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A History of Brickendon

Tales of Yore

It may come as something of a surprise to many of the present-day residents to learn that Brickendon once had its own library which was run from ‘The Barn’ – what is now known as Fanshaws Room, the village hall. In 1928 Mrs Cole-Hamilton, Mrs Fender and Mrs Watts were appointed as a local library committee with Mrs Pickett as the librarian. The village library closed in 1944, its books being transferred to the County Library Service.

As previously mentioned it was not until 1933 that Brickendon had its own church. Until then the village was part of the parish of All Saints, Hertford. The vicar, curate or a sister from the Church Army used to cycle out from Hertford on Sunday evenings and hold a service in The Barn. There was a morning service at Bayford church, and services were also held in a chapel at Brickendonbury. The Sunday School used to alternate between Bayford and The Barn at Brickendon.

In the 1960s at Christmastime the village hall committee used to arrange a party for the younger children, which was held at either the Grange or Fanshaws; there was a trip to the pantomime at Hertford Corn Exchange for the older children and a Christmas Box for pensioners which included, amongst other things, a bag of coal and a packet of tea.

One of the highlights of the village calendar used to be the annual garden fete and show which rotated between Hacketts, Bourne Orchard, Sweetings, Fanshaws and the Grange. There were races and a fancy dress contest for the children as well as a race for mothers and fathers. Prizes were donated by shopkeepers in Hertford and there were engraved cups for some of the horticultural classes in the show; what has happened to these cups is unknown. On one occasion there was a coach with six white horses which had been arranged by Mr Gilmore, the carpenter at Fanshaws who lived at Little Fardens; the children all took turns to have their photograph taken with the coach and team. It is not clear when the garden parties were started but the event has been replaced more recently by an annual fete on the village green which has been hailed by some visitors as ‘a real traditional village fete’.

In the year 2000 the Millennium was marked by the erection of a village sign on the green with a ‘time capsule’ containing some artifacts of the village at the time, including a copy of the newsletter, and the planting of some bulbs around the green, as well as the annual fete.

Building the Great Bonfire to commemorate the coronation of King George V, 22 June 1911

King George V’s coronation in 1911 was marked with a great bonfire at Brickendon, although the exact location is not known. There were also fireworks and a joint sports day with Bayford which was held at Bayford. The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 was celebrated by children’s sports in the afternoon, followed by tea; and dancing and fireworks in the evening. A commemorative seat was placed on the green at a cost of £9 12s 2d. Mrs Barclay offered the use of her ‘television receiver’ at Fanshaws for people who wanted to watch the televised programme of the procession and the service at Westminster Abbey. One or two villagers recall just before the start of the Queen’s silver jubilee celebrations in 1977 a camel being led past the village green. Not the result of too much Celebration Ale, this was probably a recaptured escapee from the local zoo, which at that time was not as well run as it is now.

With the coming of the railway and the station at Bayford a road between Brickendon Green and the station was required. After almost a decade of discussion and indecision the road was eventually laid in about 1930, although the Dury and Andrews map of 1766, Bryant’s map of 1822 and early Ordnance Survey maps show a track running between Brickendon and Bayford via Blackfan Wood. The land for the road was given by Minnie Kingsley on the proviso that the footpath it replaced was closed. Building the road opened Brickendon to a through bus service between Newgate Street and Hertford, of which more later. The wooded area to the right on leaving the village was planted by the Barclays to ensure their privacy from the new road.

After the war the popularity of the railway and an increase in the number of motor cars brought day trippers from London out to the countryside. On one occasion Mrs Barclay was astonished to find a family encamped on her lawn at Fanshaws having a picnic. Without identifying herself she made conversation with the visitors and obtained their home address. The following week she turned up at their home in London and had a picnic on their front lawn, much to their amazement.

Mains water and electricity were not introduced to some parts of the village until as late as 1961. One farm worker at Clements Farm who lived at Owls Hatch is said to have declared how wonderful the new electric lights were as they enabled him on a dark night to see easily to light his oil lamp – once lit the electric light was switched off!

