Stanmore Pre-Roman To Domesday

Stanmore: From Domesday To The Dissolution of the Monastories 1536

Stanmore 1537-1680 Including The Parish Boundary of Great Stanmore

The Grove, by Any Other Name, it's First Owners and Occupiers

The Grove, Joseph Gillott 1853-1872.

The Grove, 1872-1906 Eliza Brightwen

The Grove, 1906 - The Mountbatten Connection

The Grove, 1923 - The Cunard Connection.

The Lie of The Land

When making a journey to The Grove you will notice that, no matter from which direction you have come North, East, South or West, you eventually travel in an upward direction. From some directions it is more noticeable than others. This is due to the fact that The Grove is situated just under the highest part of Middlesex where it borders Hertfordshire at Bushey Heath some 510 feet (157 Metres) above sea level.

The Grove is situated on the edge of a natural ridge many millions of years old, made up mainly of clay under a layer of gravel, lying on a chalk base, which extends under the whole of the Thames valley being the bottom of a sea which covered the South East of England. The ridge spans the two main roads north to south that cross the Thames where fords are known to have been, one being the old coaching route known in olden times as the Kings Highway from London through Bushey Heath to what was The Sparrows Hern Turnpike and on to Tring, the other being the old Roman road of Watling Street at the top of Brockley Hill. These two roads go way back in time prior to the Roman invasion possibly to the stone age. It is thought that as both roads cross over the ridge, rather than go around it, it is very likely that the ridge was used as a meeting place, some believe that a mound on Stanmore Hill was a worshipping place by Neolithic man.

The ridge also formed a natural defensive barrier against unwelcome visitors. It became a vantage point for The Catuvellauni people who built their town along the edge of the ridge towards the Brockley Hill side, under what is now the grounds of the Orthopaedic Hospital and in fields adjoining The Grove a century before the Roman invasion.

The Romans

In his second invasion in 54 B.C., Julius Caesar fought his way across the Thames ford at Brentford and on through dense forest making camp on the ridge at Stanmore after a stubborn battle to capture this vantage point. It is written that he found a prosperous city on the ridge which in later times was named Sulloniacae. A plaque marks this spot across the road junction of Wood Lane and the A5.

A century later when the Emperor Claudius in A.D. 43 fought his way through the South East of England and gradually turned Britain into a province of the Roman Empire. Fighting continued for many years, and in A.D. 61, Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni, took up arms against the Roman invaders and anyone who sided with them. She and her army destroyed London, from where she fought her way on to Verulamium and took over a region between St.Albans and Hampstead. Boadicea's reign did not last long, her army were totally defeated in a battle somewhere along the course of Watling Street. It has been written that over eighty thousand men women and children were killed in the fighting, during which, seeing she had been defeated, Boadicea took a lethal dose of poison to kill herself. No one really knows exactly where the battle took place, some say it was close to Hampstead, others believe not only was the battle fought on the east side of the ridge, but also the burial mound of Boadicea lies on what formed part of the old Grove estate. Local people for many years have called a mound Boadicea's Grave, and in 1937, aerial photography taken by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments identified a mound some thirty feet in circumference on Stanmore Hill. This mound was reported in the newspapers as the Grave of Boadicea. Also to mark the area a brick obelisk faced with stone was erected in a field adjoining The Grove some time in the mid 1700s by Mr. William Sharp, secretary to the second Duke of Chandos, at Cannons, and who lived on Brockley Hill. The obelisk had, by 1900, lost its inscription stones, but they had been recorded in the book Highways and Byways in Middlesex by Walter Jerrold which gives the latin text. In 1931, when The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital took ownership of the land, they restored the obelisk and had new inscription stones made.The following is a translation of the inscriptions taken from the book The Stanmores and Harrow Weald Through the Ages by Walter.W.Druett:

Near this site once stood the fortress and town, admirably protected both by Nature and man's art, of the Suellani, who under the leadership of Cassivellaunus, put the Romans to fight. In his history Caesar has handed to undying memory the genius and excellence of that British chieftain who was by general consent entrusted with the supreme command and conduct of the war. This obelisk marks the midpoint of the road between the old Londinium of Trinobantes and Verulamium, to-day the city of St.Albans, the chief seat of the Cassi.

The modern Brockley whose height this Eastern side faces, differs little from the anciently named Burgus (a fort).

On the North side lies a wood named Burga from the Burgus or fortress of Cassivellaunus.

This West side looks toward Cassiobury, the ancient seat of the Cassi, now Cassiobury.

Occupation of the ridge was taken up by the Romans, and the pond on Stanmore hill is still refered to as Caesar's Pond said to have been dug to provide water. Miss Phillimore, in her book The Twelve Churches , states that a Roman watch tower stood on the common, and an area known by local people as Caesar's Fort can be seen in a hollow on the common.

Many Roman items have been found along the ridge in 1781 while planting trees on Stanmore Common, fifty gold coins, two gold rings, a golden bracelet, silver and copper coins were unearthed.

