Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rural Relaxation - A Visit to Dorset.

Tiny ammonite in a pebble at Charmouth
We have just taken a short holiday in Dorset, when we stayed in an excellent little bed and breakfast at Bridport. The aim was to  link up with the family and to go fossil hunting with our 9 year old granddaughter. The weather was not ideal. Our first rendezvous was at Maiden Castle when it started to pour with rain. We got soaked to the skin, and had to beat a retreat After drying off we went to Lyme Regis when it was sunny - and they hadn't had any rain! A very pleasant meal was had By the Bay, I started with the best whitebait I have ever had - while my wife enjoyed mussels from the River Teign.

View all my Charmouth pictures
When we arrived at Charmouth on Sunday morning I had an initial walk along the beach looking at the cliffs and spotted a few fossils - such as this tiny ammonite in a limestone pebble, returning to the car just before a very heavy shower. After the agreed rendezvous we all went into the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre, where do it yourself activities such as polishing sections of ammonites were well underway. In the afternoon there was a well organised fossil hunt for the children - in an area of mixed gravel and boulders below a comparatively recent mud flow where new fossils are washed out of the mud by the waves during high tides. Everything went well and  all the children (probably about 50 or 60 of them) seemed to find something and I sat on some boulders and sifted through the gravel to make some small but interesting finds.

Back for a family evening meal at The Bull, in Bridport, and then to bed. I slept though the storm, and fortunately breakfast could be prepared on a gas stove - as the power lines had been blown down in the morning.  Then home. On getting back to Tring we found one ten foot long branch from a tree in the adjacent open area had blown into our garden, but otherwise there was no damage. However I also found a pile of post and some 70 emails (mainly not connected with this site) and they will keep me busy for the next few days.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Thomas Cooper - The Photographer father of a Pioneering Son

Pictures by Thomas Cooper
Why is this old lady, photographed by Thomas Cooper, looking so grim. Perhaps she is thinking that no-one knows who she is because somebody forgot to write her name on the back of the Carte de Visite. (Are all your important family pictures properly documented for future generations?)

St Albans
More to the point, the photographer was Thomas Milburn Cooper who was a photographer in St Albans from the 1860s to the end of the century. His son, Arthur Melbourne-Cooper, is described as a "photographed (animated)" in the 1901 census and one of the pioneers of movie making.

But for the present you will have to wait for more on Arthur, as he deserves a page on his own, I will probably not say much on his film making, which is well documented elsewhere, and may well concentrate on his Hertfordshire Cinemas and his post cards of the St Albans area.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

An Unknown School Group, circa 1915, almost certainly at Harpenden

St Albans
This photograph of a school group, identified on the back as Miss Cooper's class, was taken by the St Albans photographer, L. L. Christmas, in 1915 or later. Could the Miss Cooper be the Miss Gertrude Cooper, assistant mistress, living in Harpenden in 1911 - and if so which school is it? Because of the date there may be visitors to this site whose parents (or grandparents, or even great grandparents) are pictured here. Can you help identify the school and any of the pupils? At least 40 other copies were produced - some mounted and some as post cards - so perhaps you own one of them!!!  Perhaps you have a similar photograph taken in the same school room.

Click here for a larger image and a list of possible schools.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree ... We have triplets!

In Memory of Lucy and Belinda
In May last year I posted Candles for Lucy, about how the horse chestnut tree planted by Lucy had been covered with candles, and how it brings back memories - because she died before it was big enough to flower. We will always remember the cruel way that our society sometimes treats those with mental health problems.

Last year's harvest of conkers was disastrous - because the heavy rain during the flowering season kept the insects away. This year was different - plenty of candles in May and I have just harvested a magnificent crop of conkers. A large container is brim full - possibly 500 nuts. They included this triplet - with three fully-grown conkers in one case - the first I have seen.

While the tree has gone to town to bring us cheer I note, with some distress, that this year most visitors to this site have kept their hands very firmly in their pockets - even when I have spent many hours digging out answers to their questions. Last year donations to this site raised £775 to help the mentally ill of Hertfordshire, in memory of Lucy and her sister Belinda. This year, with only two months to go until Christmas, there is only £160 in the online collection box - despite the fact that the current economic situation means that the demand for the services has significantly increased. If you have found this site useful, and have not yet donated, please consider donating now, so the site can help even more of the county's mentally ill to have a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

If you like old maps on paper ...

Maps of Hertfordshire
When this site was started over 10 years ago there were very few old maps on line - but things have changed enormously and a whole range of Ordnance Survey and other maps can be viewed quickly and easily. But many people still like handling maps on paper, and while Old Maps will provide you with a customised paper map centred on your ancestral home, original larger scale Ordnance Survey maps are hard to come by.  It may be old news to many - but large scale maps of many Hertfordshire towns in the late 19th century were published some years ago as "The Godfrey Edition" and are still available. To help you find the maps I have added the names of the places covered [Baldock, Berkhamsted, Boxmoor, Chorleywood, East Barnet & Southgate, Harpenden, Hatfield, Hemel Hempstead (North, South), Hertford (North, South), Hitchin, Hoddesdon, Rickmansworth & Croxley Green, St Albans (NE, NW, SE, SW), Tring, Ware, Watford, South Watford & New Bushey] to my Ordnance Survey Maps page. (Similar maps are also available for other counties.)
An example of the detail you will find on the Godfrey Edition Maps

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Did William abandon his wife and child and head for America?

John's ancestor William married in America but may have left a wife and daughter behind in Tring. Rodwell is a locally common name in the Vale of Aylesbury area, and there are many gaps in the local records because so many people attended baptist chapels whose records have not survived, so one needs to be careful that one has the right body. The UK evidence shows that there was a suitable William who was a baker in Wilstone (a hamlet associated with Tring), perhaps working for his uncle? Alfred Rodwell.

Bucks Herald of 29 September 1860
William married in 1863 and then disappeared from the local records. It is interesting to note that he and his wife to be, Martha Hill, arranged to be married, then called it off, only to be finally married a few months later, perhaps hinting at relationship problems to come. Because of the number of local people who had gone to America a generation earlier, William may have chosen to go there because of friends and relatives who were already there.

More Information

Sunday, October 20, 2013

An Outrageous Coincidence - Small details in pictures can be important.

Click for bigger image
Armed Forces
I recently purchased this post card on ebay because it was taken by a St Albans photographer who took pictures of soldiers during the First World War. The scene could be almost anywhere but might just be somewhere in St Albans. Because it was a "lost" picture with not supporting notes on the back to say who it was or where it was taken no one else wanted it - so I brought it because it was going cheap.

However I scanned it and a small detail became visible and my eyes almost popped out of my head.
Have a look at the larger image and see if you can see what made me excited. It may not make you excited - but if you compare what you see with other information on the front page of this Newsletter you will be able to understand my I was so surprised..

To find out what  I discovered about the photograph click HERE.

P.S And if you can help identify the soldier on the horse (or event his unit) let me know...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Early Postcards of Tring

As part of my office tidy I am trying to get my post card files into a more sensible order. In most cases this will not impact on the site but I have decided to ensure that the comparatively small number of early post cards - (prior 1903 - with undivided backs) are documented, with higher resolution images available online. I have started documenting there cards with some of Tring.

While there are six different views all have the same layout, but no publisher details. However one of the pictures (the one shown above) also occurs on a later post card circa 1905 where the publisher was Samuel Glendenning Payne, of Aylesbury. Samuel had a shop in Tring between about 1895 and 1907, and published a lot of Tring cards after about 1903 so he was probably the photographer and publisher of the undivided back cards,

Friday, October 18, 2013

Why was Mike's Ancestor in Prison - A surprising answer

Help Desk
Mike wrote to ask why his ancestor, Charles Hawkins, was in prison in Hertford at the time of the 1871 census. I often get questions like this but in this case there was a difference. I have had to tell him that Charles may have thought my great grandfather, Jacob Reynolds, was responsible ! ! !

What seems to have happened was that Charles, and his brothers John and William, had a walk through Symondshyde Great Wood, on the parish boundary between Sandridge and Hatfield. And on the far side of the wood there were fields - with rabbits in them, and they all thought how delicious rabbit stew would be. The problem was a farm labourer, William Minall, who said they were poaching, and most unfairly told his employer, Jacob Reynolds, of Hammonds Farm, who spoke to P.C. Day.The magistrates obviously felt the hungry poor had no right to fresh rabbit meat and fined them all. As they didn't pay they ended up in prison.

Well that is one way of looking at what happened. For more information about the case, with details of other offences by members of the Hawkins family, the problems farmers faced from poachers and theft from their fields, etc., see HAWKINS, Hertford Goal, 1871

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Army School of Cookery at St Albans circa 1915

While looking for information on St Albans photographers who took pictures of soldiers during the First World War I found this picture on Herts Memories, which was one of a series by L. L. Christmas.

