Preston Green Corner in 2006
In 1881, the four-roomed Kenwood Cottage was inhabited by farm labourer, William Jenkins. Ten years later, it was the home of Elizabeth Burgess - a retired grocer.
The cottage next door also had four rooms and from 1881 until at least 1910, it was the home of the Shepherd family. Amos Shepherd was a miller and after his death, his widow, Eliza, continued to live in the cottage. She had schoolmistresses as lodgers: 1891 - Fanny Cain and Emily Baldwin; 1901 - Elizabeth Hunt.
In 1881, Amos Smith (carpenter and son of Daniel Smith, the grocer who lived at Fig Tree Cottage) and his family lived at Laburnum Lodge. This home had more than five rooms. Amos died in 1887 aged 38 and his widow, Louisa, opened the village Post Office at her home (see photo above). However, by 1901 she had moved to Bedford. Sometime after 1898, the barn to the right of Laburnum Lodge was demolished and a new cottage was built (see photo top left).
There were three homes at this part of the Green. As can be seen from the top photograph, the cottage nearest the well became the village shop. But from the 1870s it was the home of the bootmaker, Joseph Peters, and his wife, Sarah, who also used the premises as a plaiting school according to a sketch map of 1884. This property was part of the Temple Dinsley estate and in 1873, Joseph was paying an annual rent of five guineas.
Just behind this cottage was Vine Cottage, which was the home and business premises of the tailor Frederick Robinson from the late 1870s until at least 1910. (There is a photograph of Frederick Robinson outside the shop on the Agriculture page.) This cottage had more than five rooms and was also part of the Temple Dinsley estate. The landlord from 1873 was Ralston De V. Pryor. Vine Cottage is still standing today.
The last of the trio of homes was Fig Tree Cottage. It had more than five rooms. This was the home of the grocer, Daniel Smith, in 1881. Ten years later, in 1891, Francis Cannon (a wheelwright) was living there. In 1910, his landlady was Miss Wilshere. This cottage is also still occupied today.
Above, l to r: Fig Tree Cottage, Vine Cottage and Preston shop 1910c
Hitchin historian, Reginald Hine writes that Preston Green was originally know as “Cromwell’s Green. It was part of the Temple Dinsley Estate until it was bought by public subscription in 1946.
Originally, an annual sheep far was held there. By the 19th century, this had become a fun fair which was held at the end of September or October. The village children saved their pennies from collecting acorns (which were fed to pigs) to enjoy the delights of the rides and the stalls. Unsurprisingly, the school log entry for 28 September 1885 reads, “attendance very low owing to a fair being held on the green”.
In the evening, after the fair, the fun continued as there was dancing at the Red Lion. Sometimes a fiddler was hired to provide the music. Admission to the dance room cost 2d. The fair was last held in 1914. Another attraction on the Green was the yearly bonfire. The Green was criss-crossed by paths which can be clearly seen in old photographs. Until 1946, it was dominated by five towering elms. It also had a maypole tree in the centre which was planted in 1760 to celebrate the crowning of George III.
Preston Green, looking towards the Red Lion 1920c.
The elms were replaced by lime and thorn trees.
The well and well house were other features of the Green. The summer of 1872 was unusually hot and the ponds around the village, which were used for drinking water, dried up.
The owner of Temple Dinsley, William Darton, had the well dug. It was 211’ 8’’ deep (64 ½ metres). Two people operated the winding mechanism and they toiled for five minutes to raise the water
Left, the well at Preston Green 1910c