New College, Oxford, was given the land by Robert Sherborne, the then Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral who went on to become the Bishop of Chichester, and Elizabeth Langton in 1504. Nearly a century earlier the land in Harrow and Great Stanmore had belonged to Richard Walworth and his wife Agnes. They sold it to Henry Harburgh, a senior figure at Salisbury Cathedral. From there it passed through various ownerships and in 1451 it was given to Helen Hall, a widow, in return for certain pledges (this in medieval legal terms was called an enfeoffment). She held onto it for eight years before giving it to several people including one Joan Langton. In due course she passed it to her son, John and his wife Agenes in 1466. The couple’s ownership however was challenged by one Thomas Cornyssh, who it’s claimed had removed the title deeds from Saddlers’ Hall and changed them in 1478. A long protracted legal battle only ended in 1503 when Raphael Cornyssh, Thomas’s son, acknowledged the title of Elizabeth Langton, widow and Joan Langton’s granddaughter, and Sherborne, who was connected with the property from 1501. Just a year after securing the land they gave the freehold to the New College, which even then was more than 120 years old, and the property, became known as Mease Place. New College promptly leased it back to Elizabeth for a literal peppercorn rent – an annual rent of 1lb of pepper for 51 years. After Elizabeth’s death sometime around 1520 it was leased on 10 and 20 year terms. The estate continued to be leased out as a farm until the college began to sell land for building in 1926.
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