Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A humorous look at supplying milk to St Albans 100 years ago.

The Milkman who supplied families daily - probably by "F S" circa 1907
My Great Grandfather, Jacob Reynolds, ran Heath Farm Dairy which supplied milk to St Albans. He had a great sense of humour and his scrapbook contains many jokes about milkmen.

Some time ago I came across a comic post card by Karaktus showing a milkman which had been published in St Albans and I decided to investigate. I have still not traced who the artist was but the other artist was one who normally signed himself "F S". Recently I have spent far too much time tracking down "F S" and will be reporting on his probably identity later.

Unfortunately "F S" did not sign all his post cards but I am sure Jacob would have liked the above - where the grin on the face of the milkman makes one wonder whether he "supplied" the families who are following him down the road!
Milkman post card currently on sale on ebay

One issue that often came up was the quality of the milk, and the second card (no connection with St Albans) shows why people were worried.

The issue of whether the milk had been tampered with came up in 1881 when the St Albans Town Clerk, Issac Newton Edwards, (Featured in Hertfordshire Men of Mark) arranged to milk to be sampled and the test- as published suggested that some of the milk from Heath Farm Dairy had been tampered with. However it turned out that the town clerk had recently acquired a herd of cattle and was supplying milk to the town himself - and it was the tests that were suspect ond not the sample! MORE

Monday, August 21, 2017

Hertfordshire Genealogy Web Site - Policy Update

Now that the site is moving into "archive mode" it seemed appropriate to modify the policy statement to reflect the change of service. The new wording includes the following:

This means that in future the web site policy will concentrate on safeguarding the historical content for the future.  The aim is to ensure
  1. That the current web site continues to be available - even if no longer updated.
  2. That when down-sizing becomes unavoidable no unique documents will be lost
  3. If possible the Newsletter will continue even if the main site is no longer being updated.
  4. Donations to help the mentally ill will still be accepted and those who have found the web site useful in the past, but have not yet made a contribution will be encouraged to do so.
In making the changes it has been decided to make improvements to the menus - and in future the bottom of each menu will have a link to the Policy/Copright statement. The Home menu has already been updated. In making so a minor systematic mis-link was found which affected about 300 menus. This has been corrected automatically and seems to have worked as intended - but I have not been able to test every links - so apologies if there is any trouble.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Baron Dimsdale & Essendon Place from 1834 to 2017

Essendon Place was built by the 5th Baron Charles John Dimsdale (1801-1872) in 1834. 

He was succeeded by the 6th Baron Robert Dimsdale (1828-1898) who was M.P. for Hertford between 1866 and 1874, and later for Hitchin between 1885 and 1892. The portrait is from the book Hertfordshire Men of Mark published in 1887.

The 7th Baron Charles Robert Southwell Dimsdale (1856-1928) is one of the people described in Hertfordshire Leaders (1907?). He continued in the house but sold it in 1912.

The next occupant was David Citroen who paid £13,500 for the house and 100 acres of parkland. He was only there for a short time as the house was sold again in 1917.  

The next occupant was Sir Frederick Lewis (1870-1944), a shipping magnate who became Lord Essendon in 1932.

The house still stands, but has been subdivided into a number of separate houses.

For much more information see 
This post was initiated by Peter who requested information on the 7th Baron Dimsdale as a result of the post Vanity publishing by Truman Press

Friday, August 18, 2017

Another Brick Pit Hole at Hemel Hempstead?


The sink hole in High Street Green, Hemel Hempstead, 2017
Oatridge Gardens, 2014

Two years ago I gave a posted "Forgotten" St Albans Brick Pit Rediscovered, followed a year later by What lies under Bernards Heath - and posted the slides of my talk "Brick Pits and other old holes" on the main web site. 


The notes for the talk also included brief details of another hole that appeared in Oatridge Gardens, Hemel Hempstead,  in 2014. which was also due to building on the site of a former brick pit which had been infilled - almost certainly with local town rubbish. See Hemel Hempstead sinkhole ‘may have been caused by building homes on former clay pit’ and Sinkhole latest: Landlord defends decision to build Hemel Hempstead homes on former clay pit. The later reference included the following
A life-long Hemel Hempstead householder has fuelled speculation that the sinkhole near his home may have been caused by building on former clay pits and chalk mines. Noel Swinford, 78, said they lined Wood Lane End between its junction with Briery Way, where he now lives, and Maylands Avenue. He said he used to play in them as a child. He said: “There must have been 50 or 60 of them holes along that road and them houses should never have been built there. “There were also big mines underneath there, where they mined the chalk. “I have lived here all my life, for 79 years nearly, and used to play in that area when I was a kid. I remember seeing trucks of chalk being taken out of the mines – that would have been in the late 1940s. “It was not an operational brickworks then – it was just used for taking out chalk.”

Another hole, 14 metres deep, appeared in nearby High Street Green in May this year and current estimated suggest that the road may be closed for about 5 months - Sinkhole in Hemel Hempstead may leave road shut for another two monthThe new hole is in the road north of the Saracen's Head on the 1897 OS map, while Oatridge Gardens is in the area of the brickworks shown to the east of the Saracens Head. The depth of the hole suggest that, like some of the other collapses, the problem could be due to a very deep well or a shaft into a chalk mine.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dan Hill's Talk on the Hertfordshire Regiment



Last night Dan Hill, of the Herts at War group gave a most informative talk on the role of the Hertfordshire Regiment in the First World War. In particular he gave a detailed analysis of the events at St Julien on 31st July 1917, during the battle at Passchendaele. After the unsuccessful attempt to break through the German lines every officer, and 75% of the men were dead, wounded or missing. He also spoke about the erection of a war memorial on the battle field on the 100 year anniversary of the battle.

