Answers to Questions


HENDERSON, Aldenham, 1876

[& Dagnall Street, St Albans]

November, 2011




Michael Reading (michaelreading8 @t of Ash, Surrey, writes: I seek your help to solve what has become for me a mystery. I am searching the place of burial of Jessie Henderson nee McLeod who died aged 27 on 15 June 1876. Her death certificate states the place of death as Aldenham. She was the wife of Hugh Henderson a gardener who lived and worked on the Aldenham Abbey Estate, formerly Wall Hall. Hugh and Jessie were married in Glasgow in 1873 in the Church of Scotland Both came from the Isle of Mull.
     Through the HALS I have had  the burial registers of St John the Baptist Aldenham  and four other churches and the Watford burial register researched. I have also made direct contact with Christ Church Radlett and the North Watford Cemetery (Vicarage Road) and Kensal Green Cemetery, all without success.
     The cause of death on the certificate was, Phthis Pulmonatis,and archaic medical term for consumption of the lungs, strictly applied to the tuberculosis  variety, and this may have necessitated a special place of burial. I have pondered whether the Leavesden Asylum cemetery in East Lane may be a possibility. Most of the cemeteries listed for this part of Hertfordshire  seem to have come into existence in the 20th century.

Things were changing very fast in the Watford area in 1876 as the town was expanding fast. and one of the the things that happens in such circumstances is that the churchyards become full and civic cemeteries were opened up. This process was speeded up with the more general use of gravestones - as in earlier cemeteries there could be multiple burials in the same plot. Village churchyards tended to fill up more slowly, and if the churchyard adjoined fields it would not have been too difficult to expand. If you look at St John the Baptist, Aldenham, it has a large churchyard, part of which looks like an extension. My guess (I have never visited the church) is that the churchyard was still being used for burials in 1876 - and may even be being used for burials now. I would therefore expect Jessie to be buried in St John the Baptist's churchyard if she worshiped in the parish church. I don't know how you checked - but it could be that whoever made up the burial register could not understand Hugh's Scottish accent and significant spelling errors in the name are quite likely. (A high proportion of the questions I get involve some error in personal or place names which has sent the questioner off on the wrong track.)

Because Hugh was a gardener it is unlikely that he had much money - so I think we can rule out Jessie being shipped back to Glasgow or the Isle of Mull to be buried in a family grave.

Tuberculosis was a common cause of death, especially in urban slums, and I am sure this disease would not have affected where Jessie was buried. You can also rule out the large institutions in the area. The St Albans/Watford area was considered a good place to dump the mentally ill and orphaned children who otherwise would have been in the workhouse. The ones that existed in 1876, for instance at Leavesden, were built for specific London/Middlesex parishes, and would not have accepted Hertfordshire people as inmates. Some had their own cemeteries for their pauper inmates, but it is hard ot imagine why anyone who was not an inmate would chose to be buried there- even if the institution allowed it.

The fact the the Hendersons came from Scotland may well be relevant to where they worshiped. When they arrived in the Watford area there is the question of which church or chapel they attended.  If a child was born between the marriage in 1873 and the death in 1876 the place of baptism of the child could be a clue. There were quite a lot of chapels and some of them had their own burial grounds - and I don't have a ready check list of chapels in the Watford area. What I do know is that in about 1895, St Stephens, Watford, a Church of Scotland church opened. There must have been a number of people who were Church of Scotland living in the Watford area before then it is relevant to ask where they worshipped as this could suggest a possible non-conformist burial ground.

From "St Albans 1650-1700" - Original in St Albans Mueum collectionThe alternative would be a Presbyterian or Unitarian Church and at the time there was one not far away at St Albans, which has a long history, starting as a meeting house built in 1697. [Picture from St Albans 1650-1700.]

At the time of Jesse Henderson's death it was going under the name of Trinity Chapel. In 1871 it was actively associated with the Temperance Movement (see Temperance at the Trinity Chapel). In 1872 the minister at Trinity Chapel, Upper Dagnall Lane was the Rev. W. H. Stevens, and in 1878 it was the Rev. Charles Hillard. It became disused soon after this and around 1900 the building was used by Samuel Ryder for his penny-packet seed business. (see RYDER & Son, St Albans, Early 20th Century). It is a listed building but I am afraid I don't know if there is a surviving burial ground associated with the chapel - but two other less ancient chapels in the immediate area have surviving burial grounds - the Baptist Church in Dagnall Street and the Spicer Street Chapel. In both these cases I suspect that most of the burials are not marked with surviving stones. HALS holds a copy of the baptism register for the chapel from 1751 to 1836, but I don't know if any records survive for the 1870s. It is very unlikely that Jesse's burial was deemed important enough to get a mention in the local paper. the Herts Advertiser.

Having said all this I can do no more than suggest that Jesse Henderson may have been buried where Trinity Chapel normally buried its dead. Unfortunately the St Albans town cemetery in Hatfield Road didn't open to 1884 - so it wasn't there.


Jon comments: I have searched my transcription of the Spicer Street burial ground without luck. As a general thought, I have been told that St Peter's was the general burial ground in St Albans (before the Hatfield Rd cemetery) and that it surprisingly includes non-conformist burials. However, I can't confirm this and indeed can't help thinking that the prospect of being buried in a Church of England graveyard would have been anathema to most non-conformists.

A good idea. I don't know what the position was in St Albans, but non-conformists were sometimes buried in the local churchyard in many villages, I think sometimes set apart from the "regular" burials. St Peter's has a large churchyard and until the expansion of house building in later Victorian times, would have adjoined fields on the East side so the churchyard could be expanded as required.

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

November 2011   Page created