeville.

Pain and Ernald de Thorley were landholders in Thorley at the end of the 12th century, (fn. 8) and were possibly tenants of the manor. Richard de Thorley was defendant in an action of common fishery at Thorley in 1230, (fn. 9) and Arnold son of Richard was holding the manor later in the century. (fn. 10) He conveyed it to William Gerbergh of Yarmouth (Gernemuth), who in 1269 was forcibly ejected by William de Clifford, (fn. 11) who claimed free warren in Thorley in 1275. (fn. 12) About the same time, however, judgement was given for William Gerbergh in an action brought by him against William Clifford. (fn. 13) Shortly afterwards Margery daughter of Arnold de Thorley quitclaimed the manor to William Gerbergh, (fn. 14) whose son Thomas claimed view of frankpledge and assize of bread and ale as liberties pertaining to the manor as part of the honour of Mandeville in 1278. (fn. 15) In 1311 Theobald de Merk, who in 1303 was assessed with Thomas Gerbergh and the Prior of Merton (for whom see below) of a third of a knight's fee in Thorley, conveyed his 'manor of Thorley' to John Gerbergh and his wife Alice. (fn. 16) John was succeeded by Thomas Gerbergh, who died before 1379, when his widow Alice was holding the manor. (fn. 17) She married secondly Stephen Wyvele, (fn. 18) and in 1389 released all right in the manor. (fn. 19) In Hilary term 1389–90 William son of Roger Gerbergh conveyed the manor to Thomas de Pinchbeck and others, (fn. 20) probably for a settlement. A later conveyance to the same in 1393 (fn. 21) seems to have been in trust for John Corbet, who had a grant of free warren in the manor in 1395. (fn. 22) Thomas son of John Corbet granted it in 1414 to Richard Marshall, (fn. 23) evidently in trust for John Leventhorpe, to whom John son of Thomas Pinchbeck remitted his right in 1419. (fn. 24) John Leventhorpe obtained an inspeximus of the grant of free warren in 1438. (fn. 25)

From this date the manor descended in the Leventhorpe family with Shinglehall and Mathams in Sawbridgeworth (q.v.) until 1672, when Sir Thomas Leventhorpe, bart., conveyed it to William Kiffen. (fn. 26) In 1691 William Kiffen, Henry Kiffen, merchant, and Rachel his wife joined in a sale to John Billers, (fn. 27) a haberdasher of London, after whose death in 1712 his son William sold it in 1714 to Moses Raper of London. (fn. 28) Raper died in 1748, (fn. 29) and was succeeded by his brother Matthew, who married Elizabeth sister (or daughter) and heir of Sir William Billers. Matthew died the same year, (fn. 30) and the manor descended to his son Matthew Raper, F.R.S. Raper left no issue, and devised Thorley (by will of 1775) to his brother John, who had married Elizabeth daughter of William Hale of Twyford House in this parish, and who succeeded in 1778. Elizabeth daughter and heir of John Raper married William Grant, M.D., a Scotchman, but died in 1778 before her father, whose heir at his death in 1783 was his grandson John Peter Grant, then an infant. (fn. 31) The latter suffered a recovery in 1805. (fn. 32) His trustees sold the manor in 1810 to Edward Law, first Lord Ellenborough. (fn. 33) It descended to the fourth Lord Ellenborough, who in 1895 sold the manorial rights to Charles Gayton of Much Hadham. In 1906 they were bought by Mr. G.S. Streeter, the present lord of the manor. (fn. 34)

Law, Lord Ellenborough. Ermine a bend engrailed between two cocks gules with three pierced molets or on the bend.

One half-hide in Thorley still remained to the Bishop of London in 1086 after his dispossession of the rest by Geoffrey de Mandeville, and was held of him by a tenant named Roderi. (fn. 35) This is probably the 'manor of Thorley in Stortford' which was held of the Bishop of London in 1294 by Hugh de Birne, who then died seised leaving a brother John. (fn. 36) As there seems to be no further trace of this estate, it was probably afterwards attached to the Bishop of London's manor of Stortford.


MOORHALL was a small estate of the priory of Merton in Thorley. The grantor is unknown, but in 1291 the lands of the Prior of Merton were taxed at £4 7s. 2d. (fn. 37) The prior claimed view of frankpledge in 1278, but as he could only show the general charters to his house his claim was not allowed. (fn. 38) In 1535 the 'rent of assize with rents and farms in Morehall in Thorley' held by Merton was assessed at £5 6s. 8d. (fn. 39) The estate was granted as the manor of Morehall to Sir Henry Parker, Lord Morley, in 1544, (fn. 40) who in the same year alienated it to Clement Newce. (fn. 41) It descended with the Newces (fn. 42) (see Berwick in Standon) until as late as 1611, when William Newce died seised of it, (fn. 43) and it appears to be the Morehall held with Tedenhoebury in Sawbridgeworth by the Taylor family in 1779. (fn. 44) It now belongs to Mr. A. N. Gilbey of Swakeleys, Uxbridge.

