Answers to Questions


The Goat, Sopwell Lane, St Albans

July, 2004



St Albans

Barbara Stanners (barbara.stanners @t of Langford, Beds, writes: I have been researching my paternal line which is Arnold and have confirmed that Charles Arnold married Harriet Dolling in 1849 and that she was the daughter of the  William Dolling, publican of the Goat Inn in Sopwell Lane St. Albans. My Great Great Great Grandfather William, Charles's son was born there in 1855. Later, maybe briefly, Charles was listed as the publican before moving to London.  I was interested to see that in your extract of St. Albans Inns and Pubs it is mentioned that Harriet's brother Edward Dolling was was the publican. I  visited the pub a few years ago but the publican was new and seemed not to have any history available. I would be pleased if you could tell me where I could obtain more information about the history of the pub. 

I have recently through Genes Connected made contact and visited  the above mentioned Harriet and  Edward Dolling's sister Sarah's Great Great Granddaughter who will be thrilled to have some news of her family.  I hope this request is acceptable and shall look forward to seeing your response.

It is not clear how much you have researched the Dolling and Arnold families - and you have not mentioned the sources you have used. Rather than cover material you already know I am concentrating on the history of The Goat.

The Goat was on the main road from London until the new London Road was constructed. Hertfordshire Inns & Public Houses reports that the first mention was in a will of 1578, and in 1756 it had stabling for 72 horses. The landlords during the 19th century are shown on St. Albans Inns and Pubs, the relevant section is reproduced below, [with additional items related to the Dolling family] the final column being the year of the directory from which the extract comes.


Burt, Mrs




Townsend, William


Sopwell Lane


Goat Hewett, John   Sopwell Lane 34


Dolling, Edward


Sopwell Lane


Goat Dolling, Edward   Sopwell Lane 46
Goat Dolling, Edward   Sopwell Lane 50
Goat Dolling, Edward   Sopwell Lane 55
Old Goat Johnson, William   Sopwell Lane 62
Goat Grey, J   Sopwell Lane 66


Gray, Ann (Mrs)


Sopwell Lane



Dennis, William


Sopwell Lane



Dennis, Robert


Sopwell Lane


Further details could be filled in by looking at the directories for other years, where they exist.

It is not mentioned by name in the 1851 census but the transcript shows Ann Dolling (victualler, widow, 63, born Chesham, Bucks), Edward Dolling (victualler, unmarried son, 35, born St Albans), Emma Dolling (bonnet sewer, unmarried, 19, born St Albans) and two boarders. Charles & Harriet Arnold were living close by. For more information on the 19th century, the other censuses should provide more information.

However perhaps the most important thing is that the Hertfordshire Inns & Public Houses gives a reference. It would appear that there is a booklet? "The Goat Inn", written by K. Goad. You may be able to look at a copy in the St Albans Central Library, and if not HALS may have a copy.

DOLLING, St Albans, 19th century

December, 2004

Commenting on my ancestor page Edward Dolling > Burchmore, Pam Dollimore (pam_dollimore @t drew my attention to marriage of William Dolling (1782-1867) to Ann Tolbut Apr. 12, 1809 Redbourn and to the entry in the 1851 census for Sopwell Lane, St Albans, for which the transcription reads:
DOLLING Ann Head Widow 63 F Victualler Bucks Chesham
DOLLING Edward Son Unm 34 M Victualler Herts St Albans
DOLLING Emma Dau Unm 19 F Bonnet Sewer Herts St Albans
NORRIS Ann  Boarder Widow 50 F Char Woman Herts Kimpton
NORRIS Sarah Boarders Dau Unm 23 F Straw Worker Herts Wheathampstead
HOWARD George Head Mar 25 M Silk Throwster Herts Berkhamsted
HOWARD Harriett Wife Mar 26 F Silk Reel Picker Herts Hatfield
TOLBATE [?] Elizabeth Aunt Unm 60 F Bonnet Sewer Bucks Chesham

This is, of course, the same family as mentioned in the above answer, relating to the Goat public house.

There are inconsistencies between my information [formerly displayed, now corrected] on my ancestor's family Edward Dolling > Burchmore and the above. For instance I said that William Dolling died in 1867 and the census shows "His widow" in 1851. Before I look into this in more detail it is appropriate to collect some further evidence.

