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during in the Great War, 1914-1919























during in the Great War, 1914-1919

by Ian Petticrew


Following the commencement of hostilities many men too badly wounded to make a recovery abroad were returned to Britain for medical treatment.   On arrival at British ports they were assessed in Red Cross temporary hospitals before being dispersed to military hospitals throughout the land.

Before the outbreak of war the British Red Cross earmarked suitable buildings for use as temporary hospitals.  What they selected varied widely, ranging from town halls and schools to large and small private houses.  The most suitable became “auxiliary general hospitals”, which operated as annexes to central military hospitals.   Although under military control they were administered by the Red Cross.  Each could accommodate several hundred patients in the bedridden category, while convalescent and ambulant patients were sent to smaller establishments.  Some specialised units were also set up, for example to treat shell-shocked and neurasthenic patients; in this category Craiglockhart War Hospital near Edinburgh dealt with shell-shocked officers, among them being the war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen.  Gadebridge Military Hospital at Hemel Hempstead, a facility for 800 men, specialised in treating soldiers with venereal disease (in 1918 there were 60,099 hospital admissions for VD in France and Flanders alone.  By contrast, only 74,711 cases of ‘Trench Foot’ were treated by hospitals in France and Flanders during the entire war, a total that also includes those suffering from Frost Bite.  While rarely fatal, on average VD cases required a month of intensive hospital treatment).

These temporary hospitals and convalescent homes were to prove vital for easing the pressure on the main military hospitals in treating the rapidly increasing numbers of repatriated wounded servicemen (well over 1 million in total).

Frodsham Auxiliary Military Hospital, Cheshire.
During the period of the hostilities over 3,000 patients were treated there.


Where soldiers ended up depended largely on the severity of their wounds.  The patients at the smaller military hospitals such as Tring did not, as a rule, have life-threatening injuries but needed time to convalesce.  That said, among his recollections of Tring in past times, local historian Bob Grace records that by 1915 Tring was receiving patients from the disastrous Dardanelles Campaign.

During the war, at least three military hospitals – probably physically separate elements of a single establishment – are known to have existed at Tring.  Very little information about them survives; much of what there is appears in contemporary editions of the Bucks Herald, in which the earliest reference is to the Victoria Hall in Akeman Street:

TO THE EDITOR OF THE BUCKS HERALD:−DEAR SIR, In your last week’s issue the following paragraph appeared − ‘A suggestion that the Victoria Hall, Tring, should be equipped as a hospital for the wounded is regarded in many quarters as somewhat premature.’  I wish to state that it is the duty of Voluntary Aid Detachments who work in connection with the British Red Cross Society to select suitable buildings for temporary hospitals should they be required.  Guarantees are got from local residents for equipping these hospitals, so that should the necessity arise they could be fitted up at very short notice.

At present no hospital exists in Tring but should the War Office require such, arrangements are being made by the local detachment whereby a fully equipped hospital could be set up in a few days.
Yours truly,
Hon. Secretary and Commandant,
Tring Voluntary Aid Detachment.
Grove Lodge, Tring
August 20th, 1914.

Bucks Herald, 22nd August 1914

This facility was set up initially to deal with the large number of new recruits from the 21st Division (part of Kitchener’s Third New Army, ‘K3’) who were billeted in Tring while undergoing training, for this news article refers to “illness” rather than “wounds”:

“The Victoria Hall has been equipped as a hospital by the local Voluntary Aid Detachment. It is furnished with six beds, and any cases of illness amongst the recruits will be treated there.”

Bucks Herald 19th Sept. 1914

The Victoria Hall military hospital (note sign to left of doorway).

Shortly after the military announced their intention to extend their medical capacity in Tring:

“The military authorities are looking about for further hospital accommodation, and in addition to utilising the isolation hospitals of the district
[at Little Tring and Aldbury], are contemplating taking over the High-street Schools.”

Bucks Herald, 17th Oct. 1914

. . . . and they then moved quickly:

“Last week the military took over the High-street and Gravelly
[at the top of Henry Street] Schools, and they are now being fitted up for the reception of cases of ordinary sickness occurring amongst the troops.  The authorities also expressed their desire to use the Tring and Aldbury Hospitals for the reception of infectious diseases amongst the soldiers . . . . The military patients at the [isolation] hospitals will be attended by Army Doctors, but beyond this the administration of the hospitals (including the appointment of extra nurses) will continue as at present . . . . The fee to be paid in respect of military patients received into either hospital will be 27s. 6d. a week for each patient.”

Bucks Herald 24th Oct. 1914


Tring School (on the left).
It stood on the High Street site now occupied by the Library and car park.

The schools pupils had then to be moved to temporary accommodation for the duration:

THE SCHOOLS:– The children reassembled on Tuesday morning at their new quarters in various parts of the town.  All the town schools are now in the hands of the military authorities, and are being prepared for hospital purposes.

Buck Herald, 14th Nov. 1914

“The playgrounds at the High-street Schools have been shut in by a high closely-boarded fence, which makes it impossible for anyone to overlook the grounds from the High-street.  It is understood that the schools will be used as a military hospital for the
[21st] Division, and will take the place of the Victoria Hall, which is to be vacated shortly.”

Bucks Herald, 19th Dec. 1914

This poor quality image is all that is known to have survived from
Tring School
s days as a military hospital.  Note the hospital uniforms.

Meanwhile the military also commandeered Tring Market House:

It was reported that the military authorities had applied for the use of the Market House as a depot for hospital stores.  The Chairman, after consultation with the Chairman of the Market House Committee, had granted the use of the building, and his action was confirmed.  It was left to the Market House Committee to fix a charge to cover the cost of light and firing should these be required.”

Bucks Herald, 17th Oct. 1914

Following the requisition of the schools their pupils were moved to various locations in the Town.  Boys went to the Church House and Market House, girls to the Lecture Hall in the High Street Free Church and to the Western Hall (now the site of Stanley Gardens), while infants were sent to the Sunday School room in the Akeman Street Baptist Chapel, while the YMCA building in Tabernacle Yard (off Akeman Street) was opened as a writing and reading room for soldiers, for whom bathing facilities were installed in the Museum outbuildings.  Although used for social purposes, it seems that the Victoria Hall continued to serve as a medical facility until at least 1916:

“On Wednesday evening a soldier of the Herts Territorials, while cycling near Ivinghoe, came into collision with a motor car.  He was thrown from his machine, and his collar bone dislocated.  He was put into a car and driven to the military hospital, Victoria Hall, Tring, where his injuries were attended to, and he was afterwards moved to the military hospital at Aylesbury.”

Bucks Herald, 27th May 1916

In 1916 a Zeppelin is believed to have passed over Tring on its way to bomb London.  The military hospital was made ready to receive the expected casualties from an air raid on the town:

ZEP SCARE:–Soon after midnight on Saturday a warning to prepare for an air raid came through.  Specials and firemen were at once called out, and at the military hospital preparations were made for the reception of casualties.  How near the Zeppelin came to Tring is uncertain, but the light from the one that was set on fire and which fell at Cuffley was distinctly visible in the town illuminating a wide area, and the noise made by the engines was plainly heard.  It was 4.30 on Sunday morning before the danger was reported over, and the tired specials and others were permitted to return to their beds.

Bucks Herald, Sept. 9th 1916


No information exists on how the Tring Military Hospital was organised, but the pattern followed was probably the same as that applying to similar establishments elsewhere:–

  •          a Commandant in charge of the hospital;

  •      a Matron (or equivalent) who directed the nursing staff;

  •          a Quartermaster responsible for the receipt, custody and issue of articles from the     provisions store;

  •          members of the local Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) who were trained in first aid and home nursing.

Local GPs sometimes helped, while women and those too old to work in a main military hospital often volunteered for part-time work.  There were also some paid roles, such as cooks.  The Bucks Herald makes a couple of references to those who worked at Tring:

“A VETERAN HOSPITAL ORDERLY:– ‘Bob’ Matthews, one of the best known and most esteemed of the R.A.M.C. [Royal Army Medical Corps] orderlies at the Tring Military Hospital, has a record of service of which he may well be proud, and it is creditable to him that he is still able and willing to carry on such splendid work, although much of it may be of a menial character.  Residing at Maidenhead, he assisted in the formation of the local Red Cross detachment, and was one of the first to answer the call for volunteers at the beginning of the war.  He has to his credit some 30 years service in the Berks Volunteers, and held the Long Service Medal, retiring with the rank of sergeant.  Keenly interested in the friendly society movement, his work for his local Court of Foresters was of a most useful character, and his interest in sport made him a keen supporter of the local football clubs, whilst with the patients and staff at the hospital ‘Bob’ is most popular, and most energetic in carrying out his duties.”

Bucks Herald, 19th May 1917

“THE HOSPITAL:– Much regret is felt at the removal of Captain A. Holland Wade, who has been transferred to another military hospital in the eastern Counties.  During the ten months he has had charge of the Tring Military Hospital, Captain Wade has made many friends in the town, and his loss will be felt, especially in the organisation of concerts, for several of which he has been responsible during the spring and summer, greatly to the benefit of a number of deserving war charities.  Possessing a fine baritone voice, Captain Wade was always a welcome addition to any programme, and made frequent appearance at the Y.M.C.A. concerts.  The good wishes of all go with him to his new sphere of labour.”

Bucks Herald, 27th Oct. 1917

Among those undertaking pastoral duties was the Rev. Charles Pearce, a local non-conformist clergyman.  Later in the war, in addition to his already considerable duties, the Rev. Pearce received the distinction of being appointed Officiating Chaplain in local military hospitals to the Wesleyans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Primitive and United Methodists, and Baptists, thus filling the unique position of representing all of the Free Churches.

The Rev. Charles Pearce.

In 1915, Rev. Pearce wrote to the Editor of the Bucks Herald acknowledging the efforts of the medical staff at the three military hospitals (presumably the High Street School, Gravelly School and the Victoria Hall):

Fernlea, High Street, Tring.

10th November 1915.

Dear Sir,

Much, but not too much, has been written about the officers and men of Halton Camp and at the Front.  I believe you will think a line or two about our Hospitals worthy a place in your valuable paper.  Neither rose nor rainbow gain anything from painter or poet, and deeds of mercy require no flourish of the pen.  A simple statement will be enough to show the skill, sympathy, and success of the doctors, their staff, and assistants.  We have had three Military Hospitals in Tring for considerably over 12 months (a number of the wounded from the Front are now here); but, as far as I remember, we have had only three deaths.  Surely this must form a record.  Some of these were very seriously ill before admittance.  I have been deeply touched by the tears in the tone: “We did our very best, but could not save him”.  The men seem to have undoubted confidence in the medical staff and their helpers.  The monotony of indoor life is just now largely increased by the darkened windows.  But all are hopeful of brighter days.
Yours etc.,
Charles Pearce, Army Chaplain

County branches of the Red Cross had their own groups of volunteers called Voluntary Aid Detachments, whose members came to be known simply as ‘VADs’.  Made up of men and women who had to pass exams to receive their first aid and home nursing certificates, the VADs carried out a range of voluntary work including nursing and transport duties:

“The military hospital at the Victoria Hall is in charge of the R.A.M.C.
, who are working in conjunction with the Voluntary Aid Detachment . . . . The result of the recent examination for first-aid certificates was not satisfactory, only three men being successful. As the War Office will only recognise a Voluntary Aid Detachment in which there are at least twelve certified men, it is felt desirable that opportunities should be afforded to enable others to qualify. A second course of instruction will be arranged, should a sufficient numb er of men signify their intention to join. There would be two meetings a week – one for instruction and one for practice. The Sergt-Major in charge of the R.A.M.C. Detachment at the Victoria Hall has promised his help . . . .”

Buck Herald, 17th October 1914

Although the Buck Herald report placed an emphasis on the need for men, by the summer of 1914, of the 74,000 VAD members, at least two-thirds were women.

Ada Jordan’s VAD arm-band.

Ada Jordan (aged 17), daughter of Karl Jordan, a Curator at Tring Museum, when serving as a V.A.D. found that some of the soldiers in the hospital where she worked refused to be nursed by her when they discovered that her father was German by birth, even though a naturalised British citizen.

Cartoon of Wandsworth Military Hospital.

Following the commencement of hostilities, Fanny Girardet, Tring’s long-serving indefatigable district nurse,  offered her services to the Red Cross.  She was posted to the military hospital on Wandsworth Common.  In 1916, her name appeared in the Birthday Honours List when she was awarded the Royal Red Cross Medal, a military decoration awarded in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth for exceptional services in military nursing.


[Town] Clerk reported that Major Prynne, the principal medical officer of the 21st Division, had called on him and explained that the Military authorities desired to use the [Isolation] Hospital at Tring for scarlet fever and diphtheria, and the Aldbury [Isolation] Hospital for enteric [typhoid].  At Aldbury they were willing to allow use of the hospital for enteric on the same terms as they charged patients from Tring, viz., 27s. a week; and were prepared to erect tents or other accommodation if necessary.  Dr. Brown said that Major Prynne stated at Aldbury that the military authorities did not wish their men to go into tents.  In reply to several Councillors, who pointed out the inconvenience of the proposed arrangement, the Chairman said he was afraid they could not help themselves.  They would have to do whatever the military authorities decided.

Bucks Herald, 17th October 1914

This was an age in which serious infectious diseases such a diphtheria, scarlet fever and smallpox were at large.  Thus, while continuing to serve the needs of the civilian population, the Little Tring Isolation Hospital received patients from among the soldiers billeted in Tring or based at the Halton military camp, and temporary accommodation (military huts) was erected in the hospital grounds to house them. The military were given powers that permitted them to dictate how the hospitals were to be used with regard to the civilian population.  Following a further meeting with the military the Tring Urban District Council received a memorandum on the subject:

The military authorities desire to use the Tring Hospital for enteric fever [typhoid], and the Aldbury Hospital for scarlet fever and diphtheria, and this will necessitate the local authorities [Tring and Berkhamstead] using the hospitals in the same way.  The only exception to this will be that if one of the hospitals is standing empty the military authorities will raise no objection to is being used temporarily for any kind of infectious disease from its own district, provided that reasonable accommodation is always kept available at each hospital for the disease which the military authorities have arranged should be dealt with there.  The cases at the two hospitals are to remain until discharged in the ordinary way.”

Bucks Herald, 24th October 1914

A later press report suggests that the military section of the Isolation Hospital had its own commandant and did not form a part of the Tring Military Hospital:

“CAPTAIN SHAW, R.A.M.C.:–Eulogistic reference was made in the House of Commons on Tuesday to the services of this medical officer in the epidemic of cerebro-spinal fever
[meningitis] which has occurred among young naval officers at Cambridge. Captain Shaw is in charge of the Isolation Hospital, Tring, where he has done splendid work in combating this dread disease, and for the past six weeks has been lent to the Admiralty for special service at Cambridge.

Bucks Herald, 22nd March 1919

Overcrowding appears to have been a problem at times:

“THE HOSPITAL:–The [Town] Clerk reported that complaints had been made as to overcrowding at the [Tring] Isolation Hospital.  Beds for 40 patients were provided, and 70 men had been taken in.  He had written to the Military Authorities, and told them that the Council could not accept responsibility for any consequences of overcrowding,–The Matron reported that 62 patients had been admitted: 22 with measles, 29 scarlet fever and 12 diphtheria cases.  Fifty-three patients had been discharged, and 3 died.”

Bucks Herald, 20th May 1916

The article does not distinguish the split between military and civilian in the statistics, but some deaths were reported in the press, such as that of Private Arthur Baxter, son of Mr. H. E. Baxter, of Walsoken, Wisbech, Cambs.  Arthur is buried in Tring Cemetery (grave ref. F18):

MILITARY FUNERAL:–A young private of the Cambs. Territorials was buried with full military honours on Monday afternoon. He died in the Tring Isolation Hospital, to which he had been removed from Halton Camp, suffering with scarlet fever.

Bucks Herald, 10th June 1916


Private Heaton Bailey, R.A.M.C.

Rather more is known about Private Heaton Bailey, R.A.M.C., son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Bailey, Bolton Road, Silsden, Yorkshire, who is reported to have died of pneumonia at Tring on the 6th March 1918, aged 19 years.  On 25th August 1917 Private Bailey was transferred to 1st Training Battalion, R.A.M.C. at Blackpool.  Between 14th November 1917 and 19th December 1917 he was admitted to the Military Hospital, Kirkham near Preston with Influenza.  On 10th January 1918 he was posted to No 9 Company at Colchester, then transferred to Aylesbury for hospital training.  After working for some time at the Military Hospital, he acted as orderly in the isolation ward of a neighbouring hospital.  Whilst there, he contracted scarlet fever, and after being removed to hospital in Tring (probably the Isolation Hospital), he had another attack of pneumonia in addition to the fever.  His condition became worse, and his parents were only able to reach the hospital shortly before he died, although he was unconscious when they arrived (obituary in the Keighley Boys Grammar School magazine, edition Nov. 1918).

It appears that the Forces Chaplain (Rev. Pearce) held the Isolation Hospitals long-suffering Matron in high esteem, for he wrote to the Editor of the Bucks Herald heaping his praise on her: 

“We cannot but admire and feel grateful to the Matron at our Isolation Hospital.  She has done well under the most trying circumstances.  She came to a comparatively quiet resting place, but since the military occupation, and all the new
[in fact temporary] buildings, the work has been enough to tax the skill and strength of the most devoted; her ability and love have enabled her to bear the burden and discharge her duties so splendidly.  We have nothing but praise for all responsible for our hospitals in the town, and we have never heard a complaint from one of the sufferers under their charge, but many have expressed their surprise at the patience and tenderness with which they have been treated.”

Bucks Herald, 3rd June 1916

At an Urban District Council meeting in February 1917, the Matron reported:

“17 patients admitted during the month; 4 discharged; 17 remaining in the hospital.  She applied for an honorarium for extra work since the Hospital had been used for the military.  From 1914 to the beginning of 1917, 266 military patients had been admitted, and much extra work thereby entailed.”

Bucks Herald, 17th Feb. 1917

Both the Matron and her nurse later received their honorarium, but in reporting this the Editor of the Bucks Herald failed (discreetly) to disclose the amount.


As for the relaxation of patients during their recuperation, there are numerous reports in the local press of visits and of concerts organised in the town, often by the military and with a military input to the entertainment. For example:

GIFTS TO SICK SOLDIERS.–On Christmas afternoon Councillors the Rev. C. Pearce and Messrs. R. W. Allison. Bentley Asquith, and T. H. Hedges visited the two military hospitals and distributed cigarettes to the inmates, and also gave the nurses boxes of chocolates.  These gifts had been subscribed for by the townspeople as a Christmas gift for the strangers within the gate.  The recipients were surprised and delighted with the present, and the generous and kindly feeling which prompted it, and several grateful letters of acknowledgment have been received.  About 15,000 cigarettes were distributed, and these, as well as the chocolates, were all obtained through local tradesmen.

Bucks Herald, 2nd Jan. 1915

“GRAND ENTERTAINMENT:– In aid of the Officer Prisoners of War Fund, an excellent programme was submitted at the Victoria Hall on Wednesday evening. The arrangements were in the capable hands of Lieut. A. Holland Wade, R.A.M.C., medical officer at the local Military Hospital, and it is not too much to say that in every detail they were perfect, and the concert in every way a complete success . . . . Lieut. Holland Wade, whose vocal powers are well known to local audiences, made two appearances, and was deservedly encored.”

Bucks Herald, 28th April 1917

Added to the entertainments at the Victoria Hall were occasional outings (note the American contingent):

“HOSPITAL PATIENTS:– The patients at the hospital enjoyed a pleasant drive on Wednesday to Berkhamsted, returning via Ashridge and Aldbury.  The men are grateful to Lady Rothschild for her kindness in making possible such enjoyable outings.  Amongst the party were several American soldiers, who were much impressed by the beauties of the surrounding country.”

Bucks Herald, 20th Oct 1917

HOSPITAL PATIENTS:– On Wednesday afternoon the patients at the local military hospitals had a most pleasant drive in brakes to Aylesbury and home via Wendover and the Camps.  They were accompanied by the Rev. Charles Pearce, O.C.”

Bucks Herald, 1st June 1918


A soldier wearing hospital blues.

During the period that the soldiers of the 21st Division were billeted in Tring, William Mead, wealthy owner of the Tring Flour Mill, fitted an annexe to the mill containing two enormous baths for their use.  He also invited wounded soldiers for drives around the countryside in his steam lorry, finishing with refreshments and games at the mill; those too ill to attend he visited in the various local military hospitals.

HOSPITAL PATIENTS ENTERTAINED:−Through the kindness of Mr. W. N. Mead, the patients and staff of the Military Hospital spent a happy time at Gamnel Wharf on Wednesday afternoon.  They were met on arrival by Mr. and Mrs. Mead, who has made every arrangement for the pleasure of the men.  Not the least interesting item was a tour through the extensive flour mills, where the work of many machines aroused great interest, which was enhanced by the explicit explanation of the process by Mr. Mead.  A feature of the outing was a trip on the canal in a decorated barge, the voyage to the Cow Roast and back, under the direction of Mr. Mead as skipper, being most enjoyable.  Bowls and other games were provided in the delightful gardens and grounds, in which the men and the staff took part.

Bucks Herald, 14th July 1917

The photographs below are an example of the hospitality and entertainment arranged by William Mead for wounded servicemen.  The soldiers embarking in the bow of one of Meads barges (the Victoria) for a leisure trip on the Grand Junction Canal are wearing hospital blues.  This form of uniform was intended to ensure that convalescing soldiers had a uniform they could wear in public, thereby avoiding the risk of attracting white feathers from zealous armchair patriots and accusations that they were not doing their bit for King and Country.

A band of military musicians are seated under the tarpaulin.


When peace returned, the town gradually regained something approaching normality, given that the Spanish influenza pandemic and the coal and rail strikes had first to be endured.  In those of Tring’s buildings that had formed the military hospital, medical supplies were packed up and sent back to Government stores.

During 1919, children returned to their pre-war schoolrooms having spent four and a half years in unsuitable and sometimes cold makeshift conditions.  Collections were made in the cinema (The Empire, Akeman Street) for the King’s Fund for the Disabled, and books for the wounded were gathered and sent to the Library Branch of the British Red Cross.  A Victory Ball had been held at the Victoria Hall, the Bucks Herald reporting that the Hall was “profusely decorated”; nearly 200 attended, most wearing fancy dress or uniform, proceeds from the event being donated to the Local Hospital Supply Depot.


that might have been.

by Ian Petticrew

The opening of the Birkenhead Street Railway Company, 30th August 1860.
George Train is pictured on the top deck with arm outstretched.

The street tramway arrived in Britain in 1860 when American entrepreneur George Train opened a short line at Birkenhead.  Although his trams proved popular with their passengers, the tramway suffered the drawback of using rails that protruded above the road surface, thereby obstructing other road users.  These were later replaced with grooved rails and before long most of Britain’s cities and towns of any size had trams, which not only gave passengers a more comfortable ride than horse buses, but the low rolling resistance of metal wheels on steel rails allowed a greater load to be hauled for a given effort.

As for Train’s line, it eventually grew into a fairly extensive street tramway system run by Birkenhead Corporation, which survived until motor buses eventually took over in 1937.

Grooved tramlines.

Motive power was at first provided by horses, but in the age of steam it was not long before attempts were made to replace teams of horses with small steam locomotives, or ‘tram engines’.  But due to their restricted size, steam tram engines were usually underpowered added to which their heavy maintenance requirement – lighting the fire, removing ash and soot, periodically replenishing water and coke (coke because they had to be smoke-free) and lubricating – added to operational expense.  One commentator writing in 1889 gave the passenger’s perspective:  “passengers are choked with sulphurous vapour and buried in smuts if they attempt a long journey on a steam-tram.”  It is therefore unsurprising that when electric traction  became feasible in the 1890s (the current being distributed by overhead cables), the steam tram engine quickly faded from the scene.

However, one steam system did survive and in this area.  Opened in 1887, the 2½-mile  Wolverton and Stony Stratford Tramway brought workers from outlying districts into the London & North Western Railway’s large carriage works at Wolverton.  This steam tramway ran until 1926, by which time it had earned the dual distinctions of having the largest trailer cars to run in Britain (seating 100 passengers) and being our last steam-worked street tramway.

A Wolverton steam tram and trailers.

THE TRING AND AYLESBURY TRAMWAY PLAN: in 1887, reports and notices appeared in the local press of a plan to build a tramway linking Tring Station, via the town, with Aylesbury; the notices do not mention whether that system was to be steam or horse powered, but taking account of the length of the line and its gradients, steam seems more likely.  At the same time a grander scheme was announced for a steam tramway linking Hemel Hempstead, Boxmoor, Chesham, Berkhamstead and Northchurch:

A NEW TRAMWAY. ― A tramway is contemplated from Aldbury and Tring in the county of Hertford: and Drayton Beauchamp, Buckland, Aston Clinton, Weston Turville, and Aylesbury, in the county of Buckingham. A system is also contemplated to connect the towns of Berkhamstead, Northchurch, Chesham, Hemel Hempstead, and Boxmoor.

Bucks Herald, 22nd November 1887.

Descriptions of the route and its gradients survive in the Hertfordshire Archive, which show that detailed surveying must have been carried out before the announcements were made.  To protect the road surface, where practicable the trams were to run on waste land at the side of the road.  The tramway was to commence opposite the goods entrance to Tring Station, cross the Grand Junction Canal over the existing bridge and proceed up Station Road (gradient 1:65) to Tring Lodge, after which there would then be a short descent (1:20) to Brook Street.  The line would climb steeply at Frogmore Street (1:18) followed by a gradual ascent to the summit of Tring Hill (1:48) before descending (1:20) to the Vale of Aylesbury after which the route to the Aylesbury terminus was to be comparatively level (1:100).


Halting places


Halting places


Tring Station


White Lion PH


Beechgrove House


Rose & Crown PH


Brook St.


Vatche Farm


Frogmore St.


Aston Clinton Village


Britannia Inn


Broughton Farm


Tring Hall


Broughton House




Condensed Milk Works


The Junipers


Park St.

The press reports do not mention to what extent the scheme was supported by the general public, but there were objectors:

THE TRAMWAY SCHEME. ― A Tring correspondent writes: We understand that Lord Rothschild, Mr. Williams, and other owners of property in the narrow part of the High-street have objected on public grounds to the laying of the Tramway there.  Even with the present traffic the street is narrow and insufficient, and accidents, especially on market days, are not infrequent.  The promoters will, it is thought, abandon the scheme, without incurring the expense which opposition at a later stage of the order would entail upon them.

Bucks Herald, 17th November 1887.

When the Tring Local Board (predecessor of the Tring Urban District Council) met to discuss the scheme, their main concern was that part of the High Street was too narrow to meet statutory requirements:

LOCAL BOARD.― At the meeting of this Board on Thursday there were present Mr. Butcher (chairman), Dr. Pope, and Messrs. Smith, Chappell, Humphrey, Grange, Crouch, and Elliman; The Clerk (Mr. A. W. Vaisey), and the Inspector (Mr. Baines).― The Clerk read a letter from Mr. Battams, the solicitor to the Promoters of the proposed tramway between Tring and Aylesbury, with reference to the posting of the notices; and he also laid on the table the plans and sections of the proposed line.

A discussion followed on the Board’s position on the matter.  The Clerk read several sections of the Tramways’ Act, 1870, which referred to the position of the Board with regard to the persons interested in that portion of the High-street which was too narrow to allow the required width on each side of the rails.― Mr. Elliman thought they should not forget that the tramways would give facilities for getting about, and that they were generally advantageous to a town.  It might be the wish of the townspeople to have the tramway.― After some discussion, the Clerks was directed to issue a circular, drawing the attention of the inhabitants to section 9 of the Act of 1870, which provides for the case in which the street is too narrow to admit a width of “9 feet 6 inches between the outside of the footpath on either side of the roadway and the nearest rail of the tramway.”