School of Cookery, St Albans
St Albans
Armed Forces
The card had a description of the construction and use of these ovens, and had turned up in Canada. I decided to investigate and it seems that the School may have been run by the 309 Company Army Service Corps  which in the winter of 1916 was used to train Canadian recruits. My search online found pictures 11 & 12 in the series, and a reference to picture 10. So what did pictures No 1 through 9 show? There was also an unnumbered group picture of the members of the school.


Symposium on Building Materials in Hertfordshire

The Hertfordshire Association for Local History is holding their Annual Symposium  on 2nd November, 2013, at Hemel Hempstead. The topic is Traditional Building Materials: Brick: Flint: Stone: Thatch: Wood. Bookings need to be made by 20th October so if you haven't booked do so NOW

A Brick from Bernards Heath
It should be well worth attending. Regular readers of this newsletter will remember I attended last year's symposium, which was on Sport in Hertfordshire. In view of my interest in bricks (and the fact that I lived as child in two different thatched cottages) I look forward to attending this symposium with great pleasure.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Old Hertfordshire Recipes - A Ragout of Oysters

Open 20 large Oysters, take them out of their liquor. Save the Liquor and dip the oysters in a Batter made as follows: Two Eggs; beat well, a little Lemon Peel grated, a little Nutmeg grated, a very little Parsley chopped fine; beat all together with a little Flower. Have ready some butter or dripping in a Stew-Pan. When it boils dip in your Oysters one by one into the Batter and fry them of a fine brown. Then take them out, and put them in a dish before the fire.11 Then take a clean pan and have half a pint of good gravy ready, add three spoonsful of oyster Liquor, one spoonful of White Wine; a little bit of butter rolled in Flower. Stir all together, let it boil up. Then put in the oysters & when the Sauce is of a good thickness, dish them up.

Monday, October 14, 2013

8th London (Howitzer) Brigade Royal Field Artillery at Apsley in 1914/5

The Military
When I was writing the book The London Gunners come to Town I looked in vain for pictures of known soldiers of known units who were stationed in Hemel Hempstead in 1914/5 as part of the 2nd London Division. Well, I'm not quite there yet. This picture was taken by L. L. Christmas, of St Albans, almost certainly early in 1915 and the gun looks very much like a 6 inch howitzer. Unfortunately I can't name any of the clearly identifiable men. (Can you help?)

And who had such weapons in the area at the time. Why the 8th London (Howitzer) Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery - who were based at Apsley, including Shendish. And my research into the book  included many details of what the Brigade was doing between August 1914 and March 1915, when they sailed for France. 

Click here for larger images and extracts from the London Gunners listing their officers and describing what the Brigade was doing while training.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Herts at War Project

As part of the centenary commemorations for the First World War the project will commemorate all the men from Hertfordshire who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the Great War. At the current count they need to:
  • Research 21616 names (including identifying duplicates)
  • Establish the existence (or otherwise), research and photograph 697 memorials
  • Research 790 WW1 burials.

Much of the work is being done by local teams who are collecting data, and if you live in Hertfordshire why not find out what is happening in your own town or village and get involved. They will be unveiling a provision Roll of Honour on their web site on 13th November.

However if you live anywhere else in the world you may still be able to help, if you have information about your Hertfordshire ancestors who were involved, and may have been killed, in the war.
  • If your ancestor died, and is (or should be) remembered on a Hertfordshire memorial you may have photographs of him and the group researching that memorial would love to have a digital copy to commemorate his sacrifice.
  • If you have group photographs of, for example, the Hertfordshire Regiment, where people are named this may help provide portraits of other soldiers who died.
  • If you are a collector of military post cards you may well have pictures which could help in the project, and could be of far greater value in remembering the dead if shared.
There is one aspect of the War which is not currently covered in their plans (at least as revealed in their web site) and that concerns the vast numbers of soldiers who came to Hertfordshire for training during the First World War, and those who returned with injuries to the war time hospitals such as Napsbury, and the many convalescent homes all over the county. As the author of The London Gunners come to Town, which looks at life in Hemel Hempstead during the First World War, the training of RFA soldiers of the 2nd London Division (which was centred on St Albans), and the battles they fought in France, I am particularly interested in these soldiers.

Postcards, etc
Those of you who have been following my web site and newsletter will know that I originally planned to photograph many memorials - but in the circumstances this would mean unnecessary duplication. Instead I would like to concentrate on photographs by photographers of troops training in Hertfordshire, or as invalids in hospital in the county. Over the next few posts I will give some examples here. If you have such material that can be shared in digital form, and displayed on this site, please let me know.

