Hertfordshire Genealogy

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April 2010 Archive


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This Blog is to provide up-to-the minute information on updates together with some background on how I run this web site, plus more general genealogy news.

If you have any Hertfordshire history news that should be reported here, please Tell me about it

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Hertfordshire Views

Millhoppers Reserve

An old Drover Road?

I have taken a couple of days off from the web site, in part to sort out some household paperwork.. On Tuesday I relaxed by visiting a nature reserve (see picture) which is almost certainly part of an old drovers' road running south from the Vale of Aylesbury over the Chilterns. I would be very interested to hear from anyone whose ancestors were cattle drovers who travelled through Hertfordshire. On Thursday I was at a seminar run by Recovery in Sight which trains people who have recovered from mental health problem to help other people to overcome the effects of their illness. A great idea - and undoubtedly cost-effective but while start up funding was available, the current economic climate means that there are real difficulties about continuation funding. All the mental health charities seem to be finding funding more difficult, as both grants and donations are leas generous than they were. This squeeze on charitable giving may well be the reason why donations to this site, in aid of the charity Herts Mind Network, are significantly lower  than this time last year. [Have you made a donation yet?]

Bob explains that he is related to the family in ALLEN, Whitwell, circa 1850 and I correct Jacqueline's contact details. Bob also drew my attention to a book describing life in Whitwell during the First World War. There has been further exchanges of information on the Deards of Ware, and a page on the subject will  be appearing in May.


Shortly after I selected the view of the old drover road, I got a request from Olwyn, in connection with illustrations of a drover for the Norwich Heritage Projects. (see www.norwich-market.org.uk). She asked about the picture of a drover on the Sparrows Herne page. The picture came from Microcosm, by W. H. Pyne, 1908, and I decided to create a page for this book, and some related Luton Museum publications.

Finally I prepared the end of month list of updates for the Home page, in time for the Bank Holiday weekend.

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Hertfordshire Views

St Saviour's Church, St Albans

Had a shot at clearing the backlog, plus some quickies which came in today. Barbara has a problem relating to a Deards Marriage at Watton, 1806 - and I drafted suggestions on several sources which may help. Brian provided some more information on Ebenezer John Collett for the COLLETT, Hemel Hempstead, 1740-1870 page. I emailed Mary in connection with latest update to Castle or Cresswell Farm, Wheathampstead. (Names: Atherton, Grigg, Gulston, Minall, Nash, Dolphin Smith.). Louis reported that an external link on The Long Stay Hospitals in the St Albans area is broken. The site www.learningdisabilityhistory.com no longer exists - but should be accessible using the WayBack machine. I sent Pauline some advice on researching inns and public houses in St Albans - and may use my answer as the basis of a more general page on the subject.

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Some time ago I acquired a number of old photographs of Pupils & Masters at Haileybury College, 1867-1871, which has created some interest, so when an early 20th century school group, with names, came up for sale on ebay recently I decided to buy it to add to the online collection of old boys of Haileybury College. It is now online as Pupils  at Thomason House, Haileybury, Summer 1914.  [Surnames: Alexander, Axten, Barrand, Bateman, Bettinson, Bourne, Carr, Chapman, Colthurst, Conner, Diamant, Harvey, Hawkins, Hendley, Innes, Johnson, Jones, Lang, Langstaff, Lee (House Master), Leveson-Gower, Lightfoot, Lord, Lyell, McRae, Morrison, Mullis, Noel, Page, Peachey, Powell, Sandall, Sinclair, Tatham, Trevelyan, Turnbull, Upton, Vincent, Warner, Winch, Wright, Young.]

Additional Post Card Images
Back Street, Thundridge   High Street, Whitwell   Parish Church, Hinxworth

Rogues Gallery

An amateur football team somewhere near Watford with the nickname "The Impossibles" - but what was their official name and where were they based?


Friday, April 23rd, 2010

J. Fisher kindly pointed out that the pictures of the Fox and Hounds, Barley, put the pub on the wrong side of the road, and I have reversed the pictures and the North/South references. I discovered that Barley has now been covered by Google Streetview - which makes it far easier to identify old postcards. It would appear that the Streetview now covers much of Hertfordshire.

The post brought two books of interest.  The Hertfordshire Record Society publishes an important historical document every year and The Diary of Benjamin Woodcock, Master of the Barnet Workhouse, 1836-1838 provides a very useful view of the changes in the workhouse that took place around 1837. In particular it contains much information about the inmates - which for most workhouses does not survive.

