Dane O’ Coys

Dane O’ Coys Lane links Hadham Road with Cricketfield Lane and then continues as a narrow route (named just ‘Dane O’ Coys’) that eventually leads to Whitehall and Whitehall Lane. How the name ‘Dane O’ Coys’ originated is a mystery even to local historians – 19th century documents referring to it as ‘Denny Coys’ and 16th century documents as ‘Dene a Coy’ – but it is likely to have derived from a local person (possibly Edward Denny – See Guide 10) as there was a farm here by that name in the 16th century. That said, here are a few other possibilties as to how the name may have come about, passed on to me by Clavering historian Jacqueline Cooper.

In 1303 John de Coye or Queye owned a manor in Hatfield Peverel, Essex. Queye was possibly a French name, perhaps of Norman origin, and the family may well have owned or been granted land in Bishop’s Stortford.

And from the notes of Bishop’s Stortford’s foremost historian J.L. Glasscock (held at Bishop’s Stortford Museum) comes the following:
A deed witness in 1465 was John Dane at Coyses, with John Dam in occupation; 1614 deeds mention ‘lane or streate called Nokestreat leading from Dane at Coyves to Rye streat’ (possibly present day Dane O’ Coys); and in 1640 there is record of a sidesman at the church called John Gladwin of Dane-at-Coyves. In 1648 Dennycoys was the property of Thomas Miller called Dam at Coves.

The property referred to was most likely the 16th century farmhouse of Dane O’ Coys Farm that continued to operate well into the 20th century. Now privately owned, the house still stands in Dane O’ Coys just beyond the junction with Cricketfield Lane.

In his notes, J.L. Glasscock refers to the farm as ‘Dennycoys’ and states it has no history. Unfortunately the name is not discussed in either The Victorian History of the Counties of England Hertfordshire, or in Place Names of Hertfordshire.

Up until 1947 this entire area was part of the vast Whitehall estate owned by Tresham Gilbey, who, to safeguard his family during World War II, had a large air raid shelter built in a field near to his home. The remains of this shelter, in the form of a large grass mound, can still be seen from Dane O’ Coys opposite Rhododendron Walk – now a footpath but originally constructed as an ornamental carriage drive between Cricketfield Lane and Gilbey’s home, Whitehall (See Guide 7).

Silver Leys

At the top of Hadham Road is Silver Leys, an equally mysterious title given to an area of land that for over 130 years has been the site of many notable events in Bishop’s Stortford’s history, including recreational, sporting and military pursuits.

It was the venue of Bishop’s Stortford football club’s first ever match in 1874 (See Guides 6 & 10) and has been home to the town’s rugby club, on and off, since 1928. Formed in 1920, the club’s matches were first played at Dunmow Road where they made a promising start, but when they moved to this site eight years later their fortunes rapidly declined and the club was disbanded prior to World War II. Re-formed in 1950, fixtures were few and far between to begin with, most matches being played away against teams in North London. Any home matches were still played at Silver Leys, but as club funds made no allowance for changing facilities here, the team had to walk to the George Hotel in North Street where the supportive landlord allowed them use of his barn as a changing room. The current rugby club was re-established at Silver Leys in 1985.

In 1962, during preparation of a new playing field here, ‘worked flints’ were uncovered of a type made by Middle Stone Age or ‘Mesolithic’ people. From past evidence, such flints were known to have been used by hunter bands between 6,000 and 4,000 B.C.

Facing the entrance and car park is a long, single-storey building currently used as a commercial outlet. In the mid 19th century this same building was home and barrack room of the town’s very own ‘regiment’. During the Napoleonic Wars (1793–1815) the threat of invasion to this country was instrumental in the Defence of the Realm Act, authorised by George III, which allowed the creation of Volunteer Associations for local defence.

Bishop’s Stortford raised a troop of Volunteer Infantry (Armed Association) in March 1798, and though they were disbanded in 1802 an establishment comprising 200 men was re-formed in 1803. When the threat of invasion finally passed, this too was disbanded in 1809.

In 1830, however, there were demands for a revival of the yeomanry when large groups of labourers in southern England vented their anger against the establishment because inadequate wages didn’t allow them to support their families. Rioting took place and after setting fire to many haystacks throughout the Home Counties they were given the name ‘Incendiarists’.

The yeomanry continued long after this event had passed and in November 1862 a wealthy maltster from Bishop’s Stortford named John Dobede Fairman, formed and captained a local force of volunteer cavalry who became the 1st Herts Light Horse Volunteer Cavalry. Having previously been an officer in the West Essex Yeomanry Cavalry, Fairman’s experience combined with recruitment of only high-grade members made the 1st Herts enormously successful at inspections, exercises and competitions.

After having their services accepted by Queen Victoria in 1862, they were among 17,000 volunteers chosen to parade in Hyde Park the following year to honour the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark who were driving to Windsor for their wedding.

By the autumn of 1864 the troop, now 98 strong, were given authorisation to be increased to a squadron, and Fairman, who owned Silver Leys, had these barracks built for them. A most prominent fixture above the entrance to the barracks was a large figure of the regiment’s stag (white hart) emblem.

