Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all

Our usual Christmas dinner with a difference  (see what we had in 2011), and despite appearances we have not cut back on our usual feast. A few days ago I was busy shopping in preparation for three busy days cooking for family and friends- viz: (1) roast Aylesbury duck, (2) baked gammon and (3) roast lamb spread out over the Christmas and New Year period. The rest of the time was free  for relaxing or an even updating files on the computer.  Then a couple of days before Christmas I updated my diary to include attending a cremation of a good friend, an invite to an 18th birthday party, and two half days travelling. Then planned travel arrangements for Christmas Day visitor were changed - so I cooked the duck legs, etc., today - and will now be cooking the duck crown tomorrow, with all the extras. 

In fact I have a number of genealogy related updates to the Genealogy in Hertfordshire web site in the pipeline - but they will have to wait until the New Year.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Was William Hogg the last regular horse-drawn cabbie in Hertfordshire?

William Thomas Hogg of St Albans had worked at the cab rank in Harpenden for some years, but when all the other cabbies were switching to cars, friends had helped to provide him with a replacement horse and cab so that he could still provide a regular service at Harpenden Railway Station.

However old age caught up with him and in 1936, shortly after giving up the cab and his horse Robert, he died  (?Perhaps of a broken heart?).

Do you know of any other horse-drawn cabs that were still operation on a regular basis after 1936?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

James Coles of Water End Farm

James William COLE (1851-1923)
David Cole writes: My grandfather Charles Percy COLE (1884-1966) was a member of the family of James William COLE (1851-1923) who inhabited Waterend House soon after your ancestor Dolphin Smith left there,  i.e. from around 1878 until at least 1907 when my grandfather emigrated to Canada.
I note the following facts:

1860's CDV by Avery of Hitchin (and more on his family)

Jan contacted me and and provided additional information on George Avery, photographer, of Hitchin including a link to a useful family tree. George took over the business of Samuel Debenham in 1863 and sold the business to Thomas Latchmore in 1870.

At the same time as updating the family information on the George Avery page I have added two early photographs from about 1863/4. One, which has the hand written Hitchin address on, is of the Rev John Henry Howlett (1779-1867) who died in Kent, and the back suggests that it may have been taken in Kent at the time George was moving to Hitchin in 1863.

I would be very interested to learn of other photographs taken by Samuel Debenham (in Hitchin, Bedford or Luton) or by George Avery (in Hitchin or Kent).

[I have not investigated the history of the Rev Howlett - comments will be welcome.]

Fehrenbach, Clock & Watchmakers of Bishop's Stortford

Following a query about this family of clock & watchmakers I have updated the Fehrenbach page on this Bishop's Stortford company by adding a picture of one of their clocks, details of a theft of clocks and jewelry, and two brief obituaries.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Holloways at Aldbury

The Back Holloway at Aldbury
As the result of a query from the National  Trust (who own a large part of the former Ashridge estate) I have added two new pictures of the holloways running up the escarpment from Aldbury Village, and provided higher resolution pictures online for others. Several of these relate to the unusual Franco Series of post cards.

NOTE: I have a large collection of Hertfordshire post cards - many of which have not yet appeared online. While plans are being considered as to the best way to continue the web site on a reduced scale (see earlier post) I have decided that over Christmas and the New Year period I will be posting additional post card images. If you would like to see more pictures of a particular town or village let me know and I will try and digitize any relevant post cards I hold.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

First steps in Mothballing parts of the Hertfordshire Genealogy web site.

