The Victoria History of the Counties of England

A History of the County of Hertfordshire Volume 4 - Layston pages 77 to 88


Leofstanechirche (xii cent.) ; Lestoncherche (xiv cent.) ; Leyston (xv cent.).

At the time of the Domesday Survey the area now comprised by the parish of Layston appears under the names of Alswick, Ichetone and Alfladewick. In 1086 Alswick probably already had a church of its own. The building of another church a little to the east of Ermine Street at some date before the middle of the 12th century seems to have made Alfladewick an ecclesiastical parish (to which Alswick was after¬wards subordinated as a chapelry) and to have obtained for it the alternative name of Lestanchurch.(1) In 1341 the name of the parish is recorded as ' Lestanchurch called Alfladewyk.(2) Gradually the earlier name was entirely superseded by the other, and Lestanchurch corrupted into Layston remained the name of the parish.(3)

The parish of Layston now contains 1,433 acres, having been diminished by the Divided Parishes Act of March 1883, under which detached portions of the parish were transferred to Wyddial, Aspenden and Throcking. It consists chiefly of arable land. About one-quarter only is permanent grass and there is very little woodland.(4)

The River Rib flows through the parish, entering it in the north-west, and for a short distance forms its western boundary. In the valley of the Rib the land averages 300 ft. above the ordnance datum, rising in the east to a height of 407 ft. Ermine Street forms the western boundary of Layston, except for a short distance where the boundary line makes a detour to the west and follows the River Rib. At the point where Ermine Street crosses the river it is joined by the road from Great Hormead, which, after crossing Ermine Street, runs north-west to join the Great North Road at Baldock. At the junction of these two roads is situated the town of Buntingford, which extends into the four parishes of Layston, Throcking, Aspenden and Wyddial.

blankThe older settlement in the parish lay near St. Bartholomew's Church, which stands about half a mile east of Ermine Street alone in the fields,(5) almost hidden by the thick trees which surround it.

Records of Buntingford are found in the early 13th century.(6) It was described as a hamlet in 1288.(7) In 1292 there was a chapel there, which stood where the present chapel of St. Peter stands, on the west side of Ermine Street, north of the point where it crosses the river. The rector of Aspenden is said to have built an oratory near the king's highway about 1333. Five years later there was complaint that this was an inconvenience to travellers who passed through the town on foot in winter time, and the oratory was taken into the king's hands. It was found by inquisition, however, that it was to the benefit of the town.(8) Buntingford must have been growing rapidly at this time, and as a centre for trade it had become more important than the neighbouring villages. From 1252 a market had been held every Friday at New Chipping,(9) which lies on Ermine Street, only half a mile north of Buntingford. This market was attached to the manor of Pope's Hall in Buckland (q.v.). The manor included lands in Buntingford,(10) and in 1360 the lord of the manor, Elizabeth de Burgh, received licence to transfer her market to the king's highway in Buntingford, to be held on Friday in the main road by the chapel of St. John and in the two roads which crossed that road east and west. She received also the grant of a fair to be held in the same place every year on the day and morrow of the Invention of the Holy Cross.(11)

In 1367 Lionel Duke of Clarence, then holding the manor of Pope's Hall by inheritance, obtained a revocation of the grant of the market and fair at Buntingford, on the ground that they were harmful to his manor of Standon, and at the same time obtained a grant of a market and fair to be held at Standon.(12) The people of Buntingford, however, protested against the revocation of the grant, and claimed that the market and fair had been granted to them by Elizabeth de Burgh, and they petitioned against their removal.(13) Accordingly the king granted them the
right to hold a market in Buntingford every Saturday and a fair there every year on the day and morrow of the Apostles Peter and Paul.(14) This grant was confirmed to the lords and tenants of Buntingford by Richard II in 1378,(15) but in spite of this in 1385 Richard gave the dues from the market and fair of Buntingford to Thomas Stout, groom of the buttery.(16) The people of Buntingford again petitioned the king, urging their rights, and in 1387 the grant to Thomas Stout was revoked.(17) The market and fair were confirmed to the inhabitants of Buntingford by Henry IV(18) and Henry V.(19) In 1542 a fresh grant was made by Henry VIII, when Thomas Audley, lord of the manor of Corneybury, the tenants of that manor and the inhabitants of the town of Buntingford received licence to hold a market in Buntingford every Monday and two annual fairs there on the day and morrow of SS. Peter and Paul and on the day and morrow of St. Andrew.(20)

1 It may be suggested that the original
church at Alswick was of timber and the
masonry church of Alfladewick therefore
became known in distinction as the stone
2 Inq, Nonarum (Rec. Com.), 432.
3 See also above under account of hundred.
4 Statistics from Bd. of Agric. (1905).
5 Clutterbuck says that at the beginning of the
19th century it was possible to trace the
foundation of houses which had once stood
near the church.
6 Anct. D. (P.R.O.), A 1027, 1109.

7 Ibid. B 813.
8 Chan, Inq. p.m. Misc. file 135, no. 3 ; Cal.
Close, 1337-9, p. 565. The description
suggests that it is the above-mentioned chapel
that it referred to. The chapel, however, was
built as early as 1292 (see Advowson).
9 See Cal. Chart. R. 1226-57, P- 404.
10 See below for the fee of Osbern Bishop
of Bayeux in Layston.
11 Chart. R. 34 & 35 Edw. Ill, m. 6, no. 22;
Abbrev. Rot. Orig. (Rec. Com.), ii, 262.

12 Chart. R. 41 Edw. Ill, m. 2, no. 7 ; Abbrrv.
Rot. Orig, (Rec. Com.), ii, 293.
13 Plac. in Canc, file 4, no. 25.
14 Chart. R. 41 Edw. Ill, m. a no. 5.
15 Cal. Pat. 1377-81 P. 283.
16 Ibid. 1385-9, pp. 22, 39.
17 Ibid. p. 287.
18 Ibid. 1408-13, p. 293.
19 Ibid. 1413-16, p. 173.
20 L. and P. Hen. Vlll, xvii, g. 137 (4). 


Select page number:  Page 77 Page 78