Tuesday, December 30, 2014

XMAS Challenge 6: The Training Reserve Battalions

Xmas Challenge 5: Photographs by Percy Landon of Watford

Xmas 2014 Challenge - "Rules" - Link to Bigger Picture

In the Autumn of 1916 the way troops were trained was changes. Previously new recruits were allocated to on on the existing regiments, but the new arrangement was to have Training Reserve Battalions and the men were only allocated to regiments when their training was complete.  The picture here is the 20 Platoon, F Company,  22nd T.R.B. and was taken by L. L. Christmas, of St Albans. Most of the men in this photograph are wearing the General Service cap badge - but six in the middle of the 2nd row are wearing distinctive cap badges.  

Monday, December 29, 2014

Xmas Challenge 5: Photographs by Percy Landon of Watford

Xmas 2014 Challenge - "Rules" - Link to Bigger Picture

An unknown soldier - but at least the cap badge should be identifiable. There is a message on the back in very poor handwriting - could this be a clue? Apart from the date (January 14th 1916) what does it say? This photograph, and the one below, were taken by Percy Landon of Watford.
Group, mainly ladies, circa 1910
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In addition there are a number of other group photographs taken by Percy Landon including two football teams. All sensible suggestions (or dateable examples of Percy's work wiil attract a donation.  And of course if you want to make a donation yourself - because you like the challenge, or have found this site useful over the year just click on the donation box.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

An Unwanted Visitor to the Newsletter/Blog

Most of the time the right hand column of this newsletter contains a list of the most popular posts but sometimes this gets distorted by cyber criminals.

XMAS Challenge 4: Who was the Abbot in the 1907 St Albans Pageant?

Xmas 2014 Challenge - "Rules" - Link to Bigger Picture

The back of this card has the following words added "The Abbot and Monks of St Albans in 1380. The Peasants Revolt. Episode VI. Watford."  Now I know that Episode VI of the St Albans Pageant of 1907 was about the Peasants Revolt and the pageant involved people from other towns and villages - so did the Abbot and his monks come from Watford. I will donate £2 for each name of a monk (£5 if you can tie it to an individual in the picture) - the names may well be given in the programme or press reports.

link to bigger picture
The second card came from the same ebay seller and is by a Watford photographer and picture framer, C. A. Solomons. So could it also relate to the St Albans Pageant. Could the lady with the "sun"crown be Queen Boadicea? £5 if you can confirm it relates to the pageant (£10 if you can tie it to a different event) and £2 for each actor's name - increased to £5 if you can link the name with a face.

I would also be interested to know of other photographs of the pageant, or identified photographs by C. A. Solomons.

Donate here
If, between you, you can identify everyone this could result in me donating £50 tp support mental health work in Hertfordshire. And of course if you want to make a donation yourself - because you like the challenge, or have found this site useful over the year just click on the donation box..

Friday, December 26, 2014

First Hand Account of Xmas Truce by Aylesbury man who trained at Hemel Hempstead

On 16th January 1915 the Bucks Herald published this detailed account of the Xmas truce by Sergeant Ernest. Charles Whiskin, of the Queen's Westminster Rifles. He was born in Aylesbury in 1870 and had worked on the Bucks Herald. It is of particular interest to me because the Queen's Westminster Rifles trained at Leverstock Green, under Colonel Shoolbred (for whom Ernest worked in London) and are mention a number of times in my book The London Gunners come to Town.

Tring at War: Latest News 26th December, 1914

A quiet week, as the excitement (and adverts) anticipating Christmas of previous issues are no more. The biggest event was the funeral of Dr. James Brown which was described in detail, including the names of people attending. The report on the effects of the troops on the town are briefly reviewed and mentions that the Constitutional Club had thrown is doors open to the troop, many of whom also attended the cinema, which had been showing a film called "The Black Chancellor." Locals would have been glad to here that the while the soldiers could not be served after 8.30pm the locals could still get a drink up to 10pm.
Three other papers had items of local interest. A number of the soldiers billeted in the area were miners from Northumberland and Capt. D. Graham Pole wrote a letter in the Newcastle Journal saying the men were  in urgent want of mufflers, shirts, socks, pants, gloves, etc.  The Chelmsford Chronicle reported that the Rev T. A. Adkins is to be Roman Catholic Chaplain to the Forces based in the Tring area. The Bedfordshire Times reported that the Rev. G. W. Field was coming to the curacy of Aldbury, while Rev. G. W. Russell is to be curate at Berkhamsted and Rev. N. Miller is to be a master at Berkhamsted school.

