Today, if one strolled along the lane from Lower Crunnells Green towards Preston Hill Farm, one would pass only Reeves Cottage on the right. In the eighteenth century, there were no less than six tumbledown cottages set back from this lane to the south - and a seventh cottage near the farmhouse. The following article is their history.
Map of Preston Hill Farm and its labourers’ cottages dated 1848
1 Pedder’s Cottage
Anyone travelling along Crunnells Green towards Back Lane in the eighteenth century would have seen a cottage facing them at the end of the lane. Who owned this home and who lived there? This cottage lay in Hitchin parish. The manorial roll helpfully mentions in 1713 that Sir James Reade of (Brocket Hall, Hatfield) held a cottage and land of about an acre at ‘the lower end of Crunwells Green’. In 1714, its manorial rent was 4d. Armed with this information, the entry in the survey of 1664 is significant – it recorded Sir James Reade as a freeholder in the manor of Temple Dinsley owning ‘two cottages and two orchards’ with a total holding of 1½ acres of land for which he paid manorial rent of 4d. It may well be that the property had been converted from two into one home by 1713. Although the manorial documents between 1732 and 1760 are fragmented, in 1761 a survey of Temple Dinsley rentals shows Thomas Dashwood as holding a property at Preston with a rent of 4d. A connection between Reade and Dashwood is easily made as the wealthy spinster, Mary Reade of Soho Square, Westminster bequeathed part of her large estate to her nephew, Thomas Dashwood. George Rudd (born c1771, Hitchin) was the cottage’s tenant towards the end of the eighteenth century. Dashwood still held the property in 1811 and the carpenter, Henry Pedder (born Potton, Beds c1781) was living there with his family. The area of the plot was one acre and 23 perches and it comprised the cottage, an orchard and a small piece of arable land. As Henry Pedder had a household of nine (three, male; six, female) in 1821, the cottage was probably quite large. Henry Pedder was still in residence in 1844 and he was probably dwelling there when he died in March of 1859. Perhaps its next tenants were James (22) and Ann Jenkins in 1861. The cottage was not shown on the Sales Particulars Map when Temple Dinsley was sold in 1873, so it was likely demolished in the 1860s. By 1898, the land was owned by Thomas Fenwick Harrison of the Kings Walden Bury Estate. The census of 1911 notes Henry Jeeves (72) as occupying the land – he was living alone at Back Lane where he owned some property (Link: Jeeves) As the property was not included in the sale of the Kings Walden Estate in 1885, Dashwood sold it separately to Harrison between 1885 and 1911.
Before examining the history of the next cluster of cottages along Hill Farm Lane, it should be noted that they lay in the parish of Kings Walden and there is not the same amount of information about them available as for homes in Hitchin parish. Mention should also be made of the process of enclosure of fields by Act of Parliament in the parish of Kings Walden which began in 1797 and which was completed in 1802 and that the cottages had a common ownership in the nineteenth century. Shortly before their owner, John Gootheridge’s, death on 21 October 1850, he sold his entire farm including his labourers’ cottages on 2 June 1848. It was purchased by William Vaughan, a tanner from Stotfold, Beds who in turn, under the will of Henricus Octavius Roe, sold it to James Sidney Walker in 1857. By 1884, the farm was part of the Kings Walden Bury Estate. When the estate owner, Charles Cholmondely Hale, died in 1884, it (including Preston Hill Farm) was advertised for sale on 6 August 1885 and was purchased by Mrs Hinds. Three years later, in 1891, she sold the estate to Thomas Fenwick Harrison.
