52 Ancestor: Uvedale Davies

This week’s #52Ancestors is “How Do You Spell That?” When I first read my 3 x Great grandfather’s marriage certificate, I couldn’t make out his father’s first name. In my research since, I have seen it spelt in various imaginative ways in indexes including Uvidale and Uredale but my 4 x Great grandfather was called Uvedale Davies.

Baptised in Mansel Lacy, Herefordshire on 18th August 1776 to Thomas and Mary Davies, his unusual first name has made researching his life a bit easier in a county full of Davies’ ! I believe he was named after Uvedale Price who was Lord of the Manor at Foxley (in Mansel Lacy) at the time and author of Essays on the Picturesque.

Uvedale Davies had an interesting career trajectory. He started off being a carpenter and records show that he was apprenticed to a carpenter, Richard Morgan in Mansel Lacy in 1790.

By 1802, he was living at Hope under Dinmore and was taking on apprentices himself. Indeed his son, my 3x Great Grandfather was a cooper so continued a family tradition. However by 1841, Uvedale had become a clock and watch maker in Weobley, Herefordshire. I’m not sure how he would have picked up this trade but perhaps he had an aptitude for fixing and making intricate things and decided it was a more lucrative career.

Uvedale was an entrepreneur. In 1851 he was also a carrier to Hereford leaving his home at Weobley at 8 am on Wednesdays and Saturdays and returning from the Red Lion, Victoria street Hereford at 5 pm. From 1859 he returned from the Maidenhead Inn Eign Street.

On 22nd March 1799, Uvedale was married to Ann Munn in Mansel Lacy and they had one surviving son, George before Ann died. George and his sons became clock and watch makers and repairers. His second marriage, to my 4 x Great Grandmother, Harriet Gardiner was on 15th August 1814 in Hope under Dinmore and they had 5 children.

Uvedale died at the age of 86 on 23rd January 1862. Apparently there is one of his long case clocks on display at Weobley museum which I hope to go and see https://www.weobley.org/visiting.html


52 ancestors – Annie Louise Tanser

This weeks #52Ancestors theme is Females and the first person that came to mind was my great grandmother Annie Louise Tanser , known to my Mum as Nanny Brookes. Mum described her as being very proper with her furs and her corsets made at Gus Edwards in Hereford High Town. Mum used to do her chores and shopping and if there was any discrepancy in the money, then she would dock it from what she gave Mum for doing it. When looking into her life, I discovered a complicated life which still leaves unanswered questions.

Annie Louise Tanser was born in Leicester on 01 March 1879 to Mary Ann ( nee Hutchings) and Thomas Tanser. Her parents were from Northampton and they soon moved back there. She was christened on 12 June 1883 at St Edmunds Northampton with sisters Frances and Ellen and attended Military Road school in Northampton for a few years. I think life must have been difficult for her as a child. her father was up in court on numerous occasions for breaching the peace and also for assaulting her mother. the couple were to get a legal separation in 1909.

Annie was 17 when she first got married, to Ernest Chamberlain in St Michael & all Angels Northampton. I say first was married but although she was to refer to three men as her husband in her life, this is the only legal marriage I have been able to find and i believe Ernest was still living when she was with these other men. In fact in the 1901 census she is living with James Garfirth in Rushden Northamptonshire and says that she is his wife. In 1911 she is back being Annie Chamberlain.

Her working life and indeed that of her family was to revolve around the shoe trade which may well be the subject of another post! However I believe That in 1916 when he was stationed in Northampton, Annie met the man she would refer to as her husband, my great grandfather Allan Brookes. By 1921 Annie had moved to Hereford and was living with Allan as his wife. Some of her children remained behind in Northampton but some came with her and Annie later ran a boarding house in Castle street. Finding her children was a challenge for me as they were all given slight;y different surnames:

Joseph Walter Chamberlain b 1896 in Northampton ( who would only be 5 or so years younger than his stepfather Allan)

Florence Josephine Ada Chamberlain b 1899 Northampton ( known as Ada)

Ernest George Thomas GARFIRTH b 1901 Northampton

Lily Garfirth Chamberlain B 1903 Northampton

Nellie Garfirth Chamberlain B 1905 Northampton but died in 1906

Alfred Frederick Garfirth CHAMBERLAIN b 1907 Northampton( known as Terry)

Arthur Wilfred Garfirth CHAMBERLAIN B 1910 Northampton ( he grew up believing he was Arthur Brookes until he needed a birth certificate. later changed his name by deed poll to Brookes)

Gwendolin Betty Verdun Brookes CHAMBERLAIN B 1916 Northampton (my grandmother)

Allan John BROOKES b 1919 Hereford

It is through Annie and her daughter Lily that I have my tenuous claim to fame as being related to Martin Chambers of The Pretenders. Annie died in 1968 in Hereford and is buried in St Martins church in the city.


English Land Tax Records

This week’s #52Ancestors theme is Landed and as my family don’t seem to have owned much property between them, I thought I would talk about English Land Tax records in general.

Originally brought in in 1692/3, records can exist up until 1963 but generally the time period that provides the best evidence is that from c 1780 until 1832. From 1780 payment of land tax could be evidence to qualify to vote in a General Election. Thus, duplicates of land tax assessments for the county were lodged with the Clerk of the Peace. The introduction of electoral registers in 1832 rendered land tax records unnecessary for qualification and so after this date were not as assiduously kept.

Land tax records usually form part of Quarter Sessions records at your local archive and are organised first by county , then Hundred and finally parish. So it is important that you know which hundred your parish comes under. Hundreds in Herefordshire are listed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hundreds_of_England_and_Wales#Herefordshire and there are also other counties listed. A Herefordshire map is here Remember that property does not necessarily stick to parish boundaries so one farm may be listed over more than one parish and landowners may have properties in various counties.

Land tax records list:

Landowners ( proprietors)

from 1772, Occupiers

Sometimes the name of the property

How much tax was liable

However there are a few caveats. A proprietor may not necessarily be a freeholder but a long lease holder and an occupier could be a tenant or a sub-tenant. Also some occupiers are missed off altogether or lumped together as “labourers’ cottages” without necessarily mentioning the labourers by name. These things do vary from parish to parish and over time. Some assessments were filled in with more detail than others.

The same can be said for names both of individuals and properties. Sometimes a full name will be listed, other times just Mr Jones. Properties can be easily identified in some records and not in others. Take these two examples from Peterchurch in Herefordshire.

1789

Mr Williams for his own                                            0          4          0

Landlord:         Mr Williams

Tenant:            Edward Pritchard                                2          3          4

Tenant:            Mr J Lanwarn                                      2          2          0

Landlord:         Samuel Waring

Tenant:            Mr Hughes                                        3          6          0

1829

Landlord:         Sir G Cornewallis bart

Tenant:            Thomas Williams                              0          4          6

Land:               Dorston

Landlord:         Henry Allen esq

Tenant:            James Lewis                                     1          3          0

Land:               Dragon’s pool

Landlord:         Mrs Phillips

Tenant:            Martha Lewis Lionshale                    2          16        0

Tenant:            Martha Lewis Woods                        0          10        6

As the list is annual it can be possible to trace arrival and departure dates of an individual to a parish. Change of ownership can possibly give you a clue as to the date of death of an individual. The amount of land tax paid was decided on fixed quotas for each county. For example the 4 most Northerly English Counties paid less than more Southern ones. This means that it is impossible to compare land values across the country. Generally speaking the rate was set at 4s in the pound. However even land of the same acreage could be taxed differently depending on its productivity.

In 1798 the Land Tax Redemption office was created and Landowners could pay a lump sum equal to 15 years tax or purchase government stock to be exonerated from tax. Owners of land that was valued under 20 shillings also stopped being charged land tax from this date.

Land tax records are useful in looking at how land was arranged in your parish. The name of a big landowner such as the Duke of Norfolk who owned land in Herefordshire, may lead you to look at their records for information on your particular area. Tithe maps and enclosure awards can also be used together with land tax records to give you an idea as to the location and extent of your family’s holdings. Some counties records are available online at Findmy Past or visit your local archives and have a rummage. You never know what you may find!


52 Ancestors – Who is Uncle Ran?

This week’s theme is Curious and the person that has provoked the most head scratching is Uncle Ran, not so much about his vital statistics rather than how he fits in with the family, if he fits in at all.

My Mum used to talk fondly of summer holidays spent at Uncle Ran and Auntie Annie’s farm, New House Farm, Little Dewchurch, just south of Hereford.. Sadly no longer there, it was accessed across two fields and had no electricity or running water. Mum remembers big feather beds and roaming the country singing the theme from Davy Crockett! Uncle Ran was described as being rosy cheeked with one tooth and “legs that wouldn’t stop a pig”. Ran and Annie had a daughter called Dorothy who apparently had moved away after her parents death.

