Book two 1539-1800. Chapter two: Village life

  • Posted on: 24 September 2009
  • By: David Thrale

Travel was expensive and difficult and for this reason one finds families who have served their own small village for centuries. The Thrale family was one of the oldest families in the parish and its history is a small reflection of this larger parish history. From this period onwards the name appears continually and it would be timely at this point in the chronicle to briefly describe the background of this family about which Cussans wrote…

Few yeoman families could boast of a more respectable ancestry1

The first Thrale to come to the parish was Robert the elder, who held a lease on Sandridgebury from the Abbey of St Albans, and had been a victualler to the Monastery. It is from Robert that the whole of the family is descended. He died in 1538, desiring his body to be buried in "the medle Aley" of Sandridge Church, and to have Masses said for his soul for nine months2. He almost certainly came from Thrales End just north of Harpenden, where the family has resided since the thirteenth century at least, and he was probably the same Robert who held Tuffnalls at Thrales End in 1493. The Bedfordshire Subsidy of 1309 mentions William le Thral and Johanne Thral, and continual references can be found to the family from that date onwards. Johannes Trayle was Chevalier M.P. for Bedford Borough in 1541. The family furnished members. sometimes Masters of the Religious Guild of the Holy Trinity of Luton Church founded in 1414 and the annual lists indicated the Masters, Wardens. Brethren, Sisters. Bachelors and Maidens of the Guild who were of very high rank including Kings, Queens and Bishops. Robert the elder in his will handed on Sandridgebury partly to his wife (later Alice Fitz), partly to his son Robert and to his children. Upon the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Sandridgebury with the rest or the manor passed to the Crown in May 1540, and Ralph Rowlatt became Lord of the Manor upon his purchase or the Manor from the Crown. In consequence the younger Robert Thrale and later his executors were in continual conflict in chancery with the younger Sir Ralph Rowlatt (his father Ralph having died in 1542) over the lease or Sandridgebury, in the same way that later Thrales were in conflict with Sarah Jennings over various estate matters.

The younger Robert who died in 1541 and his wife Jane had five children, the eldest son Thomas Thrale continuing to live at Sandridgebury. Another son John was the first to live at Fairfolds, held by various branches of the family until 1813. Of the seven children of Thomas, one was Ralph Thrale who was to hold Sandridgebury, Astwick Manor, and Nomansland and was the founder of the branch to hold Nomansland father to son without interruption, and nearly always Ralph to Ralph, for nine generations. It is with this branch that the legendary history of Queen Elizabeth is connected. At the end or the 18th century, some members of the family took to South Africa an ancient manuscript leaf and it was brought back by a later descendent It was then seen by Dr Griffith in 1879, the much esteemed Vicar of Sandridge, who wrote of its history:

In ye last year or two of Queen Mary's reign (1556-58) and during the persecution of Elizth., Elizabeth was under ye necessity of making her escape from Hatfield or Theobalds to Ashridge; being nearly persued and nearly taken by Queen Mary's emmissarys, she dismounted her palfrey or horse and escaped into the barn or house of Mr Thrale of Nomansland where she was concealed for several days and escaped. As a reward Queen Elizth., on coming to the throne, gave the Thrale family as a token of her regard amongst other things arms and a broad arrow;3

