Sunday, September 29, 2013

More Hertfordshire Church and School Pictures

Post Cards
I have added the following post card images (a click on each gives a higher resolution image) to the main web site:

St Mary's, Old Knebworth
While adding these pictures I also took the opportunity to reorganise the Widford pages. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Researching a small estate - Tring Grove

This month's analysis of the entries in William Brown's Account Book relate to the sale of the Tring Grove Estate in 1854. See Lord Lake & Sale of Tring Grove in 1854.
William Brown was asked to sell the Tring Grove Estate as a result of a dispute in Chancery relating to the will of Lord Lake, of Aston Clinton. The account book describes the preparation for the sale, and expenses relating to the sale - but it does not detail the property -which would have been described in a prospectus. To demonstrate the kinds of information involved in researching a property of this nature I look at various sources.
  • I start by summarising the folios in the account book - with links to the original text.
  • I identify Lord Lake, and briefly refer to the Court of Chancery case - This would make an interesting story in its own right - but will have to wait.
  • I use the British Newspaper Archive to locate the advert for the sale, and an account of the sale which gives the winning bids - but does not identify the buyers.
  • I then look at various printed maps between 1766 and 1898. The early maps show a large house in a park - but this vanishes from the maps - and is not mentioned in the sale. This raises an additional task to solve.
  • I check the main histories of Hertfordshire, and books on Tring. One book lists the owner and tenants at the time of inclosure in 1797 - but otherwise there was nothing relevant. The older histories undoubtedly failed to mention it because it was not a historic manor.
  • I then search the Access to Archives data base to see what kind of material is available in various records offices. Following this up is a later task, but it is useful to know what information will be available later.
  • The next stage was to check the British Newspaper Archive for references to owners and occupiers prior to the sale. The earliest local papers date from the 1830s but some useful earlier references were found. Sometimes information comes in unexpected forms. An article on the advantages of living in America ended with a list of the bigger houses at Tring - which makes it clear that Grove House had been demolished (probably in the 1810s. (If your ancestor left Tring for America in 1828 this article will explain why!)
  • Having identified some names I uses the census to get more details of the farming families in 1851 and 1861. This made it clear that while Grove Park Farm and Tring Grove Farm were separate in 1851, after the sale the two merged to form one larger farm.
  • I then checked some details with county trade directories.
  • In addition to the Account Book I also have minute books for the Tring Agricultural Association and extracted relevant information about the farms.
  • I then summaries what I have learnt about the nine properties which were included in the sale. 
  • I end with an overall summary of what has been achieved so far. In theory I would now be extending the research by visiting various archive offices to look at the documents they have. Because of other demands on my time I have no immediate plans to take this further, but if I am visiting any of the archives for other purposes I will try and find time to consult relevant documents.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Full Employment for Everyone - but nobody listened!

On May 20, 1854 the above advertisement appeared in the Bucks Herald newspaper, advertising a book "Pauperism Abated" by Thomas Tearle, and published by Ebenezer Charles Bird, and bookseller and printer of Tring, Hertfordshire.

Unfortunately what I am sure was the solution to the problem of poverty seems to have been ignored by the disbelieving world - as I can find no other adverts for this book, or references to it, or its author. It would seem that whatever Thomas Tearle had to say has been lost for ever. ... or has it?

Does anyone know where a copy might be obtained?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Some more Karaktus humour - but who was he?

Another Karaktus post card
Recent Post Cards
Karaktus produced comic post cards in St Albans in 1908/9 and I have now posted three new examples of his work, and some other minor updates. However I have made no progress in discovering who the artist was. Has anyone any ideas?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Buying First World War Remounts - Pictures from Hammond, Indiana, USA

At Calumet Depot, 1916
When the First World War broke out my grandfather, Harry Finch Reynolds, of St Albans, joined the Royal Army Veterinary Corp. The only family record we have of his military activities are a series of 20 pictures of a very large number of horses purchased by the British Remount Commission (Canada) being loaded onto a train at the Calumet Park Depot, Hammond, Indiana, USA.

At Calumet Depot, 1916

Monday, September 23, 2013

More about Watercress in Hertfordshire

Subject Index
Watercress was widely grown in the water from the chalk streams of Hertfordshire and harvested for sale locally and in London. I have updated the page on watercress with a picture of the watercress beds on the bank of the River Gade in Cassiobury Park, Watford, and a press report of the theft of watercress at Hertingfordbury in 1844.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Epitaph of Ann Bowles of Bengeo, Obit 1770

A typical 18th century gravestone
Here I lies sleeping in the dust
Until the Resurrection of the Just 
Waiting the Voice of Christ to say 
Arise my Saint and come away.

