Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Talk

 A second talk by Sue Ettridge on Friday 23rd April at 2pm

Please contact:  virginie@westwatford.org.uk for Zoom link






A Talk by Sue Ettridge, group member - Friday 19th February 2021 via Zoom. 

To book, please contact virginie@westwatford.org.uk


Thursday, 28 January 2021

Holywell Farm

 A History of Holywell Farm, Watford

The name Holywell is common throughout England and Wales and the derivation comes from Anglo Saxon, but not all such place names had a well.

Holywell Farm in West Watford lay at the end of Vicarage Road, about a mile from the town, with land abutting the River Colne and a view across to Oxhey. To put it into today's map, it was where Stripling Way leads onto the Lairage Land and covering the land where Laurance Haines school is now and what became Harwoods recreation ground. It was being farmed before the coming of the Watford to Croxley branch line, which was begun in 1908. In fact, according to early censuses, the address is variously given as Holywell Farm, Moor Lane, Oxhey Hamlet, in the District of Watford.  When it was sold at auction in 1887 it was advertised as being on the High Road from Watford. Further on down Vicarage Road is Brightwells Farm, still in existence. 


In the 1700s into the late 1800s, Watford was very much an agricultural landscape and Agricultural Labourer is often given as an occupation on the early censuses, along with shepherd boy, cowman and cowboy. 

One of the earliest references to Holywell Farm is with regard to a Mr Jonathan Cox Lovett, born July 1739. His father was Daniel, his mother Elizabeth and he was baptised at St Mary’s Watford. He died a widower in March 1787 and there is an interesting reference to him in Henry Williams's History of Watford and Trade Directory published in 1884 regarding charitable endowments in relation to Dame Fuller's Free School, 'without which the income it possessed in the time of the foundress would have proved wholly inadequate to carry her pious intentions into effect had it not been for the benevolent consideration of subsequent benefactors who bequeathed certain sums to supply the deficiencies'. 

Robert Clutterbuck (1772 – 1831) who spent 18 years writing The History and Antiquities of the County of Hertford,  wrote of a circumstance in connection with the said school. He says: "Mr Jonathan Cox Lovett, of Holywell, in this parish, by his will dated the 1st of May, 1780, made a reversionary devise of certain estates consisting of Holywell Farm, etc., to the trustees of this school; this devise, however, from having been made within twelve months of his decease and from not having been enrolled in Chancery, became void by the Act of the 9th of George II. c.36, called the Statute of Mortmain. Had this devise taken effect, the rents of the estates so devised would have been fully adequate to the future support of the school; under existing circumstances, however, its income must, in process of time, from the causes I have mentioned, be insufficient to defray its expenses."


Another early reference to the farm is the 1841 census on which John Tookey (b1781)) is named as Farmer and his birthplace is given as Hertfordshire. He was living at Holywell Farm along with his wife Mary, of the same age and nine others including William Saunders aged 25 (b1816), agricultural labourer, his wife and three children and Thomas Sawyer aged 15, also recorded as agricultural labourer. The others Ellen, Mary, John and Thomas are given as family members.
 

1841

 

Holywell Farm, Oxhey/Watford

 

Place of Birth 

John Tookey

60

Farmer

1781

 

Mary Tookey

60

 

1781

 

John Lennington

15

 

1826

 

Ellen Mahon

20

 

1821

Ireland

Thomas Sawyer

15

Ag labourer

1826

 

William Saunders

25

Ag Labourer

b1816

Hertfordshire

Ann Saunders

25

 

b 1816

            “

George     “

5

 

b 1836

             “

Mary         “

3

 

b 1838

            “

Edward      “

1

 

b 1840

            “

George Chil ?

15

 

 

         


Ten years later on the 1851 census, there is no mention of 'a farmer'  or Head of household (they could have been away at the time), but William Saunders is still in residence as agricultural labourer, along with Ann, recorded as wife/charwoman, son George 15, farm labourer, Mary, just recorded as 'at home', Edward, now 11 shepherd boy, Emma, Eliza and Susannah, daughters. All from Watford, except Ann. 

1851 Census

 

Holywell Farm 

 

Place of Birth 

William Saunders

36

Agricultural Labourer

b 1816

Watford

Ann Saunders

39

wife/charwoman

b 1812

St Stephens, Herts

George

15

Son, farm labourer

b 1836

Watford

Mary

13

At home

b 1839

Edward

11

Son, Shepherd Boy

b 1840

Emma

9

Daughter, school

1842

Eliza

7

Daughter, school

1844

Susannah

2

Daughter

1849


In 1861, Holywell Farm has clearly changed ownership and the census for that year records: Charles Snewing, b. 1817 in Warwickshire, married, farmer of 108 acres employing 8 men and 2 boys. This is the Charles Snewing of Caractacus racehorse fame (see detailed story in drop-down menu). 

1861 Census

 

Holywell Farm, Moor Lane

 

 Place of Birth

Charles Snewing

43

m. Farmer of 108 acres employing 8 men, 2 boys

 b 1817

 

Warwickshire

 

Charles Snewing

 

Son, scholar

b 1853

Middx

Ann Snewing

8

niece

b 1853

Middlesex

Sarah Ann Crofts

31

Cousin

b 1830

Wolvery, Warkwicks

John Andrews

67

Servant, Farm Bailiff

b 1794

Gt Gaddesden

Elizabeth Clever

38

Servant, cook

b 1823

Wolvery, Warwicks

Mary Wech

15

Housemaid, domestic servant

b 1846

Watford

Charles Dale

14

Agricultural Labourer, cowboy

b 1847

Watford


By 1871 Charles Snewing is still the owner of Holywell Farm and it is notable that William Saunders and his wife Ann are back in residence at the time of the census. 

There are many references to Charles Snewing in the Watford Observer and other publications throughout his time at Holywell, usually with regard to horses and horse sales as, under his ownership, Holywell had become a stud farm. The following is just one example;

Sporting Life - Tuesday 14 March 1882

Holywell Stud Farm, Watford. LORD MALDEN (own brother in blood to Petrarch), a bright bay horse, without white, of great substance, fully 16 hands high, free from hereditary disease, with grand action and fine temper; will serve a limited number of mares, 5 guineas a mare..... etc. For subscriptions apply to Mr. C. SNEWING

There are also references to William Saunders in the local paper who, in a later report is referred to as Mr Snewing's foreman.

From the Watford Observer - Saturday 19 April 1879 -

SEED POTATOES.—For Sale, Surplus Stock of  Ash Leaf Kidney. Price 2s 6d per bushel. Apply to Wm. Saunders. Holywell Farm, Watford. 

Another small example of the farmer's life is shown in  the following short extract from the Herts Advertiser, Saturday 23rd December 1876 - 'Watford Christmas Meat Show' (an annual event by all accounts) when farmers and butchers from around the district would gather to show off their livestock and wares:

"The unseasonableness of the weather on Tuesday last made the butchers wonderfully chary about their display of Christmas fare and the consequence was that there was not nearly so fine a show as last year. Nothing is to be said against the quality of the meat, nearly all of which was of the very primest description  and reflected highly to the credit and ability of the  breeders. The fattening of stock and making it ripe for the butchers has become a very important branch of modern agriculture'. The article goes on to name all the farmers from all the farms around Watford, from as far afield as Winslow and Rickmansworth, together with their exhibits, which included pheasants and other game, hares, geese, turkeys, ducks, fowls, and of course, cattle and sheep. Charles Snewing of Holywell Farm is noted as "exhibiting a fat calf, fed by the exhibitor and 4 very prime southdown sheep, also fed by him".  

1871 Census

 

 Holywell Farm

 

 

Charles Snewing

52

Widower

b 1818 


Brinklow,Warwickshire 


Charles Snewing

18

Son

b 1853

London

Allan Jeffrey

44

Visitor

b 1827

Scotland

William Saunders

57

Agricultural Labourer

Same William Saunders as in 1851 census  

By 1891 he was living in Estcourt Rd Watford aged 77 with his wife Annie (80), occ Labourer Past Work

b 1814

 

 

Herts

Ann Saunders

60

Servant

Same Ann Saunders as in 1851 census

b 1811

Herts

Frederick Durrant

18

Servant

b 1853

Herts

Samual Durrant

15

Servant

 

Herts

Mary Ann Heel

26

Servant

b 1845

Warwickshire   


Yet a rather more lengthy report from the Watford Observer of October 1872 (here abridged) concerns Henry Robinson and an alleged theft of tools from Frederick Hickford. He was accused of stealing a saw and shovels from Mr Snewing's Holywell Farm. A number of people were called to give statements regarding the tools. William Saunders stated: "I am foreman to Mr Charles Snewing of Holywell Farm, Watford. The hay fork has been lost since the other tools, but I cannot say when. We lost two shovels, a four-tined fork, and a spade last February, belonging to Mr. Snewing. They were taken out of the toolhouse on a Sunday evening. There have been marks on the tools produced where I usually mark Mr. Snewing’s, but they have been removed. The hay fork produced has also been marked in two places, as I usually mark them. Mr. Snewing bought the shovels himself. One of them was light and the other heavy. The heavy one had a tread on it, but the light one had not. The tools have all the appearance of those which belonged to Mr. Snewing".

Mr Boydell stated: I know the saw also by being able to bend it double; I never knew another saw that you could bend double. I also know it by the maker's name stamped on the plate. I do not think there are many saws in Watford by the same maker. I positively swear that the saw produced is mine.  I sold the shovels to Mr. Snewing myself."

Henry Purcell stated: I live at Lodge, Watford. I bought the four-tined fork off the prisoner on the 10th July last. I had previously sold the prisoner a load of dung, and had the fork in lien of money. The fork produced is the one that I bought off the prisoner. My wife gave it up to the police. I am a signalman on the London and North-Western Railway, and was on duty at Pinner Station at the time.

Police Constable Jennings stated: On Tuesday last, the 1st October, I received the fork produced from the last witness's wife at Wiggenhall Lodge. I found the light shovel in a hut on the Rickmansworth line, where the prisoner had been at work. The prisoner told the ganger to give it to me; he said that it belonged to him. I also found the spade produced on the line, hidden under some sleepers.

Saunders was again recalled. He said the spade produced was like one lost from Mr. Snewing’s. The brands had been cut out of it. 

The prisoner pleaded not guilty to all the charges. He was committed for trial. 

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