Therfield History

Therfield histories are thin on the ground.  One is included in A History of the County of Hertford: volume 3 (1912), pp. 276-284, online at  The contents of the only other one found are copied below.  This 16-page booklet was published in 1934, although my copy is a reprint, probably dating from the late 1960s.  It plainly started life as a series of articles, presumably in a periodical of some kind... possibly the Parish Newsletter.  Pages 1, 2, 8 & 9 consist of drawings of the church & village, and are not included here.

The author, Reginald Foster, was a local teacher, NOT a historian, so his efforts may not be entirely accurate!

According to research, R E Foster is long dead, and although married, had no children.  So the current owner of the booklet's copyright is a mystery.  If you believe that you are the copyright owner, please contact Martin Hagger at the email address at the bottom of this page.


Therfield in the Past
By R. E. Foster


     THE generally increasing interest
displayed by the community in past
history of their town or village has
tempted me to put on record some of
the gleanings which I have collected
of the story of Therfield's past.  The
information which I have gathered
has been obtained from the following
sources (1) Chauncy's work on Hert-
fordshire, in which the story of the
county is told in the language of two
centuries ago; (2) Cussan's "Hertford-
shire" - a later work than Chauncy's,
and more detailed and accurate; (3)
the "Odsey Hundred" in the Victoria
County Histories; (4) Kingston's Frag-
ments of Two Centuries" (well worth
a reprint); (5) Papers by H.C. Andrews
M.A., a Hertfordshire archaeologist,
placed at my disposal by the Rector.
I hope at a later stage to record some
of the changes in the past century as
recounted by an old inhabitant.
  * * *

The Name
     The origin of place names is always
an interesting study, and although the
derivation of some place names can
be fixed with certainty, in other cases
one can only conjecture.  The earliest
record of the name which I can find
is the Domesday Book entry, where it
is given as "Thurrevelde or Furrevelde".
This would lend support to a recent
writer's claim to establish the meaning
of the name as the "village in the
furrowed fields."  In the 12th century
the name had become "Tirefield", and
in the 13th century it went through a
variety of forms - "Terfeud, Tertefeud,
Trefeud, Tirefeld, Therefeud, Tire-
feld."  The 16th century saw a nearer
approach to present day spelling in
"Theresfelde, " but "Torfeld" is also
used.  In the 17th century the name
had become "Tharfield" in present
times.  It is this form and the modern
form "Therfield" which doubtless have
led one writer to suggest that the name
means "Thor's field"; although there
seems little to support the suggestion.

  The Earliest Villagers
     THERE seems little doubt that early
man came to live on the ridge of the
chalk escarpment for the sake of a
water supply.  This might strike one as
very strange, seeing that this area is
now one of the worst served for water
in the country.  Early man knew nothing
of bores; but he was something of an
expert in the use of ponds.  He knew
how to make dew ponds; but as true
dew ponds are not possible in this
area, he contented himself with ponds
in the boulder clay, which overlies the
northern edge of the dip slope of the
chalk scarps.  All the hill-top villages,
such as Reed, Sandon, Therfield, etc.,
have a large number of these ponds
today, and are therefore called "Pond
Villages"; and much water is still taken
from them for cattle, and even for
human consumption.  It is thought that
early man planted trees on the margins
of ponds to assist condensation of the
atmospheric moisture.  Such ponds are
sometimes erroneously styled "dew
  * * *

The Earliest Village
     EVIDENCE of the earliest man's
occupation of this village site are to
be found in the meadow situated west
and north-west of the churchyard, and
now known as "Tuthill Close".  Here
are strange ditches suggesting moating,
and a pronounced mound, marked on
the ordnance survey maps as "Castle
Mound".  The "Victoria County His-
tory" says of this: "To the north-west
of the church there can be traced a
fortified village with a mound and
baileys, defended by a dry ditch.  There
is evidence of an inner ditch, and of a
larger enclosure to the south".
     H.C. Andrews, in a paper entitled
"Therfield and it's Castle", affirms that
these remains are those of the central
part of a strong fortified post, over-
looking the great cross-England track,
the Icknield Way.  The assumption is
that, the hilltop being thickly wooded,
it was easy from such a post to observe
what must have been a considerable


traffic at the foot of the treeless slopes.
He draws a comparison between this
post and that of a similar one, presum-
ably for the same purpose, at Pirton.
His contention seems to be borne out
by a visiting antiquarian in recent
years, who suggested that digging
might unearth definite traces of "Iron
Age" man.  A later visitor, however,
who has in recent years excavated and
investigated many "Iron Age" remains,
doubts the accuracy of these conclu-
sions.  He asserts that the mound is
most probably a Tumulus, similar to
the round barrows which are fairly
common in the neighbourhood.  His
contention seems to be borne out by
the fact that an indentation on the
mound suggests that it has once been
opened - with what result no record
seems to exist.  This visitor ascribed
the moatings to a later period, prob-
ably Saxon.  On such a hilltop as this
it is likely that the moatings were
merely dry ditches.  One likelihood is
that "Iron Age" man had here a large
moated post, embracing the whole site
on which church and rectory now stand
(many traces of this larger system re-
main, e.g. on north side of churchyard
and in rectory grounds); and that later
arrivals occupied and adapted these
moatings to their own uses.  It would
be quite probable that the earliest
church, for instance, was within any
available moated site.  It is interesting
to note that one section of the moating
is still known as "Tuthill Moat", and
contains a considerable amount of
     In investigating ancient sites of this
nature, the danger is that one may
arrive at too hasty a conclusion.  Often
archaeologists find it necessary to re-
vise their conclusions as knowledge
advances.  It must be remembered that
the study of what, for a better name,
are called "camp" sites in England, is
a comparatively new field of investiga-
tion.  And it may be that new informa-
tion will become available, so that such
sites as that at Therfield can be dated
with something like certainty.
     What, at present, is a certainty, is
that these remains constitute the very
first page in the story of Therfield's
past, and are well worth our interest
and study.
  * * *