An epitaph  recorded in Cream of CuriosityI

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Hawkswick - A typical Victorian Gentleman's Residence

Hawksbury, St Michaels, St Albans circa 1900
Hawkswick, St Michaels parish, St Albans, was built around 1870 and was the home of four well-to-do businessmen and a Countess, and their live-in domestic staff. It is a good example of the kind of country home that successful businessmen were building or living in, within an hour's train journey into London. After the First World War, followed by the 1920's depression, such houses became uneconomical, which may be the reason why Hawkswick was demolished in 1931. The owners, or later tenants, were:
George Fernley Whittingstall,   c1870 - 1873
George Checkland,   1873 - 1879
John Sherriff Hill,   1881- 1897
Dowger Countess of Limerick,   1898-1900
Walter Reynolds,  1900 - 1924
I have updated the biographical information about the families who lived there, including additional press coverage. Further information about the house, with an emphasis on its description based on  several surviving sales brochures is available in Christine Aitken's excellent book on Childwickbury - which I have just reviewed. Christine and I used very different sources, and as a result our two accounts nicely complement each other.

St Michaels
St Albans
In addition I have taken the opportunity to restructure the pages on the parish of St Michael, part of which was in the borough of St Albans and the rest (including Childwickbury, Hawksbury and Gorhambury) were in the rural part of the parish.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Replying to "rejected" queries

One of my weaknesses is that if someone asks me a question I feel obliged to answer it, or at least write a polite personal reply apologising for not giving an answer. This takes time and as my time is limited this means I have less time to provide answers, and update the web site for everyone else.

Help Desk
Most of the problem emails appear to come from people who want to ask a question irrespective of whether it is relevant to the way the web site is run, and/or are too lazy to include relevant information. For years the "Ask Chris" page has included guidelines and examples of what I am looking for - to the point that it probably puts some genuine people off. I have decided to try a different approach. 

The "Ask Chris" page starts with a comparatively brief introduction, followed by the paragraph:
Rather than urge you to read the Frequently Asked Questions (which many of you will not do)  I give below the text of the standard letter you will get if you don't read them and ask an "out-of-court" question.
The letter (below the fold) lists the possible reasons why their request might be rejected, and all I need to do is to send the questioner a copy of a letter they have already seen (with relevant paragraphs highlighted). 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Major Reorganisation of the Hatfield pages

I have restructured the pages on Bishops Hatfield so thatit is easier for visitors to the site to find relevant information, and also it makes it easier for me to add new pages. The update includes adding two early 19th century engravings and a description of the town in 1850.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Grimstons of Gorhambury, St Albans

For those of you interested in St Albans History, and like me live in the west of the county, John Cox will be talking to the Tring & District Local History & Museum Society on 18th September (7.30 for 8 at the Anglican-Methodist Church Hall, Tring.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Clearing the Shelves

My long term plans involve some down-sizing of my library by selling off duplicate and unwanted books, etc., on Most material will relate to local history in one way or another. Currently I am selling a number of volumes of the Kings England series of county histories (but not Hertfordshire) together with about half a dozen Hertfordshire books. The current sales will not reduce the "excess" volume by much but I hope to add further material at regular intervals.The plan is that any money raised will be ploughed back into the site - with any excess going to charity. My ebay selling name is Chris_from_Hertfordshire.

What will you be doing on the Heritage Open Days?

 I have been so busy that I had almost forgotten the Heritage Open Days - (12th-15th September) where towns and villages all over the country open up buildings usually closed to the public or put on special exhibitions.

I will definitely be trying to get to the special exhibition A View of St Albans during the First World War in the North Transept of St Albans Abbey on Saturday and Sunday, but if you live anywhere in England there will be something on nearby.
I made it (There were many other activities in St Albans tomorrow as well!)
The SAHAAS display in St Albans Abbey this morning

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

On my other blog ...

The current gap in genealogy-related posts is because I have been doing other things - including preparing a deliberately provocative talk "A New Look at the Evolution of the Human Brain" which I gave to the Chiltern Humanists yesterday. I got rather carried away and copies of the slides and detailed notes are now available on my other Blog, Trapped by the Box..

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Effect of Weathering on Sandstone Gravestones

During the mid-to-late Victorian period many of the middling classes decided to have tombstones, rather than mark graves with wooden grave boards. The stone markers were meant to be more permanent - but quite a lot were made of fine-grained sandstone. If there were any "flaws" that let the water get in, and even worse freeze, the surface started to disintegrate. And unfortunately indentations that made up the inscriptions tended to be particularly vulnerable.  As a result you can find stones in which nearly all the inscription has fallen away.

About a week ago I was in the graveyard at St Albans Abbey, and noticed that many of the stones from around 1870 suffered from "stone rot" and photographed a number to see how far I could reconstruct the original inscription. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dacorum Heritage Trust - Latest News

Dacorum Heritage Trust

I have just had the latest newsletter (No. 72, Autumn 2013) from the Dacorum Heritage Trust - which provides a museum service for Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted, Tring, and the other villages in the modern borough of Dacorum. It includes the exciting news that public discussions are now underway with a view to the Bury, Hemel Hempstead, becoming a museum for the Borough.

The information of immediate importance is that the newsletter contains information that there will be limited viewing of the medieval wall paintings at Piccotts End, Hemel Hempstead, on 12-15th September, but numbers are limited and you need to book in advance if you want to go.

