Friday, November 30, 2012

News from the National Archives

If you are having problems with finding ancestors in the census see the National Archives Blog "Missing from the census".

In case you are interested the National Archives have just published their Records Collection Policy (pdf format). There is a lot of information relating to digital records.

Aylesbury, Bucks - Home of my Maternal Ancestors

From the Meadows surrounding Aylesbury can be obtained a pretty view of the town, which has been said to be the "model of what a county town should be." Houses clustered together in picturesque confusion, trees lifting their heads above the red tiled roofs, and prominent over all the short tower and spire of the parish church of St Mary's, all combining to form a pleasing picture of an English County Town.

Aylesbury is of particular interest because there are many contacts between the town and the Tring area of Hertfordshire. The Aylesbury Arm of the Grand Union Canal and the route of a railway line that served the town both run through Hertfordshire. In addition a number of my ancestors lived in Aylesbury.

I have added two new post card views and a link to Samuel Glendening Payne, an Aylesbury photographer who published a  number of post cards of North West Hertfordshire. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Resurrecting a Clothall Post Card

Some post cards are real photographic images and in some cases, as shown here, they have faded to a point where detail is hard to spot with the naked eye. Never despair - click here to see the restored image - and click on the restored image for an even bigger enlargement. (Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI was used to edit the picture.)

In addition I have reformatted the Clothall pages to make things more accessible.

Rural Relaxation: On the Common

Two moorhens in the foreground, and in the distance several shoveler ducks. On an earlier visit there was a heron on the bank by the reed bed, under the trees. But can you guess which Common I was on last Friday?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A very useful Domesday map site

I have just discovered the web site. You type in a place name and it will give you a copy of the original Domesday Book entry, an analysis of what it means, and a map of other Domesday locations in the area. Clicking on the name of a hundred  shows all the places in the hundred, while there are similar maps relating to land ownership. Because of the likely interest in this facility I have added a link to the Key Web Sites list,  and will insert a link on individual place menus when next updating them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Old Hertfordshire News NOW ONLINE on FindMyPast

 The extremely useful  British Newspaper Archive has just been made available worldwide on FindMyPast - and needless to say everyone is trying to use it. As a result it is slow and occasionally throws you off with an apology, but the rush will eventually slow down.  If you try it out there are some problems which are not immediately clear from the instructions.

To illustrate the problem I did a search for Keyword "Tring" between 1830 and 1840 setting the county as follows.
  • HERTFORDSHIRE - found 350 Articles in the Herts Mercury & Reformer
  • BUCKINGHAMSHIRE - found 634  articles in the Bucks Herald
  • BEDFORDSHIRE - found 0 articles
  • OXFORDSHIRE - found 150 articles in the Oxford Journal 
  • DURHAM - found 411 articles in the Northern Echo

The important thing to note is that if you select a county it is the county the newspaper is published in. Tring is close to the Buckinghamshire border and at the time was well covered by the Aylesbury papers (only one of which is currently in the archive). It is less well covered by the only Hertfordshire paper in the archive. If you search in Bedfordshire the search still takes time - and a "0" appears with any warning to tell you that there is no Bedfordshire paper for this period in the archive (yet)! The Oxford figure included references to a proposed railway line from Tring to Cheltenham which was never built.

The high figure for the Northern Echo suggests it was a much larger paper than the rest which regularly reprinted national news from other papers. In fact at least half the "Tring" responses are due to the fact that scanning is far from perfect and the real word is something like "string" with a badly printed "s" or "King". However I spotted plenty of genuine Tring references.

I will have another look - using it for personal names - and report sometime in December.

A Destructive Fire at Watford

In 1853 the Illustrated London News reported that the corn exchange and ancient market house at Watford had been destroyed by fire. Read the Full Report to see details of who was affected.

I have appended to the report an engraving showing the old market house, from Hassell's Picturesque Rides and Walks with Excursions by Water, Thirty Miles round the British Metropolis, published in 1817/18.

St Rohan's School, Hadley Wood - Buchanan PC

I have added details of St Ronan's School, Hadley Wood - The view of the School is yet another post card by P. A. Buchanan.

I have also added details of another Buchanan post card, of Christ's Hospital, Hertford. Thank to Anthony for the information.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Berkhamsted Place. Berkhamsted

Berkhampstead Place
[larger image on main website]

Berkhamsted Place, which was demolished in 1967, incorporated the remains of a courtyard house built by Sir Edward Carey, c. 1580, and sold to Henry, Prince of Wales, for whom the building seems to have been altered, in 1610. A fire, in 1661-2, destroyed nearly two-thirds of the house, which was afterwards repaired, probably by John Sayer, who held a lease of the property from 1662. [more]
The Park at Berkhamsted Place
[larger image on main website]

Knebworth Village Upgrade

Knebworth Cottage Home (1890)

I have carried out a major update of the Knebworth pages - including examples of how different publishers have presented views of Knebworth House.
Knebworth House, by Rush and Warwick
I have also added another picture of St Mary's Church and a description from an old guidebook.
All the post card images are available at a higher resolution on the Knebworth Pages

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Langsdorff & Co., Fine Art Publishers

Langsdorff & Co published a number of post cards of the Broxbourne area of Hertfordshire in the Summer of 1906, and as there appears to be nothing about the origins of this German company on the internet (at least in English) I was interested to get a query from Martin about its early days as a Fine Art Publisher as he has a print from 1901 giving the address 19 City Road, London..
Broxbourne Church from the River (Lea)
The Artist for this card (and others in the set) has not yet been identified
A provisional search showed that a Hans Langsdorff (born 1860 in Germany) was a merchant staying in Hamstead, London, in 1891 and 1901 while in 1899 Langsdorff & Co had an office in a large office block in Mincing Lane, London. However by 1910 they were in their own premises in City Road. It seems possible that Hans was an agent for a German company and saw an opportunity in the Fine Art Printing market, using German printers, and moved into the market, initially from the office in Mincing Lane.

A Ventriloquist visits Hertfordshire in 1801

Jackson's Oxford Journal, May 9, 1801
Lee Sugg was a well-known Ventriloquist who toured England at the end of the 18th century and first few years of the 19th century. The above advertisement shows that there were performances in Hitchin and Baldock.

Steven Connor has published a book Dumbstruck, A Cultural History of Ventriloquism and there is a Dumbstruck Archive online which contains addition source information on Lee Sugg.

If you are interested in travelling entertainers in Hertfordshire see the Wells Pavillion Theatre Company.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Severn Generations on one farm at Sandridge.

This picture is from the Woodland Trust web site. Almost all the fields, and two large wooded areas are part of Heartwood Forest, a major project to restore a large area of fields to native woodland in Hertfordshire. For a mere £15 you can dedicate a tree to be planted in what will be an 850 acre forest. I already have a page about the new forest but three areas in the picture are of particular interest to my ancestors, in addition to most of Heartwood Forest area having been farmed by a relative in Victorian times.

In the top left is a farm (highlighted) with a spinney in front of it and a light coloured field beyond. The Farm is Hammonds Farm which was farmed by my ancestors, William Cox (1760-1802), Thomas Cox (1794-1874), Henry Cox (1826-1882), Jacob Reynolds (1835-1926) and Harry Finch Reynolds (1865-1947). My father Gerald Finch Reynolds (1907-1977) worked on the farm, and helped to plant the spinney (in part I suspect, as cover for foxes) probably around 1930. When he married in 1937 he built a house, Eylotts, on the light coloured field, which had been the poultry farm area of Hammonds Farm. I was born there (well technically in a nursing home in St Albans) but the farm was sold in 1939. So after 7 generations who had lived at least part of their lives on the farm the family moved away from the area.
The small wood highlighted to the right is the site of the former Sandridge Rifle Range, which extended into the fields in front of it - the trees surrounding the butts. The two fields in front are part of Heartwood Forest and when I visited this summer were full of very young trees, although most were still not higher than the grass..

