Saturday, June 30, 2012

Radwell Mill, near Baldock

I have just posted a further post card (with larger image available) of Radwell Mill, near Baldock, on the Radwell page. The card was posted in 1905 and may predate the decision to create Letchworth Garden City.

Gaddesden Place before the Fire

In 1905 there was a very big fire at Gaddesden Place, Great Gaddesden, and various pictures of the fire and the ruins are relatively common, and I have posted a number in the past. I have now added to the Great Gaddesden page a further picture (with larger image) showing the house before the fire. It is a post card published by Waite, of the Post Office, Water End, Great Gaddesden.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I don't always get things right!

Almost a year ago Steve asked me about a painting of General Cornelius CUYLER, Danesbury, Welwyn, 1799-1819 and in the subsequent discussion I speculated on the reason that one of his daughters, Harriet Fanny Cuyler was buried in the tomb of the rector of Welwyn ...

Now Leslie has sent me some very interesting extra information about Harriet, which shows that she was became head nurse for Lord Melbourne at nearby Brocket Hall so I decided to look into the history a bit further and found that there was a perfectly ordinary explanation for Harriet being buried with Samuel Jahnes Knight. She was buried with her sister - who was Samuel's wife!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The First Tring Steeple Chase in 1844

The coming of the railway to Tring in 1837 made it possible for people of a sporting inclination to travel from London for the day. In 1844 this led to the first Tring steeple chase to be held and a very lengthy report appeared in the Sunday Times. This includes a detailed description of the difficult cross country course, the horses involved and how they tackled the main obstacles, followed by the result.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Some more short news items (June 2012)

Child Labour ... I was intrigued that the web site Origins has the text of the 1842 Children's Employment Commission Report online. This includes interviews of employers and children from factories from all over the country (but not Hertfordshire which was not heavily industrialized, although at this date there were some Silk Mills) and the stories make interesting reading as first hand accounts of everyday life in the early Victorian factories. I first came across this report some 50 years ago when I was researching my wife's Phipson ancestors in Birmingham, and discovered something of the conditions in their pin-making factory. 

Some Buckinghamshire Pages ... When I have a few spare minutes I am adding short pages on the Buckinghamshire parishes adjacent to the Hertfordshire boundary or the Wendover and Aylesbury arms of the Grand Union Canal. I have now added pages for Aylesbury, Bierton and Chenies

Nettleton Concert ... A comment on the earlier posting has provided more information about George Gaffe.

Valentine Cards - Andy has provided some numbers on early photographs and these have been added into the list of numbers and dates.

Inns of Court, World War One, Berkhamsted ... In reply to a query on the Rootsweb Forum I posted links to the relevant information on this web site.

Doodlebugs over Broxbourne ... In January 2011 I mentioned that Gavin wanted to know whether his ancestor's house had been hit during the second world war. Sarah has now emailed to say the house survived and she has a picture taken in about 1990.

The Mayor of Stratford upon Avon ... Anthony has pointed out that R. Latimer Greene was Mayor of Stratford upon Avon 1891-4 -and I have altered the Wells Pavilion Theatre  Company page appropriately.

Inappropriate Comments ...  While I always appreciate comments from people who visit my site and say how useful it is I am always on the look out for a scam. I have just had a friendly comment on The Flowers our Farming Ancestors Saw which ended with an invitation to visit the poster's farming web site. Could be genuine but I don't permit any links in comments unless I have checked them out as genuine, as I don't want readers of this newsletter to be exposed to possibly dubious web sites. Checking out the site's URL showed that it was a very new site where no name and address of the owner was given on the URL register! - and while at a quick glance the site looked genuine there was no contact information - just pages of text with lots of adverts, and no sensible linking editorial to state what the site was trying to do. A slightly deeper look and the site's selection of material didn't even make good farming sense - and a sample check showed that the pages were simply ripped off other web sites. The comment has now been deleted as spam.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"The Era" helps track a Portable Theatre

In 2008 Lynn asked about Wells Pavilion Theatre Company  and while I was able to make a few comments about the visits of this portable theatre into Hertfordshire it is always difficult to follow the movements of people whose movements take them from place to place. Then yesterday Neil contacted me about the pictures with the original posting and after replying to him I suddenly had a bright idea.