From Unwritten to Written

     SUCH "history" as I have recorded
in previous articles belongs to what is
popularly called "Prehistoric" times,

  and is obtained by deduction and com-
parison.  What is perhaps strange is
that no "finds", such as flint imple-
ments, etc., have been made as far as
I can ascertain, on the Therfield village
site.  The tumuli in the parish which
have been opened, chiefly on the
Heath, have yielded Bronze Age imple-
ments, and I believe a record of these
finds is available in a Cambridge
Museum.  Nor have we any record of
such later visitors as the Romans.  The
nearest evidence of Roman visits to
these hilltops has, as far as I can dis-
cover, been found at Kelshall in a
meadow adjoining the Crown Inn,
where Roman cinerary urns were once
unearthed.  The Saxon, too, left no un-
written history for us to unravel, unless
it be in the name "Tuthill", which will
be discussed in a later article.  When
we come to Danish times, however, we
begin to pass into the realm of written
  * * *

Therfield Passes from the
Possession of a Dane to Ramsey

     I cannot do better than tell this inter-
esting story in the words which H.C.
Andrews uses in his paper "Therfield and
it's Castle".  The record has been taken
from an account, he says, by a "monkish
chronicler" of Ramsey Abbey:
     "Therfield lay within that part of the
country which King Alfred, after his
defeat of their leader, Guthrum, at
Ethandune, granted to the Danes by
the treaty of Wedmore.  Moreover, in
the year 1016, the first Danish King
Cnut had come to the English throne.
At Therfield then lived as owner a rich
Dane.  Powerful he was, and a quarrel-
some bully, oppressing his servants and
the people around him.  But like all
bullies he was a coward at heart; he
not only had a guard placed nightly
around his property, but even had four
men to sleep each night before his
bedroom door.  But in spite of this,
fear turned the hours of rest into ages
of torture, nor could he woo sleep by
drinking long and deep.  He believed
the folks to be plotting against him
and one night he heard the guard
whispering amongst themselves as he
tossed restlessly on his couch, 'What
shall we do?" he heard them say.  'How
much longer shall we put up with his
daily tyranny?  Why should we guard
the wretched foreigner?  Let us watch
for an opportunity to run a sword
through his vile body'.  In silent terror
he lay till daybreak, and with the return


of light he decided to depart forthwith
for London, and seek protection from
the King.
     "Now at Ashwell there dwelt an
honourable man who was a friend of
Aetheric.  This Aetheric was a monk of
Ramsey Abbey by upbringing, and
Bishop of Dorchester (1016-34), Aeth-
eric bore great affection for his old
home, and wished to enrich it by a
gift of property; accordingly he had
commissioned his Ashwell friend to
buy up any desirable property he could
find for sale.
     "The news of the Dane's flight to
London soon reached Ashwell, and this
good man forthwith sent a message to
the worthy bishop, advising him to go
to London likewise.  He did so, and met
the Dane there.  Negotiations com-
menced which ended in the transfer of
the ownership of Therfield from the
Dane to Aetheric.  The story ends hap-
pily, for the people of Therfield saw the
face of the Dane no more, but instead,
from that time, lived peacefully under
the more beneficent rule of Ramsey
  * * *

Therfield Under Ramsey Abbey
     WE find therefore that when William
the Conqueror, after the Norman in-
vasion, "catalogued" his new realm in
the "Domesday" Survey, Therfield was
in the possession of the Abbey of
Ramsey.  The "Domesday" entry for
Therfield reads: "In the Hundred of
Odesei (Odsey), the Abbot of Ramsey
holds in Furrevelde ten hides and one
virgate.  Arable land is twenty caru-
cates.  There are twenty-seven villanes,
with one priest and one Frenchman.
There are fourteen cottagers, four
bondmen.  Pasture for cattle.  Pannage
for twenty hogs.  The whole value is
£11.  This manor lay and lies in the
demesne of St. Benedict (of Ramsey)."
     ( 1 hide equals 120 acres, 1 carucate
60 acres, 1 virgate 30 acres, but 64
acres on this manor).
     As lords of the manor, the Abbots
of Ramsey had certain privileges and
dues in their manor of Therfield.  The
"Victoria County History" tells us that
"The farm' due from the manor of
Therfield to the Abbey was sufficient
to sustain the monks for a whole fort-
night.  It was rendered in October, Feb-
ruary, April and August.  It included
flour, meal, malt, peas, cheese, bacon,
honey, butter, herrings, eggs, hens and
geese, sheep and lambs, and beef, in
addition to a money payment".

  A Visit of an Abbot
     WE have in "Cussan's Hertford-
shire" an account of a visit of an
Abbot of Ramsey to his manor of Ther-
field.  It was in 1338 that Simon was en
route for London to see the King.  He
thought it worth his while to leave
the main road, and proceed to Ther-
field, where he arrived on the Satur-
day before the Feast of the Nativity.
This was evidently a fast day, for his
account of his day's expenses is as
     Bread 1s 3d;  37 flagons of ale 2s
11d;  oysters 4d;  60 red herrings 8d;
codlings and haddocks 3s 6d;  stockfish
1s;  garlic and mustard 1d;  2lbs.
candles 3d;  2lbs grease for carts 3d;
bread for carters 4d;  drink for same
1s;  drink for young men 3d;  food for
15 horses 5d;  breakfast for 4 men at
Armington (?Arrington).  Provendor
from storehouse of manor for 37
     We can imagine what a magnificent
cavalcade the party must have made,
with their 37 horses;  and no doubt the
visit would be a red-letter day for the
     We read that Simon, before leaving
on Sunday for London, via Ware, con-
tributed 5d towards the burial ground at
Therfield.  The value, of course, of this
contribution was much larger than the
present value.
  * * *

The "Manors" of Therfield
     IN the last article I told the story
of how Therfield passed into possession
of the Abbots of Ramsey, and spoke
of the "beneficent rule" which they
exercised over their possession.  Like all
"Lords of the Manor" they had to
render service to the King or, in lieu
of personal service, make money pay-
ments.  Their tenants on their Manor
had to render like services to them; and
these services, too, were often com-
muted into money payments.  Thus the
"villein tenants" of Therfield had to
perform certain carrying duties between
London, Ware, Cambridge and Ramsey;
and these duties they later avoided
by making money payments.  Besides
the main manor, there were also smaller
manors, which were sub-manors of the
Abbey Manor, for which service or pay-
ment was made to the Abbey.  The
Abbots of Ramsey remained Lords of
the Manor of Therfield until the dis-
solution of Monasteries in Henry VIII's
reign.  Ramsey Abbey was dissolved in
1539, and it's lands and possessions
passed into the hands of the King.


