Drovers 6: Little London

Little London as a Royal Connection
John Trimmer has a website, (www.llundainfach.co.uk) which is dedicated to Welsh Drovers.  He has accumulated a lot of evidence to indicate the place name Little London has a connection with them – but not necessarily during recent Centuries. The evidence appears to indicate the term Little London may go back prior to the 17thC.  The basis of this argument involves their propensity to have a connection with Royalty – and therefore the Droving Trade that supplied Royal Households and land-Holdings (which were many).

The Hamlet of Little London to the South was part of Brill Parish until 1934 when Buckinghamshire County Council moved the Parish Boundary and transferred the Hamlet to the lower Oakley.  When the Metropolitan Railway built Brill Station, it has been said that in Honour of the Metropolitan ambience the Planners were trying to evoke, another Little London was founded to the North of the Village.  The Manor of Brill was the Administration Centre for the Royal Hunting Forest of Bernwood and was for a long time a Property of the Crown.   Earthwork comprising bank and ditch lie North of the Church.  A Hunting Lodge which Edward the Confessor had at Brill and which remained in royal hands until 1337 has been suggested and pottery identified as Iron Age or Saxon has been found.  Alternatively, a Civil War date for the earthwork has been suggested.  “The Manor was part of the Ancient Demesnes of the crown, and it is said with much apparent probability, that the Saxon Kings had a Palace here, which was a favourite residence of King Edward the Confessor.  It is certain that our Monarchs had a Palace at Brill for some time after the conquest: King Henry II kept his Court there in 1160, attended by Thomas a Becket as his Chancellor; he was there again with his Court in 1162. King John, in 1203, gave the Manor of Brill to his Chaplain, Walter Borstard, appointing him Keeper of the Royal Palace there. Recorded as a Royal Hunting Lodge in 1217. King Henry III kept his Court at Brill in 1224: Hugh de Neville had Livery of the Manor in 1226. In 1233, Brill appears to have been the Property of Richard, Earl of Cornwall, for we are told by Matthew Paris, that his lands and houses there were at that time laid waste by Richard Sward and other exiles.  In 1346, the Manor of Brill was granted to Sir John Molins” (Lyson and Lyson)  There is evidence that  Stephen all held Court at the Palace.  It remained in place until the time of Charles I, who turned the Building into a Royalist Garrison in the English Civil War.  This led the Parliamentarian John Hampden to destroy it in 1643.

One example is the Village of Oakley, on the edge of a huge tract of Royal Hunting Grounds that included Brill (and its old Palace).  In the Chilterns, we have Little London near Wendover, where the Manor was in the hands of the Crown until sold by Elizabeth I, and Little London at Whitchurch, near the Royally owned Great Field of Creslow (and so on). Bruce Smith also has a Website and adds some further names to that, such as PiccadillyColdharbour.  The origin of the latter is a source of controversy in Academic circles and is more likely associated with Pack Horse Teams (a Harbour, or temporary Shelter in bad weather).  Surprisingly, or perhaps not so, Coldharbour’s very often occur close to Little Londons, which may imply Drovers also took advantage of old Pack Horse Routes.

They may have used them in the Chilterns too or used parts of the old Pack Horse Routes, but avoiding the narrow stretches. For example, looking at a Map of Chesham one can see Roads radiating out of it in all directions, very often along the Dry Valley bottoms or along the Ridges above those Valleys.

CheshamMapOS1822

Exif_JPEGThe same situation can be seen when looking at the Plateau above IvinghoeAldbury, with a succession of Roads along the Valley Bottoms, and others running along High Ridge formations. Gaddesden Row, for example, probably has an origin as a Pack Horse Route, but it is wide enough to have been used by Drovers and has the necessary isolated Pub, the Chequers.

Gaddesden Row splits into 2 Routes, one running through Redbourn to Harpenden (with its common, Little London & Coldharbour). The other Route goes South via what was High Street Green (marked on all the early OS maps) which appears to have been a Green Road (possibly even a Roman Road) with wide hedge margins.  This is largely overgrown nowadays, but it led down through Leverstock Green to St Albans or Barnet by way of Bricket Wood Common.

HemelHempsteadOS1822