North Mymms - Parish and People
by Dorothy Colville
Chapter 4 - The Coat of Arms
The Dukes of Leeds who owned North Mymms estate for 114 years prior to 1799 were descended from colourful and able ancestors. One had had a share in altering the course of our country’s history, for he, like Lord John Somers, was one of the seven who signed the invitation (1688) to William of Orange suggesting he take over the government of England from his father-in-law, James II.
The Dukes of Leeds became owners of North Mymms by marriage. In 1658 Sir Thomas Hyde, lord of the manor of Aldbury, purchased North Mymms from the Coningsby family. His heiress was his daughter, Bridget, who, on marrying Peregrine Osborne, son and heir of the first Duke of Leeds, took the estate to that important political family. It would seem that the Dukes of Leeds did not develop affection for the place, as for the greater part of their ownership the estate was let for long periods at a time. One who rented the property was Dame Lydia Mews. That she left the lovely amber tankard to the church and a large charity to the poor of the parish would seem to indicate that she became attached to the neighbourhood.
It might be true to say that the ducal servants made more impression on the parish than did their ducal masters. A group of memorial stones in the south-east portion of the churchyard bears the names of members of the Mawe family, the earliest dated 1746, the last 1805. One, dated 1778, is that of Thomas Mawe, "late Steward to his grace the Duke of Leeds." Thomas Mawe was a churchwarden as well as the paid steward of the church charities. No doubt he was encouraged in his public work by his master, Thomas, the fourth Duke of Leeds, and when the duke decided to place a royal coat of arms in church it was Thomas Mawe who entered the details into the account book, not forgetting to add "due tome £2 11s. 6d." In the list of owners said to have a claim upon the common of North Mymms in 1778 Thomas Mawe had four cottages which were allotted two acres each when the Enclosure Act of that year became law.
During his long reign from 1760 to 1820 George III was frequently ill, and it is possible that the royal coat of arms was placed in our church after the king’s recovery from an attack in 1774. 14 years later the king had a severe attack which lasted for more than a year, but by January 1789 he was so much recovered that he was able to return to Windsor. Thanksgiving services were arranged throughout the country, and here in North Mymms the church-wardens paid 2/6 for a "Prayer & etc. for His Majesty’s Recovery" to be used on March 7. No doubt the Duke of Leeds was among those who met to give thanks for the king’s recovery, but a few days later when the king went in state to Parliament there was the duke in his accustomed place. George III was so touched by the old duke’s devotion that he sent personal thanks to him for "risking his life in his service by coming to the House of Lords at his age." It had all been too much for the old duke, now aged seventy-six, and Lady Bessborough wrote in her journal "We heard of the death of the Duke of Leeds on the following day."
Another ducal servant, the Rev. John Hickson, M.A., is remembered by a marble tablet on the north wall of the church. He "expired without a groan "in December 1794.
His master was Francis, third son and heir of Thomas, fourth Duke of Leeds, and his wife, Mary, granddaughter of Sarah Jennings, Duchess of Marlborough. Mary died when Francis was a little boy of eight and he seems to have had an indifferent upbringing. He was, we are told, amiable, of only moderate ability, very vain, wrote comedies and was a fellow of the Royal Society. By the time he was twenty-two he had married the beautiful, high-spirited Amelia, Baroness Conyers.
At the time of the Enclosure Act, Francis was listed as being one of the trustees for the poor of the parish, but as he was Lord-Lieutenant of the East Riding of Yorkshire his participation in North Mymms affairs could not have been very active.
Amelia, his wife, met and eloped with Captain John Byron in 1779, leaving two small boys, George and Francis, in the care of their grandfather. These little boys were the pupils of the Rev. John Hickson. Francis became the fifth Duke of Leeds when Thomas, his father, died in 1789, but he enjoyed his possessions for the short period of less than ten years. Within a few months of his death the sixth duke had sold North Mymms to Henry Browne.
There is no record that the Rev. John Hickson took any part in parochial affairs, and in that respect he followed his master’s example.
Dorothy Colville, 1971
Chapter 5 - The Amber Tankard
Index - North Mymms Parish and People