Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rural Relaxation: The Twist at College Lake

The Seat at the Top of The Twist
When I want some exercise and a breath of country air well away from a computer key board (and with the mobile phone switched off) I frequently go to College Lake. The place has many different habitats and I have been taking photographs of the Reserve for 9 years - recording the changing seasons - and the improvement made byBBOWT, who run the reserve. 

I have decided that at the end of each month my "Rural Relaxation" post will concentrate on one feature of the reserve and include pictures taken at a range of dates. 

This month I visit The Twist, a winding path with a seat at the top, giving good views across the Lake. There is also a seat at the bottom (at present) which is currently the only place in the Reserve where you can stand really close to the water of the Lake. I say  "at present" because only three months ago the water was covering the path in front of the seat, while the other seat near the Octagon hide is already under water. 

For more pictures and descriptive text CLICK HERE

The Twist and nearby features of the College Lake Nature Reserve
Posted in Memory of Graham Atkins

Friday, August 29, 2014

An interesting Cash Book from circa 1877-1887

George Austin's Cash Book

I recently noted that some interesting ephemera linked to Solesbridge Paper Mill, Rickmansworth was appearing in dribs and drabs on ebay and decided to purchase a small cash book to see what was going on, so that as much of the relevant history as possible could be saved.

The book was owned by the Mill owner, George Austin and in early 1877 it was used to record payments to customers (presumably for paper products) and his two biggest customers were the printers of the Hemel Hempstead Gazette and the Watford Observer. However from 1878 to 1887 it was used to record how much money his son Herbert James Austin had loaned the business, (by not taking his weekly wages) and how much Herbert had drawn back for essential purchases. The payments stopped when Herbert was married, and it was only in 1887 that George gave Herbert as promissory note for the remaining balance - which was never cashed as George went bankrupt.

For a list of George's customers in and around Hertfordshire, and some of the ways Herbert spent his money see  George Austin's Cash Book.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hertfordshire Automobile Club - 1904

Motor Cars
St Albans
While looking for something else I recently found that the January-June issue of The Automotor Journal was online and I have posted some extracts relating to St Albans and the Hertfordshire Automobile Club. It includes the names of some of early Hertfordshire car owners who attended a rally.
Messrs. Noel B. Kenealy (Chairman), 
E. Kenealy and Miss I. St. Leger Shervington, 
Mr. G. Malton and party, 
Mr. and Mrs. Barnet-Geake, 
Mr. W. D. Ross and the Misses Ross, 
Mr. E. J. Blain, 
Mr. and Mrs. W. G. James, 
Mr. and Mrs. J. T. Gardiner, 
the Rev. G. Bernard Gainsford, 
Dr. Gruggen, 
Mr. C. Wood, 
Mr. A. Hunt, 
Mr. W. Whittall (Hon. Sec.) with Mrs. Whittall.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August 1914 - The London Regiment march to West Herts

The London Scottish marching through Watford
I have decided that over the next few months I will post selected chapters of The Soldier's Tale from The London Gunners come to Town in pdf format with all the original pictures and footnotes. There are some technical problems but the long term plan is to put the whole book online.

The Royal Field Artillary passing through Clay Hill, Bushey
The first is Chapter 16 - To War Station at Hemel Hempstead (pdf) which describes the preparations to the move to the StAlbans area of Hertfordshire, as seen from the military side. The subheadings are:
  • The London Territorials
  • The RFA Brigades
  • August in London
  • The March from London to Hemel Hempstead
  • Late Arrivals and Local Recruitment
The chapter identifies a number of the officers who came to Hemel Hempstead.
Commandeered carts at Handpost Farm, Hemel Hempstead

Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Adrian Charles Gordon (1891-1917) is introduced in this chapter - and he is the soldier who provides the linking thread in The Soldier's Tale. One of my big disappointments when I wrote the book was that the only picture I could find of him was a thumbnail sized printed image of a very poor quality. I even tracked down his one surviving twin daughters, to find her in a nursing home, without a single family photograph. (She was actually too young when the war broke out to remember her father.) It's a long shot but if anyone has a better one.....

Sample Extract  below the fold

Monday, August 18, 2014

Caleb Hitch's Patent Bricks

St Albans Brickmakers
I am mainly interested in St Albans Brickmakers but I recently had a query about Caleb Hitch of Ware. In 1828 he was was granted a patent for large interlocking bricks with cavities. They were laid on edge and claimed to be more economical than standard bricks, but because of the complicated form of brick required to turn a corner many different patterns had to be produced. Consequently, they were not widely adopted and outside Ware Hitch bricks are very rare. Has anyone got a good picture of some of these bricks so I can see how they worked?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Watford Field School Football Team 1905/6

I recently acquired this printed post card showing the Watford Field School Football Team taken by Harry Robert Cull, photographer, of St Albans Road, Watford, and published by the Acme Tone Engraving Co. Ltd., Watford, photo engravers & printers. The men at the back are probably teachers in the school and perhaps the one in the centre is the headmaster Walter John Toppin.

