Links with the past

  • Posted on: 24 September 2009
  • By: David Thrale

The most ancient remains, one form of tangible link with the past, have already been mentioned. The dykes and various Roman works still remain in an area quite profusive in such building materials as Roman tile and brick. The church itself can give the best impression of bygone times in Sandridge, if properly interpreted; it can tell many tales.

An ancient homestead in the parish is Waterend. In the time of King John, Thebridge, now known as Waterend, was held by Viel de Thebridge, a free tenant of the abbot of St Albans.1 The oldest extant document concerning Sandridge relates to Waterend, where in 1248 a conveyance of land was made.2 John Fitzsimon died in possession of a homestead and dovecote at Waterend in 1304. He rented the property from the nuns of Sopwell in St Albans, from whence the supposed authoress of the famed Boke of St Albans was reputed to hail. Fitzsimon paid partly in money and partly by aid to the abbot of St Albans. The manor then remained in the possession of the Fitzsimon family for a hundred years. When in 1437 Elizabeth Fitzsimon married Thomas Brocket, the Brockets were to hold the manor until 1590. This family was prominent in the neighbourhood, as the memorials in Wheathampstead church testify. As happened to nearly all the land in the parish, the manor passed to the Jennings family. It is believed that the builder of the existing house was Sir John Jennings, who built it in 1610. It is the oldest existing house in the parish. It is a good example of an early seventeenth century red brick house on an E-shaped plan. There are two storeys and an attic with large moulded brick string courses between the storeys. The roof is tiled. The west front has three projecting windows with stone mullions and transoms carried up to the attic, and above them are three steep, straight gables, with moulded coping. At the back are three large chimney stacks, with groups of octagonal shafts, which nave moulded bases and caps. The inside is now much altered, but in the kitchen there is a wide arched fireplace, and there is an original winding oak staircase of plain character.3

The earliest records of Bride Hall occur in the time of Henry II. It is reputed that a certain pious matron gave "Bridela" to St Albans, which was confirmed to the monastery by Henry II and King John.4 Of the existing Bride Hall, the date of erection is reputed to be 1630. It was the most northerly house in the parish, being three and a half miles from the church. Like Waterend House, Bride Hall was built of red brick on the E shaped plan. This shape is believed to have come into fashion as a compliment to Queen Elizabeth, but it continued to be used alter her death. The middle stroke of the E forms the front porch with a small room over it. The inner door of this porch is the original one. The chimney stacks are good, but much plainer than those at Waterend two of them are original and a third is rebuilt with the old material.

The hall has its large open fireplace with moulded wooden lintel, and in its ceiling is a large moulded beam. Many original solid oak door frames and batten doors survive with their iron door furniture.5

In the kitchen there is a wide fireplace on the north side of the house are two spiral staircases made of elm wood. The present house was probably built by Sir John Garrard, and it remained in the family until 1928, by which time it had ceased to be in the parish of Sandridge.

Two farm steads continually mentioned in previous chapters are Sandridgebury and Upper Beech Hyde, Both are of the Queen Anne period, but with the number of alterations which have been carried out, it is unlikely that the original builders would readily recognise them.

Marshalswick had been held by the Thrales since 1630. After 135 years the family were forced to mortgage it; It was in 1789 that the estate passed to the Bourchier family. Charles Bourchier changed the name of the house to "Sandridge Lodge", altered the character of the house by adding the west wing, and also added to the estate. In 1803 the estate passed to the Marten family. The early death of the first Mrs. Marten and four of her boys, is commemorated in the church. This family re-instituted the old name of Marshalswick and built the east wing a few years later. An excrescence for a billiard room and two lodges to the east and west were also built; the estate was calculated at about 809 acres. The two lodges are now known as 1 Marshals Drive and 191 Marshalswick Lane. The house was pulled dawn in 1927, sad passing for a building which had been the home of the squires of Sandridge for such a long time. The park was developed gradually into an estate of privately built houses and in the late 1930 the farm was bought for building land.

One link with the past was severed by the demolition of the village well as recently as 1948. In 1527 Robert Belamy left money in his will for digging a well "near the Church House". He may have been a descendant of Robert Belamy who a century earlier cut down the gallows on Nomansland. The parish accounts show that another well was dug in 1778 and lined with bricks at the cost of £3.1.4.