S slips into Sandon and Strachur

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which). My goal is to hand down the stories of the important places in our family history, and some travel memories, to our family.

S is for Sandon (Hertfordshire, England)

Sightseeing in Sandon © P Cass 2010

Sandon, Hertfordshire was the home of my Kent family for a couple of centuries and for at least some of this time they were publicans in Red Hill and Roe Green, nearby hamlets in this parish. Last year I talked about my discoveries in the enclosure records and how they helped knocked down some brick walls in my research.

Sandon remains a rural area, reflecting its agricultural heritage, but it’s also now in the “stockbroker belt”, close enough to commute to London and there’s no shortage of houses with heritage listings and big prices. The village seems to me to lack a “centre”, other than the old church which stands imposingly, solidly. Somehow the lychgate appeals to me as an entry point. The house opposite used to be a pub when we first visited, but no longer. I love the pond across the way with its ducks…very restful.

Roe Green is similarly peaceful, revealing only by its buildings that there’s a long history here. There’s a village green where no doubt cricket is played in summer, horses being walked and a general air of tranquillity; who wouldn’t want to live here.

S is for Strachur (Argyll, Scotland)

Strachur church.

My Morrison family lived in Strachur on Loch Fyne for many years on a farm called Inverglen. Like my Sim ancestors in Bothkennar, they were more established than others family lines, being involved in local business and community as well as farming. Luckily for me one of my 2xgreat-aunts was with the Morrison family on the 1841 census as a small child. I’d have liked it to be the 1851 census with relationships stated, but I’m reasonably sure that she was with her grandparents.

Some years ago we met a very elderly man from the Morrison family in Strachur, but at the time we couldn’t be sure of our relationship. We loved that he offered Mr Cassmob a whisky (at about 10am), which he accepted to be hospitable. As several fingers of single malt were poured Mr Morrison announced he never touched the stuff…needless to say I was the chauffeur that morning. Mr Morrison had a memory of meeting a Fergus McCorkindale, a person who at the time meant nothing to me. It was only later that I established he was a grandson to my great-grandfather through his first marriage and so my grandmother’s nephew.

Outside Creggans Inn is a plaque commemorating the spot where Mary Queen of Scots came ashore.

I’ve posted about Loch Fyne and how it feels like home to me. Sometime I’d love to see it on a clear blue day rather than in its grey winter clothes with scarves of fog and cloud. One visit we stayed at the historic Creggans Inn in Strachur, with its view across the loch to Inveraray. We were amused during our stay when the waitress slipped us some fresh raspberries to accompany our porridge, with the injunction “don’t tell cook”.

S is for Sadds Ridge Road (Charters Towers, Queensland)

World War I discovery in Milne Bay, Papua

Sadds Ridge Rd sign

I wrote previously how my husband found this old street sign on a coconut plantation near Gurney in Milne Bay. This is where Australian troops were stationed around the time of the Battle of Milne Bay. We’ve always assumed it was a souvenir that a soldier too with him, but have never been able to unearth anyone who might know more.

Did you have a relative who went from Charters Towers to Milne Bay?

Racing through R in Retford, Rotterdam and Rocky

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which). Today I am going to keep comments on each place succinct and refer you back to earlier posts.

R is for Retford (Nottinghamshire, England)

Grove St, Retford where Susannah Cass had her school for ladies. © P Cass 2006.

Mr Cassmob’s Cass ancestors lived in Retford where his 2xgreat grandmother Suzannah Cass and her sisters ran a school for young women with her sisters. The women lived in the adjacent area of Moorgate. Back in 2006 we had a great time on this particular leg of our family history adventures. You can read about it here.

R is for Rotterdam (Netherlands)

My 2xgreat grandfather, Laurence Melvin, worked as a merchant sailor, travelling between Leith and the northern European ports. He was a young man, with a wife and three small children, when he took ill on one of his voyages. He died overnight and is buried in Rotterdam. I’m not sure I’ll ever know precisely where.

R is for Rockhampton (Queensland)

Rockhampton was the Queensland hub for my McSherry/McSharry ancestors after they arrived in 1884/1883 respectively. Last year I posted about discovering the sale of my great-grandfather, Peter McSherry’s estate on Trove. More recently I wrote about how his mother, Bridget McSharry, had a boarding house in Rockhampton and the hardships she experienced in her new Queensland life, and the on-going mystery and brick wall of her husband, James McSharry.  Peter, his wife Mary, and mother Bridget are all buried in the Rockhampton cemeteries. Although I’ve visited Rocky briefly in recent decades, for me the mental associationis stopping there on the Sunlander train, and Dad making a mad dash to get us beautiful fish and chips for our lunch.

St Mary's Rushden is just delightful. © P Cass 2010

R is for Rushden (Hertfordshire, England)

Although my Kent (name, not place) ancestors belonged to the Sandon parish in Hertfordshire, it’s likely they also visited the Rushden church from time to time as it was just as close to the Red Hill area of Sandon. I too have visited this church several times over the decades. It may only be “just another 14th century church” to quote a family member, but I love its simplicity and its peace, tucked away up a lane. When the daffodils flower in the churchyard among the graves it is simply lovely. The village has many gorgeous old homes with timber work and thatched roofs. I’m also enamoured with the name of the local pub The Moon and Stars. In one of those flights of fancy I usually never apply to my ancestry, wouldn’t it be nice to think my Kent publicans might have worked there once.

The Ancestors’ Geneameme challenge from Geniaus

Geniaus has set us another challenge with The Ancestors’ Geneameme. This is my response to the challenge.

The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type
You are encouraged to add extra comments in brackets after each item

Which of these apply to you?

  1. Can name my 16 great-great-grandparents
  2. Can name over 50 direct ancestors
  3. Have photographs or portraits of my 8 great-grandparents
  4. Have an ancestor who was married more than three times
  5. Have an ancestor who was a bigamist (he wasn’t but his 4th wife was)
  6. Met all four of my grandparents ( I was lucky enough to have three of them into my teens or beyond.)
  7. Met one or more of my great-grandparents (all pre-deceased my arrival)
  8. Named a child after an ancestor (coincidentally though I knew it was similar)
  9. Bear an ancestor’s given name/s (not having an ancestral name was apparently intentional –ironically I’ve always felt like a Kate, a recurring family name on all sides: too late to bother changing it now)
  10. Have an ancestor from Great Britain or Ireland (all branches except my German one).
  11. Have an ancestor from Asia
  12.  Have an ancestor from Continental Europe (George Kunkel always said he was from Bavaria, not Germany)
  13. Have an ancestor from Africa
  14. Have an ancestor who was an agricultural labourer
  15. Have an ancestor who had large land holdings (a few with centuries of property either leased or owned but not large land holdings)
  16. Have an ancestor who was a holy man – minister, priest, rabbi (with all those Catholics, no direct ancestors, and none in the Protestant denominations either that I’ve found though lots in one family serving as churchwardens, overseers of the poor etc)
  17. Have an ancestor who was a midwife
  18. Have an ancestor who was an author (oh, how I wish)
  19. Have an ancestor with the surname Smith, Murphy or Jones (but try googling Partridge or Kent)
  20. Have an ancestor with the surname Wong, Kim, Suzuki or Ng
  21. Have an ancestor with a surname beginning with X
  22. Have an ancestor with a forename beginnining with Z
  23. Have an ancestor born/died on 25th December (my great-grandfather died on Xmas Day, six weeks after his wife died. They left a large family orphaned ranging from 21 to 2)
  24. Have an ancestor born on New Year’s Day (not a direct ancestor, but a few siblings)
  25. Have blue blood in your family lines (blue babies with Rh- blood, but no blue-blood royalty)
  26. Have a parent who was born in a country different from my country of birth
  27. Have a grandparent who was born in a country different from my country of birth (two: Scots Presbyterian on one side and Irish Catholic on the other)
  28. Can trace a direct family line back to the eighteenth century
  29. Can trace a direct family line back to the seventeenth century or earlier
  30. Have seen copies of the signatures of some of my great-grandparents
  31. Have ancestors who signed their marriage certificate with an X
  32. Have a grandparent or earlier ancestor who went to university (no, mine is the first university-educated generation as far as I know)
  33. Have an ancestor who was convicted of a criminal offence (he and a few others went to jail over perjury but released soon after appeals to the Qld Executive in relation to the court case)
  34. Have an ancestor who was a victim of crime (only minor events: one ancestor had his chickens stolen, as he was a butcher this would have been a hassle, another had his horse stolen. However one was a witness to an event in one of Qld’s first court cases which gave me new evidence on his own life.)
  35. Have shared an ancestor’s story online or in a magazine (I use my blog to tell some of my ancestor’s stories, have had the story of my great-grandmother’s rather gruesome death published in GSNT’s Progenitor magazine, and published a large number of short family histories as part of the Q150 projects with QFHS’s Founding Families, GSQ’s Queensland Pioneer Families 1859-1901 and Muster Roll, and TDDFHS’s Our Backyard, Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery.)
  36. Have published a family history online or in print (Grassroots Queenslanders: The Kunkel Family tells the story of the Kunkel family from Dorfprozelten, Bavaria and the O’Brien family from Ballykelly, Broadford, Co Clare, Ireland. It was published in 2003. Time for another?)
  37. Have visited an ancestor’s home from the 19th or earlier centuries: I’ve lacked the courage to door-knock current owners of most family homes overseas while in situ but we have stood on the land and among the house ruins where ancestors lived in Ireland, Scotland and Bavaria. Writing in advance to visit the surviving homes is on my courage wish list: one in Hertfordshire, one in Stirlingshire. And whoops, I forgot my Kunkel ancestor’s house in Australia which dates from the 1870s and which I have visited.
  38. Still have an ancestor’s home from the 19th or earlier centuries in the family
  39. Have a family bible from the 19th Century (I know one exists but no idea where it went to before my grandmother died).
  40. Have a pre-19th century family bible (again I could wish, and wish)


Sandon, Hertfordshire enclosure and the Kent family

Sometimes with family history it’s one small fact that is the key to opening a door. Such was the case with the enclosure documents I’d photographed while visiting the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS) last year.  Despite having the information for nearly a year I hadn’t got round to looking at it in detail until I took the Pharos  course on Enclosure Maps and Records for Family Historians.[i]

I won’t attempt to go into the details of enclosure here except to say that it was the process, put simply, whereby formerly common lands were enclosed for private use usually by the bigger landowners of a parish. Also during this process the landowners may have “swapped” their land plots with others in order to consolidate their properties in a more rational and productive way. The National Archives has this informative guide to Enclosure Records.

