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The full name of the Town and Manor is "The Town and Manor of Hungerford and the liberty of Sanden fee". 

So what is this "Liberty of Sanden Fee"?

In his unpublished book on Hungerford Port Down, Mr E.L. "Jim" Davis included several chapters relating to Sanden Fee.

The following text is based on Jim Davis's script:

The Town and Manor of Hungerford Charity - Sanden Fee:

The ancient parish of Hungerford was divided into four tythings:

  • Charnham Street, wholly in Wiltshire,
  • Charnham Street, partly in Wiltshire and partly in Berkshire,
  • Hungerford, wholly in Berkshire, and
  • Eddington, also wholly in Berkshire.

The Tything of Sanden Fee forms the south and west parts of the parish, and is said to derive its name from the sandy nature of the soil in the south part and the fact that it formed a Knights Fee, first held by William de Britnole, or Brittenholes, or Breitegnoll (the spelling is varied) from Simon, Earl of Leicester in the reign of Henry III (1216-1272) in return for military service.

The Tythings of Charnham Street and the Wiltshire portion of Sanden Fee were in the manor of Chilton Foliat, in the Hundred of Kinwardstone, Wiltshire, until 1895 when the county boundaries were adjusted to their present state.

A good deal of the parish which we are inclined to think of as Hungerford is, in fact, Sanden Fee. The two Tythings are shown on the original Enclosure Award Map of 1819 outlined in different colours and this is perhaps the most reliable illustration of the boundaries of the two Tythings.

The 1908 Town & Manor Charity Scheme:

The 1908 Town and Manor Charity Scheme has no interest in the Tythings of Charnham Street nor Eddington. It is solely concerned with the Tythings of Hungerford and Sanden Fee, because the properties conveyed by the James I Grant of 1612 and the subsequent Feoffment of 1617 (which created a Charitable Trust of which the present Charity is the modernised version) are situated in these two Tythings and are now listed as endowments of the Charity.

The point is emphasised by para 6 (1) of the Scheme of 1908 which deals with the election of Trustees of the Charity and which lays down that electors shall be "Parochial Electors" from the Town Tything of Hungerford and the Tything of Sanden Fee, and by para 24 which rules that after certain specific expenses have been met, any surplus shall be used for the general benefit of the inhabitants of these two Tythings.

Was there ever a "Manor" of Sanden Fee?

Before leaving the 1908 Scheme under which the present Charity is administered it is well to point out that it refers to the "Manor" of Hungerford and the "Manor" of Sanden Fee. Despite this and the fact that in the days of Elizabeth I and in early Jacobean days various surveys refer to the "Mannours" of Hungerford and Sanden Fee, the James I Grant of 1612 and the subsequent Feoffment of 1617 make no mention whatsoever of Sanden Fee, lending support to the theory that Sanden Fee was just part of the Manor of Hungerford under Simon de Montfort, let off, as it were, in return for military service.

The term "Liberty" applied to the tything indicates a degree of independence, and this could have been brought about by the holding of a Court Leet and the separate administration by the incumbent Knight's Steward, and despite the Feoffments and Schemes throughout the long history of the tything this independence has persisted to this day.

The 1906 Charity Commissioners Report was the result of extensive search, not only of the Town's documents, but those of the Duchy of Lancaster in the Public Record Office and its findings, one would think, must be regarded as authentic, but it does make the point that Sanden Fee was not in the Royal Grant.

One big question mark as to the tything forming part of the Manor of Hungerford arises from the fact that, whilst the Grant of 1612 included all rights of piscary in all waters, regardless of riparian rights, in the Manor of Hungerford, yet the fishing in that part of the River Dun at "the backside" of the Church, said to be part of the "Ryall" fishing in Elizabeth's day is today and has been for very many years, in riparian hands.

A dispute with the owner of Hopgrass Farm is 1590 over this fishing is on record, but that was settled by the Constable of Hungerford coming down with men with bows and arrows! One explanation for the loss of this fishing is that the north bank of The Dun at this point being in Wiltshire and in the Manor of Chilton Foliat was in the possession of Sir John Popham (of Littlecote), Attorney General and later Lord Chief Justice, not a man the Burgesses of the day would wish to cross. No doubt if the Lord Chief Justice decided that the whole of the stream was in his Manor that was the end of the argument.

