Box Moor Trust
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In 1574 Queen Elizabeth I gifted certain Hertfordshire lands to the Earl of Leicester. The gift included pastures in the Hemel Hempstead area, at Boxmoor, and these were purchased in secret by three Hemel Hempstead townspeople - John Rolfe, Richard Pope and Willian Gladman - in 1581 for £75. They had feared the common land would be enclosed and townspeople would be denied grazing rights: the price had been raised by secret public subscription. In 1594, ownership of the pastures was transferred to 67 local inhabitants (Feoffes), "whereby their heirs and assigns might and should for ever thereafter have, hold and enjoy the said meadows and all the commodities that might or should arise thereof".
The Trust, a legal entity formed in 1594, has survived over 400 years up to the present day. Twelve of the 67 Feoffes were appointed as Trustees with the powers to make Orders and Bye-laws that they deemed necessary. New Trustee appointments were made in 1659, 1711, 1757 and 1787.
The Trust once issued "Pasture Tickets " to its members to allow them to graze a specified number of livestock on its land.
The highwayman Robert Snooks was hanged and buried at the scene of his crime on Boxmoor for the robbery of a postboy on the Sparrows Herne Turnpike which crossed the trust land. Snooks was the last man to be executed in England for highway robbery on On 11 March 1802. The Trustees placed a grave marker in 1904 at the approximate spot.
St John's Church in Boxmoor was built in 1874, on land the Trust had provided in 1829.
Sections of the Box Moor Trust land have been compulsorily purchased for a succession of transport schemes since the eighteenth century. This is because it is located in the valley of the River Bulbourne which is one of the few easy crossing places in the Chiltern Hills for travellers from London to the English Midlands. Corridors of land have been sold, first of all to the Grand Junction Canal in 1795, then to the London and Birmingham Railway in 1837, and finally for the A41 trunk road improvement in the 1990s.
Replacement lands have been purchased by the Trust so that Box Moor Trust lands now extend up on to the chalk hills to the west. These include Further Roughdown. Additional sites have been acquired at Pixies Mere at Bourne End (a fishing lake) and the Bovingdon Brickworks quarry, south west of Bovingdon village.
The moor and associated lands - 480 acres (1.9 km2) in all - and other properties are managed by the same historic entity, The Box Moor Trust (now a Registered Charity) for the public benefit. The lands are used for leisure, recreation and wildlife conservation.
The Trust is now governed by an Act of Parliament of 1809, updated by a Charity Commission Scheme in 2000. Under this, Trustees are elected by residents of the "area of benefit", defined as the old parishes of Hemel Hempstead and Bovingdon. Apart from when Charity Commissioners' approval is needed for major expenditure, the Trust is independent of other authorities and doesn't answer to local or central government. It is self-funding, deriving income from rentals, pasture tickets and investments. A valuable part of the property portfolio is Boxmoor Wharf, a canalside commercial site formerly used for the shipment of port and whisky, then lime juice and currently by B&Q for a hardware warehouse store.
The summer grazing of rare breed cattle (Belted Galloway) and sheep (Norfolk Horns) continues and the "Boxmoor ponies" are a local attraction. Sections are used for sports - golf, rugby and cricket. Other areas are used as public open space; others are preserved or adapted for nature conservation. The Trust holds a biennial music festival ("Music on the Moor") and an annual conker festival.
Roughdown Common, a part of the estate, is a chalk hill which dominates the south side of Hemel Hemptsead and is one of Hertfordshire's few remaining examples of unimproved chalk grassland . Its wide variety of flora led it to be designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1953.
Volunteers are invited to join in the work of the Trust. The Trust has set up "Friends of the Box Moor Trust" as a vehicle to spread information about its work.
- Four Hundred Years of the Box Moor Trust, by Joan & Roger Hands, pub by The Box Moor Trust, Hemel Hempstead, 2004 - Accessed January 2007.
- Box Moor Trust leaflet: "Managing the Land for the Community"
- Roughdown common Archived August 5, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. at English Heritage. Accessed April 2012