By the track from Sandridge Village towards Hammonds Farm
The newly planted part of Heartwood Forest is on the left, Range Wood is straight ahead.
Because of my connections with the area the village of Sandridge is of particular interest and many of my ancestors are buried in St Leonard's churchyard - containing the grave of my earliest traced Cox ancestor, Jonathan Cox (1688-1750). If I could link him, and the two intervening generations, to Hammonds Farm this would make 10 generations who lived on one farm.
The Cox Graves in Sandridge Churchyard
The engraved top of the brick vault is now virtually unreadable but originally read
Here Lyeth Inter'd Mrs. Eliz. Cox, Wife of Jonathan Cox, Gent. of St Julians in the Parish of St Stephens
who departed this life January 12, 1740, in the 55th year of her age.
Here Lyeth the Body of Jonathan Cox Gent. Husband of the above Elizabeth Cox who died
Decebr. the 31, 1750. Aged Sixty Two
When the above inscription was recorded, in about 1878, a Jonathan Cox, father and son,
 farmed the land which now forms most of Heartwood Forest.
The other alter grave contains William Cox (1760-1802) and many members of his family
 over several generations. Several of the other stones are also relatives

Friday, November 23, 2012

Another Class at Dewhurst School, Cheshunt

 Another picture of Pupils at Dewhurst School, Cheshunt, from about 1910. In this one the board is labeled "Dewhurst School 3" and on re-examination the one posted earlier is "Dewhurst School 4". Presumably there were 2 other groups photographed at the same time. Unfortunately so far no-one has been able to identify any of the pupils or date that card.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I had almost forgotten about Royston until ...

... I started planning how I should to post some more information about Royston and came to the conclusion that the existing pages were extremely untidy and it was almost impossible to find some information that was already online. For this reason the information has been reformatted as the fist stage of providing better coverage of the town. Stage One of the reformatting is now complete. More changes with new pictures and text are planned.
London Road, Royston, as it was about 110 years ago

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Post Office Rifles in Leavesden Asylum, Watford

Phil has asked if there were any records of Arthur Edward Draper being billeted at Leavesden Asylum - and whether there are any photographs.which might show him.

Captain Peel
When war broke out the 2nd London (Territorial) Division moved to War stations and many ended up in billets. The problem is that only the Army at the time would have kept detailed records of who went where - and these records have not survived. The Councils would also have been involved - particularly when buildings like schools were taken over - because while the school buildings were vacant when war broke out in August the children would be returning to to study in September! Unfortunately most council records have not survived, and the information that is available is mainly about buildings and not the units or individual soldiers that occupied them. 

What I have done is to set up an answer page on the Post Office Rifles (1/8 Battalion of the 2nd London Division) from which it is clear that most information on where they were billeted has come from soldiers' letters and post cards home - such as those by Captain H. Peel. There must be many more such letters surviving in private hands - and if the information can be brought together it would help to paint a more detailed picture of where units (and individual soldiers) were billeted in Hertfordshire during the First World War.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rural Relaxation: At Weston Turville Reservoir

Sunday was a lovely sunny November day and I decided to take a walk round Weston Turville Reservoir.  The reservoir was built about 200 years ago to ensure a supply of water to local mills when the local stream was diverted to feed what is now the Grand Union Canal. I went there because it is an attractive Nature Reserve, managed by  BBOWT, although it is also used by Aylesbury Sailing ClubThe walk was most enjoyable - although no birds (apart from gulls in the distance) were visible from the new hide - so I watched the sailing instead! The only problem was the mud - particularly where the path is narrow behind the boating club clubhouse, so if you want to walk round be sure to have good shoes.

For other photographs I have taken of the area, including part of the Wendover Canal, see Geograph.

As today is the anniversary of my daughter Lucy's death I am taking a rest from this web site.  See you all tomorrow for some more genealogy related posts.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Did the Artist's Daughter go to this School?

In April I mentioned an unusual house, Caldecote Towers, Aldenham, which became a girls boarding school - See This Crazy Looking House became a School.

Caldecote Towers - View over the Golf Course

I have now located two post cards, one showing the gardens in summer, the other showing the house in winter. Both are from paintings by Charles Essenhigh Corke. Charles was an artist who lived in Sevenoaks, Kent. He painted many views for the post card publishers, J. Salmon, but almost without exception these views were of Kent or other southern counties.