They remained in his possession until
1541, when he presented them to his
new Queen, Katherine Howard.  When
in 1542 she was beheaded, the property
reverted to the Crown, until in 1544
the King presented it to the Dean and
Chapter of St. Paul's, in exchange for
certain lands in Essex.  The Lordship
of the Manor has been in ecclesiastical
hands ever since.  We read that in
1542 Thomas Bennet was tenant of
the Manor House, called the "Manor"
or "Bury Stede"; and this leads to the
interesting question, "Where was the
Manor House?"  "The Bury" was always
a common name for the Manor House,
and the name survives in many vil-
lages, including Therfield.  We still
have in the village "Bury Hall" and
"Bury Weir".  It is possible that the
original Manor House stood on the
site of, or near to, the present "Bury
  * * *

     OF the Abbey Manor of Therfield
there were two sub-manors: (1) Hay,
known as La Haye in the 14th century,
and Heye or Haye in the 16th century.
This name survives in the present vil-
lage names - Hay Farm, Hay Green,
Haywood Lane (the wood has now
practically gone).  The present house
of Hay Farm may stand on the site of
the original Manor House.  A notable
Lord of this Manor was Sir Geoffrey
Scrope, who held it in 1338.  In the
16th century it was held by Thomas
Fitz William, who was killed at Flodden
Field in 1513.  It is interesting to know
that a windmill stood on the lands of
this manor in the 14th century, probably
the forerunner of the one destroyed by
fire about 40 years ago.
     (2) Gladseys or Butlers.  I have been
unable to locate the lands of this
manor, neither name surviving as far
as I can ascertain.  In 1638 William
Clerke was ordered to keep his flocks
of Gledseys and Five Houses within
ancient bounds;  and as the County
History tells us that the lands ran into
Buckland parish, it is probable that
the manorial lands were those which
are now in the occupation of Mr. J.
     The other two manors in the parish
were those of Hoddenhoo and Mardley
Bury, which were held from the Priory
of Royston.  Hoddenhoo is nearer the
village of Buckland than Therfield, and
probably came into the possession of
the Priory between the years 1189 and

  1291.  "Mardley Bury" Manor is given
in Domesday Book as belonging to
Alan de Rede, whose "overlord" was
the Earl of Gloucester.  The Priory of
Royston obtained possession of this
manor in 1302, and it remained in
their possession until the Dissolution
of the Monasteries.  In 1563 this manor
passed to the ownership of Thomas
Turner, who lived to be over 95 years
of age.  He is referred to as of "Reed
End in Therfield".  The present house of
Mardley Bury occupies a moated site,
which may be identical with the original
Manor House site.
  * * *

The Church
     THE Parish Church of Therfield is
dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin.  The
present church is probably the third to
occupy the site.  That Therfield had a
church in Norman times is shown by
the fact that the Domesday Book men-
tions a priest as living at Therfield;
although no records exist of such a
building.  The second church may have
been an enlargement of the first, but it
seems more probable that it was a
fresh church altogether. For the purposes
of this article I shall refer to it as the
Old Church to distinguish it from the
present church.
  * * *

The Old Church
     Chauncy says of this:  "The church is
erected upon a high hill in the deanery
of Baldock and the diocese of Lincoln
(St. Alban's is a comparatively new
diocese).  The body, with an 'ile' on
either side, is covered with lead.  The
chancel is 'tyled' and paved with free-
stone:  but the east end where the altar
stands is paved with marble, enclosed
with rails, and the roof adorned with
fretwork.  There is a large tower at
the west end, wherein is a ring of six
good bells.  'Tis leaded over and hath
a turret, in which the Saints' Bell
hangs.  The Abbots of Ramsey (I guess)
built this church, and it is dedicated
to St. Swithin" (this he mistakenly infers
from the fact told in his next sentence,
i.e.:  "On the Monday following the
week of that feast, a wake is kept
in the Town").  Cussans gives us the
measurements of this old church.  They
were:  Chancel 36ft. long, 18½ft. broad;
Nave 52ft. long, 19ft. broad;  Aisles
52ft. long, 12½ft. broad. Architecturally,
this church belonged to the transitional
stage between the Early English and
the Decorated Style, so it was probably


built in the 13th century.  In Pre-Refor-
mation days this church had a rood
loft across the chancel arch, and there
was a chapel dedicated to St. John
and St. James, as well as altars to
St. John the Baptist and St. Katherine.
The inventory made in Edward VI's
reign shows also that it possessed an
imposing array of Eucharistic Vestments.
To the north of the chancel there was
a chantry chapel, in which masses were
sung for the repose of the soul of some
church benefactor, probably Sir William
Paston, of Orwell Bury, Kelshall, at
whose expense alterations and additions
had been made to the church in the
15th century.  Great alterations in the
chancel were carried out when the Rev.
Francis Turner, D.D., was Rector.  He
panelled the chancel, and probably under
the influence of Wren's building, had a
highly decorative plaster ceiling fitted.  It
has been suggested that this may have
been added for acoustic purposes. Cussans
says of this, "On the ceiling is a large
oval wreath of oak leaves and roses in
plaster - much out of place".  A suc-
ceeding Rector, the Rev. W. Holder,
also carried out alterations in the
chancel.  There is little to tell of this
church between the 17th and 19th
centuries.  During this period a gradual
subsidence must have been going on
in the south aisle, and at some time,
huge buttresses had to be built to
support the walls.  Cussans describes
it's condition as "ruinous".  In 1874 the
Rector, the Rev. J. G. Hale, called
for a report on the condition of the
church, and as a result was faced with
the question of an extensive restora-
tion or a complete rebuilding.  Many
anxious hours must have been spent
by him in deciding the question;  but
at last, with indomitable courage, he
decided that nothing but rebuilding
was possible.  Whether such a decision
was justified, I do not propose to dis-
cuss.  The restoration of old buildings
is an art which has developed with the
scientific use of cement, and much has
been learned during the past seventy
years.  Demolition began in 1874, and
I shall continue the story in the next
     A reader has kindly informed me that
the windmill on Hay Farm was burnt
down in January, 1881.
  * * *

