To enlarge, click on images above of Corner Farm as it is today
Before starting this history I should point out that there is a great deal more research which could be undertaken by a family historian or genealogist concerning this family. As Leverstock Green’s local historian my researches have a wider remit than just studying one or more families, though inevitably the history of several such families will come to light as part of my study of the Leverstock Green area, particularly where a family had been of importance over many decades or centuries.
In the cases of the Finches, I have not followed through all the available source material on parish records, birth/marriage & death certificates, nor looked at many of the available wills. Where access to this material has been easy and inexpensive I have followed it through to add to the richness of the story, but I know there is a great deal more readily accessible information available on line (at a price) or if one is prepared to spend the time at the Family History Centre, the PRO etc. There is also I am sure a great deal more information available at HALS concerning the various properties, and particularly Corner Farm (within the parish of St.Michaels), which I have as yet been unable to spare the time to view.
Neither have I as yet been able to securely link the 16th & 17th century Finches with the 18th century Joseph Finch and his descendants, about which we know a great deal. I feel sure, however, that given the prevalence of the same Christian names, and the occupation of the same property there must be a link on the family tree somewhere. I therefore present the information below just as it stands. I am assuming a link between the early and later Finches, but it is just possible there was none. Certainly in the 16th & 17th centuries we had fairly prosperous members of a Finch family occupying much of the same area of farmland which we know to be have been occupied by the numerous Finches which now lie in St. Mary’s & Holy Trinity’s Churchyards.
If anybody viewing this can add to my information concerning the Finches of Leverstock Green, please contact me – similarly if you can find the link between the early and later Finches, I would love to know. I would equally like to know if you have proof that there is no such link.
Barbara Chapman, February 2005
Click on historical period to move to that section of this article and miss the introduction.
Thomas Fynche and his heirs owned and farmed land(by copyhold for the most part) in and around Westwick Row from the mid 16th century; and by the mid to late 17th century documents specifically associate the Fynche or Finch family with Corner Farm which stands at the corner of Westwick Row and the A4147. Today it is a Grade II listed building registered as having been built in the 16th century. It therefore seems probable that the farmhouse was originally built by Thomas Fynche. Further research amongst the Gorhambury Manor Rolls may well reveal details of when and by whom copyhold “fees” were first paid to the Lord of the Manor and when members of the Finch family were first admitted to the property.
A Thomas Fynch (or Finch) – possibly the same as above, was known to be associated with what we now call Westwick Row Farm during the 16th century.
The Finch family and in particular Daniel Finch and his wife Sarah were also associated with property in and around Westwick Row which we now believe to have been one of the early manorial sites and opposite to the Great Tithe Barn, i.e. where Westwick Warren is today. The house in question was demolished in the mid 17th century and Westwick Hall built further in towards Gorhambury in its stead. [In the 19th & 20th centuries Finches farmed Corner Farm and also owned Westwick Warren and King Charles II cottage ( details will be given later). I am therefore assuming the two families to be linked, but I have no evidence to date to substantiate this.]
The Finch family were obviously fairly well–to-do by the mid 17th century as they granted a mortgage (that is acted as Banker by lending money) to John Field, the Lord of the small Manor of Leverstock Green (or Markate Oak). John Field took out a mortgage with Daniel Finche and Susan Doggett his wife in 1641 using the Manor as security against the loan. (This was not the first time he had done this, though with a different lender, a fact which later led to a court case.) This included not only the Lordship of the manor of Market Oak (or Leverstock Green), but "also all the Meassuages cottages Lands Tenements meadoes pastures" etc.. etc It would appear that he failed to make the necessary payments, and so in effect it became the property of Daniel Finch and his wife Susan. Susan, having remarried after her husband Daniel's death, obviously inherited the rights they had gained as a result of the default on the mortgage. Her second husband Charles Day then transferred the lease (sold it in effect) to Samuel Grimston in 1665/6, giving him the right to lease or sell it, the property then becoming part of the Gorhambury estate.
Between January and February 1610/1611 in the Calendar of Assize Records of Hertfordshire Indictments for James I, it states that “on February 1st 1610, Nathaniel Nicholson of St. Albans, a labourer, was indicted for grand larceny, for stealing a purse (1d) containing 20s in money, from William Finch, a yeoman of St. Michael's.” It went on to add that William Fynche (same man, different spelling), along with another, gave evidence against Nicholson, at the St. Albans sessions on January 11th. Nicholson was still at large!. As many of the Westwick Row/Corner Farm Finches were given the name William, it is highly probably this was a member of the same family.
All photographs and scans of HALS documents shown on this website are published here with the kind permission of Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies.
On 17th February 1611/12 William Prior surrendered The Great Barn and two acres of land (these were almost certainly off Westwick Row, opposite to where Westwick Warren is today) ,to John Crosbye and Walter Finch, a moiety (that is half the property) to each. The barn remained in the Finch family until 1633. Then a Court Roll of 17th May 1633 shows that Daniel Finch gave the Lord of the Manor of Westwick, Gorhambury & Pre. 10/- for a license to ruin and pull down a barn at Westwick containing 4 bays. It is believed this was the old medieval Tithe barn (See also entries for 17th February 1612 and the entries for Westwick Hall and Old House in the section on The Location of Principle Properties, as well as the section on The Great Tithe Barn printed previously in Chambersbury News.
