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The History of Monken Hadley Common

Source: https://tudorhistory.org/elizabeth/gallery.html

The Princess Elizabeth, aged about 13 (1546). Portrait sometimes attributed to William Scrots.

What is now Monken Hadley Common is a small part of the former 3,380 ha1 ha (hectare) = 10,000 sq metres i.e. the equivalent of an area 100 metres square on a modern map

The Enfield Chase Act of 1777 says “An accurate Survey, Admeaſurement, and Plan of the ſaid Chaſe ..... have been lately made and taken, whereby it appears, that the ſaid Chaſe containeth Eight Thouſand Three Hundred and Forty-nine Acres, One Rood, and Thirty Perches, or thereabouts”.

1a(cre) = 4r(oods) = 4,840 square yards
1r(ood) = 40p(erches) = 1,210 sq yards
1p(erch) = 30¼ square yards

1 acre is approx. 4,047 square metres, or 0.405 ha,
      so 8349a 1r 30p works out at about 3,380 ha.
 royal hunting ground of Enfield ChaseFor a scholarly but also very readable and interesting treatment of the history of Enfield Chase from Saxon times down to the end of the 18th century, see “The Story of Enfield Chase” by David Pam, published by the Enfield Preservation Society, 1984, ISBN 0 907318 03 7.

Reference may also be made to W. Robinson’s History of Enfield, 2 vols., 1823.

A number of maps and plans may be consulted at the Public Record Office under references MPC and MR.
(“the ChaseA “chase” is a hunting ground; Enfield Chase (or Chace) was a royal hunting ground.”), which was part of the Duchy of LancasterFounded in the 13th century, the Duchy of Lancaster is a unique portfolio of land, property and assets held in trust for the Sovereign in His or Her role as Duke of Lancaster. estate. It is believed that Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I) often hunted on the Chase after she was granted the estate of West Lodge Park by her brother Edward VI in 1547. Much of the Chase lay in the parish of Enfield, but the inhabitants of Enfield and the neighbouring parishes of Edmonton, South Mimms and Monken Hadley enjoyed certain rights of common within it, such as the right to graze animals, to collect firewood, and to cut turf for fuel.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_state_tinkers.jpg

"The State Tinkers". Contemporary (1780) caricature by James Gillray. It shows three peers breaking a large bowl which is cracked and patched; one, Lord North (who was Prime Minister from 1770 to 1782), is shown chiselling inside the bowl, whilst behind him stands George III (King from 1760 to 1820) with hands raised as if in surprise.

An Act for Dividing the Chaſe of Enfield,

in the County of Middleſex;

and for other Purpoſes therein mentioned


The Enfield Chase Act of 1777 - 17 Geo.III.c.17"17 Geo.III.c.17" means "The 17th public general Act [c.17] passed during the parliamentary session that started in the 'regnal year' 17 Geo. III - the 17th year of the reign of King George 3rd" - authorised the enclosureIn English social and economic history, "enclosure" was the process which ended traditional rights such as mowing meadows for hay, or grazing livestock on common land formerly held in the open field system.

Once "enclosed", these uses of the land became restricted to the owner, and it ceased to be common land. [Wikipedia]
of the Chase, and parcelled out the land between the Crown, the four parishes of Enfield, Edmonton, South Mimms and Monken Hadley, and certain local landowners, in exchange for relinquishing their rights of common over the whole of the Chase.

Monken Hadley Common came into being

on the passing of this Act.


(A copy of the Act is available here)

The South Mimms allotment was quickly partitioned between the various freeholders and copyholdersCopyhold land was land rented from a landlord, usually a manor or an institution, at a nominal rent for a long period. The tenant had virtually freehold rights, so that these lands could be left to others provided the lease was long enough. The remaining copyhold tenures were abolished by legislation in the 1920s. under powers contained in the Enfield Chase Act. There were no similar powers for the other villages but the Edmonton and Enfield allotments were, nevertheless, divided out under separate Acts in 1800 and 1801 respectively.

Photo: Chris Wilkinson

The gates leading from the Common to Monken Hadley church; under the terms of the 1777 Act, the churchwardens are the trustees of the Common.

