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A History of Brickendon

Shades of St John

As observed earlier, the parish of Brickendon Liberty was formed in 1929 by the amalgamation of the civil parishes of Brickendon Rural and St John Rural. The parish of St John was originally part of the manor of Hertford Priory and, like Brickendon, the urban part of the former parish has been incorporated into Hertford. Whilst it is not intended to give a detailed history of Hertford Priory here, a potted history is certainly warranted.

Hertford Priory was founded in about 1087 (or 1095, accounts differ) by Ralph de Limesy, a nephew of William the Conqueror, as a Benedictine priory dedicated to St Mary, a cell (or daughter house) of St Albans Abbey. By all accounts the finances of the house declined and by early in the fourteenth century it was in debt; to make matters worse in 1461 the Prior helped himself to £50, which the priory could ill afford. The priory church, with a nave 87 feet long, was the third largest in the country and was situated where the flats in Mitre Court now stand. On the Dissolution the priory was closed and in about 1538 the estate passed to Sir Anthony Denny, a Privy Councillor to King Henry VIII, and later to his son Sir Edward. The priory church was demolished on the direction of the Bishop of Lincoln and was replaced by a small church dedicated to St John. However, the church and parish of St John was shortlived and the parish was amalgamated with that of All Saints in 1640 and St John’s church was demolished in 1670.

According to Letters Patent held at Glasgow University, Sir Edward Denny sold the estate to Martin Stott in 1587, although he appears to have sold it before then to Thomas Docwra but without licence from the Queen so presumably that sale was annulled. In 1617 Richard Willis purchased the estate along with the adjoining Balls estate, and in 1637 his son and heir, Thomas, sold the estate to John Harrison who in about 1640 built the manor house at Balls Park that still stands largely unaltered. Both estates remained in the Harrison family for several generations until passing by marriage to Charles, 3rd Viscount Townshend, one time Member of Parliament for Great Yarmouth and Lord of the Bed Chamber and later Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk and Master of the Jewel Office.

The parish of St John Rural was sparsely populated and included Jenningsbury, Foxholes Farm, Mangrove Lane, Monks Green and Bourne Orchard. Part of the area has since been transferred to Hertford Heath parish.

Bourne Orchard

Bourne Orchard in 1905 (more photographs of Bourne Orchard in more pictures)

Bourne Orchard is a listed building probably of the sixteenth or early seventeenth century and was extended at the beginning of the twentieth century. The name, originally Le Bourne, suggests that a stream or brook used to run by the property, of which there no longer remains any clear evidence.

A copy of the Court Roll of the Manor of Hertford Priory shows that in October 1722 John Wittingbury of Bramfield, his wife Elizabeth and daughter Sara were admitted as tenants of the Bourne with the Shippie Fields and the Mead, about 10 acres, on its surrender by Robert Nicholson. It had previously been in the tenure of Thomas Tharpe. The annual rent was 4s. The name Wittenbury appears quite frequently in the diary of John Carrington of Bramfield; although not certain it seems quite likely that they would have been somehow related to John Whittingbury of Bourne Orchard.

In 1883 Henry Wilson Demain Saunders, who at the time was living in Brickendon Grange, purchased the Bourne Farm from Frederic Neal. Frederic Neal had purchased the farm from Catherine and Fanny Gutteridge in 1877. It was formerly in the occupation – whether as owners or tenants is not clear – of Thomas Gutteridge (presumably the father of Catherine and Fanny); before that Thomas Simson, Susannah Simson, Samuel Andrews, Edward Crawley, James Harrison and Henry Giddens. Edward Crawley was admitted tenant on 13 May 1876 on the surrender of Robert Shuttleworth Gregson.

Sale details in 1883 list the farm as comprising the Homestead, Orchard, Home Meadow, Upper Meadow, Little Field, Long Field, Wood Field and Occupation Road, a total of just 12 acres 3 roods 6 perches – a rather small farm even for those days. Occupation Road seems to have been no more than a track leading to Bourne Wood; however, rather than being a name for the track the term ‘occupation road’ indicates that there were certain rights of access. On the death of HWDS Bourne Orchard went to his widow, Minnie Kingsley, who remarried, and thence to their daughter, Constance. For some time the farm was rented out and in 1889 a number of fields from Hacketts Farm and one from the Fanshaws estate were added to those of Bourne Farm.

Between about 1889 and 1896 Bourne Farm was let to John Allen Hunt, a builder of Hoddesdon, and Isaac Cavill was his farm bailiff. Minnie Kingsley, her husband and daughter lived there between about 1897 and 1901 and again from 1904 until about 1932; in 1904 J L Hunter was living there.

A new dining room was added in April 1908 panelled with Brickendon oak. On at least two occasions, 28 July 1889 and 5 August 1911, the Band of the Royal Regiment of Artillery played a concert at Bourne Orchard.

In 1933 Bourne Orchard was home to Major Weston Cracroft-Amcotts, presumably a descendent of a gentlemen of the same name (1815-83) and perhaps the same person who, having received a knighthood, was Chairman of Lindsey County Council in 1960.

Constance Demain Saunders sold Bourne Orchard in about 1935 when it became home to Leslie Arthur Boosey of Boosey & Hawkes, the musical instrument manufacturers and music publishers, and his family. He was chairman of Boosey & Co when in 1930 it merged with Hawkes & Co. Leslie Boosey served as chairman of the parish council, churchwarden, rural district councillor and during the Second World War as Chief Air Raid Warden. In 1973 Mr Boosey sold Bourne Orchard to Alastair Eadie who remained there until 2003. Leslie Boosey died in September 1979, aged 92, and there is a small altar cross in the chapel inscribed in his name and that of his wife, Ethel Torfrida (b. 1899, d. 1999).

