The Last Lord of Watford


George Clerke, son of Sir George Clerke, died in Watford in May 1689, the last to hold all of Watford parish, Northamptonshire. (Well, almost all - certainly the Earl Spencer of the day would have had something to say about that!) Sir George, before he was knighted, had married well and with his father-in-law's help, embarked upon a 20 year buying spree of manors and lands in Watford parish. His son, George, was granted Sir George's Watford lands as his marriage settlement. He also acquired some land, and mortgaged a few along the way. George jnr died some 200 years after the middle ages, and also after knight's fees had seen their day in England - they had officially ended earlier in the 17th century.

George had left his second wife, Sarah, a Jointure for her financial security after his death. With three separate deeds of grant, George left Sarah the income from a large number of his closes, lands, and tenements, with the appurtenances, in Watford, Sylesworth and Murcott, in each case with a tenant paying rent. The several eventual heirs of the Watford lands had to wait until Sarah died.

The tenants banded together in July of 1689 when the rents were due on the lands for the quarter-year from Lady Day (March 25th) to Midsummer Day (June 24th). The tenants had a purpose - to secure their rights to the lands. So they all signed on to an agreement with Sarah Clerke, whereby they agreed to pay Sarah the rents due as had been determined by George Clerke. In consideration, Sarah agreed that each of the signatories shall continue to hold the closes, lands and premises by them respectively taken of George Clerke for the same lease term and rents as covenanted by him.

There were 30 signatories to the agreement (Wm Willes signed twice). Some of the farmers and their farmlands were: Elisha Ireton (Cooksfield), John Lee (3 yardlands), Thomas Clarke (Northingworth), William Lucas (Oad Ground, Hill Meadow, the meadows, 40 acre close), Thomas Slin (Silsworth Great Ground, Watts close), William Willes (Hindmill), and Thomas Reeve the son (Willes and Reeve farmed Brodwells Hays and Freemans Croft). More of the tenants were: John Eyre and James Eyre, John Watkin, Amos Carr, Richard Collman, Thomas Kirtland, William Marriott, John H_____ , Francis Dunkley, Newell Brown, John Griffin, and William Butlin. Farmers attaching their mark, rather than a signature, included: Priscilla Sedgley, Joshua Carr, John Shirrall, Edward Reeve, Richard Ward, Francis Moore, Edward Clark, Samuel Bateman, John Kilworth, and Robert Earle.

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© September 2019 by Murray Johnston.