Following my recent post about the future of the site I have identified the following ares where mothballing can immediately be applied. In most cases this will have little immediate effect on what you can do - as the "restrictions" have effectively been in place for most of this year because the time I have been able to spend on running the site has been limited.
Area MothballedNature and extent of "mothballing"
Re: updates to old queries
All answers were made using resources given at the date given, which in some cases maybe before the censuses became available online. Answers given more than 2 years ago should be considered to be "mothballed" in that they do not refer to the latest sources. Users interested in these pages should check the more recent sources for themselves before asking any supplementary questions. However additional information, based on your own research, is always welcome.
Re: Reviews of new books
The vast majority of books reviewed on this web site form part of my personal library of Hertfordshire material. There is already a good coverage of the better known older books. There are no funds (beyond my own pension) to extend the library to include recently published or further second-hand material. As such it is impossible to cover the torrent of new books, booklets, etc., produced by individual historians, local history societies and other organisations unless review copies are supplied.
Explore Old Hertfordshire with a map
This map interface was set up some time ago as an alternative to the Places menu. However user statistics at the time suggested that place pages were more likely to be accessed via the menus, via Find It, or directly through search engines such as google. The current system works for towns and villages, and will continue to be available. It will not be extended to cover hamlets and major buildings.
Re: Links to external web sites
This web site contains a very large number of links to external web sites, and in some cases descriptive pages. Current resources do not allow these links and pages to be regularly checked and updated - and many pages on this site may contain an old description of the external web site. Please notify me of any external links which no longer work.
Re: No requests for action from users
Over the years a number of updates have been started, sometimes on an experimental basis, and as no one expressed interest in the work being completed the original "Men at Work" warning is still in place. This includes cases where a book page has been started with a message to say a review will be provided on request. All such instances are being mothballed until such time as there is a clear user-driven interest in the update being completed.
I started to set up this tutorial many years ago, but work stopped when it was found that the demand for an online tutorial was insufficient to justify the time completing the exercise. It is now out of date as the external web sites it refers to have changed. However as it contains extensive information on the Lewin family of St Albans, and examples of how useful a family bible can be, it has been decided to keep it online
Recent statistics, etc., will be looked at over the next few months to identify when the work load of running and maintaining the site can be minimized.
Your comments on which parts of the web site you find most useful will play an important role in deciding which areas of the site will get the most favourable treatment and which will end up being mothballed.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Future of the Genealogy in Hertfordshire Web Site

For me today is a rather special anniversary. Thirty years ago this morning my eldest daughter Lucy went shopping in nearby Aylesbury. About three hours later a policeman called to say that a young lady carrying my daughter's bank book had died. The resulting post-traumatic stress led to my abandoning some very interesting research and taking early retirement from a university career. I have decided to take this anniversary to reviewing what I can do with what is left of my twilight years. 

This decision clearly affects the future of the Genealogy in Hertfordshire web site, including the Guide to Old Hertfordshire, the associated newsletter, and the private reference library of Hertfordshire material I set up to help me answer questions.

So first to review the history of the site and the current situation. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Picture of the Hoy family of Barkway - Can you help?

Margaret write: My father Leonard Andrews was grandson of Edwin Andrews and Martha Hoy.  This photo he claimed was the Hoy family and taken around 1910/1914 I would guess by the age of my grandfather who is standing at the back next to my grandmother I think!  Perhaps someone who recognise the garden it was obviously quite large with anise seat around a tree. If anyone recognises this as a garden in Barkway this would be interesting.

Let me know if you can throw any light on who is in the picture and who any of the people are. The 1911 census shows that Alfred Hoy (35, farm labourer), his wife Frances (28) and son Ernest (1, born at Royston) were living at Newsells, Barkway.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Are you interested in doing research on St Albans Abbey?

Click Here for more 100 year old views of the Abbey
I have just discovered that if you would like to get an M.A. degree on St Albans Abbey without having to pay any tuition fees you have about two weeks to get in an application. It would be supervised by the University of Hertfordshire and involve working in the Cathedral archives. Projects may cover the following themes:
  1. The heritage, restoration and material culture of the Abbey from the 19th century to the present day;
  2. The Abbey's role in charity, the poor law, and the wider community in the 19th and 20th centuries;
  3. The Cult of Saints in recent history.
For details see:

The 1939 National Register is coming ...

