This post is dedicated to the memory of David Gifford of Lamer (1942–2016).
Lamer lies a mile north of the village of Wheathampstead on the edge of the parish. The name Lamer is first attested in 1396 in a document held by Westminster Abbey. Westminster held the manor of Wheathampstead, a gift from Edward the Confessor in 1060. The original deed is held in the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies centre (HALS). Lamer became a manor in its own right in the fourteenth century. The earliest mention of a Park at Lamer dates to 1589 (information from Anne Rowe). The manor house is claimed to have been rebuilt by Sir William Garrard around 1555. Only one drawing of this earlier house survives, but some sources doubt its accuracy. His grandson, Sir John Garrard became the first baronet, and the tombs of all six baronets are in St Helen’s Church, Wheathampstead.
On the death of sixth Baronet, Sir Benet Garrard (c.1704 to 1767), the baronetcy lapsed and the estate passed to Charles Drake, who adopted the name Drake Garrard. They began the remodelling of the the estate replacing the Jacobean house with an elegant Georgian one. They also employed Nathaniel Richmond to remodel the Park. When Richmond died, the task fell to Humphrey Repton who created one of his famous “red books”. According to the Dury and Andrews’ map of 1766, the Park then consisted of a series of avenues of trees as had been the fashion in the late 17th/early 18th century.
The remodelling of the Park by Richmond and Repton created a more open “natural” landscape as was the fashion towards the end of the 18th century. Maps held by Westminster Abbey (1799) and HALS (1827) show the Park as a much more open landscape. This is also reflected in the tithe map, and an estate map from 1843 held by the Gifford family.
The Estate was inherited by Apsley Cherry in 1892 who changed his name to Cherry-Garrard in accordance with the terms of the inheritance. His only son was the famous arctic explorer, Apsley Cherry-Garrard.
Apsley slowly sold off the estates belonging to Lamer, and finally sold the house and Park just after the Second World War. The house was demolished in 1949 and the Park turned into farmland.
One might ask how geophysics comes into all this? Many of the buildings in the 1766 and later maps still survive. On the Dury and Andrews map, however, there is a small building with, perhaps, a wall and garden just to the east of the main buildings. This building is otherwise unknown. In June, Mike Smith and I undertook a small GPR survey in the field to the east of the coach house in the hope of locating this building. We only surveyed one small 40x40m block, so it was a bit of a long shot. Here are the time slices.
We have, I think, essentially found the remains of three roads. The road which shows clearly in the SW corner, especially in the 9–11ns time slice, was known. Angela Gifford remembers this road being built as a child in the early 1950s. More curious are the other two roads. The east-west road, that also shows clearly on the 9–11ns time slide, appears to line up with the existing tarmac road. That road, however, was created relatively recently by David. Was there an earlier version of it? There wasn’t, originally, access between the two buildings north and south of the tarmac road. A plan at HALS shows the gap filled with the a building for the dung from the coach house and stables (to the south of the current road) and the hack stables to the north. The third road is the broad curving line running from the SE corner of the plots to the middle of the northern edge. This road is unknown to the current inhabitants of Lamer. Map evidence shows that the road system was changed quite frequently between the late 18th century and now. This road must have been part of the Park at an earlier date. In the deeper time slices, e.g., the 15–17ns one, one edge of the road appears as a series of dots. I think this is just because Mike and I were surveying north-south and the interpolation algorithm has not managed to join them up when the line is at such an acute angle to the line of the transects. There does, however, seem to be “something solid” edging the road on the eastern side.
We didn’t find the house and courtyard, but it was not entirely a bust either. Perhaps we should do some more!
Dave’s family have been raising money for the Hertfordshire Air Ambulance in his memory. Please donate to this worthy cause if you can.