Monks Green

It is said that Monks Green is so named because it was a stopping-off point for monks travelling between Waltham Abbey and St Albans Abbey, or between Colchester and St Albans. Its name and the fact that it once belonged to Hertford Priory certainly suggests an association with the monks, although its specific purpose is not certain. If it was a resting place, it seems more likely that it would have been for those travelling between Colchester and St Albans rather than between Waltham Abbey and St Albans as it is not on a direct route between the latter two places and, given the proximity of Waltham and St Albans, it is probable that the journey between the two would be no more than a day in any case, if indeed there were any cause for monks to travel between the two abbeys. The name most probably came about simply through its ownership.

Monks Green Farmhouse, a grade II listed building, is said to be a sixteenth-century former open hall house with a second floor inserted in the eighteenth century and rear extensions to form a new symmetrical north front in the nineteenth century.

In 1871 Monks Green Farm was sold along with Jepps Farm, of which it then formed a part. The farm comprised 47 acres 2 roods and 13 perches; the fields were named: Hatch Grove, Pightle, Long Croft, Spratts, Old Meadow, Great Spratts, Poor Spratts, Long Meadow, Five Acres and Fog. In 1874 Monks Green and Jepps Farms were let to Leonard Hume Greig and David Greig by John Gwyn Jeffries of Ware Priory. The 1891 census gives James Beattie and his family at Monks Green Farm, and Charles Burry and Rebecca his wife at Monks Green Farm Cottage. The earliest mention of the farm in Kelly’s Directory is in 1929 when it lists Ernest John Holloway, poultry farmer. In 1944 Thomas Pateman and his family were there. In 1952 Monks Green Farm, as well as Jepps, Dalmonds and Blackfields Farms were sold off as part of the Balls Park estate. Monks Green Farm has been in the ownership of the Ashley family since 1959.


Highfield Farmhouse appears to date from the beginning of the twentieth century; the fact that the farm is not shown on the 1899 Ordnance Survey maps would seem to confirm the dating. In 1923, Highfield Farm was purchased by John Ben Snow, an American millionaire director of Woolworths, who used it as a weekend polo retreat. He purchased the farm from a gentleman who bred pedigree Shorthorn cattle for showing. Some details about JB Snow and his time at Highfield are given in Families of Brickendon. He sold the estate at the beginning of World War Two when he moved back to the States. During the war Highfield was used for Army training; after the war the farmhouse was home to Phillip Nicholas, a retired estate agent.

When the farm was sold in the fifties Highfield House – ‘the Hacienda’ – and the farm were sold separately. A second storey was added to Highfield House in the 1960s.

Between 1968 and 2002 the land and stables were used as a research unit for animal feeds and health care for Merck, Sharp and Dohme – part of the pharmaceuticals company Merck & Co. The twenty acre farm site was sold to developers in April 2002 and planning permission granted to convert the buildings into twelve homes.

In Brief

The present Swallow Grove farmhouse in Mangrove Lane is of comparatively recent date, having been built in 1904 when it was part of the Balls Park estate. However, Bryant’s map of 1822 shows Blue Close on or close to the site of Swallow Grove Farm and early Ordnance Survey maps show some evidence of there having been a medieval moat on the site. Kelly’s 1929 directory gives William Hunter, farmer, at Swallow Grove and Dalmonds farms.

Blackfield Farm was latterly part of the Brickendonbury estate although it was within the parish of St John. William Seward was admitted to Black or Blake Field on 6 October 1624 on the death of his father, William senior. Joseph Seward surrendered the farm out of court on 12 September 1693 and Anne Seward was admitted to the lands on the death of her father, Joseph. In 1754 the farm passed from Joseph Seward to William Whittenbury (presumably related to John Whittenbury of Bourne Orchard, but not verified) and in 1802 Wittenbury sold the farm to William Dent.

Sale details for the Jepps estate dated 14 June 1871 show that it included both Jepps and Monks Green Farms. Jepps Farm comprised 136 acres 0 roods 4 perches and had the following fields: Part of Dalmonds Green, Home Mead, Top Mead, Broom Field, Middle Field, Home Field, Honey Jepps, Great Jepps, Jepps Wood, Monks Green Meadow, Lower Field, Further Field, Wades Grove Wood, Three Fields, Round Close, Long Mead, Mutton Close, Driftway, Little Broadfield, Orchard and Broad Mead. Jepps Farm has been in four generations of the same family since 1905 when Hubert Brooks of Little Berkhamsted became the tenant; he also took on Dalmonds Farm in the 1930s and in the early fifties Hubert Brooks purchased the farms from the Wallace brothers. Jepps farmhouse, dating from the early nineteenth century, a barn of early eighteenth century vintage and Jepps Farm Cottage, said to date from the late seventeenth century, are all listed buildings. Dalmonds farmhouse, a barn and farm buildings at Dalmonds are also listed; the farmhouse is of the seventeenth century or earlier, a timber frame on stuccoed brick. The origin or meaning of the names Jepps or Dalmonds has not been ascertained; both are names of fields and of a wood but it is not clear which came first.

The 1891 census gives James Harman at Blackfields Farm; William Reed and family at Jepps Farm; David Judd, gamekeeper, at Jepps Farm Cottage; James Knight and family at Dalmonds Farm; William Oakley, an agricultural labourer, his wife and son at Ducketts Farm; William George, a farm servant, at Harrisons Farm (‘near Brickendon’ but not identified); and George Judd at Elbow Lane Farm.