Mark Freeman's St Albans - A History is an excellent modern local history, which combines a very readable text with good illustrations - including many colour pictures. A particularly nice feature are the detailed notes - which provide source information which most authors seem to omit. All in all a very professional work - and essential reading if your ancestors come from St Albans.

Additional Post Card Images
St Mary, North Mymms   Cobden Hill South, Radlett   Shenley multiview

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Little time to spend on this site over the last week - with major activities including daylong visits to two historic National Trust properties (Lacock Abbey and Standen), plus attending friends' Golden Wedding celebrations, visiting my sister-in-law, and an important mental health meeting. Other activities included sorting out my bank - which had messed up a direct debit payment, preparing the van for its MOT test (and possible sale), and checking the proofs of a paper. I have also spent some time following the election excitement. All this, possibly aggravated by a course of antibiotics, has left me too tired to spend much time at the keyboard. However a few things have been done.

Hertfordshire Views

St Leonard's Church, Sandridge

Various emails in and out including: George writes that he is having difficulty in locating birth information on his ancestor Samuel Kimpton, who was born in Abbots Langley in about 1837 - see KIMPTON, Abbots Langley, born circa 1837. It seems likely that he was illegitimate and his mother married a few years later. Tony provides some additional information relating to FARRINGTON, Buntingford, Early 19th century, but it takes us no further on the Hertfordhire connection. Gregory has provided information on the Gorsuch memorial - GORSUCH, Walkern, early 17th century while Alan has alerted me to some relevant books which are present on Google Books (details online later this month). Sandy has drawn my attention the the Sopwell Residents Association web site at www.sopwell.org.uk - which contains some useful history on this part of St Albans. Bruno asks about HUTCHINSON, Ware, circa 1770  and it seems likely that Sophia Hutchinson may have died in infancy - but the baptism and burial registers will need checking to prove it.

The following links have been added to the Google map: Gilston, Goffs Oak, Graveley, Great Amwell, Great Gaddesden, Great Munden, Great Wymondley, Hadley, Harpenden, Hatfield, Hertford, Hertford Heath, Hertingfordbury, Hexton, High Cross, High Wych,

Friday, April 16th, 2010

The March Issue of Hertfordshire People, the monthly magazine sent to members of the Hertfordshire Family History Society, contains 56 pages so I can only highlight a few articles. Betty's Marratt/Marriott ancestors moved to Abbots Langley while Pat asks if her Great Grandfather, Henry George Acres lead a wasted life. Anthony describedj how his Esson ancestor, who was born in the the Aberdeenshire Highlands in 1845 came to be running a shop in St Albans in 1870 with the name Wren. Beverley wrote and article From Codicote to Smethwicke - A Biography of Henry James Brothers 1830-1909 while Valerie writes about Edward Corser Fox of Cheshunt 1839-1885. There are also many short articles and a review of the book Bowling Alley Boyhood, by John Seabrook which describes his childhood in South Harpenden in the 1930s and 1940s. Future meetings at Woolmer Green Village Hall are the AGM and Finding Janetta (April 24), A Weaver at Waterloo - The Women in his Life (May 29) and A Visual Inheritance (June 26). Memorial Inscription Day will be at Lilley on June 18.

Hertfordshire Views

Tring Church Tower from the Memorial Gardens

Ray contacted me about several broken links to this site from the Hertfordshire pages of the RootsChat web site - which provides look up help. Broken links on The History of Cassiobury Park have been removed as the target site was closed after the death of its owner. Other links to www.watford-history.co.uk (which went off the air when J. B. Nunn died) have been modified with references to the WayBack Machine. While making these changes I discovered that there are no return links from this site back to RootsChat and several  have now been added. In addition a hunt was carried out for broken internal links and about 40 links were repaired, and some "unknown" links identified for repair,

 Jimmy has provided details of a marriage certificate which usefully augments the information on SHORTLAND, Berkhamsted, circa 1832 and later. Mary added to the genealogical information on LEWIS & SKINNER, St Albans, Mid-19th Century by confirming that her relative died falling down the stairs at a Little Gaddesden pub.

As I am relaxing by taking photographs on my daily walk I thought it would and to the interest to include occasional historic views in this blog.

