From the Thorley Archives

John Tinney's Thorley Documents

Original documents are a valuable and often inspirational source of information for the local historian. Last year Mr John Tinney asked for my advice about the safe keeping of a document chest of full of papers relating to Thorley Hall, Thorley Hall Farm and Moor Hall Farm. He had inherited the documents from his grandfather, Mr J.E.Tinney, who had purchased the estates in 1920.

I suggested that he deposit the documents with the Hertfordshire Archive and Local Studies (HALS) offices at County Hall, Hertford. I volunteered to organise and then catalogue the items so that we could hand them over to the Hertfordshire archives. Little did I realise the enormity of the task that I had undertaken. In all there were 267 original parchment and paper documents relating to the title deeds of Thorley Manor from 1613 to 1907. Amongst the documents were copies of wills, Acts of Parliament, title deeds, affidavits, court orders, sworn oaths, land transfers, petitions and maps.

With the advice of the professional staff at HALS and solicitor friends I embarked on a steep learning curve in an attempt to understand the legal process of land transfer in the 17th and 18th centuries. Once I had understood how to read 'old English' cursive handwriting and the repetitive and flowery legal jargon, each document was recorded on an Excel database. My particular interest, as a Thorley social historian, was in the names of Thorley people and places mentioned. The task was made slightly more challenging as whilst some of the bundles of documents were tied together with red tape and roughly in chronological order, the majority of papers were in a jumbled, random order. Reordering and then recording them on a database revealed a fascinating pattern and sequence of ownership of properties in Thorley over a period of 350 years. Thorley Hall Farm itself was called Clements in the 1600s. More Hall was variously spelt Moor, Moore and More. Evidence of multiple ownership of medieval strip farming was still apparent on Thorley Common (now St Michael's Mead). The consolidation of smaller fields into larger units by the major land owners became more obvious in the southern end of Thorley parish.

John Tinney and I officially handed over the catalogued collection of Thorley estate documents to Dr Jill Barber, the Heritage Services Manager, at Hertfordshire Archives on 23rd August this year.

Handing over the John Tinney Collection 23rd August 2007.
Mr John Tinney, Dr Jill Barber, Heritage Services Manager at Hertfordshire Archives and Bill Hardy
Inspecting a petition dated 1730 by Thorley villagers to Mr Moses Raper objecting to a driveway being cut from Thorley Hall to the main London road, nowadays known as The Valley.

The Excel database, configured according to the General International Standard of Archival Description, will shortly be incorporated into the Archive's CALM database. Plans are underway for the catalogue to be made available online, bringing it to researchers world wide.

Bill Hardy
October 2007

From the Archives