Given the existence of records, an optimistic ‘give’, it is possible to trace details
of homes through history.
The relevant records for Preston are those for manors, the wills of local folk, indentures,
early censuses and maps together with awards which are like snapshots of who lived
where at a specific time.
In the case of the manor of (Temple) Dinsley, these are the surviving manorial records:
1641 - 1652: a full record of court hearings
A complete summary of fines for property transactions
A precis of property transactions between 1664 and 1718
A complete summary of fines for property transactions in
1677 - 1732: a full record of court hearings
A fragmented summary of fines for transactions between
1719 and 1782 - there is a
twenty-eight-year gap between 1732 and 1760.
An incomplete summary of fees for property in 1761
Complete records of court hearings from 1782 to 1922
Thus, over 281 years, there is a complete record except for seventy-seven years.
Many of the missing years may be completed from summaries and later court notes that
refer back to properties changing hands during the lost periods. Additionally, copies
of individual manorial records are kept loosely at Hertfordhire Archives and Hitchin
The significance of these records is that specific cottages and pieces of land were
assigned a set annual rent which was payable to the Lord of the Manor. That fee varied
from property to property but, in those days of no inflation, the rent did not change
over centuries. Thus, if the rent on a property was 18/- in 1664, the rent was still
18/- in 1922. (Occasionally, a property would be split into parts and each part carried
a fee, the sum of which was the same as the fee of the original property.) This makes
tracing the history of home-ownership at Preston feasable.
The same point is made in The Common Stream by Rowland Parker, which is a fascinating
historical study of the Cambridgeshire village of Foxton. In it he explains how the
history of individual houses can be examined. If the tithe maps and awards of the
nineteenth century are used as a starting point, it is possible to work back using
manorial records. He notes that the researcher is helped as the rents of homes ‘remained
unchanged for centuries’.
In the case of Preston, there are two historical maps that show each home in detail
and have an accompanying ‘Award’ which notes owners and occupiers: a) 1811 - 1816,
with an Award and also a matching valuation in 1825 and b) the Tithe Map and Award
The manorial records sometimes mention the tenants in properties at a given time,
and these may often be married with the census details and the notes on the map awards
so that the cottages in the manorial records may be identified.
An example of tracing the history of cottages at Preston
This is an extract from the Temple Dinsley manorial court record dated 6 December
1797. It notes the death and will of Daniel Joyner and two of his bequests:
Thus, Daniel Joyner left a house at Preston Green to Elizabeth English, wife of John,
rent 6d and another to Sarah Andrew, wife of James, rent 6d.
Next are the Map of Preston Green 1811 - 1816 and the Award:
So, the Andrew family inherited what is known today as Laburnum Lodge and the English’
were bequeathed the adjoining house. These still stand today, near the Red Lion:
Now that we have identified the cottages, and know that each of their annual rents
was 6d, we can work back through the manorial records to see who owned them.
These cottages were the property of the Joyner family throughout the eighteenth century
and were referred to as ‘two tenements and orchard at Preston’ on 13 October 1773.
They had been combined in the ‘Survey of Temple Dinsley rents 1715’, when their rent
was 1/- and they were owned by John Joyner and Daniel Joyner before him.
There is no record of these properties in the 1664 Survey of the Manor of Temple
Dinsley, so it may be inferred that these homes were built after that time, possibly
by Daniel Joyner. However, it is recorded that there is a spine beam in Laburnum
Lodge dated 1653.
The following information is based on my interpretation of all these records.
I do not claim infallibility during this exercise. It is appropriate that I write
this on the day that Einstein’s theory of light has been debunked!
Here are two significant results that illustrate how this exercise can provide interesting
Taking the Swain family back another generation?
There is an article about the Swains of Preston at this link: Early Swains. It begins
with Edward Swain who died in 1752. There has been a considerable debate among Swain
watchers about the identity of Edward’s father. This may be settled as a result of
this examination of manorial records.