Now that the British Newspaper Archive is online (although far from complete) there might be records of the theatre visiting various towns. So I had a look - and was unsuccessful in locating any newspaper reviews of performances. On the other hand a weekly newspaper called The Era proved very helpful. This paper was first published in 1838 and was supported by publicans - who had an interest in people drinking while being entertained by music hall and similar performances. While it did not report on the performances of the Wells Pavilion Theatre Company it carried large numbers of advertisement for actors, etc.

As a result I found situations vacant adverts for actors and musicians to work at Wells Portable Theatre with various contact addresses between 1880 and 1896. It is not know when the theatre first came to Hertfordshire, but it was at Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, in 1881 and later turned up in St Albans, Hoddesdon, Ware, and Waltham Cross between 1886 and 1888. In the following years it gave shows in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Warwockshire. As a result I have updated the time line table I first drew up in 2008.

Herts Mind Network Honours

I am sure that all of you who have made donations to this site's chosen charity, The Herts Mind Network, will join with me in congratulating their Chief Executive, Julie Nicholson, who was awarded an MBE in the Queen's Honours List for her services for mental health. Julie was the second employee to join what was then called Mind in Dacorum, when I was on the committee about 20 years ago. She not only proved to be extremely successful at organising a befriending service, but turned out to be a very good manager. It is thanks to her hard work that the Herts Mind Network now plays a very important role in the voluntary sector's contribution in the county by promoting a positive approach to mental health and assisting the recovery of affected individuals. 
We are now virtually half way through the year and so far have reached only raised £460 towards a full year total of £1200 , so it is not too late to say "thank you" to Julie by making certain we reach the £600 half way mark by the end of June.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What are we waiting for??? (Off Topic)

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People
And why am I wearing
 a suit for the first 
time in years?

These dogs wait quietly at the feet of their owners 

And can that really be me wearing a suit and tie?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Dating VULCAN post cards of Hertfordshire

If you are writing up your family history old post cards can be a useful source of information. Vulcan post cards have the advantage that they can be dated reasonably accurately - see The VULCAN Series of Post Cards.  Cards with the above back were published from about 1920, and possibly not after about 1930 and are typically of small villages, where not many different cards were published. In many cases the "Published by" line refers to the Post Office (often included in the picture) or a similar village store.
Kimpton Post Offfice

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ephemera: How much is that old receipt worth?

The following two receipts recently appeared for sale on ebay - the wording under each is the title on the adverts - retaining the listing errors.



The auctions opened at £0.99 for each item, and proxy bids were placed. Two bids were placed on the Norman advert, and there were three bidders for the Reynolds advert.

How much do you think they are worth?

Vaisey & Turners (solicitors) records for Tring

Tring Solicitors Records ... Many important historically important documents come from solicitor's offices. Some time ago the Tring Local History & Museum Society discovered there a trunk of documents, which had come from the Tring solicitors Vaisey & Turner, were now with the Aylesbury Solicitors Wilkins. It appears that the documents were later passed to the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies, and they passed documents relating to the manor of Tring to HALS. They are not yet in the online catalogue but a draft list of the documents has been produced and as our first house in Tring was in Henry Street I was interested to see the following entries which suggest a possible date for the house.
Thomas Smith Cowell to James Ball of land in Henry Street, Tring (May 1858)
Thomas Smith Cowell to William Crawley of three cottages and land in Henry Street, Tring (May 1858)
These are among the earliest documents in the collection - most being later in the 19th century. The  records refer to many hundred names and properties. When I have time I will provide more information on the Tring pages - but ask me if you have a particular interest.