There are a number of indications that Sanden Fee was not a separate manor:

  • the Parish Church of St. Lawrence in Hungerford is still in Sanden Fee,
  • there is no trace of a Manor House, nor
  • any history of the family of the Lord of the Manor such as may be found in practically every village and hamlet for miles around in Berkshire and Wiltshire even though the former Manor Houses are now the Manor Farms.

One of the earliest documents with a reference to Sanden Fee is the grant of Henry IV (son of John of Gaunt) on May 20th 1446 to Sir Walter Hungerford. "Charter of the King to Sir Walter Hungerford of the Manor of Hungerford Lordship of the Manor of Hungerford the town and borough and our park at Hungerford and the Fee of Sanden. Fealty and 20 Marks yearly at the feasts of St. Michael the Archangel and the Annunciation of The Blessed Virgin Mary in equal proportions".

Two hundred years later on 15th October 1633 a Hungerford Jury declared themselves as jurors of "the Town and Borough of Hungerford" as being possessed by purchase of the Royalty of the Liberty of Sandun Fee and being determined to maintain those rights". A photocopy of the original document is available.

The Forfeiture in 1675 of land and property belonging to one John Boone, the land being in Pydden Field in Sanden Fee, on account of Boone being convicted of Felony to the Feoffees of the Manor of Hungerford would seem to be proof that the feoffment of 1617 had included Sanden Fee since the Feoffees listed in the Conveyance of the forfeited property is identical with the list of the Feoffees of that date in the County Archives. They could hardly have taken over the property and sold it to two of their fellow Feoffees had they not had jurisdiction over the land in question. A transcription of the original document is available.

Another complication of the situation that has undoubtedly caused much heartburning for very many years is the fact that the Commoners of Hungerford Manor claim and exercise their right of fishing and shooting in Sanden Fee, whilst the Commoners of Sanden Fee are denied reciprocal rights.

Tradition has it that the Manor of Hungerford helped the Sanden Fee people in a law suit and claimed the above privilege in return. This could have been cited in the reign of Elizabeth I in 1568/9 when the tenants and inhabitants of Sanden Fee and Hungerford filed a Bill in the Duchy Court against Brian Gunter, alleging that the Queen was seized of a parcel of ground called Marsh Land, parcel of the demesne of the Manors aforesaid where the tenants of both Manors had had Common of Pasture in the parcel of land called Freeman's Marsh and that the defendant had driven them out of their common on Freeman's Marsh. The defendant demurred that

  1. that the inhabitants claimed as well as the tenants of the Manor
  2. they had not pleaded that the Queen and her progenitors had used time out of mind to have common there for them and their tenants in the said Manor and
  3. they claimed Common in Marshland , but laid the offence as in Freeman's Marsh.

No judgement in this case has been found, but there is a strong presumption that this is the case to which the Jury of 1633 referred.

Despite the provisions of the 1908 Scheme, Sanden Fee has retained a very great measure of financial independence. The Sanden Fee commoners no doubt shared the resentment felt by their opposite numbers in Hungerford at the imposition of the Charity Scheme. They were not, however, in the firing line of that dispute as were the old Trustees of Hungerford, who were faced with agreeing to a Scheme prepared by the Charity Commissioners or action by the Attorney General.


The 1905 Report upon the Hungerford Charities includes a very pertinent comment upon Sanden Fee which I reproduce here, although it does repeat matters that I have already dealt with, but it does go to prove that the relationship between Hungerford and Sanden Fee has puzzled cleverer and more learned people than the writer. Nevertheless, we know from our own enquiry that the writer of that report was not above making a convenient assumption here and there, as with the John O'Gaunt Inn.

"In the patent (1612) and the Feoffment there is no mention of the tithing or manor or reputed manor of Sanden Fee, and it is not clear how that manor has come to be vested in the Feoffees. The Burges de Hungerford, as the letters patent and all the pleadings above quoted demonstrates was identical with the Manor of Hungerford only and did not include Sanden Fee. But it is remarkable that though Helmesheath was common only for the tenants of Sanden Fee and though Freeman's Marsh, still the property of the Feoffees, was parcel of the Manor of Sanden Fee and common to both Manors, both Helmesheath and Freeman's Marsh were claimed by the inhabitants of Hungerford in 1572, as though they were equally part of the Borough. The Parish Church, moreover, and certain houses which always must have been considered to be part of the Borough, are in Sanden Fee.