Just prior to the start of the English Civil War between King and Parliament, on 13th October 1641 John Feild raised a mortgage of £60 on his Manor of Market Oak (otherwise known as Leverstock Green) with Daniel Finch and his wife Susan (nee Doggett) of Westwick. The loan was to last for only a year, for which he had to pay an additional £4 15s interest. That represents an interest rate of just under 8% a high rate of interest no doubt reflecting the unstable times in the prelude to the Civil War. For more generalised information on the importance of this particular document in the somewhat disordered affairs concerning the legal ownership of the manor at this time, see the general section headed The Manor of Market Oak (in the July 1997 edition of Chambersbury News.
The mortgage Indenture itself sheds some interesting light on the exact extent of the Manor at this time, and also on the above mentioned John Feild's understanding of the state of affairs relating to the Manor - assuming that is that he did not deliberately sign the agreement with Daniel Finch and Susan Doggett, knowing that the manor was in effect already forfeit to Edward Griffith. (See section on The Manor of Market Oak mentioned above.)
Unfortunately for the Feild family, according to HALS document IN27a, default was made on this mortgage. Possibly the reason being the outbreak of Civil War, and the fact that the Battle of Edgehill began on 23 October 1642, only 10 days after the full payment was due. Especially if his allegiance was to the King, John Field would probably have joined the Royalist forces long before the battle near Warwick took place, all thoughts of mortgage repayments forgotten! If, as was the case with the vast majority of the men of standing in this area, he supported the Roundhead forces, he was probably also involved in preparations for war. In fact it was only a couple of weeks after he had signed the Indenture, that matters at court and in Parliament began to take a serious turn for the worse, with the Grand Remonstrance of November 1641 and King Charles attempt to arrest five Members of Parliament on January 4th 1642. [HALS IN19, IN27a, S69]
A rental of properties within the Manor of Gorhambury Westwick & Pre was carried out in March 1655, [HALS IA45] this was to show the fines or rents due on the copyhold and farm let properties within the Manor. Several members of the Finch family were listed as shown:
Susan Finch for one measuage or tenement with the appertenances situate in Westwicke, One pightle called a Hoppeyard to the same belonginge, One close called Mainepightle conteyninge seaven acres & three roods lyinge betweene ye lands of the Lord of ye Mannor on the east & west, One part there of abbuttinge upon a close called Conydell close towards the north th'other part thereof abbuttinge upon the sayd Measuage towards the south, and one parcell of land called Beechfieild & Little Beechfeild conteyninge four acres - more or lesse rent. £00=04s=04d. .
Susan’s previous name was Doggett (see entry for 1641) , so John Doggett was presumably her father or brother.
William Finch is referred to as owning a wood occupied by Jo WooWood and being to the south of a parcel of land known as Apsmoor Wood.
John Finch is mentioned as being the son of Joseph Finch in an entry referring to land known as Kitscroft. Their names are crossed out and Richard Field is given as holding the land instead from 1646, so I presume that John & possibly Joseph Finch held this parcel of land prior to 1646.
Richard Finch sonne and heyer of Richard Finch for one feild of earrable land called Burryfeild conteyninge five acres abbuttinge upon a parcell called GreatBunsfeild belonginge to Megdells........and upon...... Joseph Ewers called Burryfeild west. Rent: 00=01=?
John Finch for an acre and a half of land called Harpes wich he had of the surrender of Thos. Hill amd Joane his wife and Elizabeth Hillyard spinster as appeared by the Roll of 21st October (written 8brio) 1845 Rent. 00=00=?
As you can see the copyhold land held of the Lord of the Manor by various members of the Finch family was small, I think we can therefore conclude from this, that most of their land was at this time held freehold. Daniel Finch & his wife were well enough off to grant a mortgage to John Field – a man who held a high position as Lord of the small Manor of Market Oake. . However, they were possibly not at Corner farm as by 1768 it was occupied by Isaac Nicholls and belonged to John Bradney.
In June 1749 the freehold of one-third of the Lockers Estate in Hemel Hempstead was transferred to William Finch, a citizen and leather seller of London by Mr. Howe. This was later willed to Francis Puddephat (nee Brome) of Bennetts End, Finch's niece. [HALS D/ELsB400]
It is unclear whether or not this particular William Finch was any connection of the Finch's of Corner Farm, though it is possible that there is some connection, the Finch Family being prosperous Yeoman Farmers, who as their wealth grew, will have found some members of the family branching out into other walks of life and commerce. We do know that this particular William Finch had a cousin called Samuel Nicholls to whom he bequeathed some of his property, and that an Isaac Nicholls was at Corner Farm in 1768; also that in 1834 Joseph Finch of Corner farm was well known in the stock exchange of London. However, it is through the marriage of Francis Brome, William Finch the leather seller’s niece to another well-to-do Yeoman John Puddephat of Bennetts End, that the lands of Bennetts End Farm and Lockers Park at Boxmoor became connected.
In 1768 the survey of the Gorhambury Estate showed that a William Finch farmed just over 10 acres of the land owned by the estate. This was the only part of Leverstock Green Farm where Finch was a tenant, within the St. Michaels boundary. These 10 acres abutted Pancake Lane, and were given by a later owner of Leverstock Green Farm to the community for the Parish Hall in 1915.
In 1768 the survey of the Gorhambury Estate showed that a William Finch farmed just over 10 acres of the land owned by the estate. This was the only part of Leverstock Green Farm (where Finch was a tenant), within the St. Michaels boundary. These 10 acres abutted Pancake Lane, and were given by a later owner of Leverstock Green Farm to the community for the Parish Hall in 1915.