Demolition, Temporary Rebuilding
     WHEN the momentous decision for
demolition and rebuilding had been
made the Rector was faced with the

necessity for carrying on the church
services during the long period neces-
sary for such a great work.  A tem-
porary brick church was built in that part
part of the Rectory grounds now known
as 'Walnut Meadow', and this did duty
as the Parish Church for four years.
When later this church was pulled
down, the south wall was left to form
a boundary wall to the Rectory garden.
The work of demolishing the old
church was an arduous one, and parts
had to be blasted with dynamite.  Some
of the foundations were found to have
been built over an old ditch, probably
moating.  In rebuilding, the Rev. J. G.
Hale preserved as much as possible of
the old church, and incorporated it in
the new.  Such preservations include a
piscina, mural tablets, the font, roof
angels, etc., and will be dealt with
under the heading of The Present
Church.  The nave and chancel were
completed in 1878, and we may now
pass to a consideration of the present
  * * *

The Present Church
     THE new church was much larger
than it's predecessor.  It had no tower
so the call to church was made by a
single bell hung in a tree.  The windows
of the old church were built into the
new, except that a new east window
was necessary.  The only stained glass
in the church is in s south window of
the chancel, and this glass was origin-
ally in the Rectory.  Small figures and
a stone coffin lid are built into the
vestry walls.  A 14th century piscina is
built into the south chancel wall.  In
the north chancel wall is an opening
suggestive of an "Easter Sepulchre" and
containing a stone coffin.  The beauti-
ful 15th century wooden angels which
supported the roof of the old church
were used to support the roof of the
new.  The 14th century font was pre-
served.  I have been asked several times
about the Royal Arms which hang over
the south door.  It was the custom for
the Royal Arms to hang in all
churches, and one can only assume that
Therfield had jealously guarded its
possession.  Of the wall memorials the
most interesting is a cedar-wood one,
now hanging in the tower.  This was
put in the old church by the Rev. F.
Turner in memory of his wife, who
died at the early age of 28 in 1677.
It has two figures, one of Death and
one of Time, and is well-preserved
considering it is of wood.  The inscrip-
tion is in Latin.  In the south wall of the


chancel is a tablet to Henry Etough
a former Rector.  Reference will be
made to this in a later article.  A
memorial tablet to another Turner is
on the wall of the south aisle.  There
is a War Memorial tablet on the wall
of the north aisle.  The south porch
was built in 1906 as a memorial to the
Rev. J. G. Hale, and the Rev. F. R.
Blatch completed the tower in 1911.
The "six good bells" mentioned by
Chauncy were rehung, the oldest (the
4th) dating back to 1597.  Three were
recast before rehanging.  During the
incumbency of the present Rector (the
Rev. H. R. Humphreys), a new oak
altar and panelling have been added
to beautify the chancel, new pews have
been provided, the organ rebuilt and
modernised, and the clock - a village
War Memorial - added.
     The village therefore now possesses
a rather over-large church, the fabric
of which is in splendid order, and sur-
rounding which is a well-kept church-
  * * *

Personalities of the Past
     AS nearly every person of note in
the story of Therfield's past has been
Rector of the parish, it is perhaps not
inappropriate that "Personalities of the
Past" should follow the articles on the
Parish Church, returning to the story
of buildings in the next article.  Several
men whose doings have figured in the
Nation's story have been Rectors of
Therfield.  The first deserving notice is
John Overall, who became Rector in
1604;  he also held the living of
Clothall, and the work of the parish
of Therfield was done mainly by a
curate.  John Overall was one of those
who, in James I's reign, helped to
produce the Authorised Version of the
Bible.  The Church Catechism was a
work for which he was largely respon-
sible.  The days of the Civil War prob-
ably stirred the passions of the people
of the Royston district, seeing what a
close connection the locality had with
the Stuarts.  It is interesting to note
that one man who warmly espoused
the Royalist cause, and suffered im-
prisonment for his loyalty, afterwards
in 1662 became Rector of Therfield.
This was John Barwick, who eventu-
ally became Dean of St. Paul's.  The
next personality we have to note is
one previously mentioned in the article
on the Old Church.  He is Francis Turner,
D.D.  His chief claim to fame is that
after being Rector of Therfield from
1664 to 1683, he became a bishop

(Rochester and Ely), and was one of
the famous "Seven Bishops" who defied
James II's edict, and was tried and
triumphantly acquitted.  He was buried
beneath the floor of Therfield's old
church.  An example of son succeeding
father in the living is to be found in
the case of Dr. Wm. Sherlock, who
was instituted in 1697, and his son,
Thomas Sherlock, who succeeded to
the Rectory on his father's resignation
in 1701.  Dr. Wm. Sherlock became
Dean of St. Paul's in 1691, and was a
writer of some distinction.  The son
Thomas, however, became successively
Bishop of Bangor, Salisbury, and Lon-
don.  Like his father, he was a distin-
guished writer of theological works.
Probably the Rector in whom greatest
interest is taken is Henry Etough, who
became Rector in 1734.  A tablet to
his memory is on the north wall of the
chancel of the church.  His memorial
says he was "almost 23 years Rector
and faithful Pastor of this Parish.  A
firm integrity placed him above fear
.....  He was the warmest friend in
private life, but his ruling passion was
a disinterested love of the Publick.....
He lived many years without the use
of animal food or any fermented liquor,
and died suddenly August 10th, 1757,
in his 70th year".  This epitaph was
written by one who benefited largely
by his will;  but a contemporary who
died in 1760 described him as a "pimp-
ing tale-bearing dissenting Teacher, who
by adulation and flattery, and an ever-
lasting fund of News and Scandal, made
himself agreeable to many of prime
fortune, especially Sir Robert Walpole,
who hoisted him up to this Rectory".
As Walpole's age was one when brib-
ery was rife, this description may fit
his true character better than the ful-
some epitaph.  It is also reported of him
that he was a converted Jew, that he
secured the living of Therfield by brib-
ery, and that it was his ghost which
was supposed to inhabit the "ghost
room" of the Rectory.  There have been
other men of note rectors of the parish,
but space does not permit of giving
particulars of them;  but an interesting
occupant of the Rectory from 1822 to
1832 was the Hon. Gerald Wellesley,
D.D., the youngest brother of the "Iron
Duke".  It is certain that the Duke often
came to Therfield, and the staple to
which he is reputed to have tied his
horse's rein can still be seen in one
of the fine elm trees on the north lawn
of the Rectory.
     Of the non-ecclesiastics, the only one
we will mention is Sir Barnard Turner


