Story of Shendish

Shendish Manor in Kings Langley is steeped in thousands of years of history.

This week our heritage page takes a look at its fascinating past that has been researched and documented over the last six years by Alan Penwarden, a member of the Kings Langley Local History and Museum Society.

Mr Penwarden, a former engineer, has been a member of the society for 15 years and had always been interested in local history.

His findings revealed a rich history dating back to prehistoric times.

Early evidence of activity at Shendish was thrown up when the A41 bypass was being built in the 1990s.

An archaeological dig unearthed a Neolithic cursus monument - a long, trench-like structure used for ritualistic ceremonies and would have been a focal point within that community.

The Neolithic period (24000-2000 BC) or New Stone Age as it is known, marked a time when agriculture became a way of life for Britain after its introduction from Europe.

Late Bronze Age/early Iron Age artefacts were found overlaid on the Neolithic findings and experts believe it would have been a ceremonial site rather than a settlement.

It is also believed that the estate area may have been used by the Romans.

In the 1950s archaeologists discovered a number of Roman roads coming from the Roman city, Verulamium (St Albans), running parallel to Shendish.

With the Shendish site so close to the roads and remnants of Roman villas in the surrounding areas, Mr Penwarden said it was not 'unreasonable to suppose the site may have been used in Roman times'.

The first documentary evidence of Kings Langley, or Langelei as it was known, was in the Domesday Book land survey commissioned by William the Conqueror.

In 1086 an ancestor of the Chenduit family, Ranulph, the sergeant at Berkhamsted Castle, held Langelei.

The Chenduit family owned land across the counties but by 1270 they were in debt to Jewish money-lenders.

At this time Queen Eleanor of Castile, wife of King Edward I, began buying the Chenduits' land and she built a royal manor house that became known to locals as 'the palace'.

Before her death in 1290 she owned the majority of the village that later became known as Langley Regis.

As the Chenduits' land ownership diminished, they moved towards the north of the parish and took up residence in the area that became and still is known as Shendish.

The next owners of the Chenduit manor were Richard Parker and his wife Alice in 1364.

Richard was responsible for the overseeing and controlling of the works for King Henry VIII.

It is thought Alice may have been a member of the Chenduit family or that the property was forfeited.

The land spanned 200 acres and after Richard's death was passed to his grandson Thomas, who was just under four.

The manor stayed in the Parker family's possession for the next 200 years.

In the 1560s John Cheyne became known as the Squire of Kings Langley.

He was a member of a family who owned manors across the land including Drayton Beauchamp, near Tring and Chenies in Buckinghamshire.

A brass plaque recording his death still stands in All Saints Church, as does a brass statue of his wife Margaret, who died shortly after giving birth to the pair's youngest son Edmund in 1576.

John was disinherited for becoming Roman Catholic and the manor was given to his brother Francis.

However, following Francis' death, Shendish reverted back to John's family and was passed down to his son Francis and in time to his last remaining son Charles, following his death in 1644.

Charles later came into immense wealth after marrying Lady Jane Cavendish, daughter of the first Duke of Newcastle. He sold Shendish to John Beale, a citizen and grocer of London for 3,800.

Over the following 150 years the manor changed hands many times, seen as an investment rather than a residence.

In 1839 documents establish the estate as more than 300 acres, but by the time Charles Longman, a member of a famous publishing family came to sell it in 1931, its size had almost quadrupled to 1,309 acres.

For the history of the Shendish Manor gardens with photos, just click here

The story of Shendish continues in next week's Gazette.

For details of where to obtain a full account of the manor's history by Mr Penwarden, call Frank Davies on 01923 264109.