Stanstead Abbotts History

What is now commonly known as 'Stanstead Abbotts' is actually made up of two villages, Stanstead Abbotts and Stanstead St Margarets.

The village's name was recorded as "Stanstede" at the time of the Domesday Survey in the late eleventh century. In the twelfth century the manor passed to the abbot of Waltham Holy Cross. By the fourteenth century the suffix "Abbatis", "Abbotts" or "Abbot" formed part of the parish's name. The abbey continued possession of the manor until its dissolution in 1531.  The neighbouring parish of Stanstead St Margarets was originally called 'Thele', then became Margarets Thele when Margaret Lovetot was 'Lord' of the Manor (her father having no sons).  The name changed to Stanstead St Margarets a couple of centuries later.

 In common with the rest of Hertfordshire, the local area was heavily forested during the Middle Ages. The clearance of woodland supported the industry of charcoal burning which was both for local use and also exported.  This industry lasted through until the end of the 18th century.

 The most enduring local industry however is that of malt production. The fertile soil in Hertfordshire and neighbouring counties to the north and northeast produced abundant quantities of high quality barley that could be turned into the finest malt. This Hertfordshire grain could be sold at a premium at market. Packhorses were used for moving the grain from the farmland to the malting towns of Hertford, Ware and Stanstead Abbotts sited along the River Lea. Their strategic location between the fertile growing areas and London combined with the benefit of a navigable waterway to London led to a flourishing local malting industry. The River Lea provided a far more efficient means of transporting large quantities of malt to the major breweries of London than the alternative of packhorses The malting industry declined over a long period until today just the one malting of French & Jupps remains in Stanstead Abbotts. Although many of the maltings have been demolished some of the malting buildings still exist and are now divided into smaller units and used to provide accommodation for small businesses.

The High Street has a significant number of historical buildings that add character to the area. Until the mid 1980's the narrow High Street was part of the old A414. This meant that a lot of heavy transport passed through the village but the opening of the Stanstead Abbotts by-pass improved the situation considerably.

At the end of the High Street stands the Clock House. Although it is now a listed residential property it was once the Baesh Grammar school, founded in 1635.  Inns of note include the Red Lion, which dates back to 1538, and which started life as a monastery before becoming an inn.

There are two churches in the parish of St Andrews, being the main parish church of Saint Andrews and Saint James, and one church in the parish of St Margarets, being Saint Marys.  Saint James has an authentic 18th century interior. The church of Saint Andrews was designed by Zedekiah King of Victoria St London, who also donated the Communion Table in the church and which bears an inscription.  Saint Marys started life as the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is recorded c.1300. In 1316 a college of 4 priests was set up to pray for the Lord of the Manor, Margaret, and her husband and their patron the Earl of Oxford, which led to the Parish name.  The organ in St Marys is believed to be the only remaining William Allen barrel organ in working order.

The Buxton family of Easneye commissioned the distinguished Victorian architect, Alfred Waterhouse (designer of the Natural History Museum, 5 Oxbridge Colleges, Manchester Town Hall etc) to build Easneye Mansion in 1867 and the family moved into the property in 1868.  They were a noted Christian family and had played a significant role in the Abolition of Slavery Act, 1833.  They also paid for the erection of St Andrews Church when the old parish church of St James was deemed too remote from the centre of village life.  They similarly contributed to the construction of the Village Hall in Roydon Rd.  During and after World War II Easneye Mansion was used as an orphanage for children bereaved by the bombing of London.  Many villagers worked "up on the hill" at Easneye as carers etc. during this period and the film, "Blue Murder at St Trinians" was made there in the early 1950's!  When there was no further need of Easneye as an orphanage it was rented by All Nations - a missionary training college - from 1964 onwards.  In 1971 the College purchased outright from Mr Henry Buxton the building and 15 acres of the surrounding land.  The College merged with 2 other Colleges and became the largest training centre for missionary students in Europe.  Students from all over the world have come to Stanstead Abbotts to study, work, shop and live in the village and enrich local community life.

The village was recorded in history when Queen Elizabeth I passed through on her way to London, from her father's hunting lodge in the adjoining village of Hunsdon.

Nearby is an area known as Rye House which is named after The Rye House that stood there in the time of Charles II. The Rye House plot of 1682 is well charted in history concerning the failure of the assassination plot to eliminate the King on his return from Newmarket. Only the large gate house remains now, which is open to the public on certain days.

The Stanstead Abbotts Local History Society has researched the impact of WW1 to the village: click here

If you, or anyone you know, is interested in local history please read this notice.