A couple of former residents of Brickendon recall the daily gathering of people from the village at four o’clock every day at the dairy of Fanshaws Farm where villagers waited with their milk cans for filling by Mrs Gregory.

There used to be a pump on the village green directly opposite Bentleys Farm where the villagers would get their water. Just when it was removed is not clear but in 1949 Mr Gregory reported to the parish council that since the removal of a water standpipe much inconvenience was being caused to people nearby by weekend visitors asking for water and he asked for the standpipe to be reinstated.

Animals wandering round the lanes of the village was a common sight until, perhaps, the 1970s or eighties by which time the volume and speed of traffic made it decidedly dangerous. In any case the BSE (mad cow disease) and foot and mouth epidemics in the 1990s and at the beginning of the next century resulted in a significant increase in the cost of livestock farming and a corresponding decrease in the number of farms with livestock. On one occasion in the early eighties an errant heifer found its way into the swimming pool at Wellpond Cottage; the poor creature had to be hauled out with ropes and the pool needed emptying and fumigating before it could be used again!

In a letter to Hertfordshire Countryside magazine of April 1977, a Mrs EM Walker recalls briefly the Brickendon of her childhood. She lived at Hacketts Farm, which, she says, was ‘taken over’ by Miss Demain Saunders and renamed Hacketts Barn; she says that Miss Demain Saunders was a relative of the Barclays [unlikely but not verified]. The letter mentions that Colonel Trotter [he does not appear to have been a military man] lived at Brickendon Grange, the Barclays at Fanshawes [sic], Sir Edward Pearson at Brickendonbury and Mr and Mrs Comer at Fanshaws Farm. Mrs Walker mentions that Sir Edward bred Shire horses and that Mrs Comer won several prizes for her butter.

Also writing in 1977, FA Collins recalls his childhood on the Brickendonbury estate. His father worked on the estate and was paid twenty-four shillings (£1.20) a week plus his home and as much firewood as needed. The family lived at Owls Hatch. At Christmas Sir Edward Pearson would have a bullock killed and each working family on the estate would be given a joint of beef, biscuits, a Christmas pudding, etc. The boys were employed as beaters in the shooting season and on the first shoot of the season were given a pork pie and lemonade for lunch and one shilling; on subsequent shoots the lunch was a lump of bread and cheese and lemonade or cold coffee. He recalls that at harvest time the boys used to assist in the fields trying to catch rabbits or leading the horse and cart.

There is a fascinating and entertaining account of one expedition of ‘beating the bounds’ on 1 May 1894 which was reported in the Hertfordshire Mercury of Saturday, 5 May 1894. The intrepid crew set off with steps, ladders and plans, crossing fences, roofs, ponds and even sailing down the centre of the rivers Mimram and Lea, which formed the boundary of the ancient Liberty in one place. Read the article.

Local historian and former Brickendon resident Alan Greening uncovered evidence of a black man living in Brickendon in the seventeenth century. In The Return of the Constables of the Hamlett of Brickendon & of the Overseers & Churchwardens of the Parishe of All Saints in Hertford, 26 July 1631, Constables Thomas Turner and Ralph Jearsye report inter alia: They say that Penelope Ockamy the daughter of John Ockamye a Moare lyveth ydlely [idly] at Home with her Father & that they have not any other within their Hamlett that lyve ydlely or that will not work for reasonable wages. The term moor in those days was short for blackamoor, meaning a Negro. Just where they were living is not reported, although Muster Rolls show that Ockamye – or Accame – was at one time a servant of the Capel family of Hadham Hall. It is not clear either whether or not his first wife was black; his second, who had the delightful name of Temperance Swain, certainly was not.

