Hertfordshire Genealogy

Guide to Old Hertfordshire


Herts Past and Present

Hertfordshire Association for Local History

Spring 2012 - No 19



In the issue

Jessie Austin, Emily Beddall, John Carrington, Ella Ginn, Edward VII, Ellen Graveson, the Gore Family, James I. George Nassau, Clavering Cooper, Katherine Rutland

Bramfield. Harpenden, Hatfield. Hertford, Hertingfordbury, Knebworth, Royston, St Albans, Tring, Verulamium, Wheathamstead


  Brief Guide to Sources: Newspapers - by David Short

Hertford's Coronation Dinner, 1902 - by Philip Sheail


Philip Sheail here seizes the opportunity to examine the social history behind a singular special occasion - a dinner provided for the elderly residents of Hertford as part of the celebrations for the Coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. At the time, such occasions were seen as an opportunity for a town to enhance its civic status and for local worthies to enhance their social standing. This article looks at how such motives underlay the event.

Planning Hertford's coronation festivities

The Old People's Sinner

Hertford's elderly population in 1902

Volunteer helpers

The helpers' social backgrounds

The helper's own domestic help

A happy occasion?


The Italian Earl and the Farmer - by Gillian Cordingley


George Nassau Clavering Cowper, 1738-1789 and John Carrington, 1726-1810

From her study of a mere month and a year (1787) in the third Earl Cowper's Italian household accounts, Gill Cordingley here conjures up an impressive portrait of the earl's luxurious Italian life style. Size concludes with an illuminating contrast between the life of the wealthy aristocrat and that of his tenant farmer and labourers in the late eighteenth century.


Staff salaries

Foreign workers


Rents and alterations to property

Monthly household accounts

Sources of the earl's income

The Carrington connection

Contrasting life styles


Cartage in Jacobean Hertfordshire - the king's prerogative or an unfair tax - by Alan Thomson


Here we learn one of the reasons for the county's sympathies with the Parliamentary side during the Civil Wars - an early demonstration of the struggle against the absolute power of the monarch.

An ancient feudal right

Abuses of the system

Carters, the vermin of the commonwealth

An attempt at legislation

A price increase for hunting journeys

Failed solutions

The cost of the king's hunting and hawking

A tax strike


Tring and the Railway - by Peter S Richards


In this topical look at railway and landscape, the author considers the links between landscape, town and railway, showing how each determines the development of the other; as in the case of Tring, how the lack of a nearby railway station affected the growth and character of the town. In light of the current debate over High Speed 2, it is interesting to see what a desirable asset the railway was considered to be at Tring in 1831.


The opening of the London and Birmingham Railway

Cutting into the Chilterns: hard work for the navies


Tring Railway Station


The Growth of Tring

Tring might have been a Railway Junction




BOOKS Reviewed

Theodora's Journals: Inside History, from Victorian Times to the Eve of World War Two, edited by Amy Coburn & Ruth Nason, Harpenden & District Local History Society.

From the Valleys to Verulamium: Memoirs of a Soldier's Life, George & Carrie Dunn, The History Press, ISBN 9780752465081

Cold baths don't work - A history of mental health care in the Hitchin area, by Mike Clarke, Hitchin Historical Society, ISBN 9780955241161


Also editorial, news items, dates for the diary, and book reviews

Review from Hertfordshire Genealogy News

A celebration dinner, the very rich, carts and the railway

The Spring 2012  issue of Herts Past & Present contains four interesting articles. The abstracts and main heading are given here - and the purpose of this review (below the fold) is to explain how reading the articles can help give you ideas for doing local and family history research.

Hertford's Coronation Dinner, 1902: Special events like this, where a large number of elderly residents were treated to a great dinner, were an opportunity for a Town and its well-to-do inhabitants to enhance their social standing. The coronation celebrations would have involved a wide range of people in different roles, and at this date there may well have been photographs. For the bigger towns, at least, the planning for, and execution of, such events will be well covered in the local press. In addition there might be surviving ephemera - such as programmes.  Even if such records do not mention your ancestor they help to paste a picture of what was going on in the place where they lived.

The Italian Earl and the Farmer: The poor worked hard in the fields so that the tenant farmer, such as John Carrington, could live in modest comfort in his farmhouse. And the tenant farmer paid rent to the well-to-do absentee landlord - George Clavering Cowper - who lived a life of luxury in Italy. The article is a reminder of the words of the hymn All things bright and beautiful which are omitted from politically correct modern hymn books:

The rich man in his castle

The poor man at his gate

He made them high and lowly

And ordered their estate.

Such articles serve to remind us of the gulf between the rich and the poor - and the importance of keeping financial and social status issues in mind when researching your ancestors.


Cartage in Jacobean Hertfordshire: I learnt something new on reading this article. When the King traveled around the country he had the right to "hire" your carts to carry his goods at a price that he chose. This commandeering of carts, etc., did not go done well with the inhabitants of Hertfordshire, as the roads from London to a significant part of the country went through Hertfordshire. In fact cartage could have been one of the reasons Hertfordshire supported the Parliamentarians in the later Civil War.


While your ancestor may no have been affected by cartage, the article is a reminder of why it helps to know what factors (social, weather, law changes, etc.) would have affected him at the time you are studying.


Tring and the Railway: Perhaps the opening words of the abstract "In this topical look at railway and landscape ..." led me to expect more that I found. It discusses the origin of the railway in the first half of nineteenth century from contemporary railway records and if it restricted itself to this period I would be much happier - although I might have expected a mention of the branch line to Aylesbury which passes through through the parish - and was the first ever purpose-built branch line. However it then jumps to the mid 20th century - incorrectly stating the Silk Mill closed sometime after 1956 when it actually closed in 1898, when the building (which still stands) was converted to workshops for the Rothschild estate. Even worse it outrageously suggests that a nearly 20% decrease the population of Tring between 1881 and 1921 was "possibly due to the number of men killed in World War I." (The drop actually happened between 1891 and 1901 due to the boundaries being redrawn.)  The article refers to electrification in 1966 and stops there, giving the impression it was written over 40 years ago. There is, for example, no reference to 30 or more books and booklets that have been published relevant to the history of Tring in the last 40 years, or the wealth of information available via modern online census indexes.

There is a lesson here for the average family historian. Family history is far more than extracting sentences which happen to refer to your ancestors. You must carefully consider the source and how reliable it is - and be prepared for even quite respectable looking sources to contain errors.
April 2012   Page created