In 1468 William Wetenhale died seised of a tenement called MAUNDEVILE, consisting of 20 acres of arable, 4 acres of meadow and 6 acres of pasture, held of John Leventhorpe by suit of court. (fn. 45) These from their name were apparently some lands which the Mandevilles had for a time kept in their own hands.

In 1555 the messuage called Maundevile with lands and rent in Thorley was conveyed by George Whetenhall to John Elliot, merchant of London. (fn. 46)


The church of ST. JAMES consists of chancel 31 ft. by 20 ft. 6 in., small north vestry, nave 43 ft. by 23 ft. 6 in., south porch, and west tower 12 ft. 6 in. by 11 ft., all internal dimensions.

The walls are probably of flint rubble and are coated with cement, the dressings are of stone.

The nave and chancel were built in the early part of the 13th century, but the south doorway, of 12th-century work, remains. The chancel arch appears to have been rebuilt in the 14th century and the west tower added early in the following century. In the 19th century the church was repaired and the vestry and south porch were built and all the walls covered with cement.

The three-light east window in the chancel is modern. In the north wall are two 13th-century lancet windows, one of which has been restored, and a doorway of the same period. In the south wall is another 13th-century lancet. There are two other windows with modern tracery. In the same wall is a piscina with cinquefoiled head and moulded jambs, and adjoining it is a triple sedile with ogee-arched heads, moulded and cusped, all under a square moulded label with head stops, and with cusped spandrels; both sedilia and piscina belong to the late 14th century. The 14th-century chancel arch is of two chamfered orders with semi-octagonal responds and moulded capitals and bases.

At the east end of the north nave wall is the doorway to the rood stairs, and above is the doorway formerly giving access to the loft. Of the three windows on each side of the nave the central one is a 13th-century lancet, the others are probably of the 15th century with modern tracery. The south doorway is of 12th-century work and has been much restored; the arch is semicircular of two cheveronmoulded orders, the outer one having a double cheveron; the jambs have twisted shafts with scalloped capitals. In the south wall at the east end is a trefoiled recess, chiefly of cement, which was probably a piscina.

The west tower is of three stages, unbuttressed, and is finished with an embattled parapet and slender wood spire. At the south-east angle is a projecting stair turret which is carried up to the belfry level; the doorway to this stair, which is inside the tower, has a four-centred moulded arch. A filleted roll in the jamb mouldings has a foliated capital supporting an upper member which dies into the arch. The tower arch is of three moulded orders and moulded jambs, the inner members of which have moulded capitals and bases. The west doorway has a twocentred arch with continuous mouldings, under a square moulded label, with head stops. In each spandrel is a quatrefoiled circle containing a shield; the shield on the north is charged with a mitre, that on the south with three leopards. To the south of the doorway is a small plain recessed stoup. The tracery of the three-light west window is modern. On each face of the belfry stage is a two-light window with quatrefoil in the head, nearly all in cement.

The basin of the font is square, and on each side are five shallow round-headed panels; it belongs to the 12th century and stands on a modern base.

Under a window-sill on the south wall of the nave is a brass inscription to John Duke, farmer at Thorley Hall, who died in 1606.

Thorley Church from the South-east

There are three bells: the first inscribed 'John White, James Cramphorn, Churchwardens, 1682'; the second, 'God save the King, 1628' by Robert Oldfeild; the third, by William Wightman, 1682.

The communion plate consists of cup and cover paten, 1562, one paten, 1809, another, 1818, a flagon, 1839, and a pewter flagon.

The registers are in three books, as follows: (i) baptisms, burials and marriages 1539 to 1750; (ii) baptisms and burials 1750 to 1812, marriages 1750 to 1754; (iii) marriages 1754 to 1812.


The church of Thorley was part of the endowment of Walden Abbey, founded by Geoffrey de Mandeville (ob. 1144). (fn. 47) It was appropriated to the office of pittancer for the garments of the monks in 1336. (fn. 48) Apparently before this date the advowson had been acquired by the Bishop of London, (fn. 49) probably in the same way as Sawbridgeworth (fn. 50) (q.v.). If the appropriation ever took place, the living was a rectory in 1535, (fn. 51) from which the Abbot of Walden received a pension of 53s. 4d. This was surrendered to the Crown in 1538 (fn. 52) and granted in the same year to Sir Thomas Audley. (fn. 53) The advowson remained with the see of London until the latter part of the 19th century. The patronage is now vested in the see of St. Albans. (fn. 54)

Francis Burleigh, presented by Queen Elizabeth during a vacancy of the see of London in 1594, was one of the translators of the Authorized Version of the Bible. (fn. 55)

Thomas Turner, who was rector from 1680 to 1689, was in 1688 elected president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where his tenure of office was marked by the erection of Turner's, now called Fellows' Buildings. (fn. 56)


In 1686 Thomas Hoy by his will gave a rent-charge of 6s. per annum to the poor. This sum is received out of a farm called Rumbold's and is applied in bread given to a poor widow.