Grims Dyke, a man made earthwork. Pre Roman or Saxon? 

The man made earthwork known as Grims Dyke stretches from Enfield, in the East, and past Ruislip, in the West, and cuts across the ridge. It enters at Brockley Hill and lies to the North of Wood Lane, across the edge of Little Common, then it goes across the main road through the grounds of Bentley Priory.

Many dates in time have been surmised for the building of the Dyke and that of its use. Some say that Grims Dyke was built as a defence barrier as early as the Iron age, others by the Catuvellauni, again for defence, but there are schools of thought that place the construction of GrimsDyke as late as the Eighth Century built by agriculturalists, clearing a way between known hunting grounds. It could be that both theories are correct, although thought not to be used for defence, due to it being badly sited for military use, the Dyke was first constructed by a pre-Roman people as a barrier, later enhanced by the Saxons for their own use.

Saxon times.

The Saxons had a dislike of hilltops, so the city of Sulloniacae on top of the ridge was left to fall into ruins, and the bottom of Stanmore Hill where the present village lies being a more favoured settlement.

It is thought that the name Stanmore or Stanmere as it was referred to takes its name from two words Stan being stones and mere being pond or water, believed to be a reference to the stones that lay across the ridge that were once Sulloniacae, and the water, being that of the spring pond by little common.

During the reign of the Saxons good order had been established. Middleseaxan came into being in 704 acquired a separate existence, and by the end of the Tenth Century the boundaries between Middlesex and that of Hertfordshire were fixed just beyond the ridge.

By the early Eighth Century, England had been converted to Christianity. Offa, King of Mercia, had pushed his kingdom to the Thames. With a guilty conscience he tried to make amends for terrible deeds he had committed and began to hand over great areas of land to the Church. In 767 he gave four thousand acres of Harrow lands to Stidberht, holy man and Abbot, in exchange for an area of land at High Wycombe. In 793 Offa founded the great monastery church at St. Albans. He also handed over lands in Chelsea, Pinner Hill and Stanmore. A monk at St. Albans recorded Offas Foundation Charter which refers to Stanmore: 
I, Offa, King of the Mercians, together with Egfrid my son and with the entire agreement of my Council land of fifty holdings in the places mentioned below, that is, where it is said, both Caegesho thirty four holdings and Heanhamstede six holdings and Stanmere ten mansiones together with fields,meadows, pastures, woods and all things movable or fixed belonging to the above mentioned places, to my Lord Jesus and St. Alban the Martyr.
A mansio is the same as a hide or a cassate, that is, sufficient land for the support of a family.

Norman Times

No documentary evidence has been found regarding what happened at Stanmore during the Saxon age and the first cloak of darkness is laid over the area for over Two hundred years. In 1066, William the Conqueror invaded near Hastings. After defeating Harolds war weary army, William made his way to Berkhampstead in Hertfordshire, where the Saxon nobles offered their submission. It is very likely that the route taken by William and the Norman Knights would have taken them over the ridge close to The Grove, either at the top of Brockly Hill or by the spring pond at the top of Stanmore Hill. From the top of the ridge he would have seen London 10 miles to the South where William was crowned on Christmas Day 1066.

Anxious to know the value of his possessions, that is, what taxes the people used to pay, and what they were paying, William had made an inventory of the country, known to us as the great Domesday Survey of 1086. The Saxons had divided the country into Shires, later called counties, subdivided them into Hundreds, possibly areas of lands that could support a hundred families, and again into vills. In the pre-Norman days Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore and Edgware formed one vill, but at the time of Domesday Great and Little Stanmore had become separate areas in the Hundred of Gore. The entry for Stanmore is as follows:-


In Gore Hundred. Manor. The same Earl holds Stanmere.

It is assessed for nine hides and a half.

The land is seven carucates.

In the demesne there are six hides and a half and there are two ploughs there and another can be made.

The villeins have one plough and a half and two ploughs and two ploughs and a half could be made there.

A priest has a hide there, and there are four villeins each with one virgate and two others with one virgate, and three cottagers with ten acres and three others with one acre.

Pasture for the cattle of the vill.

Wood for eight hundred pigs, and 12d. for the herbage.

With all its profits it is worth 60s., when received 10s., in the time of King Edward, ten pounds.

Edmer Atule, a thane of King Edward, held this manor.

In Saxon times the unit of assessment was a hide, which was based upon the plough. A hide or plough land in Middlesex was approximately 120 acres.

Therefore nine hides and a half was about 1,140 acres, this was not the true size of the manor, but the area in which, in 1083, the tax of six shillings per hide had been paid. The land is seven carucates. This is arable land, the Norman carucate was roughly the same as a hide. There was about 840 acres of arable land, added together with pasture, Common, Marsh and woods mentioned for the pigs, W. Druett estimated an area of 1,500 acres. The demesne was the lord of the manors own holding. There was a priest with half a hide so presumably there was a Church in the manor.