Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dan Hill's Talk on the Hertfordshire Regiment

Last night Dan Hill, of the Herts at War group gave a most informative talk on the role of the Hertfordshire Regiment in the First World War. In particular he gave a detailed analysis of the events at St Julien on 31st July 1917, during the battle at Passchendaele. After the unsuccessful attempt to break through the German lines every officer, and 75% of the men were dead, wounded or missing. He also spoke about the erection of a war memorial on the battle field on the 100 year anniversary of the battle.

His talk ended with a very interesting film of the Hertfordshire Regiment in camp in October 1917.

It should be noted that the Herts at War group plan further talks on the First World War and details will be posted on their web site, if you are note already on their email list.

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.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

William Cooper of Berkhamsted and Sheep Dips

This post card sized visiting card, for John Cullwick, sales representative for William Cooper of Berkhamsted, has been added to my page on the company, together with a long press account of a demonstration John gave to the "colonial sheep dip" in Ireland in 1896.

The back of the card has an appropriate picture of a shepherd with a flock of sheep.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

WW! War Memorial at Tring - Information wanted

Ian Pettigrew asks "Whether any of your readers has any information about any of the individuals listed in the WW1 section of Tring Memorial.

He has put the developing piece of work online so you can see what he has already done. If you have any information, including relevant family photos and memorabilia, please let him know at 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Comic Postcard with a link to St Albans

When I am doing research relating to Hertfordshire I frequently create offline pages to my web site to make it easier to transfer online so that it can be shared. Some years ago I discovered that an artist using the name "Karaktus" had published some unusual comic cards in association with a company Crown Publishing Ltd. More recently I discovered that his fellow artist was "F S" and I started to research this artist as well.  Last year I decided I needed to find a more relaxing area of historical research - and what more relaxing than looking for evidence among literally millions of comic post cards.

While there are Hertfordshire connections the research has taken me deep into the problems of publishing postcards in the early 20th century - where there was a massive boom in communication (in some way paralleling the boom in digital phones). Everyone tried to get onto the bandwagon - and while some companies were spectacularly successful far more went bankrupt.

While the research is undoubtedly of more relavant to the post card historian, I have decided to put it online - as even if you are not so interested in the history you might enjoy seeing a large collection of comic post cards from the 1905-1913 period.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Herts at War - A Digital Legacy

Tunes from Tring Schoolboy's Music Book (1866) being performed

Aylesbury March
It us just over a year since Beth Atkinson kindly donated William Henry Ewer's music exercise book, which records the music he was taught at Prospect House School, Tring, in 1866. The whole book can now be viewed online. While most of the pieces are well know. I have so far been unable to find out anything about one local piece called the "Aylesbury March" reproduced above.
A number of the pieces, including the "Aylesbury March" have been adapted to be played on handbells by the Tringers - a small local group of amateur handbell ringers - who will be playing it, and several other pieces from the book, as part of the Family Fun Day at  Tring Parish Church, organised by FOTCH (Friends of Tring Church Heritage) on Saturday, May 6th. A number of different music groups, including several primary school choirs, will be in the church, and the Tringers are scheduled to play at 11.00 am.
The Tringers performing in Tring Church for the FOTCH Family Fun Day in 2016

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Cricketers Public Houses of Hertfordshire

Noeleen has written to say I found your site via Google after I could not read an address in a census. It turned out to be ‘The Cricketers’ in Bennington. In 1851 and 1861 census  Frederick  Parkins was the Victualler and a Shoemaker with his wife Sarah. He was just a Shoemaker in 1841 census. In 1861 it is listed as Cricketers Public House, Bennington Road. By 1871 and 1881 census he is Publican and Shoemaker at the Green Dragon in Waltham which his wife Sarah was head of as a Widow in 1891 census. I hope this is of interest to you and I loved the addition of a shoemakers occupation plus I enjoyed reading about Cricketers Pubs on your site, something unknown to me in NZ.

I have added her comment to the page on the Cricketers pubs I first posted in 2006, together with some relevant news items from the British Newspaper Archive.

In addition I have added an advert relating to the Cricketers public house in Hitchin from 1836 which records that the associated cricket ground was well established at that date. I have also added a Licencing Day report for St Albans for 1884 which mentions The Cricketers in that city (which unfortunately no longer trades under that name).

