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A History of Brickendon

What a Liberty!

This is an account of the history of the area that is now the civil parish of Brickendon Liberty, Hertfordshire. It is the result of ongoing research based on studies of original papers and published historical accounts, as well as recollections of villagers past and present. Any additions, corrections or comments, however small or large, would be most welcome – see below.

One of the Domesday Book entries for Wormley and Brickendon

The area that has gone by the name of Brickendon has shifted somewhat over the centuries, originally extending to the river Lea in the north and covering parts of what are now Hertford, including West Street, part of Castle Street and All Saints church. What we think of today as the village of Brickendon was previously known as Brickendon Green and even in 2011 there are still a couple of road signs that point to Brickendon Green rather than to Brickendon.

The 1891 census describes the Liberty of Brickendon as comprising: south side of Castle St from house occupied by Mr Webb to Pegg’s Lane, Wallfield House, Wallfield Alley, two cottages in Water Lane, West St, both sides including Somerset Terrace, part of Queen’s Rd, from 15 on east side to 20 on west side, Mrs Twean’s cottage (The Hermitage), Balls Park Lodge, School of Industry, Infant School, and Smith Memorial School, Alms Houses, Mangrove House, Mangrove Hall, The Vicarage, Elmfield House & Lodge, Mangrove Lane, Clements Farm, Haydon’s Farm, Sewards Farm, Fanshaws Farm and Mansion, Wilson’s Farm, The Grange and Farm, Brickendon Green, Well Green, Cock Owlets, Barn Shot Farm, Walker’s Farm, Lea Hoe, Bullock’s Lane, Horns Mill, Horns Mill Public House and Cottages, Brickendonbury House, Farm and Gardens, Dunkirk’s Farm.

There remains to this day a boundary marker between the liberty of Brickendon and the parish of All Saints set in the wall of the offices of Longmores solicitors in Castle Street, Hertford.

The present-day civil parish of Brickendon Liberty has been somewhat cobbled together from the rural portion of the former Liberty of Brickendon and parts of the parishes of St John Hertford, Broxbourne, Hoddesdon and Wormley. A small part of the parish was transferred to Hertford Heath (Little Amwell) parish following a boundary review in 1953, and there was a further redrawing of the boundaries between the two parishes in 1959. In 2003 Brickendon Liberty came under four Church of England parishes and two postal areas, and until April 2000 was served by two different police authorities.

In any event, the parish remains a delightful, relatively peaceful, unspoiled and rural oasis less than twenty miles from the centre of London. Most recently the parish has been the winner of the environment category in the Hertfordshire Village of the Year contest in 2000, Village of the Year East in 2001 and 2005, Small Village of the Year in 2003 and 2004, and winner of the business category in 2006. The parish is now a well-defined area and encompasses the village of Brickendon, the hamlet of Wormley West End, a number of outlying houses and farms, a zoo – sorry, wildlife park – a scout camp and several hundred acres of woodland, including Hertfordshire’s only National Nature Reserve. Unfortunately at the time of writing the peace and tranquillity is under threat from the proposed expansion of both Stansted and Luton airports with the added infrastructure that would be required.

An aerial view of Brickendon Liberty Parish

Part of the parish boundary in the east is formed by the former Roman highway of Ermine Street, which ran from London to York via Lincoln, and parts of which are among the best preserved Roman roads anywhere. A hoard of over 450 Roman denarii, mostly dating from the third century and buried around AD250, was discovered at Brickendonbury during some drainage work there in about 1894/5. Another find of 45 coins, probably from the same hoard, were discovered in about 1919. The ‘Brickendonbury Hoard’ as it was known, together with other old English coins, was stolen from Hertford Museum in 1962 and has never been seen again, although some photographs remain. It has been said that the finds suggest there was a Roman villa on the site of Brickendonbury, but this is unlikely. There were, however, Roman settlements in nearby Cheshunt and at Braughing, and there were Bronze Age sites at Turnford and at Priors Wood near Hertford Heath. There was also a discovery of pieces of Roman pottery at Swallow Grove Farm in 1971. Some texts suggest that the name of Ermine Street comes from the Saxon word herman meaning military. Although there is no evidence to suggest as much it seems quite likely that Boudicca, warrior Queen of the Celtic Iceni peoples of East Anglia, may have passed through the area on her way to or from her burning of Verulamium or London.