I am sure that other documents, dealing with the Buckinghamshire side of the boundary, and probably some cross-boundary matters, are in the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies, but are not yet indexed in the Access to Archives data base

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chipperfield - Village web site

Thanks to Russ I now know that since I last updated the Chipperfield page on this site an excellent Chipperfield Village Web Site has become available, which includes some history information. 
Tower Hill, Chipperfield

If you know of any village sites which contain historical information which are not mentioned on this site please let me know.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Conservative Party event, St Albans, 1910

The complete program describes an event held by the Primrose League and the Conservative & Unionist Associations at St Albans in 1910.  A large number of personal names are mentioned and if your relatives are among them they probably supported the Conservative party.
Surnames mentioned: Abbott, Andrews, Ashdown, Beal, Boys, Briscoe, Buttenshaw, Clark, Clarke, Cliff, Collier, Cubitt, Dangerfield, Dean, Dickinson, Dickson, Dixon, Dodd, Dunham, Dunning, Faulkner, Finn, Ford, Freeman, Garner, Giffen, Gow, Gray, Hill, Hine, Hosier, Howard, Hunt, Hunter, Lindley, Litchfield, Marshall, Maygrove, McCowan, Mitchell, Newell, Nicoll, Nott, Phillips, Popplewell, Prichard, Prime, Randall, Reynolds, Richardson, Rolph, Salisbury, Sargent, Saunders, Scott, Sharp, Symons, Watts, Webdale, Whitby, Williams, Winch, Wright, Young

Ephemera - Mr Nettleton's Concert, St Albans, 1883

If you are going through boxes of old family papers you will sometimes find ephemera - i.e. documents which would normally have ended up in the waste paper basket. It is worth wondering why they have survived - as to be in the box one of your ancestors must have thought they were worth keeping.

In this case three names are mentioned, George Nettleton, George Gaffe, and William Cartmel. But who were the instrumentalists, and if the concert was reported in the local newspaper it might have listed the people involved, including some to the leading citizens who attended. Maybe one of your ancestors was involved.

So if you find a very old document that you don't understand I suggest that you try and work out why it was kept in the first place - and you might discover some new information for your family history.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

St Michael's Church, St Albans

During the Victorian period many of the box pews in the churches were removed and this picture shows the interior of St Michael's Church, St Albans, circa 1850 - before the restorations. (A high resolution copy of this engraving is available on the main site).

Hertfordshire People - June 2012

For those of you who have not yet joined the Hertfordshire Family History Society I will briefly summarize what you are missing - by listing the main articles:

  • My Pallet Family (connections with Cheshunt)
  • Theatrical Goings-on in Cottered and Ardeley
  • The Churchyard of the Abbey Parish of St Albans
  • Introduction to St Mary's Rickmansworth
  • Royal Hertfordshire
  • Port Vale Chapel, Hertford (Book review of Enclosed by Grace ,Records of the Church meeting at Port Vale Chapel, Hertford)
  • The St Albans Pub Data Base
  • Reports on Main Meetings ( London by Dickens, Seen through their eyes - How did things appear to our ancestors, What happened to Lucy - records for tracing adoptees, foundlins and Empire children)
  • Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee
  • A Hertfordshire Heraldic Miscellany - The Armorial Bookstamp of James Walter Grimston, 1st Earl of Verulam
If you want to know more about any of the above why not join the society - and if you live in or near Hertfordshire the next meetings, at Woolmer Green Village Hall are:
  • June 30: Weird & Wonderful Weddings
  • July 28: Counting the People - How the Census was taken.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Short reports on recent activities

The Message is in Semaphore ... Andy has kindly translated the message and I have updated the entry on the Hidden Messages page. 

More Numbered Valentine Post Cards ... Andy has kindly provided me with a list of Valentine post cards of St Albans - with the pictures taken between 1888 and 1930 (details now on Valentine Page). This all helps to build up a picture of when different groups of Hertfordshire cards were photographed - and the routes the photographers took. In some cases this could help date the post cards were numbers were omitted or are unreadable. I am always happy to have details of the card title, the number and if available the date posted.