The Thrale's Broad Arrow Iron
The manuscript was again returned to England for possible verification in the 1920's together with a portrait of a Mrs Thrale holding a large bird with a spread wing. The College of Arms however know nothing about such a grant. The tale has also been attacked by the argument that the only time when Elizabeth was in real danger was during Wyatt's rebellion when Mary ordered Elizabeth to return from Ashridge to London. This journey could have been the only one which would have brought Elizabeth anywhere near Nomansland and then she was only under semi-arrest. Her route was via Redbourn. St Albans, where she stayed at the house of Sir Ralph Rowlatt, Mymms, and Highgate. Yet curiously, the family still possesses a branding iron in the form of a large arrow which it used until the Napoleonic Wars when this symbol was adopted as the government mark. During the middle of the eighteenth century there was a strong pack of Harriers at Nomansland very strong supporters being the 5th and 6th Earls of Salisbury. The Ralph Thrale of the time built extensions to the farm to accommodate the Hunt, and a meadow nearby is still called Dog Kennel Orchard, and there still hangs a painting in wood on three panels of a hare hunt, possibly by a follower of Francis Barlow. In 1965 Nomansland farm was sold by a later owner, and is a sheep research farm where the removal of hedges gives a new and curious aspect to the local countryside. A brother of the first Ralph Thrale of Nomansland was John Thrale of Hammonds who died in 1601 and it is through him that the Marshalswick branch is descended and also the branch terminating apparently with the death of John Thrale in 1704, whose mourning tablet is in the south transept of St Albans Abbey. John was an extremely ambitious and thrusting merchant, whose career commenced in the management of a plantation in the West Indies as a young man. His amply documented career gives fascinating insights into cargoes of trading vessels and general commercial conditions of the time. The arms on the monument Paly of ten, Or and Gules has been adopted by other members of the family, and can be seen in Streatham Church on the memorial of Henry Thrale, the wealthy brewer, whose story will be told later. John was owner of Fairfolds which he passed on to his daughters whose descendants sold the farm to Thrale kinsmen. The Marshalswick branch produced the Streatham family as will be shown later, with all its well-known Johnsonian and Boswellian connections. Whilst the Streatham family will be mentioned later, record could be made at this point of Henry Thrale's continued association with St Albans in that during 1761 he had considered standing for the borough of St Albans and had assurances at an early stage of 25 votes. He did not in fact stand but became M.P. for Southwark in 1765. The sister of Henry's father Ralph had married Richard Smith of Kingsbury St Michael's near St Albans and a lasting relationship remained between the families. Henry Smith of St Michael's being together with Dr Johnson and others an executor of Henry Thrale's will in 1781. The first to hold Marshalswick for many generations was Richard Thrale in 1630. Both house and farm are now swallowed up by modern estates of houses. His great grandson Richard held Childwickbury, Kingsbury and later Pound Farm. His altar tomb in the churchyard can still be seen. Richard's holding of Childwickbury from 1733 to 1753 brought him and his family into close contact with the Lomax family, who owned Childwickbury from 1666 until 1854 when they sold to the Toulmins. The Lomax family are continually referred to in Thrale affairs from the time Joshua Lomax came to Hertfordshire until William Thrale of Nomansland was a guardian of Joshua Lomax in 1795. The connection was not only with estate matters, but also religious, for part of the Thrale family was strongly involved with the non-conformist movement in Hertfordshire. Ralph Thrale was joint trustee with other well known non-conformists including Joshua Lomax, M.P. of St Albans in 1707 of the Chapel in Dagnall Lane in 1698. Martha, daughter of William Aylvard of New House. St Albans had married Richard Thrale of Fairfolds in 1646 and it was at the home of her father at New House that furtive meetings of non-conformists were held having been declared illegal by the Act of Uniformity. The Rev. Jonothan Grew, another well known non-conformist, had baptised Thrale children at Fairfolds Farm in 1706, these children being named after members of the Lomax family. In spite of this, the Thrale family as an example of their fidelity to their parish church between 1677 and 1860 filled one hundred and sixty-six positions as churchwardens, stonewardens, overseers, observers of poor names, and constables. Richard Thrale of Childwickbury was the son of Thomas of Sandridge Street, who in turn was brother to another Richard Thrale, this time of Marshalswick, and also to John and William Thrale who held Cell Barnes, St Peters, for many years on lease from the Grimston family. Some of the leases give a detailed description of the husbandry methods or the period, further amplified by chancery proceedings between the brothers who had the most unfortunate disputes amongst themselves. The Manorial roll now at Althorp Park gives a continuous account of estate dealings generation by generation, and other documents in the muniment room tell of dealings with Sarah Jennings, who had lived at Waterend House as a child. As a quirk of fate later Thrales were to remove from the grounds of the house a magnificent old barn and re-erect it in 1939 on a site which is now the Civic Centre at St Albans, and forms part of the Waterend Barn Restaurant which provides a social venue for many communities many miles around. The son of Richard Thrale of Childwickbury, Thomas, had married Anne Parsons in 1761, a member of a family to be mentioned frequently. Upon the death of Thomas the branches linked up again after seven generations when Anne married Ralph Thrale of Nomansland, resulting in the curious situation that there were two (half) brothers living in the parish both bearing the name Ralph Thrale, and it is from the Ralph of the Pound Farm branch that both the present Wheathampstead and St Albans families are descended. The period was unhappy. An epidemic of Influenza visited the country in 1557 and continued through most of 1588,

carrying off people in hundreds and bringing sorrow to almost every household. Trade and agriculture were fearfully depressed, bad seasons contributing to the general ruin, while the heavy hand of taxation was fell by rich and poor. Storms and tempests rarely paralleled for their destructiveness added vastly to the general feeling of misery. Political unrest, and a war with France ending in irretrievable disgrace, were circumstances which clouded the more distant horizon".4

The people of Sandridge lived much the same as those in other English villages. The only one of the existing buildings that were standing at that time is St. Leonard's church. The cottages were gabled and thatched with clay, loam, rubble and wattle-work filling up the spaces between the uprights, and cross-beams. Chimneys had recently become the usual thing instead of the exception, and the fuel for warmth and cooking was wood. The people fed reasonably well with two meals a day, mostly of bread and meat.

Potatoes were just beginning to come into some garden plots, but were not yet grown as a crop in the fields. Dinner, the chief meal, was at eleven or twelve, and supper some five hours later."5

The food was served on wooden plates and eaten with spoon, knife and fingers, but not forks. The yeomen might have one or two pieces of pewter, but crockery was not of that date. The men all wore beards which must have saved an incredible number of man-hours. Out in the fields the horse was gradually beginning to share with the ox the labours of the plough. The lot of the poor people is clearly illustrated when the records concerning the parish almsbox are read. 1602 After some money had been given to

Thomas Heath impoverished by reason of sickness, remaineth in the chest this present dye XjXs Viid.

Then two days after Christmas 21/4 was found in the box. Three shillings was given to

Brocke being sick and in need

and a shilling to

Robert Anderson by reason of his wife's sickness.

  1. Taken out of the boxe to gyve to two poore women for taking pains to burie a poore travylr and for making a grave xvjd. 1604. Found in the Church box the 17th of June xxvys vid whereof gyven to Catlines wif for searching of Lambard suspected of the plague vs. 1612. Our church chest was hand robbed and thereout taken xxxvjis.

The burial register shows the same state of affairs.

  1. George Monden, a poor wandering boy. 1624. Thomas Holydale, a poor wandering fellow. 1624. John Dixon, a poor old lame man. 1624. Richard Holt, an old poor man kept of the parish. 1625. Thomas Crawley, a wandering distracted fellow born about Luton. 1627. A dumb woman died at Fairfolds whose name we could not learn.

In 1631 a poor beggar whom no one could identify was found in the road near Nomansland and was buried at Sandridge. For eleven years, 1628 to 1639, Parliament did not meet, and King Charles I raised money for war and defence by forced loans. Accordingly we find that twelve of the local gentry were summoned to attend at Sandridge for this purpose. They came from North Mymms, Shephall and Redbourn in Herts., and from Studham in Bedfordshire, and between them they had to pay £170. Three of them were Sandridge men, who were charged £10 each; they were Hugh Smith, a bachelor who had a special seat in church near the pulpit6, Thomas Adams and Willlam Thrale. These three men were buried in Sandridge in the years 1642, 1644 and 1646 respectively. At this period some Christians in north-west Italy were suffering persecution at the hands of the Roman Church, and during 1655 a collection was made for their relief towards which Sandridge contributed £1.13.7, the total from Hertfordshire being £754. Meantime the village folk carried on tilling the soil, marrying, bearing children and dying. Only on rare occasions did anyone get into trouble. In 1662 John Jakes, husbandman, was summoned for keeping an unlicensed ale-house7. Then Bill Weathered, a yeoman and sometime churchwarden, was indicted in 1663 for not purging a ditch along Sandpitt Lane, which was then the parish boundary.8 Just as Hertfordshire people witnessed the night bombing of the London area from a safe distance, so in 1666 Sandridge people would see the glow in the southern sky at night caused by the Great Fire of London, which raged for five days, destroyed over 18,000 houses and at the same lime helped to cleanse the city from the effects of the plague of the previous year. The plague of 1665 was the last of the terrible outbreaks which had been harassing Europe for 300 years. This was due in great part to the fact that the black, or house, rat was in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries displaced by the brown rat, which does not breed indoors.9 From 1687 onwards light is thrown on village life by the parish accounts, which have been carefully preserved. That year the whole parish was assessed at £1,643, so that the rate of 9d. in the pound raised £61.12.3. from forty-eight ratepayers. The biggest ratepayer was Richard Sibley whose farm at Waterend was assessed at £125. Windmill Roger Ballard at Hill End and Roger Ballard the younger at Bridehall also had large assessments, but the Sandridge windmill was assessed at only £12, and the payment of rates was shared equally by the three millers, William Frankling, Thomas George and Michael Sanders: (The windmill which was on Woodcock Hill is first mentioned in 1628, when Mary White was killed by the sails.) The money was mainly used for the relief of poverty

as well for the lame and impotent as to set ye poore on worke.

Relief in cash varied from two shillings to twelve shillings a month, and the following items provided in kind give an impression of prevailing prices.

