This is a listing of children who were born in or who lived in Preston during the
nineteenth century. It is compiled from the parish registers of Hitchin, Kings Walden,
Ippolitts and St Pauls Walden and the censuses from 1841 to 1901.
Note that it is not a catalogue of all the children – it is by no means complete.
It is impossible to produce a definitive list of the children born in Preston for
the following reasons:
a) Some children were not baptized.
b) The parish records from 1800 - 1813 do not usually state
the abode of children’s parents so that we cannot identify where they were living.
c) Many children were baptized at non-conformist places of
worship such as Tilehouse Street Baptist Church and Back Street Independent Meeting
House at Hitchin. Their records in the IGI do not provide details of where families
d) Several babies were born in Preston and baptized in Kings
Walden and Ippollitts. Often their parish records state that children were born in
Preston but there are also many examples of when this information was not provided.
This is especially so of children born at Preston in the parish of Ippollitts. The
parish entry may correctly state that the parents were living in Ippollitts but may
not mention that they were specifically inhabitants of Preston.
The parish records are useful as they provide information about people who lived
in Preston but who do not appear in censuses. To illustrate, a family might move
into the village after a census year and move out before the next count. A parish
baptism record is a footprint of their brief sojourn. So, we know that Thomas and
Sarah Balston and Alfred and Lavinia Chalkley (innkeeper at the Red Lion) were living
in Preston in 1845 and 1875 respectively because the baptism record shows that they
were living there when their children were born - but the families do not appear
in any census.
The censuses provide some information about the birthplace of villagers but many
told the enumerators of the parish of their birth and not the village. Thus, if a
couple were living in Preston at the time of one census and were still in the village
ten years later, any children born during the decade would probably have been born
in the village. However, their birthplace may be entered in the census as “Hitchin”
– the parish in which they were residing. An example of this are the children of
John and Charlotte Jenkins. This couple were living at Preston in 1851 and 1861.
Doubtless, their three children born in the 1850s were born in the village, but the
1861 census notes their birthplace as Hitchin. However, the census information is
of considerable help in determining the birthplace of many other villagers.
Another benefit of consulting the censuses is that if we know that a child was baptized
in a certain year but does not appear in the following census (after checking whether
he or she was residing with or visiting a relative) it is probable that the child
died before the next census was taken. Thus, there is a note of the baptisms of two
children (Charles and Ann) of James and Jemima Mead in the 1840s although the children
do not appear in the 1851 census. An examination of the Herts Burial Index reveals
that they were buried as infants in September 1846.
The census data helps us to plot the movement of families. When children were born
at different locations it is a guide to their parent’s mobility. So, when one reads
in the 1901 census that my grandparent’s (Alfred and Emily Wray’s) first six children
were born in Preston and that their next two children were born in Ippollitts, knowing
that they moved parishes from Back Lane to Chequers Lane, one can deduce that this
relocation was sometime between 1895 and 1898 when their sixth and seventh children
When Preston established its first church in 1850 at the school, there was a marked
change in the use of Kings Walden church for baptisms – which perhaps indicates how
the villagers felt about travelling to Hitchin to baptize their children in their
own parish church.
Firstly, there appears to have been a mass baptism of young villagers on 16 August
1857. Then, twenty-six Preston infants were christened, including many who were not
babies. L. Graham performed the ceremonies and as he was a curate (whose name does
not appear elsewhere in the records), the baptisms were probably performed in Preston
school. The schoolroom must have been unusually noisy on this occasion!
Secondly, between 1813 and 1857, 128 Preston children were baptized at Kings Walden
parish church – approximately three babies a year. From 1857 to 1899 Only twelve
Preston-born babies were baptized there – or one every three years.
There are two schedules of children in Preston from 1800 -1901: an alphabetical list
and a chronological catalogue. The latter sometimes gives a hint about friendships
and families as two or more mothers went together to have their babies baptized.
It is pertinent to mention here that if two or more babies were christened on the
same day, it does not necessarily mean that the children were twins or triplets.
It may just be an indication of laziness on the part of parents or an indifference
to the importance of baptism in those days. Also, baptism did not automatically follow
birth – extreme examples of this are the children of Thomas and Maria Sharp, John
and Thomas, who were baptized together on 7 January 1883 aged 40 and 37.