Queries need to be related to Hertfordshire ... but is is often hard to know where to drawn the line. Bob's recent query about James Leonard is a case in point. There is no doubt that James married Wilhelmina Gladys Degerlund, of St George in the East, London, by licence at St Peter's Church, St Albans, on the 1st October, 1914. Shortly before this their daughter had been registered in Lambeth as Gladys M Degerlund and it would seem that Wilhelmina specifically came to St Albans to be married.  James (who also came from St George in the East) was described on the marriage certificate as a stock exchange clerk (so normally working in London) of Cunnynhume [sic] Hill Road, St Albans, and the family accounts are that he shortly went overseas in the army. This would all fit with him being in the Territorial Force (as it was then called) with the 2nd London Division. This Division mobilized when war was declared in August 1914 and  moved to war stations in the St Albans area, with most units going overseas in March 1915. A search (helped by Anthony) showed there were war records for James Leonard from St George in the East which seemed to fit - except that he was in the 1st London Division. Subsequent research show this was a case of Right Name, Wrong Body. As there is very little chance of any billeting or other records surviving which link James with St Albans, and further research involves looking for "missing" military records and trying to be certain we have the right James in London. The case, however interesting, is no longer relevant to Hertfordshire and I cannot afford the time to take this further - although some of you might like to help Bob. When I have time I will update the page about James with the evidence to show we had the wrong one.

Found in a box of golf markers ... John, from Indonesia, recently acquired a box of golf makers one of which turned out to be silver. He googled to try and find out more and ended up on the page Ryder & Son, St Albans - so he now knows his unusual "golf marker" was a gardening award - from the same Samuel Ryder who foundered the Ryder Cup. It is alway interesting to know what people were looking for when they end up on my site.

The East India College, Haileybury ... I have already got a lot of information about the school at Haileybury which was founded in 1862, including pictures and biographical details of pupils and teachers, 1867-1871. However the buildings, which are at Great Amwell, had been the East India College, and I had very little information about the early days. This has now changed as I have just acquired a battered copy of Memorials of Old Haileybury College, published in 1894. I haven't yet had time to look at it detail (it is 668 pages long) - and it may be a little time before I can do it justice with a dedicated page. However includes a list of former students between 1806 and 1857 (who will almost all gone on to work in India) and if your ancestor was at the college in this period I may be able to provide details.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dating Raphael Tuck Post Cards

West Street, Ware

Andy has pointed out that Raphael Tuck now have a database of old postcards. It is at and has dates and images for many of Tuck's cards, including those of Hertfordshire.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Post Card with a coded message

This card (which shows Apsley Church on the other side) was posted in Hammersmith on 30th April 1906 to Miss Evelyn R Allen (born 1892) of 74 Elm Grove Road, Barnes, S.W.

Can anyone break the code?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why this Web Site is free

A recent correspondent ended his email to me with the words: At one point I was able to search [my ancestor] out on the Internet for free, that is no longer an easy thing to do anymore and being on a tight pension, I cannot afford to hire people to do the digging for me. I sent one fellow 80 dollars at one point and got little in return. 

See my response ...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

James Leonard - What army unit was he in?

After the First World War started in August 1914 James Leonard apparently came to St Albans for training and in October was joined by his very pregnant girlfriend and they married a few days after the birth of the child. It is almost certain that he was in the 2nd London Division (Territorial Force) and went to France in March 1915. I have suggested to Bob, who wrote from Canada, several places where additional information about his unit might be obtained. See James LEONARD or LENNARD, St Albans, 1914/5

Subsequent emails have provided more information about James and his first wife - and it would seem that James was almost certainly in the 4th City of London Fusiliers Battalion - in the 1st London Division - and so would not have been posted to St Albans. He may only have come to St Albans to marry Wilhemina Degerlund (whose father came from Finland).

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dating Valentine Post Cards

Large Image
I recently purchased a post card of Hatfield House which was photographed in 1886. And how do I know? The card was published by Valentine & Sons, Dundee, and was numbered 6470 - the number being the negative number.  St Andrews University have a major post card archive, and have produced a list relating the post card number and the date the negative was taken.