Item £ s. d.
One shirt a wascote and loynings for Thomas Cattering 9 10
Half a loade of fagotts for the Widow Lyance 5 6
Charges for ye widow Lyance's boy when he went to the King 8 0
Paid to Sarah Anderson for a coate and wastcoate, a pair of shoes and one shirte 1 0 6
Churchwardens' charges 4 9 2
Constables charges 6 14 8
Stonewardens charges 1 12

This last item was for the upkeep of the roads in the parish. The account was signed by two church wardens, two overseers and two constables and countersigned by two of his majesty's justices on 16th May 1688. His Majesty was James II and presumably young Lyance had a swelling of the glands, a disease known as the "King's Evil", and went to London to receive the Royal touch, which was believed to work a cure. The Smith and Clerke charity, which still functions, dales in part from 1556, when George Clerke left his will charging his tithe, which was called Boxbury tithe and which he had recently

bought from Henry VIII with the annual sum of £6. Fifty shillings for the poor of Stevenage, a like sum for the poor of Bennington, and twenty shillings for the poor of Sandridge. During February 1688 the charily of £3 was distributed by the overseers, just as it is today, except that more people received it then, forty-five in all, including eleven widows. One recipient of a shilling was Robert Law, who three years later started a "place of religious worship for protestant dissenters.

The poverty was becoming worse as the century drew to a close, and in 1699 over £132 was spent on poor relief, involving two nine-penny rates in the year. A third or more of the parish were in receipt of relief, for the low wages were insufficient support life, though men worked for thirteen hours a day; poverty drove some people to drink, so some of the relief was given in kind. In 1687 Thomas Newman was paid three shillings and nine-pence for thatching the widow Jake's house and the straw cost another three shillings. A year's rent for the widow Anderson was seventeen shillings, and Timothy Seare for keeping Thomas Cattering one year received £8. When, after eighteen years of married life, Edward Fawcelt died, Mr. Alban Pixley received two and six for making his grave and his family became a charge on the parish. In 1688 a cure for Long Daniel's child cost the parish half a crown. In 1690 Mrs. Richard Rudd was paid the same sum for laying out a poor woman, and the important beer at the vestry meetings cost one and six. When George Gray was buried two years later, the parish paid seven shillings for his coffin, four and six for a burying suit, one and six for the burial, and £1.7.6 for his widow's rent, besides the

boon setter for setting her leg and fetching £1.12.0.

In 1693 a hat for John Doll cost one and six and at various limes small sums were paid by the parish for shaving or trimming John Hamerton. The constable's account in 1695 had risen to fifteen pounds and was paid to 'ye Headborough', and in 1699 the parish officers must have got merry on six shillings worth of beer at there meeting. At the opening of the eighteenth century, if one were to take a walk through Sandridge from north to souTh, it would be found that Roger Ballard was living at Bridehall, and that Mrs. Joseph Sibley had taken over her late husband's farm at Waterend; John Adams was at Beechyde, Ralph Thrale at Hammonds with his wife Abigail and four children, Thomas Thrale at Fairfolds, and another Thomas Thrale was at Heerfleld with his wife Elizabeth and four children. Up at Sandridgebury lived Jonathan Cox, and Richard Thrale was at Marshalswick. Thomas George had left the windmill in the hands of his former partners, W. Frankling and M. Sanders, and another Mr. Sanders had a brick kiln, probably on Bernard's Heath. Jonathan Cox and Daniel South were churchwardens, Thomas Thrale and Lawrence Jacques were overseers, and Thomas Manfield and Thomas George were the parish constables. These offices were seldom held by anyone for more than a year. The Richard Thrale mentioned above died in 1710. He was the eldest son of Richard Thrale, the first of the family to occupy Marshalswick. This elder Richard had died in 1689. He had already buried his wife and daughter in the chancel of the church alongside his sister Rose Smith. He left behind him five sons, and to the fourth son Ralph he bequeathed…

half a dozen napkins of those that are at my dwelling house, and these goods following that are likewise at my son Thomas' being one coverlid and feather bed, five pairs of sheets, one bolster and one brass pottage pot, one bedstead and curtains, one coffer set of the middle sort of the pewter dishes2

It was from this branch of the family that one of the greatest friends of Dr. Johnson was descended. Henry Thrale's grandfather Ralph, brother to Richard Thrale of Marshalswick, had moved to Offley and it was his son Ralph who passed on to his son a great fortune made from the Southwark brewery. Henry had married Hester Lynch Salusbury and it was her wit and charm which was the delight of the Johnsonian age. Boswell tells much of the intimacy between Dr. Johnson and the Thrales and when in 1781 the brewery of "H. Thrale &. Co." was sold for £135,000 to Barclay and Perkins after the death of Henry Thrale, Dr. Johnson, one of the executors, exclaimed during the auction:

we are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

The male succession of this branch of the Thrale family ended with the death of Henry Thrale's son at the age of ten.

