OAKLEY, The Camp, St Albans, 19th century

July, 2004

Tony Oakley (oakley1oakley @t of Flitwick, Beds, writes: I discovered your site through the reference to Mr T Oakley in your section on the brickmaker, Benjamin Fowler and an agreement entered into to build him a cottage at Camp House field on 18 March 1824.

I am aware from general family history that my family had a farm at the Camp, St Albans in the 19th century and have carried out my own basic research below. I wonder if the person above is a direct relative of mine and whether you can give me any more information about the Oakley farm at the Camp.

My great grandfather is Thomas W Oakley who was born on 9th October 1870 at The Camp, St Albans (verified by copy birth certificate).  According to the certificate his father (a farmer) was also called Thomas.  Looking at the 1881 Census Thomas W is located in the household of John Oakley at The Camp who is his grandfather.  I have reviewed all available census returns for the Camp back to 1841 and located Thomas aged 5 in 1851.  I have also identified a Thomas Oakley on IGI born 24 Oct 1845 which links back to John Oakley as his father who was christened on 14 March 1819.  John is on the 1841 Census for the Camp at the correct age.  In turn John's father is stated as Thomas Oakley and wonder if this is the man identified as entering into a contract with Mr Fowler.

What you don't mention is that the 1851 census lists a Thomas Oakley (aged 57, born St Peters) as a farmer of 38 acres employing 2 men at the Camp. His wife Sarah was 65 and she was born in Wheathampstead. By comparison with other farms in the area this is one of the smallest. I would think it likely that he was the Thomas Oakley who got Benjamin Fowler to build what was obviously a labourer's cottage. During the early 19th century some farm labourers often lived with the farmer. A check on familysearch (batch C072863) shows that Thomas and Sarah had seven children (baptisms between 1816 and 1829 and the cottage may have been built because the increasing number of children was making their house very crowded.

Thomas Oakley (born c1794) was living next door to your John Oakley (born c1819), and he almost certainly your direct ancestor.

Also living in the area (and you would have no reason to think it was relevant) was Frederick Gough - at Cunningham Hill Farm (180 acres).

In the 1881 census I noticed that your Thomas Oakley (cowman, born c1845) was living "next door" to Frederick W. Cox a 29 year old farmer of 216 acres employing 5 men and 3 boys. It is very likely that Frederick Cox was Thomas's employer. This is of interest to me because Frederick was the great-grandson of my ancestor William Cox. While the census lists them at the Camp the 1882 trade directory for Herts lists Frederick as a farmer at Cunningham Hill. But this farm as grown by 36 acres since 1851 (when Frederick Gough was the farmer) and there is no sign of the 38 acre farm that Thomas Oakley (born c1794) farmed in 1851. What appears to have happened is that the 1851 Oakley farm proved too small to be economic and was "taken over" by its larger neighbour, with members of the family continuing to work on the farm. If the landlord was Earl Spencer - who owned much of the land in the area - there could be extensive records relating to the farm tenants in the Althrop archives in the Northamptonshire Records Office. (I have spent several days looking at these records as they relate to farmers in the adjoining parish of Sandridge. The trouble is that the organisation of the records can make finding what you want quite hard work.)

Other Sources: Camp - A local St Albans History by Tony Billings (you may find contacting Tony useful)

HALS has a copy of the St Peter's tithe map of 1840, which will show the individual buildings and should have a book detailing the owner and occupier of each property.

There is a web page for St Peters

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