GURNEY, "Arnham", circa 1700

September 2001

David Gurney (david.gurney1 @t of Norfolk says: The marriage register of St Margaret Lothbury, City of London, records that [Rev] John Gurney [1680-1764] of Arnham in the County of Hartford both was married to Martha Broughton of the same. Sp. 16th April 1704.  I have tried to locate 'Arnham' without success, and would be grateful for any assistance.

On the assumption that "Arnham" is an accurate transcription of what the register actually says, and in particular that the first letter is an "A", there is definitely no parish of that name in Hertfordshire, and nowhere of a similar name listed in Chauncy (published in 1700), Cussans, the Victoria County History or Place Names of Hertfordshire. "ham" is not a particularly common ending in Hertfordshire and the closest I can get is Hadham - as in Little and Great (now Much) Hadham.

The question one needs to ask is why a couple from Hertfordshire would go to London to marry. and it may be that St Margaret Lothbury provided a "Gretna Green" type facility for eloping couples - who might not wish to give an accurate address. As you suggest that John Gurney was (or became?) a Reverend gentleman it could well be that he, and his bride, were non-conformists who would not be seen dead in the local Anglican church and, as only the established church could marry you, went to get married in London, where they may well have been married in the church porch by a co-operating minister - so they did not have to go inside. In such case the minister may have misheard or misrecorded a place name unfamiliar to him. (One problem in such cases is that, if the families were highly hostile to the established church, the couple's baptisms may not be in the register of where-ever parish they came from.)

Your best approach, after getting a second opinion over the handwriting in the register, is to collect all the information you can about the couple and hope that there is a clue to their origins, perhaps in a will.

April 2003

Judith Gibbons (familyhistory @t gimaju) of Coventry writes: I have been reading a chancery document from 1668 at the PRO this weekend, and attached to it was an inventory of expenses incurred by the executors of a will which was written by the father-in-law of someone who my fourth cousin and I are researching (a FUSEDALE, which was also a name found in the St Albans area in the 1800s).

Some of the items on this list referred to the education of the testator's son, as follows:

"Item: for John KIRKHAM the sonne of the said deceased, for his board and schooling att ARNHAM in Hartfordshire from Midsumer 1665 to Michelmass 1665..."

There were also entries covering the period up until Christmas 1666, after which he appears to have moved to a school in Richmond. John KIRKHAM's father lived was St Andrew Holborn in London. It is likely that the father died of the plague, so perhaps his son was sent out of London to school for safety's sake.

I searched the web for 'Arnham' in Hertfordshire, and the only real reference I found was on your webpage. I was very interested to see that you hadn't heard of such a place! I wonder if this extra information gives any clue as to where the name might have been referring to?

Interesting - I will keep my eyes open for any other references to Arnham.

May 2003

During my recent visit to HALS I checked their main indexes and drew a blank. However one of the archivists came up with a very relevant suggestion. A couple of miles due north of the town of Bishops Stortford is the parish of Farnham - which is actually in Essex, but the post town would have been Bishops Stortford, Herts. It would there seem very likely that the references are to Farnham, Essex.

November 2003

Judith Gibbons (familyhistory @t gimaju) writes: Further to my previous mention of Arnham in an email to you, my (fourth) cousin has suggested an identity for the place - how about Aldenham?

I found information on the website of Aldenham School which mentions the link with the Brewers' Company. John Kirkham, the father who sent his son John to the school in 1665, owned and/or ran several taverns in Holborn - the inventory of his estate mentions lots of debts with regard to beer and casks etc. - so it is possible that he was in the Brewers' Company and sent his son to the school for that reason. I checked in a book of place names in the PRO (I'm afraid I didn't note the book's name - it was in four volumes and looked pretty authoritative!) and it gave quite a few recognised shortened names for Aldenham, some of which were very similar to Arnham.

I note that you mention two books - The History of Aldenham School and The Register of Aldenham School - which might provide further information.

