Fragments of Two Centuries - Glimpses of Country Life when George III. was King
by Alfred Kingston
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Out of the parochial inertia and the demoralization, discontent and lawlessness, which we have seen springing up, a full crop, from the old Poor-law, the Commission of 1831 presented a report which left no alternative but a sweeping measure of reform of the parochial life if England was to be saved from its own children, who, living a parasitical life, were eating away the vitals of that upon which they thrived. Salvation from within the parish was now well-nigh impossible. So the new Poor-law of 1834 swept away the parish as a unit of Poor-law administration—the Churchwardens and Overseers were no longer to meet after service in Church to consider applications for relief or the apprenticing of pauper children. The new order provided for grouping a score, more or less, of such parishes into a Union, with some uniform system of administration which should be less dependent upon the circumstances and prejudices of an individual parish.

The Royston Union was formed in 1835, consisting of 29 parishes in Herts., Cambs., and Essex, as at present.

The first chairman was John Bendyshe, Esq., J.P., of Kneesworth, and John George Fordham, Esq., was vice-chairman. Mr. Henry Thurnall was appointed Clerk (an office he continued to hold for forty years), Mr. Thomas Wortham, auditor, and Mr. J. E. Fordham, of Melbourn Bury, treasurer.


For the purposes of the administration of relief, the Union was at first divided into three districts, or divisions as they were called, and a relieving officer for each was appointed at L80 a year salary. This arrangement, however, only lasted a short time, and a re-arrangement was made dividing the Union into two districts as at present, with a Relieving Officer for each at a salary of L120 a year.

Previous to the erection of the "Central Workhouse," as it was at first called, the Guardians held their meetings weekly at the Red Lion Inn, on Fridays, and the first meeting held on 3rd July, 1835, lasted, we are told, from ten o'clock in the morning to four o'clock in the afternoon.

One of the first acts of the new Authority was to secure a suitable site for the erection of a Workhouse upon, and having secured of Mr. Luke his meadow in Baldock Street, plans were drawn up by Mr. William Thomas Nash for a building to accommodate 350 inmates; the contract for the building was obtained, and carried out by Mr. Gray, of Litlington, and a loan of L7,700 was obtained from the Loan Commissioners.

Before the new order of things had gone far, and ere the walls of the Workhouse were up, the paupers of the old school set up a sort of vested interest in the old order, became dangerously discontented at the prospect of having to work, and the ill-advised action of individuals fanned this into a flame of indignation under which the pauperised element in the villages was encouraged to look upon the great central Workhouse arising on the borders of Royston Heath as a sort of bastille, where for the misfortune of being poor they were to be shut away from their kith and kin, and no longer to have any claim upon the Overseer for that convenient subsidy of "making up" whenever they did not think well to work. So strong did the feeling become that there were disturbances in several parishes, especially in the two Mordens, where the opprobrious Relieving Officer met with anything but a friendly reception on his first visits, and certain individuals from that parish, on applying for relief, found that the supply was cut off until it was safe for the Relieving Officer to enter their parish!

About the same time a dreadful fire occurred at Bassingbourn which was so closely associated in the popular mind with the prevailing discontent that the services of a "Bow Street Runner" to scour the district in search of the incendiary were paid for out of the rates. Efforts were made to reconcile the inhabitants in the villages to the new order of things, and for a very sensible letter or address to the inhabitants which was written (and printed and circulated) by the late Mr. Henry Thurnall, the writer was specially commended by the Poor-law Commissioners.


Another active and sagacious worker in the cause of popularising the reform was Mr. John George Fordham (the vice-chairman of the Board), who did not hesitate to pay repeated visits to all parts of the district during the riots already described, and endeavoured by every reasonable means to quell the popular irritation which had existed for some time before the formation of the Union in anticipation of the new Poor-law. For similar services to these, Mr. Fordham had already received the thanks of Lord Verulam, Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, and was placed on the Commission of the Peace as a magistrate for Hertfordshire, the first Nonconformist to be made a county magistrate for Herts. By the time the new Central Workhouse at Royston was built, the worst forms of popular discontent would have subsided but for the action of one or two individuals of note upon whom it is fitting that a few words should here be bestowed.

The principal agents were two clergymen in the district—the Rev. Thomas Clack, curate of Guilden Morden, and the Rev. Frederick Herbert Maberley, curate of Bourn, Cambs., who had for some time convened meetings of agricultural labourers in their own and surrounding parishes, and harangued them upon the supposed horrors of the new Poor-law Prison to which they would be consigned if they did not rise as one man to stand up for their rights! Growing bolder in their agitation these gentlemen conceived the design of calling a monster meeting from all the parishes belonging to the Royston Union, to be held on Royston Heath in front of the unfinished building. An attack upon, and the demolition of the building, was freely talked about and expected, and from the temper which had been already displayed in former riots, the event was looked forward to with some anxiety! The handbill convening the meeting was of an inflammatory kind, and the new Board of Guardians thought it necessary to call a special meeting of their body at the Red Lion to decide what should be done. The outcome of this meeting was that the Clerk (Mr. Thurnall), Mr. W. T. Nash, and Mr. John Phillips were appointed a deputation to wait upon the Poor-law Commissioners and upon the Home Secretary, to see what measures they would advise, for the Parish Constable and the Beadle, and the swearing in of special constables was about all that the local authority could muster for the preservation of the peace.

This deputation waited upon Lord John Russell, then Home Secretary, with the result that an inspector and a sufficient police force were promised to be despatched from London to Royston on the day before that announced for the meeting. Letters were also sent to the Lord Lieutenants of both counties, and to the promoters of the meeting, warning the latter of their responsibility should any serious disturbance occur.


The day appointed for the meeting was Wednesday, 22nd June, 1836. Inside the unfinished building on the morning of that day there is a strange and an anxious company assembled—the Earl of Hardwicke, Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, is there, several local Magistrates, several of the Guardians, and a posse of about a score of Metropolitan police (the County police, as we now know them, had not then come into existence), all assembled to await the threatened storming of the bastille, as the new Workhouse was called by the agitators! It was market day and the town and neighbourhood of Royston were in a considerable state of alarm and excitement, in consequence of the expected meeting. The handbill convening the meeting had been freely circulated, calling upon the labouring population to "come in thousands" and assemble opposite the new Poor-law Prison! This address was signed by the Rev. H. F. Maberley. The Magistrates of the division issued a caution to the people, and this was placarded about the neighbouring villages, warning all persons that if any breach of the peace took place, every individual present would be liable to be apprehended and punished according to law. As a further precaution, "A most efficient body of police" was sent down under the command of Inspector Harpur, as stated above.

Meanwhile there was, we are told, by the old chronicler, [Cambridge Chronicle] "a deep feeling among the upper and middle classes of society, that imminent danger to the public peace was to be apprehended from a meeting of the labourers called to petition on the subject of the new Poor-law opposite a new unfinished house of considerable extent, by a handbill characterising the new building as a new Poor-law Prison, and therefore no one chose to interfere in the discussions of the meeting."

"The labourers, with a large proportion of women and children, continued to arrive in wagons, carts, and on foot, all through the morning, and they sat down opposite the Workhouse on the road side." Being questioned they said "They expected they had come to pull down the Workhouse, but they were waiting for the gentlemen who called the meeting"! They "appeared to consider their object one of ordinary duty, as they spoke without excitement or intemperate language." Soon after 12 o'clock the clerical champion, Rev. H. F. Maberley, arrived, accompanied by the Rev. T. Clack, curate of Guilden Morden, and they soon commenced the great business of demonstrating, but possibly from hearing of the Home Secretary's reinforcements, they assembled the people on the Heath a distance of a quarter-of-a-mile from the Workhouse, and Mr. Clack opened the proceedings in a jubilant strain with a Scriptural quotation, "This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." Some 1,500 persons, of whom at least two-thirds were said to have been {173} women and children, listened to the harangue "with listless indifference," possibly because words did not pull the building down. The Rev. H. F. Maberley declaimed against separating old men and women and the prospective hardships of the new order of things. The whole proceedings lasted several hours, and a storm of rain did not help the ardour of the crusaders.

At the conclusion, however, the people drew the rev. gentlemen in a wagon through some of the streets of the town and the threatened storm passed off without any breach of the peace occurring. The chronicle of the time says:—"The labourers went away apparently dissatisfied with the result, having learned nothing to instruct them," and "the whole was the completest failure ever experienced as to any public meeting." The Guardians laid the matter before the Bishop of the Diocese as to the conduct of the clergymen named, but in the general satisfaction at the peaceful ending of the affair, things gradually settled down into the system as we now know it.

The old parish Workhouses were sold, pulled down, or otherwise dealt with, and the proceeds were in some cases invested in Consols and still appear occasionally as an item to the credit of the parish in parochial balance sheets. The Royston Parish Workhouse on the Warren was sold by auction and realized L315, leaving, after expenses and the paying of a parish loan, advanced by Mr. Phillips, a balance of L166.

The new Workhouse was commenced in October, 1835, upon the site of an old barn the property of Mr. Luke, which had just been blown down. It was finished in September, 1836, the Royston paupers being removed from the old Workhouse on the Warren and those from the villages brought in, notwithstanding the indignation of the Revs. Maberley and Clack.

For some years the new system was the subject of not a little hostile criticism and the meetings were not always harmonious.

The Poor-law expenditure under the old system and the new showed a striking contrast. For the whole country before the new system, and for the last two years under the old, the amount of the poor-rate was L6,913,883, and for the two years immediately afterwards the rate was L4,381,185, showing a reduction of more than one-third of the expenditure. In some cases in the rural districts the figures were much more remarkable, and in one parish in the Buntingford Union the expenditure for the last year under the old system was L800, and the first under the new it was less than L300. It may be that—

Who holds a power But newly gained is ever stern of mood.

Even so, there was certainly plenty of room both for reform without hardship, and considerateness with economy.


It is mentioned in the Parliamentary returns that in the Royston Union in the winter of 1834, the number of able-bodied men maintained during the winter out of the poor-rate was 361, whereas in the month of December, 1836, after the new system had got into operation, there were only twelve applications for "work or money." All these had orders for the House, which were accepted by seven of them, two of whom stayed in only two days, three only stayed in three days, and two, seven days each. The amounts spent in relief of the poor at earlier periods, in the reign of George III., were as follows:—In 1801 (the year of scarcity), L4,017,871; in 1813, it had risen to L6,656,106; and in each of the years, 1818-20, the figures reached L7,000,000, a figure which was not again reached till 1832.

The late Mr. Henry Thurnall, though then but a young man, took an active part in collecting evidence for the Poor-law Commission in this district, and also in reconciling the working men to the new order of things, and he was the author of a pamphlet in the form of an address by a working-man to working-men, addressed to "The Labourers of England," from which it appears that in some places the new Relieving Officer was at first so unpopular that he was pelted when he came into the villages to pay out his relief money!



With the abolition of the old Poor-law the Parish Constable, as he was understood in the Georgian era, found a large part of his occupation gone. Those important journeys of Dogberry on the delicate errand of marrying off young couples who promised otherwise to be a trouble to his parish, with all the pleasant suppers, breakfasts, dinners, and beer at inns on the road, of which the reader has been afforded some evidence in the parish accounts of the last century—all this interesting part of the village Dogberry's parochial dignity passed away, and there were even rumours that the constable would no longer be entrusted with the hue-and-cry after criminals into neighbouring parishes. Verily the world was getting turned upside down in these reforming days!

But before we come to the actual disestablishment of Dogberry there are a few other matters affecting parish life which were getting ready to be reformed. There were, for instance, tramps even in those {175} days, and, like paupers, they knew upon which side their bread was buttered, and how to turn the prevailing system to the best account. They were accommodated at the public houses, and the publicans sent in their bills to the Overseers. If a tramp wished to take it easy and stay a few days at a comfortable hostelry he did so, and it went down in the publican's bill against the Overseer. Sometimes this sort of thing was carried a little too far, as at Royston in 1829, when the Vestry:—

"Ordered that W. Wilson's bill be paid and caution him, with others who lodge vagrants, that in future their bills will not be allowed if they suffer them [that is of course the vagrants and not the bills] to remain more than one night without an order from the Overseer."

But to return to Dogberry and his blue-coated successor. There was a good deal of opposition at first to the idea of a police force under the management of a county body. The idea of disestablishing the parish beadle and the constable was distasteful in itself, and the notion that they could be improved upon was rather laughed at. For years after the "men in blue" came upon the scene they were known as "Peelers," and have hardly got rid of the "Bobby" part of Sir Robert Peel's name even yet.

So divided was public opinion on the subject that the Hertfordshire Quarter Sessions only adopted the new system by one vote—the vote, as it turned out, of Mr. John George Fordham, of Royston, who had been but recently appointed a magistrate, and, I think, went on this occasion and voted for the first time in this division. No man knew better the need of a change, or the general ineffectiveness of the parish constable in the face of the disturbances which had for some years previously been witnessed in many villages. What the first cost of the "man in blue" was I am unable to say, but the first report of the Constabulary Force Commissioners contained the following estimate for a police force for Hertfordshire:—

1 Superintendent at L200 per annum 8 Sergeants at L1 2s. 6d. per week 80 Constables at 17s. 0d. " " Clothing for 88 men at L5 16s. 5d. per annum Total cost . . . . L5,132 4s. 8d. " " 1 man to 4,480 acres, and 1,610 persons.

It may be of interest here to make a comparison with to-day, and this shows, I think, that in place of one superintendent there are seven, besides a chief constable, that there are 7 inspectors, a rank unknown in the above estimate, 19 sergeants against 8 fifty years ago, and 136 constables against 80 of fifty years ago, with a considerable improvement in pay, viz., from the 17s. estimate of fifty years ago to the 21s. 7d. to 27s. 5d., according to class—the present pay for constables in the Herts. Constabulary.


We are sometimes reminded of a tendency to extravagance in county expenditure in Hertfordshire compared with Cambridgeshire. I do not know how far this may have held good historically, but certainly there is evidence of it when the policeman came. A few years after the establishment of the forces for Herts. and Cambs. the latter county had 70 police at an annual cost of L4,359 3s. 1d., and Hertfordshire had 71 police at a cost of L5,697 8s. 0d.

The new system was not so sudden a commencement as we may suppose, and at first depended upon the inhabitants meeting the expense if they wished for the luxury of a policeman in their midst. Hence in 1837 it was recorded that "in consequence of petty thefts and depredations committed in Baldock, it has been proposed that a police officer should be stationed there and a subscription has been set on foot by the inhabitants for that purpose."

In 1839 four policemen were sworn in for Royston and the neigbourhood, and yet two years afterwards, in 1841, some persons in Royston appear to have signed a petition against having a force of rural police—against allowing to the village the same police protection that the town and neighbourhood had already obtained for itself. These were, however, exceptional cases, and the system of a county force soon became general. The fact is that the old parish constable was a rough and ready means of dealing with the social and domestic sides of law and order, but on the criminal side he was of little use. He could clap a brawling man in the stocks, or use his good offices in marrying a pauper and getting her off the rates on to those of another parish, but when it came to a question of serious crime he was useless beyond carrying forward the "hue and cry" from his own to the next parish.

But the greatest of all the forces at work, breaking the life of the Reform period from its old moorings, had already begun, and Stephenson's triumph over Chat Moss had determined the great transition in the social life and customs between the Georgian and Victorian eras.

At first the nearest railway station to Royston was Broxbourne on the Great Eastern, and in order to shorten the driving journey to London, gentlemen and tradesmen rose early in the morning and drove from places in Cambs. and North Herts, to Broxbourne to join the new conveyance, the engine of which frightened the passengers as it drew up at the station! It was not an uncommon sight I am told to see a muster of all kinds of vehicles drawn up in rows at Broxbourne from all parts of the north-east of Hertfordshire, and there left to await their owners' return. The start had, of course, to be made at a very early hour in the morning to get to Broxbourne by eight or nine o'clock—"30 m.p. 8" (30 minutes past 8), was the manner of printing the first time tables.


As to the accommodation, at first the guard of a train in some cases sat perched on a back seat of the last carriage outside! like a cab driver, but things had already begun to improve a little at the time I am writing of. Here is a description by one of the old Royston travellers of a journey from Broxbourne to London.

"At first the 3rd class carriages were open, like cattle trucks, and without seats, and when seats were added they were very rough ones. Later on the open carriages were improved by placing iron hoops over the top and tarpauling over these, something after the fashion of a railway van in our streets now. A smartly-dressed young man in his Sunday best, desiring to appear to great advantage in London, would find his white waistcoat—which was generally worn in those days—a very sorry spectacle, after standing in an open carriage and catching the smoke of the engine, from which there was no protection! On one occasion there was a very great pressure in the train up from Broxbourne to London, and one of these 3rd class carriages with the iron hoop and tarpauling roof over it was so full that the pressure on the wheels and consequent friction began to produce sparks and then smoke! All the passengers were in a terrified state! Some of them set to work trying to tear the tarpauling away from the roof in order to communicate with the guard, but unfortunately the tarpauling seemed to be the strongest part of the carriage, and it appeared to be a case of all being burned to death before the train stopped! At last one young fellow becoming more desperate, got his head through the top of the carriage—that is through the tarpauling—and had his high top hat carried away by the breeze; but succeeded in getting sight of the guard perched on behind. When the train came to the next station there was a general stampede and most of the passengers refused to go any further. A few of them were obliged to go on, and the reduced weight and lessened friction removed all further danger."

After the above period the Great Northern Company came upon the scene in Hertfordshire; but frightened not a few people by the formidable character of its undertaking near Welwyn, for before the famous Digswell Viaduct had spanned the picturesque valley of Tewin, or the tunnels had pierced the last barrier of the hills, it is said that many persons who had invested heavily in Great Northern shares, began to tremble in their shoes, owing to the enormous expense, and a person with enough foresight and judgment might have bought up, for a small amount, shares enough to have made him a wealthy man for the rest of his life!

The railway did not touch the neighbourhood of Royston until much of the novelty of the change, and also of the opposition to it had passed away. The opposition to it here was therefore one of a competitive and interested character, rather than of prejudice against {178} George Stephenson and his iron horse. Owing to the opposition of Lord Mornington in the interest of the Great Eastern Railway Company, the Royston and Hitchin Railway was prevented running into Cambridge, and ran only as far as Shepreth, hence the joint use of a part of the line, after it was carried on to Cambridge.

The first effect of a railway in any neighbourhood was felt upon the conveyance and upon the price of the necessities of life. Reference has already been made in an earlier sketch to the difficulties of getting coals from Cambridge, thirteen miles along bad roads to Royston, and it may be added that the first year after the railway to Royston was opened, the price of coal was so much reduced that the gain to the townspeople was calculated to be sufficient to pay all the rates for the year!

The shares of the Royston and Hitchin Company, whose work of construction involved much less difficulty than the part of the main line already referred to, were at one time sold at a discount though carrying a guaranteed six per cent. dividend, and they are now worth, I suppose, about 80 per cent. more than they cost.

The accommodation at first was not as luxurious as it is now. Some of the carriages on this line, were at first open at the sides like cattle trucks, and at a pinch on market day cattle trucks were attached and the passengers stood up in them!

* * * * * * * *

Having already exceeded the bounds of time and space contemplated for these Sketches, and travelled a little beyond the period indicated by the title, the writer might here, in a few words, have taken leave of his task, but for the fact that he finds himself still in possession of a small collection of troublesome "fragments," some of them of peculiar interest, which would not lend themselves very readily to being classified or blended together into any of the foregoing chapters. These fragments are chiefly short paragraph records of local events, on a multitude of topics, and therefore must be treated as such, and thrown as far as possible into chronological order.

1745. Cooper Thornhill, of the Bell Inn, Stilton, near Huntingdon—in whose house, from the hands of a relative, Mistress Paulet, originated Stilton cheese—this year achieved a remarkable feat of horsemanship by way of Royston to London; riding for 500 guineas from Stilton to London, 71 miles, in 3 hours and 52 minutes.

1748. In this year, on August 18th, occurred a fire which is memorable in the annals of Barkway. The record preserved in the parish papers consists chiefly of the accounts of the losses, but it is sufficient to show that there must have been nineteen houses burned, {179} and, as the losses were for small amounts, probably nearly all of them cottages.

I give a few of the articles and items of loss and expense—

A publican and farmer lost "hogsheads bare"; L9 in wine, L16 in "sider" (cider), 42 cheeses, silver spoons, "a chest of lining [linen] L20," and claimant's sister lost in "lining" and other things L7, and there are "30 trenchers," earthenware and wooden dishes, &c., &c.

John Sharp—my Lost at the fier as Folows— In weat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 7 0 housal goods to the valuer . . . . . . . . . . 3 0 0 In wood to valuer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 12 0 L3 19 0 Expense at Royston for two Engins and Buckets 1 10 0 Expense at Buntingford for Engine and Bucketts 0 15 0 L2:05: 0

1785. On the 16th June, 1785, there was a fire at Biggleswade, which in the space of less than five hours burnt down one hundred and three dwelling-houses and nine maltings. The want of water and the rapidity of the flames, with the falling of the houses, being so dreadful, little good could be done till evening, when the fire was happily stopped. Upwards of 60 houses in the middle of the town were burnt down, with all the shops, warehouses, stables, &c., adjoining. It is generally supposed to have been wilfully occasioned.

1786. June 3rd, the Roy-stone, at Royston, was removed from the Cross to the Market Hill by order of G. Wortham, surveyor. [Removed to present site in Institute Garden, 1856.]

There was a remarkable frost in 1786, when among other fatal results of the rigour of the season, a maltster named Pyman, of Royston, when returning home from Kelshall, was frozen to death, and a butcher's boy taking meat from Royston to Morden met with the same fate.

1787. In 1787 the following awful visitation of divine vengeance befell a man near Hitchin, in Hertfordshire. He had applied to a Magistrate, and informed him that he had been robbed by such a gentleman.—"The Magistrate told him that he was committing perjury, but the miscreant calling God to witness, that if what he had advanced was not true, he wished that his jaws might be locked and his flesh rot on his bones; and, shocking to relate, his jaws were instantly arrested, and after lingering nearly a fortnight in great anguish, he expired in horrible agonies, his flesh literally rotting on his bones."

1788. A burial ground as a present for winning a law-suit may seem an odd acknowledgment, but this was what happened in Royston {180} during last century, when, in 1788, the following obituary notice was published which explains itself—

"Died in the Workhouse in Royston, Thomas Keightly, and on the following Friday his remains were interred in the family burying ground in the Churchyard of that parish. He was the eldest son of the late Wm. Keightley, Esq., of that place, who some years ago, to his immortal honour, stood forward on behalf of the parish, and at his own expense supported a very litigious and expensive law-suit, which he gained and for which the said parish as an acknowledgment made him and his posterity a present of the aforesaid burying ground."

What the law-suit was about I am unable to say.

The following remarkable incident is taken from an old newspaper, the Cambridge Intelligencer

1794. June 15th. On Wednesday last a son and two daughters of the Widow Curtis, of Wimpole, in this county, were returning from Royston Fair in a one-horse tilted cart. They were stopped in the street at Royston by a concourse of people surrounding some recruiting sergeants who had been parading the streets with a flag and playing "God Save the King." The young man, being in liquor, attempted to drive through the crowd. The horse reared up, being frightened by a musket let off close to him, the young man whipped the horse and struck some persons who obstructed the cart. This aroused the courage of the sons of Mars, who thrust their swords through the tilt of the cart, which alarmed the young women who leaped from the cart, and, fainting away, were carried to a house at a trifling distance. The soldiers, not satisfied with the exploit, wreaked their anger upon the horse by stabbing it with a bayonet in such a manner that the poor animal died in a few minutes. During the tumult, one of the sergeants threatened a tradesman in the town, a person of unsuspected loyalty, that if he did not say "God Save the King," he would run him through the body. To which he replied with the spirit of a Briton—"You may stab me if you dare, but no man shall make me say 'God Save the King' only when I please."

1797. Among the numerous parishes in Cambridgeshire which, at the close of last century, adopted Enclosure Acts was the parish of Harston, and in this case the preliminary formalities were attended with an extraordinary manifestation of feeling. The owners of the property in the parish gave notice of their intention of applying to Parliament for an Act to allot and divide the parish. A person of the name of Brand was sent over on horseback from Cambridge to post the requisite notice on the Church door at Harston. But a crowd of persons assembled to prevent this being carried out. The man was roughly handled, his horse kicked, and his coat torn, and he "found it necessary to get away as fast as he could." A warrant was issued for {181} the leader named Norden who assaulted Brand, and a great crowd of persons assembled to prevent Norden's apprehension. The officer of the law on the one side was protected by nine cavalry who were around, and on the other hand the rioters were armed with pitchforks and whatever they could lay their hands upon. The officer and his cavalry escort got hold of Norden when in the field, but were followed on the road to Cambridge by the rioters, who, however, were afraid of the fire of the soldiers, and no lives were lost. Norden was committed to the Quarter Sessions, and on acknowledging his offence he got off with three months' imprisonment.

1799. On the 8th of February, 1799, there was a tremendous snowstorm which caused much suffering to travellers. Coaches and wagons were buried in the snow and lives were lost. It was the same storm that overtook Elizabeth Woodcock on her way from Cambridge Market to Impington, and buried her alive for eight days. The snow was drifted so high in the neighbourhood of Baldock that fifty men were employed on the North Road to dig out several wagons and carriages buried there. Passengers by coach had a fearful time of it, and what it was like in the neighbourhood of Royston may be gathered from the following testimony to the action of a Roystonian—

"The humanity of Mr. John Phillips, common brewer of Royston, during the late severe weather deserves the highest commendation, particularly on Saturday last. Being informed that the York and Wisbech Mail Coaches were set fast in the snow two miles from Royston, about five o'clock in the morning, he despatched several of his men and sixteen horses to their relief, and in the course of three hours conveyed the coaches safe to Royston, to the great joy of the passengers, coachmen, and guards, some of whom would probably have perished had it not been for Mr. Phillips' humane assistance."—Cambridge Chronicle, February 14th, 1799.

1807. Between this year and 1814, for the particular year is uncertain, Louis XVIII. of France paid a visit to Royston and descended into the Old Cave. Louis, while in exile in England from 1808 to 1814, a part of the time occupied Gosfield Hall, near Braintree, Essex, and it was while here, apparently, that he came over to Royston to see the Cave.

On the 25th October, 1809, was the Jubilee of the reign of George III. I am not aware of anything being done in Royston, but if there was it was probably a half-hearted affair and contrasting greatly with the happy augury of the Jubilee of the reign of Queen Victoria in 1887.

1809. In June, 1809, Daniel Lambert, the famous fat man, was weighed at Huntingdon and was found to weigh 52 stone, 1 lb.—14 lb. to the stone. A few days afterwards he arrived from Huntingdon at {182} Stamford where he was announced for exhibition, but he died about nine o'clock the following morning.

1814. On January 14th, the deepest snow that had been known for 40 years began—was some days falling—and continued on the ground for five weeks, and in places drifts were 15 feet deep. The frost continued for 12 weeks, till March 20th. On the 8th of the month of January the frost was of almost unexampled severity. A fair was held on the Thames where a sheep was roasted. A card printed on the Thames during that strange winter fair is now in the Royston Institute Museum. Houses were in many cases snowed up, and the difficulties of traffic were enormous. Large gangs of labourers toiled at mountains of snow in order to open up the coaching routes. When the frost was 20 deg. below freezing point, Benjamin Dunham, seventy years of age, was found frozen to death between Barrington and Harlton.

The armed burglar was in evidence during the last and early years of the present century as a terror to householders, with this difference from the present system, that the offenders generally went in gangs. One notable event of this kind is connected with the residence of Squire Wortham (now Mr. J. E. Phillips) in Melbourn Street, Royston. The party, approaching from the Dog Kennel Lane in rear of the premises, disturbed the housekeeper, a Mrs. Cannon. She in her turn called out to Old Matt, the huntsman, but that worthy slept so soundly that she could not wake him; meanwhile the burglars seemed about to effect an entrance, when the redoubtable Mrs. Cannon secured a blunderbuss and, firing out of the window in the direction of the visitors, they made off. It was generally believed that the housekeeper shot one of the burglars, and years afterwards this was verified in a curious way by one of the party who, just before he died, made a confession to Mr. Stamford, then living at the Old Palace, to the effect that he was one of the party and that one of them was shot.

1826. On December 16th, a woman 61 years of age, "undertook for what the public of Royston chose to give her, to walk 92 miles in 24 consecutive hours—that is, starting from the White Lion in the High Street and walking through the town, half-a-mile in and half-a-mile out. She began her journey at 9 minutes after 4 on Friday afternoon (the weather unfavourable, the street excessively dirty and the boys rather troublesome) and completed her task at 3 minutes after 4 the next afternoon, having 6 minutes to spare."

1831. In 1831, with the uneasiness caused by the appearance of the cholera morbus at Sunderland and elsewhere, a great scare was occasioned in Royston, and the sanitary state of the town at last got an overhauling, when the result showed what a terrible state of things had prevailed in the town during the first decades of the century. {183} Mr. E. K. Fordham, the veteran banker and reformer, was the first to set the ball rolling, and a regular scheme of house to house visitation was resorted to. A committee was appointed, and the town was divided into four parts, each committee to report to the Select Vestry. The state of things disclosed by that report now seems almost inconceivable. The Committee's work had a salutary effect, and this burst of zeal for the public health proceeded so far that a proposal was carried unanimously that a Board of Health be formed "for the more effectual removal of nuisances, and obtaining assistance from the Central Board should the cholera morbus unfortunately break out in this town." With the disappearance of all danger of the cholera morbus however the "Board of Health" fell through, but the effect of the enlightenment which it led to as to the condition of the town was not altogether lost. The cholera was then considered a new epidemic, and it broke out at Sunderland and carried off many thousand lives in the year. Hence the alarm spread to inland towns, the inhabitants of which, like Royston, had their eyes opened to things little thought of before, and that great principle of cause and effect took root in regard to public health, which led up to the Public Health Acts of the present day. It was on this visitation that Kingsley in his "Two Years Ago" gives such a graphic description of the terror caused by the appearance of the cholera, in the treatment of which he makes his hero Tom Thurnall take a notable part. Whether cholera actually appeared in the district I am unable to say, but I find an item for Royston, Cambs, "Cholera bills, &c., 14s. 3d." Probably this was part of the expense of the steps above described.

Some years after the above date, when vaccination had got established, a valiant Royston champion of the good old cause inoculated her family with small-pox. She was brought up at the Bull before the magistrates, who, evidently reluctant to punish her, asked if she would promise not to do the like again, to which she adroitly made answer that she could promise them this, that if she did do it again she would not tell anyone. This was not quite a recantation, and so the old lady had to go to Hertford gaol for seven days, and a crowd of people saw her off out of the town—one of the first victims of that law of compulsion of the individual for the public good which was to be a characteristic of the coming legislation.

1833. In this year the Royston Institute was founded under the name of the Royston Mechanics Institute. In 1855 the present building was erected partly on the site of the old turn-pike house, and it was opened in 1856.

1834. The lowering of Burleigh's, or Burloe's, Hill, Royston, by digging a cutting through, was begun about this time. The trustees of the Baldock and Bournbridge Turnpike Trust made a special contract by {184} which the parish contracted to do the work for L250, the parish taking any risk of loss and any chance of profit on the transaction, and the work to extend over two years. Men who applied to the Overseer were set upon it, and there was a strike against 4d. per yard, the price fixed for the labour by Mr. Wm. Smith, the surveyor for one part of the work, and the Vestry stood by the Surveyor and decided that any men who refused to do it at that price should not be employed by the parish.

The labourers refused to work at it, and "as the magistrates sanctioned the offer of work at this hill as an answer to applicants for relief, the labourers who would have been relieved for want of employment have found work from private employers instead of living on compulsory relief from the parish. Labourers living out of the parish, and threatening to come home unless out-allowance was paid them, having been answered that there was two years' work provided for them, have altered their intention of coming home and have subsisted on their own resources." And so the Parochial Pharaohs, as the paupers regarded them, by practical common sense and a strong grip of the handle, managed to make the rough places plain, and the sturdy vagabonds—for many of the old paupers of these times deserved the name—with their threats to "come home to their parish," were kept at a safe distance on the horizon by the ring of picks and mattocks!

1835. In this year occurred the fire at Hatfield House in which the Marchioness of Salisbury was burnt to death; an event which created a great sensation in all parts of the county, the Marchioness having been quite a public character, and was, in fact, at one time mistress of the Hertfordshire Hounds, then called "Lady Salisbury's."

One of the strangest incidents connected with the old highway traffic of sixty years ago, was the mishap which occurred to an old stage wagon with three horses abreast, a team of eight, at Royston about 1835 or 1836, on a Saturday night, or rather Sunday morning, in November. The incident was cleverly described by a versifier in the columns of the Herts. and Cambs. Reporter some years ago, but it is only necessary here to say that the wagon was travelling up to London, and reached Melbourn all right. Here, however, the sleepy teamster got his ponderous team too near a huge sign-post in the village, when

The ornamental sign by tricks, Amongst the ropes came firmly fixed.

The sign-post was torn up and fixed immovably between the wheels and the wagon, and in that position was carried aloft, as "slowly the eight big Lincoln steeds" continued their wonted course towards Royston. Before day-light that town was reached, the driver still unconscious of the curious appendage to his load. "Rounding the {185} corner at the Cross" the strange projection crashed into the windows of the shops to the consternation of the inhabitants, as

House after house was ripp'd and torn. * * * * Plant-pots and plants alike were strown, And gilded names in swaths were mown.

Some thought it was an earthquake, and others that the end of all things had come. Amongst the terrified shopkeepers, George Rivers, the witty thespian, is credited with exclaiming:—

"The windows and the frames are gone, And all the house is tumbling down"!

Not till the wagon reached the Warren did that and the old sign-post part company, and even then the sleepy driver wended his ponderous way towards Buntingford in blissful ignorance of the devastation he had wrought upon the shop windows! "Nor did he learn the strange affray till he returned another day."

1836. The great snowstorm of 1836 was even more memorable than the two preceding storms of 1799 and 1814, for its suddenness, its extent, and the greatly increased number of stage-coaches "on the road" at that time, which suffered from the interruption of traffic. It commenced to snow on the night of Christmas Eve (Saturday) and snowed all day on Sunday, and the next day. No snowstorm in Great Britain for the previous hundred years equalled it in violence and extent. On the evening of the 26th, after it had been snowing for 48 hours, the wind increased to a hurricane, and in the night the fall of snow was from four to six feet, while the drifts were from 20 to 30 feet in depth, and the condition of all exposed to it was appalling! The storm spread all over Europe, and in this island all communication was cut off for nearly a week. No coach got through from Cambridge till the following Thursday. Many a Christmas party that Christmas were minus their guests, for coaches were "snowed up" all over the land, and, but for the timely shelter of inns and private houses, many of the passengers must have perished. There were three coaches almost within sight of each other placed hors de combat in and near Royston. One coach was actually stuck fast in the snow at the Cross, in the centre of the town; another just below the present railway bridge, and another at the bottom of the Kneesworth Hill. These coaches were the Edinburgh Mail, the Boston Mail, and the Stamford Coach, and were all on their way to London at the time. The unfortunate passengers were obliged to spend the Christmas holidays in Royston as best they could, and the mails were sent forward on horseback as soon as practicable. For a whole week no mail coach went into, or came from, London through Buntingford and Royston. Between Royston and Wadesmill, on the portion of the North Road known as the {186} Wadesmill Turnpike Trust, the difficulties of opening up communication were of the most formidable character.

Near the gates at the entrance to Coles Park, Westmill (now the residence of R. P. Greg, Esq.), there were drifts 20 feet deep, and the labour of cutting through the snow between Royston and Wadesmill, was believed to have cost no less than L400, and so great was the loss to the toll-keepers that the Turnpike Trust found it necessary to compensate Mr. Flay, the lessee, to the extent of L200 for the loss of toll through this unexampled interruption of traffic. It may be of interest just now to mention that the above remarkable storm was followed by a serious epidemic of influenza.

1837. Following the important undertaking of cutting through Burloes Hill on the Newmarket Road, came the great work of cutting through the hill on the London Road, south of Royston. The undertaking was begun in 1836, the contract price for the work in this case being L1,723. This work proved more difficult in one sense than that of the Newmarket Road, from the fact that the coaching and other traffic was so much greater along this road and that the work had to be adapted to the continuation of this heavy traffic. The passage of coaches over the temporary roadway was not of the smoothest, and it is said that one passenger became so alarmed that he jumped from the coach, being afraid it would upset, and in doing so broke his leg. The Turnpike Trust, being responsible for the state of the road, though not for the passenger's want of courage, made him a compensation of L50 for the injury.

In 1837 the coronation of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, was worthily celebrated in Royston. There were free dinners for the townspeople on the Market Hill, with bands of music, and the principal residents dined together at the Bull Hotel afterwards—much the same as in the celebration of the jubilee of Her Majesty's reign fifty years afterwards in 1887.

1840. In this year the Royal Agricultural Society held their second annual show on Parker's Piece, Cambridge, and, as an illustration of how such exhibitions have advanced since then, it may be mentioned that at the show of the "Royal" at Oxford in the previous year there were only fifty exhibits of live stock and twenty-three of implements, and the exhibition at Cambridge brought not very many more.

1842. During the winter months of this year a mail-coach driver was killed near the turnpike, Mill Road, Royston, by the coach being overthrown owing to the snow.

In the same year the Rev. J. Snelgar, vicar of Royston, hung himself in his own rooms at the residence (now Mr. Walter —ale's) [Transcriber's note: several characters missing from Walter's surname] near the Sun Inn, at the top of Back Street.


1843. Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Consort visited Wimpole and Cambridge this year, passing through Royston on their way to Cambridge. Triumphal arches and other signs of welcome were erected in most of the towns and villages on the road from London to Cambridge. Of these outward manifestations of loyalty, the illustrations here given appeared at the time in the Illustrated London News, which, now claiming to be the father of illustrated journals, was then in its infancy and only about one year old. Three triumphal arches were erected in Royston; one at the entrance into Royston opposite the residence of Mr. Hale Wortham, one at the Cross, and another at the Institute, with no end of bunting down the streets. Goods were removed from shop windows and spectators took their places. There was an enormous concourse of people to see the young Queen and her royal consort. It had been arranged to run up a flag upon a flag-staff on the top of the London Cutting as soon as the royal carriage was seen coming down Reed Hill, as a signal for the bells to commence ringing. This was in charge of Mr. Hale Wortham, in whose absence for a few minutes some mischievous boys ran up the flag signal, which set the Church bells ringing, and placed the whole concourse of people on the tiptoe of expectation and excitement long before the Queen's arrival, with a corresponding tax upon their patience. A tremendous gale was blowing, which played havoc with the linen and devices on the arches and tore down the flag-staff and pinnacle to which it was attached on the tower of the Parish Church. When the carriage came, however, {188} it was at a very great speed. By the arrangement of the Earl of Hardwicke a regular military escort was dispensed with as soon as the county of Cambridge was reached. In Melbourn Street a large body of horsemen, including many gentlemen of Royston, was assembled, which was in fact lined by them, for the purpose of falling in by threes as the royal carriage passed. During a pause the Earl of Hardwicke went up to the carriage and spoke to the Queen and the Prince Consort. The royal carriage was escorted by soldiers and members of the Herts. Yeomanry as far as the borders of Herts. at Royston, where members of the Cambs. Yeomanry were to take their places. The carriage travelled at such great speed that though the Herts. Yeomanry, mostly farmers and others used to hunting and well mounted, easily kept their places, yet the Cambs. men, including Fen men more heavily mounted, soon found themselves actually dropping off, and many of them were left hopelessly behind when the journey was renewed en route for Trinity College, Cambridge. Those left behind were able to come up at Melbourn where there was a change of horses.

At Melbourn the scene was a memorable one as the mounted horsemen and a vast crowd of people from the whole neighbourhood gathered around the old historic elm tree, where the change of horses took place. Such a crush of mounted horsemen had never been seen in the village. Upon the gigantic branch of the old elm tree, which then extended right across the road, some loyal Melbournites, short of bright coloured flags usually employed on such occasions, had spread a huge tarpauling upon which was a loyal motto of welcome. This curious piece {189} of bunting naturally attracted some attention, and some of the yeomanry escort attending Her Majesty and the Prince, were heard to remark that it was "a very coarse piece of loyalty," but evidently the young Queen and her royal consort, accepted it at its intended worth, and what was wanting in elegance, was made up by sincerity and the enthusiasm of the people. It is fair to add that Melbourn had its triumphal arch as appears by the contemporary illustrations in the journal from which those at Royston and Buntingford have been obtained.

The following reference to this event occurs in a book entitled "Recollections of Military Life and Society," by Lieut.-Col. B. D. W. Ramsay:—"In the autumn of 1843 we were despatched on escort duty with Her Majesty and Prince Albert, between Hertford, Cambridge, Royston, and Wimpole, Lord Hardwicke's place. On arrival at Wimpole, where I commanded the escort, I received a despatch from the Horse Guards directing me to give up the escorting of Her Majesty from Royston to Wimpole to whatever yeomanry might present themselves. This I received one afternoon, and on the following day Her Majesty was to arrive, and no yeomanry had made their appearance. I therefore determined to ride out to Wimpole and see Lord Hardwicke. * * * On arriving there I saw Lord Hardwicke standing in front of the house with his agent, an old naval officer and shipmate. Lord Hardwicke frantically waved me off saying, 'I do not want to see you. Why do you come to torment me before my time? To-morrow you must all come.' This he said in a melancholy voice. Upon which I deemed it advisable to introduce myself as he had evidently forgotten me. The Dowager Lady Hardwicke was my grand aunt. * * * When I made myself known nothing could exceed his kindness. 'God bless you {190} my boy,' he said, 'Come and stay as long as you can, and drink all my champagne; but don't bother me about military matters. You know I am a blue-coat, and don't care about them.' I said, however, 'I must know if any yeomanry are coming, in order to make the necessary arrangements.' 'Of course they'll come; don't bother me,' was all I could get out of him. And then he snatched a book out of his agent's hands, and said 'Look here; here are my accounts balanced for the year—not a penny to spare; and here are all you fellows coming. However, you are all welcome. Enjoy yourselves; but for goodness sake don't bother me.' So I decamped. I returned to Royston late in the evening but still no yeomanry." The yeomanry arrived about ten o'clock at night, however, and the writer gives an amusing account of the dispute over changing escorts, the yeomanry officer insisting that the change should be made at the Inn where the change of horses was made, and the writer states that he with all the dignity of a cornet of twenty years of age, said he would do no such thing, but that the change should be made on the confines of the county some distance outside the town. The yeomanry officer remonstrated saying that the Queen's carriage would then be travelling at a great rate and it would be difficult to change escorts as his men had never practised it. The young cornet said that that was his affair, and insisting upon the letter of his instructions, the change of escort was made at the county boundary, the leaders of the Queen's carriage were thrown down in the process, and the only consolation that could be offered to Prince Albert's inquiry for the cause was the instruction from the Horse Guards, and that the spot was the confines of the county of Cambridge, and the struggling mass of horsemen His Royal Highness saw were the yeomanry who had presented themselves! The writer adds "My orders being explicit there could be no answer to this. But query, ought I to have been so particular as to the letter of the law? Certainly the Lord Lieutenant of the County, Lord Hardwicke, thought not, as he slapped me on the back and called me an impudent young——(something)."




From our present stand-point there is just a touch of pathos in the thought of many aspiring Englishmen of the Georgian era passing away on the eve of momentous changes, privileged only to see indications of the coming times and not to enter into possession. But there is one element which qualifies this sentiment of regret in breaking with the anticipations of the good time coming. It must be so for all conditions of men. Have we not still to look forward, as we pass out of the age of steam into the more subtle and wonderful age of electricity, to a time when there may be greater wonders yet in store! And so to every man who reaps a harvest from other men's labours comes the old lesson of the responsibility for continuing the seed-sowing.

Of those whose lives have spread over the last eighty years it has been well said that "to be borne in one world, to die in another, is, in the case of very old people, scarcely a figure of speech," so marvellous is the difference between the surroundings of their cradle and their grave. Standing by the Janus at the portals of the two centuries, what a contrast was presented in the backward and forward views! Backward we have seen, in these glimpses of the past, men struggling with difficulties and passing away with the seed-sowing; forward, we see other men enter the promised land and reaping the harvest, for which others had toiled; backward we have seen in our villages, men passing toilsome lives in the circumscribed daily round of their native parish, from which it was almost impossible to break away, or within the few miles of that little world which seemed to end where the earth and sky appeared to meet, and beyond which was a terra incognita; forward we see the children from the same villages playing in merry groups on the sands of that wonderful sea-shore of which their fathers had only heard in song and story; and so through the many phases of the daily life of the people.

With much that is admittedly still lacking in the village life and its hold upon the people, the condition of the youth of an agricultural district presents as great a contrast to-day with that of the youth of eighty years ago, as any other condition of life can show. Then, he trudged from the farm house to his daily round of toil, in his stiff leather breeches, from the field back to the stable, from the stable to the kitchen fire-place, then to bed, and up again to the stable and the field—week in, week out, with, in many cases, not a penny to spend from year's end to year's end; hearing no music and seeing no {192} brightness excepting the fiddle and the dulcimer, and the dance and the shows at the neighbouring "statty" (statute fair) at Michaelmas once a year. His master had absolute control of his life and actions, and sometimes would enforce it with the whip-stock. But now the farm lad has the hardihood and the right to summon his employer before a magistrate, goes to "Lunnon" at holiday time, walks with a stick, wears a buttonhole in his coat, and, mirabile dictu! has been seen to ride home from his work on a "bone-shaker"! In place of the old bent figures in smock-frocks, there are spruce young fellows in black coats; in place of the old indoor farm service, its hearty living, but liberty to thrash a boy, there is freedom of contract, and, I daresay, sometimes an empty stomach; instead of an absolute indifference to the moral character of the labourer, the farmer is waking up to the fact that a steady sober man is worth more than the frequenter of the ale-house.

But there is a per contra in all this. Bad as the times were at the beginning of the century, when the flint, steel, and tinder box, was the only means of striking a light, there were not seen so many boys in the street contracting a bad habit of smoking as may be seen to-day. There was of necessity much less smoking than now, for the habitual smoker was obliged to light up before leaving home, or go into a house, or trust to meeting a fellow smoker with a pipe alight on the road. But we have gained something in outward decency in the decrease of the filthy habit of chewing tobacco, and in the now still greater rarity of the habitual snuff-taker.

Perhaps the most remarkable, and certainly the most humiliating item, in the per contra account set off against extraordinary advancements all round in the outward conditions of the life of the villager, is to be found in the fact that the cottage home—the fountain head of character—has in the great majority of cases absolutely stood still. The old cottage homes of England with all their poetic associations, have, in too many cases, not only not improved, but, with their low mud, or brick floors, cold-beds, rather than hot-beds, of rheumatism, have remained just as when they were occupied by the great-grandfathers of the present generation, excepting that they have grown older and more dilapidated. The evil of huddling families into such hovels is aggravated by the altered condition of life for the labourers' boys, who can no longer, as of yore, find a home in the more roomy farm-house. It may be a hard thing to say perhaps, but the evidence seems irresistible that though there may be notable instances to the contrary, in too many cases where the old clay-bat and thatched habitations have escaped the devouring element of fire, the housing of the labouring man's family is much worse than it was sixty years ago. Is it surprising that a spirited youth or girl, with all the stimulus of immensely improved conditions of life around them, should be drawn away from the old moorings?


Perhaps in no respect have the changes of time been greater than in the political world, and yet there is a little of the per contra even here. Not only are political opinions freely uttered now for which a man would have found himself in Newgate a hundred years ago, but Bills of all kinds are introduced into Parliament with perfect safety to the person of the member proposing them, such as our forefathers would never have dreamed of advocating, even though they were sometimes called bad names for their advanced political views. In the old days the rural voter got a jollification, a drinking bout, and some hard cash for his vote; now he can almost obtain an Act of Parliament. Still, it is better than bribery, I suppose.

In writing this I do not in any sense hold a brief for the past as against the present, but in contrasting these different phases of life one is bound to acknowledge that we have lost a few things which would have been well worth preserving. We have gained untold social advantages, but we have in too many cases lost the priceless treasure of individual contentment; we have gained a great many things that have been labelled with the sacred name of freedom, but only too often to bow down to false notions of respectability; we have been emancipated as communities from the brutal display of sport and pastimes which have been referred to in the earlier part of these pages, but in too many cases only to substitute a more subtle form of gambling about names of things printed in the newspapers, without any such excuse for the interest taken as our forefathers had in the excitement which was actually before their eyes; we have gained untold advantage in the spread of knowledge, and the means of access to a wealth of intellectual treasures such as our forefathers never dreamed of, but have too often allowed our reading tastes to degenerate into nothing more solid than the newspaper and a few literary bon-bons.

There has been both a levelling up and a levelling down in the matter of education, for it is doubtful whether tradesmen and others called middle-class people are so well educated—I mean so thoroughly educated, for they know more things but fewer things well—as men were a generation ago, if we consider education on the abstract and intellectual side.

We are perhaps a little too apt to think that there is nothing for us of to-day, but to bless our stars that we were born in the 19th century; yet if we who carry "the torch of experience lighted at the ashes of past delusions" have escaped from the mists and the shadows along the way which our grandfathers toiled, the responsibility for bettering their work is all the greater.

We may not be able to close this wonderful 19th century with any practical realization of all the dreams of ideal citizenship which made up the last expiring breath of the 18th century. But we have {194} gone a long way in that direction, and happily it has been along a roadway, toilsome and rough at times, upon which there is no need for going back to retrace our steps. Standing now, on the higher ground to which the exertions of our fathers, and the forces which their work set in motion for our benefit, have brought us, we see down into the valley, along the rugged way we have come, abundant reason why men often misunderstood each other—they could not see each other in any true and just light. But just as the heavy material roadway along which the old locomotion was shifting a hundred years ago, from horses' backs on to wheels, has become firmer, broader, lighter, and freer by the cutting down of hedge rows and hindrances which shut out the sweetening influence of light and air; so along the highways of men's thoughts and actions there has been an analogous process of cutting down boundaries and removing hindrances which divided men in the past, until we see one another face to face.

It may be that some few distinctions will be preserved after all the modern political programmes have been played out, but let us hope that the hedges which divide men will be kept well trimmed and low. For, after all, it is impossible to gather up these old voices of a past time, or to look back over such a period as that which has been passed in review by these sketches without recognizing that if men will only stand upright, whatever their station, and not stoop to narrow the horizon of their view, they must see how broad, and how fertile in all human, homely and kindly attraction, are the common heritage, the common work, the common rest and the common hopes of men, compared with the narrow paths within high party walls—whether of religious creeds, social grades, or false notions of what is respectable—within which men have too often in the past sought to hide themselves from one another. The hard lot of the village labourer to-day is not what it was, is not what it will be; the discomforts for all classes remaining from those of seventy years ago look now very small, and may yet look smaller; and history, even the local history of a country town and its neighbouring villages, though it moves slowly, shows foot-prints for the most part tending one way and justifying the old hopeful belief that—

Life shall on and upward go, Th' eternal step of progress beats, To that great anthem, calm and slow, Which God repeats.




In the following table is given the population of 45 parishes in the Royston district, viz., of the Royston and Buntingford Poor-law Unions, situated in the counties of Herts., Cambs., and Essex, for each decade from 1801 to 1891. In them the reader will be able to trace the growth of the rural population during the middle of the century, and its remarkable decline during the last twenty years, the economic effects of which have led to the cry for bringing back the labourer on to the land, instead of his drifting away to aggravate the social problem in London and other populous centres.


1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 Ashwell 715 754 915 1072 1235 1425 1507 1576 1568 1556 Barkway 699 686 771 859 1002 986 940 932 782 761 Barley 494 593 695 704 789 870 808 714 614 574 Chishill, Great 309 298 353 371 466 532 473 432 129 140 Chishill, Little 71 55 71 106 96 105 110 110 129 140 Heydon 246 272 272 259 324 368 270 265 257 221 Hinxworth 228 243 247 295 328 347 320 313 297 289 Kelshall 179 180 208 251 276 326 318 286 249 241 Morden, Guilden 428 489 570 675 808 931 906 1059 959 819 Morden, Steeple 430 483 614 645 788 889 912 1018 981 810 Nuthampstead 152 172 222 249 289 302 281 254 217 207 Reed 164 158 214 232 260 277 224 224 189 206 Royston, Herts. 975 1309 1474 1272 1431 1529 1387 1348 1272 1262 Royston, Cambs. 356 * * 485 566 532 495 453 440 439 Therfield 707 692 872 974 1224 1335 1222 1237 1175 996

* In the Census of 1801 and 1811 Royston, Cambs., was taken with Royston, Herts.


Abington Pigotts 177 201 233 259 232 238 228 197 180 169 Barrington 348 343 483 485 533 596 563 727 621 583 *Bassingbourn 828 878 1042 1255 1419 1919 1933 2239 2121 1828 Fowlmere 420 448 541 547 609 597 560 603 542 543 Foxton 322 304 368 408 452 459 405 413 415 436 Kneesworth 120 104 171 191 191 229 280 491 596 801 Litlington 350 418 505 622 722 790 693 768 674 568 *Melbourn 819 972 1179 1474 1724 1931 1637 1759 1803 1649 Meldreth 444 452 643 643 723 776 735 757 781 713 Shepreth 202 253 320 .. 353 321 339 376 373 375 Shingay 42 50 86 112 137 142 128 118 90 74 Thriplow 334 319 371 417 477 521 502 522 463 442 Wendy 109 111 134 125 151 154 128 136 136 127 Whaddon 221 213 318 339 345 340 319 384 348 341

* Parts of these parishes are in the township of Royston.



1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 Austey 387 371 440 417 465 473 412 391 * Ardeley 484 563 617 599 630 574 563 495 464 Aspeden 364 367 455 560 539 577 671 613 658 Broadfield 31 26 23 10 8 19 26 19 ** Buckland 300 288 343 373 384 385 362 358 367 Cottered 339 343 410 436 437 470 456 379 357 Hormead, Great 467 513 564 576 601 660 631 519 431 Hormead, Little 103 94 112 107 87 103 143 127 116 Layston 799 907 1014 1093 1220 998 1086 1071 889 Meesden 122 138 164 158 185 163 181 189 * Rushden 253 287 333 342 321 291 276 270 225 Sandon 595 580 646 716 770 771 809 763 728 Throcking 58 45 69 76 54 97 63 74 ** Wakeley 7 8 9 7 9 4 4 10 *** Wallington 224 219 210 213 254 238 250 191 133 Westmill 328 365 415 418 380 353 337 361 348 Wyddial 181 175 225 243 245 213 199 202 289

* in the Census of 1891, Anstey and Meesden were taken together, and had a population of 574, or 6 less than the two parishes together in 1881.

** Throcking and Broadfield were also taken together, giving a population of 73, or 20 less than in 1881.

*** Wakeley has ceased to be a separate parish.

[Transcriber's note: there were no entries in the 1841 column.]

The population of the town of Royston can only be arrived at by adding together the number of the parts of surrounding parishes making up the township of Royston. At the last two Censuses these parts have been enumerated separately, but not in the earlier decades, with the exception of 1801 and 1831, particulars of which are given below.

1801. Houses. Houses empty. Persons.

Royston, Herts. 193 13 975 " Cambs. 77 3 356 Bassingbourn 25 0 120 Kneesworth 3 0 9 Therfield 4 1 24 —- — —— Totals 302 17 1484

There were no inhabitants in Melbourn parish, Royston, at the above Census of ninety years ago, and it will be seen that all the inhabitants within 153 were in Royston parish proper.

1811.—The Census of this period showed very little difference from the figures for 1801, and of that of 1821, I have only the particulars for the two parishes of Royston, Herts., and Cambs., which gave 1,479 persons against 1,331 for these two parishes in 1801.


The most interesting and complete Census of the town was that of the year

Houses Houses 1831. Houses. empty. building. Persons.

Royston, Herts. 244 3 4 1272 " Cambs. 102 4 0 485 Bassingbourn 35 1 0 157 Kneesworth 6 1 0 49 Therfield 9 0 0 44 Melbourn 1 0 0 1 —- - - —— Totals 397 9 4 2008

The following are the Census returns for the township of Royston for 1881 and 1891.

1881. 1891. Increase. Decrease. Royston, Herts. 1272 1262 — 10 " Cambs. 440 439 — 1 Bassingbourn part 445 472 27 — The Workhouse 145 101 — 44 Kneesworth part 461 682 221 — Melbourn part 190 213 23 — Therfield part 183 150 — 33 —— —— —- — Totals 3136 3319 183 —

The interest of the foregoing figures lies in the fact that there was during the first thirty years of the century a great increase in the Hertfordshire part of the town, and scarcely any increase in the Cambridgeshire part, whereas the tendency has now been reversed in so remarkable a manner that against only 9 persons in Kneesworth parish, Royston, in 1801, there are now 682.