The first mention of Edward Swain in manorial records is in 1691:
So, Edward purchased a one-acre field called Todds before 18 June 1691 from John
Godfrey. This indicates an association with Preston from around that time. (He bought
his home at what is known today as the Red Lion between 1701 and 1704) Edward was
to bequeath this field to his son, John. Its location known: Link: Todds
However, another Swain appears in the manorial record, Stephen Swain. The following
holding of property is noted from the ‘Survey of Temple Dinsley Rents 1715’:
A relationship between Stephen and Edward is confirmed by a note of ‘Rentals from
On the basis of this, were Stephen and Edward Swain related. Was Stephen, Edward’s
There is a record of an Edwardus Swaine, son of Stephanus and Maria, being baptised
at Stevenage on
29 August 1669. (Stevenage is around three miles from Preston.) If this was the Stephen
mentioned in the Dinsley records, he would have been about 71 in 1715.
Probably the best way to confirm this is to obtain Stephen’s will. But a brief search
does not indicate it exists. Perhaps a more fruitful search can be made when next
at Hertfordshire Archives.
The antiquity of the Red Lion, Preston
The article about the Red Lion which is featured on this web site states, ‘The history
of the two cottages which now form the Red Lion can be traced back at least to the
beginning of the 18th century. The Manor Court Rolls of Temple Dinsley record a series
of transactions during the century, for in 1710 William King acquired the larger
house from Richard Deamer.’
From my research, I believe this to be incorrect and that the Red Lion is considerably
The property trail begins with the Manorial Court of Temple Dinsley dated 25 April
1811. The record notes a sale of property from Stephen Swain to Joseph Saunderson,
This clearly relates to the sale of the Red Lion with its three acres of land that
stretched around to Back Lane. The rent for this property was 18/-. In the Manorial
Records, there is no other property with a rent of 18/- - it is unique. Moreover,
when transactions about this property are recorded, there can be no doubt that they
are referring to the same piece, as will be seen.
The ‘Survey of Temple Dinsley Rents 1715’ shows this item :
Note that the rent is 18/-, but the previous owner was not William King (as stated
in the article) but Leonard King.
There was a transaction involving Edward Swain and William King in 1710 - but note
The correct transaction, however, took place in 1704 between Edward and Leonard King:
Now, one can trace back the history of the Red Lion still further. The ‘Survey of
the Manor of Temple Dinsley’ dated 1664’ recorded this property with a rent of 18/-:
The chain of transaction between John Riches and Leonard King is clear:
The extract noted above is dated 20 October 1673. It refers to the same property
held by John Riches and in the right margin it adds, ‘now Ed(ward) Swain’s’. John
Riches was taxed for two hearths in 1662.
This means that the larger of the two cottages that comprise the Red Lion was built
before 1664 - about fifty years earlier than previously thought.
Summary of Temple Dinsley Manorial records re: Preston 1664 - 1788
A survey of the Manor of Temple Dinsley - 21 April 1664
1) Thomas Browne – a house on Preston Green and orchard. Rent: £1 7s 4d (previously
held by Dennis Browne until 15 April 1663)
2) Edward King – two tenements and an orchard. Rent: 6/-
3) Henry Gadlinstock – one tenement in Preston and orchard. Rent: 7/- (Previously
held by William Clark
until 15 April 1663)
4) John Ritches – one tenement and orchard with three acres of pasture. Rent:
5) David Clements – one tenement. Rent: 1/8d
6) George Andrews – one tenement. Rent: 1/8d
7) Richard Whiteley – one tenement and orchard. Rent: 4d
8) Samuel Carter – part of one barn. Rent: 4d
9) John Carrington – one tenement. Rent 4d
10) John Farr – one tenement and orchard and three acres. Rent: 1/-
11) Widow Bowse – two tenements. Rent: 4/-
12) Widow Hurst – two tenements, two orchards – no rent - and six acres: Rent: 3/8d
13) John Godfrey – one messuage, an orchard and forty acres of wood pasture and
arable.. Rent: 15/-
14) Widow Browne – three acres and an orchard. Rent 1/-
Freeholders who paid rent
15) Widow Simson – one house and orchard. Rent 1/-
16) John Ritches - two tenements and orchard. Rent 1p