The census was counted on 7 April 1861. There were 420 inhabitants in Preston that day - 207 males and 214 females. They included 68 couples and 16 widows or widowers. They occupied 78 homes - an average of 4.8 residents in each cottage. Five houses were uninhabited. Eight farms and the house at Temple Dinsley were also occupiedThe ‘core’ families of Preston in 1861 were:
The following were the most popular Christian names in the hamlet:
The oldest villager was Phoebe Pedder who was living at Kilnwood House. She was 86 in 1861 and died in 1864. The youngest child in Preston was one-month-old Arthur Aldridge at Hill End. Children aged under 20 (206) were more than half of the local poulation - 49%
No villager was recorded as receiving parish relief and 100 were straw plaiters. The oldest plaiter was the nimble-fingered Ann Walker, aged 76, and the youngest home worker was the five-year-old, William Fairey (who was my great grand uncle).
A third of Preston was made up by just six families:
Of the 411 surviving villagers who were counted in 1851, 241 were still in Preston ten years later - 59%. Sixty-two more were living within five miles of the hamlet. While 60 can not be traced in 1861, 11 had moved further away but still in Hertfordshire and 37 were living outside the county.A drift towards towns from Preston can be detected. Twenty-eight had relocated to Hitchin, Luton and Dunstable and 15 were living in London.
The Preston historian, Nina K Freebody wrote an article in ‘Hertfordshire Countryside’ magazine comparing Preston in 1861 to the village in 1961. A transcription of this can be found at this link: Nina Freebody’s article,’A Typical Hertfordshire Village 100 Years ago’