A History of Preston

in Hertfordshire

It is with a heavy heart that I write this addendum. Several times I have drunk in the bar of the Red Lion, basking in the knowledge that around me was space that had been occupied by my greatx5 grand-parents, Joseph and Elizabeth Ward in an earlier time.


Now I believe that this is not the case – although they certainly lived in Preston in 1750. In fact, they lived in the house next door to the Red Lion on what is known today as School Lane.


In my defence, I should add that I accepted the research of another – although this should have been checked. The original premise was that the Red Lion was made up by two cottages – the smaller one to the north (with one acre of land) and a larger home to the south (with three acres of pasture).  Indeed there is a clear difference of bricks and roof-line between the cottages. It was written that Stephen Swain inherited the larger cottage and land in 1771 and then bought the smaller cottage in 1793. From then, the cottages were considered as one, but were divided into three homes. The composite cottage was sold to Joseph Saunderson and after his widow, Harriet’s death in 1847, the entire building was sold with its four acres of land. (Link: Red Lion)


Now that I have researched the Swain family in detail, the error has been exposed. I have examined the manorial rolls again which relate to Stephen Swain’s transactions, together with several maps of Preston, their keys and Swain wills. I repeatedly tried to force the snippets of information together, as though assembling pieces of a jigsaw, but they just did not dovetail. The main sticking point centred on  the small semi-detached cottage (‘one-up one-down’) which was on the left side of the two. Two transactions from manorial records described this little property as having three occupying families. It was just not possible for three households to be crammed into this space. After much checking and research, I stepped back from the problem and slowly an alternative solution emerged – one that reconciled all the data.


After scrutinising the manorial rolls, this is what I now believe took place:


a) Stephen Swain inherited the entire cottage  (A) at Preston Green (now the Red Lion) together with three fields totalling three acres. He was admitted as tenant by a manorial court held on 25 October 1771.

b) On 17 June 1793 Stephen bought another cottage on School Lane (B) which was next door to the other cottage (A). This purchase included a close or field of one acre. He was admitted at tenant at a court held on 21 October 1793.

c) Stephen mortgaged both cottages which was repaid in 1811. (See court rolls of 6 December 1797 and 25 April 1811)

d) On 26 February 1811, Stephen sold the Preston Green cottage (A) (with its three acres of land) together with ‘one close of one acre’ (from the School Lane cottage but not including this cottage) to Joseph Saunderson .

e) About this time Stephen is noted as the owner of one property (with three occupiers) which had land of just 27 perches. (Thus, the School Lane property (B), and not the ‘smaller cottage to the north’, had been sub-divided into three dwellings. It was consistently shown for sixty years as being so divided((see sketch map dated 1872c below)) and instead of it having an acre of land associated with it, there was only 27 perches, because the close or field had been sold earlier to Joseph Saunderson)

f)  Stephen bequeathed the house ‘now divided into three cottages’ (B) to Priscilla Swain in 1835.

g) At some time between 1835 and 1873, Priscilla sold the house to the Darton family because it was included in the sale of Temple Dinsley in 1873.


For me, this means that my greatx5 grand-father and his family, instead of living in the smaller cottage that became part of the Red Lion, lived in the cottage next door on School Lane.

The cottage on School Lane (B)


The Red Lion cottage



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Sketch map of Preston Green c1872 showing the sub-division of house A


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