LEVERSTOCK GREEN FARMER CLAIMS POSSESSION OF
TENEMENT IN WESTWICK ROW
One of the regular features reported in the Hemel Hempstead Gazette were graphic reports of all court cases at the various assize and Crown courts which came within the catchment area of the Gazette readership. Reports from other courts nationally were also included on occasion if the case was notorious enough, or if it concerned residents of the area covered by the newspaper. As Leverstock Green, and the Langleys were within the Gazette's area of influence, reports of cases from both Watford and St. Albans courts were frequently to be found. The following is once such case with I thought was of particular interest.
The Case of Finch v Lay, 1907
The Hemel Hempstead Gazette reported on October 26th 1907:
ST. ALBANS COUNTY COURT
The October sitting....took place on Monday. His honour Judge Howland Roberts heard the Judge's summons.......
At the County Court in St. Albans under His Honour Judge Howland Roberts, Herbert Finch, farmer of Corner Farm Leverstock Green, claimed possession of a tenement consisting of a house & orchard in the occupation of Thomas Lay of Westwick Row near Hemel Hempstead. The defendant said he had been the tenant for 25 years and was a yearly tenant.
Plaintiff: You pay your rent quarterly and you have had a proper quarter's notice
Defendant: I pay £8 a year for the house and orchard and have a garden as well. I have not got my crop off yet and my garden is still stocked.
His Honour: Who made the arrangements for the tenancy?
Plaintiff: My uncle. I came into the property when I was 21 and have received the rent quarterly.
His Honour: Is your uncle here?
Plaintiff: No but he can come.
Defendant: I took it by the year.
His Honour: A 3 month tenancy would not give much time to get the stock in.
Plaintiff: He is a quarterly tenant. My word is as good as his I should think.
His Honour: That might be so, but your uncle should have been here.
Plaintiff: If you will adjourn the case he will come.
His Honour: Very well. I will adjourn it for a month.
A month later the case was resumed, and reported in detail in the Gazette on November 23rd.:
ST. ALBANS COUNTY COURT
The November sitting of the St. Albans County Court took place on Monday before his Honour Judge Howland Roberts.......
OATH AGAINST OATH
In the adjourned claim by Herbert Finch against Thomas Lay for possession of an orchard and cottage at Leverstock Green, William Finch of Lovets End Farm, Hemel Hempstead said he was the executor of his late brother's estate and managed it for 19 years until his nephew came of age. He let the cottage at £8 a year to defendant upon a quarterly tenancy. There was no written agreement on either side, but the rent had been paid regularly each quarter. Plaintiff's mother had received the rent. He was quite sure no special terms were made at the time.
Defendant: Can you remember what you said when I took the house?
Witness: No its so long ago.
Defendant: You said "If I let you the house perhaps you will not stay", and I said "I'll take it for 7 years" Instead of 7 I've been there 25 years.
Witness: I don't remember it. I remember I took 10s more a year for yours than the others, because I did the repairs. The people next door had a quarters notice and they went out. I have got several cottages with orchards and they are all on quarterly tenancies.
Defendant: What about the fruit?
Witness: I should allow for that.
His Honour: Will you allow for fruit in this case?
Witness: There is none.
Defendant: It is a fruit orchard. I shouldn't have taken it if it had not been by the year. It'll take my living away.
His Honour said it was a case of oath against oath as there was documentary evidence on either side. He was not satisfied that there had been a quarterly tenancy, and therefore he could not grant possession.
Defendant: Can I have cost?
His Honour: Yes.