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.