HOWARD, Rooks Nest, Stevenage, 19th Century

March 2003 

Kathy Lewis of Carms, Wales,  writes: I wrote some time ago about a family with the surname of Howard. My half sisters have the names of Endersby Howard. I have managed to confirm that they are descended from William Endersby Howard (source: marriage certificate of son Robert) who left Stevenage circa 1840 and moved to London. William was baptised at Stevenage 1809 (parish records on film) and married Ann Toll. He had a brother John, who was the son of John and Anne(a) at Rooks Nest, a farm in Stevenage.

I am interested in finding out more about Rooks Nest house. Is there anyone I could approach who would know more about the history of the Howard family who lived there?  It was sold to EM Forster about 1880, at the time it was rented. I am really interested in the period around 1820 when William E Howard would have been still at home.

A quick check on the available printed maps shows that Rooks Nest is to the north east of what was Stevenage village. It is marked as a group of three buildings on Dury and Andrews large scale map Hertfordshire of 1766. It is also named on Bryant's map of 1822. The first large scale Ordnance Survey map of the area (online at old-maps) shows the buildings of Rooks Farm in significantly more detail and interestingly shows that a nearby building named "Howards". Buildings labelled Rooks Nest are present on modern street maps (for instance online at multimap).

HALS also holds a number of manuscript maps of the area - and it shown on a large scale map (better than 13 inches to the mile) of the estate of William and Edward Parkins, Esqrs in the several parishes of Chisfield, Graveley, Weston and Stevenage, from about 1820. It should also shown on the large scale Stevenage Tithe Map of 1834 - which should include names of owners and occupiers and acreages of individual fields and buildings. It may well be shown on other manuscript estate maps in their collection.

The 1881 census lists two households at Rooks Nest, Stevenage - the heads of household being:

This raises an important point.  It would appear that there were two properties at the "hamlet" of Rooks Nest. One was the farm house associated with a large farm. The other one is more likely to have been a smaller property - possibly only a cottage - associated with a small holding (just about to support a single family). John Howard is living in the latter. Bearing in mind that many records will simply refer to "Rooks Nest" there is undoubtedly going to be difficulty in knowing whether records refer to the "big farm house" or the smaller "farm cottage". The Tithe map and associated documentation should clearly distinguish between the possibilities in 1834.

In investigating further the first thing to do is to establish whether the original "Rooks Farm" House and/or the house/cottage referred to as "Upper Rooks Nest" or "Howards" still exist - and the owners/occupiers may have some interest in their history. If either the building are listed the historical features leading to the listing will be available. Various parish records, such as rate books, may survive and will almost certainly be at HALS, and some may be available on microfilm at your nearest LDS Family History Centre (see familysearch for address). Other manuscript records - such as the land tax or estate papers may be available at HALS - but using them has to be done in person (or using a paid agent) and can be time consuming. This is because the relevant information is unlikely to be indexed at the detail you need and the task can be rather like trying to reconstruct the picture in a jigsaw picture when most of the pieces are missing. There may also be surviving manorial records.

There is a web page for Stevenage

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