Bucks Herald, 3rd December 1887.

The Tring and Aylesbury Tramway scheme was finally laid to rest when its promoters met with Lord Rothschild – Lord of the Manor of Tring and a substantial and wealthy landowner in the town – whose main objection to the tramway was that it would not be a financial success.  If true, how this would affect anyone other than the scheme’s promoters and shareholders is unclear, for they would probably have been required to arrange a bond to cover the cost of road clearance should the scheme fail.  The following newspaper report refers to “other objections”, which presumably included the narrowness of the High Street (folklore has it that he also objected to trams running past his residence):

THE PROPOSED TRAMWAYS SCHEME.― It is stated that Mr. Wilkinson, the promoter of these schemes, accompanied by the solicitor and the engineer, had an interview with Lord Rothschild, Messrs. Leopold and Alfred de Rothschild being also present, at New Court, St. Swithin’s-lane, on Wednesday, as to the proposed line from Tring to Aylesbury, and that his Lordship having intimated that the line would not received his support because, among other objections to the scheme, he considered it was a line which would not be a financial success, it was decided to abandon the project.  But as his Lordship at the same time intimated that he felt certain that the line from Chesham to Hempstead would be supplying a long-felt want to the district, and also prove a certain commercial success, it has been decided to press forward the project with the upmost vigour.

Bucks Herald, 24th December 1887.

What is surprising is that the tramway promoters appear not to have foreseen such predictable obstacles before incurring surveying, planning, legal and parliamentary costs.  To modern eyes it might also appear surprising that the word of Lord Rothschild should carry such weight in the matter, but this was an age when the peerage had considerably more influence than today, as was evidenced when Robert Stephenson brought the London & Birmingham Railway Bill to Parliament in 1832, only  to have it thrown out – at great cost to the Company – by Lord Brownlow of Ashridge and a coterie of peers who objected to railways in general.

As for the Hemel Hempstead steam tramway scheme, it too sank without trace.  Newspaper reports of the time suggest that although it met with widespread approval among the general public, there were influential objectors among whom was  Sir A. P. Paston-Cooper, a land owner in the Hemel area (whose ancestor’s objections had caused the London & Birmingham Railway to be diverted from the Gade into the Bulbourne Valley).  The press reports that Cooper “thought the tramway horrid.  People in London liked to come into the country to enjoy the peace and quiet there, but would they come if a beastly tramway were introduced?

On the 11th August, 1888, a short notice appeared in the Bucks Herald to the effect that the Hemel Steam Tramways Bill had received the Royal assent, thereby becoming an Act of Parliament.  But despite having overcome all the legal obstacles to its construction nothing further is heard of the scheme, which was probably abandoned owing to lack of finance.

Bucks Herald, 26th November 1887.

(Construction of Tramways; Gauge; Motive Power; Tolls; Agreement with Local and Road Authorities; Amendment of Act.)


NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, That application is intended to be made to the Board of Trade in the ensuing Session for a Provisional Order under the Tramways Act, 1870, for the purpose or some of the purposes following, that is to say:

To authorise a company to be incorporated in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Board of Trade, or any other Company or Corporation, Person or Persons, to be named in the Draft Provisional Order (hereinafter called the Promoters), to construct and maintain the following Tramways or some part or parts thereof, that is to say:

Tramway No. 1, commencing in the parish of Aldbury, in the County of Hertford, at a point opposite the Goods Entrance of the Tring Station of the London and North-Western railway, thence passing in a south-westerly direction over the Grand Junction Canal, and thence along the road leading to Tring and along the High Street, Tring, passing Brook Street and Frogmore Street, along the Western Road leading to Aylesbury, passing Miswell Lane and Chapel Street, and terminating at a point opposite the Britannia Inn, in the parish of Tring in the same County.

Tramway No. 1 will be a single line, except at the following places, where it will be a double line:― From a point 4 chains measured in a south-westerly direction from the commencement of the Tramway for a distance of 3 chains measured in a south-westerly direction.  From a point opposite the road leading to Tring Grove, for a distance of 3 chains measured in a south-westerly direction.  From a point 4 chains measured in a north-easterly direction from the termination of the Tramway for a distance of 3 chains measured in a south-westerly direction.

Tramway No. 1 is proposed to be laid that for a distance of 30 feet and upwards a less space than 9 feet 6 inches will intervene between the nearest rail of the tramway and the outside of the footpath on both sides of the road, from a point 1 chain measured in a south-westerly direction, along the High Street, Tring, from opposite the entrance to the Parish Church, to a point 3 chains measured in a north-easterly direction, from opposite the entrance gate to Elm House, Tring.

Tramway No. 2, commencing at the termination of Tramway No. 1, and passing thereby in a westerly direction along the road to Aylesbury, down the Tring Hill, over the Grand Junction Canal, through the village of Aston Clinton, along the street known as Akeman Street, past the village of Broughton, over the Grand Junction Canal, and thence into the town of Aylesbury, passing Exchange Street and Station Street, along the New Road, and terminating in the town of Aylesbury, in the County of Buckingham, at a point 3 chains measured in a north westerly direction from opposite Britannia Street, Aylesbury.

Tramway No. 2 will be single line, except at the following places, where it will be a double line:― From a point 2 chains measured in a north-westerly direction from the centre of the Grand Junction Canal Bridge, Buckland Wharf, for a distance of 3 chains measured in a north-westerly direction.  From a point opposite the Rose and Crown Public House, in the village of Aston Clinton, for a distance of 3 chains measured in a north-westerly direction.  From a point opposite the road leading to Broughton village, for a distance of 3 chains, measured in a north-easterly direction.  From a point 4 chains, measured in a south-easterly direction, from the termination of the Tramway for a distance of 3 chains measured in a north-westerly direction.

The Tramways are proposed to be laid, where practicable, on the waste at the side of the roads.

The Tramways will pass from, through, or into the parishes or places of Aldbury and Tring, in the county of Hertford; and Drayton Beauchamp, Buckland, Aston Clinton, Western Turville, and Aylesbury, in the County of Buckingham.

To authorise the promoters to construct the Tramways on a gauge of 3 feet 6 inches, and to employ animal, steam, or other mechanical or motive power for moving carriages or trucks upon the Tramways, but not to use on the Tramways carriages of trucks adapted for use upon railways.

To empower the promoters from time to time to make such crossings, passing places, sidings, junctions, and other works, in addition to those particularly specified in this Notice, as may be necessary or convenient for the efficient working of the proposed Tramways, or any of them, or for providing access to any stables or carriage sheds or works of the promoters.

To enable the promoters when by reason of the execution of any work affecting the surface or soil of any street, road, or thoroughfare, or otherwise it is necessary or expedient to remove or discontinue the use of any Tramway as aforesaid, or any part thereof, to make in the same or any adjacent street, road or thoroughfare in any parish or place mentioned in this notice, and maintain, so long as occasion may require, a temporary Tramway, or temporary Tramways, in lieu of the Tramway or part of a Tramway so removed or discontinued to be used, or intended so to be.

To enable the promoters for the purposes of the proposed Tramways to purchase by agreement, or to take easements over lands and houses, and to erect offices, buildings, and other conveniences on any such lands.

To enable the promoters to levy tolls, rates, and charges for the use of the proposed Tramways by carriages passing along the same, and for the conveyance of passengers or other traffic of whatever kind upon the same.

To empower the promoters to hold and acquire patent rights in relation to Tramways.

To enable the Local Boards, Town Councils, Vestries, or other bodies corporate, or persons having respectively the duty of directing the repairs or the control and management of the said streets, roads and places respectively, to enter into contracts and agreements with respect to the laying down, maintaining, renewing, repairing, working and using of the proposed Tramways, and the rails, plates, sleepers, and works connected therewith, and for facilitating the passage of carriages and traffic over and along the same.

To vary and extinguish all rights and privileges which would interfere with the objects of the Provisional Order, and to confer other rights and privileges.

The proposed Order will incorporate all or some of the provisions of the Tramways Act, 1870, subject to such alterations and modifications as may be deemed expedient.

On or before the 30th day of November instant, plans and sections of the proposed Tramways and Works, and a copy of this advertisement, as published in the London Gazette, will be deposited at the office of the Board of Trade, London, and for public inspection with the Clerk of the Peace for the county of Hertford, at his office at St. Alban’s, and with the Clerk of the Peace for the County of Buckingham, at his office at Aylesbury, and on or before the same day a copy of so much of the said plans and sections as relates to each of the parishes and extra-parochial places in or through which the Tramways are proposed to be laid with a copy of this advertisement as published as aforesaid, will be deposited in the case of each such parish with the Parish Clerk thereof, at his residence, and in the case of each such extra-parochial place with the Parish Clerk of some parish immediately adjoining thereto, at his residence.

Printed copies of the draft Provisional Order will be deposited at the Board of Trade on or before the 23rd December next, and printed copies of the draft Provisional Order when made, may be obtained on application at the Office of Messrs. Sherwood and Co., No. 7, Great George Street, Westminster, at the price of one shilling for each copy.

Every Company, Corporation or Person desirous of making any representation to the Board of Trade, or bringing before them any objection respecting this application, may do so by letter addressed to the Assistant Secretary of the Railway Department of the Board of Trade on or before the 15th of January next, and copies of such representations or objections must at the same time be sent to the Promoters, and in forwarding to the Board of Trade such objections, the Objectors or their Agents should state that a copy of the same has been sent to the Promoters or their Agents.

Dated this 18th day of November, 1887.
                71, Eastcheap, London, E.C.,
                        Solicitors for the Promoters.
        SHERWOOD and CO.,
                7, Great George Street, Westminster,
                        Parliamentary Agents.


Ed. − On the 31st December 1926, the British Broadcasting Company was dissolved and its business taken over by the non-commercial British Broadcasting Corporation, ‘The BBC’.  Thus began radio broadcasting as we know it today.  The following article from the Parish Magazine expresses fear about the detrimental impact on churchgoers of broadcast or ‘arm chair religion’ religion.

Tring Parish Magazine August 1927


We can only consider in a short paragraph the results of “wireless” from a religious point of view.  In favour of it are the facts that it has enabled thousands of invalid and agèd people to hear a religious service from which perhaps they have been cut off for years and the remainder of their life.  Many others, also, who never attend a place of worship have heard a good sermon each week and a religious service.  In the near future, too, probably it will be possible to broadcast a service to those thousands of our own country men and women who are living in isolated parts of our Empire, and who hardly ever see a clergyman.

We are also told by parents that the “wireless” keeps their young people at home on weekday evenings when without it they have sought amusement outside the home.  Anything which strengthens home life is valuable.  On the other hand, the wireless keeps people at home on a Sunday evening also when they would have gone to Church.

Now, listening in an arm chair to a service at your ease, however much you try to enter into the service, is not the same as going to Church.  No doubt you can hear a better sermon on the wireless than you get at your own Church, but that is not the point.  Such an arm chair religion is of little value.  We ought to go personally to God’s House regularly not merely to hear a sermon, but to maintain the public witness to God before the world, but above all “to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy Word, and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul.”  We have lately missed some of our regular worshippers.  Will they think this over?

Is such an easy kind of religion as listening to a “service” at home worth much to you?  And is that all you are prepared to give Almighty God once a week?  Religion has got to cost us a great deal if it is to be worth anything to us at all.  The great insidious danger is that this vicarious kind of worship will act as a soothing syrup to the conscience and finally put it to sleep.  Above all, no one can plead the sacrifice of the death of Christ and receive His Body and Blood on the wireless.  And that is “generally necessary to salvation.”


Ed. − in addition to BBC broadcasting (previous article), 1926 also saw the arrival in Tring of mains electricity.  The next article from the Parish Magazine reports on the replacement of the old electric generating set with mains electricity.  The generator, installed in the Vicarage gatehouse in 1909, comprised a 4½ h.p gas engine running on coal gas supplied by the mains (fed by the Tring Gas Light & Coke Company’s works in Brook Street).  The engine drove a dynamo that charged a bank of lead acid accumulators.  Once charged, these could run the Church lighting system for up to 5 hours.

Tring Parish Magazine, September 1927


The difficulty about the electric Lighting of the Church has been most happily solved, as it has been found possible to modify the current of the public supply to suit our present wiring.  By means of a “transformer” we shall be able to use the system we now have for 2 or 3 years longer, which will give us time to collect the money for the wiring which will be required by the full power of the public supply.

This is a great convenience as the present year has been a heavy one, and to have found £150 or so before its end would have been a considerable difficulty.  Will people kindly remember the “Church Electric Wiring Fund” as I believe that it is the intention of the churchwardens to start such a fund at once? Sometimes when it is desired to make an “offering” there is doubt as to what it should be given, and here is something which is a real necessity for our public religious life and to which it might be suitably devoted.

The Church authorities are most grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Kemp for the long suffering way in which they have endured our present private plant upon their premises, until such time as we could mature plans for being connected with the public supply.

Tring Parish Magazine, November 1927

The faulty condition of the old cable and of other sections of the apparatus in the Parish Church are the cause of the very poor lighting, recently, of the main portion of the Church, and it has become urgently necessary that the substitution of a new cable for the old one, as well as other necessary work, be taken in hand.  The work to be done now will happily form part of the whole scheme of re-wiring which must shortly be proceeded with, at an estimated cost of £150.  A fund has been opened and subscriptions are appealed for without delay that the work may be put in hand as soon possible.  These may be paid into the National Provincial and Barclay’s Banks, or to the Churchwardens.

The old apparatus has served us for eighteen years, and so it is apparent that the present state of affairs is by no means extraordinary.

Tring Parish Magazine, January 1928

The first part of the re-wiring and renewals made necessary by the connecting up with the public electricity supply has been completed in an entirely satisfactory manner by Mr. Gilbert Grace, at a cost of £42, which amount will absorb all the present subscriptions to the Electric Light Fund, together with the amounts realised by the sale of the old engine and batteries now no longer required.  The transformer and its fitting have yet to be paid for, and the greater portion of the work, to complete the rewiring scheme, has yet to be done.  Probably more than an additional £100 will be required, and an urgent appeal is made to all member’s of the congregation, and to others who may be interested, to subscribe without delay to the fund now open at the National Provincial and Barclay’s Banks.  The transformer has a life of 2 years; it has now been in use for 4 months; it is not paid for; and 4 months so soon becomes 2 years!


Tring Parish Magazine, December 1935


The opening meeting of the new session of the the Men’s Society was held in the Church House on Monday evening the 4th November, and we were very fortunate in getting Mr. MacDonald to come and speak to us on “Tithe,” a subject which in some districts has caused disturbing incidents, and in general has given rise to a great deal of controversy.

Mr. MacDonald began by saying that he hoped he would not send us all to sleep (he evidently was not accustomed to the Church House Chairs) and then made his audience sit up by stating that there is now no such thing as Tithe.

He explained that from early times “tithes” or “tenths” of the produce of the land had been given to the parson, but owing to the difficulty and inconvenience of collecting the tithes in kind, Tithe owner and Tithe payer in many cases agreed to a modus or money payment in lieu of tithe, and that by the Tithe Act 1836 the payment of tithe in kind was abolished, and land was assessed to tithe rentcharge according to its then fertility or bearing capacity, the amount payable varying with the price of corn.

The present Tithe Rentcharge thus became a charge on the land and in 1891 it was made illegal for the Landowner to make his tenant responsible for its payment.

It could be said on behalf of those who objected to pay “tithe,” especially in the Eastern Counties where “tithe” is heavy, that when the tithe rentcharge was assessed in 1835 the land there was good corn land but that now in many cases it had fallen down to grass, and the tithe rentcharge perhaps represented more than the present value of one-tenth of the value of the produce, but it seemed that a great many of the objectors had bought their land recently with full knowledge of the charge thereon, and did take, or should have taken, this into account in arriving at the price paid for the land; so that in these cases the objection was hardly logical.

Mr. MacDonald explained the difference between small and great tithes and how the latter were often taken by the absent Rector leaving only the small tithes for the Vicar of the Parish.   He also gave instances of parishes where there is no tithe, where there is only Rectorial Tithe, and where there are both Rectorial and Vicarial Tithes.

Mr. MacDonald’s personal stories and anecdotes in connection with the buying and selling and collecting of tithe (we did not know before that Shakespeare was a Tithe Owner) were much appreciated, as was also his reading of Cowper’s poem [Ed. see below] on tithe, and those present described the meeting, as to the numbers present, the subject, and the lecturer, as one at the best we ever had.

Ed. Following the 1836 Tithe Act, a number of later Acts changed the law on Tithe payments, which were finally abolished in the 1977 Finance Act.





Come, ponder well, for ’tis no jest,
    To laugh it would be wrong;
The troubles of a worthy priest
    The burden of my song.

The priest he merry is and blithe
    Three quarters of the year,
But oh! it cuts him like a scythe
    When tithing time draws near.

He is then full of frights and fears,
    As one at point to die,
And long before the day appears
    He heaves up many to sigh.

For then the farmers come, jog, jog,
    Along the miry road,
Each heart as heavy as a log,
    To make their payments good.

In sooth the sorrow of such days
    Is there to be express’d,
When he that takes and he pays
    Are both alike distress.

Now all unwelcome at his gates
    The clumsy swains alight,
With rueful faces and bald pates −
    He trembles at the sight.

And well he may, for well he knows
    Each bumpkin of the clan,
Instead of paying what he owes,
    Will cheat him if he can.

So in they come − each makes his leg,
    And flings his head before,
And looks as if he came to beg,
    And not to quit a score.
‘And how does miss and madam do,
    The little boy and all?’
‘All tight and well.   And how do you,
    Good Mr. What-d’ye-call?’

The dinner comes, and down they sit:
    Were e’er such hungry folk?
There’s little talking, and no wit;
    It is no time to joke.

One wipes his nose on his sleeve,
    One spits on the floor,
Yet not to give offense or grieve,
    Holds up the cloth before.

The punch goes round, and they are dull
    And the lumpish still as ever;
Like barrels with their bellies full,
    They only weigh the heavier.

At length the busy time begins,
    ‘Come neighbours, we must wag.’
The money chinks, down their chins,
    Each lugging out his bag.

One talks of mildew and of frost,
    And one of storms and hail,
And one of pigs that he has lost,
    By maggots at the tail.

Quoth one, ‘A rarer man than you
    In pulpit none shall hear;
But yet, methinks, to tell you true,
    You sell it plaguy dear.’

O, why are farmers made so coarse,
    Or clergy made so fine?
A kick that scarce would move to horse,
    May kill a sound divine.

Then let the boobies stay at home;
    ‘Twould cost him, I dare say,
Less trouble taking twice the sum,
    Without the clowns that pay.


Tring Parish Magazine, December 1941


In 1867, our beautiful Church presented a very different aspect from that of to-day.  The altar was bare, the only ornamentation being the newly-erected reredos, with three panels, the centre one containing a cross in white marble, and the sacred monograms on either side.  The Altar Cross, candlesticks and vases were given at a much later date.  The family from the Park occupied seats in the chancel, and they entered through a doorway in the south wall, a scene of awe to my childish eyes!

The singing was led by a choir of girls, apprentices at the Silk Mill, who sat near the small organ in the north aisle of the nave, and the responses were made by the Parish Clerk.  Over the chancel arch the Ten Commandments were inscribed, and above them the text: “The Law was our Schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ,” on either side, a picture of Moses and of Aaron, these being afterwards removed to the end of the north aisle.  There was no chancel screen until a much later date.  The seats were nearly all appropriated, although my father, who was Vicar’s Churchwarden, wished them to be entirely free and open.  The incumbent preached in the Genevan black gown, and said that he intended doing so until he was ordered by his Bishop to preach in the surplice; once I remember seeing a preacher wearing black kid gloves!



Tring Church Reredos today.
Designed by W. F. Howard in 1928, the Reredos depicts New Testament scenes.

Children’s services were unknown, and families came together to Church, the younger members patiently attending the long morning service, consisting of morning prayer, Litany, and the Ante-Communion service.  All the same, there was a large congregation, and the children never dreamed of not wanting to go to Church; habits of reverence and self-discipline were being formed, and God’s House was in later years indeed our spiritual home.



Tring Parish Magazine, January 1944.


From “The Fiddle’s Father” to the Electric Organ,
by Arthur MacDonald.

The organ console, Tring Parish Church.

The instrument we have today was originally built in 1890 by Henry Jones & Sons of South Kensington.  It has twice been rebuilt and extended, first by N. P. Mander & Co. and secondly by Saxon Aldred of Redbourn.

Photos and information courtesy of Cliff Brown,
Organist and Choirmaster, St. Peter and St. Paul, Tring.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the music in Tring Church was supplied by a small orchestra housed with the choir in a gallery fixed to the East wall of the tower, the instruments being a Double Bass or “Fiddle’s Father,” one or two violins, and some quaint wind instruments.  The School Master led the band, and the congregation in their horse-box pews were accustomed to turn West towards the choir when singing.

In course of time a barrel organ replaced the orchestra in the Western gallery, causing a moral as well as a mechanical revolution.  The choir struck, and refused to sing, stung to this drastic step not only by the presence of the hurdy-gurdy but by derogatory remarks as to their performance being “like a parcel of bulls.”  The Vicar was equal to the occasion, and refused to preach — “No singing, no preaching.“  This outbreak of hostilities was eventually got over, and peace again reigned.

After the commencement of the restoration of 1861-1881, the Western Gallery was removed, and a “little organ was hung on to the North wall, surrounded by a red curtain, above which the Vicar’s gardener rose to blow the organ by pulling a rope, as for a knell.  The choir boys saw to it that the Christmas decorations included a trail of the prickliest Holly round the blower’s rope.

It was well towards the end of the great restoration before a new (or rather second-hand) organ by Gray and Davidson was subscribed for by the ladies of Tring, and placed in a new organ-chamber, and the choir, instead of the reigning family, occupied the chancel.  Half way through its life of 60 years, this organ was rebuilt under the careful supervision of a friend of Tring Church, a blind amateur organist.  Now, in 1943, it remains to fill the organ chamber in an honourable retirement, and a modern miracle of sound, of American invention, a Hammond Electric Organ, has been installed and was dedicated on the 22nd of September, 1943, being provided by a fund readily subscribed by the parishioners and by friends and relatives of the late Miss Helen E. Brown, a life-long worshipper in Tring Church, as a memorial to her.

Some short description of this wonderful instrument may serve to explain to the majority of us who daily use but do not understand the telephone and radio, how the sound is produced by the electric current from the mains, without any of the old concomitants of pipes, bellows or blower.

A plain but handsome console like a large harmonium, with two manuals and radiating pedals, is placed inconspicuously below and at right angles to the chancel steps near the lectern, fed by two small cables, at a cost of one penny an hour.  Invisible wires carry the impulses from the keys to four concealed sound cabinets from which the music actually comes, high up in the aisles and chancel.  In place of the terrifying vertical columns of stops to be pulled out by acrobatic arm action, is a bunch of little white-lettered black stops occupying a space of about nine inches by six under the organist’s left hand, pressed down with one finger and reproducing the tones of every instrument of the orchestra, while a horizontal row of small white knobs gives every possible combination at will.  The range of tone is far larger than that of a pipe organ, and varies from a whisper to a volume which makes the roof rattle.  “No words can express its sweetness and versatility of tone,” as was said by a friend who had heard the auxiliary organ in Canterbury Cathedral.

Many organs of this type have been fixed in this country.  Those of the Guards’ Chapel in Knightsbridge and Princes Risborough Church in this neighbourhood are in buildings comparable in size to Tring Church.

Now, how are the multitudes of varied sounds made?

The ordinary amateur feels like the dog hearing his master‘s voice through a gramophone; “Where is he? What’s at the back of this?”  When the undergraduate in for a viva voce was asked, “What is Electricity?” and said he knew quite well when he came into the room, but was nervous and had quite forgotten, the Examiner remarked, “This is nothing less than a catastrophe!  There are only two Beings who know what Electricity is, — the Almighty and yourself, and you’ve forgotten!”

It is doubtful whether the details of the organ supplied by the builders will make us any the wiser.  This is what they say about it:

“The sound-waves produced by the Hammond organ differ in no way from those created by any other means.  The vibrations which cause sound to be heard are the same, whether made by a reed a pipe, a voice, or by an electric current.  Research has enabled the scientist to produce the vibrations which are the basic foundation of all sound, to mix these vibrations at their source into the intricate sound-wave forms of which every musical tone is constituted and to amplify them to the required degree of audibility.”

The actual mechanism in the sound cabinet by which the electric current is converted into sound by means of magnets, coils, and 91 rotating metal discs the shape of a three-penny bit and the size of half-a-crown, is such that no layman can understand or attempt to describe, so we must be content to enjoy the result of the miracle without knowing how it is done.


Tring Parish Magazine, February 1946.


Now that Pendley Manor is so much in the news, it is interesting to discover that the Pendley estate was at one the the cause of some considerable friction between the neighbouring parishes of Tring and Aldbury.  Reference to the few existing records of the parish reveals that about 245 years ago a dispute between the above-mentioned parishes over their respective boundaries resulted in a lawsuit, and this is borne out by the following extract from the Vestry Order Book of that time :—

Novemb. 23rd, 1701.

Whereas there is a suite dependinge both in law and equity between ye parishioners of Albury and the parishioners of Tringe in the name of the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poore of the sd. parishes for and concerninge threescore acres of land beinge the land of Symon Harecourt, Esq., at Pendley whether the same lyes within the parish of Albury or the parish of Tringe.  It is now ordered and agreed to at a public Vestry for the sd. parish of Tring.  That the said parishioners will stande by and assist the sd. Churchwardens and Overseers in the defence of the sd. suite And any costs and charges shalbe expended in and about the same shalbe equally and apporconably borne and paid by the said parish.

The order is signed by Dan Clarke, John Rolfe, Thomas Grace, Robert Harding, and 15 others.

The boundary at the present time divides Pendley into two parts.  The Manor is in Tring, but the farm in Aldbury.  I don’t know myself whether or not the area now in the latter parish was the disputed land, but it appears quite probable, Aldbury having won the day.

Pendley was one of the five original manors of Tring, and no doubt this is but one of many thrilling chapters which it has experienced.  The townsfolk probably found the Pendley steeplechase, mentioned by Mr. Arthur Macdonald in “That Tring Air,” far more exciting.  Fortunately, Tring can still count the fine present-day institution, which Pendley has become, one of its most valuable assets.



From the Tring Parish Magazine, March 1946


Tring decided as long ago as 1718 that better provision should be made for the less fortunate members of the community, and resolving not to wait until 1946 for the Government to act, set about the problem with typical Tring initiative. I leave the following extracts from the Vestry Order Book to tell the tale :—

“Whereas the Charge of the poor of the parish of Tring in the said County is become soe great a Burden . . . the Poores Rate being very much encreased to what it was in former times, the parishioners have had severall meetings and came to severall resolutions which are now confirmed by a Publick Vestry . . . . this 2nd day of November, 1718.”

There then follows several resolutions, of which I quote a few :—

“that a House of Maintenance be provided for the poor . . . . in order to prevent the giving or paying of weekely allowances and Collections or House Rents to or for the said poor to any person or persons whatsoever.” — “resolved and agreed to take the Parsonage House . . . . and also the Inclosed Courts and Gardens belonging to the said House at Eight pounds per annum” — “resolved and thought convenient that 3 Cowes be bought and kept for the use of the said House” — “that All Parishioners whatsoever that Aske reliefe . .. . . shall he lodged, fed, clothed and maintained” — “that A man be sent to at Once who is thought Experienced in A worke of this nature . . . .. to treat with the parishioners on this undertaking” — “whereas it is thought necessary that A Sume not exceeding £200 be raised . . . . and William Gore, Esqre., haveing been pleased to offer to lend the money . . . it is agreed to take up such a sume and pay Interest” — “resolved that the Master . . . . shall have power and liberty to hire out any of the poor people . . . . to any . . . . that shall have occasion for their service He receiving what they shall severally earn and be accountable to the parishioners for it.”

The townsmen wasted no time in their project, and a week later met again, when they decided to appoint “Mr. Matthew Marriott to undertake the Care of the poor” and “in consideration of the great pains and trouble the said Matthew Marriott shall be att ” agreed to pay him £25 “for the first yeare,” £20 the second, and £18 the third year.

They also ordered, “for the better regulation of the House,” that nobody should be admitted “without the Licence under the hands of five of the chiefest Freeholders and Parishioners and the hands of the Overseers of the Poor.”  Anybody entering the House, or taking in any Children, to be lodged, without this Licence were to “be sent to Bridewell and farther punished” (Bridewell — gaol).  An inmate who refused “to worke orderly and soe many hours as the Master commanded” was to “be sent to the House of Correction.”  Any person who would not work “pretending sicknesse” which might be “discovered by their Stomachs or otherways ” merited severe punishment.  Anyone found “O Begging or Chaseing” was to be sent to the House of Correction.  Everybody in the House “of Healthfull Bodyes and able” were to “fix by five or before and goe to Bedd at nine.”  Finally, it was stipulated that “at six of the Clocke in the afternoon“ each Saturday, all townsmen who were willing should meet the Overseers of the Poor to adjust the week’s accounts, and that the Master should, at the end of his weekly accounts, “sett down in writing all the disorders committed . . . that the offenders may be examined by the Freeholders and Inhabitants and punished as deserve.”

Thus did Tring tackle its social problems over 200 years ago.



Tring Parish Magazine, August 1940

June 15th, 1735.

“At a public Vestry of the Parishioners of the parish of Tring this day assembled upon public notice it aprazing that Richd. Gluttor of Barkhampstead Surgeon hath commenced an action against Jno. Baldwin late Oversear of the said parish of Tring in order to charge him as officer of the said parish with a bill for attending and curing Daniel Jugg a certificate man of our parish of Tring, of a soar legg, and we the parishioners aforesaid being willing that the aforesaid Jno. Baldwin should not bear the whole expense of defending the action and being satisfied the same is brought without good cause we do agree to joyne in an equal expense of defending the action.

M. Randolph (Curate), John Harding, Sam Holmes, Edward Browne, John Kingham, John Pegsworth, Matthew Evans, Daniell Barton, John Lake, John Howton, Tho Josephs, Tho Kingham.”

This was followed by a decision a year later to permit the “Overseers John Tompkins and John Lake to borrow of Mr. John Tovey the sum of Forty-five pounds for the use of the parish in order to defray the Law Charges in a cause lately determined between Flutter and Baldwin.”

Tring, March 27, 1744.
“At a Vestry assembled I, M. Randolph, do nominate and appoint Thos. Humphrey Wheeler to be Church Warden for the ensuing year.

M. Randolph,

It is likewise agreed at the said Vestry that John Rolfe be the other Church Warden for the same year.

M. Randolph, Thomas Chappell, John Yates (or Gates), Henry Newman, Thomas Monk, Hugh Goodspeed.”

There is also a legal document included in the book by which the Bishop of Lincoln instructed the Minister and Church Wardens to place parishioners in the pews with which the Hon. William Gore had seated the Parish Church in 1715.  So far as possible they were to place them in the new pews corresponding to their old sittings, and these parishioners thus placed were not to be molested under pain of the law by any other parishioners of Tring.  A list of pew holders followed.



on the 24th August 1751,

At the assizes at Hertford, Thomas Colley received sentence of death, for the murder of Ruth Osborne at Tring. It appeared on the trial, which lasted several hours, that some of the neighbours thinking the deceased was a witch, and her husband John Osborne a wizard, had it cried at Winslow, Leighten-Buzzard and Hamel Hempstead, on their several market days, that they were to be publickly ducked on Monday, April 22, at Tring: That the overseer of the poor of Tring having heard of this, and believing both the man and his wife to be very honest people, in order to prevent the same, sent them into the workhouse. That the master of the workhouse, hearing on Sunday, April 21, that a number of people would assemble next day in order to duck them, he in the middle of the night removed them into the vestry-room adjoining to the church, believing the sanctity of the place would have some awe upon the mob: That about 11 on Monday morning, a great mob, thought to be above 5000, came to the workhouse, and demanded these poor people, and on his telling them they were not there, they rushed in and searched the house, and all the closets, boxes and trunks; and that they were so infatuated, that they searched the very salt-box for them: That there being a little hole in the ceiling, where the plaister was broke, Colley hallowed out, Let’s search the ceiling; which they did accordingly, and not finding them, declared they would pull the house down if they were not delivered to them; and accordingly they pulled down a large wall belonging to the house, and also pulled out all the windows and window frames, and threatened to burn down not only the workhouse, but the whole town of Tring, if they were not delivered up: That the master, fearing the consequences, did at last inform them where the two unhappy people were: upon this they went to the vestry-room, broke it open, and took them away in triumph.

The ducking of the Osbornes.

It further appeared, by the deposition of several witnesses, that the man and woman were carried to a pond called, called Marston-Meer, and separately tied up in two several cloths or sheets: That a rope was tied under the arms of the deceased, and two men dragged her into the pond: and then standing one on one side the pond and the other on the other, they dragged her quite cross the pond several times: That after this they brought her to the pond side and set her down, and then served the husband in the same manner, and so on alternately till the woman being brought to the shore the 3d time, and laid on the ground, soon expired: That each of the three times Colley went into the pond, which in mud and water was not quite 2 foot and ½ deep, and with a stick in his hand, turned the deceased over and over, and pushed her up and down several times: That when he came out of the pond, he went round among the people, and collected money of them as a reward for the great pains he had taken in shewing them sport by ducking the old witch as he called the deceased: That when he was in the pond, one called out to him and desired him to come out, and let the woman alone, for if he did not, he would certainly kill her: but he refused to come out, and said she was a witch, and he would duck her again: and that he did, after that, turn her over and push her about in the pond several times: that the 3d time of ducking her, the last before she expired, he took hold of the cloth she was wrapt in, and pulled her up and down the pond, till the same came off and her body appeared naked: and that then he pushed her on the breast with his stick, which she endeavoured with her left hand to catch hold of, but he pulled it away. -- Thus, according to the opinion of the surgeon at the trial, this poor woman expired by suffocation with water and mud. She was in the 70th year of her age: but her husband, aged 56, being a lusty strong man, survived the inhuman treatment of these barbarous miscreants. Several other persons were indicted with Colley, two not yet taken, and the rest to the jurors unknown: but it is hoped they will soon be discovered and receive the just reward of their crime.

Saturday 24th August 1751

This day Thomas Colley, for the cruel murder of Ruth Osborne, on supposition of her being a witch, was executed at Gubblecut-cross near Marlston-green in the parish of Tring in Hertfordshire. About 10 on Friday morning he received the sacrament at Hertford, administered to him by the Rev. Mr. Edward Bouchier, when he signed a solemn declaration of his belief relating to witchcraft; which he desired might be carried to the place of of execution, and was there publickly read, at his earnest request, just before he was turned off, by the Rev. Mr. Randal, minister of Tring, who attended him in his last moments. He was escorted by 108 men belonging to the regiment of horse blue, with their officers, and two trumpets; and the procession was slow, solemn, and moving. Friday night he was lodged in St Alban’s goal; and at five the next morning was put into a one-horse chaise with the executioner, and came to the place of execution, about eleven and after half an hour spent in prayer he was executed, and immediately after hung up in chains on the same gibbet he was hanged on. The infatuation of most of the people in that part of the county was such, that they would not be seen near the place of execution, insisting that it was a hard case to hang a man for destroying an old woman that had done so much damage by her witchcraft. It was said, he was to have been executed a week sooner, but when the proper officers came to convey him from the goal, a prodigious mob assembled and would not suffer him to be taken out of prison.

His Declaration, above mentioned, was as follows.

Good people:

I BESEECH you all to take warning by an unhappy man’s suffering; that you be not deluded into so absurd and wicked a conceit, as to believe that there are any such beings upon earth as witches.

It was that foolish and vain imagination, heightened and inflamed by the strength of liquor, which prompted me to be instrumental (with others as mad brained as myself) in the horrid and barbarous murder of Ruth Osborne, the supposed witch, for which I am now deservedly to suffer death.

I am fully convinced of my former error, and with the sincerity of a dying man, declare that I do not believe there is such a thing in being as a witch; and pray God that none of you, thro’ a contrary persuasion, may hereafter be induced to think, that you have a right in any shape to persecute, much less endanger the life of a fellow creature.

I beg of you all to pray to God to forgive me, and to wash clean my polluted soul in the blood of Jesus Christ, my Saviour and Redeemer.

So exhorteth you all, the dying Thomas Colley.

Ed. − Colley was executed at Gubblecote Cross. His body was then hung from the gibbet in chains, where it is reputed to have remained for years.


Tring Parish Magazine April 1925


Mr. Vaisey has shown us an old copy of the Star newspaper dated March 20th, 1793 in which is given a long account of a Meeting of the principal inhabitants of Tring assembled together to uphold the government and constitution in Church and State and to pass certain resolutions.

The document is too long to quote in full but begins as follows:—

“We, the inhabitants of the Parish of Tring, Herts., assembled in Pursuance of an Advertisement signed by the Church-wardens, think it our duty to express our sentiments and resolutions on this and arduous conjuncture of public affairs.

Then follow Sixteen Statements.

1. We declare that our attachment to the present Constitution of our Country in Church and State is firm and unchangeable

2. We do not hesitate to assert that no government, either of antiquity or modern times, has ever consulted so judiciously the collective and individual happiness of the human race.

8. We proclaim in this public manner our unshaken loyality to his present Majesty King George III, the father of his people; under whose mild and equitable reign this nation enjoys an unexampled stroke of public and private prosperity.

16. We therefore associate for the purpose of resisting the designs of nefarious men, who have all to gain, and, nothing to lose, by a change: and are come to the following resolution.”

Here followed certain resolutions.

“Resolved, that we will defend to the utmost of our power, the British constitution, composed of King, Lords and Commons, etc.

Resolved, that Drummond Smith, Esq., Thomas Harding, Esq., Rev. Dr. Dupré, Rev. Marmaduke Bannister, Rev. Michael Dupré, William Cunningham, M.D., Mr. John Rolfe, Mr. Samuel Snelson, Mr. Bartholomew Rolls, Mr. Richard Mead, Mr. Edward Foster, and Mr. Samuel Herbert, be a Committee.

Resolved, that these resolutions be inserted once in the Star, and once in the County Herald.”

John Dupré, Chairman


Tring Parish Magazine, August 1944


Our Venerable and revered Archdeacon, in whose County-wide work we are all keenly interested, is relieved of the invidious duties of his predecessors of the post-Reformation period of holding Courts of inquisition into the unorthodox misdeeds of every parishioner in his Deaneries, and of punishing by fine, imprisonment, or public confession the smallest deviations from their ecclesiastical or moral obligations.  I believe some of these intolerant old laws are still in force.  Imagine our Archdeacon fining or imprisoning all the Non-conformists of Tring, and all those buttresses of the Church who neglect regular attendance at Divine Worship, and condemning all persons of either sex who make an occasional lapse from strict morality, to perambulate the streets in a white sheet and make public confession of their fault!

Yet this is the sort of thing which his predecessors of the 16th and 17th centuries had to do, as recorded in the “Acta” or records of the Archdeacons’ Courts.  These were usually written in such impossible script and Latin as to be unintelligible to all but the specially expert.  Dr. John Brown, however, in his life of John Bunyan, has managed to decipher for us some items from the “Acta” of the Archeacons’ Courts of our neighbouring County of Bedford, which may give us some idea of the unruly and hilarious doings of our ancestors, and of the beneficial effects of the removal of Gestapo-like inquisitions formerly conducted by the Church into the behaviour of all its members and officials.

The Church of England Courts.

We find one man bringing judgment upon himself for “marrying his wife in their Parish Church in her mask”; another “for being married to his wife under a bush”; and yet a third “for that the day he was marryed he did blowe out the lightes upon the altar and wolde suffer no lights to bourne.”

A shoemaker was punished “for that he kepeth his bed upon the Sundaies and other holy days at time of mattens and mass, as it were a hownde that shuld kepe his kenell.”

One man came into trouble for “folding some sheep in the church during a snow-storm”; and another for “living in the church porch and suffering his wife to travail in childbirth there, and to continue there her whole moneth.”  Women fell under the judgment of the Court for coming to be churched “not as other honest women, but comynge in her hatt, and a quarter about her neck”; or “for not coming in a vaile”; and one brisk housewife, striking out a bright idea on a rainy day, found to her cost that she had offended by “hanginge her lynnen in the church to dry.”

The clergy and churchwardens were often in trouble in the Courts.  One rector was cited for refusing to hear confessions “because it greeves him to heare the confessions made”; another went quite wrong by “taking upon himself to the scandal of his calling, to be lord of misrule at Christmas among certain yongelings”; another by leaving some ecclesiastical ceremony to be present at the more exciting spectacle of an execution.

The churchwardens incurred penalty “by suffering unrulie persons to ring and jingle the bells out of due season,” by permitting a minstrel to play in church at a wedding, and because the white sheet used for penance was missing.

Finally, that chartered libertine the Parish Clerk was dealt with summarily “for that he singeth the psalms in the church with such a jesticulous tone and altitonant voyce, viz. squeaking like a pigg, which doth not only interrupt the other voyces, but is altogether dissonant and disagreeing unto any musicall harmonie.”

Sabbath and Saints’ days observance was strictly enforced. Various parishioners were punished for looking on football players, for playing at nine-holes, for killing meat, and dressing a calf, on Sunday.  Others for performing agricultural operations, or for putting up nets and catching larks, on a Saint’s- day, and others for not frequenting church; Richard Reade, of Keysoe, “sitting with his hatt on usually at the reading of the Epistle and Gospell,” and William Shackspeare, of Odell, for not communicating.

Harman Sheppard, the curate of Woburn, was presented in 1612 for baiting a bear in the church, and some years later the church-wardens of Knotting were cited because on three successive Shrove Tuesdays they and their sons and Mr. Alvey, the Rector of the parish, “permitted and were present at cock fightings in the chancell of the said church in or about the sacred place where the communion table stands, many persons being there assembled and wagers laid.”

In still later years the Rector of Carlton was presented because “immediately before service he did lead his horse in at the South doore into the chancell of Carlton church, where he sett him there and continued all the time of the said service and sermon.”

A Court had to deal with a clergyman who was charged with ensuring an audience to the end of his discourses by the simple expedient of locking the church door upon his congregation, and keeping them there until it was quite dark.  The Rector of Stondon was cited “for reading divine service without a surplice, though it was proved by witnesses that at that time his surplice was at the washers.”

These sacrilegious practices seem to us so far off as to have been impossible, but there are the “Acta” for those who can‘ read them.

The Archdeacons’ Courts were abolished in the middle of the 17th century, and we may congratulate our Archdeacon, and ourselves, that he no longer has to deal with the modern equivalents of these naughty doings.



Tring Parish Magazine, June 1942.


The loss of the railings up the centre path, the iron railings around the 18th century tombs in the Churchyard, the railings round the St. Martha’s Church, and those round the Church House, are now all gone.  All we are allowed to retain are the War Memorial gates, the gate and protective railings at the west end of the Church, the Vestry gate and the old Churchyard gates.  Most people seem to think the Churchyard is improved by the disappearance of the low railings: but some, I know, feel very much grieved and hurt.  The Parochial Church Council did everything possible in making their official application for the retention of such railings as might be considered to be of artistic, historic, or protective value.  The Archdeacon of St. Albans came over and he and I sent a further joint request to the Government official in London.  Till the very last day we thought we had saved the St. Martha’s railings, but on that day I had a telephone message from the Office of Works and Buildings to say that they and everything else must go with the exceptions above mentioned.  This is just one more reminder that we have consented through our representatives in Parliament to yield up what is asked of us towards the winning of the war.

The chief problem is going to be the prevention of the use of the Churchyard as a playground.  The Vicar and and the Churchwardens would be very grateful if members of the Church would give a kind of reminder to any children whom they may see running about within the Church grounds.

This note would not be complete without a word of most grateful thanks to Mr. Westron for his work and help in watching the interests of the Church throughout in this matter of the railings.

Above: Tring Parish Church before its iron railings were removed.
Below: Sir William Gore and Dame Elizabeth Gore Monument (detail),
Tring Parish Church.


The other Church note concerns the Gore monument.  Within the last few weeks a representative of the British Museum has been down to photograph this monument on the N. wall of the Church.  When asking him if he could confirm the important theory of its being the work of Grinling Gibbons in the 18th century, he referred the question to Mrs. Esdaile, the great authority in England on this kind of work.  Space forbids full quotation from her reply, but she says that in 1936 she thought it was Gibbons’ work.  But now, as a result of close enquiry and research, she says that there are many points which contradict this, e.g., the cherubs are not Gibbons’ work; the whole architectural framework is unlike his architecturing, likewise the outwork, the drapery and the wig. “On the other hand, all these points occur in the work of John Nost who came over as assistant to Gibbons’ partner, Arnold Quellin, and whose monumental work is well known.  He uses the internal frame of that form, is fond of that type of drapery, uses exquisite marble outwork on the signed monument at Sherborne, and uses this type of shield, which is not Gibbons.  In short, he fills the bill and explains also the ‘Gibbons’ feeling of the thing combined with his own particular technique.”

The use of the pea-pod, Gibbons’ signature, on the monument, is to be explained by the fact that Nost was so closely connected with the Gibbons’ school.  Mrs. Esdaile adds in her letter that this John Nost was the author of the William III and Mary Memorial, set up on the Royal Exchange.



Tring Parish Magazine, January 1944


I have noted in “That Tring Air” that this compact little name has puzzled all the antiquarians, and that no satisfactory derivation has been arrived at, though there have been many guesses.  There are also very many spellings, adding to the obscurity of its origin.  The earliest recorded appears to be Treing, Treung, in Domesday Book, 1086.  Two very learned local antiquaries have written me on the subject since the publication of my booklet.  The first says: “What can you or I know about this difficult question?  Let us leave it to the experts.  The great Ekwall has no doubt about it.  From one of the 10th century spellings, Trehangr, he concludes that it is Tree-hanger, i.e., a hillside covered with trees.”  To this I ventured to reply: “It is true that Tree or Treow is an old Saxon word, that ‘Hanger’ is still in use in the Chilterns for a wood ‘hanging’ on a hill side, as the charming name Turlhanger for the triangular wood above Northfield in our neighbour parish of Aldbury, and that this and the Tring woods are about the first along the line of the Chilterns from the North East to clothe the hills, the Ivinghoe and Dunstable Downs and their continuation into Norfolk being for the most part bare.  But the South Western extension into Dorset is nearly all wooded, and there are “Hangers” in every parish.  Gilbert White mentions the “Hanger” in his parish of Selborne, Hants.  Why then, was not every parish at the foot of the South Western Chilterns called Tree-hanger or Tring?  Names were given for something distinctive, not generic.”

The second antiquary wrote; “It is perfectly plain to me.  Ing or Ung (plural) meant ‘the men or inhabitants of.’  For the first syllable, the only word in any language ever spoken in England is the Saxon ‘Treow,’ pronounced and meaning ‘Tree,’ so Tring means ‘The men of the Tree,’ referring to the custom of the Hundred-mote or Court of a division of a County being held at a well-known and conspicuous, tree.”  Tring was the head town of the Hundred of Tring in Saxon times afterwards merged with Danias Hundred into the still existing Hundred of Dacorum.  The Hundreds, or divisions of the Counties for legal, military and local government purposes, into areas perhaps comprising a hundred families, were constituted, possibly at the same time as the Counties, before King Alfred’s time.

This derivation seems rather more plausible than Ekwall’s, but is open to the same objection; — why were not the other Hundreds whose court was held at a tree (and there were many) not called Treing or Tring?  Also, the place must have had a name before the Hundreds were formed.  There certainly are some names which are generic and not distinctive.  There is a place in Cornwall called “Rock,” and several rivers called Ouse and Avon, which simply mean water.  So, to my mind, the origin of the name of our town is still “wrapped in mystery.”

The perpetuation of old field names by giving them to modern houses is instanced by my own house, “Hazely,” my late lamented neighbour, Miss Williams’s “Hawkwell,” by “Dunsley” Farm, opposite, and “Goldfield” Windmill.  All these were names of the three or four hundred acre arable fields before the Inclosure of the Parish in c1800, cultivated by the communal plough and oxen.  Another, Hounslow has not been appropriated, perhaps because of its associations with highwaymen and Gunpowder mills.

Arthur MacDonald.


From the Bucks Herald, 8th December 1939.



62 Years a Practising Solicitor

Lifetime’s Work for the Parish Council


As announced in last Friday’s issue of the Bucks Herald, the death of Mr. Arthur William Vaisey, one of Tring’s most prominent townsmen for over 60 years, and senior member of the firm of Messrs. Vaisey and Turner, solicitors, Tring, occurred at his residence, “Holly Field,” The Grove, Tring, on Wednesday of last week, in his 88th year.  He had maintained his full professional and public activities until the week-end before his death, so that despite his great age and the fact that he was unwell during the early part of last week, his passing was quite unexpected and is deeply regretted.

Netherby in Grove Road.
 Demolished in the 1970s and the land redeveloped as Hollyfield Close.
The large house just visible to the right was called
Holly Field.  It too has gone.

Mrs Vaisey predeceased her husband on September 4th, 1925, at the age of 71.  Mr. Vaisey is now survived by an only son (Mr. H. B. Vaisey, K.C. and Doctor of Civil Law, Vicar General of the province of York and Chancellor of the Dioceses of York, Carlisle, Derby and Wakefield) and seven daughters, together with grandchildren and a great-grandchild.  Miss M. Vaisey, one of his daughters, is a member of the Tring Urban District Council.  His younger son, Captain Ronald M. Vaisey, of the R.F.A., a solicitor, who had practiced in partnership with his father, was killed in action on September 7th, 1918.

By his death Tring has lost one who, coming to the town while quite a young man, was destined throughout his long life to take a noteworthy and highly responsible part in its life and in the direction of its main affairs.  There have been few whose loyal and devoted service have left so permanent an imprint on the history and indeed the character of the town in which he spent and devoted his life.  Wide and varied experience, sound judgement, tact and marked efficiency, combined with his sound legal knowledge, established his high reputation as a lawyer.  All these qualities he brought to bear on the work of every one of his public offices.  In his social and religious activities his fine influence and abilities were always sought and used to lasting advantage, and were always freely given.  But reputation, responsibility and personal importance, thrust upon him by both men and affairs, never spoilt his nobleness of character and his obvious innate sense of proportion.  His approach to the ordinary situations of every-day life and his personal relations with all his fellow townsmen were essentially human, revealing wide sympathies and a keen understanding.  A doyen of the Victorian era, he found no difficulty in keeping his keen and progressive mind fully abreast of the times.  In him were combined a delightful old-world courtesy and charm and a keen insight into the outlook and aims of the youngest generation, which made him a contemporary and a popular and inevitable figure.  To the very last he filled a place and played a part which could not have been undertaken with the same effect and grace by anyone else.  For a long time Tring will not be quite the same without his venerable and dignified presence, without the power and touch of his contributions to discussion and his suggestions for the solution of a difficult problem.  For the last half-century “Tring” and “Vaisey” have been synonymous terms in all that was best, highest and true.  Many old Tring memories, already fast becoming beyond recall, go with him.  He leaves the memory of one whose strength of character and singular purposefulness of life and mind were always associated with lofty spiritual and secular ideals.

Mr. Vaisey was the eldest son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Vaisey, of Stratton, Cirencester. He was born at Cirencester on February 8th, 1852. He was educated at King’s School, Gloucester, was articled to Messrs. Millings, Ellett & Co., solicitors, of Cirencester, and was admitted a solicitor at Michaelmas, 1874.  In June, 1877, he came to Tring, having acquired the legal practice of Mr. Shugar, in which he continued to be actively engaged till the last.  Now known as Messrs. Vaisey & Turner, he was senior member of that firm.  He was thus one of the oldest practising solicitors in England.

At 25 years of age, in the year 1877, he was appointed Clerk to the old Tring Local Board, in which office he continued for 18 years, until, in 1895, the Board was succeeded by the present Urban District Council, which he continued to serve in the same capacity for another 32 years, his retirement, in April, 1927, at the age of 75, thus marking 50 years’ service as Clerk to the two authorities.  During that half-century he had service under seven chairmen, all of whom died before him.  They were Messrs. William Brown, F. Butcher, Richardson Carr, the Rev. Charles Pearce, Messrs. Christopher Batchelor, John Bly and John Stenhouse.  He was succeeded as Clerk by Mr. A. Brooke-Turner, his partner in the firm of Messrs. Vaisey and Turner, who had hitherto been responsible for much of the work and who has since in turn been succeeded by Mr. H. J. Gurney, the present Clerk, who had been Finance Officer to the Council and who had assisted Mr. Brooke-Turner in his Council work.

So long a period of distinguished local government work was worthily recognised at the Urban District Council meeting at April, 1927, during the chairmanship of the late Councillor E. Stenhouse and vice-chairmanship of the late Councillor John Bly, and many tributes were paid to the devotion, skill and prudence which had characterised his work as Clerk.  Mr. Vaisey was presented with a framed and enlarged photograph of himself and an illuminated address as “a recognition of his devoted and valued labours,” these being the gifts of past and present members.  The late Lord Rothschild was among the former members attended the Council meeting to honour Mr. Vaisey, and to pay personal tribute and wish him many years of health and happy retirement.

The photograph has ever since occupied a prominent position in the Council Chamber.


In acknowledging these gifts and expressions Mr. Vaisey related that when he was appointed Clerk the Board had been in litigation for many years with the [Grand Junction] Canal Company and hundreds of pounds had been spent in legal expenses.  The year after he was appointed there was a writ issued against the Council to carry out some work at the reservoir at the Silk Mill, in accordance with an agreement signed years before.  The Master of the Rolls held that it was quite impossible for the Council to carry out the work demanded, and ordered each party to pay his own costs; and their costs came to about £60.  Since then (in 1878) they had not one penny to pay in law costs.


His services to the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul and to church work in Tring generally, were equally devoted and had been continuous during the whole period of over 60 years that he had lived in Tring.  He was the first sidesman to be appointed in Tring, in 1893, when sidesmen were first appointed.  At Easter, 1924, he retired, as Vicar’s Churchwarden, after 17 years’ in the office, and nearly half-a-century of church work was then marked by the presentation to him of a silver cup and a silver breakfast disk, both appropriately inscribed, from his friends, together with an album containing the names of 500 subscribers.  The late Mr. F. J. Brown was appointed to succeed Mr. Vaisey as Warden to the then Vicar (the late Rev. T. V. Garnier).

This by no means marked any diminution in Mr. Vaisey’s interest or enthusiasm for church work, which he continued with unabated vigour until the last.  He continued with great regularity to read the Lessons at church on Sundays, his last appearance in that capacity being two Sundays before his death.  He had continued as a member of the Parochial Church Council, of which he was lay vice-chairman, and as a Tring representative of the Diocesan and ruri-decanal conferences, a work he had carried out for many years.  For many years he was on the Board of Management of the Tring Church School, and was a former secretary to the School Managers.  He took a prominent part in the movement for the restoration of the schools after the Great War of 1914-1918, and had taken the same absorbing interest in the appeal and preparations for the new Church Senior School, a scheme for which the necessary initial outlay had been raised, but which was placed in abeyance by reason of the present war.  The restoration of the Parish Church at different times claimed his ardent and enthusiastic support.



Tring ’s ‘ Other ’ Church
Wendy Austin refers to St. Martha ’s


Arthur Pope, Vicar of Tring 1872-1881.

Most who have visited Tring will know the Parish Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, set back from the main road, dominated by a massive tower at its west end, and topped with a Hertfordshire spike.  This splendid fourteenth century building in the perpendicular style was constructed using blocks of Totternhoe stone and rough flints.  Far fewer people will be familiar with the small late-Victorian church tucked away at the top of Chapel Street. (Some will think the name is misleading, not knowing that the street took its title from an Ebenezer Chapel which closed many years ago).

For nearly five-hundred years the old parish church served the people of Tring and its immediate district, and provided the focal landmark of the town.  It was probably always assumed that no other church would ever be required for a population that for many years barely exceeded 4,000.

One man thought differently.  The Reverend Arthur Pope, vicar of Tring from 1872 to 1881, was from a breed of Victorian clergymen who were not afraid to express ideas forcibly and, in addition, he most likely considered himself to be far-sighted.  He expounded at length from the pulpit each Sunday, exhorting his listeners, among other subjects, to pay attention to their hygiene, to settle their bills promptly, and to abstain from drinking alcohol.

It was reported at the time that many people, perhaps more interested in entertainment value than their spiritual welfare, walked for miles each Sunday to hear the Reverend Pope preach.  He seldom disappointed, and it was probably with regret that some heard that he had resigned his living, to be replaced with a more conventional parson.  Like many clergymen of the period, the Reverend Pope was a man of private means.  This situation allowed him to spend money on projects that he considered his ‘duty’.  Among these was the building of an Infants’ School with three classrooms, which served the town until the 1970s.  More ambitious was his firm belief that Tring was due for (in modern parlance) a housing boom.  The Reverend was convinced that the town would expand considerably at its western end and within a comparatively short time.  When this happened, what was naturally of concern to a conscientious cleric was where the good townsfolk would worship?  He was sufficient of a realist to know that a walk of well over a mile to the Parish Church every Sunday would not encourage the attendance of the stragglers from his flock.

With this worrying thought in mind, Pope decided that another church must be built and financed from his own resources.  Presumably Mrs. Pope was in agreement, and the project was swiftly put in hand.  It was opportune that around 1880 the famous firm of Carpenter & Ingelow were carrying out extensive restorations to the Parish Church, and it is likely that this firm was approached to undertake some of the work for the projected building.  Tottemhoe stone in the old church was being replaced by harder Ancaster stone, and some useful saving was made by re-using the old material for the walls of the new little church.

St Martha’s Methodist Church, Tring.

Building work commenced and a fine chancel of uncoursed flint with stone dressing was constructed.  A five-light Gothic window in the decorated style, with reticulated stone tracery and hoodmould, was sited in the eastern wall.  The whole was topped with a steep pitched roof of red tiles.  A second bay was toothed ready for a south-side aisle or transept.  Sadly, money for the project was dwindling, and the Reverend decided that for the moment further work must cease.  Accordingly, a stone arch was erected in this bay and blocked with red brick.  The north side, however, fared better, and a lower-gabled vestry was built of stone and flint.

It might also be that the Reverend Pope began to realise that his predicted expansion of Tring was not happening.  At that time the town did not expand towards its western boundary; in fact, over a century later this area has hardly changed.  About this time Pope had decided upon the construction of a Clergy House for the use of the young curates of the Parish.  The site was about two-hundred yards from the new church, and a large Victorian-style house of totally unremarkable appearance was duly erected.  The Popes were obviously very pleased with the finished result for, when he resigned his living, they decided to use the house as their own home.  Here the Popes remained until their deaths in the 1920s.

Today, St. Martha’s Church has a strange hybrid appearance, for in the early 1900s a western arm was built of dark weather-boarding, with a slate roof topped by a ridge vent.  Much later a brick porch was added.  The final result is odd but quaint, and the church provides a warm and inviting atmosphere within.  This is due in part to the extensive internal renovations of the 1980s when central heating was installed, the church redecorated, and carpet laid.  A small kitchen was also added.  The building was then better suited to a fuller range of activities, and concerts and talks are now a regular feature.

In 1975 the Tring’s Methodist community were invited to share the building with the Anglicans.  Money raised from the sale of the redundant Methodist Church in Langdon Street financed the building of a new church hall, which now serves both congregations.

During Tring’s festivities to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897, mention was made of the Reverend Pope’s benefactions to the town.  His rejoinder was typically blunt and to the point:

“... these things had to be done... the congregation did not come forward to do them.  I was not going round begging for money, and I did them, to the detriment of my children’s education.  The Parish should be ashamed of themselves for allowing me to do it ....”

Perhaps this outburst left the assembled worthies on that day somewhat open-mouthed, but should the Reverend Pope’s ghost read this article, he can be assured that many generations of Tring folk have felt gratitude and affection for this gift of little St. Martha’s Church.


Wendy Austin reports from the Hertfordshire Salient

A glance at a map shows our county is of a fairly compact shape, except that one finger of land projects on the north-west border.  Over the years proposals that this tongue of land should be included in Buckinghamshire, which surrounds it, were strongly resisted.  The villages of Puttenham, Long Marston and Wilstone remained firmly in Herts.  In medieval times this low-lying area, close to the Vale of Aylesbury, was known by the unattractive name of ‘Blackmire’ or ‘Blackmoor’.  The ground was often water-logged, farmland poor and, even today, one of the longest roads in the salient is called Watery Lane.  The nature of the terrain may be the reason why Bucks never tried harder to annex it.

When William the Conqueror arrived to claim Harold’s throne, he chose to make a wide sweep to the west of London, curving north of the Chiltern Hills.  When he turned south towards the capital, he by-passed Tring, and is believed to have chosen a route through Puttenham.  Whether the poor folk there welcomed their visitor is doubtful, for William’s army lived off the land and left a swathe of destruction in its wake.  Nevertheless the village’s long history had adapted it to changing circumstances, and the arrival of the Normans was just one more chapter.  During the medieval era it was to feel the effects of depopulation; later, during the Civil War, graffiti evidence suggests that the church might have been used as a lock-up for prisoners-of-war:

“During the civil war the churches in Hertfordshire, as in other places, were often used overnight or longer as holds for prisoners.  The graffiti portrait and the signature ‘Anthony’ on the jamb of the tower door (see below) suggest that Puttenham is yet another and the most westerly of the Hertfordshire ‘prisoner churches’ wherein graffiti evidence has survived.  After the defeat of the Royalist garrison at Colchester in Essex by Sir Thomas Fairfax and the army of the Eastern Association in the summer of 1648 to take one example Royalist prisoners were marched westwards across Hertfordshire, and this melancholy progress is still recorded in their graffiti made at stopping places.”

The Church and Manor of Puttenham, by M. C. Vincent (1987)



In the early 19th century, the Aylesbury Arm of the Grand Junction Canal was dug just to the south of the village, where today there is a canal boatyard.

St. Mary’s Church, Puttenham.

Puttenham is still tiny, but boasts a 14th century church set in a beautiful churchyard.  The flint and limestone chequered tower is one of only two in Hertfordshire.  The interior is plain, for the parish was always poor.  A notable item is a memorial plaque, the lettering telling us that from the parish of 71 souls, 14 young men served in The Great War.  Thankfully, and unusually, all returned safely.  In the village one still feels ‘off the beaten track’, but it does have some modern features, including a smart new village hall and the now ubiquitous barn conversions.

The remains of the original All Saints’ Church
Long Marston

Unlike Puttenham, its near neighbour of Long Marston has greatly increased in size over the years.  It has a more modern aspect and is fortunate in retaining its Post Office, but some ancient corners remain.  A narrow stream, a tributary of the Thistle Brook, meanders alongside a lane to Church Farm, and a delightful half-timbered cottage.  In the garden stands a Grade II listed church tower dating from the 14th century.  It is the only part that remains of All Saints’, a chapel-of-ease of Tring Parish.  The old gravestones and surrounding yew trees create an atmospheric feel.  In the past the inhabitants of Long Marston were obliged to help maintain Tring Church, and their slender resources could not be stretched to keep their own small church in good repair.  The building deteriorated, became unsafe and, except from its tower, was demolished in 1883.  A new All Saints’ in the north of the village was built in 1882-83.  The old manor house encircled by a moat (for drainage, not defence) has long since vanished.

Events of more recent times have affected life at Long Marston.  The arrival of the railways led, rather surprisingly, to the siting of a station near the village.  As the rail network grew, branch lines sprang up linking many remote parts of the country, and Long Marston benefited from an offshoot of the London to Birmingham Railway.  A branch line was laid from Cheddington to Aylesbury, its single intermediate station, Marston Gate, being sited on the road between Long Marston and Wingrave.  The station provided villagers with a convenient way of reaching a large town, but by 1953 the line’s declining use caused it to be closed to passenger traffic, although it continued in use for goods traffic until 1963.

Marston Gate Station

World War Two disrupted life in the village as everywhere else.  In the late afternoon of 30th January 1941, a stick of bombs fell, demolishing The Boot public house as well as the village school.  The infants’ school mistress, Ruth Whelan, was the only fatality as, mercifully, the children had already gone home.

In 1942 land in the area was requisitioned from local farmers for the construction of an airfield to be used by the US Air Force.  Fields were levelled and trees uprooted; 92 tons of concrete were used to build three runways.  During the war the airfield had many uses, including a base for aircraft dropping propaganda leaflets over Germany.  Also a branch of the CIA were said to be stationed there.  Among the famous names who flew from the airfield were Eliot Roosevelt (son of the President), James Cagney and James Stewart.  There was accommodation for 2,500 personnel and Tring and its nearby villages reeled under the impact of this influx.  The district shook off wartime blues and came alive, especially on Saturday nights when the US forces flocked to any dance or entertainment on offer.  Some local girls married service men, and sailed for America at the end of the war.  During the course of the conflict, 68 men were lost from this station and a memorial plaque was erected in the 1990s.  Elderly Americans who once served at the base could, in later years, be seen wandering round the villages, revisiting the scenes of their youth.

Beyond Long Marston and almost at the northern limit of the area lie the deserted medieval villages of Alnwick, Boarscroft and Tiscot, discovered in the 1920s by aerial photography.  The scourge of the Black Death often takes the entire blame for the disappearance of established settlements, but the underlying reasons are complex and more likely to be land exhaustion or climatic change.  In former times this locality was known to be a venue for cock-fighting, a ‘sport’ which became legally liable to penalties in 1849.  In some remote country areas, this cruel pastime continued, and the site was chosen carefully to allow a quick get-away over the county border when the approach was signalled of local constabulary.

Picnicking on Wilstone Reservoir, the largest of the four
Grand Union Canal reservoirs in the area.

At the opposite end of the salient is the attractive village of Wilstone, with its composite village green and larger reservoir.  The nature of the landscape made this the ideal spot in the early 19th century to conserve large areas of water.  The Wilstone reservoir, together with smaller ones at Marsworth, Startopsend and Tringford, supply an average of two million gallons each day.  This ensures that, at 400 feet above sea level, the summit of the Grand Union Canal always has a sufficient supply of water, pumped from the pump-house at Little Tring.  Today, as well as their original purpose, the four reservoirs are a wildfowl reserve and attract winter migrants, as well as being home to the Great Crested Grebe, many kinds of ducks, and reed-nesting herons.  Walkers and bird watchers are assured of refreshment from the nearby cafe or the White Lion on the canal bridge at Startopsend.

Although there has been the inevitable increase in traffic, and the lanes of the area are usually busy, this remote corner of the county rewards a visit with much hidden charm and interest.


Notes written by Joseph Budd (1886-1977) of King Street, c.1950‘s

There was a time when almost all Tring was contained in Akeman Street, Frogmore Street and High Street, with the numerous Yards, Courts, Alleys, Places etc. opening off them.  Albert Street did not exist; two old cottages in Akeman Street, between what are now numbers 63 and 64 were demolished to make the opening.  Fifty years later Albert Street was still ‘New Road’ to the older inhabitants.

The land which now carries Langdon Street, Charles Street, King Street, Queen Street etc. was known as the Gravelly Field, or for legal and documentary purposes ‘the Gravelly Furlong‘.  This had been part of a ‘Strip Field’ during the time of the open field system, and probably had almost as many owners as ‘strips’ in the beginning, but with the passage of time (a long time) it got into fewer hands, and by about 1820 a few people owned quite sizeable pieces.  Among them were the Catos, with their houses and canvas factories (weaving shops), a trade introduced by refugees from religious persecution on the Continent of Europe.

A few more houses and cottages followed, and by 1859 they numbered between twenty and thirty, scattered about the field.  Before this however, in 1828, Mr Elliman, the draper, planted his five acres with ‘Locust’, 25,000 plants which he bought from William Cobbett M.P., author of the famous ‘Rural Rides‘.  These plants did so well and pleased Mr Elliman so much that in the following year he invited Mr Cobbett to visit Tring to see their progress.  This he did, and arrived in September.  He described Tring as “a very pretty and respectable place”, although he thought Mr Elliman’s field was “very indifferent land”, and so took the more credit for the Locust doing so well.

While he was here, a dinner was arranged at the Rose & Crown to which he was invited, together with about forty-five gentlemen and tradesmen of the district.  He had a great time at this party, and wrote afterwards that he had never found “even in Sussex” a more hearty, sensible, entertaining, and hospitable company than this!  This is corroborated by the fact that they sat down at 2 o’clock and rose at 9.  The chairman at this dinner was the local solicitor, Mr Faithfull.  What a good name for a lawyer!

Mr Cobbett’s description of “very indifferent land” links up with the name of Gravelly Field or, more exactly, Gravelly Furlong.  The subsoil hereabouts is not clean chalk, but a dirty stony mess, which used to be called ‘hurbuck’.  The old wooden swing ploughs would have brought some of this to the surface, hence the name, Gravelly.  About sixty years ago an attempt was made to dig gravel for use, but the product was too dirty for anything and it was soon discontinued.

The first twenty or thirty houses and buildings seem to have been set in the most haphazard places, and the street plan seems to have been made to fit them.  An exception is Park Road, which at that time was know as Park Street West, or alternatively, West Street.  This extended from the top of Akeman Street to what is now Chapel Street.  From here to the ‘Britannia’ was Dark Lane.  Chapel Street, before the chapel was built, was Windmill Lane - remember there was no Western Road, so it was one lane right through.

