Sunday, December 17, 2017

Booklet: The Story of Harpenden from Village to Town

There are already a good number of books about Harpenden, including booklets produced by the Harpenden & District Local History Society. The recently published booklet by Jean Gardner is an ideal introduction to the history of the town. 

It typically covers the main areas of interest with about a page of text and a small illustration, and there are two good maps.  Topics covered include the coming of the railways, early schooling, John Bennet Lawes and Rothamsted, the growth of the town, the churches, the world wars, and entertainment. It ends with a very useful bibliography. 

If you are just visiting the town, or have just discovered your ancestor came from Harpenden, this booklet will be a good place to start looking into the town's history.


Available from the Society

More about Harpenden

Book: Pitstone Windmill: The Rescue of an Ancient Landmark

Pitstone Windmill is now managed by the National Trust and is of interest because there were many similar post mills in Hertfordshire. David Wray and Roger Hillier's book, Pitstone Windmill, published in 2016, describes the history and restoration of the mill in detail - and also contains an excellent illustrated account of how an ancient post mill worked.



Saturday, December 16, 2017

Evacustes Phipson & the origins of Letchworth Garden City

The Cock Inn, St Albans
The previous post, on The Peaceful Path has remined me of Edward Arthur Phipson who is already recorded on my web site as a water colour artist. He went round the country painting pictures of historically interesting buildings in the early 20th century. However he was also a radical socialist who knew Ebenezer Howard and was clearly interested in the foundation of Letchworth Garden City. A few years ago I started to investigate his early history and the following is a brief summary of his very interesting radical past.
E A (Evacustes) Phipson came from a well-to-do Birmingham factory-owning family, and may have been articled to an architect. He became a socialist and had contacts with William Morris. He failed in an attempt to found a socialist colony south of Sydney, Australia, in about 1884. He then became the London agent for Topolobampo, an attempt to establish a socialist community in Mexico. In 1893 he was treasurer of the Nationalization of Labour Society at the time when Ebenezer Howard was one of a committee set up to consider the formation of a co-operative land colony in England. Later the same year he was talking about the possibility of setting up a colony at Champions Farm, Woodham Ferris, near Chelmsford, but this apparently came to nothing. He clearly found Howard's plans for Letchworth not socialist enough, but in 1903 he corresponded with Albert Kinsey Owen and urged the American to offer his services in the building of Letchworth and the following year wrote a letter about the Australian plans for a Federal Capital saying "Having studied for many years the subject of ideal cities, and taken part in the founding of several, from Topolobarapo, on the Gulf of California, to the Garden City now building 60 miles from London ..."  In 1907 he wrote in the February Edition of Garden City comparing Letchworth with the English Fairhope. However it was said that he has spent most of his inheritance on the Australian project and his paintings may well have been to provide additional income, starting in 1894.
Several years ago I started to research this aspect of Evacustes' life and prepare some draft notes with a view to posting much fuller details on my web site, but had a long list of research still to do - particularly in connection with Letchworth Garden City. It is now clear I am unlikely to have time to finish this research and will try and put a tidied up version of my draft notes online sometime next year.

In the meantime if anyone has any information on his links with Letchworth (and perhaps later Welwyn Garden City) I would love to hear from you. In addition I suspect there are a number of his Hertfordshire paintings in private hands and I would love to be able to include details in my draft biography. As he concentrated on painting historic buildings it would be of particular interest if he ever did a painting of Letchworth Garden City.

Book: The Peaceful Path- Building Garden Cities and New Towns

When the Genealogy in Hertfordshire web site started the idea was not to cover the more recent history of Hertfordshire - concentrating on the 1901 census and earlier. This automatically excluded any serious look at the history of Letchworth Garden City and the later development of new towns in Hertfordshire. 

Time moves on and the site now covers to the end of the First World War and before the site finally goes into "archive mode" I felt it would be useful to include some links to books which deal with the very significant changes which affected significant parts of Hertfordshire. The book The Peaceful Path, by Stephen V Ward provides an excellent introduction as is strongly recommended. It was published in 2014 by Hertfordshire Publications, and is still available.