Deliberations of the Parish Council

It may be tempting to assume that the parish council is an ancient institution. However, the first parish council was not elected until 1929, when, on the amalgamation of Brickendon Rural and St John Rural, the parish was of sufficient size to warrant a parish council. Following the Local Government Act, 1894, the parish had an elected chairman and a parish meeting of any electors who chose to turn up, which met once or more each year to conduct any business that may have come up – a rather informal affair by today’s standards. The one and only meeting of the Brickendon Liberty Parish Meeting on 4 March 1929 was to elect as its first parish council, Edith Annie Campbell, George William Cole-Hamilton, Lee Thomas Fullager, William Hunter and Sidney Edgerton Rider. The original precept was set at £10 and the clerk’s annual salary was £10.

The state of the road between Brickendon and Hertford was a constant cause for complaint of residents in the late 1890s and the early twentieth century. At the annual parish meeting on 29 March 1911 a resolution was passed stating:

That this meeting desires to direct the attention of the County Council to the point in the road from Brickendon to Hertford where the stream crosses the road near the Bayford path foot-bridge. At this point in winter time the road is at times impassable and causes great inconvenience, especially to women wheeling perambulators, in which it is customary to bring back goods from market. At times the water is knee deep. This meeting suggests that the County Council should take into consideration the provision of a bridge or culvert.

In 1947 Hertford Rural District Council intended building a sewage plant in Little Fardens field; however, the parish council opposed this suggesting it would be better sited in Sweetings Wood leaving Little Fardens field available for further building. The parish council also objected to the RDC’s proposed use of Home Mead for housing (the field on which the pub car park now sits). By December 1953 only the council houses had been connected to the mains sewerage system; the parish council resolved to ask the RDC to expedite the connection of the remaining properties in the village to the main sewerage system.

In 1953 it was reported to the parish council that rubbish was being dumped in a pond opposite the Five Horseshoes. As a result it was agreed to fill in the pond – rather a shame as the pond could have been, as it had been previously, an attractive feature of the village.

Roads in the parish were unnamed until 1949 and from the outset concern was expressed that confusion might arise between Brickendon Lane in Hertford and Brickendon Lane in Brickendon. In February 1961 the parish council agreed that Hertford Rural District Council should be asked to change the name of Brickendon Lane to Hertford Lane in order to stop the inconvenience caused by duplicate house numbers in Brickendon and Hertford Borough, having previously failed to convince the RDC to persuade Hertford Borough to change the name within Hertford town. In the event, neither road name has been changed and the inconvenience continues to this day.

Before 1894 civil as well as church matters of the Liberty were dealt with by the Vestry Meeting, a regular assembly of parishioners which was usually held at the Black Swan in West Street, the minutes of which – the Vestry Minutes – provide an interesting picture of life in Brickendon in days gone by. The minutes probably warrant a study all of their own. Amongst the entries one sad event is recorded there on 1 February 1823 when payments were authorised for burial fees for Fitzjohn’s boy, 6s 9d, and for jurymen and expenses at Swan going to Brickendon Green to hold an inquest on Fitzjohn’s boy, £1 10s; five days later there is a payment for a horse and cart to collect the corpse of Fitzjohn’s child from Brickendon. Interestingly in the 1841 census a tribe of Fitzjohns are to be found fostered by the Brothers family of Staines Green; ten years later the Brothers family has moved to East End Green complete with an illegitimate grandson, Henry Fitzjohn. And on 28 May 1805 the Vestry Minutes record that, Mary Johnson doth charge Henry Draper with having gotten the said Child on her Body… There was a lot of it about it would seem.

Village Sports

Saturdays were the men’s cricket matches at Bayford, the ladies serving teas and cakes; the club was at that time known as Bayford and Brickendon Cricket Club. At the end of the season the ladies had their match against the men, using tennis balls. It is understood that the brother of Robert Fender of Brickendon Grange was Percy (PGH) Fender, an England cricketer from 1921 to 1929, who used to visit and play at Bayford on occasions. In the early nineteenth century women’s cricket was also a feature of village life; Mrs Pearson of Brickendonbury and Mrs Gwynn – whose home is not known – both had their own ladies’ ‘eleven’.

