A History of Preston

in Hertfordshire

Link to Currell’s family tree.

Link to discussion of the Currells in the parishes around Hitchin: Norton, Baldock, Aston, Willian and Graveley.

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The Currell family

(of Preston)

Robert was apparently the only son of Robert and Mary Currall (sic).  He was baptized two miles away from Willian in Graveley, Herts on 3 July 1762.

 

He met Martha Dearman who was baptized in the city of Hertford on 29 March 1769.

 

The couple married at All Saints Church Hertford on 14 November 1784.

Back at Hill End, Robert and Martha had a least nine children, six boys and three girls (see link below tofamily tree). They were all given biblical names - notably Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  It is possible that there was a

non-conformist influence as a son, Thomas, may have been buried at the Hitchin Baptist church. He was 21 when he died in April 1809. However, all of the other children were baptized in Anglican Churches - St Mary’s, Hitchin - except their firstborn son, Thomas, who was baptized in Ippollitts. (The Ippollitts parish church was nearer to Hill End than Hitchin.)

 

Despite their taste for Old Testament names, Robert and Martha were not conscientious about baptizing their children. Joseph, Sarah and Samuel were baptized together on 10 July 1808. The clergyman (with the sort of aside which warms the hearts of family researchers) recorded the extra information that they were aged 8, 6

and 4 years respectively.

 

Robert died in March, 1832 aged 74. Nine years later, in 1841, Martha was surviving on charity and parish aid

and was living at the Biggin Charity House, Biggin Lane, Hitchin - which was an overflow workhouse in which the women had separate rooms. She lived for another year until the late winter of 1842. She, like her husband, was buried at St Marys Church, Hitchin on 30 November 1842 aged 82.

     Robert (1762-1832) and Martha (1769-1842) Currell

Robert and Martha lived in the vicinity of the hamlet of Preston, Herts. An unofficial census of Preston in 1821 showed Robert Currall, an agricultural labourer, living at Jack’s Hill, Hill End - which is about a mile and a half east of Preston. There were two males and two females in the household - Robert and Martha and, probably, their children, Joseph and Sarah.

 

It seems likely that Robert was living in Hill End as early as 1781 because the Hertfordshire Militia List (Link ML) shows a Robert Currell as living in Langley from 1781-84 and Hill End would have been included within the Langley district. He had moved there as a single man from his parents’ home in Willian (a Hertfordshire village which was six miles away). Robert was to live in Hill End for more than fifty years until his death, aged 74, in March 1832.

Robert and Martha’s daughter, Mary Currell (baptized 4 June 1797) was named in a document in St Pauls Walden’s parish chest. She was the subject of a Settlement Order. (See below for more information concerning Settlement Orders.) On 20 August 1819 the overseers of the parish acknowledged that she, ‘the single woman and the child of which she is now pregnant’ were legally settled in their parish. Her son, William was duly baptized there on 26 March 1820.

Mary Currell (bap. 1797) Settlement Order

‘The poor are always with us’,. From the 16th to the 20th century each parish was responsible for financially helping the ‘deserving poor’ who lived (or were ‘settled’) within its boundaries.

 

People were considered to be ‘settled’ in a parish if they were born to ‘settled’ parents there, or if a woman married a ‘settled’ man, or if a man was hired for a full year in the parish.  

 

Poor relief funds were raised by a local rate on owners of property.  Anyone who moved into the parish was a potential drain on its relief fund - the worst scenario was the sudden arrival of a single pregnant mother (such

as Mary Currell, above) with all of its implications for aid.

 

The Justices of the Peace in the parish would quickly investigate newcomers to decide who would foot the bill if they fell ill or destitute.  This was called a Settlement Examination.

 

If it was deemed likely that the in-comers would incur poor law relief, the examination might be followed by a Removal Order by which the unwanted unfortunates would be returned to their parish of legal settlement.  The Removal Order could be challenged in the County Quarter Sessions, which is what happened to Joseph and Susan.

The Settlement Examination and Removal Order documents were kept in the Parish Chest for future reference. ‘In Hertfordshire the survival of examinations is comparatively rare’, but the record of Joseph’s examination has survived and is a ‘mine of genealogical information’:

‘Six years ago next spring I let myself to Mr. George Roberts at Kings Walden Lodge ’til the Michaelmas (29 September, when half year rents were due) and I served him ‘til that time.  

 

At the Michaelmas, I let myself to him for another year at five shillings a week and five pounds wages as shepherd.  I stayed in my service the whole year and received my wages - I lodged in my master’s house the whole year - I have not since done any act to my knowledge to gain a Settlement.

 

I am married - my wife’s name is Susan.  We have one child named Thomas (my great grand-father) which is about a year and a half old.

 

We are living in the parish of Hitchin and are chargeable to it.

 

The mark of X Joseph Currell’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph (1800-1863) and Susan (1802-1892) Currell

 

Like many of the Currells, having newly-born children baptized was not high on the list of priorities of Robert and Martha Currell.  On 10 July 1808 they baptized a batch of their final three children at St Marys Church, Hitchin. There is a note on the parish register that Joseph was eight years old. He was probably born in 1800.

 

Joseph set a trend for other Currells by marrying a Fairey - Susan.  She was born in 1803 in Kings Walden and was baptized (a few days before Joseph) on 26 June 1808. Joseph was living in Hill End when he married

Susan on 21 May 1831 at Hitchin.

                                                        Joseph Currells’s settlement certificate

The Justices of the parish of Hitchin were attempting to ‘remove’ the Currells to Kings Walden, parish but Joseph’s case was that he had been hired in the parish of Hitchin for a year and more at Kings Walden Lodge which was within the Hitchin parish boundary.

 

The churchwardens and overseers of the poor in Kings Walden appealed against the order on 28 March 1833 and the case was set for the Hertford Quarter Sessions on the 7 April. The decision of the court is not on

record, but two years later the Currells were living in Preston which is mainly located in the parish of Hitchin. Joseph was still a shepherd.

After Thomas’ birth in 1831, Joseph and Susan had children at regular intervals - Lucy, John, Ann, Martha, Katharine and, finally, Lucy in 1848. (Link to Currell family tree )

 

Joseph and his children, even after they married, lived in Preston and Kings Walden for all of their lives.  The women were all straw plaiters.

Joseph died on 10 November 1863 in Preston of “old age”.  The informant was Catherine Winch.

Susan Currell – midwife and nurse

After her husband’s death, the censuses of 1871 to 1891 indicate that Susan served the community as a midwife. She was living at Little Almshoe with her daughters Catharine and Lucy and had her grandchildren, William Currell and Ellen Shambrook for company in 1871 when she described herself as a ‘midwife’.  Then, in 1881, she was at the Holly Bush Hall public house at Kings Walden.  She was said to be a ‘monthly nurse’ . She attended mothers after the birth of a child. She was aged seventy-seven! There was a obviously a need for midwives as the cost of professional help at childbirth was prohibitive for most. If an experienced neighbour was on-hand when a birth was imminent, they would be called upon. The problem was that most were illiterate, untrained and without even the rudimentary ideas of cleanness.

Maybe I am being unfair to Susan by noting these observations.  She was clearly providing a needed service. I wonder how many of my relatives she brought into the world!

In 1891, Susan had retired as a midwife and was living with her daughter, Catharine and her husband George Shambrook at 9 In Row, Hitchin.

Susan died in 1892, aged 90.