We discovered that Uncle Ran’s name was in fact William Randall Davies. This seemed to fit in as my maternal great grandmother was a Davies. After finding his gravestone in the tiny church at Bolstone, accessed through a farmyard and over a gate, we found out that Auntie Annie was in fact a Violet Annie and also their birth and death dates. Uncle Ran had died in St Mary’s Hospital (which is just up the road from where I live now) of dementia in 1968. Having a rough birth date was a godsend as you can imagine how many William R Davies’ there are in Herefordshire and surrounding areas. He was born in 1890 in Llowes, which is just outside of Hay on Wye, to William and Agnes Davies. However his father was born in Talgarth and had no connection with “my” Davies family. Similarly, his mother was also born in Llowes and I have no connections there.

I thought then perhaps that Auntie Annie was the connection but finding their marriage was a nightmare. I tried tracking down Dorothy’s birth to get a mother’s maiden name but without a firm date of birth you’d be surprised at how many Dorothy Davies’ were born in Herefordshire in the 1920s. Eventually I found her birth and her parents marriage. William Randall Davies married Violet Annie Pugh in the December quarter of 1925 in the Pontypridd district. There are no Pughs on my tree and the only connection with Pontypridd is through my 2 x great Uncle Garnett Griffiths who moved there in the 1910s.

So I am left with a number of questions:

What is their connection with my family? Are they friends of the family and if so, how did they meet as they don’t seem to have connection with Hereford City and my family has no obvious connection with Llowes or Little Dewchurch.

What made Uncle Ran and his family move to Little Dewchurch? The 1921 census shows Ran still living at home with his mum and sisters in the Mill at Llowes and as Little Dewchurch is about 30 miles away, it doesn’t seem like a natural move.

It is one of the cases where I might never know the answer but will keep chipping away until the Eureka moment hits!


52 Ancestors – Major Griffiths

This weeks’ #52Ancestors theme is favourite photo. This, to be honest changes all the time but today it is this photo of my Mum and the family dog Major. My grandad spent a long time on the army so I’m sure it tickled him to be able to order a Major around even though Major was very much his own dog!

Major used to follow my aunts into town when they were going to work and sit outside barking until they came out with a treat. This was obviously preferable to being dressed up in a baby’s bonnet and put in a toy pushchair by my Mum!!

One Christmas day my Grandad took Major to the Gamecock pub in Hereford. Whilst there, Major managed to get drunk and Grandad left him there to sleep it off. However my Mum and aunts made such a fuss, Grandad had to drive round and pick him up before anyone would eat Christmas dinner. Thank goodness there were no after effects.

My grandmother used to be horrified as Major had a habit of stealing bread, bacon and other bits from the Co-op van. He never ate any of it but proudly brought it in to my grandmother.

All of this is despite the fact that my Grandad used to train German Shepherds and won awards for their obedience. Stories of Major always used to make me laugh and hence today’s photo. Gone but definitely not forgotten!


52 Ancestors – William O’Brien O’Grady

This week’s theme for #52Ancestors is “Favourite Find” and mine is my great uncle William O’Brien O’Grady. Through family rumour and legend, one of my grandad’s brothers ( there were 7 of them) was a passionist priest called Father Cornelius who was based at some point in Paris.

I eliminated some of the brothers but still had two possible candidates. On the off chance, I found teh website of teh Passionist order in paris and emailed them in my A level French. they could not help me but directyed me to the Order’s main base in Ireland. I wasn’t holding out much hope but I got a wonderfeul reply. It included a photo of my great uncle when he was in the seminary in Enniskillen ( he is no. 2) and also an obituary which gave a flavour of the man he was.

William O’Brien O’Grady was born in Ballaghderreeen on 25th February 1890 to Anthony and Bridget O’Grady (both school teachers). He professed on February 19th 1908 at Enniskillen and was ordained in Dublin on 21st December 1913.

From his obituary:

“His outstanding personality was soon recognised and in 1920 he was appointed vice-master of novices; after that he was successively director of students and Vicar at Mt. Argus, Dublin.

When the Anglo-Hibernian Province was divided in 1927, Fr. Cornelius was appointed Rector of St. Annes Retreat, Sutton, where he remained until 1932. From 1933-1938 he was in charge of the chapel-of-ease at Hatchard Road, Highgate, and thanks to his activities, that pro-parish was soon put on a very sound basis and among the parishioners his memory is still green and venerated, and many stories are_ current of his kindness and humour.


