A History of Preston

in Hertfordshire


Amos Mayes aged 11 years of Preston and Alfred Fairey aged 9 years were charged with ill-treating a lamb, the property of Mr Hill. The young urchins rode and beat the lamb with a stick, from the effects of which, it died. The boy Mayes was, with the consent of his parents, sentenced to be well whipped, the boy Fairey was reprimanded and discharged. (August 1856)


INTERPLEADER CASE. Carling vs John Buckingham (aged 56, baker of Preston in 1851. A new baker was at Preston in 1861 and N was baking at Stevenage). Mr Codd appeared for the execution creditor and Mr Griffiths for the claimant. It appeared from the evidence that in May last year, Mr Carling claimed judgement in this Court against Buckingham who is a baker residing in Preston, for the sum of £50 but did not act upon this judgement until December last when he obtained an execution against his goods. The bailiff seized his household furniture which was sold at auction and realized about £22 but a mare and cart belonging to the defendant, valued at £12 was sent to his (the defendant’s) father’s residence at Stevenage and his father used the mare and cart and had his son’s name erased and his own written on the cart. The bailiff, however, shortly afterwards meeting the father with the mare and cart, made a seizure - from whence arose this action. After hearing the case, the jury retired and after a lapse of a quarter of an hour returned in the Court and gave a verdict for the execution creditor. (January 1858)


UNNATURAL OFFENCE AT KINGS WALDEN. X 51, described as a furniture broker of Biggleswade, Beds and Y 21, labourer of Preston (married and a brewers labourer in 1881), both bailed on committal, were charged under four counts with attempting to cause an unnatural offence at King’s Walden, on the 9th of April last. Both men are described in the calendar as being of imperfect education.

Y pleaded guilty and X not guilty.

Mr Clark was for the prosecution and Mr Willis with whom was Mr Patterson, for the defence.

A police-constable named Farr was the principal witness for the prosecution, but his statement was not confirmed by the prisoner, Y, who was admitted as evidence against the other prisoner. Some important facts in favour of the prisoners were elicited from this witness by Mr Willis in his cross-examination.

Three witnesses were called to speak to the character of X and they bore testimony to his having hitherto possessed an unspotted reputation.

Mr Willis delivered an eloquent and forcible address on behalf of X

Lord Cowper in summing up, said the case before the jury was one of grave importance and required their most serious consideration in arriving at a verdict. His lordship drew the attention of the jury to the evidence called in support of the prisoner’s character and observed that evidence of character in cases of this nature was more important than in any other. The description of guilty by the prisoner, Y, of the whole transaction was not consistent with the plea of guilty which he had put forward.

After a brief consultation, the jury found the prisoner, X, not guilty.

Mr Clark said he did feel some doubt in his mind whether the prisoner Y really understood what he was doing and the nature of the charge to which he had pleaded guilty. He asked that the prisoner be brought forward and asked in language shorn of technicalities whether he really did understand the charge to which he had pleaded guilty.

Mr Willis said it had come to his knowledge in two instances of persons having pleaded guilty to charges and of afterwards making statements which were not consistent with the plea. In both cases, the plea of not guilty was taken.

The prisoner was placed in the witness box and in reply to Lord Cowper said he did not understand what was meant when the charge was read over to him and to which he had pleaded guilty.

Mr Clark said then on behalf of the prosecution he did not propose to enter any evidence against the prisoner.

Lord Cowper then asked the jury for their verdict as affecting the prisoner and they at once returned a verdict of not guilty.  (July 1871)


REFUSING TO ADMIT THE POLICE. Alfred Chalkley, landlord of the Red Lion, Preston, was charged with refusing to admit the police on the 15th April. Police-constable Day said he was in Preston about a quarter to three in the morning of the 15th and when against the Red Lion, he heard voices inside and the rattle of dominoes. He knocked at the door and heard some scuffling. Someone in a low whisper said it was the police. He called to be admitted, but no action was taken. Police-constable Edwards said he served a summons on the defendant, who remarked that one of the two men was a lodger and he didn’t care a ---------- as he could get off by paying. Defendant said he had only had the house six months and did not know he was bound to let the police in. He called Wm Rudd living at Hitchin Hill who swore that he had been on his round traveling with a friend and they stopped all night at the Red Lion. He admitted they played dominoes but they did not know it was a policeman at the door. Defendant was fined £2 and 15s 6d costs. (April 1875)


Charles Fairey, labourer of Preston, was charged by Mr Watkins, supervisor of Inland Revenue with carrying a gun without licence. Defendant did not appear but after evidence had been given of the fact he was fined ? (September 1878)


James Jenkins, (aged 21) labourer of Preston was charged by Police Constable Farr with being found on the highway on the night of the 9th August armed with a gun and having powder and shot in his possession. Fined 10s. (August 1870)


ALLEGED FALSE PRETENCES  Arthur French, labourer of Hitchin, was charged with obtaining food and drink of the value of 2s by false pretences.

Mrs Ann Olney, the wife of the landlord of the Red Lion Inn, Preston said that on the 19 September, the prisoner came to her house and asked for some food and beer. He said, “You know me very well” and added that he wanted the food and beer because he was at work in a bean field for Mr Marriott, a farmer living nearby. She gave him a gallon of beer and some bread and cheese (2lbs bread and 8oz of cheese) believing he was at work for Mr Marriott. On asking when he would pay for what he got, he said she would be paid when Mr Marriott settled with him. He then left the house and she did not see him again until this morning.

By the prisoner: He did not tell her that he fully expected to be engaged to do work for Mr Marriott.

Mr Stephen Marriott, farmer at Preston (Castle Farm b 1823), said the prisoner had not been in his service on 19 September. The prisoner said he had taken two different jobs from Mr Marriott, but he had refused to let him begin. He was committed for trial at the Quarter Sessions. (Oct 1879)

At the trial, the prisoner urged there was nothing more than a misunderstanding between him and Mrs Olney.

The jury found the prisoner guilty. Being asked if he was convicted of felony at Hitchin in 1863, he said it was so long time ago he could not remember. Evidence to prove the previous conviction was given by Henry Hollindale, formerly a warder at Hertford Gaol and by Inspector Young of Hitchin. It appeared that French was convicted of stealing £3 13s 6d and was sent to prison for three weeks and at the end of the period to a reformatory for two years. The jury found that the previous conviction had been satisfactorily proved.

The Deputy Chairman in sentencing the prisoner to three month’s imprisonment with hard labour said he thought it a pity that the former conviction should have been mentioned as

It occurred a long time ago and the prisoner had been in the army since then and had conducted himself well while there. (Dec 1879)



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On Wednesday evening a man named Edward Wilson died at the Hospital (Hitchin) from injuries received by falling down a new well which is being sunk at Temple Dinsley. While he was being lowered down, he by some means, fell off the chair and was very severely injured. He was removed to hospital as quickly as possible and everything that could be done for him was done but he never rallied. The deceased was a Luton man and leaves a widow and eleven children.

A Boy and Home Influence                                                             Hertfordshire Mercury 15 February 1921


CW (12), Preston was summoned for a serious offence against another boy aged 5. After two witnesses had been called, Mr RJW Dawson said he was instructed by the School Managers to ask the Bench in connection with their decision to make arrangements that the defendant should not return to Preston School. The managers hoped the boy would be sent to a school where he would be under a master and not under a mistress as at Preston School.


The Bench placed the boy on probation for two years. The Chairman agreed that it was advisable for him to attend another school, but the magistrates had no jurisdiction in the matter. The Chairman warned the parents, stating it was not the first member of the family they had had before them in a similar case.

Curious Insinuation against a Constable                                    Hertfordshire Mercury 5 November 1910


At the Hitchin Petty Sessions on Tuesday, a farm labourer named Thomas Alice of St Ippollitts was charged with being drunk and disorderly on the highway on October 29. The Defendant denied the offence. PC Shambrook stated that on the night in question, about 10.15, he heard someone making a noise and when he got to Vicars Grove, he found it to be the defendant. When he cautioned him, the defendant commenced to abuse him. He was under the influence of drink at the time.


Defendant said it was at the top of Preston Hill where the constable spoke to him. He was not under the influence of drink at the time. This case was taken as he (defendant) had asked the constable why he was peering into his wife’s bedroom when she was about to be confined and frightening them almost to death. ‘He came peering in at the window’, said the defendant, ‘ and when my wife saw him at the door and asked him what he wanted he said it didn’t matter then, but could she sell him a score of eggs’.


In reply to the Bench the constable said he did look in at the window, but that was another night. A witness named Frank ford, living at Preston, said that when he passed Vicars Grove, he heard a man whom he should say was drunk, swearing at the constable. He could not identify Alice as the man. Defendant called a witness named Chapman who was with him at the time and he said the constable spoke to them at the top of Preston Hill. It was all because the defendant spoke to the constable about looking in at the window that this case came about. Defendant was not drunk and offered to walk to his master or Superintendent Reynolds to prove he was sober.

Hunt Saboteurs Foiled                                                                                                      Hitchin Comet 1976

A Passing Tractor Halts the Protest.

An attempt by young saboteurs to mar the Enfield Chase turnout at Preston on Saturday was thwarted – by an innocent tractor.


The ‘antis’ arrived on the village green at 5.30 am much to the annoyance of Mr Martin King, landlord of the Red Lion. ‘They were creating a hell of a noise and spraying the road with fluid, said Mr King, ‘My dog was barking and wouldn’t stop’. Unable to put up with it any longer, Mr King called the police.


Hours later, in the crisp sunshine, hundreds of hunt supporters turned up from far and wide to enjoy the colourful preliminaries before the chase moved off. The ‘antis’, about ten of them, stood apart. They wore green and white badges worded, ‘Hounds off our Wildlife’.


After the hounds were released, a strong smell of camphor wafted over the area. It appeared that the ‘antis’ had rubbed it over their hands before stroking the muzzles of the dogs, with the intention of deadening their sense of smell.