According to familysearch the following children were baptised in Abbey Parish with William and Ann Dolling as parents:

  • Elizabeth - 20th December 1812

  • Mary Ann (or Ann?) - 22nd Oct 1819

  • Susannah - 12th September 1823

  • Harriet - 3rd July 1829

  • Emma - 23rd December 1835

An entry in a poll book for an election in December 1832 shows that a William Dolling of St Albans qualified to vote because he owned two freehold houses in Sopwell Lane. An Edward Dolling  of Sopwell Lane is listed as an elector in an 1847 poll book for St Albans Borough and is presumably the Edward Dolling who gave evidence to the parliamentary enquiry into the Existence of Bribery in the Borough of St Albans, and had received bribes in the 1850 election.

All this information, plus the extended information on the landlords of the Goat Public House suggest that William may well have died in the late 1830s and this suggested a look at the National Archive site. This produced the following entry for a will:



Catalogue ref


Will of William Dolling, Victualler of Saint Albans , Hertfordshire 13 July 1836 PROB 11/1864
See details

and for 3.50 it should be possible to purchase the will, which is presumably that of the William Dolling we want.

* * * * * * *

How errors in Family History information can happen

So what were the inconsistencies? 

I said Pam says
William married Ann Tolbert William married Ann Tolbut
Marriage at St Michael's Wedding at Redbourn
William died in 1867 William died in 1836

Examining the possible causes of this uncertainty is a good lesson it why it is important to record sources, but first it is relevant to to give some of the history of my data.

I started collecting family history information in a big way in 1977 and immediately started to enter it onto a computer. Initially much of the information came from family contacts, which in many cases took me back as much as 150 years. On my mother's side there was extensive information in records deposited by my grandfather in the Bucks Records Office. There was a Cox family tree in the HALS, although some parts looked rather dubious, and Reynolds and Finch family tree relating to Norfolk turned up in the Society of Genealogists. Other information came from parish registers (few were indexed) and other records. In addition I exchanged information with others researching their family history. 

One of the people with whom I exchanged information in the late 1970's was the late Gwendoline Norman. She was a distant cousin who shared Burchmore ancestors and I know the basic Dolling information came from her in the form of family trees with, as I remember, year-only dates. At the time the Redbourn registers were not indexed and still held in the church - making access difficult - and I know that any information from these registers (year only dates) did not come from me. 

All this information was entered onto a computer with no record of the source - something I have very much come to regret. For technical reasons I have been unable to update the computer files since 1988 and it is reasonable to assume that the information on William Dolling was entered before 1980 and definitely before 1984.

The Surname difference: "Tolbert" was presumably Gwendoline's reading of the original Redbourn register, while "Tolbut" is the reading recorded on the International Geneologicial Index at familysearch - which was probably indexed from microfilm and not the original register. Such difference in interpretation of old handwriting are quite common, and probably not significant.

... but I made a serious mistake with the original computer files by giving everyone a standardised name and not recording how the name appeared on the original document. I now have no way of determining whether the source recorded the name as my standard form, as initials and surname, with variant spellings, or in some other way. This means that if, unfortunately, I have muddled information from two individuals with the same initials and surnames there is no way I can disentangle them because I have not recorded what the original document actually said - and may not even know where the original came from!

The Place of Marriage difference: As the IGI gives Redbourn, and came from a register extraction programme, I am quite happy to admit that the information I gave was wrong. Without looking back on the information Gwendoline gave me (which may still exist buried in a box in the loft) there is no way of establishing where the error came in.

... but it is almost certain that I got the place from a family tree. However people could move from place to place during their lives  - and place names from such sources are often ambiguous because it is not clear when they applied. There are many incorrect submitted birth entries on the IGI because people have recorded the place where someone lived as an adult as the place where they were born. 

When did William die? A look at the original computer file shows that he is recorded as having died at Whipsnade, Beds, on  19th August, 1867, and that there is no other evidence linking him to the village. Gwendoline's data included other relatives who lived at Whipsnade and as I know how the computer software worked this got me thinking. Each individual in the data base had a unique number and William Dolling's was 1519. Eliza Batchelor, the wife of George Plummer Birchmore, was buried at Whipsnade on the 22nd August 1867. The date of her death is not recorded and her unique number was 1529. This looks very much like a computer input error, in about 1979, with a "2" being pressed instead of a "1" !!! 

... while this mistake happened on a batch processing computer system with punch card input, it is surprisingly easy to make a similar error on a modern PC based package. It would be very foolish to assume that there will be no similar errors on your family tree files.

If you haven't yet read "The Dangers of Internet Genealogy" do so now!

* * * * * * *

April, 2005

Geoff Timberlake (geoffctim @t writes suggesting that there could be some confusion over the William and Ann Dolling situation. He writes  By doing an open search on the IGI for children with parents William and Ann Dolling in Hertfordshire, two distinct groups emerge, one in Redbourn, the other in St Albans. The children listed in the IGI for the St Albans family agree with those stated in the Dolling, St Albans, 19th century pages. However, Redbourn Parish Records show that William Dolling & Ann Tolbut marriage had the following children: Hannah (1810), Sarah (1811). 

A William Dolling married Hannah Pratt in 1822 (Redbourn) and the following children could be theirs or the William Dolling/Ann Tolbut couple: John (1824), Eliza (1827), John (1831), Charles (1834), and Sarah (1838). That is difficult to decide, my bet is on the later marriage.

My interest in all this is my Mother was a Dolling from Berkhamstead, her father was Edward Dolling of Redbourn, his father was George Dolling also of Redbourn. Both George and Edward were Grooms. The William who married Hannah Pratt was a Horse Keeper. I noted the St Albans connection with The Goat and wondered if there was a family connection concerning a staging inn, horses and grooms - so far such a connection is not obvious.

There is plenty of scope for error and misinterpretation in most genealogical records, and it is easy to make assumptions. You may be right - but without seeing the microfilm or a complete transcript I would be surprised if the Redbourn register explicitly linked the children Hannah (1810) and Sarah (1811) to the marriage of William Dolling and Ann Tolbut in 1809. Linking the children to the marriage is the kind of assumption we all make - and we are right 95% or so of the time - but not always. Without extensive further work, on a wide range of sources, it may be difficult to unambiguously resolve the issues you raise.

I cannot directly comment on any possible link with the Dollings in Berkhamsted as you give no sources or dates - and as I cannot "see" who sends me messages on the World Wide Web you might have been born almost anywhere in the 20th century - which leaves the Berkhamsted dates of your ancestors very uncertain.

Having said that, The Goat at St Albans was clearly a coaching inn, and coaching inns were hit very badly by the railways. Within a couple of years of the London to Birmingham Railway being opened in 1837 it was reported that one coaching inn in St Albans had laid off 250 horses. By the 1850s and 1860s horses would no longer be used from regular long distance travel, and many of the roadside establishments which catered for the travellers, and the drivers of carts and wagons carrying goods to London would have really been feeling the squeeze. Many of the people who worked in such establishments could well have ended up as a coachman or a groom. Apart from anything, else by the latter part of the 19th century, there were many well-to-do people who commuted to London by train to work, and would either had their own transport, or took a cab, to the railway station.

Such changes would have affected many occupations related to horse-drawn vehicles so continuity of occupation between father and son would be breaking down.

December 2011

Jon Mein is continuing his researches on St Albans Public Houses and writes: I have been perusing the page about the Goat and noted that the first enquiry on the page concerns Charles Arnold. I was unaware that he was related to the Dollings. I checked my pubs database and see that he was the occupier (and so presumably the licensee) from around Nov 1852 to around the end of 1855.

The marriage of 
William/Ann Dolling of at the Goat is also covered on this page. If you have a copy of the Herts Record Society's "
St Albans Quarter Session Rolls: 1784-1820" have a look at the entry for 1820 as Ann charges her husband with assault. She was later (in 1825 if memory serves me right) charged by her husband with having criminal conversation with Samuel Wildboar, a common brewer in the town who also appears to have leased the Goat from the Dollings. An unusual marriage to say the least.

The entry from St Albans Quarter Session Rolls: 1784-1820 reads:

549/6 The Complaint and Information of Ann Dolling the wife of William Dolling of the Parish of St. Alban, labourer, taken on oath this 20th.Sept .. This complainant saith that her husband hath for some very considerable time now treated her very ill violently assaulting beating her and threatening to take away her life. That last night her husband swore that he would murder her and she is, from the violence of his temper and his being greatly addicted to drinking, very much afraid that he will --- --- to his bloody threat unless he be restrained by law. This complainant prays surety not out of malice but solely to guard her life from the effects of her husbands murderous threat.   Recognisances 549/14


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