Roe Green a hamlet in Sandon parish, Herts, but no sign to my Kent family’s former home.

Sandon parish in Hertfordshire, where one branch of my ancestors lived, commenced this process in 1840 and the award was enrolled in 1842. [ii] At the conclusion of the enclosure process a detailed map was produced and all land adjustments recorded. This comprehensive map is available through HALS.[iii]

At the commencement of the enclosure process, a community meeting was held to discuss the ramifications and proposals around the enclosure. The meeting was advertised in advance by notices on the church door and also in the local newspaper, The Reformer. However it was the location of the meeting that was to be my gold key. It was held at the public house of Richard Kent known by the sign of the Anchor at Roe Green, a hamlet in the parish.

While I’d known from the 1841 and 1851 census enumerations that Richard Kent (and indeed his father) was a publican I had never known the name of the pub. This snippet giving its name was indeed the key to learning more about his life before he, his wife and adult family emigrated in 1854.

The next strategy I applied was to ascertain whether the pub was one of the UK’s listed buildings. I figured if it had been around for a couple of centuries, this might be possible.

Believe it or not, Roe Green really was this green! But which of these heritage houses might have been where my ancestor lived? © Pauleen Cass

There were two pathways to this information:

1. The first, through British Heritage, enables a search of a locality http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/. I used the advanced search to locate Sandon in Hertfordshire and not others.

2. The second provides the same information but you go directly through the Listed Buildings site at http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/england/hertfordshire which let me then choose the parish and the building.

Both provided me with a listing for The Old Anchor as it was also known in subsequent years. Both also provided me with detailed descriptions, but overall I think I prefer the first option as a search tool. So what did I learn about the building? The full description is subject to Crown Copyright but you can read it here. In essence, it is a former public house dating from the 17thcentury and is grade II listed. It also provides its grid reference and a local map. It must be said though that the location of the building on the map can be a little imprecise.

The (Old) Anchor on Roe Green, Sandon, Herts in 2010. © Pauleen Cass

Armed with this additional information, and the alternative title, I googled the name for more information, using various search combinations. This turned up a range of information ranging from real estate sales to renovation approvals, hiking/walking trails and general information. All of which are grist for the family history mill.[iv] One site in particular deals with the common lands, remaining after enclosure, in Sandon parish and specifically in the locality of Roe Green.

Google images provided me with a great photo of the house taken by Mark Jordan for Panoramio. It was so evident it was the Anchor, that I went back to my own photos, taken on a scattergun approach before I learned the name of the family’s public house and knew its location.  Lo and behold I had taken a photo which did show the anchor over the front door but it is nowhere near as obvious as on Panoramio. I’m indebted to Mark and his photo for giving me the “tipoff”. (Rhetorical question: why do you always learn pivotal information after you’ve visited the place??)

Another useful site I came across shows images of listed buildings circa 2001, at the turn of the 20thcentury.  Images of England is linked to the National Monuments Record website. The Old Anchor is photographed on this site and the copyrighted image can be seen here.

There are also a couple of sites which deal with old pubs or inns in Hertfordshire and mention this public house. They are a Flickr discussion site and Dead Pubs though both discuss later periods. Previous to learning the pub’s name I hadn’t had enough detail to know in which property at Roe Green the Kent family had lived. Now I could go back and trace it through all the decennial census records from 1841 through to 1911 using Findmypast UK: while not every census gives the actual name of the building, a couple do, which makes it possible to link them up. Historical Directories also provide useful information on the inhabitants over time.

What becomes apparent is that while Richard Kent classed himself in 1851 as a publican, as well as a farmer of 40 acres, presumably through a lease agreement. This was not the case with subsequent owners/tenants of The Anchor. Why was this so? Had his land lease been taken away? Was this one of the reasons the family left for Australia in 1854? Did the next tenant simply not want to take on the farming lease given they already had a trade? So many questions which only further research both in reading and in the archives might address.

Meanwhile I’m looking forward to learning more about the background by reading Behind the plough: agrarian society in nineteenth-century Hertfordshire by Nigel E Agar and Brewers in Hertfordshire – A historical gazetteer by Alan Whittaker.

This research is © P Cass September 2011.

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[i] These courses provide historical context for family history research and are excellent.

[ii] The Award is also available from The National Archives at Kew at CP 40/4003.

[iii] HALS reference QS/E/85. Sandon parish is also fortunate to have the Tithe map from 1840 as well. DSA4/90/2