I am building a list of numbered Hertfordshire post cards and if you know of other numbered Valentine cards I would love to add details to my list.
I have now (February 2013) set up an illustrated list of the Valentine cards I have of Hemel Hempstead, with higher resolution images of the cards and also information on their backs as part of some research to get a better understanding of what the publisher was doing at what dates.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Horse & Trap at Watford?

More Details
This interesting photograph shows a horse and trap, with the driver in some kind of livery?. It was taken by a minor photographer, W. H. Croft, who worked at Berkhamsted and Watford.
I suspect that there is not enough evidence to identify the driver or the location but perhaps you have other ideas.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Latest News from the Genealogy Front

For health reasons I need to keep my stress levels down, and while running this site is meant to be a way of relaxing, it can take over - and hence become stressful. Taking a break over the Jubilee Celebration Weekend has helped, and thanks to all of you who sent me encouraging messages.  However progress on getting my library/office straight has been slow and must remain a priority - but can become stressful if I try to rush at it. For this reason posts may be a bit erratic during June, and you may get more recent photographs from the Tring area (with larger images on Geograph) and more old post cards, etc. with minimal support text. There will be less in-depth analysis, and the backlog of outstanding issues will be handled at a comfortable pace. 

Some recent correspondence ...

A supporter of this site wrote: I hope you can take some time out to relax a little and, first and foremost, enjoy this weekend. I am a relative newcomer to your website and it has been of immense assistance to me. I have made a contribution to your charity, anonymously. For reasons which do not matter, I have a close personal affinity with it. Another wrote: I'd like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this site. I really hope to see the same high-grade blog posts by you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own, personal website now. Such messages are always appreciated - especially when I am feeling stressed and become depressed.

Some time ago Bob drew my attention to the book Memories of a Whitwell Woman - How We Lived in Whitwell from 1911 and during the 1914-18 War by Jessie Peacock Sansom. (see Whitwell page). He now writes to say she died in 2005 aged 103 and wonders what happened to the originals of her photos? When old people die, unfortunately, only too often do their precious photos get trashed, burnt etc. how many times have I come across this. Her historic photos of Whitwell from her book can be scanned, but they have come out rather not the best. Bob notes that a copy of the book is available for sale online at an outrageous price and suggests Her book should be made available online. Who knows who and where she might still be of help to far flung descendants like she was to me. I am quite sure that she has no descendants interested in maintaining copyright. - [Now, with people living so long, valuable historical documents can be lost or dispersed by being sold by dealers on ebay when the owner develops Alzheimer's and have to be moved into a home, and their house and contents sold to pay the nursing home bills.]

Jacob Reynolds
Last December I reported on the British Newspaper Archive and published an initial assessment, which included a mention of my Great Grandfather, Jacob Reynolds, and the link with J. B. Lawes of Rothamsted, Harpenden. As a member of the Hertfordshire Library Service I can now download pages from the Archive for free and in May I carried out a detailed search for advertisements linking the Finch family of Swaffham (Jacob's uncles) with sales of Lawes' superphosphate fertilizer. It was clear that I needed to visit the Rothamsted Research Library but before I could draft a letter requesting access I got a query from John in which he said: I am an ex-employee of Rothamsted but still spend much of my time here, mainly digging into the archives. With a colleague I am transcribing Lawes diaries (dating from 1847), in which the name 'Finch' appears quite frequently. We are fairly confident that this was Henry Young Finch because he died in January 1858 (Lawes attended the funeral). The name Finch reappears subsequently but at the moment we have no idea who that was. We are increasingly puzzled by the professional relationship between H. Y. Finch and J. B. Lawes, and would like to know more about that between HYF and the Finches in Swaffham. Needless to say there has been an excited exchange of correspondence and I hope to visit Rothamsted in the near future to see the diary and discuss related matters. Watch this space ...