(Above) The fragmented and fragile enclosure map of Kings Walden (1802) showing the allotments around Preston Hill Farm Lane. The numbered sections (such as 462) are important as they are a point of reference in the Temple Dinsley manorial court documents. Everything that can be seen is part of (John) Gootheridges’s allotment
2/3 Crofts’s Cottage and another cottage
From the middle to the end of the seventeenth century, it appears that there was only one cottage with an orchard and barn etc on this site at Kings Walden. Although there is a note in the manorial record summary that before 1660, the holding had been previously owned by Gootheridge, the ownership trail starts in 1660 when Edward Abdell surrendered the property to John Heyday. Three years later, on 15 April 1663, Heyday passed the property to his nephew also named John Heyday (see photo below). In 1679, John Heyday surrendered the holding to Jeremiah Crawley, who in turn passed it on to Thomas Crawley of Lilley, Herts in 1684. Thomas then surrendered the property to Thomas Adey (sic) in 1698. Thomas Audley snr was shown as owning the property in the Survey of Temple Dinsley Rentals of 1718. By the mid-1750s, the property was owned by Thomas Audley jnr (the son of Thomas Audley snr) who was baptised on 5 November 1690 at St Mary, Hitchin. In May 1780, Elizabeth Cherry inherited the cottage from her late father, James Elliot. James had married Elizabeth Street at St Mary, Hitchin on 22 October 1738. Their daughter, Elizabeth, was born on 24 August 1740 and baptised a few weeks later at St Mary, Hitchin on 21 September. James’ holding was confirmed in the 1761 Survey of the Manor of Temple Dinsley. On 17 July 1781, Elizabeth Cherry (wife of Thomas Cherry, yeoman of Lilley, Herts) surrendered Crofts Cottage together with its yard, barn, orchard and another cottage (which was built on the yard) to John Wright (yeoman of Kimpton, Herts). On Wright’s death in 1794, at a public auction of the property held at The Chequers inn, his executors sold the holding to John Gootheridge for £60. In 1801, when the Hitchin boundaries were beaten, it was noted that the parish line passed ‘a cottage belonging to Mr John Gootheridge in the occupation of John Craft (sic)’. John Croft married Ann Pratt on 15 June 1789 at Kings Walden. The couple had four children. Ann moved from the cottage before 1841 and was probably living at Back Lane. Aged 84, she was buried at Kings Walden on 27 April 1849. When John Gootheridge sold Preston Hill Farm in 1848, it was noted that it occupied 2 roods and two perches but that the cottage and the yard had ‘long since been wasted’. The censuses of the nineteenth century provide information about the occupants of Crofts Cottage: 1841 Phoebe Pedder (67) and Ann Pedder (41) with her four children and William Crawley (40) 1851 A household of seven including Anne Pedder (laundress) with two children, her brother and William Crawley. 1871 Joseph (46, ag lab) and Catherine Burton with seven children and Catherine’s mother Isabella Breed (70) In 1881, 1885 and 1891 the cottage was unoccupied - which probably indicates its poor condition. Likely, it was demolished before 1900
4 Reeves Cottage
The cottage known today as Reeves Cottage has been described thus: a late medieval open-hall house, with chimney stack and floors inserted in the early seventeenth century; front lean-to extension constructed in the eighteenth century and south-end extension built in the 1970s. With a timber frame and rough-cast with a steep old red-tiled roof carried down as a catslide over front extension. A 1½ storeys house, facing east, with a canted bay window and hipped tiled roof to the left of the door and a lean-to, red-brick extension on the right. A three-lights and single-light box dormer at the eaves. There is a boarded door under a flat hood on shaped brackets. It has a large internal chimney, with a corbelled cap, a third from the north end. There is a small projecting south gable stack flanked by a window on each side on each floor. Its interior has an exposed frame and axial beams. There is fragmentary evidence of a two-bays open hall with smoke blackened rafters remaining. The house was probably larger. There are a bar and hollow stops to inserted beam in the north room, similar to stops on lintels to back-to-back fireplaces in stack built around the central truss. The first reference (see below) in the manorial records to ‘one messuage together with one acre of land and an orchard’ (rent 6d) was on 15 April 1663 when Thomas Hurst was reaffirmed as its owner after apparently holding the property for forty years. A little more detail was added in 1664 when the property was described as a cottage with sixteen poles of land and an adjoining acre of land.
