Area Guide: Marshalswick
- Credit: Archant
Historically, Marshalswick fell within the boundaries of the parish of Sandridge; but now it partly straddles an unparished area of St Albans too, creating its very own sub-region...
Marshalswick can be found around 1.5 miles northeast of St Albans and borders Jersey Farm, Fleetville and Bernards Heath. The average 4 bedroom house costs £522,000 and house prices range from £200,000 to over £2,000,000.
The 1950s Parish Church, St Mary’s, was built as a daughter to St Leonard’s Church Sandridge, only becoming an ecclesiastical parish in its own right in 1972 when the expansion of St Albans bridged the two areas with infill housing.
The houses of Marshalls Wick
Within the sub-parish of Marshalswick there are two further sub-districts, the older being Marshalls Wick. This area was developed on the grounds where the manor house of the same name once stood, while the rest of the area came about post-WWII on the land of what was Marshalswick Farm.
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Local lore tells of the aforementioned manor house, known by the villagers as ‘the house on the hill’. It was famously unwanted, replaced eventually with Farthing Hall and an estate of large homes in the manor’s old gardens and parkland (now some of the highest-valued properties in the region).
It has proven a hazy task in the past to ID precisely when Marshalls Wick materialised as its own settlement (it’s close affiliation with Sandridge up the hill above it muddies the distinction somewhat as to when it broke off to form its own identity) but records show that a William and John Marschal held land in the manor for around 100 years from 1271. Historians theorise that the area became used as farmland, with the manor presiding at the top of the area and Marshalswick Farm at the foot of it. A population would have developed there as the workers moved onto the land, employed by the manor as farmers.
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Wick meant ‘hamlet’, ‘town’ or ‘village’ in Old English, which would have been added to the name of the settlement (the first part originally based on the Marschal family name) which eventually lead to the building of Marshals House.
The farm homestead was demolished in the 1950s to develop the Marshalswick estate, and has over time been known as other names such as Little Marshalswick and Wheelers. A 400 year old oak tree, felled in the area in 2009, confirms the homestead’s age.
In 1917, Marshalls Wick was affiliated closely with the scouting movement, with the area used as a location for a film called ‘Scouts, Be Prepared’, with Lord and Lady Baden-Powell.
Nine years later, Marshalls Wick house was put up for sale, with a constant stream of disinterest, which eventually lead to it being sold for a paltry £4,200. The buyer sadly tore it down; along with its carved oak mantelpiece, York stone copings and glazed sashes.
The Wick is a 3.4 hectare Nature Reserve and County Wildlife Site. The land was transferred to the council by Sir Arthur Copson Peake in 1929 “to keep the land in its wild state, as nature made it”. The Friends of the Wick now assists with its maintenance. The main habitat of the site is ancient semi-natural woodland dominated by oak and hornbeam trees. It also has a seasonal pond, historic field boundaries and ancient species of native trees. The playing field is managed for amenity with a meadow cut along the edges to provide a buffer to the hedges and woodland that play home to a wide range of animals.
The Quadrant and other amenities
Marshalswick is home to Sandringham School, which is situated on the Ridgeway, as well as John Fisher Catholic and Skyswood primary schools. Wheatfields Nursery & Infants school is also found here. Residents of Marshalswick enjoy the use of local shops in ‘The Quadrant’. These shops include two bakeries, a Budgens, a newsagent, charity shops, a hairdressers, wine merchants, fast food outlets and others. The Quadrant also has its own petrol station, a Sainsburys ‘local’ and a library, which is open every day except Sunday and Wednesdays. The library includes a DVD collection, free computer use and a children’s section. In addition to St Mary’s church, there is the United Reformed Church and Marshalswick Baptist Free Church in the area. The churches are each home to local Brownie and Girl Guides units and their halls are used by many local groups. On the way out of the area is the King William IV pub, a Tesco, a Shell garage and an Enterprise car rental branch. Also in the neighbourhood is ‘Heaven is a Cupcake’ – St Albans’ premier cupcake company and winner of the 2010 St Albans Local Gem Award, who create bespoke cupcakes for special occasions.
The Marshalls Wick murder
On August 22nd 1880, the area was shattered by news of a local killing. The tenant of Marshalls Wick Farm had been shot in the head in his bedroom and two women were left terrified while an intruder ransacked the house. The victim, Edward Anstee, had been a successful butcher in London and came to Marshalls Wick in 1860. He was 68.
Just before 10pm on the night of the crime, Mr Anstee withdrew to his bedroom at the back of the house while Mrs Lindsay, the housekeeper, went to her room at the front of the house and the young servant girl, Elizabeth Coleman, went to the attic. A gardener lived in the lodge to the east, quite close to the farm, but he did not wake when a gun was fired at 2am. When the cowman arrived early in the morning the women, who had kept to their rooms, told him of the shooting. Mr Anstee’s body was found.
A notice was issued describing the culprit, said to have an impediment in his speech. The police thought the killer to be Henry Wheeler, a farm labourer. Both Henry and his son George were arrested and brought to St Albans.
Henry’s younger brother Thomas walked into the local inn on the Sunday evening and after a few drinks began to boast about the murder. The police were called and Thomas Wheeler was arrested too. A double-barrelled shot gun was found in a neighbouring wheat field, identified as being missing from a neighbouring farm. Thomas Wheeler was tried, found guilty and hanged on November 29th at the St Albans City Prison in Grimston Road.
Thomas Wheeler’s daughter, Mary Eleanor, who was only fourteen at the time of her father’s execution, tried to hang herself from a tree in the garden such was her grief. Ten years later, on December 23rd 1890, she herself was executed at Newgate prison for the murder of a love rival named Phoebe Hogg.