Saturday, December 24, 2016

Seasons Greetings

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year to All
A Christmas post card by "F S" from 1908
Increasing pressures this year on a number of fronts meant that taking time off to relax became a priority - with "keeping fit" walks a priority. Doing research helps me relax, and this year I found I needed a project that that had a significant "fun" element in it. Last October I told you that I was working on:

Who was "F S" and did he work in St Albans with "Karaktus"?

Since then, whenever I feel I need a break I can go online to ebay and search through the many tens of thousands of early 20th century comic postcards on ebay to try and unravel what looks like a complex story involving a postcard printer in Saxony , a wholesale stationer in Brighton, and several very short-lived postcard publishing companies!  Unfortunately there has been no progress in the original problem of identifying Karaktus. It is clear that the pages I put online in October will need a significant rewrite to accommodate the new. information - so expect a few mor ecomic post card blogs in 2017.

My wife and I are planning to enjoy ourselves over Christmas and needless to say Aylesbury duck is again on the menu.
The above picture shows our 2012 Xmas duck
This year we will be separating the crown and having two separate meals

The Parson's Turkey

Half a century ago, when the income of a dissenting preacher in England was not very large, his salary was often supplemented by a bountiful of provisions from the well-to-do members of his congregation. A Baptist minister in Hertfordshire used at Christmas time to be positively inundated with hampers filled with good things. On one occasion an enormous turkey was sent to him by the thoughtful kindness a neighbouring farmer; but, as the minister's family had already provided for the Christmas dinner, the bird was sent into the market and sold. A passer-by, seeing this fine specimen of poultry, said, "What a splendid turkey! Just the thing for the parson's Christmas dinner." And to the "parson it was sent. The prudent wife sent it second time to the market, and sold it again for a handsome sum. Another friend, similarly struck with the magnificent proportions of the turkey, purchased it, and also sent it to the " parson." Not wishing to fly in the face Providence, the good man said, last, " It very clear that the Lord means us to have this turkey" and, with the entire approbation of the family, it formed part of the Christmas dinner. 
From the Aldershot Military Gazette 18th October 1875

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Could this 1915 photo help locate Briton's Camp, St Albans?

During the Summer of 1915 a large tented military camp was established in fields in the St Albans area but its location is uncertain. A great many pictures exist but apart from showing the soldiers, the tents and open fields there had been an absence of identifiable landmarks. ... until now ...

Chris Bailey is researching the Lincolnshire Regiment and has also been puzzling where the 2nd/5th Lincs spent the summer of 1915. He has provided seven pictures taken when they were based in the St Albans area, which I have added to the end of the Briton's Camp page. Two of the pictures of the camp include distant images of a number of buildings (possibly set along a road) including one which could be a factory with a large chimney. This suggests that the camp was close to a built up area.

Other pictures, all believed to be of the St Albans area, contain identifiable features. One shows a line of railway carriages and a different factory. Another shows the troops in procession in a built up area.

I assume the "Baths in the Roman Trenches" is at Beech Bottom.

If anyone can identify the location of any of the pictures Chris would be love to know and I will also label the pictures accordingly.

Either comment below or use "Ask Chris" on the main web site.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Email Problems

Yesterday my software diverted an email into my spam box - nothing unusual about that as it happens several times a day. However it seemed at a quick glance to be a genuine request for help on a family history problem (surname may have been CHILD). So I clicked on the "not spam" button and it vanished - and I can't find it anywhere on my computer or on the server. So apologies, whoever you, were but I am not able to reply.

This may also be a good time to remind you that if you send me an emailed request and want a reply make sure that your system will accept my reply. So systems seem to be set up to treat as spam anything they don't recognize and I know at least one recent message I sent didn't get to the questioner for this reason. 

The Census Enumerator strike back

19th November

The Enumerator Strikes Back
(A look at the census enumerator's work)
by David Annal

Talk starts 3 pm at the Woolmer Green Village Hall

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Improved Facilities for Birth and Death Certificates

The General Registry Office ( has now launched a new search (and order) facility for historic birth and death certificates based on what is actually on the certificate rather than the old indexes. In addition the birth index from 1837 now gives the mother's maiden name while the death index gives the age at death.

I decided to test it out using information from the Phipson One Name Study I carried out in the 1980s = which involved manhandling hundreds of heavy Victorian indexes when they were in St Catherine's House, in London. There indexes were later used to produce the online FreeBMD. For details of my tests see below:

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Don't Forget the Midwife ... Some useful Sources

Nurse Elizabeth Phillips
Where a village like Preston is well covered by a local historian with an excellent web site such as A History of Preston in Hertfordshire I am delighted as I can relax as there is no point in duplicating what is already online and I can simply point the visitor to the appropriate URL., and pass on useful updates via this newsletter.
Philip has just posted an interesting account of Preston's first midwife which makes interesting reading - and includes some interesting general information on childbirth and midwifery. It also highlights two useful sources of information I had not considered.
The first is that Ancestry have now included some information on midwives to add to there collection of useful sources.
The second relates to the Hertfordshire Cohort Study - which is a major clinical research study based on the finding of records of births and early infancy for children born in Hertfordshire between 1911 and 1939. Records were kept of child's name, data and weight at birth, together with weight at one year, vaccination history and first school at five, and some other detail, and this can now be related to what happened (and in many cases is still happening) later in life. Similar records were probably kept elsewhere but have not survived, while most, but not all for Hertfordshire have survived. I remember, many years ago, there was a news article in the Hemel Hempstead Gazette about the discovery of a book of old maternity records which had been saved from ending up in a skip and how useful they would prove to be. However I had not realized how important they were.
None of my immediate family are part of the study as my mother was born in Hemel Hempstead in 1908 and while I was born in St Albans in 1938 the St Albans records have not survived - and in any case would not have included information on my weight at one year, etc, because my parents moved to SOmerset when I was 11 months old.
Of course the files contain medical information on living people so the detailed information, such as whether a child was breast-fed, is not yet available to genealogists but there are some interesting statistical findings.

Quite by chance the question of birth came up at the recent St Albans History Conference. Roger (who has previously corresponded with this site) asked a question, relating to Bernards Heath. I happened to mention I was born on the other side of the road, and he commented that he had been born at "Hazeldene" at about the same time. ... As it happens my son was born in a nursing home in Exeter but both my daughters were born at home in Tring, with midwife care and grandma (a trained nurse) available to help as necessary.

 So do you know whether your ancestors were born at home - or in a nursing home, or in a hospital, or did they go to their mother's house for the actual birth?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

What lies underneath Bernards Heath, St Albans

The area of the Fontmell Close as it was in about 1900
I gave my talk "Brick Pits and other old holes" to the St Albans & District Local History Network Annual Conference yesterday, discribing the reasons people had duh holes in Bernards Heath  and the talk is now online at "HOLES"

Some of the slides have details supplementary notes and I had planned to add more today - but have picked up a cold which has gone to my chest (I have asthma) so I decided that plenty of fresh air was better for me than spending hours at the computer. I hope to add the missing notes over the next week or so.

Following a note from Roger I have looked at my records of William Bennett, who made bricks on the site now occupied by Fontmell Close. William also had brickworks at Harpenden and Hemel Hempstead - and there appears to have been a chalk mine on site at Harpenden and a deep well on site at Hemel Hempstead. As he had lime kilns on Bernards Heath je almost certainly had a similar chalk mine and/or deep well. Failure of the capping of a shaft into a significant chalk mine could easily explain the rather large hole in the road. I have added details to the relevant page of the online text of the talk.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Watford Poisoning Case

Watford Poisoning Case. 
 The Servant Confesses that She Put Belladonna in the Rice Pudding. 
The medical practitioners who were called by the police to attend to Mr. Henry Crawley, a Watford tradesman, and his family, who were poisoned on Friday last whilst having dinner, have decided that the poison used was belladonna. 
From inquiries made, it appears that this poison had been placed in a rice padding which had been prepared for dinner that day Mrs. Crawley. Just before it was placed on the table one of the children tasted it, and called the attention his mother to an extreme bitterness in the custard. Thinking that bitterness was due to absence of sugar, Mrs. Crawley went into the shop, to get some, and subsequently mixed it in the pudding. The family, all partook of the pudding, and were soon afterwards seized with violent pains, and showed symptoms of poisoning. Owing to the exertions of the doctors the family were soon oat of danger, but are still very weak. 
On Sunday the servant girl confessed to having put some belladonna, which was used by Mr. Crawley for his eyes, into the rice pudding. She was arrested at once and taken the Watford Police Station.
The bottle of belladonna was kept on a high shelf in Mr. Crawley’s bedroom. Only he and Mrs. Crawley and the servant knew where it was. The doctor had warned his patient as to the dangerous nature of the contents, and it is said that the servant was present at the time. After Friday’s dinner Mr. Crawley noticed that the contents of the bottle were materially reduced. 
The servant, whose name Leonora Ann Melinda Florence Robinson, and who is only fifteen, was charged at Watford Court on Monday. Formal evidence of ### having been given, accused was remanded.

Whenever the British Newspaper Archive announces that it has digitized an unusual newspaper I dive in to see what Hertfordshire news it contains. The above story comes from the Illustrated Police Budget of 18th February, 1899.

The 1899 Kelly's directory lists a Henry Crawley, furniture dealer, of 139 Queen Street, Watford.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

On Saturday I will be talking about a hole in the road !

The St Albans & District Local History Network Annual Conference is to be held in the Verulamium Museum next Saturday (22nd October) and and for your information the programme contains the following presentations:
Kate Harwood - Historic Town GardensRosemary Ross & Alison Macfarlane - Marianne Sherman's dance manuscripts: a glimpse into gentry life in Harpenden at the time of Jane AustenChris Reynolds - Brick Pits & Other Old Holes on Bernards HeathKate Morris - St Peter’s Grange or the Grange in St Peter’sSarah Keeling - How to Care For Small ArchivesJon Mein - 'St Albans: Life on the Home Front 1914 to 1918'Hertfordshire’s Hidden Heroines
If you haven't already booked a place I gather you are too late as all places are taken - but in case you are interested I will be posting my talk on the main web site on Sunday. However if you feel the County roads are in a bad condition, and want to know why a hole in the road is of particular interest look below the fold.

Who was "F S" and did he work in St Albans with "Karaktus"?

Sometimes when you are doing research you get carried away with a side issue - and my recent investigation into the identity of a post card artist signing himself  "F S" is a good example.

Card by Karaktus
Some years ago I discovered some unusual comic cards published around 1908  by the short-lived Crown Publishing Company of St Albans and drawn by "Karaktus." As a result I have so far identified almost all his designs (I have details and in most cases copies, of 28 out of 30 different cards) However I made no progress in discovering the identity of "Karaktus."

Card by "F S"
In my research I discovered that the Crown Publishing Company also produced cards in the "Crown Series" some of which were signed "F S" and it seemed likely "F S" and "Karaktus" knew each other (unless they  were the same artist using two different pen names,) Perhaps, I thought that if I could identify "F S" (who I now realized has some links with the St Albans company) it would lead me to "Karaktus".

"FS" card from USA
My first online searches showed that the majority of post card sellers made no attempt to identity "F S," while those who did came up with either "F Stone" (who signed a small number of cards published in about 1906) or "Fred Spurgin." (a very well known post card artist whose cards started to appear in about 1910, including many produced in the First World War). However the work of these two artists were stylistically quite different to that of "F S."  In addition "F S" cards involved many different named publishers (or none), and were not always signed - although in some cases the same card was issued, with  or without signature, by a different publisher. In many cases the cards were not used (so no postal date), and often the publisher information on the back was not immediately available.

What was going on? I started a comprehensive search over a number of months and have now identified well over 100 different images - and I am still no wiser as to who he is - except that based on style of artwork and subject treatment I think "F S" is unlikely to be "Fred Spurgin".

Unsigned card probably by "F S"
What I guess happened is the "F S" was a freelance artist, who started to produce comic postcards for the London View Company in 1906 - shortly before the company closed down. Following the closure of LVC he was probably involved in setting up the short lived Crown Publishing Company in St Albans in 1908-9. By about 1910 some of his cards were being published in the USA and the same images also turned up in the UK at about the same time - often with no publisher name..
For more Information see
A summary of "F S" post cards. (link from above)
Unsigned - by F S ?
If you have any information which would help me identify "F S" or "Karaktus" or the subjects, publishers and earliest postal dates of their cards I will be grateful. If there is sufficient interest when I have time I will add a catalogue of card series, individual card titles, publishers and dates, for the benefit of other collectors.

Note on images: Many of the images come directly from the web (particularly auction sites) and I have deliberately reduced the image size to thumbs 250 pixels wide. (If I already own a copy clicking a blue edged image will give a much larger image). For cards currently on sale you could start by searching ebay collectibles using:
postcard ("F S", "F Stone", "Fred Stone") (comic, artist, social) 
At the time of posting this search identified 22 "F S" cards with a typical price of about £4.00

Saturday, October 15, 2016

On the Beat - With the Hertfordshire Police

22nd October
On the Beat
(Herts Policing in the Web)
by Julie Gregson

Talk starts 3 pm at the Woolmer Green Village Hall

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Work is about to start on the New Town Centre Museum at St Albans

It is just over a year since I posted pictures of the closure of the Victorian museum building in Hatfield Road (which had been made of bricks from my Great Grandfather's works on Bernards Heath. I am therefore delighted to see that St Albans Council have just posted information to say that the building work to prepare the museum's new home in the former Town Hall building will start in November.

The Alcoholic English Origins of "Tom and Jerry"

How did Tom and Jerry come to get their names?

When I give talks on the history of Hertfordshire newspapers I usually include a few snippets of old news which I hope will amuse the audience. I often use the following 1829 news item from just over the Buckinghamshire border which refers to the activities of a couple of drunks as a "Tom and Jerry" freak"

Francis Fisher and Thomas Collins appeared before the Aylesbury Magistrates court and the "Tom and Jerry freak" involved breaking windows  and forgetting "that the aforesaid breakage, which they undoubtedly thought sport, was likely to be regarded very differently by the party aggrieved."

Life in London
A quick investigation revealed that the book Life in London; or the Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, Esq, and his elegant Friend, Corinthian Tom, in their rambles through the Metropolis was written by Pierce Egan and was first published in parts starting in October 1820. It became very popular nationwide and within a year there was a Tom and Jerry play on the stage in London. 

But could there really be some link between the activities of  two 1820s fictional London toffs and antics of the cartoon cat and mouse duo created in America in 1940?  It was nice to speculate but I left the question unanswered until it surprisingly came up in conversation last week.
A "Tom & Jerry"

At a family gathering in a restaurant in London the bartender came especially over to the table to speak to my Canadian daughter-in-law. He had prepared her cocktail and wanted to say that in ten years this was the first time anyone had ordered a "Tom and Jerry." The ensuing conversation - and a subsequent check on the internet provided the missing link.

The key link would seen to be the fact that to publicize the book and play Egan introduced a "Tom and Jerry" drink which was an eggnog with a dash of brandy. Undoubtedly this helped to keep the memory of "Tom and Jerry" alive in the United States. The drink was recorded by famous American bartender "Professor" Jerry Thomas who wrote one of the earliest guides entitled How to Mix Drinks in 1862 and is reputed to have kept a pair of mice named Tom and Jerry. From then on a "Tom and Jerry" became a regular feature of the American Christmas celebrations - although the original Corinthian Tom and Jerry Hawthorn were less well remembered in England.

Between 1931 a series of short cartoons were made by Van Beuren of a pair of men, one big and the other small, which may in some way related back the original pair. However in 1940 there was the first release of a cartoon, by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera of the cat and mouse figures we all know today.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

First World War: The Home Front at St Albans

Members of the St Albans Arc & Arc Society's Home Front Project Group have arranged for a pop up stall to be set up in St Albans Central Library on Wednesday 19 October. The aim is to give members of the public the opportunity to chat with the group about our new book, St Albans: Life on the Home Front, 1914-1918.

Herts at War - Salonika - Talk 19th October

The next "Herts at War" talk about the involvement of the Herts Regiment in the Fisrt World War is on "Salonika" on 19th October It is being given by Alan Wakefield who co-authored the book Under the Devil’s Eye: Britain’s Forgotten Army at Salonika 1915-1918 for Sutton Publishing. He is currently working with photographs at the Imperial War Museum.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

How "Genealogy in Hertordshire" is raising money for the mentally ill of Hertfordshire

Lucy (1964-1985)
The Genealogy in Hertfordshire web site is a very popular one which provides a free online service and raises money for the mentally ill in Hertfordshire in memory of my daughters Lucy and Belinda. The software and computer that support the site is showing its age. In planning the site's future it is appropriate to ask how effective it has been in raising money for charity and so I have been looking at the relevant statistics.
Belinda (1966-2001)
In the first nine month of 2016 the site had just over 1 million visits but 90% are the typical quick in/out visits, suggested by search engines like google, where many visitors sees the page and decides to move on in less than a minute.

I have decided that only serious visitors matter - and to be serious a visit needs to trigger at least 6 page requests and/or stay connected for more than 5 minutes. Over nine months nearly 27,000 visitors have made more than 6 page requests (about 100 a day) and about 4 visitors a day are sufficiently interested in exploring the site to make more than 100 page requests. In total over 100,000 visitors spent more than 5 minutes on the site and nearly 10,000 have spent more than a hour exploring the site. In addition (using a different statistical package) over 50,000 accesses to this Newletter blog average out at about 200 a day.
The Hertfordshire Mind Network
So with all this activity how successful has the site been at raising money for charity. In fact donations this year are far lower than previously and the total to date is only £111. Spread over the 100,000 serious visitors this works out at the very ungenerous 0.1 penny per visit. If one widens the calculation every £1 donation "costs" about 10 hours of my time (including support activities where the answer does not appear directly online) and at least £10 expenditure (from my pension) goes on computer resources, subscriptions, and ebay purchases to support the library of pictures and books that support the web site. With this level of collective dis-interest I wonder if it is worth continuing the effort.

Donate Here
If you have found this site and my help and advice useful please say thank you, and cheer me up,  by making an online donation to the Herts Mind Network to help the mentally ill of Hertfordshire in time for Christmas.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Schoolboy murdered in the street at Buntingford

London Daily News
Dundee Chronicle 21/11/1911
Violent street crime is rare and when it happened in the past it was covered in newspapers all over country. Lisa is researching the Buntingford Tragedy back in 1911 for her father in law (Clive Hitch) as it was his uncle (George Hitch) which was murdered by a Mary Boddy.   She says she has some old news paper copy's of the little boy and his grave and would like to trace the originals of the photos, which will be far clearer.

Does anyone have any ideas as to where such pictures might have survived? The local papers, which may have included the pictures, are not yet on the British Newspaper Archive and even if they were the quality would not be very high.

Monday, October 3, 2016

A "New" old picture of Harpsfield Hall, near Hatfield.

Lindsay has kindly provided a picture, believed to date from the 1870s, if this lovely old farm house, which was demolished in the 1930s to make way for the aerodrome at Hatfield (now itself consigned to history).

The man on a seat to the right of the picture is James Sinclair.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

H W Lane, Photographer in St Albans for nearly 50 years

Henry William Lane was a photographer in St Peters Street, St Albans from about 1890 until at least 1937 and I have started to collect information about at least his earlier activities. I would be very interested to hear of other examples of his work, .

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Pre-WW1 Convalescent Homes in Hertfordshire

The Hertfordshire Convalescent Home at St. Leonards-on-Sea
I have created a new Subject Page on Hertfordshire Convalescent Homes and significantly updated the page on the Countywide establishment opened in 1880 at St Leonards-on-Sea. The plan shows that while the men and women patients shares the dining room other facilities were strictly segregated.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Did Harry Andrée, a St Albans Photographer, photograph Queen Victoria?

Harry Curt Ernest Andrée was a German who ran the "Alma Road Studio," St Albans, between about 1896 and 1900 - allowing his St Albans photographs to be dated within a couple of years. He later became a photographer in Ireland, before returning to England.

The information I have so far collected on him raises two questions:

  • In 1891 he described himself as an engineer but when he arrived in St Albans, circa 1896, he was a photographer whose patrons included Her Majesty Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales and the Archbishop of Westminster. The big question is what had he done before coming to St Albans to acquire such significant patrons?
  • At about the time he left St Albans another photographer Montiville Evans started working in Alma Road. Did he take over Lane's studio?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A woman turns to butchery during the First World War

This picture appeared in the press (source unknown) in 1916.

I am sure that there were dozens of other women in Hertfordshire just like her, wielding a meat cleaver to keep the family business running.

It would be wonderful if anyone could identify her - but I suspect this will just be another example of a portrait without a name.

A reminder - are all your precious family pictures clearly labelled so that future generations know who they are. There are millions of photographs from this period which show people who have been dehumanized by having become nameless. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Another sexist comic card published in St Albans circa 1908

 This is another example of one of the rather strange and often sexist "comic" post cards published around 1908 by the Crown Publishing Company.  These cards take a very different view of women to the suffragette inspired cards that were also circulating at the time.

A typical card by Karaktus
One series of 30 cards is by an unknown artist who signed himself Karaktus (I am still trying to identify Nos 19 and 21). Some of the unsigned cards may have been by an artist who signed himself "F S" (said by some to be someone I haven't traced called Fred Stone). "F S" cards were published by the London View Company. often in a special "F S Comic Series" until 1908  - when the LVC company closed down.

Any help in identifying the artists Karaktus and "F S" - or further cards by the Crown Publishing Company would be appreciated.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Update on the Sandridge Rifle Range

Alan has provided an update on the current state of the former rifle range at Sandridge.
I have recently had a walk in the woods where the Sandridge rifle range was situated. There are two visible brick lined target frame pits up by the remnants of the stop butts. One pit is relatively clear, the other is practically filled in with soil and leaves. The two target pits are a distance of, roughly, 50 yards apart. The pit that is clearer looks about 20 yds. long by 4 yds. by 10 foot deep. It is difficult to say how long the partially buried target pit might be but the stop butt earthworks which serviced this part of the range were not very high and less complete than the other one. From the cleaner target pit is was possible to walk back along the line of the range and find the remnants of three firing point positions that would have been about 100 / 200 / 300 yds. from the target frames. There is also some brick work debris remains and a metal drain cover at the 300 yd firing point. Nothing longer than the 300yds point seems to remain visible. The area outside the woods is agricultural with a recent tree plantation in the area that would have had the longer distance firing points.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Post Cards with Hidden Messages