Thursday, December 14, 2017

Sorry for the delays in Book Reviews - they will restart tomorrow.

A41 at Boxmoor, alongside the railway line on the embankment 
When I posted Hertfordshire History Books for Christmas a week ago I had planned to have got seven or eight reviews up by now, but the snow - and some other domestic problems, such as our oven having packed up, meant I have been over tired, with little waking time to spend on the computer.

The original plan was to post some reviews last Saturday, attend a surprise family reunion meal in Surrey on Sunday, with more reviews on Monday.  If we had stuck to the plan we would undoubtedly been one of more than 100 cars trapped on the A41, as shown by the above picture from the Hertfordshire Mercury web site.

However seven years ago we has been trapped on the A41 in a snow storm (a 20 minute drive along the A41 taking about 7 hours) and I was not going to be stuck again. On hearing the weather forecast on Saturday morning we quickly booked a hotel in Surrey - getting there before the snow started - and we only returned once we were sure all the main roads were clear! In fact the reunion  (a 75th birthday party) at "The Rubbing House" by Epsom Racecourse went well

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Traditional Hertfordshire: Academic Discussion Panel - 27 January


Detailed account of the Death of Lieutenant Colonel A C Gordon

Hemel Hempstead Gazette, 22nd December, 1917
The Battle of Cambrai
... ...
While the 235th Brigade was supporting the Guards Division, the 236th  Artillery Brigade, under Lieutenant Colonel A. H. Bowring, were allocated to help the 20th Division on the Welsh Ridge in the neighbourhood of La Vacquerie.

Over the next week the Germans shelled indiscriminately in the area, including Havrincourt Wood. They killed a mess carthorse on 8th December, while the A/235 Battery lost two horses killed and three men wounded on the 10th, and the wagon lines moved to a safer position at Fins. On the 12th there was a major regrouping of artillery and the C.R.A. war diary records that “The Divisional front is from 4 p.m. today covered by one Field Artillery Group, under the command of Lt. Col. Bowring, consisting of 77th (Army) Brigade R.F.A. and 235th  and 236th Brigades R.F.A.” The war diary also reports that there was very little hostile fire with “only a few rounds on Havrincourt and our trenches.” Unfortunately, half an hour after the regrouping of the Divisional artillery one of the few shells to fall on Havrincourt that day found a target in the B/235 Battery position. Captain Pilditch recorded what happened in his diary:
December 12th. ... I was just going comfortably to bed when a message came from Brigade to say that Colonel Gordon had been killed and Major Hatfield badly wounded. It was a great shock, the worst I’ve had since Gorell’s death, especially as everything seemed reasonably quiet in front and we had had no casualties to speak of since we came into action here. It was not so much surprise at a Colonel being overtaken by the fate more commonly reserved for gunners and subalterns, (a year of Ypres had scattered all illusions and put us all on a level as far as that was concerned) but Gordon was certainly a man whom one unconsciously thought of as one who goes on and prospers and is not killed. He has done splendidly during the last week as C.R.A. to the artillery covering the Guards, and after ten days’ momentous action with so few casualties in our immediate circle, one had, as so often, become lulled into a false sense of security and hardly gave a thought to the tragic side of war. Now that pleasant illusion was shattered. The two senior officers of the Brigade had been hit, Hatfield was reported very badly wounded, and the Doctor [Hebblethwaite] had had a miraculous escape. It could, we felt, have been quiet on our front, but it was a reminder, as in the case of Kimber, and again when Gorell was killed, that on the quietest, sunniest days, death lurks quietly unseen and unthought of, but never absent and never asleep, I felt very miserable for some days after this. Gordon was a fine C.O. and a good friend to our Battery and to me personally. I slept badly, thinking of Gordon and that the last important link with the old days was gone.
December 13th. ... Flynn rode back with me along the cord-wood road to Trescault for the funeral at Havrincourt. There were ten officers from the Brigade there. He was buried in a little graveyard by the side of the road [at Ruyaulcourt]. Eighty men and two trumpeters followed. As at all funerals I felt profoundly miserable. I think at such times most of us feel ‘which one of us will be the next?’  There is one thing, however, about deaths out here. There is too much action and work in one’s life to allow of much worrying and brooding over sad happenings. One man goes, another takes his place, and still the war goes on, full of vital interest and concern for the survivors. We shall, I expect, those of us who are alive when the war stops, feel the deaths far more then than now. Also, I think, we feel that a proportion of us (in the Infantry a majority) will soon pass the same way, and the consciousness that it is but a step forward is stronger, here and now, than in the piping times of peace. So after the funeral, at which we all felt very miserable, we came back to our pigsty billet and had a good dinner and cheery game of bridge and personally I slept like a log. Gordon is not forgotten but God is merciful and blunts the edge of these sorrows while we have other hard things to bear.
The Brigade Chaplain wrote a letter of condolence to Gordon’s widow, Irene, which, in the light of Pilditch’s diary and General Fielding’s letter, seems more genuine than many which were sent to grieving relatives:
He was one of the finest commanding officers that any brigade could have. He had all the qualities which go to make the ideal leader of men, and they would have followed him anywhere. He died just after the accomplishment of the greatest achievement in his military career, having done something with his brigade which it is given to few artillery officers to be able to do. His name has been on everybody’s lips in this division, and not in this division alone. Further honours would certainly have come to him in the near future. I have known him for over two years now, and I have lost a much respected and large-hearted friend. I shall always remember him as one who inspired, by his example, the boys and men whom he led (and whom I have worked among and love) to achieve things which seemed almost impossible.
The news soon reached Hemel Hempstead, as one of the gunners formerly billeted in the town wrote with news from the front on 15th December:
We are now billeted in a village, which our boys have named “The Better Hole” on account of its being but a heap of ruins. I regret to say we have lost Colonel Lowe, who had been made a Brigadier-General, and was posted to another Division. He had been there only a month when a piece of shrapnel pierced his lungs. ... Lieutenant Colonel Gordon, D.S.O. was also killed a few days ago. No doubt you will remember him when he was at Hemel Hempstead. He was Major at that time. Corporal Gilman  was also wounded this morning but not very badly. He used to be in the Battery office at the Manse [in Alexandra Road] in the old days.
The London Gunners Come to Town Chapter 23, pages 199-201

