by Ron Dale

    A document which I discovered recently, dated 1304, states that:
Demise by John the abbot and the convent of Waltham Holy Cross to Master John de Manhale, clerk, for life of a dwelling house with a curtilage and garden in Stansted Abbots (sic) which Sir Roger de Leicester held of the said abbot and convent for life and all the land at Stanstede and Amwell assigned to the pittance of the said convent, which John Hulle held for life from them.(Holy Trinity, 32 Edwd. I) [A Descriptive Collection of Ancient Deeds, deed no. 5776, V.C.H. vol.3, pp.212-220]                
    This house with a garden and a curtilage, which is a courtyard, in such a small village would be a house of some importance in the 12th century. It was once rented from the abbot of Waltham by Sir Roger de Leicester. The pittance money (income), therefore, was paid to Waltham Abbey, but who was Sir Roger de Leicester and was he living in this house with a courtyard and garden in Stanstead Abbotts?  I can find no trace of him doing any government service or parliamentary work. The only other reference to him I have found is when he was a witness to a document, a grant of land by Hugh Revel of Bengeo during the reign of Henry III (1216-1272) and this puts him on a par as a minor knight with the earlier Sir Simon of Stanstede who also appears to have done very little apart from putting his name on documents as a witness.
     Now that I have discovered the site of Pitansry Meadow, formerly ‘lands called Joyses,’ we need to look at this house occupied by a knight in the 14th century on this riverside site now occupied by the old St. Margarets Maltings converted into flats. It was obviously a house fit for a knight with a garden mentioned specifically which was unusual at this time in history in a small village and rings a bell in my mind concerning another ancient house with a garden specifically mentioned – a house called ALVEVESHOLM!
    Alvevesholm was mentioned in three charters of Waltham Abbey in the 12th century and was described as having a garden and a kitchen garden. The house in Pitansry Meadow had a garden and curtilage (courtyard etc.) which could be a development of the kitchen garden. The similarity of the two houses is strengthened by the fact that both were once occupied by the local knight, Sir Simon of Stanstede and Sir Roger de Leicester. I have stated earlier in my notes about the search for Alvevesholm that it would be on an island or next to water and it is certainly the latter and could possibly have been on an island in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Latin text of the charters states that Alvevesholm was situated between the land of William Godebold and Richard Montacute but this is not helpful at the moment. I have spent much time trying to find the site of a house which existed 800 years ago, a task which many considered futile, but research has a habit of surprising us, especially when we start to poke about amongst old documents.  
    ‘Holm’ at the end of a place name signifies its position next to water and Alvevesholm is described as being in Hascholm, Stanstede Abbotts. I have not been able to find where Hascholm was and if I am correct in stating that the house of Sir Roger de Leicester at Pitansry Meadow was once called Alvevesholm, then Hascholm would be Pitansry Meadow or the land called Joyces, which is not in Stanstead but is in Great Amwell. This piece of land between Amwell Lane and the river today, has been singled out in the past as being special and its income given to Waltham Abbey, hence the name Pitansry Meadow, the Pitanser being the Treasurer of a religious house. Was this meadow the site of the house of the Countess Alveve? And was she King Harold’s mother-in-law, the mother of Edith Swan-Neck or some other Saxon Lady Alveve? There were two or three ladies of this name at this time. The Countess did own other property in this area (Parndon).
    In the Waltham charter Richard, son of Richartd of Stanstede (brother of Sir Simon) was given this house on rental from the abbot with a discount for releasing it in court from William of Ayot (St. Lawrence), part of Welwyn today. How it came to be part of Ayot is a mystery, but in the 11th century, Saxon lord of Stanestede, Alwine Gottone was also lord of Ayot and this may account for the anomaly.

COUNTESS ALVEVA (c.999-1098)
Alfelfesholm or Alvevesholm, one spelling being the Latinised version of a Saxon house-name. This name is that of a Saxon lady named Alveva.  However, I have been searching for a Lady and have found a Countess. (See The Village Sign by A.J. Orange, ‘Your Feltwell’ newsletter) In the Norfolk village of Feltwell, near Kings Lynn, they are proud of their Saxon heritage. The village sign is 12 feet high and was carved by a local man. The sign depicts a pastoral scene with sheep which is a translation of the village name but features in its centre a lady with her hunting dogs.  This is meant to depict Countess Alveva, the lady of the manor in pre-Conquest days. She was the wife of Aelfgar, Earl of Mercia, and she owned part of Feltwell and Hockwold under King Edward.  But Alveva also held many other small estates in her own name in Essex, Kent, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. Most of her possessions were small villages.  It is recorded that she lived to be nearly one hundred. When her husband died in 1062, her eldest son held Mercia by 1065 and her other son held Northumbria. Alveva was part Saxon, part Danish and also had a beautiful blonde daughter named Aldgyth or Edith, but history knows her better as Edith Swan Neck or Edith the Fair, wife of King Harold. She was the one who identified his mangled body at Hastings.    

Stanstead Abbotts local History Society

    But our story does not end there. Alveva also owned part of the manor of Passmores, Great Parndon, Essex, in 1066, today part of Harlow, practically on our doorstep. But in 1086 this had passed to the Norman Ranulph, brother of Ilger, lord of Stanstead, with his tenant being Alvred. The name Alveva or Alveve is the Norman version of the Anglo-Saxon name, Aelgifu, which opens another door. (Oxford Dict. Nat. Biography).   Some time ago when my eyesight was better (sight in my right eye is now completely gone) I remember reading the Domesday Book for Stanstead in the original Norman Latin and spotted the name, Aelgifu, which I recognised but did not pursue as there are dozens of names in these documents. Now I can no longer find this or read it, but if I am correct, the only reason her name would be mentioned is if she once owned part of the manor of Stanstead, which was in four separate sections. This is not a fact yet, but I now believe that Alvevesholm may have been named after this lady, although we do not know if she ever lived there as a widow. She may have just owned it, but there must have been some connection between this lady and the house Alvevesholm. It is described in the early Waltham Charter  no. 379 (1184-1201) as ‘a messuage with garden and kitchen garden and an acre of meadow in Hascholm, Ponte Tegule.’ The last two words signify that it was in the manor of Thele.  Although it was certainly near the bridge, geographically it was in Amwell, but for historical reasons owned by Stanstead. Earl Harold held the manor of Stanstead and most of the land in our area prior to 1066.

    I admit that as yet I have no conclusive proof that the house Alvevesholm was in the lands called Joyses in Great Amwell (but owned by Stanstead) but my research has led me in this direction after much detective work and there it must rest, for the time being at least. On this inconspicuous piece of land on which our Victorian predecessors decided to build a gasworks and a malting was once a fine house with a garden AND a kitchen garden and later with a curtilage of all things, occupied by knights. What desecration!

Countess Alveva with her hunting dogs