Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rural Relaxation - A trip to Devon

Teignmouth Harbour, from Ness House, Shaldon
While I kept a flow of posts appearing on this blog we have just taken a short holiday in Devon. During the 1940s my wife lived in Shaldon. later moving to Teignmouth. In 1945 my parents moved to Newton Abbot (at the head of the Teign estury) and I went to school at Teignmouth. 
Ness Beach, Shaldon

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Charles Stewart of Stevenage, obit 1796

A typical 18th century gravestone

Adieu vain world I've seen 
Enough of Thee
And am careless what thou 
Canst say of me
What Faults you have seen in me 
Take care to shun
And look at home enough 
There's to be done.

An epitaph from Stevenage recorded in Cream of Curiosity

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Picture by Landon of Watford

Post Cards
I have added this photograph to my collection of early post cards by Hertfordshire photographers. It shows a young lady apparently dressed for her confirmation, and is embossed with the words "Landon, Photographer, Watford" and had been added to The Landon Family of Watford Photographers page. It is not clear which member of the Landon family took the picture, and the back is unhelpful - but it was probably taken in the 1910s.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Reviews of Books about Hertfordshire

The main site contains details of many books with some relevance to Hertfordshire, including many out of print. If you want to know more about any book mentioned on this site and the relevant page does not give enough detail why not ask. Jon recently asked about Brig-General H. Page Croft's book "Twenty Two Months under Fire" and I have responded:
This book concentrates of descriptions of the battles and battlefields on the Western Front where the Herts Regiment was based, and a quick scan failed to reveal any named person from Hertfordshire and the only named place I spotted was to the training camp at Ashridge, where they were based on the day war was declared. This means that the book is of little relevance to anyone looking for specific references to individual soldiers, or what was happening in Hertfordshire at the time. 
Remember that even if a book does not mention your ancestor it can contain much relevant background information about the place he lived in and the social circumstances which would have influenced his everyday life. And if you want to know more about a book before borrowing it from a library, or buying a copy, why not ask me about it.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Old Hertfordshire Recipes: Dunstable Larks

8 Larks for our Supper at Dunstable. They were all on one Spit which was small, and designed for that purpose. They were laid very close to a brisk fire and turned very briskly; In about 2 Minuttes they were flowerd, after about as much more time they were basted with a great deal of Butter, so as to keep quite a stream pouring on them at the same time. They were turned as quick as possible, so that they were quite covered with a very thick froth. In this manner they were roasted for about 4 Minuites; and then the Cook with a Dish full of very fine grated Bread strewed them over by handfulls, holding the Dish under to catch what Bread did not stick. Being removed a little way from the fire, they were then laid close, and in about a Minute the same was repeated, so as to get as many Crumbs to stick as possible. They were then laid near the fire again, and turned carefully and slowly, sometimes backwards, sometimes forwards, but very steadily: This took up about 5 Minuites more; So that I judge they were about 10 Minuites a doing by a very brisk fire, and lying almost so close as to touch the Barrs. When the Crums were brown they were taken up and laid in two Rows in the Dish, and the four that were not separated stuck close together by the strength of the Cement of the Crums and Butter. They were done extreemly nice.

The Receipt Book of Baroness Elizabeth Dimsdale, c1800

Please note that this delicacy is no longer considered politically correct.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Unusual Uniform - So what did this man do for a living?

Click for larger image of badges
St Albans
This man is clearly wearing some kind of uniform - but it is clearly not a military one, or for a service such as the police or fire brigade. The badge appears to be a set of initials - but what did they stand for? And as the collar has the number 61 does this indicate that he was one of many who wore a similar uniform?

The photograph was taken by Herbert Edward Birdsey, who lived in St Peter's Street, St Albans, in the early decades of the 20th century. I would be interested to hear of other examples of his work.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Brick made by Miskins of St Albans circa 1895

St Albans Brickmakers
Bernards Heath
This brick, supplied by Roger, came from a house being modernised in Roseberry Terrace, Upper Culver Road, Bernards Heath, which is dated as 1899. The house is not far from the brickworks which were used by Miskins to make and it is known that Miskins built other houses in Upper Culver Road and on nearby Sandridge Road, in 1905 or shortly after. It seems very likely that the "M" stands for Miskin - but can anyone confirm it. The fabric is similar to other bricks made on Bernards Heath, such as those with the "JR" for Jacob Reynolds.