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Aviation in the First World War - Talk "Air War over Arras"

The next Herts at war talk is on Wednesday 19th April and will be given by historian and author Peter Hart on 'Air War over Arras'. Peter is very well known in history as one of the UK's leading military authors, having written numerous books on the subject and also interviewed hundreds veterans of the Great War in his role as the Imperial War Museum's Oral Historian. With his incredible passion and unique delivery style, Peter is always a popular feature to any speaking event and will no doubt prove so once more!

The venue is The Large Lecture Theatre, De Havilland Campus, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield,  Herts, AL10 9EU, doors will be open from 7pm with the talk due to start at 7.30pm and lasting for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes.

The talk is free but it is important that you reserve your ticket ahead of time to avoid disappointment, you can do so via our eventbrite link here:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring Issue of Herts Past and Present

The Spring 2017 issue of Herts Past and Present has just been published by the Hertfordshire Association for Local History.

As always it contains an interesting collection of articles

Hertfordshire men at Passchendale, 1917, by John Cox
In search of "My Lord" Salisbury, by Nicky Webster (about researching and publishing the life of James Gascoyne-Cecil, 2nd Marquis of Salisbury)
William Cecil, 2nd Earl of Salisbury - The Education of a nobleman, by Alan Thomson
'Plenty of Punch and Good Company' - Bringing local history to life about a theatrical production dramatizing the life of John Carrington, farmer of Bramfield
The Enclosure of the Manor of Barnet, 1818, by Susan Flood
Local History Essay Competition - with details of essays on Knebworth, Lemsford and Croxley Green
Report of the 2016 HALH Symposium on Hertfordshire at war through the centuries.
Book Reviews: Watford : A History, by Mary Forsyth; St Albans: Life on the Home Front, 1914-18, edited by Jonathan Mein, Anne Wares and Sue Mann; On Hertford and its Environs: A Portrait in verse of Hertford and the Surrounding Countryside, by Thomas Green (1719-91), edited by Jean Purkis and Philip Sheail.
Dates for the Diary
13 May  - HALH Spring Meeting and AGM, Ware
24 June - Summer Visit, Benington Lordship, Benington
11 November - Symposium: Women of Hertfordshire, Hitchin

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Agricultural Wages and the Sandridge Agricultural Workers Strike of 1873

Anthony recently contacted me about his ancestor Jonathan Cox (1821-1881) of Hill End Sandridge - which means that we share William Cox (1760-1802) as an ancestor. When I have more time I will update the earlier ancestor pages but in the meantime I had a look to see if there was anything new about Jonathan on the British Newspaper Archive.

Jonathan Cox is mentioned several times in my account of the Sandridge Agricultural Strike of 1873 and in particular he told a parliamentary commission that “Men work 11 hours a day, and women nine. … Able-bodied labourers have from 11s to 14s a week; boys from 3s 6d to 5s. … boys rarely go to work before they are from 10 to 12 years of age. … Girls are not employed in farm labour, they are engaged in straw plaiting from a very early age. Women, too, are chiefly engaged in plaiting. A few are employed on farms in weeding in summer.” 

I therefore decided to look for news item which related to the people he employed.

In 1861 one of the young men that he employed on an annual basis, almost certainly through a hiring fair absconded:
Leaving Employment. - Henry Peters, a lad in the employ of Mr Jonathan Cox, of Hill-end Farm, Sandridge, was charged with leaving his service. - Mr. Cox informed the Bench that the boy had left his employment on a former occasion, which he overlooked, he being a yearly servant. - Defendant pleaded guilty, and was ordered to pay 17s 6d costs, and return to his work. - His master paid the money which was to be deducted from his yearly wages. 
In 1871 one of the young men he employed stole some money from another and the court case included details of what he was paid:
Joseph Mardell  (16) was brought up in custody on remand, charged with stealing 6s. 6d, the property of Isaac Matthews, a ploughboy in the employment of Mr Jonathan CoxHill End FarmSandridge ... Mr Cox stated that the prisoner was employed at 4s 6d a week and £2. 10s. annually ... ... 
In 1875 William Chapman was not paid enough for his work at harvest time . Jonathan Cox took him to court for reach of contract but iam has legal support and it would seem that Jonathan Cox dropped the charge when he realised that his foreman would be required to give evidence. I am sure this would not have happened before the strike.

For more information see Jonathon Cox, Hill Farm, Sandridge, 1821-1881 and The Agricultural Workers Strike, Sandridge 1873

Saturday, February 18, 2017

More about Hertfordshire Wrench Cards

Allen Warren has written from Canada to say that he is compiling a catalogue of all the post cards by Wrench from the early years of the last century He has provided a list of all the Hertfordshire cards and I have used this to update my Wrench page. He has also provided a copy of this view of the Gates on Cassiobury Park, in Watford.