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

This web site is 9 years old today. When it first appeared as a web site in 2001 it had about 300 pages and very few images. The working copy (not all pages currently online) contains over 9,600 files - of which around 3150 are currently accessible text pages and most of the rest are pictures, This means it has been continuously growing at about 6 pages and 12 images a week. Large numbers visit the site through the home pages - but the vast majority of visitors are via google or other search engines - which takes then straight to in individual page they want. While I am delighted with the success of the site the anniversary is always tinged with sadness. Exactly 9 years ago I completed uploading version one of the site onto the web, posted messages on several bulleting boards, and went to bed. Shortly after midnight there was a knock on the door and outside were three people, including a policeman and a policewoman. We had had a similar surprise visit over 15 years before. This time they were here to tell us our daughter Belinda had tragically died. In both cases an important factor in the death was a failure of the Criminal Justice System and National Health Service to work together when dealing with a mentally distressed individual.


Rather than mourning about the tragedies of the past, today my wife and I  concentrated on the future generations. We went to London and were shown round the Horniman Museum by our 5 year old granddaughter Hanaa. She took us to see the aquarium - and was particular insistent that we watched the jellyfish. I was then taken round the African Room and she showed me the mummy cases. This reminded me that the first time I visited the British Museum, at the age of about 10 I had spent hours in the Egyptian Galleries looking at the mummies. Hanaa had fun with the hands-on musical instruments - and the computer displays that allowed you to select the image of an instrument and then hear it being played. However what excited her most was the special exhibition of mythical creatures. There were four large moving models and because of her links with Canada we wondered if the "Wild Man" was a "Big Foot"  rather than a "Yeti" and agreed that he was bigger than a Grizzly Bear. However she was particularly interested in the "Cyclops" who was chewing a bloody haunch of venison.

The only change to the site today was to provide a direct link to Breakspear Farm, Bedmond. Abbots Langley. (If you want to link to a specific web page on this site tell me and I will provide a permanent link - as I cannot guarantee that direct links to individual place or answer pages will not change.)

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Regular visitors to this site will know that this web site raises money for a mental health charity in Hertfordshire. Since the death of my daughter Lucy in 1985 I have been working for better services, representing patients and the public. Yesterday I attended a meeting in St Albans which was to review how the National Health Service Trust which provides services in the county is planning to try to provide continuing good services on a reduced budget, which means a reduced number of staff. Of course a poor economic situation which effects everyone means that more people are likely to get depressed and need treatment, and those who are recovering are less likely to be able to find suitable employment. Having worked since the death of my daughter Lucy to improve the local service this setback is depressing - but at least the Trust is tackling the challenge in a professionally competent manner. The problems will be that there is likely to be more demands placed on the mental health charities at a time when grants from the NHS and County Council are going to be much harder to get. If you have not yet considered making a donation why not make one now.

While I was in St Albans I got information on two additional books on the city - and I will be posting details later this month.

Monday, April 12th, 2010

This course of antibiotics is clearly slowing me down but I was able to deal with some recent emails. Ruth reported that Brockett Hall, at Lemsford, became a maternity hospital in 1940. Sandra asked for information on the Birmingham ancestors of Evacustes A Phipson.

Information on the southern parts of Hertfordshire often appears on maps and accounts of the area around London - for instance Cary's Actual Survey of the Country Fifteen Miles Round London of 1800 or Hughson's Description of London circa 1805. Andrew Macair has produced a digital redrawn map of William Faden's 1788 map of The Country Twenty Five Miles round London which includes towns such as St Albans and Hertford.

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

A week with no specifically Hertfordshire emails to reply to - with many other things to do - and with an infection involving antibiotics which has slowed me down. However I have been active taking photographs of Hertfordshire as it is now, particularly in the area around Tring (including parts of Buckinghamshire).

Just over a year ago I realised that Franci would not been around to be walked  and decided to photograph my country walks - with a view to giving me a motive to continue walking when he had gone. I decided to record the many old tracks and footpaths in the are around Tring - including the canal and any related historical features. Quite a lot of the ones I took last year have been posted on Geograph. Recently I decided to upgrade my camera and over the last few days I have been experimenting with its basic facilities - and I am very impressed.

"Snapshots" of the Canal near Tring
Locks 41 and 42 Marsworth Flight Bridge No 5 at Wilstone Aylesbury Arm Bridge No 17 at Aylesbury Aylesbury Arm Swans and narrowboats at the Aylesbury Basin Restoration work on the Wendover Arm

For normal views, such as those above, taken on the auto setting and involving little or no zoom or cropping, the  results are very satisfactory, and I am sure that they will all give excellent prints to at least A4 size - as did my previous camera. The supplied software allowed a number of individual pictures to be stitched together to provide a panoramic view.

