Ardeley. Chauncy or Reedings

Colin Wilson

Henry Chauncy

Henry Chauncy was the renowned historian of Hertfordshire, but it was his father, also named Henry, who left the almshouses by his will of July 1680. So far I have been unable to locate the will to check for any further details. Henry lived from 1600 till 1681. This means he lived during the English Civil War and probably had Royalist sympathies. His son, the historian, lived from 1632 till 1719. They owned the manor house, Ardeleybury (also known as Yardley Bury). Chauncy’s history was first published in 1700. Interestingly, Henry ‘academically’ records the information, without mentioning that he and his father were involved.

The Almshouses

The buildings were put up not long before Henry died in 1681. Clutterbuck adds ‘A house which he had then lately built at the north east corner of his close called Great Reeding, by the highway called Reven Street, and to which he had laid ten poles of ground’, which is echoed by Cussans. They consisted of two cottages, named ‘Reedings’. Depending on the source, the gardens consisted of 10 poles (Cussans and Clutterbuck) or 16 poles (VCH). This is about 250 sq. m. or 380 sq. m. in modern terms.  As yet the exact location and subsequent history have not been ascertained.

The cottages were occupied by two families. Chauncy probably knows best and says the residents were to be ‘the poorest, aged or most impotent people’. Cussans records that only aged and well-conducted labourers, independent of parish relief, could occupy them. Henry’s heirs were to nominate the residents. The property was given, granted and demised to the then churchwardens and overseers of the poor.

Henry also left a pightle of land so that the income could provide for repairs and two faggotts of wood a year, at Michaelmas (29 Sep., just after the autumn equinox) and Christmas. This land was about an acre and a half of land (less according to VCH) in Cromer Field, near Hoggelder’s Hill. Cromer Field is shown on the OS map Hertfordshire 1896 (rev 1898).

These ancient bequests were reconfirmed by an award in Chancery in 1838. Chauncy’s gift is still (2019) included as part of the Ardeley Charity Estates, Charity Commission reference 209474-5. It is listed as for the benefit of the poor, distributing money to those over 65 at Christmas.

Land measurements

A rod, pole or perch are the basically the same. In length they were a quarter of a chain (51/2 yards), but a square pole was also used as a measurement of area. In modern terms a square pole is 25.96 sq. m.

A rod must not be confused with a rood, which is 40 poles in area, or a quarter of an acre.

A pightle is not a specific size. It is an archaic word for a small parcel of land. Essentially it was a diminutive form, of uncertain origin. One unverifiable but cute explanation was a link to ‘pigtail’, the bit left over when fields were enclosed in more regular shapes. It tended to be about an acre.


Cromer Field is labelled on the OS map Hertfordshire 1896 (rev 1898)
Georeference 530153 228479
See also


The Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire by Sir Henry Chauncy
Vol I p130
Pub. Kohler & Coombes of Dorking 1700, 2nd ed 1826 

The History & Antiquities of the County of Hertford, by Robert Clutterbuck
Vol 3 page 609
Printed by and for John Bowyer Nichols, 25 Parliament Street, London London 1827

History of Hertfordshire by John Edwin Cussans
Vol 1 p197
Originally published Stephen Austin & Sons 1870-81
Republished E P Publishing in collaboration with Hertfordshire County Library 1972.

The Victoria County History of the County of Hertford, ed William Page
Vol 3  p 199
Issued Archibald Constable & Co. 1912. Reprint by Dawsons of Pall Mall 1971 ISBN 0 7129 0477 8
Available online at

Henry Chauncy’s Gift including The Reedings, Pightle and Town Stock on Charity Commission website
Site accessed 2019

This page was added on 11/02/2019.

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