See Christopher Miskin page (further updates planned)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Wig Making Factory in St Albans in the 1930s

Help & Advice
Bernards Heath
Brenda wanted to know about the Wig Making factory where her mother worked in the late 1930s. I said the firm must have been H & P Nagele, 49 to 53 Heath Road, Bernards Heath, St Albans. They are listed as "Wig Makers" (the only ones in Hertfordshire) at this address in 1933 and 1937, but not 1929. I have no information for the war period but after the war (in 1949) the occupier of 49 Heath Road was Heath Road Garage, run by Kenneth Staines and H. R. Woollett. I have posted some information on a Hermann Nagele who was probably involved. Can anyone provide more information on the St Albans Factory?

Rural Relaxation; Avocet & Black-tailed Godwit at College Lake

The hot weather has meant that on many days recently my "rural relaxation" has been sitting in our small back garden, watching the birds on the feeders from the shady area under the horse chestnut tree. On other occasions my wife and I have gone up to Ashridge for a pleasant lunch at the Brownlow Cafe and a walk under the trees - and to take more pictures of the Clickmere Pond. Today was a bit cooler - and more suitable for walking round College Lake, where there is little shade. I am getting better at taking maximum zoom pictures on my camera - and took these photographs of an Avocet and Black-tailed Godwit from the Octagon hide. I don't know the recent sighting history for College Lake (in Bucks) is - but the last reported sighting of an Avocet on the nearby Tring Reservoirs (in Herts) was on the 1st May 2011.
I was also interested to note that the hot weather has reduced the water levels in the main lake by about a foot, and Big Paddy Island - which was disappearing in April. and vanished entirely in May is now just peeping above the water. Another couple of months of very dry weather and the lower path beyond the Octagon hide could be free of water!
The two ends of Big Paddy can be seen on either side of the floating tern island.

200 years of Sandridgebury History

Sandridgebury, Sandridge, early 20th century
Percival Davis Griffiths, an important antique collector, lived in the above house between about 1900, and 1937, when he was killed in a hunting accident.Willie is looking for relevant pictures from the period, particularly if they show Percy. The only contemporary picture I have is the above, but I have used the opportunity to draw up a timeline on Sandridgebury from 1815 to 2013.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Why not help others with their Family History Research

Most of you will probably know and use FreeBMD because of its excellent coverage of the Birth, Marriage and Death register indexes - which have been constructed by socially aware family historians who wanted to help others. Coverage is almost complete from 1837 to 1960. In May 2013 it contained 229,076,495 distinct records, and on one day in June was searched 145,484 times. Volunteers are still needed to help complete the work.

FreeCEN aims to provide a similar service for the census, and FreeReg for the parish and non-conformist registers. However in both cases the coverage of Hertfordshire is small and volunteers are needed. 
So if you are retired and want to do something useful helping others why not volunteer today.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Heath Farm Sandridge, the Aldenham Harriers, and hunting in general.

Huntsman of the Aldenham Harriers,  Harry Finch Reynolds, at Heath Farm
In looking though some old family pictures  I found two cards, each with 6 photographs, showing the meet of the Aldenham Harriers at the Heath Farm, Bernards Heath, in March 1911. The hunt was reported in the Herts Advertiser, and the account reprinted in the book Hare and Hounds - which tell the history of the Aldenham Harriers. However the book has few pictures of this hunt as early as this - and it shows someone who is almost certainly the Master of the Hounds at the time, Mr Birkbeck Ravenscroft, and the Huntsman, my grandfather Harry Finch Reynolds. Several other people are identified, or possibly identifiable. I have therefore added some of the pictures to the Hare and Hounds page.
The Aldenham Harriers assemble at Heath Farm
Bernards Heath
The meet was at Heath Farm, Bernards Heath, which was farmed by my Great Grandfather, Jacob Reynolds, with the hunt assembling on the Home Meadow. There are a number of surviving pictures of Heath Farm house, but few of the extensive buildings.  Several of the pictures record the buildings, and the row of lime trees said to have been planted by Jacob Reynolds, in the background to the hunt activities. I have therefore created a page Heath Farm in 1911 to record the appearance of the farm from the Sandridge Road side.
The Entrance to the Farm Yard at Heath Farm
At the same time as inputting these photographs I took the opportunity to set up a page to cover hunting activities on this web site. An introductory text will follow but the relevant pages already online are:

Hertfordshire Hunting Notes (Newspaper account of hunt with Hertfordshire Hounds in 1885)
The Bever Pack of Harriers in 1890 (Newspaper account, master Jacob Reynolds of Heath Farm)
The Old Berkley Hunt at Shendish in 1890 (short newspaper cutting)
Aldenham Harriers (The book Hare & Hounds plus many pictures of 1911 meet)
Lays of the  Hertfordshire Hunt (Book of poetry by George Robins, 1912)
The Hertfordshire Hunt (Booklet by William Scarth-Dixon, 1933)
Hunting Hares (Roman pottery)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

More important books by the Herts Records Society


The Hertfordshire Records Society selects important manuscript records and transcribes them. While each volume may only deal with a limited area it is selected as a good example of that kind of document - and may often include information which is not available from other sources. Members of the society get copies of the books as part of their subscription, and many of the older books are available to non-member at a bargin price of £6.00 a volume. I have just updated my web page on the Society and its publications and posted reviews on the two most recent publications

Baroness Elizabeth Dimsdale decided, in about 1800, to record a large number of what we now call recipes and this have been transcribes, and listed to bring similar recipes together. The is a long introduction which look at who Elizabeth Dimsdale was - and what the book tells us about her life and social contacts.

Humphry Repton was a landscape gardener whose red books described his design of a new estate - and this volume contains reproductions of his proposals for developing the landscape around the houses of Panshanger (Hertingfordbury) and Tewn Waters (Tewin).

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Adult Baptism, Confirmation & Holy Commumion


It is important to remember that not all Church of England baptisms were infant baptisms as this interesting document shows. Doris Sutherland Thomas was born in 1891 but was not baptised until four days before she was confirmed by the Bishop of Barking in 1910. She lived at the Mill House, Brook Street, Tring.

On the main web site (Walter Thomas, Mill House, Tring)  I have posted some information about the house and her family.

Silk Mills
Walter Thomas was born in the Scilly Islands, the son of a shipwright, and he became a marine engineer in Kent. Meanwhile Lord Rothschild was making changes in Tring and closed the Silk Mill - converting it to become his estate management department. He employed Walter Thomas as an engineer, who was responsible for supply electricity to Tring Park and became estate engineer.

George Washington and Tring (Meeting on 17th July)

The Tring & District Local History & Museum Society meeting on Wednesday (7.30 on 17th July) will be dealing with the Tring Relatives of the American President George Washington. Due to the number of people who are expected to attend the meeting will be held in the Red Cross Hall, Tring (about five minutes walk from the usual venue).

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Rural Relaxation - Changing Seasons at Ashridge

A Misty Day at Clickmere Pool
Over the last six years I have been photographing a small dew pond near Ashridge Monument on different occasions so that you can enjoy watching how this woodland pool changes with the seasons and from year to year. I have already posted about 50 pictures and more are to be added shortly.

A new picture of Therfield Church

Therfield Church
I have now added a post card (by Robert H Clark of Royston) showing the interior of Therfield church to compliment the ones I had showing various stages of the rebuilding.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Old Hertfordshire Recipes - A Duck Pie

As someone who likes eating duck - and likes roasting one for suitable occasions (see It was a real Aylesbury Duck and Enjoy your Christmas Dinner) the following approach to cooking duck interests me but I suspect that a modern farmed duck would have too much fat. Perhaps a wild duck would be more appropriate but have less meat!