180o Panoramic View of Marsworth Reservoir

"Zoom" shots of Animals and Plants

Comma Butterfly at Drayton Beauchamps Pussy Willow catkins at Marsworth Reservoir Great Crested Grebe on Marsworth Reservoir Old Man's Beard Seeds at Drayton Beauchamps Goose taking off at Tringsford Reservoir

Having, many years ago, taken hundreds of photographs of Australian birds with a manual reflex camera with a significant zoom I decided to see how a hand-held modern pocket sized camera with a high powered zoom coped in "auto" mode. I was very pleased to get some very satisfactory pictures, as the above examples show. I got some excellent sots of butterflies sunning themselves on vegetation, with some 6 to 8 feet between the camera and the butterfly. The photograph of the pussy willow came out first time as the camera could clearly distinguish between the subject of the photo and the distant background. There is more difficulty if the background is close to the subject - as sometimes the camera focuses on the wrong object - but for plant pictures the answer is to take several pictures. Relatively stationary water birds are fine, and I have got some good shots of deer. However wildlife in motion is very problematic due to the lack of a viewfinder (in some lighting conditions the screen image can be difficult to see) and the delay between pressing the button and the shutter working.

Basically what I want is a camera which will comfortably fit into my pocket on country walks, where my main aim is to record the countryside's history, and also the way it changes with the seasons. A powerful zoom is useful to get architectural details of historic buildings, and can also be useful to show views of buildings from distant viewpoints. The camera also has useful video facilities - and there is a wide range of other options - with manual settings, etc, which could be useful if I want to expand in different directions - but for 99% of the pictures I take the auto mode is perfectly adequate. Most of the pictures will only be viewed on a computer screen - but I want the ability to provided large prints of selected pictures and image quality is good. The main disadvantage is the lack of a viewfinder, which would help image selection in long zoom situations where reflections of the screen can be a problem. Strongly recommended - unless you want to take fast-moving wild life.

Monday. April 5th, 2010

After a day out in Surrey time was found to input the following post cards: Bushey Grange, Bushey; Cobden Hill South, Radlett;

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

Over Easter I will be spending less time on this web site because I am currently drafting a paper on a cave called Coopers Hole - in Cheddar Gorge. This relates to some work I did in the cave about 50 years ago - plus addition information generated at the time of the Time Team visit to the cave in 1998. (If you look at the repeat of this TV program - my hands are the ones putting a sand bag down to try and stop the cave flooding in heavy rain.)

A quick response to one of this month's puzzle pictures. While John cannot identify George and Mary he has a family military portrait taken in the same studio in about 1915-1916 which confirms the date as the First World War. Following Thursday's emails David has now posted a web page on Dalnyveed, Barley, on his Edgar Wood web site. Edgar Wood would have known about the building of Letchworth Garden City, which is only a few miles from Dalnyveed, but apparently was not involved with it.

When I created the page on the history of Norcott Hill Farm, Northchurch, last year I posted some additional photographs of the Farm as it is now. Recently there has been some emails relating to these pictures and the latest reveals that its name has now been changed again on some of the latest online OS maps! Presumably the Hill is still called called Norcott Hill.

I have posted news of the latest updates, including the starting of this blog, on several genealogy web sites - and it will be interesting to see if it generates any extra email traffic.

The donations for the Herts Mind Network continue to come in - Thanks to all who have donated. We are a little behind target at present - but plenty of time to catch up before the end of the year.

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

I get regular reports on the use of the Find It facility from FreeFind, which tells me the more frequently used search terms. I note the March usage list includes four larger towns where the pages need some tidying up - Berkhamsted (where restructuring has started), Hatfield, Hertford (which covers three parishes) and St Albans (where I was born and where, if I had time, I could easily expand to 100 web pages). There is only a limited amount of time I can spend on restructuring the larger towns, and decide that I will aim to complete the restructuring of the Berkhamsted pages during April. The early morning emails also include a circular from Lost Cousins. This announced that the site will be free until 14th April for all former members and also provides a link to their April 2010 newsletter. Some years ago I joined Genes Reunited and was overwhelmed with a large number of irrelevant requests - many relating to my John Smith ancestor!. I let my subscription lapse but still get quite a lot of almost certainly irrelevant messaged. Another message arrived this morning and logged in to reduce the number of messages it will send me. The problem is that years ago I grew out of the urge to simply grow my family tree by just adding names - and now concentrate on getting to know a small number of ancestors in much greater details - so they are more than bare skeletons on a tree. (See Ancestors if you want to find out about my ancestors - and contact me through this web site.)

