Common People Part III – Roads

Berkamsted Common Postcard, Alice Des Clayes (1891–1968)
Berkamsted Common Postcard, Alice Des Clayes (1891–1968)

In this final instalment of Common People we will look at an egregious instance of ‘Road Capture’ on Berkhamsted Common – the arbitrary closure of a public road by the local landowner – and show how it may always have been part of a cunning plan to enclose (privatise) the central part of the common. We will hear some of the people who put the road out of action (I don’t mean the 7th Earl) – and how local people adapted to the new reality: keeping calm and driving any way they could.… More

Common People Part 2: Bricks

In the second part of our exploration of 19th-century voices from Berkhamsted Common we will meet a bona fide war hero who fought alongside Lord Nelson and later made the bricks behind the stone facade of Ashridge House. We will also learn about the high calorific value of gorse not to mention its high monetary value: people risked jail to smuggle it to other Chiltern brick works under the eyes of the estate keepers. We will also meet the amazing William Ashby who was never seen without a donkey load of the golden weed: but nobody had ever seen him cut it.… More

Common People Part I: Sheep

‘… Common ’tis named/And calls itself, because the bracken and gorse/Still hold the hedge where plough and scythe have chased them’
‘Up in the Wind’ by Edward Thomas

Battle Lines

In 1866 Lord Brownlow, the young and fabulously wealthy owner of the Ashridge Estate, erected iron fences to enclose (privatise) about 400 acres of Berkhamsted Common. Resistance was led by the Commons Preservation Society which had been formed the previous year. The fences were taken down in a celebrated moonlight raid and, after a lengthy legal battle, stayed down.… More

Common People: Introduction

Oh, dear. I’m enjoying not blogging every week too much. Maybe it’s reached a natural end. And, well, we have plans: more on which later. Perhaps the blog needs ditching or reinventing. I’m also enjoying getting back into music: which is great, but a time-drain. First-world problems, perhaps. Meantime, I shall carry on posting older stuff. For the next month or so, I shall publish the original version of a deep dive into the 19th-century history of Berkhamsted Common.… More

Last Orders Part 3

Admiral Carter, EC1 – D.H. Lawrence at Hampstead

‘So it is the end – our world is gone, and we are like dust in the air…’ DH Lawrence To Lady Ottoline Morrell, 9 September 1915.*

It had been a gift from the bomb factory to the Zeppelin commander. Three-hundred kilograms of high explosive – the biggest bomb of the airship campaign so far. Every single building in the close was damaged by the blast and many buildings set alight by incendiaries.… More

Best Kitchen Knife To Do a Murder

This month was a small landmark for the blog: it passed a thousand views. I didn’t keep records before last summer, so I’m very pleased and would like to thank everybody who has looked in. I’m not going to analyse the figures too carefully. I suspect a third of them arrived by accident and never returned. Another third were bots trained to look for phrases like ‘bomb recipe’ and ‘best kitchen knife to do a murder’.… More

Haymaking

‘3rd [February 1837] The old Lady is getting much better. I hope she will stand a little longer yet. There is a great deal of illness about now – every day the streets are regularly crowded with funerals and mourning coaches, herses and such like belonging to the dead. The undertakers in London are very particular in haveing all black horses to attend funerals but now there are so many wanted they are glad to get any colour.

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Trip to Hampstead Today!

’25th [January] Been to Hamstead with the carriage. It’s about six or seven miles out of London. It’s where a great many Cockneys goes to gipseying and to ride on the jackasses. It’s a very plesent place. Had for dinner today a rost leg of mutton, potatos and suety pudding: supper, cold meat and rosted potatos and rabbit.’

From Diary of William Taylor, Footman, 1837, edited by Dorothy Wise, with notes by Ann Cox-Johnson, St Marylebone Society Publications Group, 1962.… More