After about 1860 more and more building took place, and this led to the layout as we see it today.  The rate of growth so impressed the Rev. Mr Pope (who became Vicar of Tring in 1872), that he had St Martha’s Church built, and also the big house, The Furlong, which he intended to be a kind of hostel for Curates and young men training for the Ministry.

Taken as a whole, the building on the Gravelly Furlong was well diversified for the period in which it took place.  Although much of the building was cottage properties, many of them built in blocks of four, there were a number of small shops, including a couple of bakers, complete with bake houses.  Then there were the various chapels, the church, and later on the Gravelly School, built on land donated by Mr Pope.

In addition. to the ‘weaving shops’ there were several other commercial premises.  One of these was Hilsdon’s Engineering Works near the western end of King Street.  The machinery here was driven by a steam engine, and when the works closed down the boiler was left in position and used as a rainwater tank, a function it performed for many years.

Down the street, and next to the school, was the house, yard and workshop of Mr David Osborne, builder and undertaker.  In the latter capacity he carried out many ‘parish funerals‘, the last rites for persons for whom no money was available to pay for a funeral.  The Parish authorities would pay five or six pounds which had to cover the digging of a grave, providing a coffin, and conveying it to the cemetery in a reverent and respectable manner.

In his capacity as a builder he erected quite a few cottages.  A document still exists in which he undertook to build four cottages at Wigginton for thirty-five pounds each, one hundred and forty pounds for the four, with a further sixty-five pounds for ground work and excavation.  A paragraph in this document promises that “all work shall be carried out to specification and satisfaction”.  These cottages are no longer in existence, having been demolished to make way for a pair of semi-detached houses.  Had they been still standing, it would have been interesting to ascertain what their present value was supposed to be.

The property next to Mr Osborne‘s was owned by a Mr Carter, but about 1879 he sold it to Mr Alfred Fincher, and for the next fifty years it belonged to him and his family.  Mr Fincher was primarily a coal and wood merchant, but his horses, carts, and men also did a good deal of cartage work for the Tring Park estate.

A good price for the hire of a horse, cart and man was seven shillings a day 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The usual rate for tonnage work was for many years one and sixpence per ton to any part of the town, to or from the Station.

The site of the ‘Kings Arms’ public house nearby was obviously chosen for its strategic position at the junction of three or four streets, and like the ‘Britannia’ it faces approaching west to east for travellers.  Both these houses were designed by or for Mr John Brown, the brewer, and their substantial appearance was a great contrast to the cottage-type beer-houses, of which several had opened in various parts of the town by paying an Excise Licence of two pounds.

Mr Brown evidently expected some upper-class customers at his pubs, as at both he installed mounting stones for equestrians.  By the way, the story of these stones is interesting.  When the London to Birmingham Railway was made, the rails were laid on wood or steel sleepers as at present, but on pairs of stone blocks.  This system was not at all satisfactory, so the stones were taken out and sold.  When placed one on two they were ideal for getting into the saddle even after several stirrup cups.

The stable block at the ‘Kings Arms’, with accommodation for six or more horses, would seem to indicate that they could have been riding horses for hire, as the coach-house would have accommodated only one vehicle.  The stable part is now used as a corn merchant’s warehouse, while upstairs the former hay loft is a useful room for many small functions and meetings.  A good walled garden was included in the tenancy of the ‘Kings Arms’ but a few years ago, after a takeover by a different brewery combine, the garden was sold to a speculative builder, as was the one belonging to ‘The Britannia’.  This sale of the K.A. garden was carried through so quietly that not even the tenant knew anything until it was a fait accompli.

When this part of the town was built, properties were dependent on wells for their water supply, but after a time water mains were put in by the Chiltern Hills Spring Water Company, and gradually houses were connected and eventually the wells were filled in.  A hydrant was erected near the K.A. to which the Fire Brigade hoses could be attached in the case of a nearby fire, but its main purpose was to fill the water cart.  The streets being made of flints and not tarred, they became very dusty in dry weather, and the watering was necessary to lay the dust.

Before Charles Street and Upper Albert Street were properly built up, a weaving shop stood on the land between them.  This was the property of Mr ’Scrag’ Cato (why ’Scrag’ we shall never know, but thus he was usually called).  A disastrous fire destroyed the old place in l907, and a new building replaced it.  This is now a clothing factory.

The Methodist Chapel in Langdon Street was not one of the early buildings, but even so will attain its centenary in 1970, which is rather surprising when one looks at the neat and well-preserved exterior.  This chapel has always seemed to have a lively and faithful congregation.  The same could not be said for the other two chapels in this part of the town.  They both came into existence at a time when ‘Sectarianism’ was a key word among the Baptist community and for a long time each had its regular attendants.

In the 1880‘s a new word cropped up which recognised that ‘Union is Strength’, namely Inter-denominallisation, and in 1889 the new chapel in the High Street was built under the name of The United Free Church.  In the course of time lack of support caused both the old chapels, with the strict dogmas, to be closed.  The Western Hall in Western Road became derelict and has now been demolished, while the Ebenezer in Chapel Street, being in better structural condition, was sold for £250 pounds freehold.  It was later sold to the present owners, for whom it is a useful warehouse.

Some of the land below the chapel was the property of Mr Gutteridge, and he had some small cottages built in Chapel Street and New Zealand Place.  The young man who built them worked in quite a lot of large flints into the walls.  As he explained many years afterwards “there were plenty of flints laying about, and every time I used one I saved a brick”.  New Zealand Place was demolished in 1913, and the site made into a garden, but the other cottages still survive.


Notes written by Joseph Budd (1886-1977) of King Street, c.1950‘s

During the years before the first World War a good deal of slum clearance took place in Tring.  Among the sites cleared were Saws Alley and the Square in Frogmore Street, the Harrow Yard, Denmark Place and Willow Court in Akeman Street, and the Eighteen Row at New Mill.  Other properties were in line for the same treatment, and among the next to be inspected were West Passage and Surrey Place.  These cottages were the main source of income for their owners, and closure would have been disastrous, as in both cases they were pronounced “unfit for human habitation”.

After a good deal of persuasion the Sanitary Inspector agreed to give them a little longer, say, four or five years, provided they were put in better condition.  Much painting and papering was done, windows and rain water gutters were mended, and odd pieces of damp course inserted to deal with rising damp.  At the next inspection it was agreed they would do for a few more years.  This was in 1912 and before the period elapsed the Great War started, which put an end to all these plans, and by the time the War ended the “sentence” had been forgotten.  New people were in charge, the cottages were not “not too bad”, and so the four or five years grace has stretched out to more than fifty years.

At the time (1912) when all this took place, one of the residents in Surrey Place was Mr Harry Taylor.  Here was a man who had seen life in many aspects.  As a young lad he went into “private service” as a pantry boy in a big house.  In course of time he became a “footman”, and moving from one job to another as opportunities for promotion cropped up, he eventually became a fully qualified Butler.  His last three employers in this capacity were the Duke of Macclesfield, Lord Howard de Walden, and the Archbishop of Canterbury (not necessarily in that order).

While working for the last of these, whichever it was, he had an illness which affected his hearing, and left him partially deaf.  To carry out his duties properly he needed to hear extra well.  He therefore had to leave, and came home to Tring to live with his sister.  The only job he could get was as a Council dustman, but the drop in status never seemed to worry him.  His philosophy was “it doesn’t matter what job you do, so long as you do it well.”

Ed. At this point, I regret, Joseph’s account reaches an abrupt end.


From the Hemel Hempstead Evening Post-Echo
28th December, 1970, by James Buxton

A town faced with invasion by 2,000 Greater London Council tenants is spending one week next year commemorating another invasion - the Saxon invasion of 571 when the town was founded.  The man who made it all possible, by tracing the town’s history back to that date has witnessed 84 of those 1,400 years, during which time voices have provided vital clues to his historical detective work.  For Joseph Budd has lived in Tring all his life and has spent the last 40 years in the same house without a bathroom in King Street.

A few years ago he wrote an essay [see Notes on the Origin of Tring, below] on Tring’s history.  It was designed to show why Tring was an integral part of Hertfordshire and should not be annexed by neighbouring Buckinghamshire.  The essay, which went to the town’s councillors, named 571 as the date when Tring - and the villages nearby - was settled by the Saxons.  Councillors have long memories and the year 1971 was pencilled in diaries as the year for celebrations.

Mr & Mrs Budd on their Golden Wedding, 1961

Joseph, who married his 80-year-old wife 60 years ago next year, has more than an eye for the history books.  He can feel himself back into the past and has filled precious school notebooks with his writings on Tring’s history.

Killed off

His family have been quite a part of it.  His grandfather died 140 years ago - 1830.  “When I was four, in 1890, I was taken to see my great grandmother who as born in 1796.  She was 94 at the time and that gives us a span of 174 years,” said Joseph.

He first observed remnants of the town’s origins when he was a small boy: “I noticed that the people who lived in the hills south-east of Tring spoke and looked different to the people who lived in Tring, and the people who lived to the north in the Vale of Aylesbury were different too.  Nowadays, of course, you couldn’t tell the difference.  People move about more and the BBC has almost killed off the dialects.  But in those days a man wouldn’t marry a girl from a village very far away and when I went down to Tring market I could hear all those different dialects and tell where everyone came from.

“And when I went to Sussex once, I noticed that the people on the coast at Angmering and Bognor and Lancing were like the people on the hills: they were all Jutes.  The men had big elbows and raw bones and the women were short and stocky.  The reason was that the people in Tring, on the Chilterns and in the Vale, all came from different tribes,” he said.  “Up to AD 570 the Angles, Saxons and Jutes who lived in England mostly kept south of the Thames.  They were held in place by the Chiltern Hills and the Roman and British fort at Calleva, or Silchester.  But in 570 a tribe of West Saxons, the Gewissas, moved up from Hampshire where they had settled on the coast.  Led by Cuthwolf, they took Calleva and crossed the Thames at Wallingford.

“The whole of the South Midlands was opened up to them and they followed the Icknield Way to the north-east and defeated the British at Bedford.  They settled in the Vale, and each family - like the Cublingas, Ifingas and Ceadingas - set up separate homesteads at places like Cublington, lvinghoe and Cheddlngton.”


“And a tribe of Jutes from Sussex, who had helped Cuthwolf at Calleva, moved into the hills south of the Gewissas.  They were led by Cilternsetan and they called the hills the Chilterns.

“Then two more tribes of Saxons moved up from the south.  One settled in Middlesex - the middle Saxons.  The other went farther north into West Hertfordshire.  The family which went farthest to the north-west were Tringas and when they got to the top of Tring Hill, they could see that the country was occupied by the Gewissas on the plain and the Jutes in the hills.  So they settled in the valley and founded Tring.  And that was in 571.  And that explains why the strip of Hertfordshire sticks so far into Buckinghamshire.”

The chroniclers of the time, said Joseph, told that the area was virtually unpopulated when the tribes moved in.  The families set up their homesteads and the land they farmed was cut off from the next homestead by waste land.  Each family sent a man to the local hundred moot, and each hundred moot represented ten families.  Tring was the centre of the Tring hundred.

by Joseph Budd (1886-1977)

From time to time someone looking at a map argues that Tring should be in Bucks. As there has recently been a revival of this suggestion, the following notes on the origin of Tring may be of interest.

The origin of many towns is “lost in the mist of antiquity” but we are able to fix the exact year in which Tring came into existence. The year was 571 A.D. and it was not as a town or village, but as a Saxon MERC or MARK. This consisted of ten households, each living on their own separate small farm. The Mark was the basis of Saxon land organisation, and as they were occupying country from which the Britons had been either driven out or extinguished, they were able to set out the Marks in what they considered the most advantageous places.

Saxons, Jutes, Engle and Friesians had been making settlements in Britain for nearly a hundred and fifty years but had not been able to get very far from the coast. In 520 A.D. a tribe of West Saxons (called Gewissas) settled in Hampshire but were prevented from spreading Northward by the great fortress of Calleva Atrebatum, which stood where Silchester now stands.

After fifty years, by the natural increase of population and continued immigration from their homeland, they became strong enough to besiege Calleva and eventually to capture and destroy the city and kill all the inhabitants. They then advanced to the Thames, which they crossed at Wallingford, as the Romans had done hundreds of years earlier. Then, under the command of Cuthwulf they proceeded to pillage and ravage the “District of the Four Towns”. The four towns were Eynsham, Bensington, Lenborough, and Aylesbury, and their “district” comprised most of Bucks. and part of Oxfordshire.

The Britons gathered an army together, and met the Saxons at Bedford, but in the ensuing battle were defeated, and had to flee, leaving more than five thousand dead. This left the Saxons free to spread out and settle on the conquered territory. Among the families who came eastward were the Cublingas, Billings,,Qeadingas, and Ifingas, who settled reepecttively at Cublington, Billington, Cheddihgton, and Ivinghoe.

Just at this time a tribe of new immigrants came up the Thames, bypassed London, and spread out over west Herts. The family who came farthest were the “Tringas”, and they might have intended to go even further, but when they got to the top of the hill (Tring) they would see that the country to the West and North was already occupied by the Gewissas, while to the Southward a party of the Cilternsetain (or Chilternsetna) called Bellinghas had settled at Bellingdon. They would therefore have marked out an area of land roughly comparable with the present Parish of Tring or a little larger. Looking at a map, this appears to be an intrusion into West Saxon country, but this was not so, as the Marks were deliberately set out with plenty of “waste” or common land between them.

As time went on, the country became divided into East Saxon and West Saxon kingdoms, and at all times this bulge in the frontier was always recognised, and Tring was at all times East Saxon. This Arrangement continued for more than two hundred years, up to the time of the “Danelaw”. By this time, counties had been organised, and assessed for sums of money to buy off the Danish pirates who were a great nuisance at this time. Definite boundaries were therefore necessary, so “Hertfordseir” and “Buccenhameseir” got together and agreed on a line which has survived almost without alteration to the present day.

One would have thought that after 1394 years Tring could be left where it is, and to look forward to its fourteenth centenary in 1971.