XMAS Challenge 2: Schoolchildren at Watford? circa 1910

click for larger image
Xmas 2014 Challenge

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Military Christmas in Hertfordshire

The following article is based on part of Chapter 18 of The London Gunners come to Town and was published in the December 1995 issue of Hertfordshire Countryside.
It was reprinted in Margaret Ashby's book "A Hertfordshire Christmas"

XMAS Challenge 1: A group of soldiers and civilians in St Albans(?) circa 1915

Xmas 2014 Challenge
Larger Image

Christmas Challenge 2014 - Rules

This year I am setting a "quiz" with a difference. The trick is that I don't know the answers to the questions and the prizes all go to this site's chosen charity - the Herts Mind Network. The more people do to find the answers the more the charity benefits!

Each day between now and the New Year I will be posting one (or sometimes two) pictures showing people - and in each case the aim is to uncover as much of the story behind the card as possible. (In fact all the pictures are already on line and can be seen in advance here)

For each face where someone can give a definite name I will personally donate £5 (£2 if you can name someone who was there - but cannot identify them). £5 will be donated for each regimental cap badge recognized. When not already known £5 will be given for locations and dates. Relevant information relating to the subject may also attract a reward, at my discretion.
Donate here

While the closing date is the end of the year I will consider donations for good answers received any time in 2015.

And of course if you want to make a donation yourself - because you like the challenge, or have found this site useful over the just click on the donation box on the right.  I could end up donating several hundred pounds if all the questions are answered - so it would be nice if all the readers of this message could, together, exceed this amount.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Ancestor was a Vandal - What did your ancestor get up to?

Searching the British Newspaper Archives for my ancestors I came up with the following incident, in 1841, at Kings Lynn, Norfolk, involving by Great Great Grandfather Francis Reynolds (1804-1874):

In fact his life history is a good example about how useful old newspapers can be in leaning about your ancestors.
If you are at a loose end over the holiday break why not add a comment about the most interesting or unusual incident involving your ancestor you have discovered in an old online newspaper.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I've been Googled ! ! ! !

This morning I wanted to chase up a reference to the First World War and couldn't remember the web site URL I needed so I decided to Google "First World War" and half way down the first page something caught my eye.
Yes - there was my own face looking back at me - it may only be a small thumb - but it was definitely me.  What on earth was it doing there? At first I thought it was some trick advert which inserted my details into an advertising message but a quick check showed that it was genuine. A post on this newsletter - advertising the Herts Family History Society essay competition - had gone viral on plus.google.com and so far has collected 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Herts at War Lecture Programme Jan-July 2015

Herts at War
Herts at War are running a series of talks on the First Wold War
Clive Harris  The Greater Game (January)
Peter Hart Gallipoli 1915 (February)
Richard Grayson - Neuve Chapelle 1915 (March)
Terry Cox Herts Police in The Great War (April)
Chris Baker 'Blood Money' 1914 - 1918 (May)
Taff Gillingham Remembrance and The Great War (June)
Dan Hill 'The Herts Guards' (July)

The talks are being held on the second Thursday of the month at The Theatre, St Christopher School, Barrington Road, Letchworth Garden City, Herts, SG6 3JZ, arrival at 7pm with the talk commencing at 7.30.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Tring at War - Latest News 19th December, 1914

Christmas in Tring is looking good, as the the decision to based the headquarters of the 21st Division in the town, and the billeting of some 3,000 men now means that the shops are busy, although they would be even busier if local people shopped locally rather than in London. The paper was full of Xmas adverts and Tring Consolidated Charities distributed tickets for bread and coal. Over £25 was raised at the Tring Stock Sale for the Belgium Relief Fund and the big local news was the death of Dr Brown. There are brief mentions of the success of  Evelyn A. Freeman and Norah Jeffery in music exams, the vocalists at the Gem cinema, a lecture by the Rev. E. J. Whitman at the Baptist Chapel at Wigginton,  and the fact that Mr. H. W. Bishop, of Pendley, was a judge at the Smithfield Show.
     The military plans to use the High Street Schools as a military hospital were  progressing, which will allow them to vacate the Victoria Hall. Several Councillors launch an appeal for Xmas gifts for the soldiers in the hospital. Meanwhile military training carries on in the area. The nearby village of Marsworth provides a list of men from the parish serving in the armed forces. The very rainy weather was causing problems in the construction of the large army camp just over the county boundary at Halton, where "The continual heavy rains have, if anything, added to the wretched conditions that prevail, and the roads in the vicinity of the camp are almost impassable to anything but heavy motor vehicles." These problems may be why James Putnam was offering 30/- a week, plus lodgings, for "Pair and Single Horse Drivers" to work at the camp. Elsewhere in the paper there is a mention of the problems farmers are having with preparing the fields for the crops because so many farm workers have volunteered for the forces. [Later in the war a single track narrow gauge line was built between Wendover Station and the camp]
     Bombardier P. Seabrook, 35th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, son of Mr. Edwin Seabrook, of Albert-street, wrote home and while such letters do not normally mention the location or the fighting he can report that "Yon can read of my Battery in the Daily Mail of Nov. 26th. The heading 'Sticking to the Guns.' and 'The Heroic Defence of --- by a Single Battery commanded Major Christie.'" [Has anyone got a copy???]