The relief of the poor was a more serious problem in the eighteenth century than it is today, costing about a million pounds a year to the ratepayers of England. There was no national scheme, but each parish was responsible for its own poor. The system of extremely low wages, coupled with wholesale poor relief from the rates, destroyed all incentive. All labourers lived on the brink of starvation for no effort of will or character could improve their position.

The most worthless were sure of something, while the prudent, the industrious, and the sober, with all their cares and pains obtained only something, and even that scanty pittance was doled out to them by the overseer".10

The rent roll of the parish was £2,800 a year, more than half of which was received by the Duchess of Marlborough. By an Act of Parliament passed in 1673 every parish in which a man tried to settle could send him back to the parish where he was born, for fear that if he stayed he might at some future date become chargeable on the rates. Parish went to law against parish to decide where the possible paupers really belonged. Accordingly in 1718 Sandridge won an appeal and did not have to move George Tilcock from Flamstead 11 but in 1727 they were compelled to remove John Laundy and Rebecca his wife from Hatfield.12 Money was spent on hurrying undesirable tramps through the parish for fear they should fall ill or die within its bounds, and so become chargeable to the rates. Women in pregnancy were frequently given small sums to get them away. Another class of people who had to be dealt with were known as Turkey slaves. These were men who had escaped from the Turkish galleys In the Mediterranean and on reaching England found themselves destitute. These poor people were constantly making an appearance in Sandridge demanding relief and it was impossible to discover whether they were genuine or not. This kind of relief was paid by the churchwardens, as was money for the destruction of vermin. In 1729 the churchwardens had to pay for a number of varied items:

Item £ s. d.
57 Turkey slaves 12 6
One Fox 2 6
32 Hedgehogs at 4d. 10 8
17 Polecats at 4d. 5 8
12 discharged soldiers 3 0
Alms Houses Quit Rent 16 0
Buckets and hoops for the common Well 6 7

In order to curtail expenses the following resolutions were passed at a vestry meeting in 1732:

It is resolved and agreed that no churchwarden or other parish officers shall after ye date hereof give or allow to any person or persons whatsoever any of ye parish money for any foxes polecats or hedgehogs or any suchlike vermin as has heretofore been done nor for any persons pretending to be Turkey Slaves or for any wandering persons claiming relief without due authority and also that no churchwardens or other parish officers shall claim or demand any extravagant fees or payments for executing any parish orders not withstanding any former custom to ye contrary and also that there shall be allowed two shillings and sixpence apiece to each churchwarden at each visitation and no more and ten shillings a year to ye Minister and no more.

FishThe parish officers chiefly concerned with the relief of poverty were the overseers, who held office for one year at a time. They had to keep the accounts and hand over any balance at the end of the year to their successors. Richard Pilgrim of Waterend was overseer In 1735, when Robert Branthem, a labourer of Sandridge, was apprehended for taking one trout value twelve pence out of the river at Sopwell the property of Samuel Grimston Esq.13 Mr. Pilgrim was again overseer in 1740, and at the end of that year he had £3. 9. 0 in hand, which he failed to hand over as he should have done. Twenty months later this money was still owing and so the Vestry agreed unanimously that he

be arrested for ye money due and owing from him to our parish.

What the sequel to this resolution was we do not know, but two years later Mr. Pilgrim was overseer for the third time. The children of unmarried mothers were liable to be a charge on the poor rates, so steps were taken to prevent this when possible and make the father pay up or marry the girl, if he was not already married. Jeremiah Lattimore, the village wheelwright and a married man, was made to sign the following document written out for him by someone whose spelling was not his strong point:

were as I have Own'd this day att a Vestre held for ye relief of ye said poor of our said Parish of Sanderidge, Dew own, and Confess, that my servant Mary Gardener is at this present instant with Child by me, I therefore for a satisfaction to ye Perrishoners all this Vestre and for ye affections that I bear for ye said Mary Gardener, Dew promise for to indemnifie ye said Perrishoners from all cost and damiges that may or shall arise, from ye said Mary Gardener or ye child which shall or may be from her body.

As Witness my Hand Jeremiah Lattimore.

Signed in ye Presence of Benj. Preedy. Ralph Thrale.

This statement was signed in 1749; a similar case is recorded a century earlier.14 The following year Mr. John Thrale of Hammonds Farm was one of the overseers and had to deal with another case. A certain Mary Prentice was in trouble on account of a Sandridge bachelor called Stokes, and every month from May to September she was paid two or three shillings from the poor fund. But in September Mr. Thrale paid five and six for a warrant to arrest Stokes and then a week later the entry is made

pd. ye charges for taking Stokes and marrying him to Mary Prentice and my journey to Hempsted £5. 2. 6.

