About Hastoe


A Brief History of Hastoe by David Ridgwell

To use a cliché, Hastoe’s origins are lost in the mist of time. Its name has been spelt variously as Halstowe (1275), Halstouwe (1307), Hawstowe (17th century), Haster (1711) and Harstow (1750).  The Place Names of Hertfordshire suggests that the name derives from the Old English heal and stowe, that is to say the site of a hall. A more imaginative commentator proposes that Hastoe, along with Halstow in Kent, denotes a holy place, the site of a tree or a well with healing powers.

The oldest man-made thing in Hastoe is the Grim’s Ditch, a name probably given by early Saxon colonists to various earthworks over a wide area. The stretch passing through Hastoe is part of a length running from Dunstable to High Wycombe. Excavations at Hastoe in 1973 revealed Iron Age pottery and the popular explanation is that Grim’s Ditch was an Iron Age boundary.

Lords of the Manor

There is some confusion about the manor of Hastoe. The first reference in the Victoria County History tells that ‘The manor of Hastoe was conveyed in 1275 by Thomas de Northwoode and Isabella to one Ralph le Clerk of Tring. By the fourteenth century it had come into the possession of the family of Verney and from that time became annexed to the manor of Bunstreux and Richardines’, the latter a former manor house near Hastoe Green. The fame of the Verney family dates back to Sir Ralph, who became Lord Mayor of London in 1465. Later Sir Edmund Verney and his son, another Sir Ralph, took opposite sides in the Civil War and Sir Edmund was famously slain bearing Charles I’s standard at the Battle of Edgehill in 1642.

However this is not the whole story. Parts of Hastoe, together with Westleith, fell into the manor of Great Tring and a Commonwealth survey of August 1650 records that lands and tenements of the manors of Bunstrucks (sic) and Pendley among others “lye intermingled” with those of the manor of Tring. The manor of Great Tring was bound up with the royal gift. After the Restoration Charles II became Lord of the Manor and in 1672 installed as steward Colonel Henry Guy. In 1680 Guy was granted the manor in his own right. As a lawyer, MP and JP, Guy made a fortune from his appointment as commissioner of customs and lived in the mansion house in Tring Park that had been designed for him by Christopher Wren.

In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the manor of Tring passed through the ownership of Sir William Gore, another one-time Lord Mayor of London, Sir Drummond Smith and William Kay of Bolton. upon whose death it was sold at auction in May 1872 to Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild for £230,000. 


The Tring Inclosure Act of 1797 lists the proprietors, occupants and values of twelve Hastoe properties, of which the principal are:

Proprietors                                      Occupiers                           Values

D Smith Esq.                                    Henry Griffin                         £67 10s

Thos Harding Esq. (Hastoe Farm)       John Elliott                           £60 18s

Rev Doctor Dupre                              Thomas Gates                      £20

The remaining nine properties are each valued at £4 or less.

In 1845 Hastoe Farm was included in a sale of  “Landed Estates” at Tring and Amersham conducted by Messrs. Blake at Garraway’s Coffee House in London’s Change Alley. The sale particulars aggregate Hastoe Farm at 138 acres, 3 roods and 7 perches and note that the property, comprising arable, meadow, pasture and woodland, was in the occupation of Mr James Dawe. Also included were a “Brick and Tiled Farm House of 8 Rooms, 2 Barns, Stabling, Cow and Cattle Sheds, Yard, Garden and Homestead” as well as a cottage and garden occupied by James Young.

The Hastoe Farm estate was sold on 12 August 1845 to Joseph Grout of Tring Park for £3,700.