Other documents show that the same William Finch was the tenant farmer at Leverstock Green Farm, though apparently not a very good one as a valuation undertaken at this time gave the following information about Leverstock Green Farm:
Leverstock Green Farm, Finch Tenant and at Will Rent £44 House Orchard etc.
This Estate is good Land the Greatest Part of it but has a most slovenly manager & the Land is very sower & in bad Tillage & the Buildings much out of Repair, the field called The Heath and Langley field are the best Land. Those two fields are worth £1 an acre. On the whole I set this Farm at £50 a year & at 26 Years Purchase by Reason of Part being freehold - there is a Little Timber but that should go for repairs......
This valuation was undertaken by a C De Lace for Christopher Towers prior to the farm, together with two others, being put up for sale. However, as the Tower family were still in possession of the farm for another 100 years it would appear not to have been sold.
However, William Finch did not remain as the tenant farmer, a new lease being given to a James Preston in May 1797.
In 1785 & 1786, Joseph Finch, farmer, was listed in the Hertfordshire Militia Lists for St. Michaels. This is possibly the same Joseph as the one buried in St. Mary’s churchyard Hemel , who would have been in his late 20’s at the time of these particular Militia lists. In addition a Zacharia Finch was also listed for 1786 as a ploughman. The militia lists were drawn up from 1757 for the next 50 years or so, “for the better ordering of the Militia Forces… in England” In Hertfordshire aprox. 560 men were expected to be available if called upon. The Militia Act provided for regular training locally and in the event of threatened or actual invasion, to fight for the protection of England. Each parish constable drew up a list of those “liable to serve” – essentially those aged 18-50, but there were numerous exemptions, including in 1762 a reduction in the maximum age to 45 and in 1786 an exemption for men with more than one legitimate child. These probably explain why only 2 members of the Finch family appear on the lists. No returns were made over several years, and in Hertfordshire few of the later year’s lists still survive.
Returning to 1768, Corner Farm itself was in occupation by Issac Nicholls, with the farm itself – 100 acres –belonging to John Bradney.
Above: Sections of the Gorhambury Estate map of 1768. Click on thumbnails to enlarge.
However by 1800 when additional information was added to the Gorhambury Survey.... -
“The following farms were added to the original Plan the year 1800 by Thomas Goodman having been purchased at different times by James Bucknalls Lord Viscount Grimston.”
....it shows Joseph Finch as the tenant and a slight increase in the size of the farm as a whole of just over 4 acres.
On 26th July 1832 an auction sale of the Copyhold of Little Cox Pond Farm took place at the Rose & Crown Inn Hemel Hempstead at 2pm. The map accompanying the auction details for the estate showed quite clearly that Joseph Finch owned property between Leverstock Green and Hill Farm.
Right: Extract from Map of Cox Pond Farm 1832, showing the land owned by Joseph Finch.
On 19th August 1834 Joseph Finch, “late of Corner Farm,” (at the junction of Westwick Row and the Hemel Hempstead Road), died aged 77. He was therefore, presumably born in 1756 or 1757, and would fit age-wise as being the Joseph Finch in the Militia list previously mentioned.
The headstone in St. Mary's churchyard Hemel also commemorates his wife Susanna who "departed this life May 7th 1835". Quite why he and his wife were buried at St. Mary’s rather than St. Michaels is uncertain, unless they moved from the farm to live either at Tile Kiln (it was partly the property of his son in the 1840 Tithe survey), or elsewhere within the Hemel Hempstead boundary. Holy Trinity had not been built at this time. His son, another Joseph, died in 1857 whist still living and working at Corner Farm. Members of the family continued to live at Corner farm until 1956, having presumably lived there since the farmhouse was built in the 16th century. [S263, S261]
RIGHT: Joseph & Susannah Finch's gravestone in St. Mary's churchyard Hemel Hempstead. The graveyard was cleared a few years ago to make maintenance of the gardens much easier, and the remaining headstones placed around the outer walls. The Finch grave itself was originaly just beyond the East end of the Church, near to the Old Town Hall, and was recorded there in 1988 by Mr. & Mrs. J Strange and Mrs. V Haywood of the Herts. Family History & Population society. [S263]
We are fortunate that the will of the Joseph who died in 1834, is amongst those held by the Public Record Office, and now available on-line. (See transcript) It was originally drawn up in 1832 and later had a codicil added in 1833. It was finally proved in May 1835, nearly a year after Joseph’s death, and given the contents of the will suggests that Joseph, in addition to his farm, was a fairly well-to-do man, and although he initially refers to himself in 1832 as a farmer, in the codicil he refers to himself as a Gentleman, suggesting that he had allowed his son Joseph to take over the management of the farm, whilst he lived off his investments in the City of London, where he was well known to John Illage Esquire “of the Stock Exchange on the city of London”. The gentleman in question having to swear on oath to that effect, and also to being so familiar with Joseph’s handwriting that he recognises the signature as being genuine. [PRO ref: Prob 11/1846]
The Tithe Surveys took place in around 1840. In the Hemel Hempstead Tithe apportionment, Joseph Finch is shown as being the part owner of Tile Kiln Farm in the list of major holdings at the beginning of the detailed Aportionment. The Hemel Hempstead apportionment was published in 1843 but surveyed 3-4 years earlier.