The manorial court of 27 March 1690 recorded the property as passing from Thomas Hurst’s daughter Elizabeth to Benjamin Hurst, who was shown as the owner in the 1714 survey of Temple Dinsley rents. However, by April, 1710, John Gootheridge had already acquired the property as he added to his farm. The holding remained in the Gootheridge family for almost 140 years until the series of transactions described earlier (in the green box) whereby it became part of the Kings Walden Bury Estate. Known occupants of Reeves Cottage: 1841 Joseph (born c1798, ag lab) and Alice Sharp with their two children. 1851 Joseph and Alice Sharp with their married son George and his wife and son. 1871 Thomas (born c1812, ag lab) and Jane (straw plaiter) Reeves with their five children aged seven to twenty-eight. They gave their name to the adjacent field and the present-day house. 1881 Thomas (shepherd, 36) and Elizabeth Fairey with their children aged nine and eleven months. Their home was known as Preston Hill Cottage. 1885 - 1899 William (born c1832, ag lab) and Mary Peters with their two children. 1901 unoccupied 1902 Albert Lawrence 1908 Leonard Ewington 1911 William Peacock (widowed farm labourer, 49) and his four children. The cottage had four rooms. 1914 Mary Swain 1929 - 1935 Edmund Burrows 1940 Arthur William King (address: Preston Hill Farm Cottage, Armstrongs Lane) 1942 - 1945 Leslie Mardell 1946 - 1947 Sam and Grace Wray (and moi) 1961 - 1963 Alec and Joy Bond 1966 Geoffrey and Pamela Hedger 1971 John and Pauline Keene (Hill Farm Cottage) 1981 - 1987 Fred and Ann Maybrick (cottage now known as Reeves Cottage) 1991 Diana E Layton and Frederick G Standard
1841 John (born 1768c) and Mary Jeeves with their daughter Sarah. John (80) was buried at St Mary, Hitchin on 9 February 1848. 1851 Mary and Sarah (who were both laundresses). Mary (86) was buried at St Mary on 26 June 1853. 1861 Sarah Jeeves with two relatives lodging, George (born c1834) and William Jeeves (c1845). 1881 Police Constable Abel Day with his wife Harriet and four children 1886 Harriet Day (now widowed) and three children 1891 Mrs Day and two children. 1901 - 1910 William (born c 1846, ag lab) and Elizabeth Boston and four children. The cottage was pulled down in 1910/11 and replaced with a Lutyens-designed house for William Miles, the Temple Dinsley estate bricklayer.
A History of Preston in Hertfordshire
Preston’s Cottages: Preston Hill Farm Lane cottages
(Above) Reeves Cottage in 1977 and 2007
5/6 Walkers Cottage and another cottage
This property passed from John Hammond to Thomas Hammond (3 March 1663); to Rowland and (Thomas Hammond’s daughter) Anne Bell (6 February 1673); to Anne Hanscombe on the death of Anne Bell (19 June 1701) and then to John Gootheridge that same day. It was then described as two cottages, an orchard and a close of pasture. The close was of one acre according to the Temple Dinsley Survey of 1761. However, by 1850, one of the cottages had been demolished – it was noted in the manorial record that the holding included the site of a cottage ‘long since standing on the aforesaid orchard but now wasted’. The ownership of this holding then followed the path described in the green box above. Known occupants of Walkers Cottage: 1841 and 1851 Jonathan (born c1780, ag lab) and Ann Walker with seven children and eleven in their household. 1771 – 1885 Frederick and Mary Day 1891 unoccupied - which probably indicates its poor condition. Likely, it was demolished before 1900.
7 “Riddles” aka “Mays Cottage” - to the south-east of Preston Hill Farm
This cottage was associated with between twenty and twenty-four acres of land. It was owned by the Chalkley family from 1665 until 1726: Henry (1665), Thomas, William (21 April 1682), Mary (29 June 1687) - she married Thomas Gootheridge - then finally, Mary’s son, William Chalkley. William surrendered the holding to John Gootheridge on 28 September 1726. The ownership then followed the path described in the green box above. Known occupants of Riddles/Mays Cottage 1851 William (born c1816, ag lab) and Mary Ann Mayes with their five children. 1871 Charles (bricklayers labourer, born c1832) and Sarah Thrussell with their six children. The cottage was unoccupied before 1881 and eventually demolished.
Cottage at corner of Crunnell’s Green and Back Lane
As we are nearby, the history of this cottage (which has not been featured elsewhere) is also recounted. In 1811-16, the cottage and garden (which occupied one perch) was owned by Joseph Darton. Occupants: 1812 - 1821 A case can be made that labourer and former soldier, John Brown, and his family were living here between these dates. The run of names in Hitchin Rates Books and the 1821 Census points to this and 1801 he was occupying part of the orchard across the road around Pedder’s Cottage according to the description of the route taken when the parish bounds were beaten. In 1821, John was living with two females. A John Brown (aged 76) was buried at
St Mary, Hitchin on 23 April 1829. John had previously been living at Fig Tree Cottage on Preston Green from 1788 to 1806. He is noted in the Militia Lists as living at Preston from 1773 to 1785 when he was ‘Drawn’. Perhaps his military service was a consequence of this.