The 1851 Census was the first to give details of relationships within each household.  Including Longcroft, ten Hastoe households are listed. James Thorn is a farmer of 108 acres employing four labourers and William Crouch is a farmer of 123 acres at ‘Astoe Cross’ also employing four labourers. George Batchelor and his son John are brickmakers and other households comprise the families of agricultural labourers, a gardener, a groom, a steward at Longcroft and a carpenter. Most of the inhabitants were born locally, for example at Wigginton, Cholesbury and Wendover, but the groom is from Moate in Ireland with a wife from Devon and a manservant from Liverpool. One of the agricultural labourers, Jesse Filkin, shares his household with a son, two daughters, a stepson and a stepdaughter all aged between seven and fifteen and listed as straw-plaiters.

Only one pre-Rothschild photograph of Hastoe has so far come to light, showing the former brewery and Black Horse pub, which stood in Church Lane. The Hastoe brewery was run by John Batchelor, born 1830, who was a former brickmaker. The business flourished from 1854 to 1882 when the Rothschilds demolished the brewery. John Batchelor then bought Sarah Olney’s brewery in Akeman Street, Tring, which flourished until 1890. By 1895 he was in partnership with Rodwell’s brewery but Batchelor’s name disappeared from the firm by 1902.

The Rothschilds

Though the Rothschild purchase of Tring Manor did not occur until 1872, the family had been familiar with the estate ever since Nathan, the first English Rothschild, had rented it in 1833. In the interim other estates were acquired in the surrounding parts of Buckinghamshire and ultimately members of the English and French branches of the family came to own extensive property at Waddesdon, Mentmore, Halton, Aston Clinton and Wing. 

The Rothschilds first became interested in Hastoe as early as 1838, when Nathan’s son Lionel furthered his enthusiasm for hunting by purchasing a pack of hounds, the ‘Astar Harriers’ with kennels in the hamlet.

When Lionel Rothschild bought Tring Manor in 1872 it was to provide a home for his newly-wed son Natty and his wife Emma. Niall Ferguson comments in The World’s Banker: the History of the House of Rothschild that Natty took pains to create a kind of paternalistic ‘welfare state’ at Tring. During the final decades of the nineteenth century a wholesale redevelopment of Hastoe was undertaken, involving demolition of the buildings on the south side of Church Lane and on the sites of the present Hastoe Farm, Longcroft Farm and Oakengrove. In their place were built the six cottages of Hastoe Row, the Chapel and the Working Men’s Club (the Hastoe Room, now Hastoe Village Hall) in Church Lane; and the new buildings of Hastoe Farm (including a new corn mill) and of Oakengrove and Longcroft Farm. Two new cottages were erected in Browns Lane.

A graphic picture of life on Hastoe Farm in the time of Natty, who became the first Baron Rothschild, is given in the Recollections of Robert Raymond Timberlake, known as “Tim”, whose father, Joseph Timberlake, became first the manager and in 1915, after Natty’s death, the tenant of the farm. Some of Tim’s recollections are available here, but demanding particular mention are the Hastoe Cross poultry farm that produced force-fed fat capons for the Rothschilds’ home at Tring Park, the Christmas entertainment for children provided by the Rothschilds at Hastoe Room with its open fires and oil lamps, the evening services at the Chapel with the harmonium played by a daughter of Moses Pratt, the “venerable, bearded tenant of Wick Farm” and the Hastoe herd of Dairy Shorthorns which became nationally famous.

In his book, Seventy Summers, Tony Harman, comments “Almost all the cattle found in Bucks in 1932 would have been Dairy Shorthorns. A great number of them had been bred from stock bulls bought from one particular breeder, Mr Timberlake of Hastoe near Tring, who owned a nationally known pedigree herd, and every local farmer liked to boast that he had a bull from Mr Timberlake”.

