Friday, August 31, 2012

August Bits & Pieces

Some quickie items that have not justified a full blog post on this Newsletter:

I didn't Flog It at Ashridge

Paul Martin examining an antique at Ashridge
Having posted details of Flog It coming to Ashridge I had to go and take something interesting to be valued. I arrived at Ashridge shortly after ten and took a seat at the back of the library and for the next five and a half hours played a kind of musical chairs in that every time the person at the head of the queue was seen by a valuer everyone moved along a chair. In fact it was all quite civilized and it was possible to get up and stretch ones legs and get a cup of coffee and a cake - which is when I took the above picture of Paul Martin doing an interview sitting at the bottom of the stairs.

Chalk Hill Rifle Range, Sandridge, First World War

Bill is researching First World War rifle ranges - and has discovered that there were regulations relating to a Hertfordshire range called Chalk Hill. But where was it?

Location of Range on Hammonds Farm

Such questions can be difficult to answer - for instance I am still trying to locate Briton's Camp at St Albans - but in this case Bill was in luck - as there are two mentions of it in my book, The London Gunners come to Town which clearly indicates that there were two ranges available to the 2nd London Division (Territorial Force) when they were based in St Albans in 1914/5. 

While the original records do not specify the exact location there was a rifle range on part of Hammonds Farm, Sandridge and I have presented the evidence that this was almost certainly the right one in Chalk Hill Rifle Range, Sandridge, First World War.

In fact the range is of specific interest to me as Hammonds Farm has been farmed by my ancestors (with one break) between 1803 and 1939. and this picture of me (aged six months) was taken less than half a mile from the range!.

Bill and I have now exchanged notes - and found more evidence about the rifle range. It would seem that the wood was planted to screen the range and it was used by the 8th Battalion Sherwood Foresters in October 1914. It would seem to have been used until the 1950s.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

LANE, Freemasons of Berkhamsted

John Edward Lane

Michael's ancestor, John Edward Lane,  was the Worshipful Master of the Berkhamsted Lodge and he wrote to ask where he could obtain a copy of the booklet Berkhampstead Lodge 504 which was published in 1945 to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the Lodge.

I have posted a picture of J E Lane, a family tree, and notes on the Lane family on LANE (Freemasons), Berkhamsted, 1845-1922. I also explain how difficult it might be to get a personal copy of this item, suggesting he contacts the current Hertfordshire Lodge. The query raises issues about the accessibility of rare books, etc., mentioned on my web site and I will be reporting on this early in September.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Paralympics Flame in Tring

George Hedges leads off as the first torch bearer in Tring
Yesterday evening the flame started its final journey at Stoke Mandeville - where the idea of the paralympics started - and the torch was due at Tring about three hours later. So I went down the town last night to see the flame carried through the town shortly after 11pm - and this picture was taken where the Tring part of the walk eventually started at Donkey Lane, immediately after it had been lit, at about 5 minutes past 1am this morning.
Later News
For a report by a couple of runners through Tring see Shoreham couple overwhelmed by Paralympic Torch relay crowds. The flame was carried through Tring by a number of torchbearers.

B.T.W. Robert Winter of Tring carried the Olympic Flame at Stoke Mandeville on July 9 and his torch will be on display for a while in the Tring Local History Museum, starting in Mid September.

Locating Photographs of your Ancestor's Home (High Street, Watford, example)

Bryan has written asking if I could tell him where he might find any pictures of 173-175 High Street, Watford, which, unfortunately, is away from the much photographed market area of the High Street - where many post cards and other photographs exist.

Pictures of building in the main streets of are more likely to turn up in photographs that those in rural situations - but if all you have is the number it is sometimes difficult to know which frontage is which. In this case the buildings were demolished when the ring road round the town centre was built, and my answer shows how I went about trying to find a picture - and how I tackled it might give you some clues as to how you might tackle a similar problem.

The long building running back from the road is
177-179 High Street, Watford.
From the resources in my own library I found two "pictures" - A picture of the shop at 177-179 includes a couple of feet of 175 - which at least establishes that the frontage is set back a foot or so compared with its neighbour. The other was an air view where 177-179 can be clearly be seen, and the adjoining roofs, and associated rear yard, must belong to 173-5.

Having got this information the next stage would be for Bryan to visit the Watford Central Library (which has much more information that I have at my finger-tips) using the information I have collected to help know what to look for.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Relaxing Sunday Lunch - and plans for September

A relaxing day yesterday with members of the family. We arranged to meet at the Duke of Cumberland, Henley, Sussex, for a traditional Sunday lunch. You need to book in advance as they cook a generously sized beef on the bone joint for each party and you carve it yourself. It was a most enjoyable meal, in pleasant rural surroundings.and I can highly recommend it.

