Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Problem of Houses with Hertfordshire Place Names

Help Desk
I recently had a query asking why a family with no connection with Devon appear to have lived in a house in Watford named after a Devon Village. I gave the following reply:
When I was living in Sydney, Australia, I had to get used to the idea that travelling from Kings Cross you could cross the Surrey Hills, and get to Stanmore via Darlington. At least it was easier to remember that if you went north up the coast Gateshead was immediately adjacent to Newcastle.
People have been moving round the world giving their new home the name of the place they came from. There are thousands of small private houses in Hertfordshire, built during the housing boom brought on by the coming of the railways, which were given place names by their first owner  because street house numbering was not common. They moved on  - and the new owner might retain the old name - or give it a new one. If your ancestor's photograph was taken at the time of their wedding the house might still have the name given to it by an earlier owner - and they might have changed the name (or simply removed the name plate) later.  In some cases the names may have been given by the builder, and recorded in the brickwork, which explains the Devon names of some houses in St Albans.
I actually have related problems in buying post cards to illustrate this site - as in many cases pictures of large houses are advertised as if they are in the town or village they are named after. It can be difficult to discover whether they are pictures of genuine Hertfordshire houses which have since been demolished or of an impostor with a Hertfordshire-related name. I have not yet come across a case of Apsley House (also known as No. 1, London) being placed in Apsley, Hertfordshire, but I have definitely had problems with less prestigious addresses.
The Nascot Road area of Watford you mention started to develop as housing in the 1850s and 1860s, and if you look at the census you may find someone living in the area between 1861 and 1901 who came from the appropriate part of Devon!

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