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A History of Brickendon

Brickendon Village

The name Brickendon probably came from a Saxon by the name of Bricca, who made claim to a hill site – well, more of a hillock really – the word don meaning a down or hill; thus, Bricca’s hill. However, nothing is known of Bricca or his people. Throughout the ages the name has been spelled variously as Brikandun, Brycandune, Brikendune, Brikendone, Brikendon, Brekyndon, Brygyndon, Brykyngton, etc. In the Domesday Book of 1086 the name appears as both Brichedone and Brichendone – so it would appear the ‘typo’ is not a modern phenomenon that arrived with the introduction of typewriters and word processors but has been around at least since the times of monks with quill pens.

Prior to the Norman conquest, much of eastern Hertfordshire was still unspoiled woodland and Brickendon, like much of the surrounding area, was in the possession of the Saxon kings. It may be of interest to note that according to Hertford Museum neighbouring Hertford was one of seven towns in early Saxon times to have had a mint for the manufacture of coins.

There are four entries for Brickendon in the Domesday Book. In Hertford Hundred:

(1) The Canons [of the Holy Cross of Waltham] themselves hold Brickendon. It is assessed at five hides. There is land for eight ploughs. In demesne three and a half hides, and there are two ploughs, a third possible. There nine villagers have four ploughs, a fifth possible. There are nine smallholders, twenty-four cottagers, and two slaves. There is one mill rendering 8s, meadow for two ploughs, pasture for the village livestock, and rendering 2s, and woodland for 200 pigs. The total value is and was 100s; in the time of King Edward (before 1066), £8. This manor belonged and belongs to the Church of the Holy Cross of Waltham.

(2) In Brickendon Walter holds from Geoffrey [de Mandeville] one virgate. There is land for half a plough, and it is there, with one cottager. There is woodland for 40 pigs. It is and was worth 5s; in the time of King Edward, 10s. Oswy, a man of Asgar the staller (or constable), held this land and could sell.

(3) In Brickendon Isambard holds from Geoffrey [de Bec] five virgates as one manor. There is land for one plough, and it is there. There is meadow for one plough, woodland for 40 pigs. It is and was worth 10s; in the time of King Edward, 40s. Leofrun, a man of Archbishop Stigand, held this land and could sell.

(4) Baldwin, a certain sergeant of the king, holds three virgates in Brickendon. There is land for one plough, and it is there. There is woodland for 40 pigs. This land is and was worth 10s; in the time of King Edward, 15s. Three brothers held this land and could sell.

The first entry clearly refers to the estate of Brickendonbury; the others, however, being much smaller areas, are rather more difficult to place, and in any case it is not possible to know precisely what area was considered to be Brickendon in Domesday times. Two of the entries may well be for Bourne Orchard and Monks Green as these did not form part of the Brickendonbury estate. The Victoria County History suggests that the third entry is the same as the quarter of a knight’s fee held by Alice Countess of Kent, who died in 1415/16, and that the fourth entry is identical with the one carucate which Miles de Somery, who died circa 1229, held by serjeanty – a form of tenure whereby the land was held in return for special services – at the king’s storehouse and was later held by Richard Monchensay in 1353.

A hide was an area of land, rated for tax purposes rather than as an accurate measure of the area of the land. It was the amount of land that could support a family, roughly equivalent to 120 acres; a virgate was a quarter of a hide (about 30 acres); a ‘customary’ acre was the amount of land that could be ploughed by a yoke of oxen in a day, but again in Domesday times it was not an accurate measurement. A Hundred was an administrative division of a shire or county, originally believed to have been roughly a hundred hides or a hundred families.

From medieval times until quite recently, measurements of the area of fields were given in acres, roods and perches. Just to confuse things a rod, pole or perch was both a measure of length and of area. The acre was standardised by Edward I. So now for the mathematics lesson! 1 (statute) acre is 4840 sq yards, or 1 furlong by 1 chain; 1 rood is ¼ acre, 40 perches, or 1210 sq yards; as a measure of area 1 rod, pole or perch is 5½ yards square (30¼ sq yards); 1 furlong is 10 chains; 1 chain is 22 yards, or 66 feet; as a measure of length 1 rod, pole or perch is 5½ yards. How much more interesting – and confusing – than metric measurements!