A month ago I warned that I might spend more time watching the Olympics and other activities and would have less time to spend on this site.  Well I enjoyed the Games and still managed to spend quite a bit of time (too much!) on this web site and blog

 I am now looking forward to the Paralympics, which start for me late on Tuesday night as the flame leaves the Stoke Mandeville Stadium (where the idea of sports for the disabled originated) and passes near to where I live shortly before midnight on its way to the stadium for the opening on Wednesday evening. In the next few weeks I expect to have two minor operations in the local hospital - and we are also entertaining a visitor from Australia during September. This means that the combined office tidy and "clear the spare bedroom" campaign which I did not complete in August now takes a on a much higher priority. 

Over the last dozen years of so I have built up a useful reference collection of Hertfordshire material, much of which was brought on ebay - and initially was funded by selling of other material (such as the caving books which I had brought over 50 years ago). One side effect of the office tidy is that I have already assembled a pile of duplicate or unwanted books, post cards, etc. which are surplus to requirements, and there is an even bigger pile of material waiting the absorbed into the collection and/or reported on the web site. I have decided I can no longer afford to buy more material for my Hertfordshire reference collection until I raise some money selling off unwanted items and cleared some of the backlog. I have therefore restarted selling on ebay - under the name Chris_in_Hertfordshire - and items on sale will usually contain some items related to Hertfordshire.

What all this means is that there may be some gaps in posting to this blog, in updating this web site, and in replying to emails during September. However please continue to tell me of anything new - such as Hertfordshire related books, booklets, web sites, etc., as otherwise I might miss seeing them.

The Moderation of Comments on this Blog

If you run a blog all sorts of people visit it. Most do so because they are interested in the web site, and if they have something relevant to say their comments are encouraged - although in some cases the comment will be transferred to the relevant page of main site - with due acknowledgement. 

However there are a lot of people who prowl the web and visit blogs such as mine with a view to advancing their own agenda, and it is to protect people like you, who are reading this blog, that all comments on this site are moderated.

Old Family Photos can tell a story

About a month ago Barbara contacted me about a collection of old family pictures, many taken by J. T. Newman of Berkhamsted. She then sent me digitally copies of some of the photographs - including the backs where relevant. 

I have now sorted them out - and they provide some useful information relating to the the Piggott photographers, and also the formats of pictures taken by James Newman. The family pictures, with date information is on the Newman CDV & Newman Family pages.
This photograph of the Biggs family was dated to approximately 1905 when it was realized that the "Pollie" referred to on the backs of some of the photographs was Mary Biggs - "Polly" being a common nickname for "Mary". I then found the marriage to Alfred Bernhard Cooper - and the children (apart from the infant) were found in the 1901 Scotland census. A check with the Scotland births for the infant should tighten up the date more accurately. This not only fills in details of the family but also helps to date the type of mount J T Newman - which could make dating other photographs easier.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Parish Maps, etc., in 1851 - an essential resource

Try the 
They are hidden under the title England Jurisdictions 1851 and provide a google-based map of the country showing the parish and county boundaries. In addition you can click on a parish and get useful information. For instance for Hatfield it tells you:

Bishop's Hatfield is an Ancient Parish and a market town in the county of Hertfordshire. Totteridge is a chapelry of Bishop's Hatfield
Other places in the parish include: Woodside, Newgate Street and Roe Green
Parish records begin 1653, Bishop's transcripts 1603
Non-Church of England denominations identified in Bishop's Hatfield include Baptist, Independent / Congregational, Primitive Methodist and Wesleyan Methodist
ParishBishop's Hatfield
For each of the jurisictions it is possible to get an appropriate map
Civil Registration DistrictHatfield
Probate CourtCourt of the Archdeaconry of Huntingdon (Hitchin Division)
DiocesePost 1844 - Rochester, Pre 1845 -Lincoln
Rural DeaneryHertford
Poor Law UnionHatfield
In addition you can get details of contiguous parishes - or those within a given distance.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

U3A - An essential Resource for the retired family historian

The University of the Third Age has been in existence for some 30 years, and if you are retired don't know it, or of other "Learning in Retirement" organisations worldwide, you really should find out more about it. I have provided a list of the U3A groups in Hertfordshire which run family history (and sometimes local history) study groups. I expect most study groups are like the genealogy group we have in Tring, which meets monthly, and has occasional invited speakers and excursions - for instance to the National Archives, the local Records Offices (including the London Metropolitan Archives). Other meetings provide the opportunity for everyone to exchange notes on their own researches (which could involve families from anywhere, and not just local families) and there is a healthy mixture of experienced researchers and beginners. Most are researching their ancestors online and at every meeting someone reports on a new and useful web site that they have discovered. In addition there is nearly always someone who can give good advice to beginners. If you are old enough to join you really ought to be a member of your local group, wherever in the world you live. If you live in a Commonwealth country you are bound to meet up with people who have experience of researching ancestors from England.

