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North Mymms - Parish and People
by Dorothy Colville

Chapter 17 - Moffatts House and Muffets Farm

Something of mystery surrounds both these buildings. The farmhouse is probably 200 years older than the house now known as Moffatts. Both may, as has sometimes been suggested, have belonged to a family Muffett or Mouffet or Mouflet living in the parish during the sixteenth century. In 1563 "John Morflett, sonne of Richard Morflett, was baptised" in the parish church on November 4.

There was a Dr. Thomas Muffett, entomologist, whose Insectorum Theatrum was published posthumously and whose admiration for spiders has, it is said, "never been surpassed." He is said to have owned Muffetts and to have practised in London and Ipswich. He died in 1604. For nearly a century after its publication his Health’s Improvement was very popular. He seems to have had very decided opinions with regard to cooking. He evidently enjoyed "the fair lidded oister," which cost two shillings a 100 in Colchester, but "powdered""- that is salted - meat for use in winter was tough, hard, heavy and ill of nourishment, requiring rather the stomach of another Hercules than of an ordinary or common ploughman."

Little Miss Muffet

It has been said that the nursery rhyme "Little Miss Muffet" was written by Dr. Thomas Muffett after Patience, his little daughter, had had an encounter with a spider. The first known printed version of the rhyme appeared in 1805 in an American book Songs for the Nursery. The good doctor had then been dead for 200 years, but his rhyme, if indeed it is his, could have travelled orally from England to the New World and could have returned home in printed form.

At the time the printed version of "Little Miss Muffet" appeared the sheriff of the county, John Michie, was living at "Muffatts, Hatfield." He was interested in the enclosure of North Mymms common and had been concerned regarding the administration of the charities, at one time actually ordering that the apprenticing should be continued and that the bread should be distributed to the poor. This was at the time when the trustees had dwindled to one only.

In the middle of the nineteenth century Moffatts was the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Daniell, who at the time of the restoration of the church in 1859 gave the font that is in use at the present time.

Of later years the most interesting family to live at Moffatts was that of Wilson Fox. Mr. Arthur Wilson Fox was the son of Dr. Wilson Fox, physician in ordinary to Queen Victoria, for which appointment he received a retaining fee of £200 per annum. Mrs. Arthur Wilson Fox was a direct descendant of Sir Thomas More - strange that she should live so near Gubbins, the ancestral home of the More family - and, like her famous ancestor, was interested in the social problems of her day. She spoke to Women’s Institutes on local government and became a school manager. She wrote short stories, always with a high moral tone and usually having an historical background, for children, but being paper-backs not one of her tracts has survived. Her more serious writing was "Notes" contributed to the East Herts Archaeological Society. These dealt with Northaw, where she went to live in about 1920, and were the results of historical research.

Dorothy Colville, 1971


Chapter 18 - Frowick & Roestock Hall
Index - North Mymms Parish and People

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