So Mary being safely, and we hope happily, married, we hear no more of her in Sandridge. There were, of course, other Marys in the village and the overseers allowed Mary Bigg one shilling with which to buy a spinning wheel. A frequent item in the accounts is

ye black woman 2/-.

This lady was apparently a nurse and received one and six for nursing two children for one week. Then there was Black Mary, who was given sixpence to buy straws, probably in connection with the Straw hat industry in Luton. Ye blackwoman had a daughter but we cannot say whether this was Black Mary or not. There is no doubt, however, that there were at least two African women living in the village at this time. In 1753 the shoemaker deserted his wife and left her a charge on the rates. Besides giving her regular relief the overseer bought for her "a flockbed and boulster and blanket" for six shillings. In June she fell ill, and the sad story ends thus:-

Date Item £ s. d.
July 4 Mary Kilby for nursing of Mary Pearse 1 0
5 Mary Dixon for Watching with Mary Pearse 9
Cap face Cloth and Wool for Mary Pearse 1 0
Mary Kilby for keeping and nursing Pears's children 1 0
July 7 Watching with Mary Pearse and Laying her out 2 0
Bearers for carring her to ye grave 2 6
Mary Kilby for keeping Pear's children 1 0
The Clark for ye Church fees for Mary Pearse 3 6
A Coffin for Mary Pearse 8 0
12th The Charge in search after Pearse 4 0
14th Cloathes for Pearses children 3 6

It is no exaggeration to say that the conditions under which the English village labourer lived during this period were horribly degrading. By the enclosure of lands working people had lost their rights In the soil and all power had passed into the hands of the wealthy few. Voting was on a property basis, which meant that the poor were not represented in parliament. At the election which took place in 1754 only four Sandridge men had the vote. There were three candidates for the two Hertfordshire seats. Mr. Thomas George and Mr. John Thrale of Hammonds voted for Paggen Hale and Charles Gore, who were elected, but Ralph Thrale of Nomansland and Mr. William Packham voted for Edward Gardener. In 1774 Sandridge had ten voters who almost all voted for Plumer and Halsey, the successful candidates. Jonathan Parsons was the only Sandridge man who voted for Lord Grimston. In 1784 Sandridge had eight electors, in 1793 thirteen, and in 1802 and 1805 twelve. After the passage of the 1832 Reform Bill, the franchise, though still on a property basis, was extended, so that at the election in December twenty Sandridge men had the vote. It has been noted that even hard working men found it difficult to settle In any parish but their own as they would be sent away for fear that they might in future become a charge on the rates. Later on in the century it was possible for a man to get work and settle in another parish, provided he brought with him a certificate from the overseers of his own parish undertaking responsibility for his maintenance when he was no longer fit for work. Thomas Raiment and Ann his wife came to Sandridge from Walden and the certificate they brought with them is still preserved at Sandridge. On the other hand, John Gurney, who had come to Sandridge in 1763 without a certificate was told to obtain one or quit. Another humiliating social system was that by which paupers were hired out by the parish as servants to the more fortunate parishioners. The following is a minute of a Vestry Meeting held At the Queen's Head In 1763:

Ordered that Ann Kilby be look off the monthly bill in consideration of being turned over as a servant to Jonathan Parsons from the Date hereof to St. Michael 1764 on an allowance of two guineas as paid to Jonan Parsons which at the expiration of the said time He is to repay to the officers of the parish for the use of Ann Kilby or to Cloath her equivalent to the said sum. It is also agreed that if Ann Kilby should fall ill of the smallpox during the time Jonathan Parsons is to find her in keep and the Parish with a nurse and advice.

There were a number of similar cases which could be quoted. The following year it was arranged that John White and John Dudley, being too old and infirm to support themselves, should go round the parish and be employed in turn by the ratepayers for one day for every pound of rates paid. For thrashing the men were to receive a penny a bushel for oats and three half-pence for barley. A contemporary poet comments on this "Roundsman System" -

Alternate masters now their slave command, Urge the weak efforts of his feeble hand; Who when his age attempts the task in vain, With Ruthless taunts of lazy poor complain. 15

In April 1776 the Vestry accepted the offer of Mr. George Whitbread to take care of the poor of the parish and provide medicine and surgery for six guineas; he was to receive a guinea for each confinement

where a woman cannot do the business.