In 1675 the Feoffees, as Lords of the Manor of both manors became seized by the felony of John Boone, one of themselves and the consequent forfeiture to them of his estate in their Manor of, among other things, five acres in the Common Fields of Sanden Fee, and by an Indenture June 5th 1675 purportly jointly with him to convey the estate to two individuals, which they could not have pretended to do had not the Manor of Sanden Fee not been vested or supposed to have been vested in them.

Freeman's Marsh in Sanden Fee:

Freeman's Marsh fulfils the same function for Sanden Fee and its Commoners as The Port Down for the Commoners of Hungerford.

It consists today of some seventy acres at the west end of the Manor - a shallow valley with the natural stream of the River Dun at the lowest level of the valley east - west, and joined at the eastern end by the Shalbourne Brook.

The railway and the Kennet and Avon Canal traverse the marsh east - west, and railway to the south of the canal, and being for the greater part in a cutting, makes far less impact upon the scenery of the Marsh than it does upon the Port Down. The canal and its locks seem to fit quite naturally into the surroundings, but after all, it has had nearly two hundred years in which to do so! Looking at the peaceful scene today it seems almost impossible that the Marsh was once the scene of the then enormous task of cutting the canal, involving hundreds of men and horses. Incidentally, it was necessary to build an aqueduct to carry the canal over the Dun.

Like the Port Down, the Marsh has been built up by various additions over the centuries, as well as losing considerable areas to the Canal and railway. Today it consists of about 70 acres, but in the eleventh year of the reign of Elizabeth I 1568/9 in a case in the Duchy of Lancaster Court, brought by the inhabitants of Hungerford against one Brian Gunter, Freeman's Marsh was mentioned as being of twenty acres, and the same acreage was given in the three surveys of the Manor in 1606, 1607 and 1609 and was said to be for the grazing of geldings and nags belonging to Commoners in both Hungerford and Sanden Fee. Certainly, the earliest deed of my old premises in Bridge Street, (1786) specified rights of Common for four cows on the Port Down and one horse on Freeman's Marsh.

The case of Webb versus Salisbury in the Kings Bench in 1803 is very informative about Freeman's Marsh of that day. We learn a lot from the documents concerned with that case and will return to it again later, but for the moment we will say that the marsh acreage of that time was given as 45 acres, 2 rods and 18 poles, including the area occupied by the K and A Canal made up of 23 acres, 0 rods and 33 poles of "water and bogge" and 22 acres, 1 rod and 35 poles of feeding land.

The Enclosure Award of 1819 gave the Commoners of Sanden Fee an area of arable land in Westbrooks of 21 acres, 2 rods, 24 poles to be thrown into Freeman's Marsh for the grazing of nags, and in 1974 the Charity was able to purchase about seven and a quarter acres in the south west corner of the Marsh from Lord Rootes on very advantageous terms. This piece of land had been parcel of the Littlecote Estate for centuries, but was not a great deal of use to Lord Rootes, owing to the breakup of the Littlecote Estate. A vital part of the bargain struck was the formal abandonment of all claim of right of common the land known as the Pennyquicks and the stream in it, coming from the Old Spring, the site of a former hatchery.

Returning to Westbrooks, it may be of interest in passing to know that on 1st March 1637/8, Edmund Sexton, a tanner, of Hungerford assigned, in consideration of £5.00, half an acre of arable land in the Common Fields of Hungerford called West Brooks to Jeremy Eyrton, fell monger of Hungerford, which had previously on 4th October 1622 been leased to William Atkin of Hungerford, fell monger, for two thousand years at one penny per annum rent. Atkins assigned the lease to William Wayte, a tanner, who died. Sexton married Alice his widow and thus came into possession of the lease.

The fishing in the River Dun forms part of the Hungerford Fishery and the Commoners of Hungerford have the right to fish the water, but the Commoners of Sanden Fee do not have the same right in the Kennet. Actually it is very seldom fished by the Hungerford Commoners, who prefer their own Kennet, but a few of the ticket holders who are fond of a form of fishing that offers a challenge frequently and successfully fish it. Indeed, during the writer's tenure of office as Fishery Manager, one of the "rods" who has remained anonymous, made a gift of a valuable bunch of shares to be used at the discretion of the Fishery Manager, to improve the fishing in Freeman's Marsh. Frank Sawyer kindly came to Hungerford and made some valuable suggestions, most of which were implemented to the great improvement of the fishing.

