Answers to Questions


WELLS, 39 Leyton Road, Harpenden, 19th Century

May, 2004




Lynsey Anderson (pxl.anderson @t btinternet.com) of Cambridge is researching the history of 39 Leyton Road, Harpenden, and wants to know more about a family, headed by William Wells, who lived there during the 19th century. She has already checked out most of the censuses, and obtained information from the manor rolls. Below I list what she has discovered in date order and inserted some additional material and suggestions for further work

The census return of 1851 shows William Wells, a bricklayer born in Ayot St Peter, Herts in 1800.

William Wells was the son of John and Sarah Wells and was baptised at Ayot St Peters on 14th September 1800. Familysearch gives details of the following siblings, baptised in the same church: Hannah (1797), Mary Ann (1803), James (1805), Thomas (1808), Rebecca (1811), John (1816) and David (1817).

Pigot's 1839 Hertfordshire Directory lists William Wells as a bricklayer of Harpenden.

As it appears William was in Harpenden in 1839 it would be well worth checking the 1841 census as he was presumably in residence then.

The census return of 1851 shows William Wells, a bricklayer born in Ayot St Peter, Herts in 1800. He married Mary F ? (b.1801 in Sutton Cambs). They had 3 daughters at home all single: Sarah Ann b 1827 Harpenden, Susan b. 1831 Harpenden, Eliza b 1839 Harpenden and 1 son Thomas J b 1843 Harpenden, who at that time was also a bricklayer. 

The Post Office Directory for 1851 lists William Wells, bricklayer, Harpenden

The 1861 census also shows all the above plus a granddaughter called Ellen Stevens b 1854 in Harpenden. So presumably there was another daughter who married a Stevens.

The Post Office Directory for 1866 lists William Wells, bricklayer, Harpenden

Did William leave a will? Possibly worth checking. If he did the probate index will give date of death, etc. The Hapenden Parish Church burial registers could be worth checking, and have you looked in the churchyard for any family gravestones?

Manorial Records show Mary Wells widow buys land nearby and will it to her son Thomas Joseph Wells

As at least some of the property was copyhold there may well be other estate papers (and perhaps maps) which contain relevant information.

By 1871 census William had died and his widow is still living there described as an annuitant. Thomas was now married and had become a master builder employing 8 men. His wife isn't shown on this census, presumably she was away. This census shows a granddaughter called Charlotte L Shrubsole b.1845 Harpenden.

The Post Office Directory for 1874 and 1878 lists Thomas Joseph Wells, carpenter, Harpenden. (From Wheathampstead and Harpenden, Volume V. Unfortunately no significant other information about the Wells family.)

Manorial Record Oct 1877: TJ Wells reports his mother Mary died on 10 May 1877 and lodges his right to her copyhold.

1881 census calls the house Builders Shop with 2 occupants: Thomas J Wells and his wife E M Wells (b.1841 Redbourn, Herts) Was the Builders Shop the house now 39 Leyton rd?

The online 1881 census transcript does not list "Leyton Road"  but describes individual properties. However the microfilm will include the route that the census enumerator took - and by reading this, and comparing it with the places mentioned in the body of the return, you should be able to work out whether "The Builders Shop" is in Leyton Road, and compare its location with other nearby households.

Kelly's Directory for 1882 lists Thomas Joseph Wells, carpenter, Harpenden

Presumably he died after the 1881 census and before 1886 so could be worth checking if he left a will.

Kelly's Directory for 1886 lists E. J. Wells (Mrs), beer retailer, Harpenden

This could be his widow. 

Kelly's Directory for 1890 lists no Wells in Harpenden

1891 census Emma Maria Wells was a widow (so Thomas had by now died) and described as living on her own means. She had a boarder living with her: Edward Rowe Shrubsole b.1853 Kingston on Thames (presumably a relative by marriage - see1871) and a servant.

The following comes from the 1881 census return for Verulam Street, St Albans:

 Name  Relation Marital Status Gender Age Birthplace Occupation
 Eleanor SHRUBSOLE   Head   Widow  Female   51   Harpenden  Annuitant 
 Robert F. SHRUBSOLE   Son   U   Male   31   Kingston On Thames, Surrey  Colliery Agent 
 Edward R. SHRUBSOLE   Son   U   Male   29   Kingston On Thames, Surrey   Annuitant 

Eleanor Shrubsole was presumably born Eleanor Wells, and following this up could help identify Catherine Shrubsole - who was possibly her daughter. 

The Manorial Court 1897:  shows that Emma Maria had willed her estate to her nephew John Seabrook, a local farmer, so what's happened to the grandaughter Charlotte. 

This house was part of the Rothamsted estate until abt 1925 but I think from the manorial records the Wells were copyholders and were also in business with a Mr Mardell. I think they built cottages around that part of Leyton Road, including it seems Coach Lane Lodge at the far end of the plot no 39 is on.

The "Mr Mardell" may well have been a member of the Mardall family, who played an important part in the life of Harpenden. Members of this family are mentioned on Who is related to Who?

February, 2006

Graham and Julie Horn (grahamandjulie2 @t tiscali.co.uk) write: I am following up with more information about Eleanor Shrubsole (nee Wells) who is mentioned in the 1881 census reference on this page.  Julie's ancestry includes the Shrubsoles, her Great-grandfather is the Robert Francis Shrubsole on that same census entry.

Eleanor Shrubsole was indeed born Eleanor Wells, born between 1824 and 1831 (not yet confirmed).  She was the second wife of William Shrubsole and they married in St Marks Church St Pancras on 6th May 1861, when she was living at 3 Cirencester Place Pancras.  She was a Widow, having the name Coles from her first marriage.  William Shrubsole was a widower.  His first wife was Charlotte Shrubsole (nee Phillips) both from Kingston.  Robert Francis born 1849, is William and Charlotte's 6th child, and Edward R their 7th or 8th.  Charlotte Louisa was the 2nd child of William and Charlotte. I hope this helps, and if you would like any further information please contact us.

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