Brickendon Green c. 1925 - the western end looking north towards Fanshaws Farm

At first sight much of the village of Brickendon appears to be of fairly recent history. Ordnance Survey maps of 1883 show only Brickendon Grange, Fanshaws (the farm), the Farmer’s Boy, Bentleys, Hacketts, Bourne Farm, Monks Green, Jepps, Dalmonds, Blakefield, Ducketts, Sewards, Owls Hatch, Clements, Brickendonbury, Ettridge Farm and Franksfield Cottages, as well as a number of smaller unnamed buildings. Most of the small terraces of cottages dotted strategically along Brickendon Lane were built as farm-workers’ homes for the Brickendonbury estate at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries; houses around Brickendon Green and in Fanshaws Lane were in the main built during the mid-twentieth century. However, on taking a closer look it becomes apparent that there were several earlier dwellings, often of timber construction and with little or no foundation, that have simply disappeared. But history is not just about buildings; it is also about the people who lived and worked in those buildings. That there must have been a workforce to farm the estates and to service the needs of those who lived in the large houses is without question. They would have needed somewhere to live, however humble or inadequate the accommodation might have been – and it was usually very humble by today’s standards.

For over a century it has been the custom of the parish to plant a tree and an engraved stone to commemorate various notable events. As a result the village green now boasts five commemorative oak trees and six stones. The first, dated 1887, was planted for the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria; the second, dated 9 August 1902, commemorates the accession of Edward VII; the third, 1911, for the accession of King George V; the fourth, in 1937, commemorating the accession of George VI; the fifth, dated June 1977, for the silver jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II; and the sixth, dated June 2002, for the golden jubilee of Elizabeth II. Unfortunately Queen Victoria’s oak was hit by lightning in 1987, a century after it was planted, and had to be felled as a result.

Brickendon Lane in 1902

Kelly’s Directories describe the changes that have occurred in the make-up of the parish over the last century and a bit. The 1895 edition states: Brickendon is a liberty in the parish of All Saints and for civil purpose forms a parish, in the union and county court district of Hertford. The 1910 Directory adds: … under the provisions of the “Local Government Act, 1894,” was formed into two parishes – Urban and Rural, the former being the part included in Hertford municipal borough and the latter that outside of it, the village being 3 miles from Hertford. In 1900 the Urban portion was included in the new constituted civil parish of Hertford. The 1936 edition adds: … on April 1st, 1929, the parishes of Brickendon Rural and St John Rural were united for civil purposes, the new parish being called “Brickendon Liberty.” The Chapel of the Holy Cross and St Alban, Brickendon, is a chapel of ease to the parish church of St Mary, Bayford. And the 1937 edition adds still further: By the County of Hertford Review Order, 1935, part of this civil parish was transferred to the borough of Hertford and by the same Order, part of the parishes of Broxbourne, Hoddesdon Rural and Wormley were added to Brickendon Liberty.

From Saxon times until the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536-40) the manor was granted by successive kings to the canons, and later the monks, of Waltham. A college of secular canons was established at Waltham in about 1060; this was replaced by an Augustinian priory in 1177 which became an abbey in 1184 and was the last of the religious houses to be dissolved. The original charter is believed to be that of 1062, when Brickendon was one of eighteen estates bestowed by Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, and, in 1066, the last of the Anglo-Saxon Kings of England, upon Waltham; the others were Wormley and Hitchin in Hertfordshire, eleven in Essex, Millow and Arlesey in Bedfordshire, Lambeth in Surrey and West Waltham in Berkshire. Edward the Confessor later confirmed these grants.

Between 1174 and 1184 Henry II confirmed the manor on the monks of Waltham, and, perhaps partly as expiation for his role in the murder of archbishop of Canterbury Thomas à Becket in 1170, he created the Liberty of Brickendon. This granted the abbey, amongst other things, ‘freedom from geld [a tax based on the amount of land held] and toll and the forfeiture of criminals’. The abbot had his own prison at Waltham which was known as The Cage; the words gaol and jail in fact come from the Latin cavea – cage. In 1227 the abbot claimed and was granted freedom from tallage, there being no church at Brickendon.

Although Brickendon itself had no church, All Saints church was within the boundary of the Liberty. Robert de Valoignes gave the church of All Saints to the canons of Waltham for the health of himself and that of his wife, Hawine.

