A history of Aldersbrook Manor

The manor of Aldersbrook lies in the parish of Little Ilford. Most of the lands of the manor now lie within the City of London Cemetery.

Aldersbrook Manor House was situated to the east of the present day catacombs in the City of London Cemetery, about half way between those and the cemetery boundary fence. The Farm House lay some 300 metres to the west of the Manor House, just to the north of the lawns fronting the catacombs. It is known that in 1630 both the Manor House and Farm House were in existence. Until the 16th Century, Aldersbrook manor was part of the manor of Wanstead. It is thought that Wanstead Park was inclosed about 1512, and that Aldersbrook became a separate manor at about that time.

Aldersbrook estate and Wanstead estate seem to have had for long a close connection, though these became boundary disputes in the 16th and 17th centuries. For a map showing the relative positions of these estates, click here.

Heron Family, The Crown, Knevett, Addington, Dudley

The family of Heron held the estate for some time, and the name is still remembered in association with Wanstead : the heron is a symbol that can be seen on the walls of Wanstead High School. Sir John Heron was keeper of the estate until his death in 1521; he also held lands in Wanstead and it is reputed that he brought herons to the area. There is a pane of glass showing a heron in an old round window in Little Ilford Church, closely associated with the Aldersbrook Estate. (photo)

In 1530 the estate's keeper was Sir Giles Heron, son-in-law to Sir Thomas Moore. In 1532 Sir Giles sold Aldersbrook to the Crown. At that time it was called Naked Hall (Hawe), or Alderbroke. He was executed in 1540 when he refused to acknowledge the religious supremacy of the King.

In 1535 the King granted the estate to Anthony Knevett and his wife; and in 1544 the crown sold the estate to Katherine Addington. A number of purchasers held the estate until it was sold in 1585 to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Dudley already owned the manor of Wanstead. Again, the estate was purchased by a succession of owners.

Lethieullier, Hulse, Tylney-Long, Aldersbrook Farm

In 1693 John Lethieullier purchased the estate, and in 1701 Smart Lethieullier was born at the manor house, the estate passing to him in 1737. He was an antiquarian and wrote with affection of Aldersbrook; it is recorded that he built a 'hermitage' to house his antiquities. He died in 1760 and his memorial is in Little Ilford Church. In 1786 the Manor House was disposed of by his heir, Sir Edward Hulse, to Sir James Tylney Long (Lord Wellesley) of Wanstead Park, so was once again merged with the manor of Wanstead. He pulled down the mansion and built a farmhouse on the site. The farmhouse was demolished shortly after 1854 when the City of London Corporation acquired much of the land for the City of London Cemetery, and also gained rights over Wanstead Flats eventually leading to the preservation of Epping Forest. A small part of the Aldersbrook estate not sold to James Tylney Long continued as Aldersbrook Farm. In a small area of land by Aldersbrook Road, separated off from Wanstead Flats, a new farm house was built in about 1863 to serve the small portion of Aldersbrook Farm still remaining after the sell-off. The area is still enclosed on three sides by a wall, within which now lies the houses of Heatherwood Close and Aldersbrook Filling Station.

Maps and Plans

A number of maps of the Manor exist. The map surveyed in 1723 by Adam Holt (*1) for John Lethieullier shows the Great Pond, the Warren House (Farm House) and the Mansion House. The second map, surveyed in 1725, shows much greater detail and suggests that extensive garden and boundary walls had been constructed. A 1748 survey by John Noble for Smart Lethieullier shows rebuilt boundary walls with the addition of a Terrace, the 'Great Canal' (a vast ornamental lake), and the 'Fish Pond'. The last map, surveyed in 1816 by John Doyley, (click here) is notable for its omission of the 'Great Canal' and 'Fish Pond', although it show 'The Great Pond'.

Archaeological Excavation

Much of the information relating to the maps and layout was derived from an article (*2) of 1976 describing archaeological excavations that took place in 1972-73 on the line of the Roding Valley Sewer. The excavated finds - examined primarily by Miss P.M.Wilkinson of the Passmore Edwards Museum - relate to the latter part of the occupancy of the Lethieullier family. Diagram of Aldersbrook Manor and Farm



*1) Gardener to Sir Richard Child, who rebuilt Wanstead House in 1715. Adam Holt appears to have been something of both a landscape artist and an engineer. See also "Wanstead Park - Lake System" and "Wanstead Watercourses: the "River Holt" .


*2) ESSEX ARCHAEOLOGY AND HISTORY VOLUME 8, 1976; Excavations at Aldersbrook Manor, Essex, 1972-73; by J. P. CAMP