S.W. Hertfordshire from a map of 1610
Much has been researched and written about the town of Watford and Cassiobury, but our research to date (2019) has concentrated particularly on West Watford. We now feel it time to spread our wings, so to speak, and widen our area of research to the surrounding areas, as they have much to offer and are often linked to West Watford in some way, however small. Or perhaps they are simply interesting.
If we go back in time some considerable way and consult the maps and references that are available, we can see that most of our area of interest was field, farm, meadow and marsh. At Hamper Mill, to the south of Brightwells Farm, Roman artefacts were excavated, including part of a trackway. Further west, Iron Age artefacts were discovered during the construction of Greenhill Crescent.
There were two tracks/roads leading from Hamper Mill and Rickmansworth to Watford, early bridges over the Colne at Hamper Mill and in Moor Lane and at least six farms on the way to Watford; Hampton Hall Farm, Moor Lane, (this includes the site of Hampton Hall which may also be the site of the medieval manor of Batchworth. It is named for a 14th lord of the manor, William Hampton. The manor house is mentioned in 1520 and may have been extant until 1839. The farm stands in what was its garden area and was built in the 1840s), Tolpits Farm, Brightwells Farm (at one time Hatters Farm), Holywell Farm, Cole Kings and Harwoods Farm. What is left of Tolpits Farm is now Tolpits House on a bend of the road where Moor Lane merges with Tolpits Lane and is part of Merchant Taylors School. Holywell, Cole Kings and Harwoods are gone and only Brightwells remains, which may possibly be as old as, or perhaps older, than the Manor of Cashio.
There was very little in the way of expansion in the 'town' of Watford from the 12th to the 18th century. The 'one long street' then began to acquire yards and alleyways. In Briton's The Beauties of England & Wales, written in 1807, he describes Watford as a large, populous and busy town, the chief employment of its labouring classes being mainly agriculture, although there being three silk mills. The population of Watford is given as 3,530 and the number of houses 691. By 1850 there are two paper mills besides the silk mills, two breweries and several malt kilns. In 1851 the population is 8,646, yet twenty years later it has increased to 12,071.