Some U3A groups also have local history study groups - and reminiscence groups recording living people's memories of the past - which could be of interest. Some heritage study groups probably also include local history. ... And if there isn't a local group that covers your interests at present you might well be able to start one!

I have added a U3A link on the Key Web Sites page.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Panshanger, Hertingfordbury, near Hertford

Panshanger House, Hertford - posted 1905
I have posted the above post card on the Panshanger page, together with another showing the River Mimram at Panshanger - with higher resolution images available. If you would like to know more about Panshanger, tell me and I will add information about the house and some of the people who lived there

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Keeping up to date on the picture front

I have just had a reminder that none of us are getting younger -  my free bus pass is due for renewal - and I needed a new passport style photograph. I could do it online - as long as I could provide a suitable digital photograph. 

So this is the result of a do-it-yourself exercise. The plain background was simple - the walls of our wet room are white tiles from floor to ceiling - and the camera was happy focusing if I help it at arm's length pointing it back at my face. After several shots where I lost the top of my head I suddenly realized the trick. If I stood one particular spot I could see the back of the camera in the mirror on the opposite wall - so could check that my head was in an appropriate position before I pressed the shutter! A dozen quick shots and then choose the best ...O.K. I will never be body beautiful but this is a better likeness than the old one.

The Kings Head, Ware - and much, much more

This Document is "rather boring"
Oh No - it isn't

Legal documents can be difficult to read, and it is very easy to dismiss them, when they can contain a wealth of information. I saw an advertisement on ebay for "Copy draft conveyance of the Kings Head pub - Ware, Hertfordshire: Larger than A4 and on 8 sides.  Messrs Joseph Pollard and William Ransom to James Bullen and Samuel Porter the younger - 1879.  It was situate in Mill Lane.  The document is full of the usual legal terminology and rather boring." and I purchased it for £0.99 just to see what it said.

But it turned out that it was not just any old conveyance. The King's Head, Ware, had been owned by the Lucas family of brewers who had been brewing beer in Hitchin since 1709. As a result I have produced an annotated copy of the text, identifying the many people mentioned as a far as possible. Following up leads I track down a court case in Chancery over a will, and a long list of other public houses, mainly in Hertfordshire, which were owned by the Lucas family,

Read what I have written and you will never again assume that a legal document must be boring!

Another example of H V Leménager (of Watford) CDV

PermalinkStill hoping for a breakthrough on the dating for this Victorian photographer The latest carte de visite is almost identical to an earlier one, but the card is a different shade - and the back is printed in black. If you have any examples of his work which can be dated reasonably accurately please let me know.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Flog it at Ashridge House, near Berkhamsted

The BBC TV program "Flog It"- which values your antiques and then sells some of them off at auction - is coming to Ashridge on 31st August.

The Rhododendron Walk
circa 1930
In addition it has been announced that the plans to restore the gardens at Ashridge House are to include replanting the rhododendrons which line the Wellintonia Avenue, as original mass of different coloured varieties has been lost because of the vigorous growth from the rootstock. I have therefore added "new" old post card images of the gardens to the web site - all of which can be enlarged by clicking the displayed picture. (Even larger images are available on request). At the same time I have added a menu to the Ashridge Pages.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Do you have any quoysshions in your house? Perhaps your ancestor had some.

If you are lucky at least some your ancestors will have left a will - and an inventory of the furnishings of their house has been preserved. To illustrate the sort of information you may find, and the language it is written in, I have posted a detailed article, first published in the Home Counties Magazine of 1904. This describes the goods listed for Tannis, a fourteen bedroomed house in Aspenden, in 1569. Often the lists remind you that, for instance, some of the following would seem odd in a modern kitchen:
iii great beefe potts & ii lyttle brasse potts, iii greate pannes & iiii lyttle pannes, iii posnets, one great chaffer, a morter of brasse wth. a pestle of yron, one latten ladle, one scomer, a grate, ii grudyrons, ii dryppyng pannes. One olde chafyng dyshe, ii plate candlesticks, one stone morter, one payre of greate racks, viii spyttes, iii paier of pothooks and iii payer of pothangers. 
But of course the beef joint would be impaled on a spytte over the great open fire - with drypping pannes to catch the melted fat, while vegetables would be slowly cooking in the brasse potts hanging on pothooks from the pothangers, or boiling away in a greate pott on the grudyrons directly over the flames.