The date would suggest that many of the pupils later fought in the First World War. It would be wonderful if some of them could be identified. It would also be interesting to know if the school has a record of former pupils who gave their lives in the conflict.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Old Hertfordshire News on British Newspaper Archives

Hertfordshire is currently not very well covered in the British Newspaper Archive (also on FindMyPast) and often you have to hope that Hertfordshire news might be covered just over the boundary in an adjacent county. I was delighted to find that they started on the Watford Observer. I have therefore updated my list of papers that are worth checking for local news, marking updates since my last update on the subject nine months ago with green.

Bedfordshire Times - 1935
Bucks Herald - 1833-51, X, 53-1900, X, 02-09
Cambridge Chronicle - 1813-31, X, 36, X, 48, X, 59, X, 61-2, X, 67, X, 71, X75X77
Cambridge Independent - 1839-73, X, 75-92, X, 94-5, X, 98-9, X1910, X, 13-20
Chelmsford Chronicle - 1783-91, X, 98, X1819, X, 32-7, X, 39-66, X, 68-9, X, 71-83, X, 85-98, X1900-50
Essex Newsman - 1870-96, X, 99-1910, X, 12-50
Essex Standard - 1831-44, X, 46-72, X, 75-95, X, 99-1900
Hertford Mercury - 1834-7, X, 40-68
Herts Advertiser - [1925 withdrawn?]
Herts Guardian - 1852-6, X, 59-60, X, 62-65, X, 67
Luton News - 1917-8, X, 50, X, 53-4
Luton Times - 1856-62, X, 66-73, X, 75-80, X, 85, X, 94-1914
Watford Observer - 1863-7, X, 69-70

I have not included Middlesex and London Newspapers.

One easily overlooked factor is that there are missing years and I have therefore highlighted the gap years. I have not indicated places where a year is incomplete.

The RFA come to Hemel Hempstead August 16th 1914


Extract from Chapter 9
Life and Death in Hemel Hempstead in the Great War

As soon as War had been declared arrangements were put in hand to move the Royal Field Artillery brigades of the 2nd London Division to Hemel Hempstead. This was to be the second military “invasion” of the town in less than a year, as the area had been the jumping off point for the 4th Division in major army manÅ“uvres in September, 1913. The big difference was that during the manÅ“uvres the majority of the troops were only in the area for a couple of days, and they were entirely accommodated in tents, so that apart from the extra traffic there was little effect on the civilian population.
The RFA marching North through Bushey
By Monday, 10th August, an advance party of officers were hard at work looking for billets for both men and horses. By the end of the week they had requisitioned many buildings including the Town Hall and the Corn Exchange in the High Street, the Brotherhood Hall, and Boxmoor Hall. Open areas such as Gadebridge Park, the Old Recreation Ground and the adjoining fields of Hand Post Farm were got ready to receive the gunners.
The 6th Brigade R.F.A. in Hand Post Farm with their H.Q. in St Paul’s Sunday School beyond
The main bulk of the troops of the 5th and 6th Brigades R.F.A. arrived by train between 4 p.m. and midnight on Sunday, 16th August, and a large crowd of locals turned out to watch them arrive. Their arrival was not without incident. As the troops marched under the railway bridge in Marlowes a dense cloud of smoke belched forth from a cottage chimney, followed by tongues of flame. P.C. Gillett was quickly on the scene and the police held the crowd back as pieces of chimney pot crashed into the roadway. The Fire Brigade, led by Chief Officer W. J. Williams, galloped down Marlowes for the second time in 24 hours and extinguished the fire. Some hours later P.C. Gregory was regulating the traffic in Hand Post Lane when Frederick Hall of Luton decided that he wanted “to assist his country” and started to interfere with the military horses. On being told to go home he became quarrelsome and abusive and was subsequently fined 7s 6d with 6s 6d costs, or imprisonment for 14 days, for being drunk and disorderly.
Many of the townsfolk were startled by bugle calls at about 5.30 the following morning. Within a week the bugle calls in the town were dispensed with (undoubtedly as a result of civilian protests) and, for different reasons, an order was issued to ensure that all public houses closed at 10 p.m. Many local firms found that their carts and wagons were requisitioned for military purposes, and their bright colours were rapidly hidden with a uniform coat of grey paint. On Monday, 19th August, the Queen’s Westminster Rifles marched into Leverstock Green, while on Wednesday, the 7th Brigade R.F.A. arrived in Boxmoor, and over the following weekend the 8th Brigade R.F.A. moved into Apsley. With so many horses and men moving about there were numerous minor accidents, and a room in the Hemel Hempstead Institute was taken over as a military hospital.