The land allotted to the parish of Monken Hadley under the Act consisted of 97 ha, of which 77 ha was common land; the remaining 20 ha north-west of Camlet way (the "glebeAn area of land within a manor and parish, the income from which was typically used to support a parish priest. ") was set aside for the incumbentIn English ecclesiastical law the term incumbent referred to a clergyman who held a Church of England benefice. This usually involved him being granted the use of land - which he would typically lease out to generate an income - in return for the performance of a required minimum of spiritual duties, such as the provision of church services.

Historically, once in possession of the benefice, the holder had lifelong tenure unless he failed to provide the required minimum of spiritual services or committed a "moral offence" (but since 1968 such arrangements have no longer been possible).
of Monken Hadley. The whole of this allotment became part of the parish - which is why the northern boundary of the Common is also the present day boundary between the London Boroughs of Barnet and Enfield.

Most of the glebe was sold in 1799 to redeem the land tax, though a remnant - Rectory Farm - is still diocesan"Diocesan": belonging to, or part of, a diocese - the district or see under the supervision of a bishop, which is divided into parishes.

The parish of Monken Hadley is in the Diocese of London.
property. With the coming of the railway, the Common was reduced to 70 ha, and this is the only part of the former Enfield Chase which remains as common land to this day.

The first Rules & Orders made in 1777

The Enfield Chase Act gave powers for the making of Rules and Orders by each Parish in respect of numerous matters pertaining to their allotment, including “the Use, Management, Regulation or StintA stint is a right to graze a fixed number of animals on a specific Common. Each Commoner holds a certain number of stints, and typically formulæ would adjust their value for different livestock - e.g. one stint = one ewe with followers [one sheep with lambs], four stints = one horse, etc.

However according to the Monken Hadley Common Regulations, different “commonable beasts” (e.g. horses and cows - see below) are treated equally.
of the Commonage”. The first Rules and Orders made under these provisions were dated 1777. These provided that two stints should be allowed in respect of each messuageThe legal term "messuage" equates to a dwelling-house and includes outbuildings, orchard, curtilage or court-yard and garden. in the Parish of Monken Hadley assessed to the Land TaxThe land tax was introduced in England in 1692 as a means for raising government revenue, and was not done away with until 1963. at a rent of £20 or upwards, one stint in respect of each messuage assessed at less than £20, one stint in respect of houses not assessed to the Poor RateIn England and Wales, under the 1601 Elizabethan Poor Law, the poor rate was a tax on parish property, which was used to provide relief to the parish poor. The tax was collected by local magistrates or Overseers of the Poor, and later by Local Authorities.

The Poor Law system was only finally abolished as recently as 1948, with the passing of the National Assistance Act, and the introduction of the modern welfare state.
, and one stint in respect of every three acres (1.21 ha) of land. The most important right attached to each stint is the right to graze one commonable beastTypically, on most commons “commonable beasts" (for "beast", read "animal") are those animals which can be used to plough the land (such as horses and oxenIn England an ox (plural oxen) was typically a castrated bull (i.e. a castrated male cow) used to plough the fields.), and those which manure the land (such as cows and sheep). These “commonable beasts” can be put out on a common to graze (eat grass) and browse (eat tree leaves), whereas normally on most commons other animals (such as pigs and goats) cannot.

However, on Monken Hadley Common the Rules and Orders provide that the only commonable beasts allowed are “geldings, mares, foals under a year old, fillies, steers, cows, heifers, calves and asses”.

For those readers who may not be familiar with some of these words, here are the meanings of some of the different words used to describe horsesWords used to describe HORSES

Foal - a young horse (of either sex);
Stallion - an adult male horse that has not been castrated (not allowed on the Common);
Gelding - a gelded (castrated) horse;
Filly - a female horse under the age of three;
Mare - a female horse over the age of three (or over the age of four, if a racing horse);
Ass - a donkey (which is typically smaller than a horse, and has longer ears and a braying call).
and cattleWords used to describe CATTLE

Calf [plural - calves] - a young cow or bull that is not yet weaned (i.e. is still taking milk from its mother);
Bull - an adult male cow that has not been castrated (not allowed on the Common);
Steer - a castrated bull;
Heifer - a young cow that has not had calves of her own;
Cow - a female that has had a calf or calves of her own.
. Subsequent Rules and Orders adjusted these arrangements and, over the years, the position about Stints has not always been entirely clear.