In September 1939 the government produced a register in order to issue National Identity Cards during the war, and the register was later used for rationing and even later as the basis for the registration for the National Health Service. The register records name, address and occupation and is important because the 1931 census records were destroyed during the war, and no census was held in 1941 because of the War,  (The 1921 census exists but is not due to be released until 2022, and the 1951 census will not be released until 2052)
The 1939 register has been released for publication in digitized form and will be available from 2nd November on FindMyPast. I expect the service will be overloaded over the first few days but look forward to looking at my own record, which should show me living in a shop in Swain Street, Watchet, Somerset, as my parents had moved from Hertfordshire a few months earlier.
How to Search the Register

If you use it to find something interesting about your Hertfordshire ancestors why not post  details as a comment below.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Carte de Visite by Atlas Church, St Albans

Atlas Belus Church, and his son, Atlas Robert Church, seem to have taken on the studio of J. Barnard in New London Road about 1880 and only been there for two or three years before moving on. 

I only know of two examples of their St Albans work - and neither have properly printed backs or footings. (More Info.)

If you know of other examples of their work while at St Albans please let me know.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dating Early Photographs by Latchmore, of Hitchin

Advert from Herts Express 4 April, 1867
This advert has helped me to date Thomas B Latchmore' early carte de visit as follows:

  • 1865 Opened studio in Bancroft Street, Hitchin - distinctive back
  • 1867 Opened a joint studio in Royston - distinctive back
  • 1869? Opened another studio in Stevenage - no back known 
  • 1870 Took over George Avery's studio in Brand Street, Hitchin - distinctive back. Studios in Hitchin and Royston apparently abandoned.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Herts Family History Society this Saturday

Just a quick reminder that the monthly meeting at Woolmer Green on Saturday, 24th October,  is:

In Grandfather's Footsteps

The speaker is Anne Grimshaw and  relates to the First World War

Monday, October 19, 2015

Hertfordshire Military Records on the British Newspaper Archive

The Army & Navy Gazette is currently being loaded onto the British Newspaper Archive and so far they have loaded the years 1860-66 and 1869-71 and I expect more years will soon appear online. I did a quick check and found many such as the following which relates to the formation of the 1st Hertfordshire Battalion.
Army & Navy Gazette, 4th August, 1860
Unfortunately the machine transcription left a lot to be desired - and errors in the above example meant that it would not have been found in searches for the place names Ashridge, Hemel, Hempstead, Tring and Watford or for the surnames Dorrien, Cust, and Pearce. Unfortunately such errors occur in all automatically scanned newspaper archives and you have to use your imagination when searching and try alternative search names.

However the accuracy of the surnames and places in the following item relating to the double marriage of the daughters of the late Mr John Beale, of Cheshunt, was satisfactory.
Army & Navy Gazette, 4th November 1869

War Memorial, New Mill Baptist Church, Tring

First World War Memorial, New Mill Baptist Church

I recently visited the New Mill Baptist Church, Tring, when they were celebrating their newly refurbished church hall, I used the occasion to take the above photograph of their war memorial. For other pictures I took of the church (inside and outside, with some other memorials and gravestones) see Pictures on Geograph.

Click on picture for more information on the Baptists in Tring.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Book Sale - to support St Albans new museum 24th October

Saturday 24 October 2015 at the Old Town Hall, St Albans

The Society in partnership with the St Albans Civic Society is pleased to announce that it is holding a book sale in the Assembly Room of the Old Town Hall on Saturday 24 October 2015. It will be open between 10am and 4pm.

While there will be some older books, most are nearly new with others barely touched.

Please do come along with your spare pennies and pounds. Tea, coffee and buns available.

All proceeds go to the new museum and gallery fund.

A Berkhamsted postcard link between Raphael Tuck and Wrench ????

Over the past year or so I have been taking a close interest in Wrench postcards of Hertfordshire because they are normally of very good quality and can be dated accurately to about 1903/4.

The card on the right was a problem as the title is "Beckhampton Place"  and I was looking for evidence that this was simply a printing error for "Berkhamsted Place".

A few days ago the card on the left came up for sales (I was unfortunately outbid so only reproduce a cleaned up thumb). The image on the left is from the same negative as the Wrench card and is clearly labelled "Berkhampstead Place." The other image is Edgerton House (also in Berkhamsted). This not only identifies the location but strengthened the case for a picture of "Woodcock Lane" actually showing Woodcock Hill, Berkhamsted.

