A History of Preston in Hertfordshire
Chalkley Whitbread - Bankrupt of Preston Farm
I marked Chalkley Whitbread as a future subject for a page on this web site, when I found a thick bundle of documents relating to his money problems at Hertford Archives in October 2009. As well as the quantity of recorded details of his bankruptcy, his name was unusual enough to stand out. When I scrutinized the papers, I found that he was a farmer at Preston, Ippollitts with land in Ippollitts, Hitchin and Kings Walden parishes. This posed a problem: where had he farmed? The most likely locations were Castle Farm or Home Farm, However, I was sure I knew the occupants of these farms in 1761 when Chalkley ran out of cash and credit and chalked up his debts. The documents mentioned that he owed rent to John and Ann Salmon. These names feature in manorial records, so it was a case of poring over these again to find entries for the Salmons. As they were mentioned in the records of both Temple Dinsley and Maidencroft (Ippollitts) Manors, it was possible to follow the trail of ownership over several decades. From this information and comparing it with the Enclosure Map of Ippollitts in 1816, one could pinpoint the location of the farm and many of its fields. This research spawned the web page devoted to this farm - Preston Farm aka The Cottage and, now, The Dower House. Link: The Cottage The details provided by the papers about Chalkley’s life - his accounts and the detailed inventory of his home - help one to understand the life of a Preston farmer in the eighteenth century.
Chalkley was baptised on 7 November 1722 at Meppershall, Beds., which is ten miles north of Preston. He was the son of Francis and Ann Whitbread. Details of his marriage(s) are clouded. A Chalkley Whitbread married Sarah Chessam at Wheathampstead, Herts on 24 January 1745. However, during his bankruptcy proceedings, it emerged that his mother-in-law was Ann Pilgrim. These facts have not been reconciled, but appear accurate. After having a son and four daughters, Sarah apparently died between 1760 and 1767 as Chalkley probably married Martha Galer at Ippollitts on 24 April 1767 - the signature on his marriage document matches that on his bankruptcy papers. His daughter, Ann married Thomas Simmes at Ippollitts in 1769 at Ippollitts. Thomas was a joint owner of Pond Farm, Preston in 1780 and Ann inherited this holding on his death.
Chalkley began his tenancy at Preston Farm in 1752 when he was thirty years of age and his wife was expecting their second child, signing a lease from James Salmon on 5 March. An inventory of their possessions was made on 20 April 1761, taken by Robert Collison and William Wilshere and signed by Samuel Peete (the Ippollitts constable). The total value of the items was £140.The farm house had five rooms downstairs (a parlour, kitchen, back kitchen, dairy and drink (brewing) house) and three bedrooms together with a garret (a small room just under the roof). This is the inventory:
In the kitchen One clock, five pewter dishes and one pewter cheese plate, fifteen pewter plates and some other broken pewter, one tin colander and tin false bottom, one dresser and shelves, two large oval tables and one small table, seven chairs, a buffet and two cupboards, one wind-up jack, chain pulleys and weights, one spit, two brass candlesticks, two brass heads belonging to a pair of old andirons (metal supports to hold logs in fireplace), one gun, a pair of hilliards (?) and weight, one tin coffee pot and tin cover, one quart and two pint tin pots, one screen and curtain, one pothook, hand-irons, tongs, fire shovel, fender and four iron candlesticks, a bellows, one tea chest, a parcel of old books, a parcel of earthenware and a warming pan. Linen: Three pair and one sheet, five table-clothes, six pillow biers (pillow cases) and three napkins. In the parlour Six cane chairs and one elbow cane chairs, two other chairs, two tables, nine pictures and frames, blue window curtains, corner cupboard, about two bushels of clover seed @ £1 3s 4d a hundred, two sacks and one basket, four glass bottles, one stone jar, irons, an old fender and old box. Closet adjoining the parlour A large flask close stool and pewter pan, a hand butter churn and a basket Back Kitchen Copper hung pothook, kneading trough, spade tin colander, one boiler, two small old kettles, one skillet (small frying pan), long table and forms, two tubs, one rimnell (?), one hand cleaver, beef fork and two tea kettles. Dairy One cupboard, two tin pans, seven earthen milk pans, three milk rimnells and two wooden bowls,one earthen pickling pan and other earthen ware, one brass frying pan. The Drink House and room adjoining Two large tubs, one small tub, one brewing tub,five beer vessels, one barrel churn, a spade, two drink stalls, two large earthen jars, eighteen glass bottle, six wooden bottles, and an old form, a bottle and four wedges and three pails. Room over the Parlour One flock bed, feather bolster, and feather pillow, sacking-bottomed bedstead, one blanket, two coverlets and one pair of sheets, six old broken cane chairs, one other chair, two chests, two tables, one box and two old pictures. Room over the Kitchen One feather bed, bolster and two pillows, blue furniture, sacking-bottomed bedstead, three blankets, one quilt and one pair of sheets, blue window curtains, chest of drawers, broken looking glass, six old chairs, two tables, a side saddle, tongs and a pair of andirons, four pictures and frames Closet adjoining Two chests and three old boxes and a large basket Room over the back kitchen One flock bed, corded-bottomed bedstead, a straw bed, a pair of sheets, one old blanket and coverlet, a straw bed corded bedstead, a pair of sheets, blanket and coverlet, a pillion. Two old bridles, a bushel and striker, a mattock (digging tool) and pitch kettle and pitchfork and two old chairs Back Room (?) forks, eight quarter sacks, seven five bushel sacks, an old bridle, two sieves, riddle tub and about six bushels of horse corn Garrett Straw bed corded bedstead, a pair of sheets, blanket and coverlet, an old feather bed, chest and trunk In the stable Four horses, complete harnesses for four horses, five pair of plough, traces, corn bin, and a horn tin lantern In the yard Two cows and two bullocks and one calf, three pigs, about four score fowls, one wagon, four carts, five ploughs,five large harrows,and two small harrows, one wheelbarrow,three dung forks, two old sheep racks, two old shovels, three ladders and a wagon jack. All the grain in the barley barn being about six quarters of barley in sacks and on the floor, five quarter sacks and five-bushel sacks, one screen and fans, nine sieves and one wire sieve, one old shovel tackling for chaff cutting and cutting knife, a parcel of hay, dung hook, four forks, a large parcel of hurdles, two drags and about six rakes and a grindstone. Sheep About four score sheep and twenty lambs Total value: £140
The debts of Chalkley Whitbread
Owed to Chalkley Whitbread
On 21 October 1761, Chalkley was in Hertford Gaol after being charged by his second highest creditor, John Cooke. His cattle, corn, grain, stock and farming and dairy utensils and were seized by William Thomas (maltster of Hitchin) who acted on behalf of Chalkley’s landlords, the Salmons. He sensibly and astutely arranged for his brother, James Whitbread, a shopkeeper of Harpenden, to dispose of his goods and effects ‘to save expense and also prevent items being sold too cheaply’. He owed his brother £90 and his brother was able to recover this before handing on the residue of the fire sale. Chalkley also affirmed that some items included in the inventory were actually the property of of his mother-in-law, Mary Pilgrim and had been included in error: the pewter cheese plate, a dresser and shelves, hand irons, six cane chairs, an elbow chair, and oval table, nine pictures and frames, a hand butter churn and a sacking-bottom bedstead. Chalkley also drew attention to a diamond ring and clothes that he had held in trust for his niece, Eleanor Whitbread who was thirteen years old. She was the daughter of his brother, Thomas Whitbread, formerly a farmer of Kings Walden. Thomas married Eleanor, but then died and his widow married William Harrowell, yeoman of Kings Walden.
Total cash received
Total money paid out
The full picture does not emerge from these accounts. In round figures, Chalkley had evidently debts of £298 (including £90 owed to his brother,James). Further costs incurred relating to the bankruptcy proceedings were £11 making a total deficit of £309. Only £106 was recovered by Mr Thomas from his portion of the the sale of Chalkley’s assets. Presumably, the £6 owed to him was salvaged and James Whitbread paid himself the £90 he was owed. The total incomings amounted to £202 - a shortfall of £96. One further matter of interest is that on 4 August 1761, Chalkley assigned to Mary Pilgrim a lease (which had three years remaining) of twenty acres of land in Ippollitts parish and which had been made to him by William and Mary Blundell and William and Ann Simms.
I have been informed that Thomas Roberts married Eleanor Whitbread 20 January 1774 at Kings Walden Church. Witnessed by Chalkley Whitbread. According to family records they resided at Parsonage Farm, near Preston. Eleanor was Chalkley’s niece, for whom he was holding a ring & clothes in trust. Their son, Richard Roberts, and his brothers were to farm at various parts in the area. George his brother farmed the Parsonage at the time of the fire in 1844. Richard married Mary Ann Butterfield & raised a family of eight at Winch Hill. Their daughter, Sarah, emigrated to New Zealand in 1859
Random thoughts
Chalkley came from a reasonably affluent family - having brothers who were a farmer and shopkeeper. The mobility of farmers at Preston in the mid-eighteenth century is indicated by several journeys to Welwyn, about seven miles away. Local wages in 1761 were a shilling a day for men and four pence for boys. The main crops of Preston Farm were wheat and turnips. A rotation system was used which included clover. Chalkley also had a flock of eighty sheep,