WALBY, Essendon & Hatfield, c1875-1890, Gamekeeper

December, 2011




Ann (southernparkhouse @t gmail.com) of Winchester writes: Are there records of employees of Camfield House for the 1880/1890 period and how would I access them?   My Great Grandfather was a Gamekeeper.  He and his family lived at the Cottage, Hoppetts Wood and I think therefore he possibly worked at Camfield Place.

Whether lists of employees of a particular employer survive is very much a matter of luck, and in the few cases where they have the problem is to locate them if they have not been acquired by a public archive. There are a number of papers relating to Camfield Place at HALS - but from the index (sees National Archives index) there is nothing which I would expect to include lists of employees, or on gamekeeping.

 So what are the alternative sources of information about his employment. In order to know where to look it is important to know more about William Walby to look - so a quick summary from censuses, etc,of what I am sure you already know (possibly in more detail) is relevant.

William was born in 1844 the son of an agricultural labour and beer seller in Hatfield.  In 1861 he was an agricultural labourer living with his parents in Park Street, Hatfield. By 1871 he was married, working as a gamekeeper, and living in Park Street, Hatfield. In about 1875 he moved to Essendon and in 1881 he and his family were living in a cottage in Hoppetts Wood, Essendon, where he was a gamekeeper. Unfortunately he died early in 1890 ay the age of 47 and in 1891 his widow and some of the children were living in Woodfield Lane, Hatfield.

The fact that he was a gamekeeper is very important. I don't have full access to the county records at HALS from my desk, but in a couple of minutes I was able to find from Hertfordshire County Records, Volume IX that between 1799 and 1802 The Rev. William Browne, of Campfield Place had a game licence and that  in 1804 he employed a game keeper called Thomas Cosier in the Manor of Bedwell Lowthes. In fact there is still a gamekeeper on the estate as a 2010 blog includes the words "We walk and talk and enter [the late] Barbara Cartlands Estate at Camfield Place. We meet Les who is the gamekeeper for the estate and his fantastic Black Labs out walking with him." It is therefore likely that HALS has records of William's gamekeeper's licence - and who he was working for,

The names of small country cottages can be difficult but it is worth looking at the census returns to see if we can identify Hoppetts Wood  in other years. In 1851 James Glazebrook, gamekeeper lived at Wild Hill, close to Camfield Place, and ten years later he was described as an agricultural labourer living in Keeper's Cottage, Camfield Place. In 1871 Thomas Grimes was a Garden Labourer living at Hoopits Cottage which was close (in census terms) to Camfield House [sic], where Edmund Potter was living. It is quite possible that the gamekeeper job was not full time - and he also worked as a garden labourer. In 1881 we know that Hoppetts Wood is next in the census list to Camfield Place and William Walbey lived there as gamekeeper. In 1891 and 1901 John Green, gamekeeper, lived in a property named as ether Keeper's House or Keeper's Cottage, Camfield. It is clear that Keeper's Cottage was associated with Camfield Place and likely that it was the same building also referred to as the cottage in Hoppetts Wood. It was almost certainly a "tied cottage" which went with the job - so William's widow would have to move out when her husband died - which she did.

William's death at the age of 47 could provide more information depending on whether the death was work related. If (as happened to some gamekeepers) he was murdered by poachers the story would have been national news - but a check on the British Newspaper Archives has drawn a blank. If there was an inquest there would probably be a mention in a local paper (not yet indexed on the Archives, as the Hertford Mercury has not yet reached 1880) and such a news item could well mention his employer and much more so if the death involved his job as a game keeper.

Shooting game was something you did in company - and people would be invited to visit the estate for a day's shooting. Records would often be kept to record the bag for the day, and these might occasionally mention the gamekeeper by name, who could have been responsible for keeping the book. The shooting records are the sort of thing which might well be kept when more ordinary records were trashed. As there is still a gamekeeper on the Camfield Estate, the Victorian shoot records may still be on the estate - perhaps even held by the current gamekeeper. It could well be worth making an approach to see how far back they go. If they exist they may contain detailed information on the gamekeeper's work - such as the number of pheasant raised each year for the shoot. I am sure if you approached the current gamekeeper he would be most interested to hear of your ancestor and to provide relevant information on the estate.

It is of course possible that some of the visitors to Campfield Place who went shooting kept a diary and recorded the bag and perhaps even the name of the gamekeeper if the results were exceptionally good - but finding such records is very much a matter of luck.

It seems that he was gamekeeper in Essendon for about 15 years and during that time it is very likely that he was involved in the arrest and prosecution of poachers. There may be court records at HALS and there may have been accounts in local newspapers - although for these you may need to wait for better coverage by the British Newspaper Archives. For some examples of what you might find in press reports have a look at Poaching and Petty Thieving in St Albans.

To become a gamekeeper William may well have worked as an under-keeper first. His work as an agricultural labourer in 1871 may well have included some working with a gamekeeper - and where better than under the gamekeeper of Hatfield House - and there may well be records at Hatfield House or as related estate papers archived elsewhere. 



The detail from an 1883 O.S. map on the left shows Hoppetts Wood, with the only buildings on the west of the wood, nearest Camfield Place presumably being William Walby's cottage. (Hoppetts Wood is in Essendon while Camfield Place is in Hatfield.)


See Charles Butler for details of William Walby's employer, and Warrenwood.


Ann has provided some more information about the family - including a copy of William Walby's inquest - and the information that his father-in-law William Webb also a gamekeeper - and was the major witness to a murder in 1853 which is described in detail on the Brookmans Park Newsletter.

She later wrote: I discover that William Walby b 1844 (who met with the gun accident) grandparents [William Walby b 1797] lived in Wild Hill where William's Father George 1819 had been born.

You have a photograph of the Cyclist's Rest in Essendon with the name of the owner in 1912. The 1891 and 1901 census reveal that Diana Walby was the owner of the Cyclists Rest in 1891 and again in 1901.   Her Grandaughter Catherine Saunders aged 19 in 1901 lived with her and was a waitress in the cafe which is described as a coffee tavern.

Diana Walby who was owner of the Cyclists Rest was the aunt of William Walby b. 1843.  She  was the daughter-in-law of George Walby b 1790 living as an ag. lab near Camfield Place, Wild Hill.  She married Richard one of his sons and was much younger than himself.  She was later left a widow and came to buy or rent the Cyclist Rest.    She was also sister in law to George Walby b 1819 beer sellier living in Park Street.   George Walby b 1790 cme from Stevenage, where also did the Walby Butcher family

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

December 2011   Page created and later updated
August 2012   Correction relating to Diana Walby made