Answers to Questions


OSBORN, Northchurch, 19th century

July 2001





Richard Hobbs (richardhobbs @t of Melbourne, Australia asked ENG-HERTFORDSHIRE-L  for any information on Charles OSBORN born about 1840 Northchurch, Hertfordshire, married Mary A Osborn nee ?? who was born Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire, 1843. between them they had eight sons including G'father.

The book containing the transcription of the 1851 census for the Berkhamsted area includes a lot of Osborn(E) entries including the following at Gossoms End, Northchurch, which appears to include your Charles Osborn.

James Osborn



Carpenter & Wheelwright employing 1 man


Ann Osborn




Northants, Stoke Bruerne

David Osborn





Charles Osborn





James Sear





Elizabeth Sear





Frederick G Norris





This reveals an interesting family structure - presumably Charles's mother was married to someone called Sear - and also provides sufficient information for you to be able to purchase Charles' birth certificate from HALS.

Jas. Osborn is also listed as a carpenter & wheelwright of Northchurch in the 1850 Post Office Directory for Hertfordshire.

June 2010

Michelle Dykes (n.uppy @t of Stoke on Trent provides the following detailed update:

James Osborn. Married Sarah Sear in 12/10/1835 in Northchurch, Hertfordshire. Sarah was born in 1807 in Berkhamsted.   She was previously married to John Sear. She died in June 1840, maybe in childbirth, as this was the same month as the birth of son Charles. In 1841(under Ahorn in the census) James was living with his children and sister Elizabeth.

James married Ann Ashby in 1848. Ann was born in 1803 in Stoke Bruern, Northants. In 1851 (under Oshorn in the census) James, his children and new wife Ann were living in Gossoms End, Northchurch, where James was a carpenter/wheelwright, employing 1 man. In 1871, James and Ann had moved to Rickmansworth, Herts, where James was a concrete builder. (They had a connection with Rickmansworth through their "grandson-by-marriage" Frederick George Norris; he was staying with them in 1851, and was born in Rickmansworth to Charles and Mary Ann Norris, who came from Berkhamsted). In 1881, James and Ann were back in Berkhamsted again

James was a founder member of the Berkhamsted Mechanical Institute, and was a pioneer in the use of concrete in buildings, along with his son David.

Ann died in 1882 and James died in 1901. Their children were:

Because of my interest in brickmaking (see The Brickmakers of St Albans) I am interested in people who had less common occupations in the building trade. I was therefore intrigued to see the occupation of "concrete builder" mentioned and decided to look further,

Most people kept to the same, or similar, occupations all their life and James career is unusual. In the 1839 Pigot's Directory and the 1841 census he is recorded as a grocer. He is not listed in the 1846 Post Office Directory. In the 1850/1 Post Office Directory and the 1851  census he is a carpenter and wheelwright. He is not listed in the 1855 Post Office Directory.

At the time of the 1861 census it would appear that James was living at Gossoms Cottage, High Street, Northchurch, but was absent from home at the time of the census, the house being occupied by his son, Charles (carpenter, 21, son of head of household) and Catherine Austin (niece of head of household, 30, born Berkhamsted). James's other son David (23, carpenter) was living with his wife in another part of the High Street.

James is not listed in the 1866 Directory while David is listed as a builder & insurance agent, High Street, Berkhamsted, but in 1871 James turns up in Rickmansworth as a concrete builder,  The Directories for 1878 and 1882 (but not 1886) show that James has returned to Berkhamsted as a furniture dealer in the High Street - but he describes himself as a concrete builder in the 1881 census. In the 1891 census James was described as a carpenter again, and was lodging with Thomas Wood in Berkhamsted.

There may be a simple explanation for the switch from "grocer" to "carpenter and wheelwright" if James's father was also a carpenter/wheelwright. (It should be possible to check this from the parish register as James was baptised in 1813 - shortly after parish registers started to show the father's occupation as a matter of routine.)  It was not uncommon for the husband to work in one occupation while the wife earned extra money - perhaps by running a small shop. James became widowed in 1840, and was left with an infant child (Charles). Perhaps at the time of the census he was keeping the shop running and was recorded accordingly.

The switch from carpenter to furniture dealer also makes sense, but at first sight it is puzzling that James is described as furniture dealer in the 1878 and 1882 trade directories and as concrete builder in the 1881 census. However David's switch from carpentry to builder and then to concrete builder is perfectly understandable in terms of advancing the business to use new technology. (While the Romans had made concrete the skill was lost until 1756 - with Portland Cement being used from 1840. Wikipedia).

I am wondering whether David got involved in concrete building first and then his father got involved. For this reason I would be interested to know if you have any further information on the "concrete" connection.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.


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