In 1706 the Rev. Thomas Turner, S.T.P., a former rector, by his will gave a sum of £50 to be laid out in land, the rents and profits to be applied in binding a poor child apprentice to some honest trade. A piece of copyhold land containing about 3 acres situate in the common field called North Field was purchased, which produces £4 yearly, and a child is apprenticed from time to time, a premium of £10 being paid in 1907.

In 1884 Mrs. Georgiana Martha Vander Meulen by declaration of trust gave a sum of £115, the interest to be paid to the rector for the time being for the upkeep of the churchyard. This charity was augmented in 1909 by Admiral F. Vander Meulen by a sum of £100, the two gifts being represented by £244 17s. 11d. 2½ per cent. annuities with the official trustees. The annual dividends, amounting to £6 2s. 8d., are applied in the upkeep of the churchyard.


  • 1. The manor of Thorley lies partly in Essex.
  • 2. They were both held before the Conquest by Asgar the Staller, but Asgar had put a tenant into Thorley. The assessment of 1086 also shows that it was once part of a larger area (see account of hundred).
  • 3. Tithe commutation at Bd. of Agric. (Thorley).
  • 4. Ibid. (Sawbridgeworth).
  • 5. Ibid. (Thorley).
  • 6. V.C.H. Herts. i, 332.
  • 7. Ibid.
  • 8. Rot. Cur. Reg. (Rec. Com.), i, 171.
  • 9. Cal. Close, 1224–31, p. 575.
  • 10. Abbrev. Plac. (Rec. Com.), 188.
  • 11. So deposed before the justices itinerant in 1275 (Hund. R. [Rec. Com.], i, 188).
  • 12. Ibid.
  • 13. Abbrev. Plac. (Rec. Com.), 188. The result of the action is here given with the enrolment of the charter of conveyance.
  • 14. Ibid. 190.
  • 15. Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 277, 288. A certain William de Thorley had half the manor at this date, possibly a life interest in it.
  • 16. Feet of F. Herts. 5 Edw. II, no. 106. Letitia widow of William le Madle was holding one-third in dower.
  • 17. Close, 3 Ric. II, m. 27 d.
  • 18. Ibid. 11 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 21 d.
  • 19. Ibid. 12 Ric. II, m. 8 d.
  • 20. Feet of F. Herts. 13 Ric. II, no. 110.
  • 21. Ibid. 17 Ric. II, no. 151.
  • 22. Chart. R. 18 & 19 Ric. II, m. 14, no. 9.
  • 23. Close, 2 Hen. V, m. 3.
  • 24. Ibid. 7 Hen. V, m. 15 d, 14 d.; see Chan. Misc. bdle. 62, no. 23.
  • 25. Cal. Pat. 1436–41, p. 235.
  • 26. Feet of F. Herts. Mich. 24 Chas. II.
  • 27. Ibid. Mich. 3 Will. and Mary.
  • 28. Salmon, Hist. of Herts. 268.
  • 29. M. I. in church.
  • 30. Ibid.
  • 31. Cussans, Hist. of Herts. Braughing Hund. 100.
  • 32. Recov. R. Trin. 45 Geo. III, rot. 229.
  • 33. Feet of F. Herts. Mich. 51 Geo. III.
  • 34. Information from Rev. J. E. I. Procter.
  • 35. a V.C.H. Herts. i, 308a.
  • 36. b Chan. Inq. p.m. 22 Edw. I, no. 14.
  • 37. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 15.
  • 38. Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 289.
  • 39. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii, 49.
  • 40. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xix (1), 278 (57).
  • 41. Ibid. 610 (116), p. 385.
  • 42. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), clxxxix, 92.
  • 43. Ibid. dxxvii, 99.
  • 44. Feet of F. Div. Co. Hil. 19 Geo. III.
  • 45. Chan. Inq. p.m. 8 Edw. IV, no. 47. He left an infant son William.
  • 46. a Feet of F. Herts. East. 1 & 2 Phil. and Mary.
  • 47. Harl. MS. 3697, fol. 18.
  • 48. Ibid. fol. 244.
  • 49. The Bishop of London presented in 1327 (see Cussans, Hist. of Herts. Braughing Hund. 104).
  • 50. Hurley, the cell to Westminster, had part of the tithes of Thorley (Pope Nich. Tax. [Rec. Com.], 18; see Sawbridgeworth).
  • 51. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 452.
  • 52. Feet of F. Herts. East. 30 Hen. VIII.
  • 53. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (1), 575. It came subsequently to Henry Higham (see Chan. Inq. p.m. [Ser. 2], ccxvii, 105).
  • 54. Information from Rev. J. E. I. Procter, rector; see Sawbridgeworth.
  • 55. Ibid.
  • 56. Dict. Nat. Biog.