Mr A. Weston, of the Broadway Hall, Boxmoor, had a busy time on Wednesday. At short notice he was called on to provide a substantial meal for 600 hungry Tommies. The meal was served in the Boxmoor Hall, the Boxmoor Schools, the Parish Rooms, and the Oxford Club Brotherhood Hall. Mr Weston had to deliver it cooked to the places named, where the various messes took charge of it. The fare provided consisted of roast beef  and plum pudding, and it was greatly enjoyed, the plum pudding being received with cheers.
*     *      *
The Army authorities have put the public houses out of bounds for the soldiers after 9.30 p.m.
*     *      *
Some of the horses, fresh at their work, have been rather a trouble through their kicking habits. On Wednesday evening one of the animals dropped down in Marlowes, and expired in a very few minutes. Many spectators quickly gathered round, and the carcass was covered with straw to prevent people from gazing at it.
*     *      *
The improvised cook-houses have been objects of considerable interest. The food is cooked in a somewhat crude manner, but what does it matter so long as Tommy says his “grub” is good.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Anti-Aircraft Guns in Hemel area in 1918

Some of Harry Chandler's memories of Hemel Hempstead during the First World War have been posted on Facebook. He mention the searchlight and anti-aircraft gun east of Randall Park. These installations are described in The London Gunner comes to Town as follows:
In the autumn [of 1917] the plans for the air defences of London included a ring of anti­-aircraft guns and searchlights which were stronger to the north and east of the city. Several smaller units were based in the Hemel Hempstead area and the Management and Estates Committee asked Waiter Locke to negotiate with the military authorities about the proposed searchlight station in Randall Park. This was the westernmost of a series of 3" 20cwt gun stations and searchlight posts which stretched across Hertfordshire. The western approaches to London were defended by searchlight stations armed with 18 pounder guns (a modified version of those being used by the Royal Field Artillery in France). These formed a line starting at Gadebridge. and running south through Boxmoor. Bovingdon and Flaunden. It seems very likely that these guns were never used in anger, as no later German it attacks, either by Zeppelin or aeroplane, came so far west.

What's in a Placename - Breakspear or Popyes Farm?

Help Desk
Linda discovered her Edmonds/Edmends ancestors lived at "Popyes Farm," Bedmond, Abbots Langley, at the time of the 1841 census and noted that the name had apparently changed to "Breakspear Farm" in the 1851 census - and wondered how she might check on the change of name. I replied:
Breakspear Farm

The fact that the farm is described in 1841 as "The Popyes Farm" doesn't mean that it wasn't also known at Breakspear Farm. Imagine a stranger visiting Bedmond at almost any time pointing to the farm and they might be told "The Pope's Farm" or "Breakspear Farm" almost at random. The stranger who knew nothing of the farm's history would find the first farm name more informative.

In 1851 it may have been described in the census as "Breakspear Farm" but it could just as well have been called "The Pope's Farm" (Pope is easier to spell than Breakspear), "Mead Farm" (because the Mead family lived there) or "Edmonds Farm" (because the Edmond family used to live there).

In legal documents it might simply be identified by the name of the owner and/occupier - perhaps with the names of the people who owner/occupied adjuact plots. For instance in Land Tax records (available at HALS) there may be no farm name given, but it might be possible to identify it by the acreage!
 Of course place names do change - but in documents such as the early census returns the address given may simple the way the census enumerator decided to record it. For instance in towns you may find a reference to "Jones Yard" in one census - if you look at the other nearby census returns you may find that at vthe entrance to the yard was a shop occupied by "Mr Jones".

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Another First World War Nursery Rhyme

From an old school magazine, The Mortonia.

Little Silly Willy wanted some loot.
What shall we give him? Try the boot.
Let him fight Tommy again and again,
How can he conquer without any brain.
Write, write, what shall I write?
A letter for France to go to-night.
Make, make, what shall I make?
Tommy is fond of a nice plum cake.
Sing, sing, what shall we sing?
Rule Britannia and God Save the King!
Do, do, what shall we do?
Fight and jolly well see it through!

Rural Relaxation - Whirlwind at College Lake

On Sunday we had a bit of a storm at Tring but once it had passed I decided to got to College Lake for a walk and cup of coffee - but couldn't get there as the road was closed because power lines had been brought down near the bridge over the canal at Bulbourne. So on Monday I went to see what had happened.
OK I was a day too late to photograph the whirlwind but had come from the west and cut a gap (see above) in the tall poplar trees that border the Canal.  Between those trees and the smaller ones closer to the water there is a small hay meadow and the second photograph shows broken branches that were lifted by the wind and drop in the meadow. Other branches could be seen on the track leading back to the Visitors Centre.

The whirlwind swept across the lake, a visitor's photograph showing the water whipped up by the island on the right in the first photograph. It then crossed out of the reserve and brought down a tree in Northfield Road, about quarter of a mile away.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"A County at War, Hertfordshire" premiered at the Rex at Berkhamsted

The OVOcalists lead a First World War Singsong 

The Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire,  the Countess of Verulam, commissioned a DVD "A County at War, Hertfordshire" and yesterday it had its premier showing at the Rex Cinema, Berkhamsted.

As no First World War cinemas are still operating in Hertfordshire the Rex was a most suitable venue.  It has a wonderfully preserved Art Deco auditorium which opened in 1938 and closed in 1988. However it was saved from demolition and now run a regular program of old classics, modern releases and special events. My wife and I sat down at a table with drinks and canapes and the program opened with First World war songs by the OVOcalists from St Albans.

Lady Verulam briefly came on stage and introduced the DVD and the show was underway. The result was a well edited series of scenes, some from old postcards, some from surviving film, some press reports and some useful animation. Everything was kept moving along with a good commentary. The Director, Howard Guard has clearly done a very good job. (A review of the DVD will be appearing on this site later).

The evening ended, appropriately, with the playing of the Last Post.

The DVD and the accompanying leaflet contains an extensive list of those who helped make it possible and I was very flattered to find at the top of the list of those who had made material available the following words:
The Director wishes to thank Christopher Reynolds of Herts Genealogy, whose book and collection of photographs in The London Gunner came to Town was invaluable in the making of this film.

Monday, August 4, 2014

WW1 Plaque Unveiled at Tring

The People of Tring 
dedicate this plaque in honour of the sacrifices made by those who served in World War 1, 1914-18
and in all later conflicts
Lest We Forget
4th August 2014
We Thank You
Full story, with pictures of procession and service at the War Memorial, and recent pictures of the Memorial Gardens, will appear later

"Bushey during the Great War" Exhibition opens.

During the Great War
A Village Remembers

at The Bushey Academy
4th-24th August

The exhibition was opened at 11 am on 4th August by the
Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, the Countess of Verulam.

A musical interlude was provided by the 

The centre of the exhibition was dominated by a series of about 40 excellent display panels, such as the example shown here.

To one side there were tables and further panels relating tho those who did not come back - with about half a dozen volumes of biographies of individual servicemen, with pictures were available.

Another series of panels showed document from the war - including photocopies of a large number of letters sent from the front to the family in Bushey.

There were two display with original artifacts on display at the opening which I suspect, for security reasons will not be in the full exhibition.

One was an imanagitive project relating to the war put together by pupils at St Margaret's School.

The other, accompanied by two soldiers in contemporary uniforms, was a display of weapons and other kit of the type used at the Front. 
There was also a book on sale "Bushey During the Great War 1914-1918" published by the Bushey Museum Trust (ISBN 978-0-9511145-4-4) which I will be reviewing later this month.

There are also a number of interesting sounding events to accompany the exhibition during August.

The Trustees of Bushey Museum, and their enthusiastic helpers need to be congratulated on such a well planned and comprehensive exhibition - and they have set a high standard for other towns and villages in Hertfordshire to follow.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A brief report on July 2014

As mentioned last month I was cutting back on my genealogy and local history activities over the summer - and while I have spent much less time on new updates and answering queries the site has continued to operate with only a small decrease in the number of visitors (5,737). So while I would like to have had time to post much more, particularly relating to the outbreak of the First World War I feel things have continued to tick over nicely.

Part of the time released has been spent on my other blog Trapped by the Box, and this has been going well and the number of visitors in July was well over 2000, virtually double the previous high, and I have also been getting more, and very useful, comments. I felt it would be useful to add a bit of variety and have introduced a "Wednesday Science Limerick" where I write a limerick on some scientific topic, and support it with some of the background science. 

In the past I have been posting "Rural Relaxation" posts somewhat irregularly on one blog or the other -and in future these posts will be duplicated on both blogs. In future I will post a "Rural Relaxation" on College Lake at the end of each month in memory of the late Graham Atkins (who was the power behind creating this wonderful nature reserve) and at least one other on some other rural area during the month.

Finally two months ago I posted a limerick I'm supposed to be counting calories and I can report that more rural walks (including some up and down the Chiltern escarpment), a weekly swim (42 length last week) and a better diet mean that my doctor was pleased to learn that I had lost  6 kg.