The problem is that the card is labelled Raphael Tuck & Sons, "County" Postcard No 2275 and was posted in 1901. This clearly predates any known Wrench view postcard of Hertfordshire. It seems a little unlikely that a firm as successful as Raphael Tuck would have allowed the upstart Wrench to use the same negative - so was there some industrial espionage - or did a Berkhamsted photographer take the picture and sell it to both the rival companies?

If you know of any other early Raphael Tuck or Wrench cards which might have been duplicated in this way please let me know.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Harpsfield Hall, Hatfield

Harpsfield Hall, Hatfield, was demolished more than 80 years ago to make room for an airfield which has now been redeveloped. In December Wetherspoons are opening a pub on the site - and keeping the name alive by calling it Harpsfield Hall.

My Harpsfield Hall page has been needing an update for some time - and I havenow added some references to the pre-nineteenth century history - with links to two Members of Parliament who lived there - and also included some new material from the British Newspaper Archive. In theory there are some more amendment that need to be added but that will have to wait until I have more time.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Anchor Public House, Western Road, Tring, in 2015

This building was built before 1841 as part of the development of the West End of Tring and is recorded as being occupied by the Barber family until about 1895. It was definitely a beer house in 1851, but its position on the "new" Aylesbury Road (now Western Road) meant it was in a good position to attract passing travelers and it may well have been a beer house from when it was constructed.

Subsequent publicans prior to the 2nd World War were William Wells, Mrs Mary Wells, William Andrews and Samuel John Nightingale. The brewers have been John Holland of Wendover, Rodwell of Tring, Benskin of Watford, Ind Coope and Greene King.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Searching for the Parents of Henry Beale (born Royston 1811)

Help Desk
Last year I advised James Beale of Perth about some possibilities relating to Henry Beale of Royston. Now Hilary Mostyn (nee Beale)) writes: Like James Beale (Perth) I am stuck trying to researchHenry Beale's father. I am the great grand-daughter of GEORGE BEALE (born 1845) brother to EDWARD BEALE(born 1850). Any leads from anyone would be most welcome.

Can you help??? 
Full details see: The Parents of Henry BEALE born Royston circa 1811

"Forgotten" St Albans Brick Pit Rediscovered

Today's BBC News talks of a large hole which has appeared in Fontmell Close overnight. But what do you expect when a Council allows houses to be built on a former brickpit, clearly marked on old maps, which almost certainly contained 100 year old unconsolidated town refuse.

Fifteen years ago I gave a talk on the History of Bernards Heath, St Albans (copy online), with particular reference to the brick works. When I gave the talk I was approached by someone who lived in the newly built Fontmell Close because their house was beginning to show signs of subsidence, because water off the roof was washing a hole under the corner of the house.

The brick pits are shown in the following map.

"5" is the location of Fontmell Close. The booklet records "Possibly William Bennett between about 1833-1865, later almost certainly Miskin’s until about 1893. Disused by 1897 Ordnance Survey"

The quarried area is clearly shown on the 1897 OS map - but it was later filled in. This was probably done by my Grandfather, Harry Finch Reynolds who, in addition to being the Town Vet, was a "Job Master" and who, for a few years before the first world war had the contract for the rubbish collection for all of St Albans - and the rubbish was used to fill the open brick pits on Bernards Heath. The rubbish would have been taken there by horse and cart and almost certainly would not have been significantly compacted. It was probably covered with earth to allow the ground to be used for farming.

It is interesting that in the early 20th century Bernards Heath had a bad smell. The suet factory boiled bones, the effluent from the cows at Heath farm ended up in "the Black Pond" (a disused brick pit), initially there was the smell of burning bricks - only to be replaced but the smell of decaying town garbage.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Libury Hall Burials.

Farming at Libury Hall
SJ Howitt writes: There is an unmarked plot with a simple stone marked "For the foreign persons who died at Libury Hall and are buried in this place" at St Edmund and The English Martyrs RC Church Old Hall Green.

There are some named records but not all and re the 1st World War internments according to the NRA at Kew these would have been lost during the bombing of Red Cross Geneva 1940.