I had two queries about comparatively modern events which are not really covered by this site and in both cases I was only able to give very general advice. Margaret wanted to know about the burial of her grandmother who died in Napsbury Mental Hospital in 1959 (see also The Long Stay Mental Hospitals of the St Albans Area) and any relevant records may still be with the National Health Service. Sylvia wanted to know about her mother, who went to school in Hertfordshire in the 1950s, and all I could do was to suggest she approaches Hertfordshire County Council about relevant school and social service records which would not be open to the general public.

Following the query about Buntingford Pictures lost in Fire, Keith has sent me a more recent picture to augment the one he sent with the earlier query Mystery Photo, Letchworth, circa 1910.

Philip writes: There has been a recent development at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS). A project has been financed by a National Cataloguing Grant administered by The National Archives (TNA). This enabled them to employ an extra member of staff to work solely on 125 uncatalogued boxes in the Hawkins (solicitors of Hitchin) collection. The result is that after several years, a large holding of material can now be accessed. (On 16 October at HALS, Gavin Henderson is to deliver a lecture on 'Hawkins, lawyers of Hitchin'.) He continues: I am not sure who has been the more frustrated about the situation hitherto - the archivist who has material that cannot be produced to the public, or the researcher who would love to get their hands on uncatalogued documents. I have been advised that opportunities to acquire extra funding for projects as large as Hawkins do not come along very often as there is such stiff competition for limited funds and that sadly with only a limited number of professional staff at HALS this work can be very slow and makes almost impossible the task of tackling a collection as large as Hawkins. During a recent visit to HALS, one couldn't help but notice that there were two new large collections of papers handed in to staff.

I am not immune from errors and Robert kindly pointed out that on the recent post Some Quickie Answers ... I had mistyped called someone John Walker when it should have been John Wheeler. Diane also picked me up for typing the wrong century when posting about a complex situation in NORRIS, Berkhamsted and Northchurch, 18th Century. Definitely a sign I was trying too hard and needed a break.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Flowers our Farming Ancestors Saw

Summer Flowers on the Marsh Islands at College Lake
The countryside has changed over the years with the coming of modern farming methods including the use of insecticides, and in the past the fields would have been a mass of colour  from the wild flowers growing in the meadows and as weeds in the arable fields. The College Lake Nature Reserve, near Tring, Herts, but actually in the parish of Marsworth, Bucks,  supports a very wide range of habitats, and I often go there when I want to take a relaxing walk in the countryside, with the possibility of a cup of coffee and a cake in the Visitor Centre afterwards. 

One of the features of the reserve is the Cornfield Flowers Project, where fields are cultivated in the old fashioned way and the wild flowers that used to grow in the wheat fields of the area are protected and encouraged. A few days ago I visited this years plot and saw the following flowers - and there were probably many more species I didn't spot.
Over the last four years I have taken many photographs of the countryside around Tring, including of College Lake. The earlier ones are already posted on the Geograph web site, and I am now catching up with some of the more recent views, including many more of College Lake. [List of my latest additions to Geograph.]

Boxing Wood Pigeons

My garden is kept in a way to encourage wild life and I often pause in what I am doing to watch the birds out of the window. Recently I acquired a new ground feeder and was amusing to see two wood pigeons glaring at each other from the opposite sides of the tray. Sometimes one bird actually appeared to hit the other with its wing, although not in this short film. I thought some of you might enjoy it!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

After Lighting the Jubilee Beacon at Tring

 Tring celebrated the Jubilee with an event in St Peter & St Paul's church, with the highlight being the lighting of a beacon on the church tower. Afterward everyone trooped back into the church to see the tribute to the Queen on a large TV screen.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Gardens at Ashridge House

 As part of my plans to have a short break over the Jubilee period I went with the Tring U3A Gardening Group to see the historic gardens at Ashridge House which are currently being restored. 
 taken by Chris Reynolds on Geograph
Italianate Garden
Terrace Garden
Wellingtonia Avenue
The Lawns
I have now posted over 30 pictures of these historically important gardens on Geograph, some taken this year and some taken on a visit at the end of May three years ago. I have also added three pictures of the excavations which are uncovering the remains of the medieval church that stood on the site.