Allotments, 114 Andrews, Hy., astronomer, 34, 107 Anstey Fair, Rural Sports at, 100 Arrington, coaching at, 144 Arrington-hill, 154

"Bacca" and snuff for paupers, 41 Banks stopping payment, 56 Barkway, Day School at, 121 —Milestones near, 15, 16 —Terrible fire at, 178, 179 —Volunteers of, 68 —Whipping post at, 83 —Workhouse at, 40 Barley, "Fox and Hounds" at, 18 Bassingbourn, 24, 65 —Incendiary fires at, 170 —Strange narrative of horse-stealing at, 89 —Volunteers of, 71 Beacon fires, 66, 67 Beadle, dignity and duties of, 53, 54 —The, and Bastardy laws, 163 —Emoluments of, 55 Beldam, Joseph, senr., 28 —Valentine, 27 Biggleswade, dreadful fire at, 179 Bishop Stortford, Volunteers of, 71 Blucher at Cambridge, 72 Body-snatching, horrors of, 81 Bowling Greens, 24, 69 Bow Street Runner, 170 Buntingford, Bridewell at, 93 —Mails from, 115 —Pauper Weddings at, 50 —Queen & Prince Albert at, 187 —Roads, 12 Burying at four cross-roads, 86 Butler, Henry, woolstapler, 105 —John, 27 —W. Warren, and his rhymes, 132-135 Butcher, the, and the Baronet, 136

Cambridge "Chronicle," 15 —Coach, 10 —Undergraduates and village rows, 138, 139 Cambridgeshire Members of Parliament, 157 Cannon, Mrs., Old Matt and the Burglars, 182 Capital punishment, painful case of, 91 —Sentence of death for theft at Melbourn, 91 Carter, Valentine, stage-coach driver, 150 Caxton, 71 —Coaching to, 144 —Gibbet, 13 —Mail robbery, 48 —Turnpike, the, 153, 154 Cave Estate, Royston, 35, 37 Census, manner of taking, 116 —Returns of, in Appendix, 195, 196, 197 Charles I. at Royston, 7 Chartism at Royston, 127 Chimney sweeps' climbing boys, 78 Chipping, 12 Cholera-morbus, the, alarm in Royston 60 years ago, 182, 183 Coaching Accidents, 149, 150 Coaches, begging from, 152 —London to Edinburgh, 145 —Palmy days and speed of, 146 Coals brought from Cambridge to Royston, 75 Cock-fighting, 23 Cooper Thornhill's Ride, 178 Cottage homes of England, dilapidation of, 192 Crabb Robinson's Diary, 27 Cricket in the 18th Century, 130 Cross, Thos, stage-coach driver, 150 —Autobiography of, 136-141 Cruikshank, 67

Dacre, Lord, 110 —Lord and Lady, 121 Daintry, Mrs. and Thomas, 115 Day Schools, 120 Death Sentences 100 years ago, 88 Dogberry, Marrying the Paupers, 49, 50, 51 —Reporting nuisances, 55, 66 Dogs and Pedlars' Carts, 153

Education in Villages, 117 Electioneering in Herts., 156

Farmers and the Labourers, 58 —and Famine prices, 59 Fire Brigade of last Century, 44 Fly Wagons, 6 —Journey to London, by, 143 Flower, Benjamin, 27 Food, Prices of, 75 Fordham, E. K., 70 —Edward Snow, 75 —Henry, 7, 31, 78 —John George, 168, 169, 175 Forgery, Death sentences for, 92 Fowlmere, Riot at, 169 Foxton, Volunteers at, 71 Free Trade, First meetings in Royston, 112 French prisoners, 71

Gallows, The, 88 Gamlingay, Overseers and paupers at, 162 Gas, first prices of, 114 Gatward, James, and the Gibbet, 12, 13 George III., his reign, 1 —Fashions in times of, 76 —Hooted and mobbed, 56 —Jubilee of, 181 George IV., and his Queen—Kingites and Queenites, 127 Gransden, Pauper tyranny at, 166 Guilden Morden, incendiary fires at, 167

Hall, Robert, at Royston, 27 Hardwicke, the Earl of, and the Queen's visit, 188, 189, 190 —and Royston Races, 133 —Lady, 21, 68 Harston, enclosure riot at, 180, 181 Hatfield, Royal Review at, 70 Hauxton, sheep stealing at, 89 Hertford, pillory at, 83 Heydon Grange, prize-fighting near, 137 Highwaymen, 151 Highways, condition of, 8, 10 Highway robbery, 90 Hinxton, burning Pain's effigy at, 26 Hinxworth, labourers' earnings, 59 Hitchin, awful visitation at, 179 Hue and cry, 48

Influenza, following great frost in 1836, 186 Inoculation, 80

Jacobin, 4, 26 Jacklin, James, 72 James I. at Royston, 8 "John Ward, beadle," 55

Kellarman, alchemist of Lilley, 102 Kneesworth and Caxton toll proceeds of, 154

Lambert, Daniel, the fat man, 181 Letters, postage of, 115 Louis XVIII., at Royston, 181

McAdam and the North Road, 154 Mail coach driver killed, 186 Market ordinary, the, 109 Melbourn, the Queen and Prince Albert at, 188 Meldreth and its Stocks, 86 Memorable year of scarcity, 57 Mordens, the, 24

Napoleon Buonaparte, 5 —Shadow of, 56 —Threatened invasion by, 61 Nash, William, 7, 27 Newspapers, how obtained, 77 Noon's Folly, and its prize-fights, 136, 139 Nuthamstead "Sparrow hill," 47

Odsey Races, the, 22 Old Matt, the huntsman, 131 Old music and musicians, 128, 129 Old Poor-law, the, 32 Open corn markets, 110

Packhorses, 6, 7 Parish Clerks, 122 —Constable, and his accounts, 46 —Herdsman, the, 105 —Leaving without certificate, 43 —Workhouse, how managed, 39 Parliamentary Reform, 29, 156 —Rejoicings at Royston, 157 Parochial Assessment, 34 —Parliament, the, 32 Pattens and Clogs, 113 Paupers, 40, 41, 42, 44, 46 Peachey, the Hon. Mrs., 68 Pedestrian feat by a woman, 182 Phillips, John, 181 Pickering, Miss, 27 Pillion, the use of, 7 Police, the new, 174, 175, 176 Poor-law Reform, 159 —Making up wages, 161 —Memorable scene on Royston Heath, 172, 173 —Objection to Central Workhouse, 170 Poor-law Pauper tyranny, 166 —Riots and stack firing, 167, 168 Poor-rate of 22s. in the L at Royston, 61 Posting and Posthorses, 146 Press Gang, and terrors of, 86, 88 Prize-fighting, 135, 136 —Melbourn Champion, 137, 138 —Brighton Bill, 138 —Ward and Crawley fighting for the Championship on Royston Heath, 137 Public Worship, 122 Puckeridge Statute Fair, 98

Queen Victoria's Coronation, rejoicings at Royston, 186 —Jubilee, 70 —and Prince Albert at Royston, 187, 188

Radical Royston, 126 Railway, first use of, 176, 177 Revolution, the French, 2, 3, 4 Richardson, James, 151 Royal Show, Cambridge, 1840, 186 Royston, Badger-baiting at, 23 —Book Club and Debates at, 26, 31, 79 —Burloes Hill cut through, 183, 184 —Cave opened, 36, 37 —Coaching at, 143-145, 148 —Early Temperance work, 127 —18th Century bye-laws in, 25 —Fair tippling at, 100 —King James' stables at, 22 —Market, 67, 108 —Old Royston Club and its members at, 19, 20 —Pillory at, 83 —Races, 133 —Red Lion, social gatherings, 21 —Stocks at, 83 —Volunteers of, 70 —Whipping post at, 83 Rushden, A. Meetkerke of, 122

Salisbury, Marchioness, burnt to death, 184 Semaphore on Royston Heath, 66 Sheep stealing, death sentences for, 89 Shelford fires, death sentence for, 168 Shepreth, skilful woman of, 101 Shield, Capt., the Rev. Thomas, 68, 71 Small-pox, a recommendation, 44 Snelgar, Rev. J., 186 Snowstorms, memorable, 181, 182, 185 Soame, Sir Peter, 131, 132, 136 Stocks, a Lord Chief Justice in, 85

"Tally-ho" and "Safety" Coaches, 146, 148 Taxes on marriages, &c., 78 Therfield, searching for mail, 49 Threshing machines, breaking of, 166 Thurnall, Henry, and the highwayman, 90 —Commended by Poor-law Commissioners, 171 Thurnall, H. J., picture by, 18 Thurtle and Hunt, trial of, 49 Tinder Box, the, 73, 74 Tithes collected in kind, 124 Turpin, Dick, traditions of, 13, 14

Velocipede, the, 152 Volunteers, associations of, 67

Wadesmill Turnpike, 155 Wagon and sign post, the, 184, 185 Walton, Joe, coachdriver, 148, 149 Warren, J., 68, 157 Window tax, 79 Witches, 101 Wheat, 28s. a bushel, 60 "Wheatbarn tasker," the, 166 Woodcock, Elizabeth, buried alive in the snow, 181 Wortham, Lady, 77 Wortham, Squire, 131 Wrestling matches, 24


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