Pictures of the last day at St Albans Museum

The Mayor of St Albans opens the doors to the public for the last time

The Mayor of St Albans, Councillor Salih Gaygusuz, opens the door of the museum for the last time, on Sunday, September 21st, after having been introduced by the Portfolio Holder, Councillor Annie Brewster. For more pictures on the final day, and also of some recent exhibitions:

The Foundation Stone was laid on 20th July 1898, on land given by Earl Spencer, and it was erected using "red bricks of local make" . It was opened in November 1899 and was originally referred to as the Hertfordshire County Museum. 

One hundred and 117 years later I felt it was important to represent the family at this historic event. The Museum building was made of bricks made in Jacob Reynolds' brick-works on nearby Bernards Heath so I am sure myGreat Grandfather Jacob must have been at the opening. Also at the opening was Arthur Ernest Gibbs, the first curator of the Museum. Arthur's Grandfather, Richard Gibbs of St Albans, was the brother of my Great Great Grandfather, John Gibbs of Aylesbury.

Improved Newspaper Archive Coverage of West Herts

During September the British Newspaper Archive added copies of the Bucks Gazette between 1829 and 1849 and a quick examination shows that news from West Hertfordshire. This includes the period before the first Bucks Herald newspapers, which start in 1836.

The issue of 7th March 1829 reported the theft of money and goods from the Berkhamsted Post Office and the procession taking the Earl of Bridgewater's coffin through Hemel Hempstead to be interred at Gaddesden. During the summer there are reports of cricket matches including one between Tring and Wendover which was covered at length by the Bucks Gazette in their issues of 29th August, 5th September and 12th September, 1829.

If you can find any particularly interesting Hertfordshire stories in the period 1829-1935 let me know via the comment box below.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Dixon's Gap Bridge, Aylesbury Arm of the Grand Union Canal

Bridge No. 2 on the Aylesbury Arm of the Grand Union Canal
The Aylesbury Arm of the Grand Union Canal runs between Tring and the villages of Long Marston and Tring and over the years I have taken many photographs of the historic locks, bridges and houses along its route. Information. At least one picture of each historic feature has been recorded on Geograph and a full list can be found HERE. Howver many of the pictures I have taken are still not online.

The above bridge is vulnerable to damage from passing traffic and is currently under repair. As a result I have posted pictures of the damage, such as the one shown below, and all pictures of the bridge on Geograph (some taken by other people) can be seen HERE.
Repairs in progress - click for other 2015 pictures

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Follow the Canal from Cow Roast to Berkhamsted in old (& new) photographs

The Canal and Raiway Station, Berkhamsted, photographed 1903

Dudswell Bottom Lock
I have updated the relevant page on the web site to include a number of 100+ year old pictures of the canal, together with pictures of the historic locks and bridges taken in the 21st century.

I have taken a lot of pictures of the canal in recent years, and will be making more available, with historic images where available, over the coming months.

Frederick Dighton, Photographer of College Street, St Albans (1882-7)

This carte de visite, which is dated 1884 as been added to Frederick's Time Line - making it easier to date his work.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Joseph Wiles, Corn Merchant of St Albans

St Albans
I recently saw this document on sale on ebay, and was interested to discover why a St Albans corn merchant should have a London address. So I did a bit of research and find that Joseph Wiles made a useful contribution to life in Victorian St Albans and was the brother of E. S. Wiles, who had a suet making factory on Bernards Heath..

Find out More ...

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Heritage Photographs of Tring

Aided by Heritage Lottery money Tring Camera Club are creating an archive of photographs showing Tring as it is in 2015. This is part of the Tring 700 celebrations of the market which got its first charter in 1315. Associated with the archive is a competition which is to be voted on by the public.

So start voting now for the "Heritage"  pictures of Tring in 2015

If you have never been to Tring you can still enjoy looking at the pictures of this charming Hertfordshire town. - and as long as you have a facebook account you can still chose the pictures you like best.