His talk ended with a very interesting film of the Hertfordshire Regiment in camp in October 1917.

It should be noted that the Herts at War group plan further talks on the First World War and details will be posted on their web site, if you are note already on their email list.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Vanity publishing by the Truman Press and relatives, of St Albans

Hertfordshire Leaders by Ernest Gaskell
Some years ago I posted information on the book "Hertfordshire Leaders" supposedly by Ernest Gaskell. In fact it was one of a very large number of vanity publications produced by Truman Press and his relatives, often under pen names. Other similar books relating to Hertfordshire were "Hertfordshire Men of Mark" and "Hertfordshire Country Homes."

The way of working was briefly summed up in the St Albans paper, The Clock Tower, in 1896:-

It appears that Truman is now engaged in an effort to induce all the fools in Surrey to pay him sums of nine or twelve guineas for the privilege of having their biographies and portrait inserted in a book which he is publishing by subscription. This is a trick on which Truman and Manning Press have been engaged for years, and as long as they can find idiots enough to keep the game going, no one can blame them for working it for all it is worth.

Helped by Linda Smith I have traced down a large number of similar books under the names of Truman Press, Manning Press, Ernest Gaskell and Allan North, covering most of the country. Because the number of copies published was very small, and the books were bound in a way that means the pages tend to fall out, the number of surviving copies is low, and I am always looking out for new titles to add to the list. I was there delighted to see that a copy of Hampshire Leaders is currently advertised on ebay. The binding is virtually identical to the Hertfordshire volume - even to the point of the edge-gummed leaved coming loose!

If you look at the contents of the Hertfordshire books and find that they include the biography of someone you are interested in let me know by commenting below and I will see if I can post the biography and portrait photograph (if there is one) online.

If you know of any other books by the Press gang which I have not mentioned - let me know so that I can add it to the list.

The Rothschilds and the RAF Connection


Halton House - The Seat of Alfred Charles de Rothschild
In the 19th century the Rothschild family family settled in the Vale of Aylesbury - extending into Hertfordshire in the Tring area. One of their slpendid houses, built by Alfred Charles de Rothschild was at Halton, just over the county boundary into Buckinghamshire.

When the First World War broke out Alfred made his couse and grounds available to the army. The initial army camp was used to train soldiers in Kitchiner's new army, but soon became a base for what was to become the Royal Air Force.

There will be an open days on Sunday 10th September between 10 am and 4 pm. Halton House (now the Officers Mess, RAF Halton)  will be open  providing a rare opportunity to see the interior of Halton House, built by Alfred de Rothschild in 1883, a lasting reminder of Victorian decorative taste.In addition a  shuttle bus will run between Halton House, the Trenchard Museum, (where more can be learnt about the history of the RAF Station and RAF’s Apprentice Scheme), and the James McCudden Flight Heritage Centre.  Transport will be provided between Halton House and the reconstructed First World War trenches.


Further details about the house can be found at http://www.haltonhouse.org.uk 


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

German POW at Hemel Hempstead & a link with Florence Nightingale

Cemmaes Court in 1897
In my book, The London Gunners come to Town I mentioned that after the war Cemmaes Court had been used to house German prisoners of war.

I have now had a request for a picture of the house and decided to find out more about it and who lived there.

It appears to have been built as a retirement home for Dr James Vaughan Hughes - who had been Surgeon Major in the Crimean War - and not only treated Florence Nightingale when she was ill, but was nursed by her when he was ill.

The information I have on Cemmaes Court has been posted at
If you can add anything about the history of the house, and particularly if you can provide a photograph of it I will be very grateful.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

More information on the Parish of Ardeley (Yardeley)

Ardeley Village Green
As part of my archive policy I have upgraded the pages on the village of 
including new post card images and higher resolution pictures (if you click om the smaller image.)

I have updated the information on the booklet describing the history of the parish school and included a list of the vicars and school masters. A new page has been added about the Old Bell and the New Bell inns, and the Ardely Bury page has been extended.
St Lawrence, Ardeley
In theory (if the computer keeps working) I plan to upgrade all the village pages (the bigger towns are more of a challenge) and if you would like me to include the village where your ancestors came from why not let me know and it can be moved up the "To Do" queue.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

What do you think happened when a Magistrate assaulted a passerby on a footpath in 1846?

In early Victorian times the punishments were often severe and one can imagine what would happen if a gang of people assaulted a rich local magistrate and his friends on a public footpath. The police would be quickly involved and the miscreants would find themselves in the dock at the next magistrates court - and they could well find themselves in prison for a long stay.
However on the 23rd July 1846 a group of  local people were walking along a public footpath between Walkern and Ardeley minding their own business when they were set on by Sir Robert Murray, J.P., and two of Sir Robert's staff. 
Were the police involved - of course not.They were unlikely to arrest a powerful local magistrate and parade him before the criminal court. However the events were not forgotten by the victims and led to a number of cases appearing in the civil courts.

Start of exceptionally detailed report published in the Herts Mercury on 17th July, 1847
When the case appeared in court it was not held before a normal jury but instead a Special Jury of rich Hertfordshire gentlemen was called. After all you couldn't have a baronet and magistrate appearing before a common jury as it was important that such an important person should be judged by his "equals." In the above case the jury heard the evidence - and as the evidence for the assault was very clear they really had no option but to find for the victim. To prove that they were acting "fairly" to both sides they then awarded damages of one farthing (then the smallest coin and equal to 1/960th of £1) against Sir Robert Murray.

Originally I had planned a detail write-up of this case and I discovered my outline notes while preparing my web site for eventual archiving. While I do not have time to write a detail report I have added outline details from my draft on the web page for Sir Robert's House -