Answers to Questions


CROFT/ANDERSON, Lilley / Sandridge / Wheathampstead, 19th century

February 2002






Rosemary Gray (?) of Park City, UT, says (in summary) that the 1851 census for Lilley, and his marriage certificate show that John Croft was a bailiff born at Landridge (I assume this is a mistake for Sandridge) in about 1814 and was the son of Henry Croft, His wife, Mary Ann Anderson was born in Wheathamstead, the daughter of Richard Anderson, I do not know anymore of John's or Mary Ann's parentage beyond their marriage record. I have access to the Family History Records in Salt Lake. I would be interested in what exactly a bailiff did in the mid 19th century? If you have any photos of Lilley or Offley, I'd love to see them on your site.

A check on the LDS 1881 census CD shows that John Croft (67, born Sandridge) was a farmer of 40 acres employing 1 man and 1 boy and living at Breachwood Green, Kings Walden, Herts. With him was his wife Mary (73, born Sandridge) and daughter Ruth (28, born Kings Walden) who was a straw hat & bonnet finisher. They had a lodger, John Rowland (43, married, born St Alkmunds, Derby) who was a Board School School Master. (A Board School was a school run by local people acting as an elected board of governors and is not to be confused with a boarding school.)

A check of the LDS British Vital Records Index CD shows that John Croft was baptised at Sandridge on 8th August 1813, the son of Henry & Mary Croft - and a check on the mircofilm of the registers should tell you his father's occupation. The index also shows the baptism of six siblings, from William on 19th March 1809 to Matilda in 1821. The 1841 census for Sandridge shows Henry Croft (55), Mary Croft (58), Matilda Croft (20), Susan Croft (13) and Isaac Bracey (3) living at Church End, Sandridge. Henry occupation is described as "MS" which I guess is short for Man Servant while the women were all "Pl" for straw plaiters. The was no sign of John in the village, which suggests he had already left home. William Croft had also left the village and is listed (with his family) as a farm bailiff at Redbourn in the 1851 census.

The LDS British Vital Records Index CD also shows that Mary Anderson, son of Richard Anderson and Alice Hawkes was born on 26th February 1808 and baptised at Wheathampstead on 24th April 1808. Four siblings were also christened in the village from Susannah in 1802 to John in 1810 - so you should have no difficulty in finding them in the microfilm of the parish register. The 1851 census shows that John was living at Bury Green Wheathampstead, with his wife, two sons, and his father Richard Anderson a 76 year old widower and agricultural labourer (pauper) who had been born at St Michaels (St Albans).

I have only quickly glanced at the British Vital Records Index CD so it may well contain other relevant information - so you can have a happy day chasing up the records in Salt Lake City using the above information as a starting point.

You ask about the term "Bailiff" - which is a word which has multiple meanings but which all boil down to some kind of subservient deputy. Which meaning applies depends on context. In this case the context is reasonably clear. John Croft was a bailiff in Lilley - which is a small English village, and he was a small farmer in 1881. His brother William was a farm bailiff in Rebourn in the 1851 census. As such the definition given in my mid-19th century Webster's Dictionary applies: "An overseer or under-steward on an estate appointed to direct husbandry operations, collect rents, etc." Basically John was almost certainly a paid employee running a farm for someone else. This often happened when there was a large house with a home farm. Often the well-to-do person living in the house left the running of the farm to a bailiff - so a re-examination of the census returns for Lilley may suggest who his employer might have been.

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