More about future plans for this site

In August 2013 I posted a note on the Newsletter: The Future of this web site - Thinking ahead 2013-2018, on the realisation that I cannot go on running for ever. As a result over the next year the site will be kept running but I will be concentrating on several activities as follows:
  • Documenting material relating to William Brown, Estate Agent, of Tring, prior to depositing the material in a suitable archive.
  • Documenting unique Hertfordshire material from family (such as my recent postings on the Aldenham Harriers and First World War remounts) and other sources, and finding a suitable archive where appropriate.
  • Making material available from notes for a book I had planned to write on the history of Bernards Heath available in time for the Sandridge 900 events.
  • Preparations for the August 1914 anniversary of the First World War. I hope to get all the relevant information I have online and restructure the Military section of the web site. I will be concentration on the troops stationed here for training, those who went to hospitals in the county, and the photographers who took pictures of them, and their activities, but concentrating on the area covered by my book The London Gunners come to Town (approximately the modern boroughs of Dacorum, St Albans and Watford).

I will continue to answer questions as before, but possibly in smaller numbers, and additions to the "place" pages will be limited, with more emphasis on the west of the county. If you want news of activities such as meetings, new book publications, etc., mentioned in the Newsletter the onus will be on you to let me know, as I will have less time to monitor all the web sites and blogs that might contain relevant news.

[This text, and any updates to the plan, will appear at the end of an updated Introduction page to the web site.]

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Confirmation Dresses - and a Watford Photographer.

A Confirmation Dress
Family Events
In the Church of England there is infant baptism and when one becomes older there is an opportunity to confirm ones membership of the church. In this service women are dressed as a bride, and this one can be seen holding a prayer book.

The picture was taken in about 1911 and on the back there is an order for 6 reprints for Miss  "F hory" ???

So who is it? A search on the 1911 came up with no obvious match and the best I could find was Frances Honey, 47, Asylum Nurse, M A B, boarding at Martin Square, Abbots Langley. Can anyone come up with a more likely possibility?


The photograph was taken by William Frederick Southwood, and as it gives his address as "40 Market Street, Watford, late Woodford Road" it must have been taken soon after his brother, Joseph James Southwood retired from the business - suggesting a date of about 1911. This is the first example of William's work I have found.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Rivers of Hertfordshire

On the River Lea at Ware
This web site contains a lot of photographs of river scenes, and in some cases more information on the rivers of Hertfordshire, but up until now there was no easy way to access this information directly. To correct this situation I have set up a "dummy" home page for rivers and linked to pictures and pages which describe the rivers. 
The rivers initially covered are the Beane, Chess, Colne, Gade, Hiz, Ivel, Lea, Mimram, Quin, Stort and Ver, with additional links to Elstree Reservoir, the Grand Union Canal and Wilstone Reservoir. As time allows the coverage  will be increased, and a map and text added to the home page.

An Unknown House near New Barnet ???

Where is it?
This card was sent by "Vic" who may have got a job working there, to Miss Ettie Plant on 25 March 1909. It was posted at New Barnet, so must be somewhere nearby. Can anyone identify it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ashridge House in the late 18th century.

This print of Ashridge Abbey, publisher details unknown, is probably from about 1780, and corresponds in shape with the house shown on Dury and Andrews Map of Hertfordshire in 1766. The current house is the result of a rebuild by the Duke of Bridgewater in the first years of the 19th century. The map shows the house actually lay across the Herts/Bucks county boundary.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Sequestrated Clergyman and Watford Union Workhouse

Rev Henry Goodwin
One of the sad things about ebay is the large number of Victorian portraits for sale which have lost contact with their families - and no-one knows who they are. I acquire some of them and recently I purchased two to illustrate the work of a Watford photographer, Joseph James Southwood. One was a "Fine Art Studio" carte de visite  of a tightly corseted young woman and there are no clues to her identity. The other was cabinet card of a elderly bearded gentleman, with a cross, who could well be a minister of religion. In addition there was a partial identification - someone had written the words "Goodwin father of Edward Goodwin" on the bottom.

I quickly discovered that in 1901 Edward J Goodwin was a 38 year old Wholesale Jeweller's Bookkeeper living with his father, Rev. Henry Goodwin, at 20 Westland Road, Watford. It turns out that Rev Henry Goodwin had been the vicar of Twyning, Gloucestershire, but in 1863 he had got into financial difficulties and was sequestrated and left the parish. In 1880 he became the chaplin at the Watford Union Workhouse and continued to live in Watford until his death in 1908.

