by Ron Dale


A study of ancient wills is interesting, not only because we can read the words of local residents of bye-gone days, but we are also introduced to their friends and relatives and to the names of their properties now long ago demolished. Additionally we are informed of the household possessions they used every day of their lives and cherished sufficiently to itemise in their wills.

     Alice Cramphorne of Stanstead Abbotts was the wife of Thomas Burnap II (There were about 21 descendants named Thomas Burnap in England and in Massachusetts, U.S.A. (the earliest was born in Stanstead Abbotts circa 1495 and was married to Johanna Nobbys (See her will at ‘Manorial Court at Stanstead Bury,’ elsewhere on this web-site).  We have already recorded the will of her husband, Thomas Burnap, which was all houses and land. Alice’s will lists the actual possessions of a housewife, which included a cow and a sow with four piglets and two bullocks, reminding us that livestock were also possessions. The Burnaps were middle-class farmers and eventually had a small malting business in the village in what is today called Kitten Lane. And they were landowners, much of it inherited initially from the Nobbys side of the family.

     According to the Burnap family genealogy of Salem, one Robert Burnap (c.1595-1689), son of Thomas Burnap of Stanstead Abbotts, left here for Massachusetts circa 1635-1640 to create a second family line of Burnaps in the U.S.A.


(Commas inserted for easier reading but original spellings retained for their charm).

In the year of Our Lord, 1564 ......I bequeath to John Rawlinge a fether bed, a coverlet, a blanket, a bowlster, a platter, a saulser, a brown cove (?), a net pannier. Item – To Agnes Rawlinge one chest, a candelsticke and a pewter dyshe, a porringer, a candelsticke and a little bowlster. Item – to William Rawlinge, the greatest kettle save one, a payer of towene sheets, a candelsticke, a porringer and a platter dyshe. Item – To John Rawlinge, a sheto, a thurden dole (?), a platter, a porringer. Item – To Anne Rawlinge, my daughter, a table clothe, a sowe hoggo and fower piggs. Item – To Alice Key, a fether bed in the lofte as yt standeth, a platter. Item – To John Keys, a browne potte.  Item – To Robert Keys, a garled bullocke, the biggest.  Item – To William Keys, a garled bullocke and Thomas Burnap, my sonn, to have the keeping of the goods of John Keys’ children until they are married or of age, to have the same. Item – To John Anger, a red cow and a bloke (?). Item – To George Anger, a postner of brasse. Item – To Elizabeth Anger, a payer of towene sheets, fower yards of russet carson. Item – To Richard Sympson, a duo bx. wheate. Item – To Widow Walker, duo bx. wheate. Item – To Agnes Pery (Perry), duo bx. wheate. Item – To Niels Swete, a duo bx. wheate. Item – The rest of my goods with all debts payed and my will fulfilled I give to Thomas Burnap, my son and Anne Rawlinge, my daughter equal to be divided between them..... etc.  I make my mark in the presence of the witnesses, William Whytnall, John Smith, Thomas Walker, Thomas Heyward, William Posson, Roberto Chapman and John Anger.    (Arch. Middlesex, Herts. & Essex Wills II, Raymond)


A house called Esgors or Osgors has been mentioned three times in previous research, twice in relation to it being left in a will in the 16th century to Thomas Burnap.  He left it to his son, another Thomas Burnap and he mentioned that it was the house in which his son was already living. The Burnaps had a malting and possibly a house with it in ‘the road which lieth between Cats Hill and the road to Hunsdon,’ which we now call Kitten Lane, leading off Cat’s Hill. (See A History of Stanstead Abbotts etc., re Burnap family, SALHS, 2012)

‘... in the road which lieth between Cats Hill and the road to Hunsdon.’

(Photo: SALHS Archives)

Kitten Lane (photo Brian Johnson)

    The third mention of this house was in 1868 when Thomas Fowell Buxton bought the manor of Stanstead Abbotts and many other lands around it. Included in these purchases was ‘a messuage called Osgors with eight and a half acres, plus one acre in Rye Mead at Horseholm...’  This house, existing in the 16th century when it was then recorded as Esgors, had barns, stables and orchards and a meadow.  Esgors or Osgors, once the home of Thomas Burnap, is one of the very few houses we can identify with its occupant in the 16th century but we do not know where it was.  We only surmise from earlier times that it was probably in the area of Cats Hill/Netherfield.

     Another house left in the will of Thomas Burnap in 1594 was transcribed from the will as Convertis Garden, which makes little sense and was obviously a wrong transcription due to bad handwriting. In 1868 one of the houses bought by T. F. Buxton was Curtis Garden, which is obviously the same house as Mr. Buxton was obviously buying up all the properties once held by the Burnaps.  This house was described as being in Chapel Lane or Easneye Street in 1868. It is also recorded that it was formerly Curtis Garden, but now called Ivy House Farm. This also had barns, stables and orchards in the 16th century. Most houses at this time appear to have possessed an orchard.  I have checked the 1840 Tithe Map for this farm or house and although there are several classed as a house with garden, no house names are recorded.   It is just possible that this house could still survive in Cappell Lane under a new name as one or two older houses still exist there, but most likely a new building has been built on the site. This is a field for further research on old deeds and on the Tithe Map. As my eyes are now unable to read the plot numbers, I have now given away the disk of my Tithe Map to someone with eyes that can.

Ron Dale, May, 2017