Fairman’s personal financing of the 1st Herts included inviting its members to regular dinners and functions at their club house on Windhill, which was his property, and providing memorabilia and weaponry. In 1866 Fairman was appointed Captain Commandant by Queen Victoria. In the 1870s the 1st Herts went on to gain considerable distinction at mounted sword drill in national competitions and inspections.

Fairman, however, suddenly became less prominent in 1878, fleeing the country a few weeks before being arraigned for bankruptcy (see below). The corps was disbanded the following year and though the barracks survived, the regimental stag figure was removed by a Major Holland and re-erected on the facade of his grocery store at No 18 North Street – later to become Holland and Barrett (See Guide 6).

Silver Leys was then bought by Sir Walter Gilbey who, at the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, arranged sporting activities here and laid on tea and refreshment for 1600 local children. He later donated the land to the town, primarily for equestrian sports, and to Stansted Polo Club, of which his son Tresham was once captain and regularly played here in the early 1920s. Bishop’s Stortford’s annual Horticultural Show was also held here for a number of years after the death of Sir John Barker in 1915. Since its conception in the late 1800s to help raise funds for Bishop’s Stortford’s hospital, the event had been hosted by Sir John in the grounds of his Rye Street home (See Guide 7 – The Grange).

Directly opposite the entrance to Silver Leys stands Dane House, an imposing development that stems from the original Dane House built in 1905 by Sir John Barker for his daughter, Ann, and her husband Tresham Gilbey. Apparently, though, his daughter disliked the house so much that Sir John had Whitehall built for her instead (See Guide 7 – Whitehall). Dane House was then sold to private ownership and in November 1962 became the Dane House Hotel. Unable to fulfil its role this was partly demolished in 1986 and other buildings, in the same style, added to accommodate private apartments.

John Dobede Fairman

Before forming the 1st Herts Light Horse Volunteer Cavalry, Fairman was already a man of some standing in Bishop’s Stortford: a wealthy malster with a house on Windhill and much other land and property beside. For 16 years his seemingly endless money financed his cavalry troop’s training, entertainment and travel expenses, and in August 1978 he bought at auction sale the Railway Hotel in Station Road (now converted to flats and named Thomas Heskin Court).

His wealth and malthouses had been inherited and he – like his father before him – acted as agent to London brewer Truman & Co, buying grain directly from farmers with cash advanced by Truman, and malting it on the brewer’s behalf. Gradually, though, he began purchasing grain on credit through corn factors, while still taking the brewer’s money, using his cash-flow to finance the 1st Herts as well as purchase more property.

At the time of buying the Railway Hotel his finances were already very shaky, and in January 1879, Sworders the auctioneer sued for bankruptcy. Only then was it discovered that Fairman and the then captain of the 1st Herts, Benjamin Lancelotte, had fled abroad just a few weeks before. Bishop’s Stortford’s community was stunned by all of this, though it turned out that Lancelotte was not implicated in the debacle.

At the first creditors’ meeting held at the Chequers Hotel (now Savills) in North Street, 53 businesses, mostly local, were claimants. The largest was Truman & Co, which was owed £81,922 (in excess of £7.5m in today’s money) and Harlow brewer Philip Chaplin was owed £48,336 (in excess of £4.4m). The debts totalled £137,468 (almost £13m today).

Included in this amount were large cheques drawn on Fosters’ Bank in Cambridge in early January, that had been returned. Those presented by Sparrow & Co, bankers in Bishop’s Stortford, totalled £5,000 (nearly £500,000 today). Ironically, Sworder & Co who originally brought the action against Fairman, was owed the comparatively trivial amount of £184-14s-0d (nearly £2,000 today).

The 1st Herts was wound down – its liabilities of £2,000 funded by its members – and in May of that year Fairman’s property was sold for £15,114 (approx £1.5m today). His house in Windhill was bought by his neighbour for £2,375 (approx £220,000 today).

Controversially, Truman & Co seized all of Fairman’s barley and malt, worth £60,000 (approx £5.5m today). The objection raised by other creditors was that Fairman had bought it on his own account and therefore the proceeds belonged to them all. Truman counter-claimed that since Fairman, its agent, was advanced Truman money, the grain belonged to them. This argument passed through successive legal stages, eventually reaching the House of Lords in 1882 where Truman & Co’s action was finally declared lawful.

A reward of £50 had been offered for Fairman’s capture on a charge of fraud, but it was never discovered where he and Lancelotte fled. Nor is it likely he was ever tried for fraud or imprisoned, possibly because of the highly professional way the 1st Herts was run on the realm’s behalf.

Fairman did, however, resurface in September 1884 some six years after his flight, and bankruptcy proceeding against him were restarted. His first ever public examination proceeded quietly and the following January he applied for his discharge from bankruptcy. This was finally granted on 12 February 1885.

Benjamin Lancelotte died on 7 April 1889, aged 56. He is recorded as a ‘gentleman’ living near Abergale, Colwyn Bay, a few miles from his birthplace of Liverpool. His sole executor was John Dobede Fairman, of the same address. Fairman afterwards lived with his sister in Hove, Sussex; he died in his 70s, still unmarried, in 1907.

All information regarding John Dobede Fairman’s bankruptcy charge and of his life afterwards, is thanks to diligent research by local historian Mike James and Dr Sarah Turner, curator of Bishop’s Stortford Local History Museum. Their article first appeared in the H&E Observer, 23 June 2011.