A Duck Pye

Take the Liver and all the inside of the Duck which is fit to eat; wash it well; take a slice of the Fat of Bacon, a little Veal and a few Shalots; mince them all very small together; and with a little Thyme and Bay Leaf cut small, and a seasoning of Pepper and Salt, put it in the inside of the Duck. Lard the Duck all over with a little Shred of fat Bacon, rolled in seasoning. Take such a quantity of Flour, as you think will make paste enough to go round a Duck. Lay the flour on a paste Board, put two Yolks and one white of an Egg into the middle of it.
     Break almost a pound of Butter very small into the Flour; put as much Water as is necessary to mix it, and mix it very lightly and touch it as little as possible.
     Roll out a piece of this Paste out very thin, lay it on a Dish; then lay a thin slice or two of Fat Bacon on it, and afterwards the Duck with the Breast downwards, and then another thin slice of Bacon upon the Duck. Lay a thin Crust upon the Top, and then another this Crust upon that.
     Turn up the bottom Crust nearly round the Duck, lay the Top Crust over it, and join them together until it forms an Oval standing Pye to the shape of the Duck; but touch the crust as little as possible. Crimp and ornament the Pye all over with little Irons for that purpose. Make a hole in the Top of  the Pye, roll a thin piece of Paste, and put in like a Chimney and then roll up a piece of Card and put inside of it.
     Have a Cork ready the size of the Chimney and cork it up the moment the Pye is taken out of the Oven, and do not take out the Cork and Card until the Pye is quite cold. About one hour and a half in a quick oven will bake it.
     Make a seasoning of Salt, Pepper and a little Thyme, Bay Leaf and shallot. All the Bacon with which the Duck is larded must be dipped in it, and as the Duck should be covered in every part with sliced Bacon; that side of the Bacon which it is next to it, must also be dipped in it. If the Bacon is much Salted, it must be well washed to get out the Salt.

William Brown's Account Book - A Major Project

W. Brown's Account Book
A few years ago I acquired the client account book of William Brown, Estate Agent of Tring for most of the 1850s. Part was put online at the time and the aim was to make it all available. This got delayed and I have decided to give the matter top priority for at least the rest on 2013, with some continuing into 2014.

The plan for documenting this manuscript book is as follows:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

St Albans Athletic Sports, 1893 - rescuing an old picture

The Original - click for partial restoration
St Albans
Some years ago I posted the extensive list of names mention in the newspaper account of the Whit Monday Sports at St Albans, 1893. My interest was that the sports were the last to be held on the Home Meadow of Heath Farm, Bernards Heath, where my great grandfather, Jacob Reynolds, was the farmer.

As a result I was kindly provided with a very faded picture which not only showed the committee  but listed their names (G. C. Barnes, A. F. Blanks, Jonah Constable, A. H. Debenham, E. P. Debenham, F. W. Freshwater, R. Freshwater, Tom Griffiths, T. Marks, F. Matthews, C. W. Miskin, L. J. Myers, F. E. Reynolds, J. Reynolds, Jacob Reynolds, J. W. Sharpe, Horace Slade).  I have been able to improve it to the point where about half the faces are recognisable - but a complete reconstruction where everyone is recognisable is probably impractical. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Did your American Ancestor come from Hertfordshire?

Help Desk
When many Americans research their family tree they often get to a point where they almost certainly came from England (and may even have details of the ship that brought them). Frequently there is no clear indication as to where in England they may have come from. Mara has such a problem with her 18th century Elborn ancestors but, as I demonstrated in an earlier query  ELBORN, Hertfordshire area, 19th Century, the name is very much linked to the counties of Buckinghamshire. Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. In my reply I gave her some general advice (which you may find useful if you have a similar problem) and referred her to the advice page My Ancestors Emigrated from Hertfordshire. I also gave some specific advice on the Hertfordshire Militia Lists for tracing men in the second half of the 18th century.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

An Accident at Ware Mill recorded on a tombstone at Amell

A typical 18th century gravestone

Mourn not for me my wife and children dear
I am not dead but slumber here
It was by a fatal Jam at Ware Mill I fell Alas
I never spoke nor did my secrets reveal.

