History of the Common
In June 1860 the Manor of Rickmansworth was put up for sale. The advertisement for the sale stated that the Manor included “The Lord’s Interest in an extensive and Valuable Common called Chorley Wood Common”. The Manor was purchased by John Saunders Gilliat, who thus gained the ownership of the Common. On 30th October 1861 Gilliat also purchased the Cedars Estate, which then comprised a large mansion and outbuildings and about 637 acres of land, of which about 591 acres were farmland including Wyatts Farm, Apple Tree Farm, Penn Farm, Hall Farm, Longhill Farm and Catlips Farm. He demolished the old mansion and built a larger and grander one, the present Cedars House.
J.S. Gilliat dies in 1912 and left the Cedars Estate to his son Babington Gilliat, who sold it in 1914 to the Darvells.
In 1917 Sir James Henly Batty bought the Cedars Estate from the Darvells for £40,000 and with it acquired the Lordship of the Manor and the Common. His wife, Lady Violet, did not like the Cedars and they moved to Meeting House Farm, which they renamed the Manor House. The Cedars mansion and 50 acres of land were given by J.H. Batty to the RNIB and converted into a school for blind girls.
The rest of the Estate, some 600 acres, was sold to the Metropolitan Railway Country Estate who began the development of Chorleywood. Batty retained the Lordship of the Manor and the Common.
In 1921, J.H. Batty wished to give the Common to Chorleywood Urban District Council as a memorial to those men of Chorleywood who fell in the Great War.
In order for the Common to be given separately from the Lordship of the Manor it was necessary for the UDC to take on the powers of a Parish Council under Section 18, subsections 1(h) and (i) of the Local Government Act 1894 and these powers were duly confirmed by order of the Ministry of Health on 11th April 1921, enabling the UDC to accept the gift of the Common for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Parish of Chorleywood. The Lordship of the Manor of Rickmansworth went to Rickmansworth Urban District Council.
The Common remained in the possession of the Urban District Council until that Council was dissolved under the new system of local government introduced in 1973. Under the terms of the new Local Government Act, the Common was then formally transferred to Chorleywood Parish Council in January 1974.
Green Space Action Plan
The Council has adopted a detailed Management Plan for the Common and the implementation of this plan has resulted over the last few years in the recovery of all seven ponds, the steady return of heather and gorse to the heathland areas and a magnificent annual display of wild flowers and associated butterflies in the chalk meadow.
Copies of the Management Plan, which gives a full picture of the Commons’ history, topography with lists of species and the Councils management aims are available below.
The Parish Council celebrates Rogation Sunday in April every few years and it is a well-attended family event.
In medieval England Rogation Days were observed with processions that began at the local church and proceeded to outline the boundaries of the parish, pausing occasionally for the recitation of prayers. The custom of prayerful perimeter walking dates back to the Roman times when the Romans paced the perimeter of their fields asking for the gods to bless them with fertility. Those who participated in Rogation Day works were expected to treat the event as a sober religious event rather than a holiday in the countryside. Nevertheless, people tended to turn the event into an expression of pride in their parish. On occasions, an excess of high spirits resulted in some parish groups attacking others that they encountered.
The processions served as an important social function by teaching the youths the parish boundaries in a time then maps were not commonplace. Youngsters were often bumped against stone boundary markers, tossed into streams or forced to climb walls or hedges that crossed the boundary lines. This may well be where the term “beating the bounds” derived from.
Today the event takes no a less aggressive tone and is restricted to walking the perimeter of the Common. Children have, however, been known to be gently bounced on their heads to keep the tradition alive!
There is a practical side to this event as it provides the opportunity to check the perimeter of the Common for encroachment. It is also a good opportunity to introduce people to parts of the Common they may not have explored.
Chorleywood Common Byelaws
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