An interesting Idea. The Place-names of Hertfordshire lists a number of different spellings - and while most are three syllables "Aldnam" is listed in 1662.

The Aldenham School Register that I have is not relevant - and The History of Aldenham School reproduces the earliest list of pupils - for 1689 - which is later than the period you are interested in. In fact there is a break in the records of the school ....

[entry for 1664] A blank then occurs in the minutes. In 1665 London was ravaged by the plague, and in 1666 by the Great Fire, in which the Brewers Hall was destroyed. Its rebuilding was was an expensive and arduous task which nearly ruined both the Company and many individual Brewers, so it is not surprising that it was some time before Aldenham again figured in the minutes. On July 30th, 1668 ....

The master during this period was Andrew Campion, who was in post between 1663 and 1673. 

However all the evidence, including its initial aims, points to the school being for the children of the parish. For instance at a visitation in 1669 severe criticism was made of the Aldenham parishioners for not sending their children to the School, and it was ordered that if they did not do so, the vacancies were to be filled from neighbouring parishes. Other reposts (including criticisms of Andrew Campion) strongly suggest that it was not the kind of school that a well-to-do brewer would want to send his son to.

While one can't rule out some temporary arrangements being made at the time of the plague, there is no evidence that the sons of members of the Brewer's Company attended the school, or were entitled to under the terms of the founding charity.. 

So I don't think we are any further forward in tracking down "Arnham".

December 2006

Judith Gibbons (familyhistory @t gimaju) writes: I wrote to you about it twice previously, but it's still bugging me! I wondered if you might be interested in having a little more information that I've found. I'm sorry about the length of this message but I wanted to explain exactly where I came by the information. I am also sending this message to David Gurney who asked the original question.

I have recently been searching the Google Books site ( and I found some references to the placename, but they're only in 'snippet' form. This means it's difficult to tie up the information that I found, but using the IGI I have made an educated guess at what it is. It would obviously need checking from original sources!

Search term: arnham hertford

Allegations for Marriage Licences Issued by the Vicar-general of the Archbishop of Canterbury
Canterbury, Eng. (Province). Registry of the vicar-general, George John Armytage (1892) p141

May 12  William Smith, of Arnham, co. Hartford, Yeoman, Bachr, abt 25, & Elizabeth Page, of Harrow on the Hill, co. Middx., Spr, abt 24, at her own disp.; at Par. Ch. of Harrow on the Hill afsd.

The year is missing and there is no marriage on the IGI, but a search for the names on the next licence in the book suggests the year is 1675.
Search term: arnham hartford

Publications of the Harleian Society (1892) p132 [I believe it's a different scanned copy of the same book as above - marriage licences from the Archbishop of Canterbury]

Dec 29  Samuel Arn?? [surname unreadable because of cutoff], of St Dunstan's in the West, Lond., Wine Cooper, Bachr, abt 28, & Elizabeth Hampton, of Arnham, co. Hertford, Spr, abt 27, at own disp.; at Arnham or Edger, co. afsd.

Again, the year is missing, but I searched on the IGI and found:
ELIZABETH HAMPTON, Marriage:  31 DEC 1674   Aldenham, Hertford, England, Spouse:  SAMUEL ARNALL [batch M072031]

There is a possible Elizabeth HAMPTONs on the IGI born in Much Hadham (but where is Edger?!).

I see there is also a reference on Google Books in Hertford County Records by William John Hardy (1905) p518 but there is no preview.
Search term: arnham intitle:"marriage licences"

Allegations for Marriage Licences Issued by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster 1558 to 1699
Joseph Lemuel Chester, Sir George J Armytage, Westminster Abbey, Church of England Province of Canterbury. Registry of the Vicar-General of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Westminster (London, England) (1886), p34

Feb 4  John Nicholes, of Arnham, co. Herts, Tanner, & Abigail Prynne, Spr, dau. of George Prynne, of City of Westminster, Gent.