At one time the Benedictine monks of Westminster Abbey, who held amongst other lands nearby Great Amwell, laid claim to the manor of Brickendon, even going to the lengths of forging Saxon papers in support of their cause. However, their claim does not appear to have been upheld. But the monks of Westminster were clearly not content just with coveting their brothers’ manor house and had their hearts set firmly on breaking the sixth commandment as well. According to Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives papers of 1447 record that the monks were habitual visitors of a house delightfully named the Maidenhead where certain ladies of the night were known to conduct their ancient and very personal profession. Little wonder then with such fringe benefits that the church was seen as such an attractive alternative to becoming a soldier for a young man seeking a good career.


Brickendonbury house, south front c. 1881

Brickendonbury was originally the manor house and its estate – or the capital messuage – of Brickendon, and until quite recently it would no doubt have been the main focus of activity in Brickendon, most of the development around Brickendon Green – what is now considered to be the village of Brickendon – being of the late-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century.

The Brickendonbury estate essentially comprised the manor house and several farms, each with its own farm manager but under a common ownership. As we shall see Brickendonbury itself has been home to two Lord Mayors of London, a chairman of the East India Company, several Members of Parliament and a mayor of Hertford, and is presently the Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre (TARRC) of the Malaysian Rubber Board, which is named after the second Prime Minister of Malaysia. A brief history of Brickendonbury is given on the TARRC website at

Although there has probably been a house on the site since at least Saxon times, the present mansion is said to date from the 1690s and has been extended and modified several times since then. The present house was probably built by Sir Thomas Clarke (see below) who was also responsible for building Bayley Hall in Hertford. The cellars show some evidence of an earlier house with brickwork that is possibly of the Tudor period. There is a moat on the south and west sides of the house, possibly indicating the earlier existence of some form of fortification, or more likely simply created as a feature of the gardens.

Henry VIII originally granted the manor of Brickendon to George Carlton on 2 December 1542. However, the grant was annulled and Thomas Knighton of Little Bradley, Suffolk, became possessed of the manor together with the advowson of All Saints church – for a consideration. In 1544 Henry VIII granted neighbouring Bayford manor to John Knighton of Aldbury. One account suggests that Thomas was the son of John, but this has not been verified. However, whereas Bayford manor remained in the Knighton family for several generations, Brickendon’s association with the family was somewhat short-lived.

Accounts differ as to who was the next owner. Chauncy states that Edward VII granted Brickendon to John Allen (or Aleyne) for 20s 8d a year. Clutterbuck believes the owner to have been Richard Willis, owner of the neighbouring Balls estate. Cussans gives evidence that the manor of Brickendon was owned by Christopher Allen in 1577. The Herald’s Visitation of Hertfordshire in 1572 gives Samuell Newce, the fifth son of Clement Newce, a mercer of London, ‘of Brickendonbury’ but whether as owner or tenant is unclear. Another report claims that Brickendon was owned by the Kympton family around this period. There is no evidence for the latter claim, and it seems likely that Clutterbuck simply misinterpreted or misread some document that referred to just a part of the estate. Certainly Brickendonbury was owned by the Allen family for a while and the suggestion that John Allen married the widow of Thomas Knighton would seem to fit these accounts.

At any rate, on 3 December 1588 the estate was sold by Edmund Allen of Hatfield, Essex, for £1,000 of lawful British money to Stephen Soame of Little Thurlow, Suffolk – whose mother Anne (d. 1558) is believed to have been a descendant of Thomas Knighton – and William, his son and heir apparent. Stephen Soame, later Sir Stephen, was Lord Mayor of London in 1598; he died in 1619 and was succeeded at Brickendonbury by his son William. On his death in 1655 William left the estate to a second William who was knighted in 1674 and created a baronet in 1684.

In 1682 the manor was sold to Edward Clarke, a successful merchant from Leicestershire, who was knighted in 1689, was Master of the Merchant Taylors Company in 1690/1 and became Lord Mayor of London in 1696. Sir Edward died on 1 September 1703 leaving the estate to his son, Sir Thomas. Sir Thomas Clarke was the Whig Member of Parliament for Hertford on three separate occasions between 1705 and 1741 and was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Hertfordshire in 1706 and 1727; he was knighted by Queen Anne in 1706. A gentleman of the same name was mayor of Hertford in 1732; however there is some doubt that it is the same person.