Much of any history is about interpretation. It can be all too easy to jump to the wrong conclusion or make an unwarranted assumption, as many traditional history text books will testify. To assume, for instance, that a find of Roman coins means there must have been a Roman villa on the site, or that because the manor was owned by the Abbey of Waltham monks were to be found toiling in the fields around the village. A more likely explanation for the hoard of Roman coins is that they were buried, probably for safe keeping, and the owner never returned to recover them. Other than Monks Green – and even here it is only in the name – there is no evidence either to support or refute the theory that monks lived in the village; the most probable use of the land as far as the Abbey was concerned would have been to let it out for hard currency.

Most of the property in the parish was earlier held as copyhold, a form of tenure somewhere between freehold and leasehold whereby the lord of the manor was the ultimate owner. New owners were entered into the court roll when they purchased or inherited a property and they retained a copy of the entry of the court roll – hence the term copyhold. The lord of the manor’s interest in the property was slight and he received a small annual quitrent and a more substantial entry fine when one tenant sold the property, or died, thus surrendering their tenancy, and a new owner was admitted to the tenancy. Copyhold tenure was abolished in 1922 and any remaining copyhold properties became freehold in 1926.

Although her work is not to everybody’s taste, Brickendon has been immortalised in verse in the late Stevie Smith’s poem Brickendon, Hertfordshire. There is also a watercolour of Brickendon in Hertford Museum by George Augustus Towers, 1803-82, medical resident at Hertford County Hospital and an amateur artist.

The author would like to thank all those who have helped in compiling this history in so many different ways. In particular, staff at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies, Hertford Museum, the Institute of the Motor Industry, the Malaysian Rubber Board, and Waltham Forest Archives and Local Studies Library; past and present villagers; past and present members of Brickendon Grange Golf Club; the editor of the Hertfordshire Mercury; local historians David Dent and the late Eve Sangster, and especially Alan Greening who has been something of a mentor throughout this project. Thanks, too, to all those who continue to get in touch with extra snippets of information or corrections.

Picture credits
Aerial map - Getmapping plc, Brickendon village sign - Graham Irwin, Brickendon Green - David Dent, Brickendon Lane - Hertford Museum, Brickendonbury - Hertford Museum, Brickendon Grange - Hertford Museum, Fanshaws - Constance Demain Saunders, Bourne Orchard - Hertford Museum, Five Horseshoes and Farmers Boy - village hall committee, Chapel - sketch by Barbara Moore, Clements Cottages - David Dent, Wormley West End - David Dent, Coal posts - Brookmans Park Newsletter, Westlea - David Dent, The Woodman - David Dent, Ettridge Farm - David Dent, Pembridge Farm - David Dent, Sewards Farm Cottages - Hertford Museum, Keepers Cottage - Peter Ashley, The Great Bonfire - Constance Demain Saunders, Hertfordshire Volunteers - Constance Demain Saunders, The hunt at Brickendon Grange - Hertford Museum, Inside the Woodman - David Dent and I Harmsworth, Model Cottages - David Dent, Westlea (x4) - David Dent, Manor Farmhouse - David Dent, Walnut Cottage - David Dent, a cottage in WWE - David Dent, Bourne Orchard (x3) - Constance Demain Saunders

A partial bibliography
The Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire, Sir Henry Chauncy, 1700; The History of Hertfordshire, N Salmon, 1728; History and Antiquities of Hertfordshire, Clutterbuck, 1821; History of Hertfordshire, John Edwin Cussans, 1870; The Victoria County History of Hertfordshire, William Page (Ed), 1912; Two unpublished papers by Herbert Caleb Andrews, 1922 and 1923; The Place-names of Hertfordshire, JEB Gover, Allen Mawer and FM Stenson, 1938; The First Hertford Quakers, Dr Violet A Rowe, 1970; JBS - a biography of John Ben Snow, Vernon F Snow, 1974; Historic Landscape and Archaeology Glossary of Terms, Stephen Coleman and John Wood, 1988; Hoddesdon Highlights, Sue Garside, 1988; The Horns Mill Hertford, Rosemary Bennett, 1988; Haunted Hertfordshire - a ghostly gazetteer, Ruth Stratton and Nicholas Connell, 2002; West Street Hertford - the first two thousand years, Eve Sangster, 2003; Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives, Terry Jones and Alan Ereira, 2004; A Topographical Map of Hartford-Shire, A Dury & J Andrews, 1766; Map of the County of Hertford, A Bryant, 1822


Do you have any memories of or information about Brickendon or Wormley West End from the past? Or perhaps some old photos we could scan in and display here? If so, please either complete the feedback form.