What did your ancestor eat? Women's Hour today had an interesting item on Fish and Chips - suggesting separate origins in East London - where fried battered fish had been sold for some time, and fried potatoes in the area around Bolton. The combination appeared in both areas in the 1860s and 1870's, the idea taking off in the 1880s in working class areas. This fits in well about what I found out about Fried Fish Shops in Watford in response to a 2008 enquiry.

The news that a science writer Simon Singh has won his appeal against a conviction of libel (See BBC News) is a major development towards free speech. If the conviction had been upheld there could have been serious implications for genealogists. Let us assume that a rich celebrity had published a family tree showing he was descended from William the Conqueror and you posted a rebuttal showing that the tree contained errors. If the appeal had not been successful the celebrity could have sued you for libel because you questioned his ancestry! While you might be able to prove your case, the legal costs would bankrupt you if you lost. This approach has already been tried by commercial firms selling products of dubious effectiveness to silence scientific reports stating that the product does not work.

In tidying up my mail box I discovered that in the 18 months to the end of March I had sent almost exactly 1000 email messages on genealogy topics.

I do get away from the computer to relax! Last year I decided to photographically record the history of the local countryside as seen from public footpaths, etc. when I took Franci for a walk. Last year I posted some of the pictures on Geograph and have a batch more to post when I have time. I intend to continue the process - and am planning a CD of walks along the canal towpaths of the area around Tring, with a suitable historical text. The idea is that it could be sold to raise money for the Museum that the Tring and District Local History Society are to open later this year. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours walking  up the Marsworth flight of lock taking spring views canal - the first time I had walked along the canal without the dog.

Thursday, April 1st, 2010



Four emails received and answered today. Jeanette wrote from New Zealand to congratulate me on the web site, and bemoans the fact that there is no similar site for the counties her ancestors came from. Malcolm was trying to contact colleagues from the 1970 and I replied suggesting that a web site such as Friends Reunited might be more appropriate. John had found a 17th century estate map at HALS so dark that it was difficult to photograph and I sent him a copy of a redrawn version. David runs a not-for-profit historical web site manchesterhistory.net and which includes a section on the Manchester architect Edgar Wood. The Hertfordshire connection is that Edgar Wood was the architect responsible for the house Dalnyveed, in the village of Barley - and David wants to include a picture of the house on his web site.

Hertfordshire Countryside

The April issue of the Hertfordshire Countryside contains a number of articles on the county as it was over 100 years ago. Taxing Times for Air and Tax relates to the old window tax. 200 Years of Elementary Education relates to Hitchin (where there is a British Schools Museum). There is also a three page article, with pictures of the village of Flamstead.



Shenley Greetings Card

St Mary's, North Mymms

Two post cards arrived in the post, and were digitally scanned, and posted on this site. The card of St Mary's, North Mymms is taken from the same negative as one already on the web site (which has been reduced to a thumb) but is far more interesting as it identifies both the publisher (Alpha) and the photographer (Knott, of North Mymms). The "Greetings from Shenley" card includes five different views of the village.

News reports say that ordnance survey will be releasing some of their maps free online (Guardian, BBC).  A quick search for the site shows that it has gone offline for technical reasons - possibly due to the demand. This will need following up later.

Wednesday, March 31st 2010

This web site had to take a back seat during March - and Franci was a major factor. He was 8 years old when our daughter Belinda died and we inherited him, so he was particularly treasured. We never expected him to live so long - but he was a really tough old nut. He loved country walks, as long as he was allowed plenty of time to stop and sniff, and he was remarkably fit for his age. In fact Belinda's "young" dog, Kayleigh, who became the family pet of a local vet, died at the age of 12 in January. Not surprisingly Franci was slowing down and at the beginning of March (at the age of 17) he took a dislike of his normal dog food - although he was happy to eat chicken, turkey, corned beef and liver. He was put on a course of antibiotics and at the end of that he picked up for a few days, before other troubles appeared, including increased weakness in his back legs. While we knew we would miss him, it was clear that it would be far kinder to call in our vet friend, and after a short walk he quietly went to sleep in his favourite spot with his family all around him.

We will not be getting another dog in the immediate future (if at all) as my wife will probably be having a knee replacement operation later this year and we plan to take a dog-free holiday - plus act as host to a visiting friend from Australia later in the year. In addition I am determined that I should keep up walking - and will resist pressure to spend even more time sitting at the keyboard. During March I have been able to answer all quick queries (most of which do not appear on the web site) and I plan to gently polish off the backlog of longer queries over the next few weeks. I also hope to complete all the links from the google map to the relevant town and village pages in the not too distant future.

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Earlier Editorials