Answers to Questions


STOTT, Sandridge, 1860's

January, 2009


Michelle Woltman (MichelleWoltman @t of New Zealand writes: Ralph Stott (originally from Scotland and came to England some time after the 1851 Scotland census) was land/estate agent to Earl Spencer in St Albans Sandridge - definitely as so in the 1861 census and he died at the early age (probably not so young in those days) of 46 in 1871.   I don't have any other info other than that EXCEPT I've found a quote on the internet which says "the door remained locked and bolted as the key was buried with old Mr Stott the caretaker" ... but the webpage is no longer available online ... so is this my Stott and where would I look for more information on his job as a land or estate agent for Earl Spencer during the 1860s?  Hoping you can lead me to some sources.

Before looking at further sources it is appropriate to fill in a few details from the census,.

The birthplaces of the children show that Ralph Stott had left Scotland by 1855, when he and his family moved to Wing, Buckinghamshire. By 1860 he had moved to Sandridge where in the 1861 census he was described as "Estate Agent to Earl Spencer employing 3 carpenters, 1 bricklayers, 1 lab 3 woodmen".  In 1863 he is described in Thomas Dank's Directory as land agent to Earl Spencer. He continued to live in Sandridge until his death on 26th January 1871 (Memorial inscription). The 1871 census shows that his son, Robert, was continuing to act as land steward.

Earl Spencer owned most of the parish of Sandridge and the post of estate agent/land steward was a very important one - which may well have covered property owned by Earl Spencer in neighbouring parishes, such as St Peters, St Albans. Earl Spencer may also have owned property at Wing, and in Scotland, so Ralph may have worked for him before coming to Sandridge.

A significant proportion of the documents relating to the management of property in Sandridge between 1860 and 1871 are likely to have references to him - but few will be available online. There will be three main sources.

The home of the Spencer family is Althrope House, Northamptonshire, and many of the estate papers are now held at the Northamptonshire Records Office, although some may still be at the House. Having looked at some of the documents there I known that there are boxes of manuscript documents relating to Sandridge - and many of these (for the relevant period) may well have been written by Ralph himself.

HALS has many documents relating to  the village and some may well include references to Ralph. A few may be available on microfilm through your local LDS Family History Centre (address on familysearch).

There will be a number of cases where the local newspaper, such as the Herts Advertiser, would have mentioned Ralph - for instance there may be reports of annual meetings of Earl Spencer's tenants, where the steward would have run - although these reports may do little more that mention him by name. However there could be a short report of his death. He may also have given evidence in court cases involving Earl Spencer's property.

If you are planning a visit to England you could well spend a couple of days happily looking at some of these records, but otherwise access (unless you can find a tame relative living in the area with hours to spare on research) will be difficult or expensive

Old News

In fact some years ago I carried out a partial scan of the Herts Advertiser looking for references to Bernards Heath, Sandridge. I have checked my files and found two references to Ralph's son Robert acting as land agent shortly after Ralph's death, which will give you some idea of the kind of information such news articles can contain.

On 16th September 1871 the Herts Advertiser incuded a report of the Highway Board at which the surveyor, Mr Wells, reported that "he had seen Mr Stott in reference to his taking away some soil by the side of Bernards Heath, in the parish of Sandridge, and he (Mr Stott) had promised to discontinue it. The surveyor also reported that he had interviewed Mr Garratt respecting the removal of some earth in Waterend-lane, and the gentleman had promised to remedy the cause of complaint."

On the 27th January 1872 the paper included the following court report:

St. Albans.
Saturday, January 20

Before W. H. Solly, Esq. (in the chair), G. R. Marten, Esq., Rev. W. S. Wade, F. A. McGeachy, Esq., and T. Kinder, Esq.


Samuel Hope, George Brewster  and Joseph Balls  were charged with trespassing in search of rabbits on land in the occupation of Earl Spencer, of Sandridge.

The defendant Balls did not appear, and the case was taken as against the other two only.

Mr Robert Stott, a young man in the employ of Earl Spencer, stated that on Sunday, 14th inst., about half past eleven o’clock, he was crossing Bernards Heath and say two gangs of men standing round two dells on the common. The men had some dogs, which were at the bottom of the dells hunting rabbits. He told them they were doing wrong and ordered them away. The men then went into the road, and witness afterwards came along the road as far as the Cricketers Inn, where he met a young man whom he asked to go back with him. On going back he saw one of the men standing on the road, and another "working" the bushes with dogs. He thought they had no right there, and consequently followed them until he got three of their names. The two defendants were amongst the men who were beating the bushes.

Walter Ephgrave, a blacksmith residing at Sandridge, said that on the morning in question, about twenty minutes to twelve., he saw a great many men on the heath, and several dogs with them. The men were beating the furze and bushes, and the dogs were hunting. He saw the defendant [Samuel] Hope, who was in the bottom of a dell with some dogs. Witness did not see [George] Brewster. He thought there were altogether fifty men or more.

The defendant Hope said he was going across the heath and saw a number of men, when the witness Stott came up to him and said he wanted to know three or four of the men's names. He (defendant) said they were strangers to himself, whereupon the witness replied, "Well, there's one thing, I have got you." A few days afterwards he saw Stott, who again requested to know the names, and on his replying that he could not inform him, the witness said "Well then, I shall 'pull' you." He positively denied having been in search of rabbits.

The other defendant also denied the accusation, affirming he had nothing whatsoever to do with the other men on the Heath.

The chairmen said the magistrates fully believed the evidence of the witnesses, and it was quite clear that the defendants were after rabbits. They would therefore be fined 12s. each, including costs; in default ten days' imprisonment.

The defendants were locked up in default of payment, an application for time having been refused.

Herts Advertiser, 27th January, 1872

In addition the were a number of references to a Stott who was a member of the local cricket team in the 1870s.


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