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Mystery surrounding George Washington Gibbs of Aylesbury, St Albans and Liverpool

The St Albans Clock Tower in 1826
 showing George Washington Gibbs' shop
When Robert Gibbs (1766-1808) died at Aylesbury he left a family of five sons and one daughter. He appointed two trustees, Thomas Dawney and Jasper Jackson, to administer his affairs and as each of the sons became 21 they were set up in business. The first was my great great grandfather, John Gibbs, who became an auctioneer and pawnbroker. The fourth was George Washington Gibbs and shortly after he became 21 he (assisted by his brother John) leased a shop at the bottom of the Clock Tower in St Albans in 1824. This was the beginning of the Gibbs family involvement in the life of St Albans, leading to the publication of the St Albans Times and Herts Advertiser in 1855.

Liverpool Customs House - built 1839
For some reason George left St Albans circa 1830 and the printing business was continued by George's youngest brother, Richard, who later became Mayor of St Albans. George ended up as a landing waiter for the Customs service at Liverpool, where he oversaw the unloading of ships' cargoes. Why did he go there? Had he run into financial difficulties and been bailed out by the family? I am still looking for clues.

Recently Andrew contacted me about another mystery. In the 1841 census George was living in Liverpool with a woman called Elizabeth Gibbs, his two daughter's by his wife Ann (who died in 1838) and an infant Alfred Gibbs. However both Elizabeth and baby Alfred vanish from the records without trace, and neither are mentioned in George's will when he died in 1865.

What appears to have happened is that George has never married Elizabeth Pearson, although the child was registered as Alfred Gibbs, and they split up after the 1841 census. Something then happened to Elizabeth and Alfred Pearson ended up in the workhouse in 1851. He later grew up and raised a family. The key clues to the link between the missing Alfred Gibbs and Alfred Pearson are that Alfred's death in 1912 was registered as Alfred Washington Pearson, and in 1884 he named one of his children Alfred Washington Gibbs Pearson. Excellent circumstantial evidence - but will we ever find any surviving documentary evidence.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Charles Dickens, Bleak House and Abbots Hill, Abbots Langley

Abbots Langley
Abbot's Hill, Abbot's Langley
The Dacorum Heritage Trust Winter 2014 Newsletter has an interesting article suggesting that John Dickinson, of Abbots Hill, and Charles Dickens had an important mutual acquaintance in Sir Edward Bulmer-Lytton, of Knebworth House. It also brings together other evidence - and in particular a BBC interview Could this be the setting of Dickins' Bleak House? reveals some very relevant facts. So will this end the arguments over which house in Hertfordshire, supposedly near St Albans, was the model for the house described in the novel Bleak House?

Friday, December 12, 2014

100 years ago this week - A German Spy in Tring?? and other News stories

A lot of news this week - with War related news turning up all over the place. 

There was a scare about a suspect German Spy. On the war front there were additional names for the Roll of Honour for Tring and Wigginton, and some casualties such as Private Edwin Dell who was wounded and in hospital while Harold Gurney was suffering from frost-bite in the feet. The men of the 21st Division (the 62nd & 63rd Brigades billeted in Tring) were taking it in turn to take leave while Lieut. G. Macdonald Brown was unstinting in his praise of the behaviour of the Herts Regiment men at the front. Recruitment to the Volunteer Training Corps was reported as being slow. 

William Brown was advertising furnished houses near Tring and Halton - which could have been in demand where married officers wanted their families nearby during training. The Urban District Council met and in addition to routine items about a polluted pond in Grove Park, the Brook Street Sewer and a new School Manager, there were military references when discussing the Isolation Hospital and the refuse collection.

Old News
Of course everyone was preparing for Christmas, with many adverts, and I reproduce a typical one by Jacklin, a news agent, and another tuned to the war theme with the headline "War on Pain." People (including the Belgium refugees and the soldiers billeted in the town) had enjoyed Miss Darnell singing at the Gem Cinema as well as watching the films. The hare coursing season had just begun and after a good day (not so good for 14 hares) the party relaxed in the dining room of the Royal Hotel, at Tring Station - and a collection raised £1 4s for the War Fund.

On more routine matters the paper reported on the death of the Oddfellow, Thomas Dudley (55) who worked in the Tring Park building department. There were Diocesan reports of the village schools atLong Marston and Wilstone, and records of the milk production of the Shorthorn and Jersey herds at Tring Park.