The measuring station on Freeman's Marsh:

In the Sixties, the Thames Conservancy, as it then was, sought the permission of the Trustees of the Charity to build a measuring station on the Dun. This permission was readily given, the only conditions being a lease at very nominal rent and the delivery monthly of the flow readings. The water is measured as it passes over a concrete sill and suffers from the disadvantage of all such structures, in that the silt tends to drop before the water reaches the sill, and consequently an area of some seventy yards before the station is frequently silted up and becomes unfishable and encourages under growth of watercress.

The diversion of the "natural" stream of the River Dun:

We have referred to the "Natural" stream in the lowest part of the valley. A look at the map of the Marsh will show how this stream is diverted to pass under Hopgrass Farm on the north side of the Marsh, rejoining the old stream by means of a hatch just before it reaches the East End of the Marsh.

This diversion of the natural stream is of long standing as we learn from documents in the case of Webb versus Salisbury, (of which more later), and was introducted originally to ensure a supply of water to Hopgrass Farm, which is on the higher ground to the north. We doubt the work was done in the first place at the expense of the owners of Hopgrass Farm, probably at the times of the enclosure of that area. It is a fact that until 1962 the hatches were maintained by the Littlecote Estate. They were then said to be in a very bad state and the Charity took them over, agreeing to maintain the flow of water to Hopgrass Farm. The Littlecote Estate had for some years abandoned the use of the Trout Hatchery at the Old Spring higher up the stream, which had been an additional reason for their maintenance of the hatches.

Although the lowest part of the Marsh can get pretty wet in winter the large area of "bogge" had disappeared, no doubt owing to the supply of water taken from the Dun Valley to feed the Kennet and Avon Canal and the high level of water extraction to meet modern needs.

It is sad that there is very rarely sufficient water to keep both the natural and the artificial streams going - for practical purposes it can be said that all the available water is directed into the man-made stream.

In 1974 and 1975 a team of scientists and students from Reading University took over a hundred metre stretch of the Dun in the artificial section and closely examined all life within the water. This involved the netting, weighing and scale examination of all fish in the section, (the pike being killed after examination), as well as all insect life.

Freeman's Marsh - A.O.N.B.:

Freeman's Marsh has been declared an area of outstanding natural beauty. In 1970 Mr and Mrs. Frankum of Hungerford (Dick and Margery) started to record their observations of bird and plant life on the Marsh and in 1975 they published a remarkable little booklet containing their detailed observations and followed this in 1979 by a supplementary booklet setting out their further observations over the extended period. The result of their labours is a most comprehensive and informative study of the bird and plant life of the Marsh which must surely be a great help and encouragement to any young naturalists.

There are three entrances to the Marsh, apart from styles - a gateway at the east end on the south side of the canal and one at the west end on the north side. It follows, therefore, that the canal is crossed by swing bridge for the passage of fairly heavy vehicles. It would seem to be a reasonable deduction that in earlier days a road ran across the Marsh connecting up with the cross roads in the centre of Hungerford, by the Market Place and the Town Hall and the Town Hall and the Manor House, forming a way from Kintbury across Hungerford via Church Lane, as it was called in early days, and connecting with the Kings Way to Marlborough.

The third entrance for vehicles is at Hopgrass Farm, originally used, as we learn from Webb v Salisbury, to take cattle from Hopgrass Farm to graze land part of the farm, but situated on the other side of the Marsh.

Just off the Marsh on the Hungerford side; but very near the gate is an old cottage, obviously very old but of superior construction. A feature of the cottage is the lovely clear spring that bubbles up in the garden. The cottage is marked on the 1819 Enclosure Award map as "The Pest House" and could well have been the "Lepers House" mentioned by Lord Cardigan as being on the outskirts of Hungerford in his book "The Wardens of Savernake Forest". This is pure speculation, but I am pleased to say that Mr Norman Hidden, M.A. who has done deep research into the early days of Hungerford is inclined to agree with me.