On his death in 1754 Sir Thomas left Brickendonbury to his niece, Jane, whose husband, Thomas Morgan of Ruperra, Co Glamorgan, is said to have been descended from Henry Morgan, pirate of the Caribbean. Jane left the estate to her youngest son, John, who left half a share in the estate to his sister, Jane, who had married Charles Gould, Judge Advocate General and Judge Marshall to HM Forces; Gould changed his name to Morgan upon his wife’s inheritance. It says something for the social status of Charles Gould Morgan that he had his portrait painted by Gainsborough. The other half share was left to representatives of his aunt, Anne Freke. At this point the ownership becomes a little confused as each moiety was further divided. The Morgans were responsible for some of the extensions to the house and for planting what was once a fine avenue of lime trees (some reports mistakenly say they are chestnuts) leading to Hertford known as Morgans Walk. The last Morgan to have lived at Brickendonbury was George Gould Morgan, who died there in 1845.

In the early years of the nineteenth century William Dent was living at Brickendonbury, presumably as a tenant of the Morgans. Diarist John Carrington records his visit to Brickendonbury on 26 June 1808: after Diner To Esqr. Dents, Brickendon Bury, was made welcome and the Esqr & Mrs Dent showed me all about his Gardens and wanted me to Dine with them in the Parlor, I was made welcome by the Buttler & Housekeepr.

In 1846 the Rev Edward Freke Lewis, John Lewis Baldwyn, Thomas Henry Morgan, Eliza Morgan and Rose Morgan were joint lords and ladies of the manor. For a number of years the Morgan family leased out the estate to a series of tenants, the most notable being Russell Ellice who is described as a citizen and mercer of London. He was made a director of the East India Company in 1831 and became chairman of the company in 1853. Russell Ellice died at Brickendonbury on 15 September 1873 and his widow, Harriett, continued to live there for a while after her husband’s death.

In December 1881 Brickendonbury was sold to Henry Edwards Paine and Richard Brettell, solicitors of Chertsey, Surrey. The vendors at this time were Charles Edward Lewis, Frances Lewis, Thomas Freke Lewis, Thomas Henry Morgan, Selina Rose Catherine Marsh-Lushington Tilson and Edward Motman. Messrs Paine and Edwards appear to have been little more than nineteenth-century asset-strippers as the estate was back on the market again within just a few months, although most of the estate did not sell at this time. Over the next few years the estate was sold off as a number of separate lots. The house itself lay empty for a while until it was purchased by Charles Grey Hill, a Nottinghamshire lace maker, who apparently carried out extensive restorations in 1885-6, although one report states that he died before taking up residence.

HE Paine retained the lordship of the manor when the rest of the estate was sold off, even though it was remarked in a solicitor’s letter at the time that, ‘there is practically nothing left beyond the honour and glory attaching to the lordship of the manor’. The last known lord of the manor was WA Foyle of Charing Cross Road, London – William Albert Westropp Foyle (1885-1963), the founder, with his brother Gilbert, of the bookshop that carries their name – who purchased the lordship from John L Beaumont at auction on 7 December 1955 for the sum of £500. WA Foyle sold many of the manorial papers to Hertfordshire Archives in 1956 but what happened to the lordship itself is a mystery.

A sale plan for the Brickendonbury estate of 1881 shows that it covered almost the entire area from Bullocks Lane (now in Hertford) to Brickendon Green, including Fanshaws and Bentleys Farms, but excluding Brickendon Grange – owned by the Rev Benjamin Cherry – and parcels of land owned by Henry Wilson Demain Saunders, Miss Gutteridge, Mr Andrews, The Marquess Townshend and Mr Harrison. Sale particulars for the estate in 1893 show that it had been reduced to just Dunkirks, Clements, Sewards and Blackfields.

George Pearson, head of the civil engineering firm S Pearson & Sons, then purchased Brickendonbury from CG Hill for the sum of £30,000. Pearson sold off Queens Road and Queens Hill as building land in 1894 and he died in 1899, just six years after purchasing the estate, leaving it in the hands of his son, Edward, later Sir Edward. More details about the Pearsons are given in Families of Brickendon. In 1898 Louis Lombard composed a piece of music entitled Brickendonbury March arranged both for piano and military band and dedicated ‘to my friend George Pearson, Esquire’. A delightful rendition of the march has been produced by Terry Cain. Play the Brickendonbury March (this is a 105kb download which will open in a new window to enable you to continue reading the history while it plays).

