History of Manor building and site

Distant History

The Manor estate was originally called Picot’s Manor, deriving from its early holders. Thomas Picot held land in Aldenham in the thirteenth century; his son was Geoffrey Picot who held one carucate of land of the manor of Aldenham as a free tenant, and who was mentioned in 1261 and 1297. The holding was passed from him to members of other families. Lists of free tenants of the capital manor, which date from the fourteenth century, mention John Cokenwale as a holder and William Hardlyngton as the tenant.

In 1449 it was held by John Hale, citizen of London and brother of John Hale of Aldenham, and in 1472 it was in the tenure of his daughters, Alice widow of John Penne, citizen and mercer of London, and wife of William Brayne, and Agnes wife of John Thrale, who united in settling it on Ralph Penne, son of Alice. A description of the manor as held freely of the lord of Aldenham for the yearly rent of 15s 8d. seems to belong to this period. Ralph granted the reversion of the manor to Humphrey Coningsby, knight, the farmer of the capital manor, who paid for Picot’s an annual rent of 16s.

It is significant that there are rumors that the cows on the premises would supply milk which was delivered to the courts and drunk by King Henry the Eighth.

In 1548 Ralph Penne conveyed the property to Richard Hewes; and in 1570 John Ayleward and Anne his wife granted it to Thomas Briscoe.

 

1718 – 1879

A Georgian style manor house was built and it remained in the Briscoe family till 1718, when Edward Briscoe and Margaret his wife conveyed it to Thomas Day. It subsequently passed to Henry William Willis, who by his will devised it to trustees for sale. These trustees sold the manor in 1832 to the executors of the will of Peter Thellusson, and it has since descended with the manor paramount.

In 1879 it was held by Mr. Edward Oddie, under a lease from Lord Rendlesham. Mr. Oddie died in 1884, and Picot’s Manor was afterwards bought by Mr. G. W. Williams, who pulled down most of the house, and built on the site a larger one. This larger building was designed in mock-Tudor style, and this is the building which is still present today.

The 20th Century

In 1912 Piggots was resold for £17,000. Mr Williams become ill and did not live long after this.

In 1914 the building and estate was up for sale by the (likely Estate Agents) Messrs Trollope and Louis Tredinnick.

By 1920 Letchmore Heath village was an isolated village with its own shops, Post Office, small Methodist Chapel etc. (Since then they have all been converted into houses and today the residents are either retired or commute to London, Watford etc).

Around the year 1923 ‘Picot’s Manor’ was renamed ‘Piggott’s Manor’ to make it sound more English.

In the 1930’s Major A M Sassoon and his family lived there. It appears that they were popular with the locals. It seems likely they moved in or slightly after 1931 because the estate was up for sale in that year.

Ethel Levy and American Actress and husband Graham White lived there for some time, possibly up to the 1940’s.

During some the Second World War the property was used as an RAF officers’ mess and hospital. 

In 1956 Piggott’s Manor was brought and owned by St Bartholomew’s Nursing College. During those years, hundreds of young women received intensive residential training in traditional nursing.

In 1972 a Hare Krishna devotee called Dhananjaya das saw that the property was for sale and encouraged George Harrison to buy it for The Internaitonal Society for Krishna Consciousness, more widely known as the Hare Krishna Movement (ISKCON). In February 1973 it was purchased and the Hare Krishnas moved in. Then the building was renamed Bhaktivedanta Manor. Bhaktivedanta means ‘the end/ summary of all spiritual knowledge’ and is named after the movement’s holy founder, A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Swami Prabhupada saw Bhaktivedanta Manor as his Movement’s European headquarters and it was the last place he visited before passing away in India, in 1977.

The growing popularity of Bhaktivedanta Manor 

By the late 1970s attendance at Bhaktivedanta Manor began to increase significantly. An agreement between ISKCON and Hertsmere Council was signed allowing six major public events a year. However, after that a much stricter ban on Manor activity was attempted to be put in place.

However, by May 1996 the Department of the Environment John Gummer MP had granted planning permission for Bhaktivedanta Manor to construct an access road and to remain a place of public worship and religious festivals.

The Manor estate today

With the new land, the estate has grown from the initial 17 acres to a generous 77 acres. The campaign itself also increased the fame of ISKCON and has won the respect of the media, politicians, interfaith groups and Hindu communities across the world. It is also significant that today the temple community has a much improved relationship with the Hertsmere Council. Because of the faith and hard work, victory was finally achieved and ISKCON took a major step forward.

Today Bhaktivedanta Manor hosts about 10,000 school children on an annual basis as part of their educational school curriculum, where they receive ox cart rides, workshops and vegetarian food. There are now numerous civil weddings on the premises and many courses based on the ancient Vedic culture of India. There are also Open Days throughout the summer and Cultural Evenings and Dinners are held throughout the year.

One of the most recent developments over the last few years has been the extensive renovation of the Manor building, both internally and externally. Now the building is restored to its original glory, as it was in 1884. However, in order to protect the building the leaders of the Manor recognised the need to include extended facilities on the estate to help managed community needs in order to avoid over-crowding in the main building.

By the summer of 2020 the construction work of the 2000m2 Shree Krishna Haveli was complete.  It was designed to sit well between the rustic farm and not overshadow  the original mock-Tudor mansion. To complement the local area and respect the culture of the locality, oak, timber, tile and traditional red brick with stone paving were chosen as typical of the area of Hertfordshire and wider England. The Haveli design was chosen to respect the past and to look to the future, representing authentic construction of today, with sustaining features and characters.