From early medieval times and possibly earlier, small manors and farms developed throughout the area. The principle dwellings of these manors and farms were completely separate from one another, although as time marched on there was often less than half a mile separating the properties. It is this conglomeration of settlement where fields etc. separate the individual dwellings, but the whole being regarded as a distinct settlement in its own right, namely in this case Westwick, that leads us to suppose that Westwick Row and its environs could be classified as an Interrupted Row.
It is worth remembering at this point that it is only in relatively recent times that a farm became a consolidated unit. In times past land being worked by the occupier of a particular farmstead, could well be scattered throughout the area rather than in neat parcels of land next door to one another.
The known history of Leverstock Green up until the nineteenth century is largely concerned with these individual dwellings and the people who lived in them, farmed their land, and who owned them. Frequently the owner was not the same as the principle tenant, and it must also be remembered that although much of the documentary evidence we have concerning these properties, refers to agreements between the owner and the tenant, usually a man, or the widow of the previous occupier, these tenants would in all probability have had numerous offspring, even if few of them lived to make old bones.
Another complication which it is easy for us in the later twentieth century to overlook, is the fact that some properties had in effect two different "owners". There was the freehold owner of the land and property, and there was also frequently the Copyhold owner of the property. He either lived in the property himself, or else leased it to another tenant.
Originally tenure of a property depended upon custom and the will of the Lord of the manor. ( The holders of the property were known as customary tenants) In return for the tenure of the property the customary tenant was obliged to perform certain services for the Lord. However, in the 14th century, the decline in population following years of famine and culminating in the Black Death, led to these feudal services being replaced my monetary payments. The tenant was protected not by state law but by the title deeds written on the manor court rolls, a copy of which was given to the COPYHOLDER. When transferring property to a new copyholder who had either inherited it or bought it from the previous copyholder, the property would first of all be surrendered to the Lord ( the freeholder), and then the new copyholder would be admitted to the property on payment of a fine.
Copyhold could be purchased from the previous holder in the same way as both freehold and leasehold property is purchased today. If a mortgage was required in order to purchase the property, then the mortgage was recorded on the court rolls, but the mortgagee was not admitted to the property until it was fully repaid, when a warrant of satisfaction was given to the mortgagor.
Courts, known as Court Barons were held every so often so that all the legal formalities pertaining to the transfer of property, as well as other matters concerning the manor could be seen to. Copyhold Tenure was eventually abolished in 1922. As a considerable percentage of the property within our area of study was held by Copyhold, and as the Grimston family gradually came to hold the freehold to much of this property, many of the records have survived, giving quite a detailed account of the transfer of property in the area over the centuries, and peopling the history of the Leverstock Green area with the characters whose names were recorded on the manor rolls.
The transfer of freehold property in the middle ages, was also subject to various complex procedures and "fines". Conveyancing today is far from simple, but in feudal times was even more complicated. Unlike today, it was not just a simple case of the purchaser paying the vendor an agreed sum for the transfer of the property, but involved payments called Reliefs to the feudal tenant-in-chief; and frequently a system of Lease and Release ( not to be confused with a modern lease), with a right to the property in the future ( a Reversion). Full explanations of the various legal manoeuvres and terms used until the nineteenth century are given in the very helpful book The Local Historian's Encyclopaedia " by John Richardson, which I have found invaluable.
In entering into the Chronicle the various important transfers of property rights, I hope that I have managed to sort out the various early legal terms used. Many Indentures ( that is Deeds of Conveyance) have survived from very early times, as well as the Court Rolls to give us an insight into the early history of our area. It would be both irrelevant and somewhat tedious to detail every last transaction which we have recorded as having taken place, so I shall be somewhat selective in those I chronicle. Should the reader wish to find out more, I would direct them to the Hertfordshire Record Office, where they will be able to study the original documents for themselves. Those properties which eventually came within the Gorhambury estate are particularly well documented, and a search through the Gorhambury catalogue reveals much.
By the seventeenth century there had grown up within our area of study well over 35 major properties - mostly farmhouses, but including some small manors. Some of these properties still exist today, although they may not be the original dwelling of that name built on the same spot. Other properties have disappeared leaving their name to a road, or an estate, so that there approximate whereabouts are easily understood. Others have disappeared from the late twentieth century map altogether, and although not difficult to unearth from old documents, help is needed to locate them. To add to the confusion some properties have changed their names over the centuries.
In order to clarify this I have listed with the Dwellings map the principle properties to have been found at some time or other between the beginning of the middle ages and the end of the eighteenth century, together with an Ordnance Survey grid reference for the location of the main dwelling house of that name; or if it cannot be pinned down so exactly, its approximate location. It is to be hoped that this, together with a simple map I have drawn, will then help the reader to place a particular property when it is mentioned in the chronicle, so that its location doesn't have to be given on each occasion.
KEY TO PRINCIPAL DWELLINGS IN THE LEVERSTOCK GREEN AREA
No. Grid-Reference Name of DwellingAlternative Name(s) 2TL103059Beechtree Cottages 3TL071068Bennetts EndBeneyet's: Bennetts End House/Farm (spelling varies) 4TL094060BlackwaterBlackwater Pond House/Farm; blacken 5TL089073Laurence FarmBottom House 7TL085085/086088BuncefieldThis generally refereed to a group of small dwellings rather than an individual one. 8TL087057Bunkers FarmBunchers 9TL085063ChambersburyRectory Manor 10TL97061Westwick CornerCorner Farm; The Corner 11TL076073Cox PondGreat Cox Pond 12TL075074CrabtreeCrabtree Pesthouse; The Crabtree Inn 13TL078079Hangman's CroftGossoms; Whytes Farm 14TL092054Highwood HallHighwood Hall Farm 15TL108065Stones HallStonehall; Hillend Cottage 16TL108064Hill EndHill End Farm 18TL104084KettlewellsWards (various spellings) 19TL092067King Charles II Cottage 20TL083066Carpenters FarmLeverstock Green Farm 21TL084066The Leather Bottle 22TL077073Little Cox PondLittle Cox Pond Farm 23TL096084Megdells(Various spellings) 24TL082064NorthendNorthend Farm 25TL084065Northend Cottages 26TL084066The Red Lion(Now St. Michael's End) 27TL087065The Rose & Crown(Now The Elms) 28TL073064Tyle KilneTile Kiln House/Farm 29TL074066The Old Cottage(Current name) 31TL094066Westwick Westwick (Row) Farm, Westwick Manor 32TL092066Westwick Cottage(Current name) 33TL088070Westwick Farm(Current name - at one time was known as Westwick Row Farm, & 31 above as just Westwick Farm!) 34TL104067Westwick HallWallers; Bottom House BGTL111077Gorhambury(Sir Nicholas Bacon's House) 36TL074076Woodlane EndWoodlane End House/Farm 37TL085079Woodwells(Various spellings) 39?TL089058Market Oak Manor(Position approximate) 40TL096062(The Old House)(As referred to in various documents, not a proper name.) 41TL086088PalmersThree Cherry Trees Farm(1766); Lower Cherry Trees Farm (1950's) 42TL091067Dell Cottage(Present name); Kiffs Fm. 43TL083066StonardStonerds
[ Sources for the above information on property location and names is based largely on the assimilated knowledge from all the various documents I've read, and especially from the historical notes compiled by Dr. C. Moor in connection with the cataloguing of the Gorhambury estate documents in 1927. These notes are reproduced in the Gorhambury Catalogue at HALS. ]