Of course most inventories, for instance for a small farmhouse, will have far fewer goods, perhaps not even the luxury of a quoysshion, but reading the article provides a fascinating peephole into the past, and what the insides of our ancestors houses must have been like.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Drowning Accident - William Williams of Cheshunt - obit 1782

A typical 18th centure

In silence here beneath a youth is laid
By whom the sports of nature were survey'd
With ravished breast o'er meads he did pursue
The started hare which o'er the landskip flew
By which pursuit his heart oprest with heat
Plung'd in the stream which nature thought so sweet
But now the stream a change to nature gave
And plung'd this youth deep in the silent grave.

An epitaph from Cheshunt recorded in Cream of Curiosity

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Churchwarden's Accounts (a Welwyn example)

When they survive the Churchwarden's account books can tell you a lot about what was happening in the village at the time, often mentioning many names.  I have posted details of 
which includes items such as
 "These are to certify to whom it may concerne that Ann Harper of the parish of Welwynne in Hertfordshire supposed to be troubled with the disease commonly called the King's Evil hath not (that we know of or ever heard) bin at any time touched by the King's Majesty to the intent to be healed of that disease. Witness our handes & seales this 23rd of March, 1683."
 Collected then for the church of St Alban's in Hertfordshire 16s from persons hereafter names to wit of Gabriel Towerson, Rector 5s, Dr. Luke Eales 5s, John Wilshire 6d, Robert Watkyns6d, Mrs. Vaughan 1s, Mrs. Hester Mead 6d, George Lavigton 6d, Jonathan Wacket 6d, Edw. Rhowgan 6d, Robert Gun 6d, John Twidal 6d, Mrs. Halsey 1s, Total (with 1s received afterwards) 17s. The whole paid by Mr. Halsey to Thomas Juice May 2, 1682.
There is also a much longer list of names of people who contributed to the fund raised to repair the church when the steeple fell down,
Have a look at what this one contains - and it is always worth checking to see what old account books survive for the parishes you are interested in.  You never know what will turn up! The only record I have for the birth of one of my ancestors is a payment made following the birth in an overseer's account book for the mother's "lying in month"

Welwyn gets a face lift

The pages for Welwyn have had a major face-lift to make it far easier to find relevant material. There is now an extensive menu - while the Welwyn home page has thumbnail picture links to the Church, the old Police station, the Great North Road, and Woolmer Green. There are also links to the more significant answers relating to Welwyn. One page on the floods of 1795 (which also affected other parts of Hertordshire) can now be found - when previously it had been "lost" among other pages.

The High Street, Welwyn, from an E. Ashby post card posted in 1905
A number of books about the town currently have skeleton reviews. If you come across any short reviews (and not just for Welwyn) why not ask me about the book - for instance "does it contain any information on ..." and I can usually provide a review which includes a mention of the topics that interest you.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Saw Family of Tring (19th Century)

Six years ago Nikki asked a question about the Saw family of TringAlan has now written to provide some more information about the family and mentions some to the activities over the county boundary into Buckinghamshire. 

Additional comments on answers (and elsewhere on the site) help to make it more useful and interesting for everyone. Have you made a contribution Yet?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Ruins of Minsden Chapel, near Hitchin

Usually if you ancestors were married in a church the building, although perhaps much changed, is still there. But if, for example, your ancestors were include George Lyle, who married Susanna Hanscombe in Minsden Chapel in 1737, or Enoch West, who married Mary Horn the following year, all you would find if you visited the spot are ruins. I have just posted a detailed account of the history of Minsden Chapel, (which was in the parish of Hitchin, but is now in the parish of Preston) which was published in 1913. 