Interestingly Gordon asked me about Henry Goodwin in 2001, when the only census information available online was for 1881, and my reply to him then now looks very dated.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Antiques Valuation Day at Ashridge House - 13th October

Ashridge House, Berkhamsted, Herts. HP4 1NS
Dacorum Heritage Trust will be hosting a fund-raising

Antiques Valuation Day

 expertise from

Sunday 13th October 2013

10.00am - 4.00pm
£3.00 per item with a maximum 5 items per person

Drop in   -   No booking required

Easy access   -   Free parking

email: info@dacorumheritage.org.uk / tel: 01442 879525

Was John Sergius Fothergill really buried alive? I don't think so.

Memorial Brass in St Albans Abbey
Following my recent post on Harpsfield Hall I got a message from Anthony drawing my attention to the will of John Sergius Fothergill of Harpsfield Hall, proved on 12th April 1836. I decided to look further and Ancestry directed me to billiongraves.com which had a picture of this memorial tablet in St Albans Abbey recording the death of as taking place on 24th March 1836. Clearly getting Probate was very much quicker in those days than it is today. So next I checked familysearch which told me he died and surprisingly was buried the same day, 24th March, in  St Albans Cathedral. This information is sourced to an unnamed affiliate - but the reference number suggests the affiliate was the billiongraves web site.

So I decided to check the burial record of FindMyPast and was told that he was buried at St Albans Abbey on 18th March 1836, at the age of 70, So he was buried six days before the brass plaque say he died! How uncomfortable for him. (At the time he was buried St Albans Abbey was not a Cathedral and the modern official name is "The Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Albans" - see Wikipedia)

So was he buried alive? Of course not? And if further proof was needed  the Northampton Mercury of 19th March 1836 which read "On the 11th instant, at St Albans, John Sergius Fothergill, Esq. of Harpsfield Hall, Herts, in his 70th year." and further searching shows that the same message appeared in the Bucks Herald and Oxford Journal of 19th March, the Herts Mercury of 22nd March, and the Chelmsford Chronicle of 25th March. (In all these cases the name Harpsfield had been misread in the scan, which is why I hadn't found them earlier.)

There is an important lesson here. All records, however impressive they look, both contemporary and modern, can contain errors and while researching you are almost certain to make one or two errors yourself on occasions. The answer is to check everything and be aware that the information you have accepted in good faith may be wrong.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The "new" 1853 Cemetery at Tring

The Account Book

As part of my project to document selected entries in William Brown's account book I have examined his account with the Churchwardens at Tring. In June 1851 he was asked to make drawings and estimates for a wall round the proposed new cemetery, and in November 1852 he sold off wood from a piece of land purchased from Mr Norman, which would appear to be the Cemetery site. I have added a map, a press account of the consecration of the site, and links to modern pictures showing what is there now.

The folio in the account book also refers to a "lighting rate" (to pay for gas street lighting), work on an unidentified property in Frogmore Street, and work to be done on Tring's Poors Land.

In search of Harpsfield Hall, Hatfield

Help Desk
Harpsfield Hall, Hatfield
When Hatfield Aerodrome was built in the 1930s the farm called Harpsfield Hall was demolished and John was interested to know how old the house was, and supplied a picture from 1925. As a result I have carried out a search of online records relating to the 19th century, and some printed sources, and identified the following facts/observations:
  • While the name Harpsfield goes back to the 13th century it was not a manor, and hence has been ignored by the main published County Histories.
  • The Harpsfield estate was owned by the Gape family, of St Michael's Manor, St Albans, and let, in whole or in parts during the whole of the 19th century.
  • Harpsfield Hall was sometimes called Hatfield Hall, at least at the beginning of the period studied.
  • William Pittman was a tenant at the beginning of the 19th century, occupying Hatfield Hall and 300 acres. Clearly Harpsfield Hall was a major establishment as when William died the sale of furniture, paintings, china, wines, and the farms live and dead stock took six days. 
  • In the 1830s and early 40s it is clear that the Hall, and a much enlarged farm, were let to separate tenants.
  • From about 1850 onwards Harpsfield Hall appears to have been the name of the hamlet, the word being used to describe several agricultural labourers cottages  
  • The 1925 picture shows a house which must be considerably smaller that the one where the auction was held in 1813.
  • The design of the house suggests it could have been a new build in the mid 19th century.

My suggestion is that that by 1840 the original Harpsfield Hall was passed its "sell by" date, and there were difficulties in letting the house and farm together. The farm was merges with a neighbouring farm and a new farm house (the one in the picture) was erected. Shortly afterwards the old hall was demolished - perhaps with parts being kept as farm cottages.

I would like to confirm this and if you are aware of any pre-1850 references to the Hall (and ideally a picture) I would be very grateful.for details.