From the IGI:
JOHN NICHOLLS, Marriage:  13 FEB 1634   Saint Margaret, Westminster, London, England, Spouse:  ABIGALL PRYNE [batch M001601]

There are John Nichols on the IGI in both Aldenham and Little Hadham.
Search term: amham herts  [checked AMHAM to pick up places where Arnham has been mis-OCRed]

Notes and Queries
William John Thomas, (John) Doran, Henry Frederick Turle, Joseph Knight, Vernon Horace Rendall, Florence Hayllar (1850), p209

1703. Feb. 24. Henry Wingfield of Little Arnham (Hadham?) Hartfordsh, bachr and Mary Bunby of Little Bushy in ye same coy, spr, by Licence.

Note that the guess of Hadham is inserted in the original. On the IGI I found:
HENRY WINGFEILD, Marriage:  24 FEB 1703   Saint Mary Aldermary, London, London, England, Spouse: MARY BUNBY  [batch M001511]

I don't know if this takes us much further forward, but it's certainly a name which has been used in several instances and it could be that it actually refers to Hadham, which is the name that you picked out at the start of the page on your website, but then the HAMPTON marriage is in Aldenham according to the IGI. Anyway, I hope this is of interest to you: I will keep looking!

An interesting bit of research - which has allowed me to tie it down (assuming the references to Arnham all refer to the same place.

You mention the incomplete reference to Hertfordshire County Records, and I decide to follow this up. Volume VI, Calendar to the Sessions Books, Sessions Minute Books and other sessions Records 1658 to 1700, has an entry to Arnham in the index, referring to page 513 - but there is nothing on that page. On the assumption that there was a valid entry which had been mistyped when the index was prepared I looked at one digit errors and almost immediately found the following paragraph on pages 517/518. The relevant paragraph reads:

8th January 1699-1700 - Sessions held at Hertford

Many of the parishes and hamlets in the Hundred of Dacorum, and especially North Mims and Shenley, are many miles distant from Barkhamsted and Hemel-hempsted, where the Petty Sessions for the Hundred are held. This is a great trouble to the parish officers and others, and it would be far more convenient if these parishes and hamlets were made a separate division, with Petty Sessions held at Shenley. It is, therefore ordered that the parishes of North Mimms, Shenley, Bushey and Harding and the hamlets of Theobalds Street in Arnham and Lovedon in Watford shall be made into a district Division for all things relating to Petty Sessions, which shall be held at Shenley. But in all other respects they shall remain part of the Hundred of Dacorum.

This tells us that Arnham is in the Dacorum Hundred and there was a hamlet called Theobalds Street. Aldenham was an outlying parish of the Dacorum Hundred - and a check of old maps such as Dury & Andrews (1766) shows Theobalds Street is in Aldenham (and not near Theobalds, Cheshunt). It is also marked on modern road maps running between Radlett and Boreham Wood. (Lovedon may be Leavesdon?)

17th century references to Aldenham listed in Place Names in Hertfordshire given spellings of Aldham and alham al Aldenham.

I think we can therefore be certain that at least some, and perhaps all, of the records to Arnham referred to above relate to Aldenham.

June 2008

Serena Jones (sfj @t writes: Regarding the question of whether "Arnham" is Aldenham. Here is another piece of evidence for you, from a news pamphlet printed in 1644:

"On the Lords day last, Sept. 22 the E. of Manchester was in person at Watford in Hartfordshire, into which Town there came in the day before 15 colours of foot, and the rest of his horse & foot being about 8000 were quartered at Arnham, Byship, Elstree, great Stanmore, Hemsted, and other Townes for about 16 miles compasse ..." (Mercurius Civicus issue 70, Sept 19-26 1644. British Library Thomason Tracts E.10[11])

Given that all the places quartering the Earl's soldiers were situated in the vicinity of Watford, where he was visiting, it does indeed make sense that "Arnham" is Aldenham. I presume Byship is Ruislip.

I'm a historical researcher, and found your web page whilst trying to confirm Arnham's location

This page is a good example of how useful the World Wide Web can be in tracing down obscure facts!

June 2008

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