St. Margarets Maltings on the land called Joyses

Photo Brian Johnson

From the beginning of recorded history of Stanstead Abbotts, reference has been made many times to ‘lands called Joyses.’ Naturally it has always been assumed since early times that these lands were in the village of Stanstead Abbotts.  In The Victoria County History of Hertfordshire under Stanstead Abbotts, the editor W. Page left us some intriguing information in 1912, without really explaining much about these mysterious ‘lands.’  I have always thought these lands to be at Easneye as they are often mentioned in the same sentence as Easneye in early documents and I presume others may have been similarly deceived. These were first mentioned in the 14th century in the Victoria County History of Stanstead Abbotts (pp. 336-373): ‘In the abbot’s manor were some lands called Joyses after a family called Joce who had them on lease in the14th century. In 1304 the abbot leased a dwelling house and land assigned to the Pitancer of the convent, to Master John de Manhale, clerk, for life and in 1525 Roger Rodes had a lease on the lands called the Pitansry of Joyse for 21 years at a rent of 5 marks payable to the Pitancer. These lands came with the manor to the Crown at the Dissolution. The name survives as Pitansry Meadow.’  The Pitancer is the officer appointed at a convent or other religious body to deal with income from lands donated for the specific purpose of supplying additional food for the canons, particularly on special Feast days.  

    Page did not explain which convent he referred to or where these lands were and it has for long been one of my many targets to find these elusive lands which had been renamed Pitansry Meadow. I was puzzled when I could not find them on the 1840 Tithe Map under this name. However I later found them practically under my nose elsewhere in the Victoria County History only slightly hidden under the title of the Baesh Charity. Thank you Mr. Page.

    Up to this point it appears obvious that the lands called Joyses were owned by Waltham Abbey and were classed as part of Stanstead Abbotts.  In addition to the V.C.H. History of Stanstead Abbotts, a document at the time of the Dissolution in the records of Bartholomew’s Priory, Smithfield proves this:

  ‘On 1st November, 1531, Abbot Robert Fuller granted to the King the manor of Stanstead Abbotts, with the lands called Joyses, Isney Park, Boar House and other lands and tenements.’

   Another ancient document clarifies which convent received the pitansry money:  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 Stanstead Abbotts which Sir Roger de Leicester held of the Abbot and convent for life and all the lands at Stanstead and Amwell assigned to the pittance of the above convent which John Hulle held for life from them. (Holy Trinity, 32, Edward I)[1271] (Records of St. Bartholomew’s Priory, West Smithfield, V.C.H., ed. E. A. Webb, 1921, pp. 238-252)

    John Hull is a name seen several times on Feet of Fines documents around this time, acting for others in land purchases and he must have been a local lawyer. So we now know that the convent receiving the rents was at Waltham and that John de Manhale was given this property for life. We must assume the house was on the Pitansry Meadow and with a garden and a courtyard (curtilage) it seemed quite grand, having previously been occupied by Sir Roger de Leicester, who had presumably died. The only reference found to-date concerning Sir Roger is when he was a witness to a land document at Bengeo.

   As to the true location of these lands, they were discovered in the Victoria County History, but under the sub-title of Charities, When Sir Edward Baesh was lord of the manor in the 17th century, he left behind property and lands for the village charity which included almshouses and various fields and property such as the land on which stands Jolly Fisherman pub to provide rental income and which is still in operation today.  Included in this portfolio of properties were: ‘A piece of meadow ground called the Pitansry Meadow alias Parentase, now consisting of (in 1912) (a) gasworks, cottages and land containing 2 acres 3r 23p. (b) malting, dwelling house and pounds containing 2 acres 1r 31p and (c) a meadow of 3 acres 1r 7p – the whole providing £43 yearly.’

   Now the fact that the gasworks were on this land in 1912 pinpoints it to the land between Amwell Lane and the river Lea and a double-check on the 1883 O.S. map shows the gasworks are clearly marked as being alongside St. Margarets Maltings between The New River and Stanstead Lock in Amwell Lane, which is in Great Amwell manor, explaining why I could not find it on the Stanstead Abbotts Tithe Map.  For some reason, these lands, once called Joyses, were always considered to be part of Stanstead Abbotts in the Waltham Abbey charters and in all subsequent histories, have been similarly considered. This does not apply today and as the 1840 Tithe Map stopped at the river Lea, the border between Stanstead Abbotts and St. Margarets and between Stanstead and Amwell to the north of the bridge. It would appear that as Sir Edward Baesh still owned these lands during his tenure at Stanstead, he must have inherited them with the manor. At some time from the 17th century up to the 19th, these lands called Joyses must have been handed over to the manor of Great Amwell where they physically belong. How this strange situation occurred in the first instance may have its roots in the 13th century, but this is only a supposition on my part, but it could explain this anomaly.   

   This piece of land has echoes of an earlier land transaction dating back to the period between 1201 and 1230 in The Early Charters of Waltham Abbey. In charter no. 391/2/3 in which Abbot Richard grants to Lawrence the Clerk of Stanstead Abbotts a piece of land in Amwell with 2 messuages with 4 good acres land called Alsisleya. (The Pitansry land was slightly larger)  These lands were originally granted by Ralph Oissel of Amwell to the canons of Waltham but leased by them to Lawrence the Clerk of Stanstead for a rent of 12d and after he went to Jerusalem, to the new clerk, Robert. They were described in the Latin text as being ‘beyond the Tiled Bridge on the north side of St. Margarets’ (iuxta pontem tegule) placing them firmly in Amwell. They could possibly refer to the same area of land between the river and Amwell Lane previously referred to as Pitansry Meadow. From this date the rent went to Waltham Abbey and this seems too much of a coincidence. I do not believe in coincidence. Whenever the canons mentioned Stanstead in a legal document, they always listed it geographically as: ‘The land called Joyses, Easneye Park and Stanstead Bury and other lands.’ Now that I know the true location, this fits in with the geographical location of the three areas mentioned, working from Amwell to Easneye and then Stanstead Bury. But without knowing this, the sentence implies that Joyses was at or near Easneye, which it certainly was not.

    Regarding the name Joce, which for unknown reasons became Joyses in the plural, I have always had difficulty accepting this name as real,  but on checking, I find it is believed to have originated in Brittany, where a prince called Josse in the 7th century developed a following and in medieval Norman the family name of Jose evolve from him. In Domesday is no trace of this name in England in 1086 but by 1273, time of Edward I, there was a Nicholas Jose listed in the Hundred Rolls and in the same year an Alexander Jose was recorded as Sheriff of London. (Chronicles of the Mayors and Sheriffs of London, 1188-1274)

    The lands called Joyses, thought to have been originally owned by a family called Joce may well have been owned by a Norman of the family of Jose which seems to makes more sense than Joce as I can find no trace of this name with this spelling. One more piece in the jigsaw puzzle of our village history.

R. D.