The Hertfordshire Record Office holds a series of 14 St. Albans Archdeaconry probate registers. [HALS 2AR] These contained copies of wills handed into the archdeacon's court for probate and grants of administration in cases where a person died intestate. The archdeacon's court presided over an ecclesiastical court whose duties include not only the probate of wills, but also heard cases concerning irregularities in faith and morals. The archdeacon was also responsible for the general oversight of the parish churches within the Liberty of St. Albans. So far as I am aware to date, the only sets of these records to have been published, concerned the wills of people from within the parishes of St. Albans between 1471 and 1500, [S232] and those of Kings Langley between 1498 and 1659.[S86]
As two thirds of our study area falls within the Liberty, then a study of these as yet unpublished records could probably reveal much about the people who lived within the Liberty in times past. If at all possible, once all other documentary leads at the record office have been followed up, I shall see if it is possible to glean any further information from these records, although the records prior to the 16th century being mostly in Latin will add further complications to their study. Where I can be reasonably sure that the above mentioned previously published wills fall within our study area, I shall include them in the text as they give a wonderful insight into the life of the times in which they were written.
The courts of the three manors of Pre, Kingsbury and Westwick, and in the possession of the Abbey of St. Albans, were held together. [ VCH, ii p.400] These were the Courts Baron, which dealt with transfer of land and leases, collecting of manorial dues and other such matters, rather than criminal courts.
Part of the structure of Westwick Row Farm belongs to a section of a cruck framed hall-house with a service end: the other end was rebuilt in the 16th century and enlarged. [ S31 p.183 ] The listed building schedule shows that there are now two 15th century cruck bays, but that originally there would have been four. There is also a contemporary 2-storey bay at the right end, which is thought to have been built as a grain store during the 15th century.
There are many documents held at the Hertfordshire Record Office, concerned with land transactions from the 15th century onwards within our area of study. Unless the transaction was of particular interest, I have not included it separately in the Chronicle. I have however, where possible, listed the names of the various people associated with the land attached to particular holdings. (The fact that a particular holding has not been mentioned individually, DOES NOT necessarily mean that there is no recorded information about it, mearly that I have as yet not recorded it.)
Farms were not generally consolidated units as today, instead various parcels of land could be part of one farm holding at one point in time, but part of another holding at another point in time, dependant on to whom the overlord leases them at any given moment. This was particularly the case where property was copyhold (as much of it was) with the freeholder being the lord of the overall manor or estate. This especially applies to the large number of holdings either leased from the Gorhambury estate, or held in copyhold from the manors in our area. (Hemel Hempstead, Westwick etc., Abbots Langley, Chambersbury and Market Oak (alias Leverstock Green).
It should also be remembered that at this time it was unusual for one tenant's holdings to be consolidated together, instead he would hold land in various parts of the manor in much the same way as a couple of centuries earlier he would have farmed different "strips" in the various common or Open fields. It was also not unusual for some copyhold tenants to move from being the copyholder of one farmstead to that of another in the area, as their fortunes fluctuated, or where marriages took place. Life expectancy on the whole in the 15th century was not very high, and so it was not uncommon for surviving partners to marry again, often two or three times. Customary tenancies were then either transferred to the new husband, or to the children of one or other of the previous partners in order to provide homes for everyone.
For the most part the land was the FREEHOLD property of only a very small number of individual families or, prior to the dissolution, one of the monastic institutions. If the reader wishes obtain further information on the transfer of various parcels of land, then he/she should refer to the wealth of information held at the HALS. However, it is hoped that by giving the names of the principle holders of land in certain area, anyone trying to trace their family history and recognising one of their ancestors, will be led to the appropriate documents. Reference to the maps showing the Principle Properties in the area (in the April 1995 issue); Medieval Field Names in the area (in the July 1995 issue) and the Late Medieval Infrastructure (August 1995 issue) will be helpful.
Known to be associated with Stonards during the 15th century were the Sare family, and Sir John Garnet.[S232]
Known to be associated with various properties around Westwick Rowe this century were: John Eversden, Richard Dolle, [HALS 1L14], Peter Griggs, Thomas Howes, William Ewer, possibly Robert Stodley, The Bunne family (various spellings) [HALS XI2]
Known to be associated with the parcels of land known as Everesdonlond (later called Evesdenland and buy the 19th century Eavesdens) was John Everesdon and Richard Dolle. Eavesdens covered about 20 acres of land which lies between Westwick Row and Westwick Hall, and later became part of Westwick Hall Farm. [HALS 1L14]
Known to be associated with the land attached to Hill End Farm and Stonehall during the 15th century were: John Germayn of St. Albans, Henry Mawt and Elene his wife, Thomas Bromley, Thomas Cooke of St. Albans, John Robyn, Thomas London, William Fuller, John Stone, John Stevynson and Johanna his wife from Redbourne, John Stepneth, John Merston and Alice his wife, George Merston their son, John Bromley, & William Gunne. [HALS references 1E1 - 1E4; S232,186]
Associated with the lands and messuage of Wards or Kettlewells, was the Warde family after whom it was named. [GORHAMBURY, Vol. 1 p.89;]
Known to be associated with the land and property around Megdells during the 15th century were the Hawgood family.
Known to be associated with Palmers (in the Bunsfield area), was the Palmer family from whom it took its name. (Palmers, known in the early 20th century as Three Cherry Trees Farm) was in the parish of Redbourne. There is considerable documentation from a very early date on the property and the land attached which I have not yet looked into. The farmstead has, however, a long association with the Leverstock Green area as many of its associated fields were in our area of study. Also at the beginning of this century the farm was home to the village cricket and sometimes the football club.[HALS II.O.2]