The London Gunners Come to Town describes life in a Hertfordshire market town [Hemel Hempstead], its overnight transformation into a garrison town, and the war’s impact from three very different viewpoints. ... ... "The Soldier's Tale" describes life in the town, and military training in the surrounding countryside, as recorded by the soldiers at the time. To emphasize the reason why they had come to Hemel Hempstead, the book briefly follows the military career of Major Gordon of the 2nd London Division (later the 47th Division) on the Western Front. The battle of Loos is described by men from the town. The book also reports on the local men who joined the Hertfordshire Regiment and marched out of town in August, 1914

Friday, December 8, 2017

Book: With Cheerful Zeal - Dagnall Street Baptist Church, St Albans

As some of my Gibbs relatives were associated with this church in the 19th century I was delighted to get a copy of this 1999 book, which has been out of print for some time. While the current church was built in 1885 and earlier one was build in 1720 and records go back to 1675.



There was at least one second hand copy advertised online when I posted this blog

WW1 Book: We're Going Right There (Hertfordshire Regiment)

"We're Going Right There" by Duckboard
I got this well-written book some time ago, and when I read it I forgot to post a review on the Genealogy in Hertfordshire web site. As copies are still available on ebay it could make an excellent present for anyone whose ancestor fought with the first wave of the Hertfordshire Regiment to go the France during the Great War.


Additional information on the Hertfordshire Territorials


BooK: The Toll Roads of Buckinghamshire (and into Hertfordshire)


Part 1 of this newly published volume contains a detailed history of turnpikes while Part 2 gives detailed histories of the 24 turnpikes that existed in Buckinghamshire, including sections that ran into other counties. Of particular interest are two which penetrated deep into Hertfordshire - The Sparrows Herne turnpike (from Bushy, via Berkhamsted and Tring, to Aylesbury) and the Reading to Hatfield turnpike which ran through Rickmansworth and St Albans.
I have also updated the subject page on Turnpikes