Do not be misled! If your ancestors in Preston were agricultural labourers, you may believe that they would not mentioned in the local manorial court records. This is not necessarily so. These transactions often mentioned those occupying houses and property - as well as the owners. Such inhabitants included farm workers. So, ‘ordinary’ Preston inhabitants such as Joseph Sharpe, Ann Pedder, William Gentle, William Joyner and James Scott feature in Temple Dinsley’s manorial rolls - often with a note of where they were living. It was from the manorial records that I discovered that my ancestors, the Wards, occupied the cottage which stood to the left of the Red Lion, Preston. On 28 June 2008, after five years of research, I discovered where Robert and Martha Currell were living in around 1800 - using manorial rolls and other documents. The story of the detective work involved is in the next box.
This account is included to illustrate the potential treasures that may be uncovered by manorial rolls and other documents. It concerns Robert Currell, a farm labourer who lived from 1762 until 1832. This was the research path which resulted in a satisfying conclusion: The censuses of 1801 and 1821 record that Robert Currell was living in Hill End. While transcribing the Temple Dinsley manor rolls, I found a reference to the will of Joseph Pedder dated March 1802. Having a copy of this document, because of the wealth of genealogical and local history information it contained, I decided to epitomise the will. It included the bequest to his daughter, Elizabeth, the wife of Joseph English, of two dwelling houses at Poynders End which were occupied by Robert Corall (sic) and Susannah Wheeler. Was there a note of Joseph Pedder’s will in a manorial document? I checked the manorial roll of Minsden (which is closer to Poynders End than Temple Dinsley) and found a reference on 2 August 1802 to Joseph Pedder’s will which noted only one cottage that was inhabited by Susannah Wheeler. Evidently, the second cottage was now empty -but where exactly were the two homes. Tracing Joseph and Elizabeth English through the manorial rolls, I found that by 1837, the cottage had passed to their son, Thomas English. Then, on 29 November 1869, Thomas sold his inherited property and the manorial roll pin-pointed its precise position: number 1630 on the Tithe Map of 1844 - of which I have a copy. This location was confirmed by an earlier map of Langley (a copy of which I have also) with a key, dated 1811 - 16, which included a cottage and croft held by John English. The number assigned to the property was 10 which corresponds exactly with the position of number 1630 on the later map. I had found the whereabouts of my ancestors’ home in 1800. I then ‘google-searched’ the area using a modern-day satellite picture and found that there is a cluster of buildings at this spot. In August 2008, I visited the area and found a beautiful cottage which dates from about the fourteenth century. A former occupant also confirmed that it had two front doors and two staircases -the two homes were now one. Clearly, some serendipity was involved in this research, as well as access to a number of documents, but I include this account to illustrate what may be possible to unearth from a study of manorial and other documents and to encourage the researcher.
Unlikely as it may seem, the manorial system of governing Preston, which was operating in the eleventh century, was still functioning on 18 December 1922. Then, the Temple Dinsley court baron sat for the last time. The manor of Denelai, which became Temple Dinsley, originated before the Doomsday Book of 1086. It oversaw land in the parishes of Hitchin, Kings Walden, Ippollitts, St Pauls Walden, Offley, Ickleford, Wymondley and Pirton. Another manor which supervised part of Preston to the west was Mendlesdene or Minsden. Some of the manorial land, the ‘demesne’, was farmed by the lord of the manor. The remainder was held by tenants who paid a yearly rent to the lord. The rights of tenants to their land were recorded in a copyhold agreement – so named because the tenants had a copy of the entry in the manorial roll as proof of their holding. Such tenants were ‘customary tenants’ as their tenure was governed by the customs of the manor. In addition, some tenants held freehold land – thus, some portions of John Gootheridge’s land at Preston Hill Farm