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.
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.
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.
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.
[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
[iv] Other useful sites include: http://www.explorebritain.info/locality-hertfordshire-roe-green-tl3133 and British History Online at: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=43616