who was born in 1742 in Therfield.
His ancestors had long lived at Mard-
ley Bury.  In 1778 he founded an Asso-
ciation of Volunteers, which association
was later used to help suppress the
Gordon riots.  He later became a Member
of Parliament, an alderman of the City of
London, and a knight.  On his death in
1784, he was buried with military honours
in Therfield Churchyard, where his tomb-
stone still stands.
  * * *

Old Houses
     NEXT to the Parish Church, the
houses of a town or village constitute
one of the strongest links between
present and past;  and fortunate indeed
is the place where the hand of time
has dealt lightly with its old habitations.
Besides the value of old houses from the
point of view of history, their well-pre-
served appearance adds considerably to
the beauty of the English village;  and
one hopes that the modern and necessary
schemes for demolishing unhealthy and
inadequate dwellings will deal kindly by
those which are worth preserving from
the point of view of their historical
interest.  We will begin our survey of
Therfield's old houses, by looking at the
  * * *

The Rectory
     THIS house is of such interest that
it deserves a paragraph of its own.
The house represents three periods of
building.  The oldest part, the east
wing, is undoubtedly the oldest build-
ing now standing in Therfield, dating
as it does from the 15th century.  The
connection between the Rectory of
Therfield and the monastery of Ram-
sey is shown in the type of building.
This has led to the erroneous but
common statement that a monastery
once stood in Therfield.  Monks were
excellent builders, and this excellence
of building is shown in the old part
of Therfield Rectory.  The walls are of
flint, rubble and cement, and in places
are 2ft. 6ins. thick.  The windows, with
one exception, are all old.  On the north
wall of this wing can be seen the out-
line of an old circular stairway, but
the stairs have long since disappeared.
It is probable that this part of the
rectory was originally as it is now, a
small part of a much larger building.
The brewhouse in the yard is of brick
and was built in the 17th century.  The
well in the yard is over 270 feet deep,
and it would be interesting to know
for how many years it has afforded a

valuable supply of drinking water to
the Rectory.
     The central part of the Rectory was
built in 1769, when the Rev. Charles
Weston was Rector, and the wing con-
taining the fine library was added by
the Rev. Charles Moss in 1800.
  * * *

Other Old Houses
     The absence in the district of any
building stone or clay suitable for
brick-making led our forefathers to
make an extensive use of such materials
as wood;  or lath and plaster;  and it is
surprising that houses built of these
materials should have stood in some
cases for centuries.  The Elms is a two-
period house, the southern half dating
from the 16th century.  This older part
contains an original fireplace. An interest-
ing thing to note about this house
is a roughly dug well which is under
the floor of a store room in the house,
and which constituted the drinking
water supply of the house.  Tuthill was
once a single 17th century house, but
has been converted into four cottages.
It may have been the original farm-
house of Tuthill Farm.  Hay Farm, built
probably on or near the site of the
original manor house, is also worthy
of notice.  It contains interesting old
panelling as well as an old staircase.
The Limes also belongs to the 17th
century, and like those previously
mentioned is in an excellent state of
preservation.  The picturesque over-
hanging top storey is well shown in
the 17th century cottages at Church
Gate.  These cottages, like Tuthill, once
formed one house, as did probably
those similarly built at Wellhead (part
now used for a garage) and in Gilbey's
     Many smaller cottages in the village
have outside walls wholly or partly
timber, and one wonders how such
walls carry the weight of thatch with
which they are roofed.  It is certain
that their builders made the very best
use of the materials at their disposal,
especially of timber for beams and
     I cannot conclude the account of
Therfield's old houses without mention-
ing the cottage at the north-east corner
of the churchyard, and known as the
"School House".  This is not to be
confused with the cottage now in the
occupation of the present schoolmaster.
This older School House is under the
management of trustees, and the rent
provides the funds known as the
"School House Charity".  It's interest


from a historical point of view is that
the original deeds of the charity dated
December 12th, 1670, say that this
house "had from time out of mind
belonged to the inhabitants, and had
been used as a dwelling house for a
schoolmaster".  I wish some record
existed of one of these old school-
masters, so that he could have been
included under the heading of the
preceding article, "Personalities of the
  * * *

