Ten years later, 234 of the surviving residents of Preston in 1841 were still living
in the village. Where were the remaining 188?
Eighty-one cannot be traced. Many of these were not ‘rooted’ in the village. They
did not inhabit their own cottages as they were the apprentices of tradesmen or ‘living-in’
farm servants. As the 1841 census does not state their birthplace or precise age,
it is difficult to find them in 1851.
Of the rest, 82 were still living within five miles of Preston - in the surrounding
villages and Hitchin. Another 15 had relocated farther afield in Hertfordshire -
John Joiner and his family moved ten miles to Wheathampstead via Gaddesdon. Charles
Walker (b 1823), the son of Jonathan and Ann, traveled even further away - in 1851
he was a coachman in Cuckfield, Sussex. Another ten villagers moved out of the county.
During this decade there was no perceptible move from the countryside into towns.
Seventeen “Prestoners” moved to Hitchin including seven members of the Saunders family
from Poynders End who were living at Lyles Row. David Morgan began a grocery business
at Bridge Street, Hitchin. Three more villagers moved to Dunstable and two relocated
in Luton. Only two - James Boston and Jabez Squires - were living in London in 1851.
With few exceptions, the villagers who moved away continued to work in agricultural
occupations. But George Swain (b1828) was working as a bonnet blocker at Dunstable
Mary Jeeves was the oldest inhabitant - when she died in June 1853 she was aged 84.
The youngest villagers were two boys who were one month old - George Fitzjohn of
Kiln Wood and Elijah Peters who lived at Preston Green. A high proportion of villagers
were aged between one and twenty years - 49%.
Sharp (25 members)
The 1851 census was taken on 30 March. There were 464 inhabitants in Preston divided
between 227 males and 237 females. They were living in 82 homes - an average of 4.9
people to a cottage. Two houses were uninhabited. There were also households at six
farms, Temple Dinsley and ‘The Cottage’.
Clearly illness in a family could affect other children.
Daniel (the butcher at Preston Green) and Margaret Smith buried Daniel (2) and George
(infant) on 9 and 12 October 1843. James (ag lab) and Jemima Mead experienced even
greater sadness when Charles (1) and Ann (2) were buried on 4 and 18 September 1846
Three years later, their daughter, Emily (16) was buried on 31 May 1849.
This census also included details of nine incapacitated villagers - many of whom
would have received poor relief. They included my second great grand uncle, Thomas
Ward, who although only 35 was, ‘Ill and relieved’ and his crippled 14-year-old son,
William. Thomas was to live until he was 82 and worked for the rest of his life -
as a marine store dealer, hawker and finally as a grocer in Luton. Thomas Palmer
(80) was described as a ‘pauper’ and Thomas Winch (76) was ‘past work’.
The 1851 census included the occupations of children and females. There were 97 straw-plaiters.
The oldest of whom was my great x 3 grandmother, Jane Fairey. The youngest plaiters
were three-year old boys - Peter Peters and Amos Sharp. There were 80 female plaiters.
The seventeen male plaiters were aged under 10 (apart from the 11-year-old George
Scott) - which suggests that the preferred occupation of male teenagers was on the
A quarter of the village was comprised of six families: