Monday, March 31, 2014

Painted Post Card Views of St Albans circa 1905 by Sid Gardner

St Albans
Sidney Valentine Gardner (1869-1957) was an artist associate with the Straithes (North Yorkshire) group of artists, exhibiting at the Royal Academy and elsewhere. A search suggests that his paintings were rarely used for post cards. However he was responsible for a series of attractive Oilette post cards published by Raphael Tuck, reference "St Albans 7752". I have created a page with five of these views but suspect that they were issued as a set of six. The five I have show:

Can you help me by identifying (and possibly supplying) a digital image of the missing card in the series.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

More Details about the Herts Regiment War Memorial

The following comes from the HertsatWar newsletter:

We are incredibly proud to announce that our plans to create the first and only memorial to the Hertfordshire Regiment in the Great War on the Western Front have now been approved by the Belgian Government with a location and date agreed for the placement of this unique memorial.
St Julien, 1917

The Hertfordshire Regiment lost almost 1,000 officers and men throughout the course of the Great War, many of whom were natives of the county they so bravely represented. The single worst day for the ‘Herts Guards’ (as they were affectionately known) was their ill-fated attack at St Julien near Ypres, in a battle that today we know as ‘Passchendaele’. On 31st July 1917, the Herts attacked at around 10am with 620 men, and two hours later less than 100 returned. Every major town and village in Hertfordshire lost a man in the attack that day, some lost many more.

Site of planned memorial at Steenbeke
The planned memorial will stand on the site that the attack commenced, on the river Steenbeke on the outskirts of St Julien, and will not only commemorate those who fell that day, but all of those who fought with the Herts Guards throughout the Great War. The memorial will be unveiled on 31st July 2017, exactly 100 years to the day that the attack took place, in a ceremony involving descendants of those men who fought on that ground a century earlier.

In order to place this monument to our county’s fallen, we must call upon the generosity and spirit of remembrance of today’s Hertfordshire Residents. We aim to raise £5000 to build and dedicate the memorial and we are kickstarting this campaign with a huge Quiz Night on Friday 9th May 2014, to be held at Stevenage F.C’s Broadhall Suite. The event will be a ticket only quiz and raffle evening with all funds raised going towards our £5000 memorial target.

For tickets and further details please email and to find out more about the memorial visit

Monday, March 24, 2014

Some Hertfordshire Photographers from circa 1870.

Post Cards
For many families the earliest surviving pictures of the ancestors are the Victorian Carte de Visite (CDV) and I have been collecting examples by different photographers to help you date the old portraits from the details printed on the back.

An unknown House by Fred Downer of Watford
Frederick Downer of Watford started out as a photographer in 1862. He started from his father's shop in Watford High Street, before opening a photographic studio in Loates Lane. This picture of an unknown house, and two portrait pictures, were produced before the Loates Lane address appeared on the back of his CDV - so are probably from about 1870, or earlier.

The Basebe family were artists and photographers and Athelstane Basebe was probably the one who took photographs in Hertford in about 1872. He left the county to return to Hemel Hempstead in about 1890, (I have no examples of this period) and Watford about 1900.

An unknown group by Cooper of St Albans
Thomas Milburn Cooper moved to St Albans in about 1865 and practiced as a photographer until his death in 1901. I have added three additional examples of his work, and have arranged 5 different backs into probable date order. This portrait group is believed to be from about 1870.

Samuel Rudd (died 1871)
Thomas Benwell Latchmore of Hitchin started out as a photographer in 1865 and took over the business of George Avery in 1870. The portrait of Samuel Rudd of Hitchin gives the pre-1870 address and the dating is supported by the fact that Samuel died in 1871. The back reveals that he also has a studio at Royston in the early years.

If you have examples with different backs, or known dates, I would love to hear from you - so I can improve the timelines for these , and other, Hertfordshire photographers.

Friday, March 21, 2014

WW1 Nursery Rhymes - Sing a song of Zeppelins

There is currently a lot of work being done in schools to make the pupils aware of what happened in the First World War, and many will be writing about it. But of course children were writing about the War a hundred years ago and there are references in the school magazines of the time.  The following comes from the December 1916 issue of The Mortonia which is based on "Sing a song of sixpence." 
Sing a song of Zeppelins --
How the monsters fly -­
More than twenty Germans
Rushing through the sky.
When our airmen bombed one,
How the people cheer!
Wasn't that a thrilling feat
For our gracious King to hear?

The King was in his Council room
Talking to V.C.'s.
The Queen was in the dining room
Serving soldiers' teas.
The Kaiser rushes East and West,
And curses as he goes.
Let's hope one of our "dicky birds"
Will soon peck off his nose.
[If you know of any examples of contemporary school work mentioning the war let me know as it could be of interest to people who are preparing teaching material for schools 100 years later.]

See later post Ten Little Zeppelins

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Memorial for the Herts Regiment on the Western Front

The Belgian Government have granted permission for Herts at War to place the very first Memorial to the Hertfordshire Regiment on the Western Front. 
War Memorials

The memorial will be placed just outside the village of Sint Juliaan, north of Ieper (Ypres) and will commemorate the Regiment's infamous attack on 31st July 1917 but will also stand as a tribute to all who served in the 'Herts Guards' throughout the four years and six days that they spent on the Western Front.

A Charity event is being held on 9th May to raise money to pay for the memorial. See

Relating Census returns to Maps - Where was Uncle's Farm?

Help Desk
Little Hadham
Jean's great-grandfather Arthur Trigg, was living at Uncle's Farm, at Little Hadham, in 1891. I use this case to show how it can be possible to relate census data with old maps - particularly the large scale Ordnance Survey maps of Hertfordshire which were published around 1880 and which can be accessed on
Uncle's Farm is probably plot reference 397

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Discover Sandridge April 25th to May 29th

Yesterday I went to St Albans to deliver a picture that will appear in this exhibition. 

If you have ancestors who lived the historic Sandridge (which includes parts of modern St Albans - such as Bernards Heath and Marshalswick - and parts of modern Wheathampstead north of the River Lea) why not try to get to St Albans!

Monday, March 17, 2014

It's a shame you don't have a donate button!

This morning I got a comment brimming over with praise for this newsletter ...
It's a shame you don't have a donate button! I'd most certainly donate to this superb blog! I guess for now i'll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.I look forward to new updates and will talk about this website with my Facebook group.Talk soon!
But of course, if you look in the right hand column of this blog you will see you can make a donation to help the mentally ill in Hertfordshire, although unfortunately very few of you bother to do so, and it already seems that this year's total will be well down on last year.

So why hadn't the poster made a donation if he really was so desperate to do so. It is very easy to find out by googling for "It's a shame you don't have a donate button!" and you find that hundreds of bloggers have received an identical message, felt flattered, and allowed the message to pollute their blog. In each case that the comment has been accepted the sender has succeeded in planting a link into your blog!

It is quite clear that the sender is spouting a bucketful of honey-flavoured lies in order to lure you, and people who visit your blog, to his web site. Once you realise this you know that, however innocent it looks, the message cannot be considered to be safe.  I regularly get this kind of message, admittedly not normally so flattering, and if there are any links on them I block them as spam unless I can be sure that they are genuine. As far as I can judge most of them appear to have links with the criminal end of the spectrum

In case you wondered, this is the reason why any comment you make on this blog do not appear immediately. I moderate all messages as the last thing I want is for any comments on the newsletter to be hazardous! 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, left her mark at Water End House.

Sarah Jennings was born at Water End, Sandridge (now in Wheathampstead) and little could have her parents guessed that she would end up as the Lady of Blenheim Palace! My interest in the house arises because my Great Great Grandfather, Dolphin Smith, moved there in about 1843. 

However the reason for mentioning the house now is that Harvey's father worked as a gardener at the house in the mid 20th century. As a result we now know that at that time the house was occupied by Colonel Bertram James Walker and his second wife,  Lucie Marie Ludovika Anastasia Adelheid Karola Hedwig comtesse Haugwitz-Hardenberg-Reventlow of Denmark. Harvey also provides an interesting description of the interior of the house - including an inscription "SJ" which is said to have been put there by Sarah Jennings.

Did your ancestors spend time sitting in the stocks.

Subject Index
Many of the villages in Hertfordshire would have stocks (see Early Crime and Punishment). Bishop Stortford Museum has kindly provided the following picture of the stocks that formerly stood in Thorley churchyard.
Thorley Stocks
The stocks at Aldbury still survive in the open air - but time has taken it toll. Do you know of any other Hertfordshire stocks that can still be seen  - preferably in their original location?

Views of Wilstone and Wilstone Reservoir, near Tring

A week ago I attended a most interesting meeting at Wilstone Village Hall in aid of St Cross, Wistone.  John Painter has taken up the reins, dropped by the local historian, Dick Gomm, who died in 2009, aged 93. Not only has John digitised Dick extensive collection of pictures of Wilstone but added many others, and had also recorded every early map he could find. Unfortunately they are currently not available online but is is always nice to meet an enthusiastic local historian who is systematically recording the past.

As I had some photographs of the Wilstone reservoir that were not in his archive, I have now produced higher resolution images of my Wilstone post cards - passing him copies where appropriate.
Wilstone Reservoir from the South.

This picture shows the reservoir from by the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal and the rough ground in the foreground could be the line of Miswell Lane, an ancient trackway that led from Long Marston through the current village of Wilstone, passing through what is now part of Tring to end up on what was Tring Common, on top of the Chiltern Hills. If this analysis is correct this part of the track is now lost under the former Tring Town rubbish tip, which was in use in the first half of the 20th century.

I do make mistakes sometimes ...

