HUGHES, Hertford, circa 1855

July, 2004

Jonathan Peter (jonathanwpeter @t of Pathum Thani, Thailand, writes:  I am helping a friend to investigate her ggrandfather Robert Hughes, born in Hertford in 1855. She says that the story in the family was that he was the illegitimate son of someone fairly important.

I first found his christening record in IGI, 9 Dec 1855 at "All Saints and Saint John", mother Eliza Hughes, no father's name given. I then got birth certificate details from findmypast and ordered the BC, which says: "WHEN & WHERE: 28th Sept. 1855, Holly Bridge, Hertford, NAME: Robert, SEX: boy, NAME & SURNAME of FATHER: BLANK, NAME SURNAME & MAIDENAME of MOTHER: Eliza Hughes, OCCUPATION FATHER:BLANK, SIGN DESCR & RESIDENCE of INFORMANT: The marks of X Elizabeth Hughes, Occupier, Holly Bridge, Hertford, WHEN REGIS. 3rd Nov. 1855, SIG of REGISTRAR: Henry Hunt Carters, Registrar.

What I want to know is - (1) Where and what is "Holly Bridge"?

I can't find any reference (which doesn't mean it is wrong) but I have found many references to The Folly, and Turnor's History of Hertford has a map showing Folly Wharf and also says Folly Bridge, over the River Lee, was first erected in 1738. The area was altered when the New River was constructed.  

(2) Is there mention of this Eliza Hughes in 1851 Census for Hertford?

While this census has been indexed, effectively the only accessible index is on a parish by parish basis at HALS. They charge for their service, but the cost should not be too high for the parishes of Hertford town. It would be much more it you looked over a bigger area - and you may not be certain if you have found the right Eliza (who might be described as Elizabeth, Betty, etc.) as you have no idea what her age was. 

(3) a long shot - are there any Hughes' working at Hatfield House, or any of the houses of gentry in Hertford during the period 1850-55?

Many family trees have a branch like yours, if only because the only openings for young girls was to stay in their home village or enter service (except that by 1850 factories were becoming more common). Of course there would have been cases where a member of the family took advantage of a young female servant - and it is interesting that family legends never seem to say that it was a stable boy who took advantage of the dairy maid! If one doesn't know the details, over the generations the story usually grows, pushing the unknown father up the social scale.

You ask about Hatfield House, which is some miles away from Hertford, and which was, in effect a major private palace. If Eliza worked there I am sure that the location was so high class that the details would not be forgotten.

Trying to find what happened to Robert could help, particularly if you could find him living with his mother (who might now be married) in the 1861 or 1871 census

In fact the 1881 census gives a possible clue. He was living at 7 Stanfield Villa, Angles Road, Streatham, Surrey:

 Name  Relation Age Birthplace Occupation
 Robert HUGHES   Head   25   Hertford, England   Gardener & Florist Employing 2 Men 
 Matrola J. HUGHES   Wife   26   Mepal, Cambridge    
 Emily S. HUGHES   Daur   4   Tottenham, Middlesex    
 Robert W. HUGHES   Son   2   Streatham, Surrey    
 Eliza N. HUGHES   Daur   6 m   Streatham, Surrey    

He was self employed, and he was actually employing 2 men, and his wife wasn't working. The fact that he was living in a "Villa" suggests he was well off the bottom of the social scale, although he was not employing a residential servant. This immediately poses the question "Where did the money come from?". If Eliza had been a servant who had been thrown on the street on becoming pregnant she and her son could easily have ended up in the workhouse. His status in 1881 makes this most unlikely.

At this stage one can only guess where the money came from - but following that trail might well lead to further clues.

There is a web page for Hertford

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