were freehold and other fields were copyhold. Tenants might allow their land or house to be used by another – an occupier. Two manorial courts handled the business of the manor. The court leet dealt with disputes, nuisances, petty crime and the day-to-day running of farming in the community. The second court, the court baron, presided over property transactions. The court baron of Temple Dinsley usually met at the Chequers Inn, Preston during the nineteenth century. It met irregularly – according to the need. Almost complete records of the Temple Dinsley court baron from 1677 until 1922 are held at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies. The earliest records were written in Latin. The Minsden manorial roll has survived for the period from 1700 to 1879. When the court sat, the lord of the manor was represented by his steward. The court was held before jurors, or ‘homagers’, who were often local farmers. What might the court baron consider? When land and houses were sold, inherited or mortgaged (described as a ‘conditional surrender’), the outgoing tenant ‘surrendered’ his tenancy to the Court whereupon the new tenant approached the court to be ‘admitted’ after grasping a “rod” or stick held by the steward. He or she then paid a fine to the lord of the manor. Sometimes the freehold to the property was purchased from the lord – ‘enfranchisement’. The court record might include the following details - which are a potential treasure trove for family and local historians:
A definition of the property.A summary of earlier transactions involving the property.The death of a tenant .Pertinent information from wills.Family relationships of tenantsRecent occupiers of the land or house
I have not included all of the transactions in the Temple Dinsley court baron but only those which feature Preston people or property. The transactions noted on this web-site are an epitome of the written record. Although due care has been taken to summarize the records, no liability is implied or accepted for any omissions or errors. If you would like a copy of the original pages, please contact me. Comparing the summary of the court baron transactions with the tithe map of 1844 on the web-site may help to locate the property mentioned. Link: Tithe Map
Notes about the summary of Temple Dinsley court baron transactions
People mentioned in the Temple Dinsley manorial roll 1845 - 1922
Each name is a link to where they are featured in the manorial roll. If there are more than references to an individual, the links are itemized - (1), (2), (3) etc.
(Note: Green numbers refer to land shown on Tithe Map of 1844. Link: Tithe Map)
Manor of Temple Dinsley. Lord – Elizabeth Darton, widow. Steward – George Debenham (deputy of Edward Thompson. The Homage – Thomas Harwood Darton and Benjamin Hill. Held 3 March 1845 William Curling died 30 December 1842. His heirs - his wife and son, William Curling, junior. William, junior was admitted to the following property on 3 March 1845 for 40 years: a) Two closes of arable land comprising four acres – ‘Waley Wick’ and ‘Waley Close’. These had been previously owned by John and Jeremy Godfrey and were later enclosed with a close called ‘Woodclose’. Woodclose had been owned previously by George Millett, Thomas Flower, Ellis John Ayton and William Davis and was sold to William Curling. b) One acre of pasture (formerly arable land) lying near and enclosed with Preston Downs, previously owned by George Pierson. c) One acre of pasture (formerly arable land) lying near and enclosed with Preston Downs, previously owned by George Lyle. b) and c) had previously been owned by Joseph Roberts, then William Mellish and Thomas Oakley. The annual rent was 3/9d.Manor Court of Temple Dinsley. Homage: Benjamin Hill and James Waight. Held: 3 November 1869. John Curling had died. By his will dated 1 July 1865 he had bequeathed his property (listed on 3 March 1845 inherited from William Curling see above) to his wife Flora Jones Curling of Brooklands Hall, Guildfield, Montgomery. She was admitted as tenant for a fine of £19. On 29 September 1869, it was recorded that Flora Curling leased the property listed on 3 March 1845 and 5 January 1870 (below) to Stephen Marriott, farmer of Preston, for 21 years. She paid a fine of 4/4 1/2d.Manor Court of Temple Dinsley. Homage: William Brown and James Waight. Held: 5 January 1870 a) Henry Crabbe had been