Sissavernes, earlier Sissavens, Farm at Codicote probably gets its name from a historical lord of the manor, William de Sisvierne, mentioned in 1166. In the nineteenth century, the original old manor house on the site (demolished and rebuilt 1870–80) not only was said to possess a mysterious, dark, underground passage leading to the church but was, according to local legend, haunted by Sissavernes, now transformed into ‘the wicked farmer of Codicote’. He loved his land so passionately that he vowed he would never leave it, and so, when he died, his body was buried on the hilltop, ‘whence his unquiet shade is said to haunt his earthly dwelling-place’.
According to another version of this story, his bier became so heavy that the horses could not drag it as far as the churchyard, so it was buried where they stopped. Sissavernes’ ghost, like traditional bogeys, was used to subdue naughty children. He was commemorated in verses written by the Welwyn parish clerk William Nobbs, about 1820:
To Sissafernes, where many a tale was told
Of fam’d old Sis, renowned in days of old,
Who play’d such pranks they say in days of yore
No other ghost had power to play before …
And as he rose from out the Sygian shades
He fed the horses and he kiss’d the maids.
There was a maid, perhaps her name was Beck,
She would not let him, so he broke her neck.
Grandames of him did tell most wondrous tales
To frighten children from the lonely vales …