Joseph’s will tells us quite a bit about the state of Joseph’s finances as well as his family. He would appear to have been an extremely wealthy man. His residual legatee was his son Joseph, but he also left a life interest in the income of his investments to his wife Susannah; there were also individual bequests totalling £1600 to two of his children and numerous grandchildren. This money was to be paid from his investments and within 3 months of his wife’s death, so presumably may have represented a large proportion of , if not the whole of the annual income from his investments. £1600 in 1832 was the approximate equivalent of £106, 409.12 if using the retail price index, or more relevantly in this instance over 1 million pounds (£1,049,961.49) if using average earnings as a base. [These figures are taken from Lawrence H. Officer, "What Is Its Relative Value in UK Pounds?" Economic History Services, October 30 2004, URL: http://www.eh.net/hmit/ukcompare/. ] Yet it should also be remembered that this annual income of £1600+ is over and above any income from the farm itself. Joseph Finch was a very wealthy man.
His will names his wife – Susannah; his (presumably remaining) children Joseph Finch & Susannah Davies, wife of George Davis, another farmer from St. Michaels; and his numerous grandchildren: John Kent, Rose Kent, William Headech, William Finch, Mary Finch, Sarah Finch, Elizabeth Finch, Joseph Lewin, Ann Lewin, William Lewin and James Lewin.
Joseph & Susannah therefore presumably had at least five children, or 4 if Susannah Davies had previously been married to a Mr Kent, Headeach or Lewin.
Landowner Occupier Description Quantity
John Edwin & Joseph FinchHimself, Thomas Franklin & othersTile Kiln Farm52a 3r 37p
Strangely the itemised apportionment failed to indicate that Joseph Finch was part owner of Tile Kiln Farm (unless the farm’s holdings included the properties indicated to belong to Joseph Finch in 1832 and again in the tithe holdings - see below).
The cottages listed no longer survive, having been demolished to make way for an intended new road during new Town expansion. They were close by the still standing Hillside Cottages.
TOP RIGHT: "Frogs Island" Cottage as it is today. A Grade II listed building. BOTTOM RIGHT: Westwick Warren as it is today.
BELOW: King Charles II Cottage as it was in the early 1960s. It is now much enlarged and a Grade II listed building.
King Charles II Cottage
Extracts from the 1840 Tithe Map for St. Michaels, St. Albans.
LEFT: Corner Farm;
BELOW; Westwick Row showing King Charles II Cottage.
Blackwater Farm, as on the 1840 Tithe Map.
In addition was the holding known as Corner Farm, leased from the Earl of Verulam. The farmhouse itself, as we know, was and still is at the corner of Westwick Row and the Hemel Hempstead/St. Albans road. Yet for the most part the land which forms the farmland this farmstead belonged to was on the other side of the road, forming a sandwich between the St. Albans road and the Bedmond Road. By this time too, Joseph Finch the younger had acquired the rental of Blackwater farm from the Earl of Verulam, so that the lands of the farm were very extensive and ran from the centre of the village where the church is today, to just before Beechtree Cottages. This was a much greater swathe of land than that farmed by the elder Joseph Finch at Corner Farm in 1800, when the Earl of Verulam acquired the farm and added the details to the 1768 survey book.
The Census of 1851 gives us another snapshot of the family of Finches at Corner Farm. Yet another Joseph Finch ( I suspect the grandson rather than son of the Joseph Finch who died in 1834), is given as the head of the family and the farmer of Corner Farm, a farm of 260 acres and employing 9 labourers. Joseph was 54, so would have been born in 1796 or 1797. His place of birth was given as St. Michaels parish. He was married to Jane, aged 43. Jane had been born in Flamstead. They had at least seven children at the time of the census. (Possibly, though not necessarily, the elder 2 were from an earlier marriage as there is a wide gap in ages). The children were listed as : Joseph (22), Jane (18) Maria (11), George (9), Susan (7), Sarah (5), and William (2).
In 1857, on 5th March, Joseph Finch died, aged 63, his wife Jane eventually following him on 6th May 1885 aged 77. They are both buried in an impressive stone altar tomb in the churchyard where their sons and a grandson were also laid to rest. The inscriptions read:
“Sacred to the Memory of MR JOSEPH FINCH of the Corner Farm who departed this life March 5th 1857 in the 64th year of his age/also of JANE FINCH wife of the above who fell asleep 6th May 1885 aged 77 years.
And on the reverse:
“In affectionate rememberance of George Finch of Corner Farm, Leverstock Green who died April28th 1873 aged 31 years/ also of JOSEPH FINCH (of Heron Farm Wheathampsted) edest son of Joseph Finch who died October 5th 1891 aged 62 years.
Assuming the information to be correct upon his tomb, we can therefore assume that Joseph’s age given in the census return of 1851 as 54 is inaccurate, and that he was in fact at the time of the survey 57 years old.
In 1860, and again in 1870, Kelley’s directory lists Henry Finch as a farmer in Westwick Row. Was Henry George’s middle name perhaps, or another brother or uncle? No Henry Finch appears in the burial register for Leverstock Green between 1870 and 1899.
According to Hertfordshire Inns Part 2, by W. Branch Johnson. Pub. 1963, in 1875 George Finch of Corner Farm died , leaving The White Horse in Leverstock Green to his brother George Albert Finch. However I suspect that this information is not quite accurate, and that instead George Finch died in 1873 (see photo & inscription on tomb), leaving the White Horse to his son George Albert.