Mr. Whitbread was powerless, however, to cope with the smallpox which killed six parishioners during the years 1768 to 1770. The number of paupers in Sandridge became so great that the authorities decided that the most economical way of dealing with them was to build a workhouse, which was done by William Lawrence and John Lawford for £128. To meet this expense in addition to the usual poor relief the rates rose to three shillings in the pound. These workhouses were dreaded by the poor, and when the Sandridge house was five years old the following tines were published:

Their's is yon house that holds the parish poor, Whose walls of mud scarce bear the broken door; There, where the putrid vapours, flagging, play, And the dull wheel hums doleful through the day; There children dwell who know no parents' care; Parents, who know no children's love, dwell there; Heart-broken matrons on their joyless bed, Forsaken wives and mothers never wed; Dejected widows with unheeded tears, And crippled age with more than childhood fears; The lame, the blind, and, far the happiest they! The moping idiot and the madman gay. Here too the sick their final doom receive, Here brought, amid the scenes of grief, to grieve, Where the loud groans from some sad chamber flow, Mixt with the clamours of the crowd below; Here sorrowing, they each kindred sorrow scan, And the cold charities of man to man. Whose laws indeed for ruin's age provide, And strong compulsion plucks the scrap from pride; But still that scrap is bought with many a sigh, And pride embitters what it can't deny.16

The oldest legible gravestone is that of Elizabeth Cox 1744. The Coxs go back in the registers to 1595, when Edward Cox married Alice Chappell, and they go forward to the burial or Gordon William Thrale Cox in 1945. Jennings Cox, the son of Jonathan and Margaret, born 1689, died 1754, was churchwarden from 1719 to 1731. In 1833 Thomas Cox17 was farming Hammonds and William Cox was at Nashes. Later in the nineteenth century the Coxs farmed Hill End. They appear to have been the second most important yeoman family in the parish, the Thrales being the first. The militia played an important part in the life of Sandridge. The fact that the people had no votes did not prevent them from being called upon to fight for their country. From 1756 to 1763 England fought the Seven Years' War and this was soon followed by the war against the American colonists. It was the duty of the parish constable to prepare each year a Militia List for the parish containing the names of all men between the ages of eighteen and fifty. There are eighteen such lists for Sandridge preserved at the County Hall covering the period 1757 to 1768. The first list contains fitly-eight names; the lowest number is fifty, and the highest 113. In 1780 there were apparently two men whose names were not known by the constable, and he describes them as

Shepard and underplowman at Hollend.

In the later lists there are attached to the names various reasons why the men should not be called up. Some had already served, some had children, some were defective, and such names as the following in 1781 are crossed out:

John Munt farmer served. James Arnold labourer five children. Edward Harper farmer lame. Thomas Hack servant lame. Thomas Floyd farmer served. John Wethered grocer one eye. William Weeb bricklayer four children. William Weeb labourer lame.

The next year the village shoemaker, William Dunham, was short of one of his little fingers, but his name is not crossed out. In 1785 Thomas Dearman, aged thirty-two, was subject to fits and could not be trusted with a rifle, so he stayed at home, and at the end of the year his wife Mary presented him with a baby. In 1786 two Militia Lists were made, and those who wished to appeal against military service had to attend at The Bull, St Albans. There is a note in the accounts that on 26th October 1759 the Sandridge Militia marched. The two men, John Draper and Thomas Woodwards, marched to where we know not, but it involved the parish in great expense. The overseers had to keep on doling out guineas to them, and on the 10th May 1762 the vestry decided to go to law against them. Apparently the parish lost the case, for six months later they paid

Thos.Woodwards and his lawyer £53.4.0

and John Draper received thirty five guineas or more in 1763. In all, the two militia men cost Sandridge £148, and the rates rose to three shillings in the pound. Sandridge also assisted Nelson in his fight against Napoleon on the high seas, for in 1795 we sent two volunteers into the Royal Navy. They were Michael Murray, an Irishman, and John Munt, a native of Hertfordshire. On joining up these men received twelve guineas and twenty guineas respectively from parish funds,18 and it should be noted that three years later Nelson was victorious at the Battle of the Nile. In 1736 Jonathan Parsons was made parish clerk.19 He was followed in turn by his son, two grandsons and a great grandson, and between five of them they held the post of parish clerk till it lapsed in 1881, a total of 145 years. It was to this family that the malt house belonged, which was behind the Rose and Crown,20 and which caught fire in 1779, burning 108 bushels of malt. The duty of nine pence a bushel which had been paid was refunded.21 The family did much to increase the population of the village during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; In fact, there are no fewer than sixty-eight members of it recorded in our registers, so some account of it will be given here, although it exceeds the bounds of the chapter. Such a detailed account will give a good impression of the life led by such a family. The original Jonathan Parsons kept the Queen's Head, the Rose and Crown, and also ran a malting business. Jonathan was followed by his son, who held the post of clerk until he died in 1812. This Jonathan married Sarah Marston of St Albans and they had nine children in eleven years, four of whom died in infancy. After his wife died, leaving him with four young sons, he married Ann Sams and had five more children. These large families were common. Jonathan's duties for the church were not exacting. He probably attended all Sunday services and was entitled to wear a surplice. He kept the registers of the church and wrote them up, and witnessed most of the marriages. It is recorded that he carried out his duties

to the entire satisfaction or the parishioners, a just and honest man.