There are a number of Hertfordshire cards which he has not identified:

Bishops Stortford Nos 6289 and 6291
St Albans 6300 and 6306
Barnet 7757
Hitchin 8835 and 8836

If you can identify any of these cards please let me know (ideally with a digital copy) and I will forward the information to Allan.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Web sites for Hertfordshire Pubs

Beer & Brewing
Over the last 150 years a vast number of pubs and beer houses in Hertfordshire have closed - although a fair number remain (possibly with a name change). If you are interested in the history of one of these establishments you should start by looking at the UK Pub History and the Lost Pub Project.

Pubs were at the heart of most communities and there were often incidents involving them and their customers. In addition it was not unknown for an inquest to be held in the public house nearest the death. There are also licensing. applications - particularly when a new landlord is appointed. Such matters were frequently covered in the local newspapers - many of which are available online in the British Newspaper Archive.

Once you know the name of the publicans from the above sources you will often be able to get more information from the censuses between 1841 and 1911.

Because I am having to spend less time on running this web site I would appreciate it if, in future, you check these sources before you ask me questions about a pub's history.

Battle of Verdun - Herts at War talk on 15th February

The next Herts at War talk will be given by historian Clive Harris who will be talking about the pivotal battle of Verdun. Clive is very well known in history as one of the UK's premier battlefield guides and historians and always provides engaging talks with his incredible depth of knowledge. We strongly recommend that you book your place ASAP if you wish to join us on the 15th. Link below:

PLEASE NOTE: The venue is The Large Lecture Theatre, De Havilland Campus, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, Herts, AL10 9EU, doors will be open from 7pm with the talk due to start at 7.30pm and lasting for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes. 

19th Century Sport in Hertfordshire

The British Newspaper Archive has just loaded copies of the Sporting Life from 1859 to 1909. 
So far I have only had time to do a very quick check to see what is there related to Hertfordshire and found the following entry from May 1860. If you find anything of interest let me, and other readers of this blog, know by commenting below.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Motor Car Accidents in 1905

Motor Cars
Several years ago I gave a talk (copy online) on The Road through Harpenden and since then the Bristixh Newspaper Archive has come into existence - making it far easier to get details of dated events. Recently Peter has asked where more information can be found about the fatal accident near Dunstable.that I mentioned in the talk and as a result I have updated the original page on Early Motor Cars to include details of both the Dunstable accident and also the earlier hit and run accident at Markyate where a 5 year old boy was killed.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Delays in responding to genealogy emails

Don't get too worried. I am not actually confined to bed but various factors, including a bad cold I caught before Christmas, have aggravated my Asthma and the picture represents how I am feeling at present.

Since Christmas I have had a number of emails on various matters - and the fact that people are still using the site and asking questions or suggesting updates, cheers me up - and at the moment I need cheering up - so getting even more genealogy emails is fine.

However if you are one of the people whose email is in the queue to be answered be assured that I haven't forgotten you - but the reply will have to wait till I feel better and cleared some of the more important domestic duties which have also been neglected because of my health problems.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Moss of Hitchin

In 2010 I answered a question about the shop run by Moss in Hitchin, and ther have been several updates since. One of the outstanding questions related to the number of branches and Diane, who worked for the company some 55 years ago has kindly provided a list of the shops circa 1960.

Herts Genealogy survived 2016. Will 2017 be better?

A year ago I reviewed the challenges to my time and how they might affect this web site.  I set the top priority as keeping fit and despite one dramatic incident,  involving a ride in an ambulance, which proved not too serious, my physical heath has continued at a reasonable level for my age. In particular the use of a fitbit with reasonable targets (8000 steps most days a week - and an average of 20 minutes brisk walking or a swim) kept me on the move.

As expected activity on the Genealogy in Hertfordshire web site decreased in 2016. I have definitely abandoned all attempts to move the maintenance of the site to Windows 10 because of software "old age" problems - which means that keeping the site running means keeping the desktop computer with the master copy operational as long as possible. One side effect of my decreased activity is that very little money has been raised in the year for the mentally ill of Hertfordshire compared with previous years.

As for the coming year I hope to keep things rolling along - but there may well be periods of several weeks where the site will have to take a back seat - and I may well concentrate on posting up some of the more important historical research stuck in the pipeline and try to avoid spending too much time on completely new research.

And a P.S. Various matters have kept me very busy over Christmas and the New Year - to the point that this message was prepared to go out on January 1st - and somehow got forgotten ....