Charlie Long, of Hawridge, who came from America in 1911 to spend the rest of his life in the Hilltop Villages, wrote about the Rothschilds’ paternalistic activities in his memoir: “Anybody writing about these times and villages cannot but say something about Christmas. A Lord Rothschild, a very rich banker, had a mansion (at Tring Park) about four miles from where we lived and every child in the villages of Hastoe, St Leonards, Buckland Common, Cholesbury and Hawridge from one day old to fourteen years old got a Christmas hamper, a box about one foot square and two feet tall. On the day before Christmas, Lord Rothschild would send covered wagons with four horses and six men into the villages and would stop at every house and leave a hamper for each child. They all had our names on them. Inside was Christmas candy, nuts, oranges, two presents, a new shilling, five pounds of fruit cake and a box of chocolates (the only chocolates most people saw in a lifetime in those days). I still have one of the presents I received one year – a pencil on one end and an ink-pen on the other.”

The Dowager Lady Emma Rothschild died in 1938 and most of the local Rothschild estates were sold by Horwood & James of Aylesbury at an auction held at the Tring Rose & Crown on 31st October that year.

The post-Rothschild era

Hastoe and Longcroft Farms were bought outright by Joseph Timberlake. When he died in 1942, the farms were passed on to Ken Timberlake, the brother of Tim, who continued farming on a smaller scale until his death in 1971. The mill became a white elephant without the Rothschilds’ estate behind it and was let as a grain store. The following report is extracted from the Bucks Herald of 6th November 1964:

Hastoe Mill destroyed by Fire

Fire gutted Hastoe Mill, near Tring, yesterday (Thursday), destroying the 100 year old building and about 300 tons of corn and animal feed products in it, little of which can be salvaged.

The fire was discovered at about 4am by Mr Ronald Denne of Hastoe Farm House, next to the mill. He called Hemel Hempstead fire brigade and twenty men rushed to the blaze. They fought for three hours to get it under control and worked for another four hours to extinguish it completely. Pigs in sties adjoining the mill were taken to safety and none was hurt. Police are investigating the blaze and, when asked by our reporter if they were prepared to rule out arson, a spokesman said “We are investigating all possibilities”. 

The Hastoe Chapel

Sadly attendances at the Hastoe Chapel dropped off in the post-war years and the Church Service Record (now kept at HALS, the Hertford record office) notes that on 4th January 1961 “not one turned up”. The final service was the Harvest Festival Evensong on 7th October 1962. The Chapel was bought by the late Clive Godden and converted into a residence somewhat confusingly named ‘Hastoe Hall’.

New Owners

Hastoe and Longcroft Farms were auctioned by order of Ken Timberlake at the Rose and Crown Hotel in Tring on 30th May 1960. The particulars of sale describe “Two first-class Dairy and Mixed Farms both Attested and T.T. Licensed, Hastoe Farm comprising buildings and about 203 acres and Longcroft Farm 87 acres.”

The Allens of St Leonards bought all the property at auction but none of the livestock - they already farmed at Dungrove Farm, Chesham, where they kept a Guernsey herd, and Chambers Green Farm at St Leonards, with beef cattle and pigs.

The late Mrs Allen’s notes tell that by the late 1970s pigs were no longer profitable. As the Hastoe Farm buildings where they were kept were unsuitable for modern machinery, the Allens decided to sell the herd. Some of the buildings were let for storage and light industry but there was difficulty in complying with Health and Safety regulations and the tenants were given notice. The Allens were granted planning permission for conversion to residential use and Joan Allen wrote “This block of buildings and the mill are now houses, which means that the place will still stand for many years to come still looking much as it always did, although no longer a farm.”

The buildings to the east of Browns Lane continued to be used for grain storage until 1995, when they were condemned as not complying with EEC regulations.


There is much more to find out and much more to tell – for example, about the Hastoe mariners and their wartime rôles, about Tim Timberlake’s journeys to Berkhamsted School by pony and trap and Margaret Eggleton’s to St Leonard’s School by foot.  The 56 page illustrated booklet entitled 'Hilltop Hamlet - notes towards a history of Hastoe'  is now available, price £7.99.  contact ridgwell@waitrose.com, or phone 01442 825746, or call at Tring Local History Museum in Brook Street, Tring.

© David Ridgwell 2009



Subpages (1): Pictorial History