admitted as tenant of Todds Close (to the south of Chequers Lane) on 26 January 1833 following the death of his father, Henry Crabbe, senior. Henry, junior had died at Toronto, Canada on 21 November 1856, a bachelor. Edward Crabbe (of the London Stock Exchange), the only surviving brother of Henry,was admitted as tenant. Todds Close was one acre and included Chamberlains and Breeches after enclosure (37, 38 and 40). It had had been occupied by John Swain, then William Swain his son, Samuel Kirkby and now Stephen Marriott. The rent was 8d pa. Henry Crabbe, junior, had since sold the land to William Curling on 6 March 1848 for £49. It was now in the possession of Flora Jones Curling who was now admitted as tenant for a fine of £3.Manor Court of Temple Dinsley. Homage: James Waight. 30 August 1875 Flora Jones Curling sold the property b) and c) previously described (3 March 1845, top) at Preston Downs to Robert Curling of 55 Princes Square, Middlesex for £64. Manor Court of Temple Dinsley. Out of court.Robert Curling bought the freehold of the land previously described (b and c) for £30 from William Henry Darton. Manor Court of Temple Dinsley. 1 November 1919 re property of Flora Jones Curling (see before)Flora Curling sold a) and d) Waley Wick/Close and Todds Close to Edward Spencer Curling by an Indenture dated 13 May 1904. She had since died. Edward was admitted as tenant and bought the freehold on 1 December 1919.Manor of Temple Dinsley. Lord – Elizabeth Darton, widow. Steward – George Debenham (deputy of Edward Thompson. The Homage – Thomas Harwood Darton and Benjamin Hill. Held 3 March 1845On 4 April 1829, Joseph Saunderson , yeoman of Preston, Hitchin mortgaged the following property for £200 plus interest at 5% pa.to Hitchin bankers, Joseph Margetts Pierson and Henry Crabbe: a) The cottage with shop and appurtences at Preston and three closes of land (of three acres) on the back-side of the dwelling house which had previously been owned by Edward Swain, blacksmith. Rent 18/- pa. b) The close (of one acre) adjoining a cottage at Preston Green. Rent 12/- pa. Joseph Saunderson had been admitted as tenant to a) and b) (together with houses, outhouses, edifices, buildings, stables, yards, gardens, orchards, hedges, ditches, trees, fences, ways, waters, watercourses) on 25 April 1811 when they were surrendered by Stephen Swain. Henry Crabbe died 17 June 1830. Joseph Pierson died 9 May 1842. Thomas Gorham Pierson was admitted to the mortgaged property on 24 February 1843. The mortgage was taken over by Samuel Lucas, brewer of Hitchin on 6 June 1843.On 16 November 1833, Harriet Saunderson of Preston had been admitted as tenant to this property for 40 years according to the will of her late husband, Joseph. She mortgaged the property to Samuel Lucas for £139.Samuel Lucas was admitted as tenant of the property hitherto owned by Joseph and then HarrietSaunderson. Joseph Saunderson by his will of 5 June 1829 bequeathed his whole estate to his wife and after his death the residue was to be divided equally between his five children: Joseph, Sophia, Charles, Stephen and Alfred (Saunderson). Samuel Lucas was owed £454 3/- to redeem the two mortgages taken out on the property by first Joseph and then Harriet Saunderson. This sum was paid by the surviving executor of Joseph Saunderson’s will, Priscilla Swain. She sold the property to William Brown, yeoman of Bendish, St Pauls Walden for £820. The property was now described as ‘the cottage now used as a public house, the Red Lion at Preston and two closes of pasture (of four acres) – previously three and one closes – adjoining the said cottage’. William Brown was admitted as tenant for 40 years.Out of Court 26 September 1877William Brown, farmer of Preston died. He owned the Red Lion and two closes of adjoining land of four acres for which he was paying rent of £1 10/- pa. His will dated 21 December 1871 was produced by his wife Emma Brown. She inherited everything including farming stock. Then after her death the estate was to be sold and divided among their children – administered by Whitbread Roberts and William’s son, Alfred Brown. Emma was admitted as tenant.Indenture 29 September 1896. Re: Red Lion and adjoining land including barn and granary. As Emma Brown died on 26 October 1895 without re-marrying and Whitbread Roberts did not accept his bequest (by Deed Poll), Alfred Brown sold the Red Lion (recently occupied by Messrs Pryor Reid and Co.) and land to John William Green, brewer of Luton for £1650. John Green was admitted as tenant on 16 February 1897 and paid a fine of £97. He bought the freehold from Emily Darton for £200 on 22 March 1898.Manor of Temple Dinsley. Lord – Elizabeth Darton, widow. Steward – George Debenham (deputy of Edward Thompson. The Homage – Thomas Harwood Darton and Benjamin Hill. Held 3 March 1845James Joyner had been admitted as tenant for 40 years on 13 October 1773 of a cottage, two cottages and part of an orchard at Preston Green. He sold the property (which had never been surrendered to the Court) to Thomas Wilston. On his death, his son, Daniel Wilston, wheelwright of Preston and Thomas’s eldest son was admitted to the property which was now described as the messuage, wheelwright and blacksmiths shop, barn, yard, garden and orchard at Preston Green. Daniel paid a fine of £30 for 40 years tenancy. Daniel mortgaged the above property for £60 plus 5% interest to Thomas Harwood Darton of Kings Walden.Manor Court of Temple Dinsley. Homage: Thomas Harwood Darton. Held: 21 November 1850John Gootheridge Late of Kings Walden (Preston Hill Farm), now of Bendish sold his copyhold property to Henricus Octavus Roe (born 1761c Stotfold, Beds. and a landed proprietor in 1851) for £1990. William Vaughan of Stotfold, Beds was given the use of the land and was admitted as tenant on payment of a fine of £145. Details of copyhold property: 1) The cottage (with orchard and garden – one acre) on west side of road that separates Kings Walden and Hitchin parishes which were occupied by Jonathan Walker (see 1841 and 1851 census) (No 459 on Enclosure Plan). And, site of cottage ‘long since standing on the orchard but now wasted’. Rent: 2/6 pa.2) Another cottage to north of 1) with orchard and gardens measuring 1 acre 14 perches. Previously occupied by Joseph Sharpe (No. 457) Rent: 1/2d.3) Another cottage a short distance northwards of 2) with yard, orchard and garden measuring 2 rods, 2 perches. And, site of cottage long since wasted in occupation of Ann Pedder. (No. 456) Rent: 4d pa.4) Taylors Orchard to west of 3); bounded by Sir Frances Knight’s land to north and by 5) to the west 2 acres 10 perches. (No 455) Rent: 1/- pa.5) Ash Croft bounded by 4) to the west; Sir Frances Knight’s land to north; Foster’s land to west and by to the south - 1 acre 3 rods 34 perches (No 454) Rent: 1/6d pa.6) Broad Close – bounded by 5); freehold land owned by John Gootheridge; Great Bennetts to the east and Foster’s land to the west -7 acres 4 perches (No 453) Rent: 4/-7) New Close – south of 6) and bounded by Great Bennetts to west -9 acres 6 perches (No. 451) Rent: 4/6d8) Five acres only of Great Bennetts (which measured 10 acres 3 rods and 3 perches) to east of 70 and bounded by freehold land belonging to John Gootheridge called the Wick and Bushey Close to the east – (No. 461) Rent: 2/6d.9) Hay Tail – in south-west corner of 8); bounded by New Close to the north; 10) to the west and freehold land formerly belonging to Daniel Rudd then John Gootheridge called Pytchley Close to the east - 3 acres 2 rods 13 perches (No 446) Rent: 1/9d.10) Little Frogmore – to west of 9); New Close to north; Sir F Willes land to west and 110 to the south - 3 acres 3 rods 18 perches (No. 447) Rent: 1/1011) Pytsley Close – to south of 9) and 10); bounded by freehold land owned by John Gootheridge called Morden Close to the east; bounded by land owned by Sir F Willes and formerly John Gootheridge, now William Sheaf, to the west and the road to the south - 8 acres 1 rod 5 perches (No. 423) Rent: 4/3d.12) Great Hearns Field – at the extreme north-east of the parish of Kings Walden and bounded by Hearnsfield Wood to east and south -17 acres 2 rods 24 perches (No 471) Rent 9/6d.