Hertfordshire Genealogy

Answers to Questions


WELCH, miller, Kimpton, mid 19th century

March, 2006




Jill Craig (jillmcraig @t yahoo.com) of Maryland, USA, writes:  I have traced George Welch to Kimpton and Kimpton Bottom on the 1851 and 1861 census. He was a miller. His son Alfred in 1871 was listed as a boarder in Wheathamstead and also a miller. Alfred moved to Liverpool, and in the 1881,1891 and 1901 census is listed there as a miller. I wonder if there was any event in Herts in the 1870s that would cause him to leave and head so far from home. You mentioned in one of your pages that there was an agricultural strike in this period. Would this have lead to a reduction in the need for millers?

There were major changes in the flour milling industry in the 19th century due the the replacement of water power by steam power. This led to a smaller number of much bigger flour mills, and the closure of many of the ancient water and wind mills. In addition a corn (= wheat) miller in a village in Hertfordshire would normally be the person who ran the mill, while in the more industrial areas it was more likely to be someone who worked in a large mill as an employee of the mill owner.

It is possible (but you would need to check) that imports of wheat from the USA and Canada were becoming significant at the time, and Liverpool was the main port supporting the trans-Atlantic trade. The most sensible way to ship it would be as whole grain - and I am sure much would have been ground to flour in steam-driven mills near the port of arrival.

However if you look at the census returns, and fill in some other family details from other sources, you may find that events related to the family were also relevant to the move.

The 1851 census shows that George Welch was a 38 year old miller living at Kimpton Mill, Kimpton, and he is listed as a tradesman in the 1851 Post Office Directory for Hertfordshire - which means he was in charge of the mill.

The 1861 census shows (from the place of birth of the children) that a couple of years earlier he had left Kimpton and was living in Codicote Mill, Codicote. He had a large family and one of the younger sons was Alfred, aged 6.

You don't say what happened to George and he is not listed in the 1871 census, or the 1866 Post Office Directory - so that he may well have died by 1866 leaving a large family with no means of support.

The 1871 census shows Alfred as a 15 year old boarding in the house of George Titmuss, a miller of Wheathampstead. There is something strange about the census return because I would not expect a 15 year old boy to be described as a miller in Hertfordshire. In practice he would have been a miller's apprentice, or a miller's assistant, or a miller's labourer.

One possibility is that the family had fallen on hard times (because of the death of George?) and the parish apprenticed the young Alfred to be trained as a miller. (Similar to what happened to Oliver Twist, who was apprenticed to an undertaker in Charles Dickens' book.) If this is the case the parish overseers of the poor would want him off their hands as soon after he was old enough - and they may well have happily paid his rail fare to take a job in the North West of England - particular if water-powered flour mills had been closing in Hertfordshire and there were jobs in steam-driven mills in Lancashire & Cheshire.

Whatever the reason was, the 1881 census describes him as a rice miller in West Derby, Lancashire, and the 1891 census that Alfred went to Seacombe, Cheshire, where he had the lowly status of a miller's labourer. 

Finally I did a check - and found that in the 1881 census there were only 4 people in the whole of Lancashire whose occupation includes the word "Miller" who were said to be born in Hertfordshire. Two were wrongly listed and came from Herefordshire, and a third came as a child with his parents. Whatever the reason for Alfred's move, he seems to be an isolated case

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

Page created March 2006