From 1939-1950 he was Superior of St. Joseph’s Church, Paris. This was his longest, most exciting and most renowned superiorship. The period, of course, covered the war years when Fr. Cornelius was seen at his best. In spite of the strict rationing he somehow managed to get adequate food for hi~ community, and sometimes he was seen tramping across Paris and climbing steep stairs to take a few eggs or a little butter to a poor Irish or English governess. These gifts were made possible only by the sacrifice of little extras which had been given to him for his own use. Of the German occupation he had many grim and humorous stories to tell, including the story of his arrest and a couple of months in a German concentration camp. He handled the Germans with tact and courtesy and was rescued from several awkward predicaments by his ready wit.

With the French he was a great favourite and maintained cordial relations with the authorities, both civil and ecclesiastical. His wit and fluent, though not exactly classical, French were a constant source of amusement at the curial offices. The charity and hospitality of Fr. Cornelius became a by-word in the English-speaking community of France. Priests who called at Avenue Hoche were certain of a warm welcome and generous hospitality. Clerics who were students in France at that time remember him with warm affection and gratitude. The French clergy still enquire solicitously about “Pere O’Gradi” When he eventually he left Paris, the Cardinal sent the Vicar-General of the Archdiocese to see him off.

After leaving Paris Fr. Cornelius was Rector of Blythe Hall from 1950-1953 and Superior of Herne Bay from 1953-1959.

As a superior he was noted for his charity and understanding and if he had a fault at all, it was excessive kindness. He excelled in creating and maintaining a community-spirit among his subjects and to those in trouble he was always a helpful and compassionate father.

As a retreat-master and missioner he was one of the old school who gave satisfaction and edification wherever he went.
During his last days in Highgate he gave great edification by his patience and zeal. As long as he was able? he dragged himself down to the confessional and was always anxious to help in any way that he possibly could. He hated not to be,asked to do things. About his sufferings he maintained an almost unbroken silence and the doctors sometimes wished that he were less patient. After a long illness patiently borne he died quietly after a fierce heart attack. It was surely fitting that his “dies natalisll should have coincided with Our Lord’s own birthday.”

Such a wonderful obituary makes me sad that our lives never crossed but proud to be related to him.


52 Ancestors – Harry Griffiths

This year I have decided to take part in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 ancestors which is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. To find out more about it: https://www.amyjohnsoncrow.com/52-ancestors-in-52-weeks/

Week one’s theme is Foundations. About 23 years ago I began my family history journey by looking in a tin that had belonged to my maternal grandfather Edward James Griffiths. It had sat in the garage for a number of years and no-one was sure what was in there. What I found were some birth, marriage and death certificates and other pieces of information that would enable me to start my family tree. Although I knew that my Mum’s family were from Hereford, I didn’t know much more and so every step was a revelation. So, let me introduce my great grandfather Harry Griffiths:

Harry was the son of John Griffiths, a shoemaker, and his wife Mary Ann (nee Baker) and was born in Bush Bank, Herefordshire on 15th October 1877, only about 5 miles from where I live now. By the time he was 13 years old, Harry was an apprentice carpenter and living in Gomond street in the middle of Hereford. For most of his life he would would either be a carpenter or a workman. The 1901 census saw him living in Ledbury road, Hereford and was still a carpenter.

This was all interesting but what came next was a bit of a surprise. In his marriage to my great grandmother in 1917, he was listed as a bachelor but in fact he had been married before with two children! The 1911 census saw him living with his first wife (Fanny Elizabeth Newman) and her family in Leominster, Herefordshire. two children were registered to the couple, Ethel May born 1913 and William Henry born 1915. I searched thoroughly for the death of Fanny but there was no sign – could Harry be a bigamist?

This case taught me not to make assumptions. I had wrongly though that divorce was out of the question as they were relatively poor, however they were divorced in 1916 using a poor person’s divorce. Harry divorced Fanny on the grounds of her adultery with a Thomas Broome in Tenbury amongst other places. He also said that the two children were not his. Perhaps this is why he said he was a bachelor in his subsequent marriage. the divorce papers ( which I obtained from the National Archives) also filled in another blank. Although I knew he had been in World War One, there was no sign of him n the military records. However, his divorce papers stated that In 1916 he was living at 12 Ann street Abercynon but serving in F company of 21st Welsh Regiment, stationed at Kinmel Park St Asaph.

Harry Grifiiths married my great grandmother Elizabeth Davies on 5 December 1917 in All Saints, Hereford. My granddad didn’t have much good to say about his father but they lived for a time in Coningsby street Hereford followed by a house on the newly built College Estate. 1939 saw him working at the Royal Ordinance factory art Rotherwas as a shell filler and at wife’s death in 1942, Harry is listed as a munitions worker and shell filler living at 20 College Green Hereford.

Later in life, Harry had lost his legs and my Mum remembers asking him why he couldn’t skip like her! he also used to call her Bless and Kip. He seems to have lived with my Mum and her family for a while and died in Bromyard Hospital on 29th December 1955 of Myocardial degeneration, broncho pneumonia and Arterio Sclerosis. He is buried in an unmarked grave in St Martin’s, Hereford.


Shop ’til you Drop – 1861 style!

This month I have been looking at some of the delights on offer in Hereford in October 1861, courtesy of the Hereford Times. What would tempt you to splash the cash?

French and English Stay and Bonnet Warehouse

9 Saint Peters Street Hereford

Mrs Maclean

Begs most respectfully to inform the Ladies of this City and Neighbourhood that she has returned from London with a large stock of NEW GOODS for the AUTUMN and WINTER trade in straw, crinoline and military bonnets, ladies and Children’s Felt hats in Registered Shapes etc; French and English Ribbons, Flowers, Feathers; French and English Stays of the latest improved shapes. 

Mrs M begs to call particular attention to her large stock of Ladies Crinoline, both of English, French and American manufacture, with all the new improvements in patent adjusted springs etc. 

Bonnets Cleaned, Altered and Turned to the prevailing fashion.

Hereford Times 05 October 1861


Great Bargains in ironmongery

Selling off at J Grout’s (late Stephens’)

15 High Town Hereford

J.G being about to make considerable alterations on the above premises begs to inform Friends and the Public in general that he is now offering the whole of his old stock at a reduction of at least 50 per cent consisting of Register and other stoves, Fenders, Fire irons, Iron bedsteads, Papier maché and Japanned trays, Tea and coffee urns, Metal tea and coffee pots, Electro-plated wares, Dish covers, Baths, Toilet wares, Tin Goods, Builders’ ironmongery etc

N.B. Hotel and Innkeepers will find this a favourable opportunity.

Hereford Times 12 October 1861


Hereford Ropery, 10 Commercial Road

T Simister

Begs to inform his friends and the Public that he intends re—opening his Old-Established shop in the New Market entrance, High Town on Wednesday next, where they can be supplied on market days with Ropes, Twines, Sacks, waterproof covers and every other article connected with the trade.

T.S would also like to call l attention to his matting and fancy repository, High Street – Cocoa matting in stock from one foot to two yards wide and made up to any size required; likewise doormats in great variety

Hereford Times 12 October 1861


Photographic Institute

Castle Hill, Castle Green

Proprietor: Mr Wm Pousty of London and Cheltenham

Cartes de Visite, Album pictures and every style of Photographic portrait.

N.B. the first-class negative pictures are all coloured by Mr Gwatkin Hill

Carte de Visite 6 for 20s or 21 for one Guinea.

Hereford Times 12 October 1861


Pure Cheap Stirling Tea!!

Families and large consumers of tea are invited to make trial of the Sterling Congou at three shillings and three shillings and fourpence per pound being of good quality and worthy of trial.  New fruit of finest growth.

A Powell and Son

Eign street, Hereford

High street Kington

Hereford Times 19 October 1861


Golden Cross

Maylord street

Opposite the new market entrance

E. Fowles jun

Serves in any quantity either in or out of the House, the following beverages at the lowest prices:-

Genuine foreign wines and spirits

Family Fresh Dinner and Supper Ales

Dublin Porter, Cider, Perry etc

Chops, steaks at any hour

Well aired beds.  Comfort and economy.

Hereford Times 19 October 1861


John Griffiths (late foreman to Mr J . l Stephens),

bellhanger, locksmith, whitesmith, shoeing and jobbing smith, respectfully informs the public generally that he has commenced business in the above lone and hopes by strict attention to business, together with good workmanship, and moderate charges, to merit a share of public support.

Wire fencing. Palisading etc neatly and expeditiously executed. Wrought iron cider Mill screws on sale

New Market street, Hereford.  October 4th 1861

N.B. An apprentice wanted

Hereford Times 26 October 1861


Cheshire Cheese warehouse

New Ready Money Provision shop

No.2 Crescent (opposite the new market entrances) Maylord street, Hereford

C Everall

General Provision merchant

Begs to announce to the Public that he is removing from Church Street to the more commodious premises No. 2 Crescent, Maylord Street.

C.E. has just concluded engagements with some of the most celebrated Dairies in the kingdom and is about to visit the first Markets.  He will open his shop on Wednesday next when all persons desirous of purchasing the following articles of first rate quality, at the lowest prices, will find it to their advantage to give the above establishment a trial:

  • Cheshire Cheese
  • Gloucester cheese
  • Cheddar cheese
  • American cheese
  • Radnorshire Tub Butter
  • Fresh Butter and Eggs
  • Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, regularly by the Worcester railway
  • Genuine Scotch Oatmeal of the finest quality at the lowest price
  • Country fed and Home Cure bacon
  • Smoked bacon and Hams, highly recommended by families and hotels
  • Hillier’s celebrated pork sausages received fresh every morning at 10d per pound
  • Fine new Split Peas
  • Prime Lard
  • Pickles, pickling Vinegar
  • Worcester sauce
  • Spanish and English Onions
  • Etc etc

N.B. Families and Hotels supplied at Wholesale Prices

Observe: The new provision shop will open on Wednesday next.

Hereford Times 26 October 1861


Researching your agricultural Labourer ancestors

I cannot be the only person who has been disappointed in finding another agricultural labourer in their family tree, thinking that it must be a dead end.  It is true there is no single set of records that allow us to find out directly about our agricultural ancestors, but there are, however, a range of other sources that may give us an insight into their lives.

Local newspapers can be a rich source of information especially from the early 19th century onwards.  They may carry reports of the Agricultural Labourers Trade Union meetings, agricultural society dinners and other social events.  There may also be reports of ploughing matches and agricultural fairs.  Your ancestor could have won a prize for his large onions or the straightest furrow.  If you know the farm they worked on, there may be a farmer’s letter talking about the conditions and/or the good or bad harvest. 

Estate records can be very useful but it is a case of good luck if they have survived.  Larger estates tend to be the ones that did and the Victoria County histories can be used to identify the big landowners in the local area.  In some places however, smaller farms’ records have survived.  In Herefordshire Archives there are day books from the Garnons, Hampton Court and Moccas estates.

Rent rolls are a list of landlord’s lands and buildings with the rents due from them.  This may be in cash, kind (such as a certain percentage of produce), or labour.  These can range from just a name and a figure to more detailed descriptions of the tenant and the property they leased.  HARC has a wide range of these rent rolls and although you may not find your specific ancestor, it does give you a good idea of the community they were living in.  There may also be lease and tenancy agreements which will give you more information about the type of property your ancestor was living in.

Surviving wage books are rare but can be essential for discovering more about the work your ancestor undertook.   Agricultural labouring was not a single trade.  There were many different skill subsets within it which all attracted different wages.  Mostly seasonal tasks such as hedge laying, would have been noted in the account books.  For example, in Herefordshire in 1794, basic wages were a shilling a day, but hedge laying was paid at between 4d. and 6d. a perch (seven yards, or 6.5 metres) and an expert might lay three perches a day, thereby earning up to 18d. a day.[1]  There were also other seasonal variations.  According to an 1804 Report, Herefordshire agricultural wages averaged six shillings a week in winter, seven shillings in summer (for a longer day) but harvest wages were nearly double this. [2]  HARC has wage books from the Biddulph family estate near Ledbury, recent wage books from Gallimore and Parry Hop farm, wage books from the Garnons and the Pateshall family from Allensmore.

Hiring Fairs, for both farm and domestic servants, lasted in Herefordshire until the late nineteenth century.  At Bromyard, for instance, traditional ‘Mop Fairs’ were still held on May 1st and September 29th in the 1860s.[3]  Records of some hiring fairs are also available in local record offices.  For example, Chippenham Hiring Fair records at Swindon History Centre include a register of persons hired, where born, ages, duties, wages, last employer, and other details.  Some fairs have more detailed records than others depending in the how efficient the market clerk was.  Hiring fairs often were a little rowdy so your ancestor may have been named as being drunk and disorderly in the local press!