There are 9 categories in the competition but if you start with one you can select the others at the bottom of the page. Tring Camera Club entries are under the following headings: Tring Street ScenesCommunity & Events in TringTring LandscapeCACC Wildlife in TringYou will find non-Camera Club entries under the headings: Tring Daily Life, A Tring 700 Event, Historic Tring, Modern Tring and Wildlife in Tring. The selected pictures will be on display in the Natural History Museum at Tring from 9th October to 21st November.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Latest Old Hertfordshire News updates from the BNA

Recent additions have been made to improve the coverage of Hertfordshire news in the last 30 days.

  • Coverage of the Hertford Mercury & Reformer (starting in 1834) has been extended by including the Hertfordshire Mercury for 1939
  • The 1859 editions of the Hertfordshire Express & General Advertiser mean that coverage is now from 1859 to 1871
  • Just over the border the Bedfordshire Mercury (formerly just 1843) now covers from 1837 to 1871.
  • Bell's Weekly Messenger was a Sunday paper, with National coverage, and is now online (with some gaps) from 1801 to 1871.  From 1832 it gave extensive coverage to agricultural affairs and was for many years the leading agricultural newspaper in the U.K.
I decided to do a quick check on the two out-of-county publications and a pretty random search immediately found several interesting items in : Bedfordshire Mercury

Saturday, August 22, 2015

How should this be correctly transcribed?

How do you think the following place/street name entry should be recorded?
It comes from the 1881 census from the Rickmansworth area.
I would be interested to see if people agree - so make a note of what you think it is and record it as a comment after reading on - so I can compare the different ways people read it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Samuel Debenham: An Early (1862-3) Photographer at Hitchin

I recently purchased a small pile of carte de visite by various Victorian photographers from Hitchin. In no case was the sitter identified but I set about trying to date them. Much to my surprise, and with the help of the British Newspaper Archive, I was able to date this card to between September and November 1863, although I still have no idea who the gentleman is.

So how did I do it.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Email Problem - Lost messages

Yesterday I have a system problem while the software was compacting the contents of my "sent" box., and the result was that my computer lost all the Genealogy emails that I have sent in recent months, apart from some which I had deliberately archived. If you are replying to one of my messages please ensure that your reply included a copy of the message you are replying to - so I know what I said.

Was there an early Harley Street connection with Gadebridge House, Hemel Hempstead ???

Can you help?
Gadebridge House was occupied by Sir Astley Paston Cooper, surgeon at Guy's Hospital, London, in the early 19th century, and he may well have had it (re)built in the form shown in this photograph. The book The History of Hemel Hempstead states that William Wigg, physician, lived there in the early 18th century.

Mark has just contacted me about the death of an ancestor, Robert Neale, who is reported to have died at Gadebridge House, Hemel Hempstead, on 18th September  1790, aged 39. A quick look online (Discovery) shows that in 1790 insurance on the house was paid by Thomas Latter, who also had an address of 22 Harley Street, London. 

Gadebridge House, Hemel Hempstead, circa 1900
There are many possible reasons why Robert might have been visiting Gadebridge House - but one is of wider interest. Later Harley Street had become famous as being the area in London where the top doctors practiced - supposedly because it was not too far from a number of railway stations. There were 20 there by 1860 and almost 200 by 1914. However there must have been some doctors there before 1860 and the area around Cavendish Square was the abode of the rich and wealthy by the end of the 18th century - and the occupants would have wanted the best doctors to live nearby. This raises an interesting possibility. Could Thomas Latter have been some kind of doctor and could Robert have been a patient who at gone to Gadebridge House to avoid the noise and stench of London?

I am currently rushed off my feet and don't have time to follow up this story - especially as it could mean looking at London Records. So if anyone out there can throw some light on the issue both Mark and I would love to here from you.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Halton update - with Army Camp Photographs.

While Halton is in Buckinghamshire there was a major army camp there during the First World War and there were strong connections with Tring. I recently acquired this card and in adding it to the web site I discovered other cards of the camp and the war which had not yet been posted online. I have therefore used the opportunity to restructure the Halton page - so there are now three linked pages - one deals with Halton House and the Church, the second with the canal, and the third had pictures of the army camp.