Answers to Questions


BREWSTER, St Albans, 1870s

September, 2011



St Albans

Ian Farrow (idfarrow @t of Northampton has ancestors living in St Albans for many generations (Welch from Bernards Heath, Garment from Bernards Street, Lawrence from Normandy Road). He has noticed press references to John Brewster on this site and asks if there are any more references from the Herts Advertiser.

Before looking at the press coverage it is appropriate to highlight the evidence from the online census returns, which I assume that you have already seen.

John Brewster was born in Nottinghamshire circa 1856, the son of George Brewster, a plumber, and Ann. He had an older brother George, a younger brother Edward and several sisters. In 1871 the family were living in St Peter's Street, St Albans, while at the time of the 1881 census John was in lodgings in Half Moon Yard, St Albans. His location at the time of the 1891 census is not known but in 1901 he was in a cell in the Victoria Street police station, St Albans, where his occupation was described as a "habitual thief".

The Brewster family turn up four times in my collection of press cuttings from the Herts Advertiser, two of which are already mentioned on this web site.


Charge of Stealing a Copper Pump

From the Herts Advertiser, 23rd September 1871

This lengthy news item involved the theft of a pump from the Bernards Heath brickfield, where one of the witnesses was John Brewster, and the report of his evidence is as follows:

John Brewster: I live with my father next door to the Cock Inn, St Peter's Street. On Monday morning last, between ten and eleven o'clock I was standing against Mr. Wilson's at the Cock Inn, and saw a man coming along the pavement by Mr. Nightingall's with a heavy load on his back. I do not know what the load was, but it seemed rather heavy. I cannot say who it was because I was on the opposite side of the road. The load he was carrying seemed to be like piping. The man was not very tall. I went indoors with the intention of telling my father something, but forgot it and went out again without saying anything to him. I thought nothing about what I had seen until I went home on Monday night, when I heard them talking about it.

Cross-examined: I think the man was about as tall as the defendant, but I did not recognise him at all.

By Mr Lowe: The man had a light coat on, and was dressed like a workman.

A simple reading of this account makes one wonder why John should take note of someone carrying something that looked "like piping", then consider telling his father, and then finding "They" (presumably his father and other members of the family) "talking about it". The 1871 census gives the clue - that both his father, George Brewster, and his brother George, were plumbers. In fact it is quite likely that after the theft was reported the police called on George senior to see if he knew anything about it.

A Raid on the Rabbits

From the Herts Advertiser, 27th September 1872

This involves George Brewer poaching. The article does not say whether it was father or son, but fellow poacher, Samuel Hope, was the same age as George Brewer junior, so I suspect it was George junior who spent 10 days in prison.



Game Trespass

From the Herts Advertiser, 14th February, 1874

People mentioned in the article

John Brewer,

Earl Spencer,

Mr Annesley,

George Sanders,

Mr Dickinson


Places mentioned

Bernard's Heath, Sandridge


See Wikipedia for the meaning of "Tom Tiddler's Ground"


Searching for Rabbits

From the Herts Advertiser, February 1875

I have an incomplete note recording that John Brewster and John Edwards were convicted of searching for conies on the land of S. J. Rumball, of Townsend Farm

I am sure that the paper will contain many other references to the Brewster family and their wrong doings - and there is almost certainly something in the paper that explains what he was doing at the time of the 1901 census to end up in the police cells overnight. Microfilms of the paper can be consulted in St Albans Central library.

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

September 2011   Page created