Postcard (Anon), postmark 1906

The "Flying Scotsman" passing Hadley Woods (i.e. the Common), about 1906

The coming of the railway

In 1847 the area of the Common was reduced from 77 ha to 70 ha through the acquisition by the Great Northern Railway Company of a strip of land for the construction of their main line into King's Cross. The service opened on 7 August 1850 from a temporary station at Maiden Lane.

In 1858, in the course of the legal determination of the persons entitled to participate in the moneys received for the sale of land to the Great Northern Railway Company, the Chief Clerk in the Chancery Division of the High Court drew up a list of the Properties and their Owners and Occupiers entitled to Rights of Common and of the number of Stints allowed. However, the costs of the determination swallowed up almost the entire amount received so a number of property owners may not have bothered to prove their entitlement.

1902 Committee to investigate the question of Common Rights

In 1902 The Commoners appointed a Committee to investigate the question of Common Rights. That Committee made a very thorough investigation into the matter but their report raised as many questions as it resolved. Over the years many proprietors have retained the Common Rights on the sale of the properties to which they related, or have purported to sell the rights away from such properties. However, only those Commoners whose Stint or right of common has remained attached to their property, being one of the properties that enjoyed rights of common over the entirety of the Enfield Chase down to 1777 may vote. Once a Stint or right of common is severed from the property to which it was originally attached it no longer carries a vote in formal meetings called to approve Rules & Orders under the Act, although it remains valid simply as a Stint or right of common when held ‘in gross’ (i.e. unattached to any property).

In consequence of these difficulties, it would now be impossible to draw up an exhaustive list of the ownership today of all the Common Rights that ever existed over Monken Hadley Common, although it is generally possible to state whether the ownership of any given Stints is clear. Most Stints or Rights of Common have subsequently been registered under the Commons Registration Act 1965, and are thus recorded quite adequately; there may, however, be some Stints or Rights of Common that were not registered under the Act, and these may possibly still be valid notwithstanding a failure to register. The reason for this is that the owner of such a Stint possesses in strict law a right to graze the Common, in severalty with the other owners of Stints or Rights of Common for whom the Trustees hold the land in trust under the Act 17 Geo. III c.17. (This is not the case with most other Commons.)

Postcard (Anon), postmark 1903

Hadley gate, about 1903

The Common since 1902

The Commoners continued to exercise their grazing rights, either themselves or by sub-letting, until increased motor traffic and the high labour costs of manning the gates following the 1939/45 War rendered this difficult. Since the 1950s, the main use of the Common has been recreational.

Photo: Aerofilms

Aerial view of the upper Common, about 1969

Registration of most of the Common was effected in November 1967 under the Commons Registration Act 1965 which thereby became Register Unit CL 43. However, certain small areas of the Common around the perimeter were inadvertently omitted from registration, which omission may be rectified in due course under the Commons Act 2006. It is important that the boundary of the land that lies in the statutory title of the Trustees is not automatically assumed to be the same as the boundary of the land in respect of which registration was effected in November 1967 under the Commons Registration Act 1965, and which became Register Unit CL 43. (Will Conveyancers of properties bordering on the Common please take careful note of this. If in doubt, please consult the Clerk to the Trustees who will be able to assist.)

The erroneous repeal of the Enfield Chase Act in 1978

In 1978 Parliament, acting on erroneous advice from the Law Commission, repealed the Enfield Chase Act. Although the repeal did not affect the title to the Common, it did affect, for the limited time during which the repeal took effect ie 31st July 1978 to 5th November 1993, the validity of the Rules and Orders made under the Act. When the Trustees learned of the repeal some years later, strong representations were made to the Law Commission, and in 1993 the Act was reinstated 'as if it had never been repealed', which means in law that the Rules and Orders made under the Act are now, and have been since 5th November 1993, regarded as having had unbroken and uninterrupted validity from 31st July 1978 onwards to the present day and continuing, the erroneous repeal in the meantime being entirely disregarded in law.

In 1991 the Council of the London Borough of Barnet claimed that they owned the Common by virtue of section 269 of the Local Government Act, 1933. The Trustees and their advisers disagreed with this interpretation and eventually the claim was withdrawn.

Management of the Common since 1981

The Churchwardens of the Parish of Monken Hadley were incorporated by the Enfield Chase Act as Trustees of the Common. For about 200 years the churchwardens administered the Common themselves, but this burden became too great, and in 1981 a new constitution was adopted for the management of the Common which set up the present management structure.