The manor of Market Oak, alias Market Dole alias LEVERSTOCK GREEN (Levestystock etc..) - all of which are spelt in a variety of ways - presents us with certain as yet unresolved anomalies during the 17th century. Up until about 1640 the Lordship of the manor and various transactions connected with it can be easily traced, and for those readers who did not read the entry in the May 1996 Chambersbury News , I shall summarise it's history. (See map for the extent of the manor.)
Sandwiched between the manors of Westwick, Chambersbury, and Abbots Langley, a small, roughly triangular area of land, little more than 14 acres in extent, became known as the Manor of Market Oak. This tiny manor had three other alternative names: Market Dole, Langley with Westwick and Leverstock Green. There were also many variations in the spellings of the various names, and these can be seen in the list of principle dwellings in the area.
The "Victoria County History for Hertfordshire" states that:
"The manor of Leverlestocke, Market Oak, Market Dole, (or Langley with Westwick) was part of the possession of the priory of Markyate. The site of this manor is probably at Leverstock Green."
In the early middle ages the lands which constituted the manor were thought to be part of the manor of Westwick. As no early court rolls belonging to the manor appear to have survived it is difficult to know when the separate manor was created. Possibly it was when the lands were granted to the priory at Markyate, founded in 1145, and from which the manor took its name. The founder, and first Prioress of Markyate was Christina of Markyate. A close friend and associate of hers was Abbot Geoffrey de Gorham of St. Albans, the same Abbot who built a Hall at Westwick, and from which the name Gorhambury derives. It therefore seems likely that he was instrumental in granting the Priory at Markyate that part of the manor of Westwick which became known as the manor of Markyate (or Market) Oak. In early times the name was also spelt Markate, Markgate, Merkyate, and it easy to see how this degenerated into Market in Market Oak.
The earliest documented evidence to have surfaced so far concerning this manor was in 1384. In this instance John ate Raggs and his wife granted all their lands in Westwick late of the Prioress of Markyate to John Bunne and his wife. Presumably therefore by the late 14th century, the manor had passed out of the hands of the Priory.
From then until the manor became wholly part of the Gorhambury Estate in 1678, the history of the manor is somewhat confusing. Partly because so few early documents exist, and those that do tend to be all in lawyers Latin (which bears only a passing similarity to classical Latin); and partly because many of the documents are contradictory. Some 16th century documents refer to the Manor of Westwick and Leverstock, and although it would appear to have been a separate manor there is some uncertainty - possibly due to the political upheaval caused by the dissolution.
Documents show that Manor Courts for this Manor were held in 1541-2, 1545, 1597, 1617, 1621, 1641 and perhaps 1669. Similarly it appears that James Joyner was Lord of the manor in 1541/2.
William Hatche was Lord of the Manor in 1617 and he sold the Manor to John Feild in 1619. The Feild family had already held various parcels of land in the area from the 16th century, and in 1581 had obtained the Copyhold on Blackwater Pond House, together with 50 acres of land. Blackwater Pond House (later Blackwater Farm), was part of the Manor of Gorhambury and Westwick, but some of its lands were part of the Manor of Market Oak.
Sir Harbottle Grimston bought the manorial rights of the Manor from John and Mary Feild in 1665, and appeared to be sold the lands of the manor in 1678. From then on the manor was obviously merged with the manor of Gorhambury and the other Grimston estates. It is, however during the mid part of the century, about 1646-1678, that there is conflicting evidence as to whom was the lord of the manor, and more critically who owned the manor house of Market Oak and various other properties associated with it.
On documentary evidence, it would seem that John Feild got into debt to Edward Griffith, a London Goldsmith, in 1621, and that in 1646 after taking legal action, a court awarded the Manor of Market Oak, together with its twelve acres of land to Edward Grifith. By now resident in the parish of Abbots Langley, he later willed his "farm freehold of Market Oak" to his daughter Anne in 1651/2 and it subsequently came down to her son Francis Dorrington. (See entries for these years and the transcripts of HALS documents 78477 and 78478.) Francis Dorrington is later referred to as Lord of the Manor of Market Oak in 1653 [ HALS IN24], and sells the property to John Husser in 1671.
