Apart from the servants at Temple Dinsley and on the farms, no female occupations
were included in the 1841 census. Yet, there is no doubt that many women and children
were straw plaiting. In the parish registers of 1816 and 1817, the baptism of Henry
and Ann Willmott is recorded. Their parents were Edward and Rachel of Sootfield
Green and Edward’s occupation was ‘Dealer in straw plait’. Also, in 1841 there was
another plait dealer in the village, John Day, who died in 1844.
On the land
Male farm servants
Female farm servants
Ten years later, in 1851, 234 of the surviving 422 residents were still living in
Preston - 55%.
While it appears that the population was generally anchored in ‘their country’, there
were exceptions. For example, George Freeman, a labourer, was born in Kimpton. In
1832, he and future wife Mary were living in St. Albans, 7 miles away. By 1834 they
were in Redbourn, a move of 4 ½ miles. Two years later, they had moved 9 miles to
Kings Walden. In 1837 they were living in Preston.
It is noticeable that the majority of those born outside the county were farmers
and tradesmen - those in a specialised occupation. They included a gamekeeper, butcher,
tailor and a dealer and their wives together with a carpenter and victualler. They
and their skills were ‘imported’ to fill a need for which the locals were not trained.
On that basis, it is possible to determine the birthplace of 385 of the population
- 84%. Exactly 218 were born in Preston - 57%. Another 104 were born within 5 miles
of the Preston in its neighbouring villages: Kings Walden , St Pauls Walden , Offley,
Ickleford and the Wymondleys. Thus, 322 (71%) were born either in or within a short
distance of the village. Of the remainder, 36 were born elsewhere in Hertfordshire
and only 27 were born outside the county - including 11 from nearby Bedfordshire.
It is difficult to count precisely how many of the villagers were born in and were
therefore natives of Preston. The 1841 census only indicated whether or not people
were born in Hertfordshire.
Male John (41) William (36) Thomas (35) George (28)
Female Mary (39) Elizabeth (27) Ann (22) Sarah (20)
It should be noted that the ages of people for this census are approximate. Those
over 15 years old had their ages were rounded down to the nearest five years. So,
someone aged 39 would be shown as 35.
It is clear from the chart above that those aged 20 years or less (263) were a large
proportion of the population - 57%. Those over 61 years (16) were only 4% of the
The oldest person in the village on census day was Ann Swain who eventually died
in 1846 aged 90. The youngest child was the one-day old baby Eliza Andrews of Poynders
However, by checking the parish records, it is generally possible to say in which
parish people were born. If people were born in Hitchin or Ippollitts parish and
were living in Preston in 1841, I have assumed that they had been born in the village.
In many cases this can be confirmed because villagers stated their birthplace in
The census was taken on 6 June 1841. There were 458 villagers counted, 226 males
and 242 females. They included 70 married couples and 21 widows and widowers, 11
of whom were aged under 50.
They lived in 76 homes - an average of 5.4 people to a cottage. There were also households
in nine farms, ‘The Cottage’ and Temple Dinsley.
The ‘core’ families of Preston in 1841 were:
The following were the most popular Christian names in the village: