Friday, June 28, 2013

Herts Past and Present - Contents of Issue 15

Herts Past & Present
September 2010
Issue No 15
Brief Guide to Sources: Churchwardens Accounts 
The Hertford Primrose League in 1901
Merchant Taylors School at Ashwell, 1669-2001: The good, the bad and the absent
The Landed Gentry

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Anscombe - A Large Department Store in Harpenden

Even an old receipt such as this one can tell a story. It reminded me of a large department store near my home in the 1940s where the salesman put the sales slip (in this case for suspenders costing 1s 3d) in a tube with the customer's payment (in this case half a crown - or 2s 6d). The tube would be clipped to a wire and sent whirring overhead to the cash office - to return with the receipted bill and the change.

So there must have been a similar store in Harpenden - and I decided to investigate. Allen Anscombe (1824-1903) became a draper and milliner in Harpenden in 1855, possibly helped by his father-in-law, Thomas Ashby. In 1869 he moved to larger premises and the business grew substantially, but eventually closed in 1982, The story is given in Anscombe's Department Store, Harpenden, 1855-1982, with some pictures and advertisements.

In researching the store I was delighted to discover there had been an article, with photographs, about the "rapid wire" cash system in an article in the Hertfordshire Countryside, and there is a Cash Railway Website, dedicated to the system which has fascinated me as a child.

The research highlighted one of the limitations of the British Newspaper Archive at the present time. It is almost certain that such a large store would have regularly advertised in the local newspapers - so I might have expected to find many press references. However the archive has no newspapers covering the central area of the county - apart from the Herts Advertiser of 1925. This situation will improve as more papers are put on line - but it is a reminder that if you search the archive you need to check whether the archive contains local papers for the relevant years.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Pigot's 1831 Topography and Gazetteer of England

I have just seen this book offered at half price on the Archive CD Book web site and as it covers Hertfordshire and all adjacent counties some of you may be interested. I have brought some excellent Hertfordshire-related material from this company in the past. The sales blurb reads as follows:

Joseph Abbot of Hitchin, obit 1802

A typical 18th century gravestone

A plain upright man without Guile or Pride
Goodness his aim and Honesty his Guide
Could all the pomps of this vain world despise
And only after death desir'd to rise.

An epitaph from Hitchin recorded in Cream of Curiosity

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Berkhamsted Castle and other Prints from c 1787

Berkhamsted Castle in 1787
This engraving comes from Antiquities of England and Wales and I have also posted information about the following Hertfordshire engravings from the same source:

Rye House, Hoddesdon
Hertford Castle
St Albans Abbey
The Goal at St Albans (Abbey gateway)
Sopwell Nunnery, St Albans

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Japanese Garden in Hertfordshire

Herbert Cooke (1865-1937) began developing a 6-acre garden in Cottered in 1905 after a visit to he made to Japan in that year. Japanese garden features were imported and the design was developed over the following 30 years. In 1923, Japanese designer Kusumoto Seyemon was engaged to complete the design, incorporated a lake, streams, cascades, stone work, buildings, gates and arches with maples, azaleas, wisteria, bamboo, iris on dwarf conifers. Kusumoto worked periodically over the next three years. The Japanese-style garden still occupies 2.5 hectares with additional ornamental garden and woodland of 2 hectares. The house is on the English Heritage Register (GD1545). 
This garden was featured on the BBV TV programme Gardeners' World earlier this evening and will should be available to view on the BBC site for about a week. The garden is private and not normally open to the public, but will be opening on Sunday (June 23rd) from 11.00 am – 4.00 pm as part of the Cottered Village Festival. 

The BBC approached me to see if they could use the above picture of the gardens in about the 1930's, from my Cottered page, but finally decides to use a somewhat earlier newspaper cutting.

More about the Meredith Family of Aldbury and New Zealand

Help Desk
Richard has provided more information about Michael Meredith, and where his family fortune went - which explains why someone with a well-connected background ended up working at Tring railway station. Richard also provided details of the family journey to New Zealand - where Michael was killed by the Maoris.