Local Field and Place Names
     WE saw in the opening article of
this series how the name of the village
had passed through many forms in its
passage through the centuries:  and it
is of great interest to see how time has
dealt with names of houses, farms and
fields.  The derivation of names, too,
is an interesting study.  The first name
worth of consideration in Therfield is
Tuthill, which is the name of the house,
farm and meadow in the north of the
village.  This property is near to a field
in the parish of Kelshall now known
as "Bacon Field".  "Bacon" is here a
corruption of "Beacon", and the fact
that a beacon was lighted on this ele-
vated land in time of national danger,
has no doubt influenced Cussans to
suggest that Tuthill is a form of "Toot-
hill".  He says, "A useful mode of con-
veying intelligence from one point of
observation to another was by sound-
ing a horn or trumpet".  Andrews, on
the other hand, suggests that Tuthill
is a corruption of "Tun Moot Hill",
i.e., the hill on which in Saxon times
the "Tun Moot", or Village Council,
met to discuss local affairs.  The name
of Rowkes Nest, now known as Rook's
Nest, appears in the 16th century Court
Rolls, as does the name of Money-
crofte, a meadow name which, except
for the dropping of the final e, is un-
altered to this day.
     By the kindness of the Rev. H. R.
Humphreys I have been able to exam-
ine two interesting old maps.  One is
called "Map of the Enclosed Part of
Therfield, 1724, by John Dougharty of
Worcester", and the other, "Map of
the Common Field in the north of
Therfield, belonging to the Dean and
Chapter of St. Paul's 1725", and is by
the same cartographer.  Both maps are
in a splendid state of preservation.  The
second is the more interesting because
the "Common Field" is divided into
"Shots", and every shot is named.
This land now forms part of the Park

Farm and Tuthill property, and is in
the occupation of Mr. Sapsed and Mr.
Inns.  How the shots were divided from
each other I do not know, perhaps by
"balks" (i.e., small embankments).
Since writing the above I have been
able to confirm that this was the
method of division.  Names which ap-
pear on this map, and have survived
through two centuries to this day are,
Old Hill, Punch Holes, Grey's Gutter,
Duck Paddle, Ridgeway, Long Shot,
Poken, Parsonage Butts, Longlands,
Pen Pightle (these last three on Hay
Farm, belonging to Mrs. G. Turney).
Pencil markings divide the "Shots" into
narrow strips, which are numbered on
the map.  Practically one strip on each
shot is marked "Glebe".  Do these
markings suggest that farming on this
field was still on the "Strip System",
a survival from earlier times of the
Three Field System?  The map of the
"Enclosed part of Therfield" is of
interest as showing that the southern
end of the parish was enclosed before
the general Enclosure Award made in
1847 by the Commissioners, Anthony
Jackson and Charles Frederick Adams.
Most of the field boundaries marked on
this map correspond with present day
  * * *

Some Old Customs and
Village Officials

     1.  Doctoring:  How did our fore-
fathers fare in illness?  With a great
belief in charms and suchlike remedies,
and serious malady must, in the majority
of cases, have spelt death.  So we find
that any known or reputed remedies
for disease were often displayed in the
place where people were most likely
to see them, i.e., the Parish Church.
Thus in 1734 a "cure" for the bite of
a mad dog was hung in Therfield
Church.  This read:  "Rue Leaves and
garlic 6ozs.; of Venice treacle and the
scrapings of tin or pewter, each 4ozs.,
to be boiled in 2qts. of strong ale -
9 spoonfuls to a man or woman, and
6 to a dog, warm, seven mornings
together fasting".  Another "remedy" for
the same complaint was "A powder of
60 grains of grey ground liverwort and
20ozs. of black pepper, to be taken 4
times a day till the next change of
moon".  Kingston in his book, "Frag-
ments of Two Centuries", quotes a
doctor's bill for Therfield paupers.
There are eight entries for bleeding at
6d. each;  eight for leeches, and twelve
for blisters.


     II. Old Punishments: Kingston tells
us that two centuries ago the punish-
ment for being drunk was a fine of
5s. or 6 hours in the stocks.  Of the
Therfield stocks nearly every trace has
gone except for one rotted end post.
This stands on the green, and suggests
that the most prominent place in the
village was chosen for the scene of this
punishment.  No better place could have
been selected to deal out the ridicule
and abuse which was the usual lot of
the unhappy occupants of the stocks.
We know of the grim punishment com-
mon up to a century ago for the crime
of sheep stealing, and Kingston quotes
two examples of thefts of sheep in
Therfield parish, one from William
Lilley and one from Edward Logsden,
for which the death penalty was paid.
     III. The Village 'Pound':  For the
benefit of those young readers who
may not know what a Pound was, I
may be allowed to explain that it was
a small enclosure in a town or village
in which straying animals were locked
up until a fine was paid by the owner,
when the animals were freed.  The
Pound in Therfield, I am told, was on
Hay Green.  The last Pound keeper was
one Jack Oakman.  The story of an
impounded donkey has been related to
me by a resident.  This donkey was
impounded, but the fine was avoided
and the donkey freed by a party of young
men lifting it bodily over the pound
    IV. The Village Constable: Kingston
gives us a good account of the activi-
ties of this important personage a
little over a century ago.  He quotes
Parish Constable's accounts for the
parish of Therfield, which show that
an important part if his work was con-
cerned with marrying undesirable paupers
to paupers in neighbouring parishes.  He
gives one such account in detail, which
      Therfield Parish to H. Hodge
         Etin and drinkin at John
         Hollensworth's weddin
                                                  s. d.
      Aug. 8th - 3 folks' suppor     2  0
      Aug. 9th - 3 folks' Brakfast   1  6
      Beer for hol time    ...   ...    13  4
      2 Constablers' time  ...  ...     8  9
     Other items bring the bill up to £3.
It can be seen that the Constable cared
little for correct spelling.
     The proximity of Therfield to such
important roads as Ermine Street and
Icknield Way occasionally gave the
Therfield Parish Constable work to do
in connection with the highwaymen
who plied their calling on these two

main roads.  Thus we find one item in
the Therfield parish constable's accounts
for "sarching the parish" after the rob-
bery of a mail coach on Ermine Street.
No tales of highwaymen would be
complete without a reference to Dick
Turpin.  Kingston's "Fragments of Two
Centuries" recounts a story of a Ther-
field labourer who was returning home
from Royston across the Heath with
his week's wages in his pockets.  Here
he was met by the famous "Dick"
who ordered him to hand over what-
ever money he had in his possession.
The labourer pleaded hard that what
he was carrying represented his all.
Dick, however, being a highwayman
true to his calling, insisted that the
labourer must hand over his every
penny;  but appointed a rendezvous for
a succeeding evening.  The labourer kept
the appointment and received from Dick
not only his wages, but also a goodly
     I am told that the last Therfield Parish
constable was one Frederick Manning,
who lived at Church Farm.
  * * *