Over the years I have collected a variety of post cards carrying some kind of hidden or coded message [See HERE for details]
The above card, showing Berkhamsted School, carried the message:
A small portion of the "River Spey" was picked up this morning, close to the "April Flight" & is at present in safe custody. Will transfer it to yours in a day of so. Hope you got home safely. Yours ever J.B.
where "River Spey" and "April Flights" seem to have some hidden meaning.- can anyone suggest what the message may be about. Are the words anagrams - or do they represent something everyone would have known about when the card was posted in 1904

Friday, September 16, 2016

The RFA attend a Church Parade at Abbots Langley

This photograph (recovered from a very faded state) shows soldiers standing in line in the main street at Abbots Langley. The photo was taken by someone called Calvert and most of his pictures have faded badly over the years. Does anyone know who he was?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Capability Brown and the Ashridge Estate (1761-68)

Interesting historical records can turn up anywhere - and more and more are ending up on specialist web sites. The above account book entry relates to the Duke of Bridgewater's account when Capability Brown was laying out the Ashridge Estate. You may read the account book on the Royal Horticultural Society's web site

If you have found some interesting historical documents about Hertfordshire on an unexpected web site why not share the information by commenting below.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Watford Club perform "Les Cloches de Cornville" at St Albans

Having recently posted a picture of a Watford Choir taken by a local photographer, William Coles, in 1923 I was interested to see from the following news item that another Watford Photographer, Frederick Downer, was singing in opera in 1895:
 St. Albans - County Hall.  -  On Wednesday and Thursday, January 30 and 31, the Watford Club gave performances of Les Cloches de Corneville. The Co. were fortunate In having the services of so capable a comedian as Mr. Harry Buck, who took the part of Gobo in excellent style, being very droll. To this gentleman was also entrusted the duties of stage-manager, and he discharged this part of his work in a first-class manner. Mr. Fred Downer as the Marquis de Corncville looked and sang and spoke his lines remarkably well. He was heard to special advantage in the duets with Germaine, in the charming person of Miss Haig. This young lady took the palm of the evening among the lady performers, her acting being good, and she is possessed of a very sweet voice. Miss Buck as Serpolette was also extremely commendable. Praise must be given to Mr. A. J. Cook for his clever portrayal of the miser Gaspard. In the Ghost scene he was excellent. Mr. Richardson as the Bailie slightly overacted his part; otherwise he was good. Grenloheau was looked after in good style by Mr. R. W. Burge, although his acting did not come up to the level of his singing. The Co. all worked hard, and the choruses were given with plenty of go, and in good time. The splendid costumes and wigs used were supplied by Clarkson. The scenery, painted bv Messrs. Downer, Cottam, and Healy, was very good, especially the third scene in act one, painted b\ the latter gentleman, the Market Place in Corneville. A prettier set has seldom been been on these boards. Mr. J. F Gravcs acted as accompanist, and Mr. A. Cottam as musica d 'rector. A special train was run back to Watford each night.
Can you identify any of the other people involved?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dating the early photographs of William Coles of Watford

CDV back circa 1889
William Coles (1853-1938)

In 1881 William Coles was an assistant chemist working for Theophilus John Piggot, photographer, at Leighton Buzzard. By the late 1880s he was trading as a photographer in Queens Road, Watford, and was still trading there in 1926. For a short time around 1890 he also had a studio on the Broadway, Chesham, and by 1899 had a studio in Marlowes, Hemel Hempstead, which continued for about 10 years. His carte de visite and cabinet cards usually have a negative number and the time line below suggests dates for various backs. Later backs say "by special appointment of Princess Eulalia of Spain - possibly after the Princess's visit to Watford in 1899. As a result if is possible to assign approximate dates on his Victorian photographs from the negative numbers and printing on the back.

Cabinet back circa 1900
Unknown Mother & Child
Unfortunately few of the wonderful portraits are identified - but perhaps, if your ancestors came from the Watford area you may be able to suggest a name.

He was also selling views of many local towns and villages by the early 1890s, and was producing a wide range of view post cards in the 1900s - some of which may have been from earlier negatives. He also produced a number of post cards of news events, which are normally dated.