by Ron Dale

Trimmed section of Feet of Fines, c.1391. See line 10, left-hand side

One of my self-imposed quests has been to find the name of Stanstead Bury manor house in the time of the canons of Waltham Abbey’s possession, as the earliest record of the house under this name dates from the 17th century under the Baesh administration. However, today I have just discovered a Feet of Fines document dated 1391 which shows amongst other property grants, the manor of Stanstead Abbotts and Stanstead Bury being granted to the church authorities. This is the first time I have encountered any reference to the house at this early date and the document offers more than one surprise.  But we must not forget that Stanstead Bury is not just a house. It is also a geographical location. The Bury could refer to the earthworks there, but nevertheless I believe it is an important find. Infuriating as it is, the discoveries found on ancient documents often pose more questions than answers!

 The Feet of Fines document is ref. no. CP 25/1/290/59 number 16, dated 25 November, 1391, at Westminster, time of Richard II. The grant is for a long list of manors, messuages and church advowsons to a group of knights and headed by Robert, the Bishop of London and John, the bishop of Hereford. I will not list the different manors or the list of knights involved, because I feel that our manor was being given to the Church via the Bishop of London, whose area we were in, and the other manors were in several different counties of England, also of no interest to us. Probably because of the many ingredients of this document, I did not discover it on previous searches amongst the Feet of Fines grants. Tucked away in the middle of a long list of manors is in Latin, ‘the manor of Stansted Abbot and Stansted Bury in the county of Hertford.’ (sic)  Fortunately we are allowed a view of the original Latin document as I found it difficult to believe we were described as belonging to the abbey already in this document, but the original Latin text does definitely state ‘Stansted Abbot.’  As the original debt of the manor was in 1182 under charter nos. 354/345 I am a little puzzled why this feet of fines was issued two hundred years after the event. Perhaps it was just a Confirmation document which they seemed to use regularly at this time.  The lawyer who acted on behalf of the original owners was John Hull (Hulle), a name I have seen before, acting on behalf of others in land grants of this period. Hull was paid £1,000 Sterling for the whole of the listed manors, etcetera, the largest amount I have seen in all the Feet of Fines, but individually this does not work out to be a great amount for each manor listed. It appears to have taken a long time from the handover of the manors to the date of the grant and actual payment. John Hull also worked for William Rokesburgh of Stanstead Bury in his property dealings around this time.

Another puzzle is why was the manor described as Stanstead Abbotts AND Stanstead Bury? Perhaps this was to ensure that the property of the Bury was included in the grant as sometimes manor houses are sold or retained separately from the manor.


Henry Lawrence, Lord President of Cromwell’s Council of State

(From an engraving in The History of the Rebellion, by Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon)

    Lawrence was descended from a noble and ancient family. His ancestor, Sir Robert Lawrence, received his knighthood from Richard Coeur de Lion in 1101 for his bravery scaling the walls of Accra during the Crusades.  One of his ancestors was the abbot of Ramsey in Huntingdonshire, but at the Dissolution in 1539 he left. The family tree becomes confusing to the high incidence of double marriages popular at this time.

Henry Lawrence, (3) the grandfather of our President Henry, was born at St. Ives on 25th February 1580/81. He had married Elizabeth Hagar of Bourne Castle, Cambridgeshire. After his death she remarried Gilbert Pickering, later to be knighted, the son of Lucy Kaye and John Pickering. Her sister, Elizabeth, married Robert Throgmorton, only son of Emma Lawrence and Gabriel Throgmorton.

Sir John Lawrence, father of our Henry Lawrence, was knighted in 1603 at Windsor by James I, shortly before his coronation. He married Elizabeth Vallen of Clerkenwell, Middlesex. Sir John was buried at St. Ives 10th February, 1604 and his widow remarried Robert Bathurst Esq., Sheriff of Gloucestershire and she then became the mother of Sir Edward Bathurst, created Baronet in 1643.The will of Sir John mentioned his two sons, our Henry and his brother John.