Meanwhile, John Feild had taken out a mortgage with Daniel Finche and Susan Doggett in 1641 using the Manor as security against the loan(yet again!). This included not only the Lordship of the manor, but "also all the Meassuages cottages Lands Tenements meadoes pastures" etc.. etc..[HALS IN19] It would appear that he failed to make the necessary payments, and so in effect in became the property of Daniel Finch and his wife Susan. Susan, having remarried after Daniel Finch'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.[HALS IN28]
Also in 1665/6 John Feild and his wife Mary sold the manor as previously mentioned. Presumably it was the reversion of the manor they sold to Sir Samuel, as Daniel Finch and Susan Doggett had only be given the rights to it all for 99 years. There is also a receipt dated 12th June 1667 which states: “ ****** from Mr. George Lowe the summe of fifteen and ( a half) shillings for a post fine charged upon the ****the Master of the Rolls by John Field by purchase of ye Manor of Markett Oake.” The signature is difficult to decipher – as indeed was the receipt, the cursive script being rather to ocursive! The signature could be Samuel Grimston, it could also be *** Griffith, or indeed neither of them, though the surname does obviously begin with a G and sems more likely to be Griffith, though the first name seems more like a Will. [HALS: IN 256]
In 1667 Sir Samuel Grimston let the property to Richard Peacock. [HALS IN28], and the conditions laid down in the indenture show that Peacock would farm the few acres that went with the farmhouse. The document also shows quite clearly that Richard Peacock leases the property from Sir Harbottle Grimston, rather than owning it as Copyhold. (A copy of the transcript of this document can be found at the local libraries.) He was still renting the Manor House in 1696 [HALS IA68] How then could Francis Dorrington sell the same property to John Husser in 1671? [HALS 78478]
Whatever the strict legalities of the situation, Francis Dorrington was obviously known at the very least to the steward working for Harbottle Grimston, and he held the undisputed freehold rights to land within the manor of Westwick, namely 13 acres of freehold land called Bunsgrove by ye yearly rent of xxiid heretofore the lands of John Feild as Roll 3rd November 11 Car (i.e. 1660) This had been willed to Francis Dorrington by his grandfather at the same time as Market Oak [HALS IA45]
I have as yet been unable to sort out exactly what happened regarding this farm and its twelve or thirteen acres known as the manor of Market Oak. The individual transactions will be listed in the Chronicle as they happened, or appeared to happen! It is no doubt relevant to the problem that the Civil Wars (between 1642-1645, and again in 1648) and subsequent rule of Oliver Cromwell and his son Richard (1649-1660) cover the period in question when the country was in a certain amount of confusion! Additional confusion is caused by the fact that the John Feild who took out the original loan with Edward Griffith in 1621 had died, and it was either his grandson or great-grandson who was called on to honour the obligation later. The Victoria County History of Hertfordshire tell us that the original John Feild died in 1634 to be succeeded by his son, another John Feild who died shortly afterwards. This John's son Benjamin then inherited the manor, still in 1634. Other members of the Feild family were in possession of Blackwater Farm, only a short distance away. However, the exact relationship between the John Feilds and the Richard Feilds is not yet established. A great deal of work needs to be done with the parish registers in order to establish at which point the families branched, as they appear to have done. It does, however, look as if at some time the various parcels of land, together with the house known as Blackwater Pond House, were transferred to the Richard Feilds even earlier than the marriage settlement of 1648; especially as all this property seems unaffected by the muddle concerning the rest of the manor of Market Oak. I have as yet been unable to prove the exact location of the original site of the Manor and Farmhouse, however, it seems quite likely to me now, that they were somewhere in the small stretch from today's Church Road to the public footpath which runs between the Hemel road to St. Albans and the Bedmond Road. This footpath would appear to have been the field boundary between certain fields known as Colles, and the village side of the manor. Colles, and all the feilds towards St. Albans and Bedmond, went with Blackwater House, so the as yet unidentified 13 or so acres, including the site of our church, could well have housed the original Manor house cum farm. Alternatively it may have been at the corner of the path which leads from the Bedmond Road to Blackwater Wood today. In the 1768 Estate map, field X13 is referred to Market Oak House & Orchard, and a building is shown in the corner of the field, only just a little way back from the Bedmond Road. [HALS 78474-8, HALS IN1-33b; HALS D/EV M39 and D/EV/P2]
Although no longer a manor in its own right, the name Market Oak was detained in the field names, both within the manor itself, and on the opposite side of the Bedmond Road in the manor of Abbots Langley. It also came to refer to a particular oak tree, as shown on the map of the Gorhambury Estate of 1768. This tree was still known as Market Oak in 1863, when it was mentioned in the log books of Leverstock Green School, when the school mistress and some children:
"ran for 15 minutes to Market Oak".
The position of this tree is perhaps the best evidence we have for the approximate whereabouts of the manor house which may have been near to it.
In the 1930's the area along the Bedmond Road, on either side of the road, between Chambersbury and Bunkers Lane was known to some as Market Oak, and the remains of some kind of dwelling, overgrown with grass at the corner of Bedmond Road and Bunkers Lane was generally thought to have been called Market Oak Farm.