An epitaph from Amwell recorded in Cream of Curiosity

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Hertfordshire-related updates on FindMyPast (Registers and Newspapers)

FindMyPast has announced that nearly 2 million new Hertfordshire register records have been added to their collection and list the current holding at

As usual they do not list the changes so there is no list that you can check to see what had changed that will affect your own research since last time. As is common with many other systems they are reluctant to tell you that a search was negative because the relevant records were not online or not indexed. If you search for my grandfather, by father, and myself in the Sandridge register, you will only find my father, who was baptised in 1908. You are given no reason for the other missing entries but a look at the list shows that the parish baptisms have been indexed between 1898-1910. Further investigation shows that the online images come from a register that runs from 19th June 1898 (on page 1)  to 5th May 1935 (on age 100). So baptisms in 1901 before 19th June 1908 are not indexed, while baptisms after 1910 are online as images - but not indexed. What is more the original register has been manually indexed by surname on the front cover (image opposite Page 1) and back cover (image opposite page 100).

The list of parishes shows Sandridge Marriages indexed between 1898 and 1901 - but I could not find a single example from the register so have no idea what, if any, has been indexed. In fact the Banns are indexed for a much longer period, including the years 1898-1901, proving that weddings did take place during this period. There are no Sandridge burial registers yet online. If you are interested in a particular village you will need to check what is (or is not) online with care.

The newspaper collection  now contains nearly 7 million pages, but the June updates did not include any papers relating to Hertfordshire. The most relevant papers already online are:
Bucks Herald 1833-1909
Cambridge Chronicle and Journal 1813-1871
Cambridge Independent Press 1839-1913
Chelmsford Chronicle 1783-1950
Essex Standard 1831-1900
Hertford Mercury and Reformer 1834-1868
Herts Advertiser 1925
Herts Guardian, Agricultural Journal & Advertiser 1852-1867
Luton Times and Advertiser 1856-1914
As can be seen the coverage of Hertfordshire is poor. Nothing from places such as Hemel Hempstead, St Albans (apart from one year for just one of the many papers published in the town at various dates) and Watford, with nothing from Hertford after 1868.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

River Stort Navigation - Picture Update

On the Stort south of South Mill Lock
Bishops Stortford
Derek, who has been canoeing along the Stort for year has correctly located this picture as showing the Stort Navigation south of South Mill Lock, with the lock keepers cottage on the right. I have reprocessed the picture to give a better image. I have also provided higher resolution images to this and half a dozen other pictures of the Stort Navigation.

NOTE - The aim is to provide larger images for most post cards on the main web site. If there is not larger image on a card that interests you just ask. Even larger scans (at 600 dpi) can be produced in many cases if required.

Friday, July 5, 2013

What did couples do before the back row at the Cinema was invented?

I have just added some new post cards by Karaktus to the Crown Publishing Co, St Albans,  page and the two illustrated here suggest that in the very early years of the 20th century a seat in one of the Victorian Public Parks was the place to go for a snog!

I am trying to identify all the comic cards Karaktus published - and ideally get good images of all. Can you help me fill in any of the gaps (titles in red are ones where I am looking for a better image).

01  It is better to have loved and lost, than to have loved and married
02  ??
03  Expulsion from Eden
04  Everything in the garden is lovely!
05  The early bird catches the worm but the late bird catches it from the wife
06  ??
07  ??
08  ??
09  Scotland! With all thy faults, I love thy still
10  Oh! Cheese It!
11  Money talks! but alas I'm speechless
12  ??
13  Who objects walking 6 miles for a drink? I'd walk 20
14  The Officer's Mess!
15  What's the use of all these things without a girl inside

16  Come off at once Jimmy" Do you want to get intoxicated
17  It isn't love that makes the world go round. It's Beer
18  Blow, blow, thou winter wind
19  ??
20  I don't care if there's a girl there
21  ??
22 ??
23  The Old Bachelor's Wish - Oh Heavens! That clothes would but make the woman
24  The Old Maid's Wish - Oh Heaven! That I but had the jewel that was in this case!
25  ??
26  Two pennyworth of dog biscuits, Please
27  Milkman - It looks very much like rain today
28  ??
29  I want you to see my girl
??   All Bachelors should be taxed £50 (probably one of the missing numbers)

In addition I have still made no progress in identifying Karaktus