The newsletter itself is double length and covers the 20 years the Trust has been in existence, and if you have been interested in the way heritage issues have been developing in the area it is well worth a read. The web site (address unchanged at has been redone, although it is obviously still waiting for more information to be uploaded. For instance the links page does not yet include all the member society sites - there is no link to the Tring Local History Society, The Tring Local History Museum, or the Natural History Museum at Tring. Perhaps it might be appropriate to include links to other sites which are relevant to Dacorum's Heritage - such as A2A (which included part of the DHT own catalogue) and to other museums in Hertfordshire. Perhaps even the Tring pages on this site ot the Leverstock Green Chronicle might get a mention. It will be interesting to see if the new curator, Dr Paul Hyman gives the site a more outwards looking feel. The first curator, Matt Wheeler, seemed to realise that there were people all over the world who were interested in the heritage of the area, but who would find it difficult to actually visit the area. After he left the Trust seem to become more inward looking - with an emphasis on school education, and the heritage page in the Gazette. I am sure that there will be great improvements under the new curator and will report here again once the new web site has settled in.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Flamstead War Memorial (what is happening about your local memorial?)

A couple of years ago I decided I would try and photograph as many Hertfordshire war memorial as possible in time for the coming anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. It soon became clear that (1) this was being overambitious and (2) most towns and villages seem to have had the same idea and are documenting their own. However a year ago I visited the parish of Flamstead and took a number of pictures of the Parish Church and the war memorial which I posted on Geograph.
Flamstead War Memorial
Geograph allows high-resolution pictures - which means you can zoom in on the inscription, and Colleen emailed This is a great pic of the war memorial.  My friend's great uncle, George William Flitton is commemorated on here.  I'm tracing her family tree and only recently discovered George William.  I can't wait to tell her about another relative.  Keep up the good work with the super photos.

This not only reminded me I have a backlog of photographs of Hertfordshire to post on Geograph, but caused me to check to see what was happening online. 

The Flamstead Parish Council have a page on the war memorial with a full list of names, and they adding further information (last update in August)

They are also working with the Ver Valley Remembrance Group, which includes Redbourn (war memorial page), Markyate, Childwickbury Estate and (just over the ciunty boundary) Luton Hoo estate.

If you know of a Remembrance Group working in any other Hertfordshire towns or villages let me know by posting details as a comment below.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Anne Drake Garrard's Commonplace Book (Genealogists' Magazine)

The September 2013 issue of the Genealogists' Magazine (the Journal of the Society of Genealogists) contains one article of particular interest to this web site. This is an article by Barney Tyrwhitt-Drake on Anne Drake Garrard's Commonplace Book. Anne was the daughter of Charles Drake who changed his surname when he inherited part of the property of the Garrard family at Lamer, near Wheathamstead. "Anne was the archtypical maiden aunt to several generations of her family, and her commonplace book includes contributions from many cousins and more distant relatives. ... she left several genealogical nuggets for her relatives. Among these was a four generation family tree [Illustrated] from Montague Drake (1698-1728) to Thomas D Tyrwhitt Drake (1749-1810). She dates her book from 1806 in the early pages, so this tree was drawn up in the early 19th century." 

The family tree refers to earlier non-Hertfordshire generations, and there are no Hertfordshire quotations given in the short article, but it is useful to note when such documents survive, and where possible make sure that their contents are accessible to future generations.

The magazine also includes an interesting article which illustrates how Richard III bones, discovered under a car park in Leicester, could be identified by finding a living relative down the female line, and matching mtDNA. 

The Library section contain three new additions relating to Hertfordshire. These are a copy of the book, Cathedral & City (St Albans) and transcripts of the registers of Watford Congregational Church and St Stephen Presbyterian Church, Watford.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Patterson Sketch of the River Gade at Water End

Frank Patterson (1871-1952) was a prolific artist who published a large number of pictures  in cycling magazines. This one shows the bridge over the River Gade at Great Gaddesden, just north of Hemel Hempstead.

Gt Gaddesden
In addition to adding the picture I have restructures the Great Gaddesden page so there are now separate pages for St John the Baptist Church, Gaddesden Place and Water End.

I have also created new links to an old page on the population of Great Gaddesden in 1881, which demonstrates how few people moved more that a short distance from where they were born in rural Hertfordshire.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

August report - and "Behind the Scenes" Correspondence

During August the number of page views on the Newsletter was 5793, which is the second highest ever, the highest being influenced by the Japanese Garden post which attracted over a thousand views in a few days. There have been over 24,500 visitors to the main web site - a record for August, and with over 180,000 visitors so far this year we are clearly going to meet the quarter of a million visitor target for the year.

I have been trying to cut back on the time I spend on this site along the lines of my Post Future of this Web Site - Thinking Ahead 2013-2018. The William Brown Account Book Project is getting underway with three detailed notes and the other 20 posts in August include some lightweight quickies - such as the historic recipe for Brown Pea Soup. However I have been busier than ever due to an exceptional amount of behind the scenes correspondence. In the middle of the month I mentioned that my mail box had been very busy - and below are some of the subjects covered in August. Where appropriate the relevant pages on the main site will be updated or created as time allows, and clearing the backlog (plus other non-genealogical activities) will mean that there could be fewer completely new posts in September. There are almost certainly going to be more delays in answering mail.

Read on for summary of the "Behind the Scenes" Correspondence.