The Fee of Sanden:

Webb versus Salisbury, Kings Bench Division 1803 - 5

We are greatly indebted to Miss Arrowsnith, Chief Archivist of The County of Berkshire, for her kindness in sending the writer photocopies of the available papers in this case. There is no record of the result of this case and the map referred to therein has disappeared, but it would seem that the issue, which was to decide whether the piece of land known as Hopgrass Marsh was in Wiltshire or Berkshire and was part of the Common Land of Hungerford and a part of Freeman's Marsh, was decided in favour of Salisbury, who was The Constable of Hungerford.

It seems that Benjamin Salisbury, acting as Constable of Hungerford, instructed Henry Clements, Bellman of Hungerford, to impound cattle, the property of William Webb, Farmer tenant of Hopgrass Farm, on the grounds that they were grazing land the property of the Town of Hungerford, namely Freeman's Marsh.

Hopgrass Farm was then, as now, part of the Littlecote Estate then in the possession of the Popham Family. Webb sued the Constable and Bellman, alleging that he had suffered damage to the extent of £200.

That is putting the case at its simplest. The papers we have shown the brief for the defendants and the case. Much of it has been corrected and written over between the lines and it is very difficult to decipher. Much of the case is taken up with recitals of early grants to the Town and the Feoffment of 1617, but a very large number of interesting items regarding Freeman' s Marsh and Hungerford emerge and the purpose of the writer can best be served by recording these items of interest since they do not seem to have been recorded elsewhere and all add to our somewhat scanty knowledge of the Marsh.

1. Supporting the theory expressed earlier that there was NOT a separate Manor of Sanden Fee we read that at the time of the case the quit rents of Hungerford and Sanden Fee were' collected annually by the Port Reeve of Hungerford, paid to the Constable tor the use of the Town and accounted for by him.

2. The Manor of Charnham Street cum Hopgrass was enclosed by the Popham family about 1710 and that there was a part of that enclosure a considerable marsh called Charnham Marsh (and also marshy ground (now water meadows (time of case) at the lower end of Freeman's Marsh if ever there was a Hopgrass Marsh it might be this) and that every foot of land except that now claimed by the plaintiff within the Manor of Charnham Street cum Hopgrass and Stanham (Standeen?) on both sides of the Marsh is enclosed.

3. There are only two gates leading into the Marsh, one leading to the Turnpike ,at the west end and one into a lane leading to Hungerford. There was also one from the Plaintiff's yard through which there was a Bridle Road.

4. That certainly farmer tenants of Hopqrass Farm for the past sixty years had never attempted to stock Freeman's Marsh and that it was only attempted after the plaintiff's father had taken the farm in 1781. Since the farm generally was deficient in pasture the right to Freeman's Marsh would be very valuable.

5. Previous tenants had been John Smith from 1734 to 1766 and Mr Goodman to 1773 and Mr Taylor to 1781.

6. The cattle of the plaintiff were distrained on the Wilts portion of the Marsh in June 1800 and were re leased by the plaintiff giving Replevin Bond and this bond is now assignable.

7. That the artificial stream (said to have been coloured dark blue on the missing map) had been in existence f rom time immemorial and had been made for the conveyance of water to the Meadows called Stangrove Mead, part of Hopgrass Farm. It is stated that in the survey of the Manor in 1609 the sum of three shillings and four pence was presented by the Jury as the quit rent for this and is paid by Mr Popham to this day (of the action). The Natural Stream (this is obviously a mistake) runs close to the yard of the plaintiff and that he had always watered his cattle there, but that about 13 years before he put up posts and rails and moved his boundary to enable his cattle to water at will. This encroachment was presented at the Manor Court and was ordered to be removed.

8. It was stated that the following circumstances gave the tenants of Hopgrass an appearance of legal occupation:

a. There was until very lately an ancient road directly through the farm yard to the Marsh - the gate was frequently left open by strangers and there was continual involuntary trespass.

b. The farm had always had the right to go to the stream with cattle to water and they were frequently left there too long.

c. For about thirty years past the tenants had taken the liberty of driving their cattle across the Marsh to feed the meadows at the west end and loitering boys had suffered them to feed on their way.

