The Manor of Hornsey was said in 1294 to have been part of the Bishop of London’s manor of Stepney from time immemorial. The bishop also claimed that his predecessors had held Finchley and Friern Barnet as a part of their manor of Fulham until its transfer to the bishop’s lordship of Hornsey in 1491.
During the Interregnum (1649-1660) Sir John Wollaston bought the manor but after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 the manor was again held by the bishops of London until 1868. Then it then passed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners who bought out the lessees’ rights.
Priory of Clerkenwell
A small part of the bishop’s land in the north east of the manor was granted to the Priory of Clerkenwell in 1152-3. On occasions this has been referred to as the separate manor of Muswell but it was probably manor waste containing the mossy well, granted to the Priory by Bishop Theobald.
During the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536-41) the prioress of Clerkenwell demised the farmhouse, chapel, gatehouse, a house, a storehouse, and all lands to John Avery, yeoman of the bottles.
Then in 1543 the estate was granted to William Burnell and eventually passed to Thomas Rowe, probably Sir Thomas Rowe lord mayor of London in 1568-9. As a result, until 1900, the former Priory lands fell outside the jurisdiction of the Manor of Hornsey and the parish of Hornsey. The area was known as ‘Clerkenwell Detatched’.
Sub-Manor of Farnfields
A small estate called Farnfields or Fernnfields on the bishop of London’s manor was granted to the Knights Templars, at Holborn, sometime after 1152. Farnfields, along with St Clement Danes, would appear to have been transferred by Henry III to the Canons Regular of St. Sepulchre, Warwick and were held by the Priory of St. Sepulchre, Warwick, in 1273.
In 1324, Walter de Stapledon, Bishop of Exeter, acquired both Farnfields and St. Clement Danes from the prior of St. Sepulchre. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries Fernfields was granted in 1548 to Thomas Fisher by the Bishop of Exeter when it was reputed to be a manor.
In 1552 the Manor of Farnfields, in Hornsey, was given to King Edward VI by Sir William Cavendish. It passed through many hands until 1801 when it was held by Edward Gray of Harringay House. By then the manor was often called Harringay. In 1880 it began to be sold off for building.
Sub-Manor of Topsfield
Another estate on the Bishop’s manor may have been leased to Richard of Topsfield in 1342 as the Manor of Topsfield. The first confirmed record of ownership is Stephen Maynard of Islington who held it in 1374, and by 1379 he had been succeeded by William Maynard.
After many occupants and owners it was sold it in 1773 to Samuel Ellis, tenant of the Three Tuns, one of the two public houses on the manor. He had Topsfield Hall built after 1781, in the angle of Tottenham Lane and Middle Lane in Crouch End. The house became home to the Booth family before, in 1853, Henry Weston Elder went to live there. Topsfield Hall was demolished in 1895.
Prebendal Manor of Brownswood
The southern boundary of the Bishop of London’s manor bordered on Brownswood Manor, a Prebendal Manor held by the Dean and Canons of St Paul’s Cathedral from at least the twelfth century. St Paul’s held thirty Prebendal manors separately from those of the bishop, who held all the lands owned by the Anglo Saxon kings. Exactly when the thirty Prebendal manors became the property of St Paul’s is uncertain, although there is evidence to believe that this apportionment was begun, if not completed before the Norman Conquest.
The Prebendal Manor of Brownswood, was very different from the Bishop’s manor, having no settlements entirely within its boundaries, no church, and no sub-manors. Unlike the Bishop’s manor in which a steward acted for the bishop, the Prebendary leased the manor to a tenant who acted as the lord of the manor. The Manor ceased to exist after it was vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1843 under the Act of 1840 and process of selling off the land for the urban development of South Hornsey began.
See also: The Parish of Hornsey