Reproduction of maps of The Wilderness dated (l to r) 1840, 1873 and 1898.
A cottage has been demolished by 1898
‘The Wilderness’ cottage
Judging by his neighbours in 1871, Joseph Wilson was probably living in the area
around Preston Green with his mother, Eleanor and sister Ellen. Eleanor died in 1872
aged 67. David and Mary Scrivenor died in the late spring of 1877 aged 74 and 81
respectively. They were succeeded at “The Wilderness” by Thomas Smith, a elderly
farm worker from St Albans, his wife, Mary, and daughter, Ellen.
When Thomas and Mary died in December Quarter 1894 and the late spring of 1892 respectively,
their daughter, Ellen , remained at the property and was joined by her sister, Annie
Sharp, and her Preston-born husband William and daughter May. they were still at
the property in 1901. The industry associated with the house was maintained as William
was a boot-maker and the sisters were self employed dressmakers.
It is probable that the Wilson (aka Wilston and Wilstead) family of wheelwrights
lived at this cottage from at least 1841-61. Thomas Wilson (wheelwright b 1780c)
and his wife, Mary, married on 14 December 1797 at Offley. They were living at Preston
in 1806 when there were seven in their household .
Thomas died in 1842. From 1851-61, Thomas’ son, Daniel (baptd. 1809, Tilehouse Baptist
Church, Hitchin) was certainly the wheelwright in residence at the cottage. With
him were his wife Eleanor and children, Ann and Joseph. Eleanor worked as a dressmaker
and shirtmaker. In 1841, Daniel was a wheelwright at Lilley Bottom in Kings Walden.
By 1861, their daughter Ann had married James Day, a tailor from Baldock and the
couple were living with Daniel and Eleanor. Ann was bonnet sewer, so the cottage
would have been a hive of activity.
Eleanor Wilson was a widow in 1871 so Daniel died between 1861-71. Although his son,
Joseph Dines Wilson continued the family tradition as the third generation of Wilson
wheelwrights in Preston, it is unlikely that he traded at ‘The Wilderness’.
From 1871-73, David and Mary Scrivenor from Kings Walden were living at the cottage
and he was also a wheelwright.
The southernmost cottage of the trio was located not in Chequers Lane but in Butchers
Lane. It still stands today and is known as, ‘The Wilderness’. It also had a wooden
frame, a roof of small red tiles and today the walls have been rendered. In 1873
it was described as having three rooms, a bake house and a wheelwrights shop which
helps to identify its occupants.
Meanwhile, at the cottage at The Wilderness, Joseph Sanderson had died in the late
spring of 1872. His widow, Hannah, was still in residence the following year when
the Temple Dinsley estate was sold, but she died in 1879.
By 1881, the cottage was occupied by farm labourer, Joseph Burton, his wife Catherine
and their five children.
In 1886, the widow, Emma Marriott was living alone in the cottage; her two daughters
being in service. Emma and her late husband, Stephen Marriott, had worked nearby
Castle Farm since the 1860’s until Stephen’s death in the late winter of 1883. Emma
was a Baptist, indeed in 1881 the census recorded that Mary Hudson, a Weslyan minister’s
wife, was residing with Stephen and Emma at Castle Farm. This was entirely appropriate
as historically, Castle Farm had long been associated with the Weslyans.
In 1891 -1901, Emma was still living in the cottage having been joined by her daughter,
Mary. They were recorded as ‘living on their own means’. It was probably Emma who
christened her home, ‘Rose Cottage’ as the first mention of this name I have found
was in the 1910 Rates Book. Emma Marriott died in the late winter of 1908.
The cottage nearest Castle Farm was in Chequers Lane. It had four rooms and was constructed
from bricks in a wooden frame and small red roof tiles.
From at least 1841 the Preston-born tailor, Joseph Sanderson worked here. He was
helped by apprentices: Robert Frazer and George Hankins in 1841, Alfred Tomlin from
Bedfordshire in 1851, Charles Cannon from Lewisham, Kent in 1861 and Thomas Franklin
from Bedfordshire in 1871.
The junction in Preston village where Charlton Road meets Chequers and Butchers
Lane was known as ‘The Wilderness’ in the nineteenth century.
It was a busy corner. Although only three cottages stood there, two of them were
shops where a wheelwright and a tailor plied their trade. The plot occupied by the
cottages measured one acre, three rods and 38 perches. In 1873, a tithe of 11s 6d
and rent of about £19 4s 0d was paid annually for the entire plot. It was part of
the Temple Dinsley Estate.
By comparing the details of the 1891 census (which recorded the number of rooms in
the homes) with the description of the cottages when the Temple Dinsley Estate was
sold in 1873, it is possible to establish who lived in which home during the 1800s.
According to the Bill of Sale only one cottage had four rooms. This same document
also mentioned that the property was a shop (tailor) and in 1873 was occupied by
Hannah Saunderson. Furthermore, the Bill of Sale describes another cottage at the
site. It was the hub of a wheelwright’s operation and this was occupied by David
Scrivenor in 1873.
Joseph lived with his wife Hannah and daughter, Hannah Harriett, who was born in
Preston and baptized at Tilehouse Street Baptist Church in1837. Hannah, junior, married
the butler Daniel/David Frost and they and their five young children were living
in the cottage with her parents, Joseph and Hannah, in 1871.
In 1881, the Frosts had moved to Chequers Lane but David was absent. The 1886 religious
survey of Preston notes that Hannah and David Frost were Baptists and that David,
“lived in London”. Indeed in 1881 he was serving the physician, Charles Hare, at
57 Lower Brook Street, Westminster.
David Frost died in the late winter of 1899 and two years later his widow, Hannah
Harriett was the Preston post mistress at ‘Spindle Cottage’ on the Hitchin Road at
The middle cottage of the three did not survive into the twentieth century, which
probably indicates its state of repair. It had three rooms and a cellar. From 1851-71,
the agricultural labourer, John Sharp (b Preston 1816c) lived there with his wife,
Mary and seven children.
By 1881, their place was taken briefly by Amos and Elizabeth Fairey and their two
children. Five year later, Job Jenkins lived alone in the cottage and by 1891 it
appears that the cottage had been demolished.
Rose Cottage and The Wilderness in the twentieth century
In 1901, Rose Cottage was owned and occupied by Emma Marriott, a seventy-nine-year-old
widow who lived there with her spinster daughter, Mary (45). The property, which
was ‘old but in fair repair’, comprised of a living room, kitchen, scullery, three
bedrooms, two attics and a wood/thatched barn.
It was assessed as having an early eighteenth century exterior to what was probably
an older house. It was built using red narrow bricks in a Flemish-bond and probably
as casing to timber frame. Also in the eighteenth century, a short service wing was
built on the west side which was set back from front and large catslide rear outshut
which was rebuilt in the twentieth century with 2 hipped dormers on its roof. The
south front had a low stucco plinth, plat-band, 2 windows to each floor, with a door
between, and gabled timber porch.
Emma Marriott died in 1908 and her daughter Mary (who had ‘private means’) continued
to live at the cottage with her teenaged niece, Mary Elizabeth Brown, for company
in 1911. Emma was still there in 1914, but in December 1917, George Hobbs and his
young family from London occupied the house for a fortnight or so.
In the Spring of 1918, Bertram and Nellie Moore were the new owners. They were in
their early thirties and had a young son, Bertram junior. Bertram snr was born at
Aston in Warwickshire and worked as a manager and traveller for the Mutual Benefit
By 1924, Rose Cottage had new occupiers - Bernard Daniel and Florence Hayton who
had moved from Shillington, near Hitchin. Bernard had been a Major in the Royal Army
Pay Corps between 1914 and 1922.
In 1934, forty-year-old London company director, Frederick Oxley Blanchard and his
wife, (Constance) Eva (right), were ensconced in the cottage they were to claim was
originally built before 1620 - they were to live there until the mid-1980s.
Frederick was the Chairman of the Preston Parish from 1939 to 1945 when he resigned
as a protest against the action of the Housing Committee of Hitchin Rural District
Council. This appears to typical behaviour by Frederick and Eva - ‘they established
themselves as two of Preston's rebels. They don't retire from committees, they resign.
‘We may be a bit of a nuisance.but if something in the village is wrong we kick up
a fuss until it’s put right,’ said Mrs Blanchard. A colleague on the parish council
gave a wry smile when the Blanchard name was mentioned. ‘Oh yes,’ he said. ‘they
stir things up occasionally, but they have the interest of the village at heart and
they are usually right.’
Frederick died at Stevenage in early 1979 and Eva in January 1986 by which time,
Elizabeth Hunter was living at the cottage..
In 1901, The Wilderness was owned by William (born 1863c) Sharp who lived there with
his wife Annie and their daughter Ida May who was born in around 1892 at Esher, Surrey.
William worked as a bootmaker (1901) and a gardener (1911).
The Wilderness was built in the early 1700s and has extensions to the east built
in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is constructed in plum brick in a
Flemish-bond with red dressings. Roughcast has been applied to the first floor of
extension and half-timbering to the front and upper part of west gable end. There
is a Sun fire insurance plaque attached to the front of the cottage, which can be
seen in the photograph above.
In 1910, the cottage consisted of a living room, kitchen, scullery, three bedrooms
and a barn and was described as being in ‘ fair repair’.
William was buried at St Martin on 30 November 1928, aged 73, and Annie on 4 April
From 1934 until 1961, The Wilderness was home to the Sunderlands (Link: Robert Sunderland).
Then there was a succession of owners: Thomas D and Marie E Guilbert (1964); Ian
P, Philip R and Peggy Darby (1969) and James G and Marion G Litterick (1980 and 1985)