Amongst the Finch gravestone’s in Leverstock Green churchyard is one commemorating the death of baby Joseph Finch. His memorial reads: Joseph Finch, the beloved child of George and Jane Finch of Corner Farm who died March 31st 1872 aged 2 years and 9 months.”
Between 1878 & 1902 – Kelly’s directory showed Mrs. Jane Finch, widow of George Finch to be farming in Westwick Row at Corner farm. Jane had been born at Everton in Bedfordshire. Her two sons George Albert & Herbert had taken over from her by 1908, though undoubtedly they had helped her farm the land after finishing their formal education, as shown in the 1901 census returns. (See below)
The 1881 census shows Jane Finch as a 35 year old widow and head of the family, running a 300 acre farm with the help of some agricultural labourers. Jane must have been a formidable woman. She lost her husband whilst still a young woman, and she had also suffered the death of one of her children nine years previously. Yet she went on to run the farm single handed for many years, not fully handing over the reins to her two remaining sons until she was well into her 60’s and not dying herself till past 80.
The farm had obviously grown in size by some 15% over the previous 30 years. Apart from the mention of “2 boys”, her two sons were not included in the census return for Corner Farm. Further investigation of the Hertfordshire census returns for 1881 show that George Albert, aged 13, and his younger brother Herbert aged 10, were borders at Clarence House Academy Alma Road, St. Albans. I think we can conclude from the fact that both boys attended boarding- school – albeit a local one – that the farm prospered and Jane managed it well.
The wife of the Master of Clarence Academy was Anne M Wroot (34), who also originated from Leverstock Green. Searching the 1851 census it seems likely that Anne Wroot was born Ann Wood, daughter of Mark Patterson Wood the farmer of Woodlane End Farm. It was perhaps this farming connection which led Jane to send her two sons to Clarence Acdemy.
The wife of the Master of Clarence Academy was Anne M Wroot (34), who also originated from Leverstock Green. Searching the 1851 census it seems likely that Anne Wroot was born Ann Wood, daughter of Mark Patterson Wood the farmer of Woodlane End Farm. It was perhaps this farming connection which led Jane to send her two sons to Clarence Acdemy.
The 1881 census also showed George’s brother William, aged 32, and his wife Annie with their 1 year old daughter Helen Jane at Lovett’s Farm Hemel Hempstead. (Only the census return gives her name as Ellen J.) Another relative, Florence Divers aged 15 from Harpenden was also at the farm as a visitor on the night of the census. Lovetts End farm was a large farm, and William farmed it together with 5 men and a boy. Sadly Holy Trinity’s burial register, shows Helen Jane Finch aged 3, to have been buried on 11th November 1882. Her address was given as Lovett’s farm, so there is no doubt it is the same child. Her memorial stone amongst the rest of the Finch clan reads: “Helen Jane Finch the beloved child of William and Annie Finch who died November 7th 1882 aged 3 years.
Another of William’s daughter’s Queenie was also to be buried in Holy Trinity’s churchyard, but she at least managed to obtain her majority, being 21 at the time of her death in 1918.
In 1901 another national census was taken, which this time showed Jane and her two sons as jointly running the farm. They no doubt hired in additional farm labourers, but none of these lived-in at the farm house.
Jane Finchheadwidow 55 Farmeremployer
George A.Finch son single 33Farmeremployer
Herbert Finch son single 20Famer employer
Ann Hobbs servant single 26General servant Domestic worker
Jane’s youngest son, Herbert, was one of the chief organisers of the Village Fete held on 24th June 1902, being part of the organising committee. [Gazette 26th June 1902]
A fatal accident occurred at Corner Farm on 12th May 1903. The dead man, William Smith, had come from Wheathamsted to Corner Farm Leverstock Green to collect some horses bought by his master. In attempting to ride one of the horses he fell off, and although OK at the time, later became ill. The verdict showed him to have died of fatal obstructions due to a fall from a horse. George Albert Finch gave evidence at the inquest. [Gazette 16th May 1903]
George Albert Finch was a staunch church goer, and it was noted in the Gazette on Monday April 1st 1907, that he was amongst those present at the annual Easter vestry of Holy Trinity.
“Among those present were the Vicar, who presided, Messrs A. Seabrook & W C Child Church Wardens, W Sears, R.W Wright, F Dell & W Perkins (sidesman) J K Hart, G A Finch, …………… [Gazette 6th April 1907]
In June 1907 Herbert Finch, purchased the freehold properties known then as 1-4 Leverstock Green (now known as 1-4 Church Cottages Leverstock Green ) from Frederick Gray for the sum of £860. At the time of purchase, the cottages were known to be in the occupation of Mrs. Cooper, Mr. Goodenough, Mr. Harrowell and Mrs. Mayo. [S406]
The Finches of Corner Farm were obviously held in high esteem locally as on 24th August 1907 The Hemel Hempstead Gazette reported:
LEVERSTOCK GREEN RECENT ACCIDENT: We are glad to learn that Mr. Herbert Finch of Corner Farm who met with an accident last week, is progressing favourably. [Gazette 24th August 1907]
On Monday 21st October 1907 at the County Court in St. Albans under His Honour Judge Howland Roberts, “Herbert Finch, farmer of Corner Farm Leverstock Green, claimed possession of a tenement consisting of a house & orchard in the occupation of Thomas Lay of Westwick Row near Hemel Hempstead. The defendant said he had been the tenant for 25 years and was a yearly tenant.” After questioning the parties concerned the judge adjourned the case for a month so that the Plaintiff’s uncle could give evidence. A full account of the case is given in a separate transcript. [Gazette 26th October 1907]
A few weeks later on Monday 18th November 1907,at the County Court session in St. Albans before Judge Howland Roberts, the adjourned case of Finch v Lay was dismissed, with the plaintiff Thomas Lay being awarded costs. The main problem was that there was no documentary evidence as to the official duration of the tenancy. Herbert Finch had inherited the property from his father, and his uncle William Finch had administered the estate, stating that he had let the property to Thomas Lay on a quarterly basis. (For a full account of the court proceedings, a full transcript is available.) [Gazette 23rd November 1907]
From 1908 Kelley’s directory showed George & Herbert Finch to now be farming at Corner Farm. Their mother, who by now would have been between 62 & 65 years old which at the beginning of the 20th century was a venerable old age, was to live for another 18 years. George & Herbert were to continue to be joint farmers at Corner Farm until 1947 when Herbert died.
A fire in the centre of Leverstock Green, on 21 July 1911, the property of Mr. Finch caused the following headlines and story:
FIRE! FIRE! AT LEVERSTOCK GREEN
EXCESSIVE HEAT THEORY
A FIRE OCCURRED AT LEVERSTOCK GREEN ABOUT 3 O’CLOCK YESTERDAY (Friday) AFTERNOON AS WE WERE GOING TO PRESS, AND TOTALLY DESTROYED A BARN AND STABLING ADJOINING THE THREE HORSESHOES PUBLIC-HOUSE. It is supposed that the heat of the sun caused the conflagration. Smoke was seen issuing from the barn and almost immediately the whole premises seemed to burst into flames. The alarm was
And in a short time numerous villagers were on the scene, and at once set to work with buckets of water. It was obvious that nothing could save the buildings, and attention was then concentrated on keeping the fire free from the licensed premises, and the numerous workers were successful in their objective. Assisted by the breeze the flames
And within half an hour the buildings were completely gutted. Fortunately there were no animals in the stables at the time, but a number of agricultural implements and a quantity of straw suffered destruction.
A message was wired to the Hemel Hempstead fire station, and the Brigade under Captain Hancock, turned out smartly and was quickly on the scene with the steamer (presumably steam driven fire engine.) They fixed the hydrant and commenced to take the hose towards the premises, but found they had
NOT SUFFICIENT HOSE
For the distance, which was considerable. Dr. Gilroy, who had motored over, brought a fireman back to Hemel Hempstead with him for a further supply.
The inn is the property of Mr. Finch and the lessees are the Chesham Brewery Co. Ltd. Mr Perkins is the tenant.
We understand that the damage is covered by insurance.
The police on duty include Superintendent Frogley, Sergeant Bowyer and the village constable. [Gazette 22 July 1911]
The Finch family were to loose two of its clan during the hostilities of The Great War. Two brothers, Joseph and William were to be killed in action within six months of one another. Their grave in the churchyard reads: “Joseph Finch who died May 11th 1917 aged 34 years/also of William Henry Finch (Dick) brother of the above killed in action November 1917 aged 32 years. There is also a footstone carrying the inscription: JF 1917 W.H.F. 1917. Neither of the men were commemorated on the Leverstock Green war memorial, though William is mentioned on both the Hemel memorial and in the memorial stone within St. Mary’s Church Hemel. William had been a member of the 7th Norfolk Regiment and was killed by a shell whilst sheltering in a dug-out at Cambrai on 22 November 1917. He is also mentioned on the Cambrai memorial.
Although part of the same family, these two men were the sons of William Finch of Lovett’s End farm. William was brought up at Corner Farm, and was the youngest of Joseph & Jane Finch’s children, and brother to George Finch who died in 1873.
Earlier in the war Joseph had appeared before tribunals to ascertain whether he was exempt from serving in the war because he helped his father run Lovetts End Farm. At the first tribunal, reported by the Gazette on the 18 March 1916, William Finch (who was one of the presiding officers on the tribunal!) represented his son, Joseph. He said that he had only five men now on the farm of over 400 acres with over 100 lambs. He was granted an appeal. The appeal took place shortly afterwards and was reported in the Gazette the following week (25 March 1916): William Finch appealed on behalf of his son, Joseph.
He said that he had three sons in the Army. The Mayor said that he thought five men was enough for 400 acres. Mr. Finch replied that 300 acres were arable and he had only two ploughmen. His son acted as a shepherd and helped on the farm. He was then granted two months' temporary exemption (which was eventually extended to four months).