Although there was no official football club in Brickendon there were sufficient lads, mostly boys from the village, to play football on a piece of land provided by Col Briggs inside the lodge house at the Grange. They played in a blue and yellow strip and this also made a lovely Saturday’s entertainment. A changing hut was erected on land provided by the Wallace brothers and Tom Gregory.

On Sundays quite a few villagers used to walk through the polo fields at Highfield Farm to the ‘treacle mines’ and have a drink in the Green Man – now the Huntsman – at Goose Green, just outside the parish, before returning home. There are supposed treacle mines throughout the country and there has grown up a considerable element of myth around them. In parts of the country the term appears to have come from iron ore (haematite) mines where the ore seeped out of cracks in the rock and is said to have resembled treacle. However this explanation would not fit the ‘mines’ at Goose Green and it seems likely that the water tower was what was being referred to as the ‘mine’. On a map believed to date from about 1770 or 1790 as well as on Bryant’s 1822 map Goose Green is shown as Goods Green.

Brickendon appears to have had a long association with cycling. Although not part of village life, a cycling club has met at Brickendon from at least 1948. Dennis White, a member of Brickendon Grange Golf Club, recalls weekend rides with the Enfield YHA cycle club, taking Sunday afternoon tea and cake stops at the Farmer’s Boy or the Woodman and Christmas parties in the village hall. The club’s link with Brickendon stemmed from the fact that the chairman, Jack Orme, lived at Walnut Cottage, WWE. Sometimes up to 30 members crashed out overnight at Walnut Cottage, sleeping everywhere, even in tents in the garden. It is understood that the Farmer’s Boy was a popular cyclists’ pub in the 1920s, as indeed it is today.

Brickendon at War

Volunteers from Brickendon passing Well Green in 1914

Constance Demain Saunders wrote in 1914: In the month of July a great historic pageant was enacted within the walls of Hertford Castle; we all unconscious of the historic earthquake which so soon was to shake our quiet world, so long unchanged. In these anxious days when each of us looked eagerly for news of the Great War – my Colleague would sit under the Stoep outside the dining room, with the paper of the morning in her hand. – Within a few months all the boys in the village had left us, to go to France; and a few months later, a Hertfordshire Volunteer Regiment was formed, of those who – because of their health, or the kind of work which they must do, – were left at home. Here you see them passing, – a small company of them, one Sunday morning, up the Road across Well Green. The population of our Village at this time was 293.

And, in 1917: Three weeks later – July 7 – came the German Air Raid which we watched all the morning from the Garden. We counted 50 machines at once.

The first Zeppelin to be shot down over Britain during the First World War fell at nearby Cuffley in September 1916 and villagers from Brickendon were amongst those from all over north London and southern Hertfordshire who went to view the sight.

During the Second World War, as mentioned elsewhere, Brickendonbury played a significant role in the war, and Fanshaws also had a place in the proceedings. The parish council minutes note that Leslie Boosey was Chief Air Raid Warden, Mr Wiltshire was Head of the Fire Party, Mr Brighty was Food Organiser and Miss Sworder was Secretary of the War Savings Group. It is also noted that temporary accommodation for the homeless was available at Hacketts Barn garage and Fanshaws Room. After the war a Welcome Home Fund was established in order to pay £3 to each man who served in the war.

The incident of the doodle-bug that fell at Monks Green destroying a house and killing one person (see Lost Brickendon and WWE) caused great fear amongst the villagers who convinced themselves that these bombs were able to seek out and destroy isolated homes.

One Sunday lunchtime earlier in the war after the all-clear had sounded a lone bomber dropped its load of five bombs, one of which was a 500-pounder, just beyond Bentleys Cottages. Luckily – or not for the poor beast – the only casualty was a cow. To this day there is still a depression in the field where the bomb went off.