The choice of subject seems strange if all Charles was doing was to produce a number of views of Hertfordshire - and the subjects make more sense if you consider the cards as "Art cards" where the location is not very important.  Perhaps it is relevant that he had two daughters who could have been at the school at about the time the cards were published.  Of course this is speculation but it could explain his interest in the area.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why Cyclists stopped at Little Berkhamstead circa 1905

At the HALH Symposiun on Sport in Hertfordshire John Pearson gave an enthralling talk on "Cycling in the Edwardian Period" illustrated with a large number of pictures of bicycles and their riders. These helped to explain the way that the coming of the bicycle encouraged people to come out into the countryside around London - especially Hertfordshire, in the period prior to the First World War.

Evidence of this can often be found in early post cards such as this one of the Old Manor Farm House at Little Berkhampstead. All the cyclists touring the countryside would require refreshments - and sometimes overnight accommodation - and signs welcoming cyclists started to appear in the towns and villages of Hertfordshire. At the time there were few cars - but after the war the amount of motorised traffic increased and the signs were replaced by signs welcoming cars.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cardboard Boxes in St Albans in 1898

 RelativeStrangers posted the following query on Rootsweb: I had a great aunt, Bessie Marsh who was working in a cardboard box factory in St Albans in 1898. At the time she lived in Bedford Road. Does anyone know the location of the box factory?
I replied as follows:
She probably worked for the Firm of Spence & Co, packing case makers, of Upper Dagnall St, St Albans. It appears to have been a short lived firm as while it is listed in 1895 it is not listed in St Albans (or elsewhere in Hertfordshire) in the 1890 and 1899 Kelly's Directory.

However the 1891 census lists a Frederick Spence living in London Road, St Albans, who had only recently moved to St Albans (he had a 2 year old child born n Luton). He was is described as a carpenter - and had a boarder who was a packing case maker.

Possibly Spence & Co made large cardboard boxes as well as wooden packing cases.

Just popping into Buckinghamshire to get married

While this site concentrates on Hertfordshire it is important to remember that, with the exception of parts of the rivers Lea and Stort, the county has no significant natural boundaries. Typically the county boundaries were based on tracks and hedgerows which formed the boundaries of Saxon estates over a thousand years ago.  Before the boundary was rationalised Ashridge House (centre of this map) was half in Hertfordshire and half in Buckinghamshire. 

From Cary's 1811 map of Hertfordshire
Most of the narrow finger of Buckinghamshire that runs down to Nettleden is part of the parish of Pitstone, Bucks, although some is actually a detached part of the parish of Ivinghoe, Bucks. Needless to say many of the people who lived in Nettledon preferred going to the nearby church of Great Gaddesdon, Hertfordshire.

What this means is that if you are to take researching your ancestors seriously you must remember that in some cases, when your ancestor crosses the county boundary to get married, his bride-to-be will be living in the house next door. So can you answer the question below the fold:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dating the Rush & Warwick Post Cards of Hertfordshire

In 1902 the introduction of the divided back post card, which allowed a message to be written on the same side as the address, led to a very rapid increase in the number of cards being published. Many of the cards were printed on the continent and it is clear that salesmen were travelling the country persuading local shops that they should be selling their own line in view cards. 
Mentmore Towers, posted 1905

In the case of Rush and Warwick, a Bedford based stationer and printer, it seems possible that a single large order was placed for high qualify coloured views covering much of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire (with others in Bucks). The photographs were probably taken in the summer of 1905 and the post cards were printed in Saxony in time for Christmas (some with a pre-printed message in the message area), while others were printed with a slightly different back because of the change in postal regulations in 1906. 
The Old Stocks, Aldbury
Possibly the order was too optimistic -and so far I have found no evidence that Rush & Warwick published any other cards of this type - so a date of circa 1906 can be applied to all the cards in this series. For a  more detailed analysis, with examples of their cards, and a picture of the distinctive back, see

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Golf in Hertfordshire around 1900

