Answers to Questions


GLASS & WREN, Whitwell (St Pauls Walden), Mid 19th century

December, 2007



St Pauls Walden

Linda Cox (lindajcox3 @t of  Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA, asks about a parchment document  in her possession from the Manor of Paul's Walden regarding the transfer of land from Catherine Wren Glass to her daughter Amy Wren - including a blacksmith shop and a wheelwright shop at Whitwell - in 1857.

It is not clear from what you say which of two classes of document you have as there were different ways in which property could be held.

Possibility 1: Freehold Property

In the case of freehold property ownership of the land was recorded in the title deeds. This was a bundle of documents - sometimes covering several hundred years - which together gave details of the ownership of the property. In addition to the main transfer documents (which would have been on parchment) there may be other supporting documents, some of which would have been on paper. These could include abstracts (a legal summary of the changes of ownership), plans, sales catalogues, details of mortgages, solicitors letters and diary notes, etc., relating to the property. For even a small property this could be a very bulky bundle. In 1925 the Law of Property Act introduced land registration, and once a property had been registered the bundle of documents was no longer needed to prove property ownership.

Much of the relevant history relating to the property and its owners depends on the bundle remaining intact. As you have an isolated document it would seem likely that the bundle from which it came has been broken up, the attractive looking documents have been sold off (some possibly broken up so they will more easily fit in a frame) without their historical context, and the damaged and less attractive items binned. See What happened to that vital record?

Possibility 2: Copyhold Property

In medieval times many people were effectively tenants of the Lord of the Manor, and were required to pay for the land by carrying out agricultural work on the Lord's land. Later this became replaced by a payment. and in the 19th century changes were made which resulted in such properties becoming freehold. Manorial courts were held at intervals, and if a property had changed hands, for instance by passing from father to son on the death of the father, this was recorded in the manorial court records and the new "owner" paid a fine (=fee) to the Lord of the Manor.  The copyholder would be given a copy of the court records (hence the name copyhold) to show he was entitled to occupy the property.. These may often have been on paper. In such cases the manorial rolls may have survived, and in some cases can contain vital information. 

What you should do next

My guess, from the date and the fact that it is on parchment, is that the document you have refers to freehold property and I suspect that the treasury of information that was in the complete bundle of title deeds has been irrevocably lost.

However some information will be available on the internet. For instance I note that a Catherine Glass is listed in the 1851 census - and you may be able to find information on the family using the techniques and record types (census, civil registration, etc.) described in the tutorial.

The 1840 Tithe Map of St Pauls Walden (a manuscript map held at HALS) should show the property and its owner.

Another source is the National Archives database - but some of the records it lists are not available online. I did a quick preliminary search for "Wren" and "Walden" and found a number of possibly relevant documents including:

  1. Will of Thomas Wren of King's Walden, 1850
  2. Will of William Wren, of Saint Pauls Walden, 1832
  3. Document relating to Daniel Wren of Kings Walden, wheelwright, to Henry Kingsley of Kimpton, brewer of 2 cottages (one a beer house called the Harrow) at Bendish Green in the manor of St Pauls Walden. 1868
  4. Document of 1822 relating to William Wren of Whitwell, St Paul's Walden, wheelwright & grocer

It would seem possible that, for instance, that William Wren was Catherine Wren's husband, and it may be possible to determine this from online sources such as familysearch. You might also want to look at all the censuses for Whitwell to see who was a blacksmith or wheelwright in the hamlet in the 19th century. While the original deeds may have been dispersed to the winds, there is undoubtedly a lot you could find out, depending on the amount of effort you are prepared to put into the research.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

Page created December 2007