The Heath
     AS reference has been made in the
last paragraph to the Heath, it is per-
haps well here to say a few words on
this important stretch of land.  Although
nearer to Royston than Therfield,
and frequently called "Royston Heath",
this stretch of heathland is in the parish
of Therfield, and is a possession
jealously regarded by the villagers.  Cer-
tain land-owners have "stints" on the
Heath, that is, rights of pasturage for
certain numbers of sheep, according
to the acreage of their farms;  and
votes in the annual elections of Con-
servators, the body which controls the
Heath.  The laws governing the man-
agement of the Heath are embodied in
the Therfield Regulations.  The Recrea-
tion Ground in Therfield and the Greens
of the village are controlled by the
same Regulations and Conservators. The
Heath has always been famous as a
sports ground; horse-racing, prize-fighting
probably cock-fighting, cricket, football
and golf have all found here splendid
grounds.  The far-famed Odsey Races
were held at the western end of the
Heath, and the "Jockey House", some-
times known as "King James' Stables",
are a reminder of those races and
also the Stuart connection with the
locality.  The Tumuli on the Heath are
a source of interest to the archaeolo-
gist and the naturalist is happy to


study the wild flowers, and especially
the butterflies which frequent the Heath.
The modern motorist has discovered
what an ideal ground this attractive
stretch of heathland is for picnics.  I
wonder how many of these visitors
know that they are visiting Therfield
  * * *

An Interview with an
Old Inhabitant

     FOR the facts contained in this con-
cluding article, I am mainly indebted
to Mr. George Edwards, the venerable
licensee of the Bell Inn, Therfield.  Mr.
Edwards has reached the great age of
85 years, and happily retains his facul-
ties unimpaired.  He has a wonderful
memory, and a delightful way of tell-
ing the story of Therfield as he has
known it.  An interesting fact is that
Mr. Edwards was an original member
of Therfield Parish Council, and Ther-
field Parish Council was the first to
be constituted and to function in
Rural Depopulation. The first point
we discussed was rural depopulation.
"There was much more life in the
village in my young days", said Mr.
Edwards.  "Large numbers of houses
have since disappeared, and I have
counted over 60 houses that I know
to have fallen down or to have been
pulled down.  There was also much
more employment in my young days".
Mr. Edwards then showed me an old
Parish Minute Book, which contained
resolutions passed prior to the building
of the National School.  This book re-
corded that in 1856 there were in
Therfield 325 children under 14 years
of age;  in 1934, there were 68 children
attending the one village school, and
some of these came from Kelshall.  It
may be interesting, as bearing out Mr.
Edward's point, to give some popula-
tion figures for the Parish.  In the year
1831, 974;  in 1841, 1,224;  in 1851,
1,335;  in 1861, 1,222;  in 1871, 1,237;
in 1881, 1,175;  in 1891, 996, and so
on downwards to 1934, to 500 (or
probably slightly less).  Among the
houses which have disappeared are six
public houses.  These are:  The White
Horse, at Reed End;  The Grey Horse,
at Dane End;  The Chequers, in Church
Lane;  The Hoops (there were two
Hoops, opposite to each other at Hay
Green - one survives);  The Red House,
in the Causeway;  The Greyhound, in
Haywood Lane.  In addition there were

two off-licences!  Mr. Edwards also told
me of a house which once stood where
the Park Farm gates now stand, which
had dirt floors.
School and Village Crafts. I asked Mr.
Edwards if he ever went to school, and
he informed me that as a small boy,
he went to the School House in Church
Lane.  A Miss Hills was the schoolmis-
tress, and the fee was 1d. a week.  The
infants sat on the stairs!  Practically
all the girls of the village learnt straw
plaiting, and good workers could always
command a ready sale for their work
from the Luton manufacturers.  Some
complete hats were made in the village.
and Mr. Edwards has still in his pos-
session many hat shapes.  Unfortunately
he recently destroyed his old "mill",
which was used for flattening the com-
pleted plait.  The late Mrs. Edwards and
her mother were both expert bonnet
The Village Fair.  This was held on
the green in front of the Fox and
Duck, and was a great annual function
in July.  Every villager working in other
localities tried to get home for the Fair,
and there were joyous family reunions.
As many as three sets of roundabouts
sometimes were set on the greens.  The
other fair events were a cricket match
in Parsonage Butts, and a dinner in a
marquee in the Fox and Duck yard.
Fair time also marked the end of the
annual spring cleaning in the cottages,
every housewife striving to outdo her
neighbours in house-cleanliness for the
eagerly-awaited homecoming of the
  * * *

Weather Eccentricities
     MR. EDWARDS had several things
to relate of weather freaks in past years.
The summer of 1869 was so warm and
dry that the whole of the harvest work
in the district was completed by the
end of July;  in some neighbouring parts
of Cambridgeshire, the work was finished
by the end of the second week in
July.  In contrast to this, 1890 had
a wet, cool summer, and barley was
actually carted in November, with
snow falling, and some corn remained
out until Christmas.  In 1895, there
was a memorable thunderstorm.  Mr.
Edwards' house, the Bell Inn, was
struck by lightning and almost com-
pletely wrecked.  A copy of the "Herts.
and Cambs. Reporter", containing an
account of the occurrence, was shown
to me.