See MEREDITH, Tring Station, Aldbury, mid-19th century for the full story.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New Genealogy Forums on the Web

As the web expands there are more and more free forums where one can exchange information about one's ancestors, often associated with individual places or societies. I was interested to learn about a new generalist forum site called Top Dog Genealogy Specialists. I wish it well, although at the time of writing its Hertfordshire pages are empty - so I would not normally mention it here. However one thing caught my eye. The first page of the article "Starting Family History Research" begins:
Where not to begin
A lot of people have put family trees online. Don’t assume that these are correct! It is easy to make wrong assumptions, and the internet makes it very easy for people to copy each other’s mistakes and multiply them. Good researchers should quote their sources, so you can tell where they found their information and can check it for yourself. If you can’t find a well-researched tree, you need to start from scratch.
A good pragmatic approach - as long as the emphasis on the need for sources is maintained in the forum posts. On most forum sites the majority of posts fail to give any clue to the sources they quote and can often mislead for that reason. It will be interesting to see how this site develops.

P.S.  If you come across any forum sites you think are perticularly relevant to researchers into Hertfordshire Ancestors which are not mentioned on my main web site or this newsletter please comment below  - as currently I don't have the time to trawl the web looking for new sites.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Do you have some old family buttons?

I have not previously mentioned that buttons can sometimes be a clue to your ancestor's past - if you are lucky enough to have a family trinket box which contains some old embossed metal buttons. If your ancestor wore a uniform the buttons often identified who he worked for. So were they in the army, the police, the fire service - or did they work in one of the big houses where the button might represent some part of their employer's coat of arms.

The button shown in miniature here, and others on the Button page on the main web site, are metal detector finds from somewhere in Hertfordshire which, with one exception, have not yet been identified - but the one with the word "Volunteers" almost certainly has a military connection. Can you help by identifying them and do the have genuine Hertfordshire connections? Do you have some buttons with Hertfordshire links (especially livery buttons that can be lined to one of the big houses in the county) which I could use as illustrations on the Button page?

Karen Foy has published a book, Ancestors in the Attic - Making Family Memorabilia into History, The History Press, 2012, ISBN 978 0 7524 6428 2, which is reviewed in Genealogists' Magazine, June 2013.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A connection between Watton-at-Stone and India

Help Desk
Herbert Alfred Penn
Recently Denise wrote to say two of the postcards on this web site had been sent to her Great Grandfather Sergeant Herbert Alfred Penn when he was stationed with the Northants Regiment in Jullundur, Punjab, India. Unfortunately I brought the two cards separately some time ago on ebay so don't know where they came from or whether there were any more. (If you have purchased any postcard views of Hertfordshire sent to Herbert at Jullundur I am sure Denise would be interested in getting details.) I have posted more information HERE, including links to the Penn family tree, which is where I found Herbert's picture.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Herts Past & Present - Contents of Issue No 16

Herts Past & Present
Autumn 2010
Issue No 16
Brief Guide to Sources: Apprenticeship Indentures
Lydia Hope's inventory of paintings and Charles I's art collection (St Albans)
Some of Hertfordshire's Special Trees
The Great Bed of Ware: A Literary History
Property ownership in twelve Hertfordshire parishes in the nineteenth century (Hitchin area)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Ouch !!!

I was on my way to the Herts Record Society AGM when there was a little incident! So sorry but the planned review of their latest book will be delayed, there will be no first hand report of the meeting and I didn't take any photographs of old Norton.

While it was only a low speed incident the car in front had a high rear bumper which went right over the top of my bumper and onto the radiator grill and front edge of the bonnet. At least until the insurance company's courtesy car arrives we are a no car family - which causes problems because the car is mainly used by a "blue badge" holder. Because of the age of the car there is a danger that the insurance company will treat it as a write off - in which case getting a suitable replacement will become a priority.

So for at least a week, or possibly two, don't be surprised if there are no further posts on this blog as I will have other more urgent things to do..

Goodbye, Old Friend
We hope your successor will be as reliable as you were

Rural Relaxations: Have you seen a Rolling English Drunkard ????

Wych Elm Lane, Woolmer Green
Click on picture to find larger images on Geograph

I was visiting Woolmer Green recently and on passing under the railway line I could see Wych Elm Lane climbing the hill.  I was immediately reminded of G. K. Chesterton's poem:

Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.

On Mardley Heath

At the same time I visited the nearby Mardley Heath Nature Reserve - and took a lot of pictures of what is a combination of ancient woodland (with plenty of bluebells) and a sand/gravel pit which has been recovered by nature. [Pictures]

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Great Northern London Cemetery

The End of the Line by Martin C Dawes

I have posted a "draft" review page for this book and will add a contents list and review on request. This will allow me to include more books - only reviewing those that are of proven interest to visitors to this site. If you have a copy why not help others by sending me a review.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The son of "The Only Squabbling Couple" was killed at Gallipoli

Help Desk
Further to my earlier post The only squabbling couple in Hitchin Peter has drawn my attention to a posting on tumblr relating to the death of Private Ernest Saunders (son of Henry), in the First World War. It reports:
He enlisted in the Army in London and was drafted into the 1st Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers, which came under the orders of the 86th Brigade, 29th Division, on the 2nd January, 1915. Although no Service Record appears to exist for him it would seem that he undertook his initial training and then on the 16th March sailed with the Battalion, via Egypt, and landed in Gallipoli on the 25th April, 1915, when he was killed. ... ... He has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli, and on the St Ippolyts War Memorial, Hertfordshire.

Where your donations go - The Herts Mind Network

The Honeymooners entertaining the audience at the end of the Herts Mind Network AGM
Herts Mind Network
Last night I attended the AGM of the Herts Mind Network at Watford and was very impressed by recent improvements. I first got involved with the committee of what was then Mind in Dacorum in 1991, at a time when all there was were five brief "drop in" sessions a week run by volunteers in Berkhamsted and Hemel Hempstead - and the National Health Service was planning to close the long stay hospitals. To enable us to cope with the influx of new clients we decided the only way to expand was to invest our small reserve on employing a part time coordinator and telling the NHS we would cater for the extra workload until the money ran out - or we got a grant! It worked - and not only did we get a grant  for a "drop in" supervisor but we also got a grant to run a one-to-one befriending scheme and employed Julie. Since then there has been a steady improvement in the services offered, and the organisation has expanded, by merger with other Mind Groups, and hopefully later this year it will be in a position to deliver services over the whole county.

Since becoming Herts Mind Network, with Julie as CEO, and Fran (one of Julie's first befriending volunteers) as Chair, the organisation has expanded and there are now Well-being Centres in Bishops Stortford, Hemel Hempstead, South Oxhey, Waltham Cross, Ware and Watford - and a wide range of counselling and other services are offered tailored to local needs. An important part of the success has been peer support and 70% of the staff have life experiences of mental illness. One of the great successes recently as been in the field of social enterprise - getting people back to work. For instance one group delivers high quality grounds maintenance services to public, private and community sector organisations, whilst providing paid employment for individuals who have faced barriers to work through experience of mental and/or emotional distress.
While the group's income now includes over £1,000,000 in grants to provide competitively priced services, there is still a need to raise money in other ways (such as by donations to this web site) to help develop and provide much needed additional services which are not covered by grants. In addition to money many people also donate their time, as volunteers. At a time when demand for services is growing and money (including charitable giving) is harder to get, every little helps. So a big THANK YOU to everyone who has helped by making a donation as a result of using this web site.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Remember - Your assumptions may not always be correct

Help Desk
Ebenezer Albert Fox
At the end of May I attended the Herts Family History Society Meeting and also took the opportunity to walk round the village of Woolmer Green. At either side of the entrance to a modern housing estate there was a brick pillar, each surmounted by a bust. One was labeled Ebenezer Albert Fox (1857-1926) and the other Albert Ebenezer Fox (1857-1936). So I decided to ask myself a question and find out who these obviously important twins were. Had they lived in a big house that had stood where the estate now is ... ... ??? 

I was in for a surprise - read what I found out about 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

End of May 2013 Report

Despite the fact that I have spent less time on the newsletter and web site the number of newsletter page views in the month is still well above 5000 - although down a bit on March and April. The main site had the highest ever number of visitor for May at 22,625 - with the 65,059 page hits showing that the average visitor viewed about 3 pages. The total number of accessible text pages now exceeds 4,200.

In addition to the Newsletter posts there has been quite a bit of behind the scenes activity - but I am feeling lazy - and don't propose to summarise it here. 

Your views on the future of the site are still coming in and I am looking at the best way of continuing within the time I have available to devote to genealogy, and also to ensure that the reference material on the site continues to be available when I am no longer in a position to update it. I have decided to include more modern photographs from my own collection - using Geograph as the main store of the images. In addition I have streamlined my update procedures to save me time - but as a result you may occasionally find draft pages online - before I have finished tidying them up and announced their arrival in the Newsletter.

John Betjeman on Hertfordshire



by John Betjeman

I had forgotten Hertfordshire,
The large unwelcome fields of roots
Where with my knickerbockered sire
I trudged in syndicated shoots;