Help Desk
I am human - so I am capable of making mistakes - and sometimes they appear on my web site. arlier today Noni pointed out an error on the page about William Wood Cook - who had the house "Dalny Veed" built at Barley when he retired from working in Russia. Basically I had got the information about his wife's parents wrong - and the offending sentence has now been rewritten:
Dalny Veed

In 1878 William married Emily Mary Mills, daughter of Thomas Benjamin Mills (a grocer who died in 1857) and Rebecca Mills nee Beetham, in the Darlington area and in 1881 ... ...
However the question involved a lot of out-of-Hertfordshire research and the answer ends wit a note indicating that my genealogical information needed checking - which I now know it did!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Read the story of Percy Buck's Post Card - and find out how you can help

Herts at War are researching the backgrounds of the Hertfordshire soldiers who died in the First World War, and to do this they often need the help of living relatives - who hold vital information, often as photographs and letters. One of their success stories recently appeared in the Daily Mail under the title Photo clutched by WWI British soldier as he died on the Western Front was returned to his family ... by the German who killed him.

I will not duplicate the very interesting story here but will say something about Percy Buck's background and end with suggestions as to how you can help with the research currently being carried out in England.

If your ancestor couldn't write, records may be wrong

Help Desk
When Margaret's ancestor Thomas Bradshaw (born c 1811) went to Australia in 1855 his parents were described as James and Sarah. Unfortunately online records failed to produce a suitable couple in the Braughing area of Hertfordshire. However Thomas Bradshaw couldn't read and write, so when he was asked for his parent's name he naturally gave the name of the woman he called mother - although she was actually his step mother! The matter in complicated because when one investigates the marriage between James Bradshaw and his first wife, Susanna, there is a ten year gap in child baptisms - including Thomas - probably because they were non-conformists and the relevant registers have not survived.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Jacob Reynolds & Family, Heath Farm, Sandridge, 1892

Jacob Reynolds & Family at Heath Farm, Bernards Heath in 1892
In connection with Sandridge900 I have just posted this picture and views of Heath Farm - which was in Sandridge at this date, but later became St Albans on my web site. The web page includes a short biography of all the people shown - and their main links with Sandridge/St Albans as adults - together with pictures of Heath Farm. (Jacob Reynolds was my Great Grandfather and Harry Reynolds (back row right) was my Grandfather. 

I would be very interested to hear memories of the Farm when it was still operating as a diary - and would be delighted (and very surprised) if anyone knows the name of the dog.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Improved Pictures of Hunton Bridge (Abbots Langley)

Langleybury School, Hunton Bridge, circa 1905

Abbots Langley
I have reorganized the pages for Hunton Bridge (which includes Langleybury) and rescanned all the old postcards images so that they are now available at a higher resolution. This includes pictures of St Paul's Church, Langleybury, the War Memorial (as it was in the 1920s), and the Hunton Bridge Village School.

War Memorials
The War Memorial at Hunton Bridge

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Visit to Hertford Museum

I have decided that when I am travelling around Hertfordshire I should drop into local museums or other historic attractions and write a short illustrated report. So I have posted a short review, with an emphasis on the War displays, of Hertford Museum.

Picture Updates on the Hertfordshire Genealogy Web Site

Post Cards
I am currently reorganising my post card collection and relating it to the pictures on the web site - some of which have been online since the site started in 2001. Few of the older pictures have high resolution images and some need re-scanning to fit in with recent scanning and display technology. In addition there are many cards in the queue waiting to appear on the site, together with some Victorian photographs and engravings. If I was not careful this newsletter (and the associated twitter feed @HertsGenealogy) could become full of notifications such that a single picture had been added to a tiny village.

There is already a page where the menu lists recent post card updates - and the main window normally shows one of the latest updates. The latest views can be accessed by clicking on the picture on the Home page. In future all cases where a single new picture has been added or a poor quality image replaced I will wait until there are a batch of such updates.

(1) There is significant added text of historical or family history interest, perhaps in answer to a question..In a number of cases a new page may need to be created - for instance to have a special page for the parish church - and such changes will be reported
(2) The picture is particularly relevant to the First World War (pictures of troops, war memorials, etc.) because of the amount of interest in this area at present the present time.

The latest single image updates relate to:

Friday, March 7, 2014

Herts WW1 Post Cards at Sky High Prices


A number of excellent post cards have appeared on ebay at pretty fantastic prices, but if you are interested you better take a quick look before they sell.

The 11th with bridge over the River Lea

Three show the 11th London Regiment (The Finsbury Rifles) and the posting date of June 1915 suggests they presumably relate to the reserve Battalion as the 1st Battalion went to France in March 1915. One show a bridge they built over the River Lea. 
The 11th marching from St Albans to Hemel Hempstead

One shows a route march to Essendon, and another leaving St Albans on a route march to Hemel Hempstead.

Four more cards (all unposted) relate to the 23rd London Regiment (East Surrey). Three relate to the troops arrival in Hatfield in 1915. The other is undated and shows the the troops marching to South Mimms with the title "The Return to Hatfield". This would suggest it was the reserve battalion returning to the place where the 1st Battalion trained - undoubtedly including some men (for instance older officers) who had not gone to France with the 1st Battalion, but had stayed behind to train the reserves.

The 23rd on "The Return to Hatfield"
All photographs were taken by E. Kentish of Hatfield (possibly Edward William Kentish, son of John Kentish, baker, of Hatfield).