St Thomas's Church, West Hyde, nr Rickmansworth

St. Thomas, was erected in 1845, at a cost of about £ 2200. The structure is of a cruciform shape, in the Norman style, and is built of flint, with stone dressings; there is a fine stained-glass east window, and accommodation for over 300 persons. The living is a Vicarage, of the yearly value .of about £320, with a residence, in the patronage of the Bishop of St. Albans. 
St Thomas, West Hyde, near Rickmansworth

Wills from 1858 can now be ordered online

Family Events
A new online service has appeared (in Beta from) which allows you to look up the probate calendars online from 1858 and order copies of the wills at £10 each (irrespective of length). It can be found at https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk/#wills. I haven't used it yet (having just ordered a will by post the old fashioned way) but the interface looks easy enough.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Percheron Horses for the Light Artillery in WW1

During the First World War my grandfather, Harry Finch Reynolds, of St Albans was a vet who went to Canada to purchase remounts to replace the horses that were needed to provide transport at the front. I posted details last year (Buying First World War Remounts - Pictures from Hammond, Indiana, USA) and have had several inquiries about the pictures. 
At Calumet Depot, 1916
William has just written to say, about this picture: The second horse probably is part Percheron, as is the dapple grey about to be loaded onto the train. It was this type of part bred Percheron that coped so well with the appalling conditions on the Western Front that led to the Government to  import purebred Percherons and establish a breeding base here, largely to breed part bred horses especially for the light artillery.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Library Downsizing - Books on Old Hertfordshire Buildings

See me on ebay
As part of my "downsizing" exercise I am getting rid of a series of books, produced circa 1980, listing buildings of special architectural or historical interest. Each volume covers a town or a number of parishes.

  • East Herts: Albury, Brent Pelham, Furneaux Pelham and Stocking Pelham
  • East Herts: Anstey, Buckland, Hormead, Meesden and Wyddial
  • North Herts: Ashwell, Bygrave, Caldecot & Newnham, Clothall, Hinxworth, Radwell and Rushden & Wallington
  • East Herts: Aspenden, Cottered and the Town of Buntingford
  • District of Welwyn Hatfield: Ayot St Lawrence, Ayot St Peter, Essendon, Hatfield, Northaw & Cuffley, North Mymms and Welwyn
  • North Herts: Baldock Area
  • East Herts: Bayford, Brickenden Liberty and Little Amwell
  • East Herts: Area of the former urban district of Bishops Stortford
  • Borough of Broxbourne
  • East Herts: Eastwick, Gilston, Hunsdon and Widford
  • East Herts: High Wych, Little Hadham, Much Hadham and Thorley
  • North Herts: Kings Walden, Langley, Preston and St Pauls Walden
In addition I am selling off a pile of 275 different Hertfordshire Countryside magazines.

More pictures on the Leavesden Pages

Leavesden was a parish created from part of Watford in the 19th century and I have restructured and augmented the pages with more post card images. There is a master Leavesden entry page with links to separate pages for All Saint's Church, The Grove (and Grove School), Munden, The Metropolitan Asulum (where the Post Office Rifles were billeted in 1914/5), The St Pancras Schools and the local part of the Grand Junction Canal.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Tring at War - 5th December 1914

Old News

The Bucks Herald prints a report from the Front about the Hertfordshire Regiment  which includes the following:
   All reports received show that the regiment displayed great gallantry in the face of great odds end terrific artillery bombardment.    They have not come through scathless, as they have lost 15 killed and 35 wounded, 4 seriously. The full list has not yet received, but among the known wounded are:
 Lieutenants Boyd (injured hack) and Hunt (shock).
Private Capel (Kimpton),
F. Brockett (Hitchin).
L. French (Hitchin).
T. Foster (Hitchin).
W. Wilkinson (Letchworth),
A. Garner (Letchworth).
Corporal Broadman (Letchworth).
Lance-Corporal T. Weston (Royston).
Private B. Kent (St. Albans),
Sergeant C. Garment (St. Albans).
 Private E. Brown (Hertford'),
Corporal Kettle (Watford),
 and Privates Reid. Castle, and O'Brien.
There is also a long list of men from Tring who are involved in the war effort  (in most cases with their units, and letters from the front lines by local men. Another account shows how Monsieur RayĆ©e and his family came over from Belgium and have settled into a house in Park  Road, Tring.
For Full details see the Latest Old Tring News

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Dining Room Clock at Christ's Hospital, Hertford

Clocks & Watches
There is a very detailed account of clock that hung in the Dining Room at Christ's Hospital, Hertford, on the web site Early Clocks. The clock hung in the Dining Room from 1879 to 1985 and there are a number of photographs of it in position (including the one above from about 1899), together with information on the clock maker.

More Information On