The chapel has attracted the attention of poets and the article ends with a poem describing the ruins written in the early 19th century which begins.
No pomp of art, no jewelled shrine,
No tombs of gilded splendour shine
     In Minsden's lone remains,
Nor Parian marble's vivid glow,
Nor mimic works of art that show
    The sculptor's faultless pains.
An even earlier poem, written in 1750, sometimes applied to other ruined churches, such as the one at Thundridge, includes the lines:
Is this the place where numerous footsteps trod,
Where living votaries fill'd the house of God?
Where the full chorus of the sounding choir
Bade one loud strain of prayer and praise aspire?
How silent now the desolated spot,
Its paths untrodden and its use forgot!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tring Tiles - The Boyhood of Christ

14th Century Tiles from Tring Church
During 19th century restoration work on Tring Parish Church a number of 14th century tiles were found that tell the story of the childhood of Jesus (something the Bible forgot to say anything about). While the story they tell is known from contemporary manuscripts this Medieval "cartoon strip" seems to be unique, as no other tiles, made in the same way, are known to tell the tale. The tiles ended up in the British museum (apart from some fragments now in the Victoria & Albert Museum) where they are currently on display in Room 40 (Medieval Europe). For more pictures and the story of the tiles click here. Modern reproductions can be seen in Tring's Local History Museum.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Mayor of St Albans supports local Football Team

In the past I have posted photographs of a number of  football clubs from about 100 years ago - with requests for information about the clubs and/or the players.

Maureen has come up trumps in that she has identified the well dressed gentleman in the back row of a 1897-8 photograph of the Stanville Football Club. There can be little doubt that he is Thomas Oakley, the owner of a large provisions store in the centre of St Albans, who was Mayor of St Albans in 1897/8. To celebrate the discovery I have created a new page containing a short biography of Thomas Oakley - with links to a useful list of St Albans councillors.

However it would be nice to know the identity of the footballers themselves - and in fact there still a number of old photographs waiting for an identification in the Rogues Gallery.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Major update to Ware pages

Some of the larger towns and village pages are either in need of an restructure, or a restructure has been started and not finished. The problem is that over the last 11 years the amount of information on the site, and waiting to be added to the site has increased significantly, and the original idea of one page per place has proved impractical. Ware ended up with one main page, and one overflow page, plus a few other related pages - such as the one on the Great Bed of Ware.

St Mary's Church, Ware
If you visit the Ware pages you will find there is now a menu - and much more attractive front page - with a 1891 description of the town, and a series of thumb pictures which take you to other pages. The changes will take some time but the first stage will be to add more pictures and to re-scan all the old pictures - so all the post card images will be available in higher resolution simply by clicking on the picture. In addition an index of post card publishers is being built up so allow better dating.

So far the new page for St Mary's (the ancient parish church) is complete with new images and text, and there are new/updated images on some of the other pages. I will report on progress at intervals.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dr Thomas Marryat & A Happy Child from Barnet c1760

Caroline came up with a unusual question - relating to "A Happy Child" from Barnet who is mentioned in a spiritual song that was circulating in the United States and was first published in Boston, Massachusetts in 1767.

I investigate and find that a Presbyterian Minister, who was also a poet, left a chapel in Barnet in 1760 and went to America. He returned, initially to Ireland, in 1766 (the year before the song was published) and some years later his son married a lady from Boston, Massachusetts!

So he is a prime candidate for being the author - or is he???  I then find a broadside ballad entitled "A Children's Example" in a collection of English ballads, mainly from the 17th century, although some could be as late as 1790. Is it possible that Dr Thomas Marryat wrote the poem when he was at Barnet to frighten children to be good and God loving, had it printed, and then took a copy to America? Or perhaps it was a much older ballard with no connection with the rather eccentric doctor?

I don't know - so what do you think after reading the evidence at Thomas MARRYAT, Barnet, 1760 and "A Happy Child"

Friday, August 3, 2012

Edward Lear and the Old Person of Tring

I visited the Tring Local History Museum today, and noticed that, in addition to many local history booklets, their sales desk had some new post cards including one showing Edwards Lear's limerick about the Old Person of Tring.

So if you are in Tring on a Friday or Saturday why not have a look at this pleasant little museum, run entirely by volunteers.

J. T. Newman - an important Berkhamsted Photographer

Barbara contacted me about some old family photographs by James Thomas Newman, of his family and possible relatives, including some by a photographer called Piggott. I had been planning to update the Newman page for some time - and the revised page gives details of the relationship between Theophilus Piggott, a photographer of Leighton Buzzard, Beds, William Coles of Watford, and James Newman of Berkhamsted. Over the next few weeks (probably after the Olympics) I plan to provide many more examples of Newman's work - and would be very interested to hear from you if you know of examples of his early photographs, books and magazines which used his photographs, and post cards of events (including the Inns of Court Regiment when they were in Berkhamsted during the First World War).