He was succeeded by his son Jonathan, who held the post for forty-one years. He had a son and a grandson both called Jonathan, but neither of these became parish clerks. The former was first a baker and later farmed a farm called Wheelers near Marshalswick, which no longer exists. The latter lived at Rickmansworth. The third Jonathan died in 1853 and was succeeded by his half-brother James. He lived at the Rose and Crown and ran the mailing business which was in the family for about a century. He also acted as general carrier for the village. James's younger brother had married one or the Thrales, who brought up six or their seven children at Fairfolds Farm. From James the clerkship passed to his nephew William, who supported a considerable family by baking the village bread. With his death and that of his wife and son Jonathan, both in 1898, this large family fades out of Sandridge history. The above account indicates to what degree the village was a self-contained unit. Church on fire The Paul family of carpenters were exactly the same type of family, but their tale belongs to a slightly later period. It was William Paul who carried out the delicate operation on the church roof, during the year 1786, with the co-operation of the churchwardens, Ralph Thrale of No Mans Land and John Munt of Cheapside. Such are the fascinating glimpses which can be obtained from the parish records of the lives the inhabitants led in by-gone Sandridge. Artisans, shopkeepers and craftsmen lived tolerably well, the yeoman farmers very well, and for such folk as the lords of the manor it was an age of elegance and graceful living. One feels glad for the labouring classes, however, that the Great Reform Act of 1832 was to start opening the door to better living, and with it fairer treatment, but progress In this direction was slow.

  • 1. [Cussans]1, history of Hertfordshire.
  • 2. a. b. J.H.Bushy in Notes and Queries, Nov.1948.
  • 3. A broad arrow for marking sheep. William Thrale of Nomansland who died in 1883 gave the iron to Vicar John Griffith, and his daughter Mrs. A. S. Johns lent it to the St Albans Museum where it was exhibited in the 1940s. It was later acquired by Richard William Thrale and was exhibited again at the museum at their centenary exhibition in 1998.
  • 4. H.Gee, Reformation Period, pp.196-7.
  • 5. G.M.Trevelyan, English Social History, p.145.
  • 6. Edward Steele who visited Sandridge in 1715. His notes about the Church are in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, (Gough Herts MSS4).
  • 7. Record Of The Hertford County Sessions. Nine volumes edited by W. J. Hardy, F .S.A , and Colonel William Le Hardy, M.C., F.S.A. Vol.6, p.65.
  • 8. Record Of The Hertford County Sessions. Nine volumes edited by W. J. Hardy, F .S.A , and Colonel William Le Hardy, M.C., F.S.A. Vol.6, p.104.
  • 9. H.H.Scott, History of Tropical Medicine, Vol.2, p.735.
  • 10. Poor Law Commission of 1834, p47.
  • 11. Record Of The Hertford County Sessions. Nine volumes edited by W. J. Hardy, F .S.A , and Colonel William Le Hardy, M.C., F.S.A. Vol.7, p.166.
  • 12. Record Of The Hertford County Sessions. Nine volumes edited by W. J. Hardy, F .S.A , and Colonel William Le Hardy, M.C., F.S.A. Vol.7, p.209.
  • 13. Record Of The Hertford County Sessions. Nine volumes edited by W. J. Hardy, F .S.A , and Colonel William Le Hardy, M.C., F.S.A. Vol.2, p.72 and Vol.7, p.255.
  • 14. Record Of The Hertford County Sessions. Nine volumes edited by W. J. Hardy, F .S.A , and Colonel William Le Hardy, M.C., F.S.A. Vol.5, p.401.
  • 15. George Crabbe, The Village, Book I, p.14.
  • 16. George Crabbe, The Village, Book I, pp.16 and 17.
  • 17. Voters' List, p.57.
  • 18. Record Of The Hertford County Sessions. Nine volumes edited by W. J. Hardy, F .S.A , and Colonel William Le Hardy, M.C., F.S.A. Vol.4, p.46.
  • 19. The earliest known parish clerk was William Greed appointed in 1618.
  • 20. Tithe Commission Report 1844.
  • 21. Record Of The Hertford County Sessions. Nine volumes edited by W. J. Hardy, F .S.A , and Colonel William Le Hardy, M.C., F.S.A. Vol.4, p.13.

Historic Sandridge by Edward Giles and Richard William Thrale, with sketches by R. Giles. Published 1952. Reproduced with the kind consent of the late Richard Thrale.