Despite the alterations made to the house by Charles Grey Hill less than a decade earlier Brickendonbury appears to have been rather neglected and the Pearsons set about making a number of improvements to the estate, including adding an extra storey to the mansion and a Jacobean-style banqueting hall. They also built Thrift Cottages, Clements Cottages, Owls Hatch Cottages and Sewards Cottages between about 1897 and 1913 as homes for workers on the various farms. Thrift Cottages were built opposite a field named Round Thrift, whilst Owls Hatch replaced a pair of timber cottages known as Cock Owlets built opposite a field of the same name, and Sewards New Cottages replaced a terrace of cottages known as Paradise Row (see Lost Brickendon and WWE). Quite likely there were other timber cottages that were replaced or simply disappeared. An inscription was found in one of the Owls Hatch Cottages which read: Fred Jackson, estate carpenter, 6 Jan 1898.

The Peasons also built a fire station at Brickendonbury with a horse-drawn fire engine, which was still there in the early 1960s, and a dairy. The dairy is said to have been an exact replica of that at Sandringham, the Queen’s Norfolk residence. Following the death of Sir Edward Pearson his widow converted the dairy into a chapel in his memory.

Sir Edward’s gardener, R Smith, was a renowned fruit grower and the gardens at Brickendonbury were featured, together with those of Brickendon Grange and Fanshaws, in the 4 December 1909 edition of The Gardeners’ Magazine which describes Brickendonbury as enjoying ‘considerable fame for the extent, beauty, and high keeping of its gardens’. The gardens included a sunken geometric flower garden, a Dutch garden – which the article seems to suggest was by that time somewhat out of fashion – a rambling rose garden and a walled fruit garden.

Following the death of Sir Edward in 1925, his widow Lady Susannah continued to live at Brickendonbury for some years. In 1933 the house became the home of Stratton Park School. However, Brickendonbury was once again sold in about 1940, the new owner being Ernest Gocher, a retired, unmarried butcher from Hoddesdon, later of Roydon, Essex. Unfortunately he was unable to take up residence as the estate was requisitioned by the government for the war effort. It has been suggested that Lady Pearson herself had ensured that the government was aware that the house was available.

Now it Can be Told

During the Second World War, Brickendonbury was used as a school for training special agents in the craft of industrial sabotage as STS 17 (also Station XVII) of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), European Theatre of War. It was initially used by the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) but following the formation of SOE in July 1940, SOE took over the house and grounds. Industrial sabotage was taught by George Rheam, who has been described as the founder of modern industrial sabotage. He taught his students how to look at a factory in a new light, identify the essential equipment within and disable the factory with a few small, well-placed explosives. Amongst other operations, the destruction in 1943 of the Norsk-Hydro heavy water plant – an essential part of Hitler’s nuclear weapons programme – is said to have been undertaken from here. It is also said that the French courier Odette Sansom, who is probably most famous for the film named after her and who was awarded George Cross, received part of her training at Brickendonbury. It is claimed that a public information film entitled Now It Can Be Told was partly shot at Brickendonbury towards the end of the war and that a 1980s documentary The Secret War showed archive footage from the estate.

After the war the house was used as offices by the War Agricultural Executive (the War Ag), the National Agricultural Advisory Service and the county council’s highways department. It was purchased by the Malaysian Rubber Producers’ Research Association in 1971. Just before that, in 1970, Brickendonbury was used in the filming of the children’s TV series Catweazle, Catweazle’s home being a disused railway station, named Duck Halt, constructed in outhouses on the estate.

Stewards of the estate have included Bostock Toller, Henry Thorowgood, Benjamin Rooke, William Crowdy, Philip Longmore, Matthew Skinner Longmore, Thomas Joseph Sworder and Joseph Beaumont. Courts of the manor were held from an early date at the Black Swan, otherwise known as Pimblico or Pimlico, in West Street. Apparently the junction of West Street and Castle Street, despite being little more than a slight incline, was at one time known as Pimlico Hill; the word pimlico means a friar or other member of a religious order.

The Home Farm of Brickendonbury comprised the following fields: Long Heathersay & Cock Owletts, Great Heathersay, The Lights in Thrift Wood (2 fields), Great Thrift, Round Thrift, Clay Shot, Clay Field, The Warren, Clay Mead, Barn Shot, Long Thrift, Pightle, Brown’s Piece & Knight Leys and Batt’s Field. At the 1851 census Jane Ann Phillips, widow, and her partner James Forder were at Brickendonbury Farm; they were farming 246½ acres and employed six men. Barn Shot was then occupied by William Parcell, an agricultural labourer, his wife and son. At the 1881 census James Draper, farm servant, and his family were living at Barn Shot Farm.