Farmers union records also exist and include minutes, lists of members, annual reports etc.  Agricultural reports made for the government such as Duncombe’s General View of the Agriculture of the County of Hereford (1805) can give a great background into working conditions and type of work undertaken. 

Tithe Maps of the 1830s and 1840s will give you information about the land use where your ancestor may have worked.  The Herefordshire Field-Names and Landowners Database (https://htt.herefordshire.gov.uk/her-search/field-names-and-landowners/) based on these tithe maps lists the field names  and landowners of each parish and these have been made into maps by Geoff Gwatkin http://www.geoffgwatkinmaps.co.uk/.

The National Farm Survey of 1941, held at The National Archives, can provide information on:

  • farm land
  • farmers and farm owners
  • life on a farm
  • the wider community within the parish where a farm was located

Every farm and holding of five acres and more was surveyed, including those of market gardeners, horticulturists, and poultry-keepers.  The survey also included a set of maps which showed the land belonging to each farm or smallholding.  Unfortunately, these records are not available online so you will need a trip to Kew or order copies online which can be expensive.

Further Reading:

(available free online) Lack, Katherine Joan (2012) Family dispersal in rural England: Herefordshire, 1700-1871.  Thesis for University of Birmingham

Waller, Ian. (2008) My Ancestor Was an Agricultural Labourer. (SOG)

Brown, Jonathan (2011) Tracing Your Rural Ancestors: a guide for family historians (Pen & Sword).

Hammond, John & Barbara (2005) The Village Labourer 1760- 1832(The History Press).

Reay, Barry (2004) Rural Englands (Palgrave MacMillan). 

Fussell, G E (1949) The English Rural Labourer; his home, furniture, clothing & food, from Tudor to Victorian times(Batchworth Press).


[1] Lack, Katherine Joan (2012) Family dispersal in rural England: Herefordshire, 1700-1871.  Thesis for University of Birmingham. P. 42.

[2] Lack, Katherine Joan (2012) Family dispersal in rural England: Herefordshire, 1700-1871.  Thesis for University of Birmingham. P. 43.

[3] Lack, Katherine Joan (2012) Family dispersal in rural England: Herefordshire, 1700-1871.  Thesis for University of Birmingham. P. 41


Flippin’ Marvellous – Some Shrove Tuesday Customs that don’t involve pancakes

Hopefully today you are enjoying some tasty pancakes but have you thought about how people celebrated Shrove Tuesday in times gone by?

In 1837 there was a letter of complaint to the Hereford Times about the “ridiculous and dangerous practice” in Kington of men and boys on the evening of Shrove Tuesday being allowed to “parade the town’s fire engines through the streets….incommoding the inhabitants and inundating the streets with water”.[i]

Another of Kington’s Shrove Tuesday customs at that time was “all the low fry and idle hobbldehoys” paying visits to the townspeople, demanding ale and cider.  If they did not get it then they inflicted “gross abuse and the most outrageous insolence” on the families.[ii]

One Shrove Tuesday custom that had died out by the end of the 19th century was that of cock fighting.  One type of event was that of throwing sticks at the hens and cocks.  The bird was tied by its leg and the person stood 22 yards away.  They typically had three throws for about 2p and they won the bird if they could knock it down.[iii]

Another custom that took place in both Ludlow and Presteigne was that of Pulling the Rope.  In Ludlow the rope was given out by the Mayor at the Market Hall.  The town was divided into four wards of roughly similar numerical value.  Two wards would then face each other to pull on the rope.  At one point it was said to have caused great excitement in the town with “all classes, from the aristocracy down to the humble labourer engaged in the contest” [iv], however 1854 was the first year it was discontinued and it went out of fashion.

In Presteigne though it was still going in 1903. The rope was purchased by subscriptions from the inhabitants. And two sides are formed. The aim was to dip the end of your part of the rope in the River Lugg which runs at opposite ends of the town.  If the rope was dipped in the Lower part of the river it is believed that the bread will rise and vice versa is true.[v]

[i] Hereford Times. 18 Feb 1837. Kington Nuisance. P. 4 col.6

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Leominster News and North West Herefordshire and Radnorshire Advertiser. 25 February 189. P. 02. Col. 04.

[iv] Hereford Times. 04 March 1854. P. 07. Col. 07.

[v] Hereford Journal. 28 Feb 1903. An Old Custom. P. 06. Col. 04.