Brickendon has no war memorial of its own, although the war memorial at Bayford church – a cross in the churchyard and a memorial tablet inside the church – is for those of both Bayford and Brickendon Rural parishes who died in service during the two World Wars.

Travel News

The Cuffley to Stevenage (Langley Junction) section of the Hertford loop line was not opened to passenger trains until 2 June 1924, although a single track for freight trains was open shortly after the Second World War.

It has been claimed that during the Second World War the Ponsbourne tunnel between Bayford and Cuffley was used to shelter the Royal train during air raids, apparently chosen because at 2,684 yards (over 1½ miles) long it was one of the longest railway tunnels in south-east England. However, older residents say it was the considerably shorter Molewood tunnel just south of Waterford that was used for the Royal train and that the Ponsbourne tunnel housed ack-ack guns which were wheeled out during air raids.

Also during the war it is understood that it was felt prudent that munitions destined for Woolwich Arsenal should be taken by train to the sidings at Bayford station and then forwarded by road to Woolwich. Unfortunately on one occasion a spark from a passing train caused a massive fire. The sidings at Bayford also came into use for stabling works trains during the 1970s electrification of the line.

An article in the February 2002 newsletter of the North London Society of Model Engineers reports on a talk given the previous month by Dave Foster, a loco fireman in the 1950s and 60s. On one occasion on the Metropolitan Railway Dave’s driver bid him not to put certain knobs of coal on the fire as each had a fairy sitting on it; the lumps eventually grew into quite a pile. Dave later learned that the same driver had once stopped in the Ponsbourne tunnel for no apparent reason. It transpired that he said he had seen fairies crossing the line and had stopped for them; the driver was transferred to another line after that.

The ticket office at Bayford station was destroyed by fire in the early hours of Sunday, 31 December 1989; the cause of the fire was never established. At the time it was reported that a new station would be built.

The first public bus service from Little Berkhamsted and Bayford into Hertford was started in 1923 by George Charles Robinson, the licensee of the Five Horseshoes in Little B, running four days a week. The service was later taken over by Robert Charles Knowles who ran the garage at Little Berkhamsted. However, there being no road between Bayford and Brickendon at that time, Brickendon missed out on having a bus service. It was not until about 1930 when the road was built that the bus service also took in Brickendon. Later a second sevice was started by the Newgate Street Omnibus Service from Newgate Street to Hertford via Brickendon. These services were taken over by London Transport in 1934/5. In 1935 there was also a Sunday service between Ware and Little B calling at Brickendon with three buses a day; and in 1970 there were four buses a day Monday to Friday and seven buses a day on Saturdays. In 1959 the fare from Brickendon to Hertford was 9d (less than 4p). In 2003 there were just two buses a day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, three on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and none on Sundays, and the single fare to Hertford was £1.30.

The Hunt at Brickendon

Hunt meeting at Brickendon Grange in 1930

Brickendon Green was the venue for the traditional Boxing Day meet of the Enfield Chace Hunt for several years until about 1982. The hunt was so popular that at least two top London hotels offered coach trips out to Brickendon on Boxing Day. The hunt has clearly had a longer association with the village than this as the photograph opposite shows; and the hunt is also known to have met at Fanshaws.

The present hunt was founded in 1907 by Major George Smith-Bosanquet of Broxbournebury and was originally known as Major Smith-Bosanquet’s Hunt, although its origins lie with the stag hunts of the 1st Marchioness of Salisbury. The hunt was renamed the Enfield Chace Hunt in 1935 on the retirement of the founder, the second c in Chace being used, it was claimed, because it was the Saxon spelling; however this is highly unlikely as the word chase, however spelt, is most probably Norman in origin. The hunt’s treasurer, Arthur Lucas of Woolmers at Letty Green, gave the hunt the use of the house and some land at Birch Farm in White Stubbs Lane, ensuring its survival for a while longer, and for a time Birch Farm became the kennels for the hunt. The hunt’s territory covered most of eastern Hertfordshire and it even hunted as far northwards as Henlow in Bedfordshire. Enfield Chace Hunt amalgamated with the Cambridgeshire Hunt in 2001 to become the Cambridgeshire with Enfield Chace Hunt. It is said that GSB used bitches rather than dog hounds for his hunt although this has not been confirmed, and it is claimed that he used to breed foxes specifically for hunting. Lads of the village used to get paid sixpence a time to open field gates for the hunt. They soon learned that if there were any stragglers they could shut the gate and earn an extra ‘tanner’ on opening the gate for the latecomers.