Having lost two of his sons in the was, William Finch of Lovetts End was shortly to loose his daughter as well. The Gazette of 5th January 1918 reported: - “The funeral of Miss L.M. Finch (Queenie) of Lovetts End, Hemel Hempstead, will take place on Thursday at Leverstock Green Church." Queenie was buried in the churchyard next to her brothers, but only the base of her headstone still remains with the inscription: who died December 29th 1917 aged 21. However, the full inscription was recorded in the 1970’s by David Browning giving her name as Lydia Mary Finch. [ S169, S261, Gazette, 5/1/1918] The Gazette reported on Queenie’s funeral the following week:
FUNERAL OF MISS L M FINCH
Leverstock Green witnessed the funeral of a member of a well known family, much loved by all who knew her. Miss LM Finch (Queenie) but recently past her 21st year, who was laid to rest in Holy Trinity Churchyard on Thursday of last week amid very many signs of the affection by which she was held. A Large number of close friend and others attended the service, which was fully choral, The Rev Arthur Durrant officiating. The proceedings were rendered the deeper in solemnity by the fact that she was the third member of which the family has been bereft within the last few months. (There then followed list of floral tributes.) [Gazette 12 January 1918]
On a happier note, Mr A Finch was one of the many local residents who contributed to a presentation of a gold watch made to Mr. W. C. Child on Saturday 31st May 1919 [Gazette June 7th 1919 p.8] (NB Think this should have read GA Finch - i.e. George Albert)
The following was reported in the Hemel Hempstead Gazette on 9th October 1920 :-
At St. Albans Sessions on Saturday last Mr. Herbert Finch of Corner Farm made an application for an ejectment order against William Brazier in respect of a cottage in White-Horse yard Leverstock Green. Because seven clear days notice had not been given, the Bench decided they could not hear the case. [Gazette 9th Oct. 1920]
William Brazier was presumably one of Herbert Finch’s tenants in one of the cottages next to The White Horse. No further mention of Mr. Brazier’s tenancy appeared in later editions of the Gazette, so we don’t know the outcome. [Gazette 9th October 1920]
Over the next 16 years (that is up to 1937) Kelley’s directories continued to show George Albert and Herbert Finch as Farmers at Corner Farm. By the entry for 1937 it was noted that the farm was over 150 acres in size. This is exactly half the size it had been when their mother was running it in 1901.
By July 1926 Leverstock Green saw two of its Public Houses referred for compensation and ultimate closure. One was The Red Lion, shortly to become the private residence of Malcolm Webster, and the other the Three Horseshoes owned by Mr. GW Finch of Corner Farm. The Brewers were Cheetah and the licensee Mr Tom Perkins who had held the licence for 22 years. The Three Horseshoes was to become our local petrol service station. [Gazette 10th July 1926]
The Three Horseshoes PH owned by George Finch, seen here (LEFT) in about 1904 with Tom Perkins and his wife Mary Elizabeth who kept the grocery store.
BELOW: The Three Horseshoes much later in the 1930's after it had become established as hte village garage and petrol station.
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NOTE: She was 83 years old and the funeral took place on 30.11.1926 at Leverstock Green churchyard
Husband (late): Finch, George
ADDRESS: Corner Hall Farm, Leverstock Green, Hemel Hempstead.
NB Interesting to note the address given is wrong, it should be just be Corner Farm . The presence of Jane’s grave near the Finch tomb and the rest of the Corner Farm contingent in Holy Trinity’s Church Yard, confirming this.
Nothing further appeared in the local papers concerning the Finch family until Wednesday 16th March 1932 when three hayricks were destroyed by fire during the afternoon. The ricks were valued at over £250 and were the property of the Finch Brothers of Corner Farm. “The Hemel Hempstead fire brigade attended, but owing to the lack of water in the field next to Blackwater Lane were unable to do anything about it. The cause of the fire was unknown.” It is ironic that in the previous centuries a pond was off Blackwater Lane, and that later in the twentieth century a water tower was built on the same spot. [Herts Advertiser & St. Albans Times March 18th 1932.]
ABOVE: Letters of administration re Herbert Finch
Front page of will of George Finch.
Fifteen years later, on 12th January 1947, Herbert, one of the Finch brothers who had farmed at Corner Farm for so long, was to die in West Herts Hospital aged 75. He had made no will and therefore died intestate “ a bachelor without parent”. This led to Letters of Administration being drawn up and Probate eventually being granted to his brother “George Albert Finch of Corner Farm aforesaid, Farmer, the lawful brother of the whole blood and only person entitled to the estate of the said intestate ” “ so that – Herbert Finch of Corner Farm, Leverstock Green, died,. Part of his estate included “All that piece of land situate at Leverstock Green in the county of Hertford and lying between the road leading from Hemel Hempstead to St. Albans and the road leading from Hemel Hempstead to Kings Langley and fronting towards the last mentioned road and bounded on all sides by common land together with the four cottages with outbuildings erected thereon and in the occupation of Messrs Pearsall, Sear, Hobbs & Gurney.” These four cottages then known just as 1-4 Leverstock Green and now called Church Cottages, were vested in George Albert Finch, his brother. The whole of Herbert’s estate was valued at £4786 – 9 - 7d; £664 – 3 – 2d of which was to find itself due to the Inland Revenue. [S406, S261]
George was to live for a further nine years, and had the forethought to draw up his will (see above) four years prior to that. As he too had no “heirs of his body”, his property was left to Gertrude May Ivory, widow of Stanley Herbert Finch of Lovetts End. The gross value of the estate, which Gertrude inherited, came to £11376-14-2, with £664 –3 –2 being paid to the Inland Revenue
The brothers were buried in the same plot, surrounded by their Finch ancestors,(see photo below) their headstone commemorating the fact that they both died at Corner Farm, and that both had lived to a ripe old age: Herbert Finch died at Corner Farm January 12th 1947/also of George Albert Finch died at Corner farm March 4th 1956 aged 88.
As far as I can ascertain to date, there have been no further members of the Finch family living in Leverstock Green since George’s death. The farmhouse and its immediate outbuildings are now purely residential.Barbara Chapman February 2005
BELOW: The Finch burials at Holy Trinity Leverstock Green.