9. The present Constable of Hungerford is a smith and the whole Corporation consists of little tradesmen who neither know or have the time to watch the gradual encroachments of their neighbours. Nor has the town any revenue to support a Steward, Clerk or Gamekeeper who might be able to embark and give information at the annual Courts, and through this neglect we are afraid that many odds of ownership have been exercised by Mr Popham and his tenants which will be strongly taken against the defendants.

10. The "Manor" of Sanden fee (the inverted commas are the writer's) is not mentioned in the Feoffment, but appears to have been passed as appurtenant to the Borough of Hungerford. The Sanden Fee Court Leet is held by the Constable and the Port Reeve of Hungerford collects the quit rents of Sanden Fee and accounts for them to the Constable and the Pound and the Stocks are maintained at his expense. Until 1775 the Court Books and Presentments were entitled "Liberty and Manor of Sanden Fee", only by some means at that time and it is supposed by the ingenuity of some Clerk "in the County of Berks" and so it has been ever since. The description of the Feoffments to the Town are universally "All that Borough and Manor of Hungerford in the County of Berks and Wilts or either of them and the Fishery is also there stated as in Berks and Wilts - now it is clear that no part of the Manor of Hungerford or Sanden Fee is in Wilts, but that part of Freeman's Marsh claimed by the Plaintiff and unless that part of the Marsh is referred to as being part of the Manor of Sanden Fee the word "Wilts" is surplusage. Haywards appointed at the Manor Court of Sanden Fee have always from time immemorial exercised their jurisdiction over the whole Marsh in Berks and Wilts and have drove the cattle from both sides of the river to the Pound in Sanden Fee, which stands in Berkshire.

In the Town Chest there is an old quit rent roll dated 16?? "A rent roll of the quit rents and other the revenue out of part of is Highnesses Dutchie of Lancaster due and belonging to the Mannour and Borough of Hungerford to be collected by the Porte Reeve and paid yearly to the Constable thereof for the time being and employed or accounted for the use of the aforementioned Borough. Anno DMI 1639 in the part entitled "Sanden Fee" is the following "The farmer at Hopgrass for Strongrove ¾d. "

11. "When the canal was cut about nine years ago parts of both Berks and Wilts parts of the Marsh were taken. Mr Popham's steward, having to make a claim on the company for other property of Mr Popham's had, unknown to the Town of Hungerford, claimed that part cut through in Wilts and the account of the value given credit for between the Company and Mr Popham to the latter and the conveyance thereof executed by Mr Popham to the Canal Company and the Feoffees of the Borough of Hungerford have conveyed to the Canal Company that part of the Marsh cut through the Berks portion, not knowing that the quantity conveyed by them was the whole taken up by the Canal Company. It is certain that this was done at this time for they were at this very time pulling down and destroying the fence of Defendant for only enclosing a few yards of land in the Wilts part as a watering place for his cattle".

"This circumstance was found by accident by Defendants Attorney on enquiring of the Company's Clerk who transacts the purchase, keeps the accounts and pays all money for the Company, who informed Defendants Attorney that the consideration money had not actually been paid, but given credit for in Mr Popham's account. Notice was given immediately to the agent verbally to withhold payment as the land belonged to the Feoffees of the Borough of Hungerford.

Item 11 above has been copied virtually verbatim, as it gives a fair idea of the unhappy relations that it would seem existed between the Littlecote Estate and the Feoffees of the Manor of Hungerford.

At this point the document described as "The Action" appears to have been extensively corrected by crossing out and writing between the lines and becomes very difficult to decipher accurately, and, therefore, perhaps better left alone.

These two documents to give us a very clear picture of the strained relations between the Trustees of Hungerford and the Littlecote Estate at the time. The boundaries of the Manor of Hungerford and that of Chilton Foliat or Charnham Street-cum-Hopgrass had always been a little in dispute and may account for the fact that the fishing in the River Dun "at the backside of the Church" described in the special enquiry into the Kynett Brook in 1611 as being the property of the Queen's Majestie, with a description of how the Constable of Hungerford in Elizabeth's day valiantly took a bow and arrow to defend the townspeople right of fishery there against Mr Essex of Hopgrass Farm, is now in private hands. It is on record that Sir John Popham, Attorney General and later Lord Chief Justice, was not an easy person to get along with and probably was not an accommodating neighbour!

See also:

- Freeman's Marsh