(Note: the numbers relating to the property mentioned above refers to the Kings Walden Enclosure map. This is held at HALS but is fragmented. The alternative numbers (in blue) relate to the map of Preston Hill Farm on this site. Link: Preston Hill Farm.)Manor Court of Temple Dinsley. Homage: John Curling and Benjamin Hill. Held: 4 May 1857.According to the Court Records, on 11 November 1839, William Swaine of Preston died and by his will dated 30 September 1825 he bequeathed a cottage, barn and garden at Preston Green (occupied by Paul Williams, then William Gentle, William Joyner and now James Scott) to his spinster daughter, Dinah Swaine during her life and afterwards to his daughter, Aney Palmer (husband of Samuel Palmer of Preston). Dinah was admitted as tenant on 11 November 1839. She surrendered the property to Thomas Harwood Darton on 21 May 1856 for the consideration of an annuity of £6. Out of Court 23 October 1877Following the deaths of Dinah Swaine and Aney Palmer, the close of 5 acres 1 perch called Garretts in Kings Walden parish (Rent 2/- pa) was bequeathed to John Swain, blacksmith of Preston, who produced a copy of Aney Palmer’s will dated 16 January 1877 (Aney having survived Dinah). John Swain was admitted as tenant for a fine of 2/-. The property was then mortgaged to Edwin Logsdon for £100 plus 5% interest. The mortgage was repaid with £150 by John Swain on 6 December 1879.Indenture 9 December 1879.Re Garretts End (see before) which was bounded north and east by road and south and west by land owned by Charles Hale, £57 10/- was paid to the Lord of the manor, Thomas Harwood Darton by John Swain to enfranchise or convert the property from copyhold to freehold.Manor Court of Temple Dinsley. Out of Court before Armigel Wade, steward of lord of manor, William Henry Darton on 20 October 1873.On 18 January 1841, Benjamin Hill had been admitted as tenant of the following property:1) A cottage at Preston and three closes of pasture totally 3 acres and a close nearest the cottage (26 - 28) being pasture previously in the occupation of James Turner.2) Ponds Cottage formerly occupied by John Godfrey and 9 closes of arable land, meadow and pasture (measuring 23 acres) (4 - 6; 18 - 25) near Ponds Cottage3) A close of arable land and pasture in Kings Walden parish called High Field – 5 acres 2 rods and 6 perches (2 rods 20 perches of which were sold to Sir F Willes by Charles Hill) Benjamin Hill died on 15 January 1871 and by his will dated 27 7 1870 he bequeathed all his estate to his wife, Hannah Hill, David Pennyfather of Colts Foot Farm, Datchworth, Herts and Thomas Campkin of Broomhall, Watton, Herts. Hannah was to receive the income from rents etc.The property was to be sold by the two surviving trustees after Hannah’s death. The three heirs were admitted as tenants for 40 years for a fine of £3. The total rent of the properties was 15/2d. Lease noted 23 May 1878. Benjamin Hill’s property described above was leased by Hannah Hill of Hope Villa, Stevenage to Stephen Marriott for 15 years from 29 September 1877.Manor Court held 5 November 1884.Thomas Campkin, surviving trustee of Benjamin Hill, sold the following for £1375 to John Harvey Lovell of Bedford Square, Brighton and George Bryan Milman, Lieutenant-General of London:1) A cottage2) Three closes of pasture adjoining above cottage. Nearest Close formerly occupied by James Turner (sold to Benjamin Hill by Richard Oakley in 18 January 18413) ‘Ponds’, a cottage formerly occupied by John Godfrey.4) Nine closes comprising 23 acres of arable land near Ponds:5) ‘Wellcroft’ – a close of seven acres of arable land and a spinney.6) ‘High Field Close’, Kings Walden – 5 acres 2 rods 6 perches inherited by Benjamin Hill after the death of Charles Hill in 1841 now occupied by Thomas Marriott.7) Ponds Farm with land comprising 38 acres 3 rods 22 perches as follows: ‘Wellbrook’ 7a 2r 35p ‘Lower Pasture’ 1 2 24 ‘Eight Piece’ or ‘Eight Acres’ 1 2 24 ‘Home Field’ 11 3 38 ‘Pruddie Pasture’ 1 3 8 House and Garden 2a – 19p ‘Ley Pasture’ and ‘Sweard Close’ 4a – 31p ‘Little Down Field’ and ‘Ploughed Close’ 3 2 6(Note: Benjamin Hill mortgaged land to Sarah Herbert Hicks for £800 and interest on 13 September 1862. The mortgage was paid off. Hannah Hill died 13 November 1883.) Lovell and Milman were admitted as tenants on 16 January and bought the freehold of the property for £375.Manor Court of Temple Dinsley.An indenture dated 20 November 1875. A sale was completed between William Henry Darton and Henry Maclean Pryor of two pieces of waste (i.e. uncultivated land) land measuring 2 rods and 18 perches at Cranwell Green (sic), Preston for £30. Site Diagram:
Manor Court of Temple Dinsley. Homage: Alfred Brown and John Swain 7 October 1878Manor Court of Temple Dinsley. Homage: Alfred Brown, John Swain and Benjamin Brown. 13 October 1878.Manor Court of Temple Dinsley.Homage: Alfred Brown and Benjamin Brown. 4 October 1880. The final Temple Dinsley Manor Court Baron was held on 18 December 1922