SOURCES & ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like to acknowledge the help given to me by Matt Wheeler of Dacorum Heritage Trust for checking out some items in the Gazette and on the DHT database,to an annonymouse member of staff at the Public Records Office for ferreting out the relevant reference to enable me to obtain the apparantly missing section of the 1881 census returns for Hemel Hempstead; to Prof Nigel Goose and his team at Hertfordshire University for their work on the 1851 census; to Pauline Spendlove for the loan of her documents on CHurch Cottages; and to the staff at HALS, without whom this "story" would be incomplete.
The following are specific scource references:
Listed Building Schedule for St. Albans.
PRO document: PROB 11/1846
1851,1881 & 1901 census returns for Hemel Hempstead & St. Michaels, St. Albans.
D/EV/P1 & P2
Calendar of the Assize Records of Hertfordshire Indictments, James I.
GORHAM - Vol 1 pp 99-103
The Tithe Surveys (1840 aprox) for Hemel Hempstead, St. Michaels & Abbots Langley.
Militia Lists for Hemel Hempstead, St. Michaels & Abbots Langley - Hertfordshire Family History & Population Society
“Monumental Inscriptions – Holy Trinity Church Leverstock Green - Hertfordshire Family History & Population Society
“The Monumental Inscriptions – St. Mary’s Church Hemel Hempstead “ - Hertfordshire Family History & Population Society
Various documents relating to Church Cottages, property of Pauline Spendlove.
At the start of the seventeenth century, two of the yeoman farming families with the greatest interest in the lands around Westwick Row were the Lasbyes and the Fynches. Various parcels of land were leased jointly to Robert Lasbye senior and Thomas Fynche in 1599, by Anthony Bacon (son of Nicholas Bacon, and elder brother of Francis.) These were additional lands which went with the demesne farm to the Gorhambury Estate. They had been in the tenure of Henry Knight in the 1569 survey. Robert Lasbye and Thomas Fynche each therefore each had a moiety of the following:
"...one messuage or tenement with diverse barnes stable, orchardes gardens outhouses, edifices and byldings sittuate in Westwick aforesayd late in the tenure of Henry Knightye...And also one close called Homefield conteyninge by estimacon Tenne acres more or lesse Two closes called Deanefield contayninge by estimacon Twelve acres more or lesse, One pightell called Hodges Wicke conteyning by estimacon one acre and one rode more or lesse, One close called Wellfeilde conteyninge fyve acres more or lesse, One closease called Blackwater Crofte contayninge by estimacon Three acres more or lesse, One cloase called Shrowefeild conteyninge fower acres more or less one Springe lyinge neere the Messuage aforesayd conteyneinge foewer acres more or lesse."
By May 1611 they had agreed between themselves and " the mediation of freends" to divide the holding so that they each had their own share rather than a half share each in the whole. An Indenture drawn up and signed on May 10th 1611 was to put this separation on a legal footing. [HALS IM16]
Robert Lasbye was to get "all that messuage above specified with all the howses edifices and buylding orchards and gardens thereunto belonginge, and all that part of Homefeild next adjoyninge to the messuage ..as it is now severed from the rest of the sayd Cloase.." Lasbye was also to get the two fields called Deane field, Hodges Wick and the small slip of land next to it which they had staked out. In addition he was to get half the wooded area near to the farmhouse, he and Thomas Fynch having already staked out the dividing line.
Thomas Finche was to get "All and singular that parte or halfe of Homefeilde aforesaid which is next to the Messuage of the said Thomas Fynche as the same is now divyded and severed from the rest of the sayde Close And also the two pightells aforesayde next the house of the sayd Thomas Fynche, And also the Cloase aforesayd called Longfeild as it is now severed from the little parcell of the rest of the sayde Close, And also ther close aforesyad called Wellfeild lyeing nere the howse of the sayd Thomas, And also all that Cloase called Blackwater Crofte and also halfe that parte of the Springe aforesayde as it is now severed form the rest of the sayde Springe and lyes at the West End next the higheway leadinge from St. Albans to Hemelhemsted together with Chalke and libtie to fetch Chalke as aforesayd."
The chalk referred to was the right of Thomas Fynche " his heires and assignes" to dig and fetch chalk from the chalk pit in Deane feild. This chalk would then have been used to lime the land as a fertilizer.
Robert Lasbye and Thomas Fynche then agreed to share the cost of any rents and services due to the Lord of the Manor equally between them. A full transcript of this Indenture [HALS IM16] is available. . There was also a claim by John Greene against Thomas Fynch and the Lasebyes (HALS IM19) for them to pay any legal expenses relating to a hedge between two fields – Harpes and Blackwater Crofts. A full transcript of this is also available. Many of the fields retained the same names for the next 200-300 years and can be clearly seen on the 1768 Gorhambury Estate Map and the 1840 Tithe Map. Most of them appear to be at the eastern end of Westwick Row from Westwick Farm to Corner Farm and beyond, including the area around what was Blackwater Farm and stretching down towards the Bedmond Road.
Definition of Grand Larceny taken from the website of the proceedings of The Old Bailey.
This is the most common offence found in the Proceedings, and is the theft of goods of the value of 1 shilling or more*, without any aggravating circumstances such as assault, breaking and entering, stealing "privately", or taking from specific locations. Occasionally, juries used their discretion to find people accused of such thefts guilty of the lesser crime of Petty Larceny with a Partial Verdict, by finding the defendant guilty of the theft of goods worth less than one shilling, thereby ensuring a lesser punishment, usually Transportation.
(*Note – the above definition related to after 1674)