• Reference
  • Title
    Deeds and papers of the Field and Nicholls families
  • Date free text
  • Production date
    From: 1487 To: 1927
  • Scope and Content
    This collection consists mainly of deeds but also contains marriage settlements, wills, depositions, accounts, education notes and other records accumulated by two families over 450 years. (1) NICHOLLS FAMILY 1664-1746 Charles Nicholls senior was a Hitchin gentleman who built up an estate round the borders of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire over many years. He was survived by his two children, Charles and Mary, and his widow Agnes who had previously been Miss Peake, Mrs Greene and Mrs Rolf. Charles Nicholls junior became an attorney in Hitchin. He inherited his father's estate in 1692 and added to it, mainly by lending money with property as security and foreclosing on the 'mortgages'. These properties included a large estate in the Waldens, Hertfordshire, against which John Cripps had borrowed over 2,000 from Nicholls by 1708. When Nicholls foreclosed, Cripps called him a rogue, rascal and villain, and came near to killing him at Bendish, Herts, one November afternoon in 1709. Nicholls fled in fear of his life to London where he made a deposition about what had happened. The deposition has survived almost entirely and gives a fascinating glimpse of the speech, behaviour, manners and dangers of the period. In the end Nicholls' foreclosure resulted in Cripps' dying penniless in the Fleet Prison, London soon afterwards, leaving a widow and two infant daughters. Overall, Nicholls loaned at least 3199 which now, in 2003, would be equivalent to over a quarter of a million pounds. The period around the end of the 1600s and early 1700s was volatile in financial terms. From 1688, Parliament supplied monopoly rights to mercantile ventures including the East India Company, the Hudson's Bay Company and later the South Sea Company. This led to great speculation in stocks and shares, with companies starting up and often failing very quickly. Before the South Sea Bubble burst in 1720, investors and speculators made fortunes. But fortunes were also lost as these documents show, although the cause is never stated here. Men like Charles Nicholls, who lent money to anyone who had over-reached himself, were the winners because a defaulting borrower seldom reclaimed his property. The estates in this collection acquired by the Nicholls family are : - 1665 Pulloxhill Manor from Pigot and Hale (purchase) 1684 Barton Bridge Closes from Edmund Castell (purchase) 1692 Brotherhood House, Hitchin from Papworth (foreclosure) 1706 Offley from Plummer & Shotbolt (foreclosure) 1709 Stondon from Ansell 1710-19 Hitchin & Ippollitts from Crawley (foreclosure) 1711 Kings Walden & Pauls Walden, Herts from Cripps (foreclosure) 1712 Henlow Grey cottage from Albone (foreclosure) 1715 Pegsden from Ansell (foreclosure) 1722 Pulloxhill leys from Pepyatt (foreclosure) 1723 Foxholes, Hitchin from Draper & Runton (foreclosure) 1729 Chibbley, Pegsdon & Shillington from Tapster & Ansell 1744 Welwyn from Plummer (2) FIELD FAMILY 1641-1927 Seven generations of the Fields are represented in these deeds. They were a Barton family of yeomen and gentlemen farmers who had been in the area for several generations before this collection commences. The family name appears in the first year of the parish register, 1558, but it's clear they were settled in Barton much earlier and were associated with Faldo and the Scutts area. It is even possible, though probably not demonstrable, the family took its name from La Felde in Lower Gravenhurst. There is reference to John de la Felde in around 1300 (see L 66 Jeays). In medieval times La Felde was a vill or hamlet of some consequence near Ion (or Eye as it was then) and by 1500 had become known as Fielden. Our last glimpse of the family in these deeds in the 1920s shows that the eighty year old unmarried daughter of the last male heir had moved into Fielden House so, ironically and completely by chance, the family name may have ended exactly where it began. In 1694, John Field married Charles Nicholls' sister, and when Nicholls died unmarried in 1746 all his estates descended to his sister's sons, two of whom, like their uncle, were attorneys with chambers in London and homes in Hitchin. A saga of contested wills, secret liaisons, fraud, madness, untimely death and female independence develops as the property passes down the generations. By the late nineteenth century the estate was heavily mortgaged and being sold off to pay the debts, and a Guyana baptism certificate of 1865 shows that members of the family were moving further afield to earn a living. The last we hear of the family is in 1927. The estates acquired by exchange or purchase by the Field family are - 1639 Barton Bridge Closes from Matthews 1649 Closes & crofts in Higham Gobion from Tavernor 1655 Ashley Green, Bucks to Henry Field 1691 Halfpond, Higham Gobion, from Herice 1692 Bushy Close, Higham Gobion, from Hanscombe 1717 Barton Manor mead from Pryor 1763 White Hart, Ampthill in marriage settlement from Martha Wyles 1773 New Inn, Silsoe in marriage settlement from Frances Flint 1790 Hitchin Portman & Foreign 1809 Broomfield, Flitton from Williamson 1813 Fielden Farm/house, Higham Gobion from Abdy 1841 Sharpenhoe cottages from Guardians of the Poor, Barton 1855 Newgate St, London, to Thomas Flint Field For Indenture of release 1917 reciting family marriage settlements, wills, deaths and the division of the estate into four parts beginning 1856, see CCE 1198/12.
  • Archival history
    Bought by depositor's late husband at an auction at Christies in 1981.
  • System of arrangement
    The documents have been organised into groups according to place or subject. Most groupings relate to specific properties but some are more general, such as estate accounts, family papers, correspondence, and items which relate to legal cases dealt with by Charles Nicholls in his role as attorney.
  • Level of description