At the HALH Conference on Sport in Hertfordshire earlier this month Julia Moore gave an interesting talk on Golfing in Hertfordshire in the late 19th century. This showed that the first golf clubs were based on courses on public common land but later  courses were set up on private estates - so access could be controlled.  As a result I have set up a golf page on the main site, which lists the earliest clubs - and also records the number of people in golf-related jobs in Watford in 1901. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

News of Chalk and Trees in the Chilterns

Chalk and Trees is the magazine of the Chilterns Conservation Board and the Winter 2012 has several items of relevance to this web site:

Online Information on Studham and Kensworth

The Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service is creating detailed web pages covering the history of Bedfordshire villages. There is excellent information for Studham, and pages for Kensworth are being planned - both these villages having previously been part of Hertfordshire.

First World War Trenches at Berkhamstead

Work is currently being carried out to map and eventually preserve some of the training trenches by troops who had been based on "Kitchener's Field" near Berkhamsted Castle. The magazine includes a call for volunteers between now and next April - contact Norman Grove for details.

Ancient Woodland in the Chilterns

The Chilterns Ancient Woodland Survey has now been published and is available online. There are detailed maps which show where there are still woods that were there when our ancestors farmed in the area.

A Local Hill Fort is Revealled

Living in Tring I find it frustrating that three Iron Age forts - on Ivinghoe Beacon, Boddington Hill and at Cholesbury are just over the county boundary into Buckinghamshire. The magazine describes work to make the Boddington Hillfort (in Wendover Woods) more visible - so you can now clearly see the structure of the surviving banks and ditches. The Conservation Group would welcome more volunteers.

When was Football first played in Hertfordshire?

When was the first "football" match played in Hertfordshire? One of the problems is that the accounts that survive from the past often fail to mention the everyday activities of the ordinary people and football is no exception. The first description of what might today be called a football match was written by William FitzStephen in approximately 1170. While visiting London he noticed “after dinner all the youths of the city goes out into the field for the very popular game of ball.” He also pointed out that every trade had their own football team: “The fathers, and the men of wealth come on horseback to view the contests of their juniors, and in their fashion sport with the young men; and there seem to be aroused in these elders a stirring of natural heat by viewing so much activity and by participation in the joys of unrestrained youth.” Two centuries later a monk wrote that football was a game “in which young men ... propel a huge ball not by throwing it into the air, but by striking and rolling it along the ground, and that not with their hands but with their feet.” The monk claimed that the game was “undignified and worthless” and resulted in “some loss, accident or disadvantage to the players themselves."

Early in the 14th century Edward II banned the playing of football and several later monarchs took similar actions and we can be pretty certain that the game was played in Hertfordshire, but there are no early direct references to the game.

At the HALH Symposium on Sport in Hertfordshire David Short described a different approach - which was to try and track down old football fields by looking at old field names. He noted that a field in Ashwell listed in the tithe map was called "Football Close" and was able to trace the name to a terrier of 1628. Searching other similar records revealed another "Football Close" at Baldock mentioned in a 1568 deed.   However another term, dating back to Saxon times, may well indicate places where games such of football could have been played.  The name "Plaistowe" could well comes from the Saxon words for "battle place" and it would seem could be used for what we would now call a sports field. David found a "Plaistowe" in Hertford dating back to 1461, Another at Yardley dating back to 1630 and one is listed in Norton's Survey of Barley which dates to around  1600. In listening to the talk I got the impression that most were or the order of two acres and close to the parish church.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Protecting the Railways in the First World War

During the First World War John's great grandfather, Hebert Halsey, was involved in guarding the railway at Berkhamsted. He has provided a photograph of the 43rd Protection Company, possibly taken at Berkhamsted railway station.
43rd Protection Company at Berkhamsted

Most of these men probably came from the Berkhamsted area. Tell me if you can identify any of them. [Larger picture]

Information on Protection Companies elsewhere in Hertfordshire will also be of interest.

In Memoriam

I have added to the section of the site which deals with family events by adding an example of an "In Memoriam" card of the type used by well-to-do Victorian families. This one relates to the Death of John Richard Griffith, a barrister who died at the home of his father, the Rev. John Griffith, Vicar of Sandridge.