History of the Amersham Area

Walter de Agmodesham

This article was written by Eustace Alliott in 1960

One of the more interesting worthies connected with Amersham is WaIter de Agmodesham, who spent his life in the service of the Crown.  During the first twenty years of the reign of Edward I he played an important part, as Royal Clerk and Justice of the Peace, in the everyday administrative and judicial work of the Realm.  This included holding Assizes and taking Inquisitions. In 1291 he was appointed to assist Alan, the Bishop of Caithness, Chancellor for Scotland, and shortly afterwards in 1296 he himself became Edward l’s Chancellor for Scotland. Scottish affairs kept him busy until his death in 1303. He had important work to do in this capacity, for he adjudicated in the Historic Parliament of Norham, on the claims of the 13 Pretenders to the Scottish Throne. This followed the death of the “Maid of Norway”, of Scottish royal ancestry, whose anticipated marriage with the son of Edward I was expected to bring the two Kingdoms into close and friendly association. The claim of one John Balliol was preferred, and this settlement affected the course of history, for John shortly fell out with Edward. Being a man of action, Edward speedily invaded Scotland and brought both Balliol and the “Stone of Scone” to London, so here we have a chain of circumstances connecting Amersham with the “Stone” in Westminster Abbey. Among other things WaIter received the prebend of the Chapel of Dover Castle and he also became Keeper of the “Domas Conversorum” in Chancery Lane, on the site of the later Records Office.

His connection with Amersham is not merely nominal, for searches at the Records Office have established that he held lands in the neighbourhood. Letters patent in 1279 confirm a grant in fee of certain lands in Agmodesham which form part of a Serjeantry in Little Missenden – a Serjeantry being a Manor held for adminstrative service. A few years later, in 1286, he acquired from Roger, the Clerk of Agmodesham, a further 16 acres of arable land and 3 acres of woodland; this being part of the old Manor of Tomlyns. This no longer exists but the name persists in Gt.Tomlyns field at Winchmore Hill, close to Westwood, and in Little Tomlyns fields in Lowlands Lane. Another Gt.Tomlyns field may still be found half-way between Gore Hill and Quarrenden farm. I suspect however, that we have a more direct link with WaIter in “Chancellor’s Corner” at the junction of Amersham, Little Missenden and Penn, just at the point where the Council estate of Chancellors is now to be found. This is on what is shown in the Parish map of well over 100 years ago, as the Reading Turnpike Road – which is said to be the Judge’s Assize Road connecting Reading and Hatfield.

In WaIter’s time the Kingdom had already been long divided into six districts, each with three itinerant judges and circuits corresponding with those that still exist. According to some maps the road turns sharply at the corner, and did not go to Wycombe as at present. It is not unreasonable to imagine that WaIter on his Assize circuit, would ride along this road and pass by this corner. Various pointers suggest that his estates, or part of them, lay here. Nearby, close to the Chancellor’s estate is an old enclosure recorded on the Parish map as “Chancellor’s” – this lies midway between the corner and Dancer & Hearne’s Chair factory. There is a Little Chancellor’s field and a Great Chancellor’s field in the vicinity, one being between the corner and the “Mop”. While there is no final proof, this does suggest that there is a genuine connection between Chancellor’s fields and WaIter, for the names go back a long time. Even in his Assize days he would be a noted man, for Justices were then considered to be the equivalent of Barons, and no doubt the local people would note his elevation to Chancellor for Scotland, and remember it with pride.

It is interesting to note that these lands, after passing to WaIter’s sons, were acquired by Ralph de Wedon, who seems to have given his name to Weedon Lane.

 Sources

Letters from the Public Record Office. 17.11.51 and 23.1.52 Re Serjeantry – & R de We. Calendar of Patent Rolls. 1334-8. p 312-3.

Re Tomlyns Manor. Gommon Pleas. Feet of Fines, Bucks, 14 Edw.I (C.P. 25 (i) 17/48) No.14.

Greens Short History – re Scottish Succession, and Assizes.

Constitutional History of England. Adams. Re Serjeantries and Assizes.