SPRIGGINS, Walkern, 1840s

September, 2002




MaryAnne Needham (mneedham @t netspace.net.au) of Traralgon, Victoria, wrote After having lived and worked in Walkern for about two hundred years, a branch of the Spriggins family left for London, and then on to Australia where they settled in Geelong (there are still lots of Sprigginses in the area). Do you know of anything that happened in that part of Hertfordshire which would suddenly drive them away from secure employment? They had been brickmakers and bricklayers for about 200 years (one of the Sprigginses built the Robin Hood PH).

Maybe the departure is not as sudden as it appears 150 years later!

There could be very many reasons for moves away from Hertfordshire, and the Great Wen, as London is sometimes called, attracted people who hoped to make their fortune (or simply get a better job) since the the time of Dick Whittington and his cat (of pantomime fame). However there is possible cause linked to their  occupation which could have been relevant around the 1840's. This was the coming of of the railways - which involved an enormous amount of construction work - much involving brick. This was followed by a major boom in house building as commuting now became possible - again consuming larger quantities of brick. Why stay in a rural backwater like Walkern, with little new building, when people are crying out for skilled brickmakers and bricklayers elsewhere.

I known very little about the history of Australian Railways, and you don't give a date for the move from London to Australia. Geelong was founded in the 1830's about the time the railway was built from Melbourne and while I suspect that many of the houses would have been of wood there could have been a profitable market for good bricks ...  This may well have been at about the time of the 1850's gold rush ... which provides another motivation.

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