Henry Lawrence was only just over 3 years old when his father died. Later he attended Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1622, B.A. 1623 and M.A. in 1627. Because of the politico-religious situation in the country at that time he took refuge in Holland where he settled for a while to write religious tracts, but returned to England in 1641 and became a member of the Long Parliament.  In his absence from the country he leased his property at St. Ives to Oliver Cromwell, who farmed the land there from 1631 to 1635/36 and he thus became Cromwell’s landlord.  The property, Slepe Hall, became known as Cromwell’s Place. When he heard about plans to execute Charles I, Lawrence left the parliament in disagreement. He then published a book in Amsterdam, ‘Of Our Communion and War with Angels,’ which he dedicated to his mother to whom he was devoted. In 1646 he published ‘Of Baptism’ by which time he had been created President of the Council of State under Cromwell in 1654. Henry Lawrence married Amy, daughter of Sir Edward Peyton of Isleham, Cambridgeshire.  They had seven sons and six daughters. After the death of Oliver Cromwell, Lawrence proclaimed Richard Cromwell as his successor but he was not capable of maintaining this high position.

After studying a genealogical report on the family history of the Cromwells and the Lawrence families I still cannot profess to understand the relationship, but it must have been tenuous. There was certainly no blood relationship. The relationship between the two men appears to be as follows: Oliver Cromwell was 1st cousin to John Hampden, who was 1st cousin to Edmund Waller the poet, who was 2nd cousin to Henry Lawrence. If you are still confused, so am I. I think it might be judicious to simply say they were ‘distant relatives.’ Apparently in some way the Waller family was the hinge-pin between the two families, but the Cromwell family background is very sketchy in history books.

Henry Lawrence was spared punishment at the Restoration as he had objected to the King’s execution.  No longer in high position and out of work, with 13 children and only a tiny manor of Thele for income, he soon descended into debt and had to sell the manor and move to a small house in Cheshunt.  He died there on 8th August, 1664 and he, his wife and four of his children are buried in St. Mary’s Church at St. Margarets. Lawrence Avenue, the modern row of attractive riverside houses was named in his memory.

      One of Henry’s sons, John Lawrence left England with a Judge Brimsdown and landed in Barbados initially, but found it full of Royalists. They then went to Jamaica in 1676 where many Republicans were already settled. He became the founder of a successful dynasty of plantation owners there, dying in 1690 and leaving six sons to enjoy his wealth.

(3)  The Ancient Family of Lawrence, Gentleman’s Magazine, August, 1815, pp. 12-17

 (2)  History of The Olmsted Family in America 1632-1912, Henry King Olmsted M.D., New York

There has been much confusion over Henry Lawrence’s relationship to Oliver Cromwell as in some history books Cromwell is recorded as the nephew of Lawrence and in other books as his cousin.   Cromwell is also recorded as the uncle of Lawrence. Whilst it may not matter to locals who only know that Lawrence Avenue in Stanstead Abbotts was named in his honour, there is no doubt that the ex-President of the Council of State was somehow distantly related to Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector, and I have eventually discovered there was a connection, too confusing for me to convey it sensibly. Let it be said that the tenuous connection was not by blood but by a series of double marriages.

     Henry Lawrence himself appears to us from the distance of the centuries to have been a pleasant and decent man and Cromwell one of the most evil and most unpleasant genocidal maniacs of his time and although they were both republicans and Puritans, as men they were poles apart, having nothing in common except their religious and political beliefs.


Research is such a lucky dip and I have this morning found information about our local Red Lion pub in the most unexpected place. I came across by accident the full text (2) of an American family history, the family of Olmsted. (Holmstead) . The family were Puritans who left Essex for America in 1632 and their history looked interesting so I began to read the book which was published in 1912 in New York. In one of the family wills of a Nicholas Olmstead, I found the following statement:


    ‘My wife, Rachel, has had for her first husband, THOMAS GRAVES THE YOUNGER of Stanstead Abbotts in the county of Hertfordshire. She claimed his share of the Red Lion Inn and involved Nicholas Olmsted in a lawsuit (in 1610 or so) which was decided in her favour. He prays in his will that his son shall have the inn.’

     This was written in the will of Nicholas Olmsted (Holmsted) of Braintree, Essex, proved at Bishops Stortford in May, 1627. Investigation found that his son was named John Olmsted, so that we have the names of two very early owners of the Red Lion, the earliest known to-date: Thomas Graves the Younger of Stanstead Abbotts  and John Olmsted, son of Rachel and Nicholas Olmsted of Braintree. Of course they were the owners and probably not the landlords of the Red Lion.  The family were Puritans and at this time Puritans were being treated very badly for non-conformism, causing many to flee to Holland, and there was also an exodus of Puritans to New England in America. In 1632 the Olmsted family headed by James and his two sons were part of a large family group who fled to the New World and founded the large family which exists there today. This family history  had no apparent connection with Stanstead Abbotts, but it was a pleasant surprise to  find a nugget of gold wrapped up in it.