Monday, August 14, 2017

Vanity publishing by the Truman Press and relatives, of St Albans

Hertfordshire Leaders by Ernest Gaskell
Some years ago I posted information on the book "Hertfordshire Leaders" supposedly by Ernest Gaskell. In fact it was one of a very large number of vanity publications produced by Truman Press and his relatives, often under pen names. Other similar books relating to Hertfordshire were "Hertfordshire Men of Mark" and "Hertfordshire Country Homes."

The way of working was briefly summed up in the St Albans paper, The Clock Tower, in 1896:-

It appears that Truman is now engaged in an effort to induce all the fools in Surrey to pay him sums of nine or twelve guineas for the privilege of having their biographies and portrait inserted in a book which he is publishing by subscription. This is a trick on which Truman and Manning Press have been engaged for years, and as long as they can find idiots enough to keep the game going, no one can blame them for working it for all it is worth.

Helped by Linda Smith I have traced down a large number of similar books under the names of Truman Press, Manning Press, Ernest Gaskell and Allan North, covering most of the country. Because the number of copies published was very small, and the books were bound in a way that means the pages tend to fall out, the number of surviving copies is low, and I am always looking out for new titles to add to the list. I was there delighted to see that a copy of Hampshire Leaders is currently advertised on ebay. The binding is virtually identical to the Hertfordshire volume - even to the point of the edge-gummed leaved coming loose!

If you look at the contents of the Hertfordshire books and find that they include the biography of someone you are interested in let me know by commenting below and I will see if I can post the biography and portrait photograph (if there is one) online.

If you know of any other books by the Press gang which I have not mentioned - let me know so that I can add it to the list.

The Rothschilds and the RAF Connection

Halton House - The Seat of Alfred Charles de Rothschild
In the 19th century the Rothschild family family settled in the Vale of Aylesbury - extending into Hertfordshire in the Tring area. One of their slpendid houses, built by Alfred Charles de Rothschild was at Halton, just over the county boundary into Buckinghamshire.

When the First World War broke out Alfred made his couse and grounds available to the army. The initial army camp was used to train soldiers in Kitchiner's new army, but soon became a base for what was to become the Royal Air Force.

There will be an open days on Sunday 10th September between 10 am and 4 pm. Halton House (now the Officers Mess, RAF Halton)  will be open  providing a rare opportunity to see the interior of Halton House, built by Alfred de Rothschild in 1883, a lasting reminder of Victorian decorative taste.In addition a  shuttle bus will run between Halton House, the Trenchard Museum, (where more can be learnt about the history of the RAF Station and RAF’s Apprentice Scheme), and the James McCudden Flight Heritage Centre.  Transport will be provided between Halton House and the reconstructed First World War trenches.

Further details about the house can be found at 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Talk on the Hertfordshire Regiment on 16th August

Wednesday 16th August 2017 - Dan Hill - The Hertfordshire Regiment in 1917

Hertfordshire native, Dan has always had a real passion for military history and considers himself incredibly fortunate to have worked since 2008 full-time in the field. Originally at the Imperial War Museum.  He founded and now leads the Herts at  War Project and has also worked free-lance on many local and national military history projects including 'Hertfordshire - A County at War'. Most recently he was resident historian and historical advisor on the UK’s Somme Centenary commemorations in Manchester and Westminster Abbey. Dan also works as an active battlefield guide on the Western Front where he often guides groups around the battlefields of Europe. He is a National Committee member of the Western Front Association.

Talk Location: de Havilland Campus, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, AL10 9EU.  Weston Auditorium.  The talk will start at 7.30pm with doors open from 7pm. To book your FREE ticket or for further enquiries please visit the link below:

For directions and sit
e map visit:

North Herts at War Family Day 15th August

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

German POW at Hemel Hempstead & a link with Florence Nightingale

Cemmaes Court in 1897
In my book, The London Gunners come to Town I mentioned that after the war Cemmaes Court had been used to house German prisoners of war.

I have now had a request for a picture of the house and decided to find out more about it and who lived there.

It appears to have been built as a retirement home for Dr James Vaughan Hughes - who had been Surgeon Major in the Crimean War - and not only treated Florence Nightingale when she was ill, but was nursed by her when he was ill.

The information I have on Cemmaes Court has been posted at
If you can add anything about the history of the house, and particularly if you can provide a photograph of it I will be very grateful.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

More information on the Parish of Ardeley (Yardeley)

Ardeley Village Green
As part of my archive policy I have upgraded the pages on the village of 
including new post card images and higher resolution pictures (if you click om the smaller image.)

I have updated the information on the booklet describing the history of the parish school and included a list of the vicars and school masters. A new page has been added about the Old Bell and the New Bell inns, and the Ardely Bury page has been extended.
St Lawrence, Ardeley
In theory (if the computer keeps working) I plan to upgrade all the village pages (the bigger towns are more of a challenge) and if you would like me to include the village where your ancestors came from why not let me know and it can be moved up the "To Do" queue.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

What do you think happened when a Magistrate assaulted a passerby on a footpath in 1846?

In early Victorian times the punishments were often severe and one can imagine what would happen if a gang of people assaulted a rich local magistrate and his friends on a public footpath. The police would be quickly involved and the miscreants would find themselves in the dock at the next magistrates court - and they could well find themselves in prison for a long stay.
However on the 23rd July 1846 a group of  local people were walking along a public footpath between Walkern and Ardeley minding their own business when they were set on by Sir Robert Murray, J.P., and two of Sir Robert's staff. 
Were the police involved - of course not.They were unlikely to arrest a powerful local magistrate and parade him before the criminal court. However the events were not forgotten by the victims and led to a number of cases appearing in the civil courts.

Start of exceptionally detailed report published in the Herts Mercury on 17th July, 1847
When the case appeared in court it was not held before a normal jury but instead a Special Jury of rich Hertfordshire gentlemen was called. After all you couldn't have a baronet and magistrate appearing before a common jury as it was important that such an important person should be judged by his "equals." In the above case the jury heard the evidence - and as the evidence for the assault was very clear they really had no option but to find for the victim. To prove that they were acting "fairly" to both sides they then awarded damages of one farthing (then the smallest coin and equal to 1/960th of £1) against Sir Robert Murray.

Originally I had planned a detail write-up of this case and I discovered my outline notes while preparing my web site for eventual archiving. While I do not have time to write a detail report I have added outline details from my draft on the web page for Sir Robert's House -

Spam Warning

At the end of July one of my least used email addresses was hijacked and a large number of spam emails were sent out (presumably containing some kind of nasty) as if they had been sent by me. As far as I have been able to ascertain no spam was sent out from and no messages were sent to people in my email address book. However if you heave received spam purporting to be from me over the last week or two please accept my apologies.

I spotted the problem at about the same time as did my ISP - VirginMedia - and they sent me a urgent action letter by post on the 27th July which was sent by second class mail and didn't reach me until the 4th April - by which time I had sorted the problem out myself.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

New and higher resolution early post card images of Aldenham

The Gates of Aldenham House
As part of the policy to prepare the Genealogy in Hertfordshire web site for archiving I have added some new post card images of 
and some of the big houses in the area. In most cases I have also added larger images (when you see when click on the original picture)

St John the Baptist - Aldenham

The "Genealogy in Hertfordshire" site is moving into Archive Mode

The shelves contain books on town & villages
The boxes are post cards, etc
The filing cabinets contain magazines, papers and notes
Old age (mine and the computer software) means that the Genealogy in Hertfordshire site cannot continue to  expand indefinitely. Having taken a few months break from actively running the web site to think things over the big problem I face is not the online system but the future of the back-up collection of Hertfordshire material that I have accumulated to support it. I have been reminded that when a local historian died some years ago the first other historians knew what was going to happen to his collection was when there was a bonfire in his garden!!!

My collection occupies three walls of one "bedroom" (see pictures) and there are overflow bookcases in the living room, two other bedrooms, and on the upstairs landing. I also have extensive papers relating to my earlier research into human-friendly computers in the garage. To be realistic I have to plan to downsize, especially as the material is not organised in a way that makes sorting it out easy.

Top Shelf - St Albans
Middle shelf - General Hertfordshire
Bottom Shelf - Dacorum (excluding Tring)

[Tring book occuoy most of the shelf below]
Far Shelves - Series & general local/genealogy books
Basically I need to prioritize the material in my Hertfordshire collection, highlighting the following categories which need safeguarding.
  1. Material the family may want to keep - with items properly identified with names and origins.
  2. Unique photographs and documents that should end up in a permanent archive.
  3. Unpublished research notes (on paper and on the computer but not yet online)
  4. The basic core of published book, maps, engravings and postcards (i.e material that is almost certainly available through the Herts Archives and Library Service.)
  5. Duplicate material, etc., which can be usefully be disposed of immediately on eBay or via a local charity shop.
The priority, at least until Christmas, will simply be going through the material and sorting it into categories to ensure that everything is properly identified. However I will not forget the web site. The process of sorting through the material will turn up much information which had been intended to go online but never made it. What I will try and do is selectively use such material to make one or two updates to the web site a week -  using the opportunity to upgrade pictures and check any external links. Brief details of such updates will be in this newsletter, starting in a day or two.

In updating the web site for archive purposes it is useful to give some brief statistics. The off-line master copy consists of 20,773 files of which 5,633 are text files, the rest being pictures. Of this total 18,278 files (1,431,198,000 bytes) are accessible online directly or indirectly from the home page. Many of the rest are draft pages and pictures which have yet to make it online! There are also 7,299 links to external web sites - and quite a few of these have wilted due to old age and no longer reach their intended target.

Clearly I don't have time to sort out all the problems at once but there are ways in which visitors to the site can help, For instance if you know of any significant online sources of information (say a local history web site or an online copy of a book on Hertfordshire) that is not mentioned on my site this could be useful - so I don't waste time duplicating information readily available elsewhere. In addition my time will be saved if you spot any broken links or other errors.