Former Master of the hunt, Clough Park, recalls his worst moment as Field Master – one Boxing Day when he lost control of the hunt. There were huge crowds and a lot of visitors on horses that particular year. Only after the hunt had ended did he discover there had been 143 riders for a hunt that could be expected to support no more than sixty!

Sale details of Hacketts in 1875 mentions: The Meets of Mr Leigh’s and the Puckeridge Hounds are within easy ride, and Two Packs of Harriers are kept in the Neighbourhood.

Ghoulies and Ghosties

An article in the 28 December 1973 edition of the Hertfordshire Mercury claimed that a sick young girl from Blackfields Farm was known as the phantom tapper of Brickendon. In 1920 she was said to have been the medium for a spirit that communicated in Morse code. However, this appears to have been trick concocted by the girl and her brother. This story and another about a psychic’s experience at the Farmer’s Boy in more recent times are related in the book Haunted Hertfordshire, A Ghostly Gazetteer by Ruth Stratton and Nicholas Connell. On several occasions, it is said, staff would come down in the morning to find the beer turned off and the cellar rearranged.

There are several other tales with a connection to Brickendon or WWE in Haunted Hertfordshire. One involves the bizarre tale of a Benjamin Cherry of Jenningsbury near Hertford Heath who killed himself, apparently by accident, by jumping into the moat at his home in December 1785 and his ghost was said to haunt the estate for years afterwards. Mr Cherry, an alderman of Hertford, is described as an eminent butcher and cattle dealer, and would appear to have been the grandfather of the Benjamin Cherry who built Brickendon Grange. Another story concerns a nun at Leahoe House, now in the grounds of County Hall but once in the manor of Brickendon. And then there are the spirits of Danish soldiers slain in battle who roam Wormley Wood. Yet another is of the ‘White Devil of Broxbon Wood’ [sic]. Finally, there’s the Pastor of Paradise Wildlife Park who was spotted in 2000.

Another book, Ghosts of Hertfordshire by Betty Puttick, mentions the ghost of a policeman of a bygone era who was sighted just outside the parish by the coal post in Holy Cross Hill (mistakenly referred to as being in Hoddesdon) in the 1960s.

And there is also the infamous ‘Wicked Lady’ or ‘Female Highwayman’, said by some to be Lady Katherine Ferrers, sometime lady of the manor of Bayford, who was mentioned in connection with Fanshaws – see Brickendon Village, part 2. Her ghost is believed to frequent various places around Markyate and Wheathampstead.

Another local ghost is that of Charles Barclay who died in the library at Fanshaws and is said to have been sighted on several occasions close to the hall, often accompanied by the smell of cigar smoke.

No accounts of witchcraft in Brickendon have been discovered. However, in 1603 Agnes Whittenbury of Aston was charged on two counts of causing illness by witchcraft and one count of bewitching two piglets; she was found guilty and hanged. Whether or not she was an ancestor of John Whittingbury of Bourne Orchard or William Whittenbury of Blackfields Farm is not known but since it is not a common name it seems quite possible.

Although there was no suggestion of the paranormal, there was a story circulating in the 1950s, which has not been verified or even dated, that a man who lived in one of the Franksfield Cottages had killed his wife having found her in flagrante delecto with another man. For some reason the man escaped a custodial sentence and instead emigrated to Australia.