 Other Village Changes
   1.  The Elms was the original farm-
house of the Park Farm.  The present
Park farmhouse was built by a Mr.
Bird, who also built the first cottages
of Fordham's Terrace.  The Limes was
also a farmhouse.
   2.  The village Smithy once stood on
the site now occupied by the Manse.
When the Manse was built in 1854, the
present Smithy was built to replace the
one demolished.
   3.  The village Reading Room was
once held on the premises now owned
by Mr. Jaggs.  As few members could
read, one of the two curates in the
parish used to read and explain the
news.  One curate was persistent in his
advice to the members always to read
the leading article of a newspaper -
advice which Mr. Edwards has always
remembered and acted on.
   4.  So many people lived at Dane
End that Sunday church services were
held in the school there.
   5.  Before the formation of "Unions"
each parish supported its own paupers.
Therfield "Workhouse" stood on the
ground to the north of the present
Council School playground.  The line
of the house was at right angles to the
ones now occupying the site (The
   6.  In Mr. Edwards' early days
postal arrangements were uncertain;
the letters were brought by carrier.
Newspapers were small and rare;  they
were passed round among the more
well-to-do residents.
   7.  The Congregational Chapel was
built in 1836.
   A Ghost Story.  Mr. Edwards was
delighted to tell me a real ghost story.
He said:  "When I was a young man, I
took my young lady to Kelshall Fair.
After the fair, we called on friends in

the village, and stayed until about 2
a.m.  The night was very light owing to
a bright moon, and we returned to
Therfield by the fields.  On entering
the churchyard we saw, sitting on a
grave-rail, a figure clothed in white.
As we approached, the figure fell back-
wards, then jumped up and disappeared
round the church. We were both alarmed.
The next day we heard our ghost was
a reveller who had visited Kelshall Fair
in a clean, white farm smock, and had
had rather too much to drink. He had fallen
asleep on the grave-rail, but our entry
into the churchyard caused him to wake
suddenly and fall backwards".
     In bringing this series of articles to
a close, I should like to express my
thanks first to the Rector for the loan
of books, papers and maps (without
which I could not have obtained the
necessary information);  to Mrs. G.
Turney, Mr. L. Berry and Mr. C. F.
Harper for the loan of books;  to Mrs.
W. Berry for the loan of photographs,
and to Mr. V. Mitchell for taking photo-
graphs;  also to a number of residents
who have told me various facts; and
lastly to mine host of The Bell.


    I am indebted to Mrs. George Turney
for pointing out the the following inac-
curacy:  The Park Farm, Fordham's Ter-
race and Bell Terrace were not built by
Mr. Bird.  They were built by the Trus-
tees of Mr. Francis John Fordham - he
being a minor - and Mr. Bird was tenant
    The public house mentioned as hav-
ing disappeared, have "disappeared" only
in the sense of having lost their licences.
They are all now used as private dwell-


     THIS book was written in 1934; the
following notes are added to bring the
reader up-to-date on some of the more
recent developments in Therfield.

     Over the years a number of the older
dwellings have inevitably disappeared and
some new ones have been built.  Others
have been reconstructed.  Perhaps the
most notable of these is Tuthill Manor.
As stated in the text, this manor house
was built in the late middle ages, but
more recently was converted into four
cottages.  These fell into disrepair, were
condemned and about to be demolished.
However, in 1961 the property was
bought by Elma and Rex Corkett, who,
largely with their own hands, have com-
pletely rebuilt it, converting it back to
one house, in which they live.  This her-
culean effort has already taken fifteen
years and will take approximately three
more years to complete.  This historic
house was occupied from 1553 by
the well-known Turner family, whose
memorials are to be found in St. Mary's
Church.  An earlier part of the house was
one of the four beacon towers of Hert-
fordshire.  In the late 1700s the house
was used as a place of worship for
Church of England dissenters.

     Considerable restoration work has
been carried out by the Office of Works
on the Rectory, particularly on the
older part which dates back to the
13th century.

     Visitors to the Church will now have
a further feature to interest them.
Before the Church was rebuilt between
1874 and 1878, there hung on the
north wall of the Chancel a cedar wood
memorial, erected by the Rev. Francis
Turner, to his wife's memory.  After
being Rector of Therfield, he later be-
came Bishop of Ely.  He was one of
the famous seven bishops, who were
imprisoned by James II in the Tower
for refusing to read a declaration of
indulgence. Later he was a non-juror who
refused to swear allegiance to William
III and Mary.  His remains lie under the
floor of the Chancel of the present

     When the new church came into
use in 1878 the memorial was removed
to the tower and hung on the wall
where its condition deteriorated.  Some
years ago, the architect responsible for
reporting on the fabric of the church
 - Mr. Donald Insull, an expert on
church preservation - recommended
that the memorial be restored.  This
has now been done and the work has

been splendidly carried through and
the memorial re-hung on the north
wall of the nave.  It can now be spot-
lighted and in its present position, it
meets the eye of all who enter the
church by the south door.  On it are
seen the figures of time and death and
below is the epitaph, written in Latin
in letters of gold.  Cussans, in his
"History of Hertfordshire", gives a trans-
lation of this, which runs as follows:

      "Francis Turner, STP, a discon-
   solate husband, erected this monu-
   ment to the memory of his incom-
   parable wife for having restored
   from its ruins the chancel, in which
   the body of the most blooming hero-
   ine lies buried until the great
   spring-time , when her bones shall
   revive as a plant.  He intended the
   church itself to be erected as a
   monument more enduring than cedar
   to the most beloved spirit, who
   especially delighted in the beauty of
   the House of God.

      "In the year of grace 1677, of her
   age 28.

      "Pious reader, turn hither their
   eyes now fixed upon the altars where
   a noble example of piety summons
   thee from elsewhere, and let them
   fall there where thou shalt see lies
   buried near by, according to her
   merit, Ann Turner, a most honour-
   able and saint-like matron ..... she
   having presented her husband with a
   little daughter at her first confine-
   ment, deprived him of herself by an
   exchange, unequal indeed, but that
   it was earnestly desired by herself,
   who ascended from the conjugal to
   the angelic state".

   The church also now has a magnifi-
cent East Window, designed by Mr.
J. N. Lawson, of Faith Craft Works,
St. Albans, to the memory of Mr. J.
H. Johnson, of Park Farm, and installed
in 1963.

   The church, like many others, has
suffered at the hands of thieves and
robbers.  Some of the lead was stolen
from the roof, and one night some of
the Restoration communion plate was

   But, though Therfield may be smaller
in size than at the turn of the century,
its spirit has not diminished, witness
the fact that in 1966, after several
years of effort, it achieved the distinc-
tion of being the Best Kept Small
Village in Hertfordshire.


HOME  Page last updated: 20th July 2019, e-mail: