My Paternal Family
The Fairey family at Preston Grtx3 grandparents: John and Jane (nee Grimes) Fairey
In this article I am concentrating on the Fairey’s of Preston. However, there is an extended family tree (link: Fairey family tree) which includes some Faireys who travelled from Hertfordshire to London to find fame and fortune. In the late 1800s, one Fairey descendent was a rag and bone man and another was a ‘street scavenger’ (1891) and cared for ‘road lattrines’ (1901) in the capital city. Fame indeed! In today’s parlance, Preston’s Faireys would be tagged as a ‘problem family’. Several members of the family went before Hitchin magistrates on charges of poaching, drunkenness and theft. It gives me no vicarious pleasure to record these misdemeanours, but I confess that researching this branch of my family has a certain fascination. Richard (III) and Elizabeth’s third son was John Fairey, my greatx3 grandfather, (Link: Richard Fairey lll) and it is through him that our interest in the Faireys of Preston continues. John was baptised at Ippollitts on 30 December 1769.                                                                
Richard Fairey (1800 -1863) was baptized in 1800 at St Marys, Hitchin. In 1823, he and his parents were in Hitchin Poor House. On 18 December 1823, he stole two sheep from James Taylor, a farmer at Wellhead, Ippollitts. That day, Richard (who was described as wearing a ‘frock’) and another man drove the sheep five miles to Codicote and left them with a butcher’s son and was given a beef steak. Richard arranged to call back the following morning, but did not arrive. Suspecting that the sheep were stolen, the butcher informed the police and as a result, their details were announced by town criers in the neighbourhood. The farmer, James Taylor, recovered his sheep on Christmas Day, 1823. In the meantime, Richard had immediately absconded from the Poor House after the robbery but was recognized by the police from the description which had been given – he was clearly known to the authorities. About two years later he was spotted by a police constable who ‘had been after him several times before’. After a short chase of 30 yards, Richard was caught and arrested. His uncorroborated testimony was that the theft had been committed a long time ago; that he had been given the sheep by a young man he didn’t know who promised to meet him later for payment. When the stranger failed to keep the appointment, Richard suspected that the sheep were stolen and so did not return to the butcher at Codicote for his money – 25s 6d for each sheep. On 1 December, 1825, Richard was found guilty of robbery and a sentence of death was pronounced – although according to a news report the Judge said that his life was not in danger but ‘that he might make up his mind to leave the country for the rest of it’. (Read the two newspaper accounts at this link: Richard Fairey news.) Which is how Richard found himself on the other side of the world at Tasmania on 13 August 1826. He had been transported from Portsmouth on 25 April 1826 on the Earl St Vincent and arrived 110 days later at Hobart, Van Dieman’s Land, Tasmania. He was in the colony for 13 years, received his ‘Ticket of Leave’ (parole) in 1835 and a conditional pardon in 1841. In the meantime, Richard married Annie Cassell on 2 November 1836 at Norfolk Plains, Westbury, Tasmania. They had one son, John Thomas Fary who was born in 1839. He, in turn, married and had six children which is how there are scores of Richard’s direct descendants in Australia today. Susan Fairey (1803 -1892) married Joseph Currell, a shepherd. The family lived in Preston from 1835 until Joseph’s death in 1863. Their story can be found at this link: Currell. Elizabeth Fairey (bap. 1808). Married James Cranfield and Joseph Hawkins. Lived in Preston and Folly, Hitchin Thomas Fairey (1810 -1896) was living with his mother at Preston in 1841. He married Catharine Ward (my greatx2 grandmother and sister of Elizabeth who married Samuel Fairey, Thomas’ brother) at St Marys, Hitchin in 1845. They had four children. The family lived at Ley Green, Kings Walden until Catharine’s death in 1879. In 1891, Thomas was in the Hitchin Workhouse where he died in 1896. Thomas and Catherine’s eldest son, Thomas Fairey (1847-1913) was living with his family at Preston Hill Farm Cottage in 1881. Ten years later, the family had moved to Back lane, Preston. Thomas was before Hitchin magistrates on at least four occasions. In 1866 and twice in May, 1879 he was found guilty of poaching. He refused to pay a fine and was sent to gaol for one month in 1879. In 1875 he was fined 7s 6d for being drunk and asleep on the highway at Gosmore. Like his father, he died in Hitchin Workhouse in 1913. Thomas was also required to pay 2d towards the cost of a school slate which he broke because his son, George, had been given some words to learn in 1881. Thomas and Catherine’s other son, Charles Fairey (1858 - ?) had a long criminal record. On four separate occasions he was drunk. He refused to leave a beer house at Ley Green, drunkenly rowed with another customer, became abusive when the landlord said he would not allow such behaviour and then kicked in a door panel. Charles acted in a similar way at a Preston inn and when he was refused beer, he used ‘insulting, filthy and disgusting language’, threatened to strike the inn-keeper and left the inn only to return with a broom and upset a haycock at the rear of the house. Another time, he was drunk and riotous with others at Charlton, near Preston, and used the ‘most abusive language’. Charles was also a poacher. He was fined in 1885 for setting nets for ferreting and was in gangs of four who were convicted of poaching in 1876 and 1877. The following year, he was fined for carrying a gun without a licence. He was living in a caravan at Kings Walden with his brother in 1901. Mary Fairey (1813 – 1814). Died as an infant. Samuel Fairey (1816 -1890) My grtx2 grandfather See Link: Samuel and Elizabeth Fairey Catharine Fairey (1816c - ?) married Daniel Winch at St Mary’s, Hitchin in 1834. They lived in Preston from 1841 until 1861 – in 1851 the family were at Sootfield Green. In 1848, Daniel was suspected of setting fire to a wheat stack at Staganhoe Bottom Farm. He was fined for rabbitting with George Fairey (Catharine’s brother) in 1843. Daniel and Catharine had eight children. One, William, was inconstant conflict with the law, culminating in his imprisonment for four years for manslaughter using a gun after a drunken brawl with a police constable at Gosmore. Link: Manslaughter George Fairey. (1825 - ?) George was living with his widowed mother at Preston in 1841. February 1843 was a memorable month for George. He was fined 10s for trespassing with two companions in search of rabbits at Offley – a charge he admitted. That same month, he was whipped for stealing a rabbit pudding. He had gone to the taproom of the Chequers Inn at Preston and drank a pint of beer. There was a rabbit pudding cooking on the fire. The wife of the innkeeper left the room. When she returned, George and the pudding had gone. Following a brief search, George was discovered asleep in a field with an incriminating pile of bones and the pudding cloth beside him. Later, George was fined twice in quick succession for poaching. Firstly, he was accused of setting snares to take rabbits in December, 1860. As he had committed a similar offence only a fortnight earlier, he was sent to the House of Correction at Hertford. After his release, he was imprisoned almost immediately again for three months as he refused to pay a 5s fine and costs for poaching at Kings Walden. George was also fined 5s 7d for refusing to leave the Crown public house at Ley Green, Kings Walden and breaking a pint pot.
John stayed with his mother experiencing the death of his father, his mother’s remarriage and the birth of his half siblings. As his mother and new partner were farming at Stevenage, it was here that he married Jane Grimes in 1799:
Jane was the daughter of Stevenage labourer Robert Grymes (sic) and his wife Elizabeth. their first child, Richard, was baptised at St Marys, Hitchin -which may indicate that they were living in the town at that time. However, the couple had settled at Kings Walden, Herts by 1803 where seven of their nine children were born Between 1813 and 1823 the family was living in Ley Green, Kings Walden, wher John was a labourer. They were somewhat lax when it came to baptising their children:
Ley Green was a small, sprawling hamlet with a pub and a school which lay two miles west of Preston. The following map was drawn in 1869:
to Preston
John fell upon hard times and a court case revealed that in December 1823 the family were in the Hitchin Workhouse House. By 1841,the Faireys were at Preston where John died and was buried at Kings Walden on 23 May 1841. The census of that year noted the widow, Jane Fairey, together with her sons, John, Thomas and George, living at Preston. Documents revealed that they had lived there in the hovels of Back Lane from 1837. This was the first mention of the couple’s sons, John and Thomas.
Jane was still living at Back Lane with her son, John, in 1861 and when she died, aged ninety-two in 1867. She was buried at St Marys, Hitchin on 11 March 1867:
1851 census - Jane was still residing at Back Lane, Preston
Of John and Jane Fairey’s children
John Fairey (1799c -1870). John lived in Preston from at least 1841 until around 1871. He was a cripple who never married. He worked as a shoemaker at Back Lane, Preston, supporting his mother. He died in Hitchin Workhouse and was buried at St Marys, Hitchin on 25 March 1871, aged 70.
More Fairey tales
Mary Fairey (1825 – 1865) who was the daughter of James and Elizabeth (nee Button) was in trouble with the law at Hitchin in 1844. The original written witness statements relating to her case still exist. They tell how Thomas Carter of Barnet had a stall at Hitchin market. After Mary visited the stall, Thomas ‘missed’ a pair of earrings and a single earring. Mary later went back and bought a necklace. Thomas accused her of the theft and his wife called a policeman. Thomas told Mary that she had better pay for the earrings before the policeman arrived. She pulled out some ‘halfpence’ but Thomas said that would not do as the earrings were a shilling for the pair. Mary then ‘took them out of her neck’ and at that moment the policeman arrived. The policeman, Charles Webster (a master of the vernacular) testified that he said to Mary, ‘Halloa, what’s this?’. She had her hand in her bosom and out from it she produced the earrings. She then offered to pay for the jewellery. Mary in her defence said, ‘I hope you won’t do much to me as it is the first time for me’. The wife of another Fairey was also accused of theft from a shop at Hitchin. In May 1878, Elizabeth, the wife of Arthur Fairey (son of John and Charlotte nee Watson) was convicted for stealing three shillings from W. B. Moss’ shop at Nightingale Road. She was sent to gaol for 14 days with hard labour. Several  Faireys were hay tiers. After hay had been cut and dried in stoops, it was stored in haystacks. It became compressed and consolidated by its own weight and by the stamping of farm labourers. Before it could be transported and sold, the stack was opened by the hay tiers and blocks of hay were cut out and tied up in trusses by twisted hay ropes. Elsie Fairey (b 1908) was the daughter of Ezra (a hay tier) and Sarah who had a small holding at Redcoats Green, Great Wymondley, near Hitchin. Reminiscing, she told of her memories of her father leaving home very early in the morning with a huge cutting knife tied onto the bar of his bike. If there was a bright moon, he often left in the middle of the night. Elsie married her fifth cousin, my uncle Dick Wray.
The Faireys - a problem family at Preston?
This news report from May 1875 involved two cousins, Thomas (b 1847, son of Thomas and Catharine) and Alfred (b 1847, son of Samuel and Elizabeth) Fairey. Thomas was accused of stealing a hoe and handle - the property of James Crawley. Crawley said that on his way to work at 5.45 am he met Thomas carrying a hoe. When he arrived at the hovel where he had left his hoe the previous night, the implement was missing. Crawley and Pc Day went to the field where Thomas was working with a hoe. Thomas claimed that he had bought the tool four or five years earlier from a man named Turner. When Thomas was charged with theft, he admitted he was using the hoe and that another man had its handle. Alfred Fairey testified that he had heard Thomas ask a man named Stevens for the use of a hoe for a day, after which he would return it - a story denied by Stevens. The Chairman said that Alfred’s story had not done him any good ‘as his previous character was known and they did not believe a word of his evidence’. Thomas was sent to Hertford gaol for 14 days hard labour.
Two news stories serve to illustrate how the Faireys of Preston were viewed by officialdom: