The Manor of Mawedelyne in Hertfordshire – a puzzle solved?
This research into the manor of Mawedelyne grew out of an interest in the life of Master Thomas Barowe, whom, on 22 September 1483, Richard III appointed Master of the Rolls. In a ‘Feet of Fines’ record, dated 1 July 1484, John and Joan Forster and Thomas and Edith Holbache transferred their interest in the manor of Mawedelyne to Robert Brackenbury, Thomas Barowe, Morgan Kidwelly, Thomas Fowler and Richard Beeston, and to the heirs of Robert Brackenbury for 300 marks of silver.
Several of the people involved in this transaction were close associates of Richard III whilst he was still duke of Gloucester: Brackenbury, Barowe, Kidwelly and Fowler were members of his affinity. By 1479 Brackenbury was treasurer of Gloucester’s household; on 17 July 1483, he was made constable of the Tower of London for life and master of the mint and keeper of the king’s exchange in the Tower; he died at the battle of Bosworth. Morgan Kidwelly, a Welshman and lawyer, was Gloucester’s attorney: he was in his service by August 1471 and remained there ‘until Bosworth forced him to find a new master’. Thomas Fowler, a Yorkist esquire of the body, based in Buckinghamshire, served on various royal commissions. After the rebellion of Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham, in 1483, Richard III put Fowler in sole charge of seizing the lands and goods of traitors in Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire and shortly after was made steward of the forfeited Stafford estates in the region.
The two men on the ‘other side’ of the transaction were connected by service to Edward IV’s queen, Elizabeth Woodville. John Forster had been William, lord Hastings’ legal associate and the treasurer and receiver general of Elizabeth Woodville. His chief assistant in the queen’s service was Thomas Holbache, clerk of the receipt. On 13 June 1483 Forster was arrested in connection with William Hastings’s alleged plot against Richard III and was kept in the Tower for 40 days. He escaped attainder by conveying land in Hertfordshire to Robert Brackenbury and others on 28 November 1483. Although the document regarding the manor of Mawedelyne is dated seven months later, it might very well be in connection with this process, given the parties concerned.
The webpage on which the transcript of the above document is published suggests that the modern equivalent of ‘Mawedelyne’ is ‘Mardleybury (in Welwyn)’. The house now known as Mardleybury Manor is a Grade II protected building in Woolmer Green. The present building is a seventeenth century or earlier timber frame house with two storeys. The first recorded mention is that one Alward held the manor at the time of Edward the Confessor. In the fourteenth century it belonged to John, second lord Tiptoft, through his wife Margaret. At the time relevant to the Feet of Fines entry, the manor was held by the Toppesfeld family, with several family members involved in a court battle over it. At one stage it did indeed belong to a John Forster, but as this was from 1556 onwards, this is clearly not the man who conveyed it to Brackenbury in 1484. This later man was John Forster III (1511-1558), who was a Member of Parliament for the shire of Hertford  and might have been a descendent of the earlier John. It, therefore, is unlikely that present day Mardleybury manor was the fifteenth-century ‘manor of Mawedelyne’, which was used by Forster and Holbache to buy their way out of trouble. There is, however, an alternative: the manor of Maudeleyns in Northchurch near Berkhamsted. This is a much more likely candidate.
The manor of Maudeleyns was held of the manor of Berkhamsted and towards the end of the thirteenth century was in the possession of Sir Lawrence de Broc. Today, the ruins remain of a chapel of St Mary Magdalene, which was probably built for de Broc as part of his manor. Indeed, The Place Names of Hertfordshire indicates that the name ‘Maudeleyns’ is derived from ‘Magdalene’. Near the ruins are traces of a medieval moat and a fishpond. The manor passed to several de Broc descendents, but in 1426 it was conveyed to – among others – Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, and was later acquired by Sir Robert Whittingham, an associate of duke Humphrey’s political opponent, John, duke of Bedford. After Sir Robert’s death in 1452, the manor passed to one of his sons. However, somehow, in 1469, Maudeleyns came into the possession of Thomas Holbache, John Forster’s assistant in the service of Elizabeth Woodville. It is recorded that in 1483 Holbache granted the manor to Thomas Scott, archbishop of York, John Morton, bishop of Ely, and others in fulfillment of the last will of John Forster, who, in fact, was very much alive at this time. The following year, the transfer recorded in the Feet of Fines, mentioned above, took place.
Although Brackenbury died with his king at Bosworth, Whittingham’s descendents were still living. On 24 January 1484, John Verney and his wife Margaret were gifted the goods and chattels in the parish of Northchurch of her uncle, Richard Whittingham. Margaret was the daughter of Sir Robert Whittingham, son of the above Sir Robert Whittingham, who had died fighting for the Lancastrians at Tewkesbury. By 1487, the manor seems to have been held by John Forster, who then granted it John Morton, archbishop of Canterbury, his nephew Robert Morton, bishop of Worcester, and others. After Forster’s death in 1488 , his sister Agnes and her husband, another Robert Morton (of Bawtry in Yorkshire), gained the possession of Maudeleyns. Agnes’s husband was a barrister and a relative of John Morton. However, in spite of his family connections, he had been loyal to his king and fought for Richard III at Bosworth, after making his will on 20 August 1485, probably at Leicester. In this he states that he was ‘going to maintain our most excellent king Richard III against the rebellion raised against him in this land’. He survived the battle and subsequently he and his wife had much trouble securing their possession of the manor of Maudeleyns, as it was also claimed by Whittingham and Verney descendents. There were various actions in the Court of Chancery and in 1497 the court ruled in the Mortons’ favour, but even then it still took till 1512-13 for the opposing families to release all their claims in the manor to Robert Morton (probably a son of Robert and Agnes). It remained in the possession of the Morton family until 1556, when it was conveyed to John Dell of Leyhill.
Today the only physical remnants the manor are the ruins of the chapel and the moat, but its name still survives as Marlin Chapel Farm.
1. The main details of Barowe’s life are to be found in: Hughes, J., ‘Barowe, Thomas (d. 1499)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. [last accessed online 20 Dec. 2013]. His will is TNA PROB 11/11, ff. 293-294. See also Sutton, A.F. and Visser-Fuchs, L., ‘”As dear to him as the Trojans were to Hector”: Richard III and the University of Cambridge’, in L. Visser-Fuchs, ed., Richard III and East Anglia: Magnates, Gilds and Learned Men. Richard III Society, 2010, pp.105-142.
2. Feet of Fines: TNA CP 25/1/91/121, number 7, in ‘Some Notes on Medieval English Genealogy’. URL: http://www.medievalgenealogy.org.uk/fines/abstracts/CP_25_1_91_121.shtml [last accessed 14 Aug. 2013]
3. Horrox, R., ‘Brackenbury, Sir Robert (d. 1485)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [last accessed online 27 Jan. 2011]
4. Horrox, R., Richard III: A Study in Service (Cambridge, 1989), p.86.
5. Horrox, R., Richard III: A Study in Service, p.8.
6. Carson, A., Richard III: The Maligned King. Stroud, The History Press, 2013, p.101
7. Myers, A.R., ‘The household of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, 1466-7’, part I, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 50 (1967), pp.207-235, p.213
8. Rogers, I., ‘John Forster (d.1488)’, www.girders.net [last accessed 19 Aug. 2013], referencing J. C. Wedgewood, History of Parliament 1439-1509, Vol. I. Biographies of Members of the Commons, pp. 345-6. (I am not sure whether this site is still operational)
9. Horrox, R., ‘Brackenbury, Sir Robert (d. 1485)’.
11.‘Mardleybury Manor, Woolmer Green’, British Listed Buildings. URL: http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/en-158611-mardleybury-manor-woolmer-green-hertford [last accessed 18 Aug. 2013]
12. The following information is based on ‘Parishes: Welwyn’, A History of the County of Hertford: volume 3 (1912), pp. 165-171. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/herts/vol3/pp165-171 [last accessed 6 Nov. 2015]
13. Coros, D.F., ‘Foster (Forster), John III (by 1511-58), of Bramfield, Herts.’, in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982. URL: http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/foster-%28forster%29-john-iii-1511-58 [last accessed 23 Aug. 2013]
14. Unless otherwise stated the following information is based on ‘Parishes: Northchurch or Berkhampstead St Mary’, A History of the County of Hertford: volume 2 (1908), pp. 245-250. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/herts/vol2/pp245-250 [last accessed 6 Nov. 2015] (Hereafter VCH Herts.)
15. Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, A. and Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Hertfordshire (English Place-Name Society, Volume XV, Cambridge University Press, 1938), p.49.
16. ‘Chapel of St Mary Magdalane’, Hertfordshire County Council. URL: http://www.hertsdirect.org/services/envplan/archaeology/archsites/stmarymagdalane/ [last accessed 17 Sept. 2013]
17. Stratford, J., ‘Whittingham, Sir Robert (d. 1452)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [last accessed online 21 Sept. 2013]
18. VCH Herts, vol. 2, p.247, at note 58. The reference here is Harleian Charters, 51, F 35.
19. Rogers, I., ‘Sir John Verney (ca.1449-1505)’, www.girders.net [last accessed 21 Sept. 2013] (I am not sure whether this site is still operational)
20. Stratford, J., ‘Whittingham, Sir Robert (d. 1452)’
21. Rogers, I., ‘John Forster’
22. Rogers, I., ‘Robert Morton (ca.1440-1490)’, www.girders.net [last accessed 16 Sept. 2013] (I am not sure whether this site is still operational)
23. Quoted in Boatwright, L., ‘The Buckingham Six at Bosworth’, The Ricardian, Vol. XIII (2003), pp. 54-66, p.55
The above has been previously published in Herts Past & Present, Issue No.23 (Spring 2014), pp.25-28+32