As the hunt began to move off, there was a conglomeration of cars, horses, hounds and people in the restricted roadway. Just before the cavalcade reached the junction with the Gosmore Road, a tractor drawing a trailer of timber chugged to a halt. Surrounded by cars, the tractor left only a space wide enough for the hunt to pass through in single file, thus thwarting the ‘antis’ following cars.

As the hunt began to move off, there was a conglomeration of cars, horses, hounds and people in the restricted roadway. Just before the cavalcade reached the junction with the Gosmore Road, a tractor drawing a trailer of timber chugged to a halt. Surrounded by cars, the tractor left only a space wide enough for the hunt to pass through in single file, thus thwarting the ‘antis’ following cars.


Told what he had inadvertently done, the tractor driver said, ‘I wasn’t aware of that, but I am glad it happened’. So the hunt disappeared into the distance with the baying and sniffing hounds apparently unimpaired.

Fire caused by lightning. On Friday last, during the storm, a rick of wheat the produce of four acres standing in the farm yard of Mr Wright of Preston near Hitchin was struck by lightning and consumed. Two men were threshing in a barn close to the spot and were of course much alarmed, but by their prompt exertions assisted by others, the fire was prevented from extending to the buildings and we are happy to say that nothing else was consumed but the rick of wheat.


William Swain, farmer, who had lived in Preston for twelve months gave notice of presenting a petition to the Court of Bankruptcy (18 November 1843)


Sale of Neat Household Furniture, oil painting in carved frame, 23 gallon washing copper and fixtures, two four-wheel pony chaises on steel springs, a two-wheel chaise, light cart, plough, chaff box and knife at Red Lion, Preston on 27 September 1847.


Sale of Live and Dead Farming Stock, brewing utensils at Temple Farm, Preston – comprising eight cart and nag horses, twelve cows, heifers and sturke, a fat calf, 60 sheep, two fat hogs, 60 head of swine, carts, ploughs, harrows, two scarifiers, agricultural implements. Sold by direction of the proprietor who is quitting the farm.

(26 September 1845)

Temple Dinsley. The announcement was made last week of the forthcoming sale of Temple Dinsley the residence of Mr Douglas Vickers.  One of the principal features of the property is the delightful terraced garden. (19 November 1927)


Interesting celebrations. The many intimate associations of John Bunyan with Hitchin and the surrounding district have been celebrated during the week by Hitchin Baptists at Tilehouse Street.

(Link for photos: 1928 B Dell)


On Wednesday, a sermon was preached by Dr John Hutton, Editor of the British Weekly, and after tea served in the schoolroom by the ladies of the congregation, about 500 people trekked by car, bus or cycle to Bunyans Dell in Preston woods for the most picturesque part of the celebrations...the ideal weather and beauty of the place left an impression upon the mind of romance rather than hazard (as in Bunyan’s day, comenticles were forbidden).

The assembly ranged themselves round the sloping sides of the Dell and from a platform in the bottom, the chairman, Mr R L Hine, recited some more of the local Bunyan traditions; Dr John Hutton gave a short address on Bunyan and a most picturesque tableaux illustrating scenes in his life were presented by the Young People of Tilehouse Street...The congregation joined in the singing of hymns and the whole event left a wonderful impression on the memory. (14 July 1928)

Preston Funeral. The funeral of Mr Lawrence Henry Peters of Hitchin Wood Cottages, Preston (sic – Hitchwood Cottages) took place at Preston Parish Church on Thursday afternoon conducted by

Rev RFR Routh, the vicar of Hitchin. Mr Peters, who was aged 35, was associated with the Preston Cricket Club, Preston Men’s Club and the Kings Walden branch of the British Legion. He was born in Preston and was employed as a gardener by Mr HE Seebohm at Poynders End. He leaves a widow and two young children.

(4 March 1932)

Mr F Seebohm wedded. The wedding of Mr Frederick Seebohm, the second son of Mr HE Seebohm JP of Poynders End, Hitchin and Miss Jennifer Hurst the third daughter of Sir Gerald Hurst KC, MP and Lady Hurst of Ladbroke Grove London took place at Lincoln’s Inn Chapel, London on Saturday. The bride, who was given away by her father, was dressed in a soft ivory chiffon brocaded with gold, with a long narrow train line with pale pink

chiffon. She wore an old Irish veil held by a chaplet of seed pearls with clusters of orange blossom over the ears. The train bearer was Miss Rosemary Hurst who wore a long gold lame frock with puffed sleeves and a wreath of gold leaves. She carried a bouquet of yellow and cream roses. There were five bridesmaids: the Misses Margaret, Felicity and Rosamund Hurst  (sister of the bride); Miss Fidelity Seebohm (sister of the bridegroom) and Miss Ruth Harwood. They were dressed in gold lame gowns with long close fitting sleeves and puffs at the elbow, worn with head-dresses of golden leaves and small flowers. The bouquets were of arum lilies and each wore an ivory necklace, the gift of the bridegroom. The best man was Mr George Seebohm, the bridesgroom’s brother and the ceremony was conducted by the Rev VF Storr and the Rev AW Hopkinson, the bride’s uncle. After the reception in Lincoln’s Inn Old Hall, Mr and Mrs Seebohm left for their honeymoon in France.

(15 April 1932)

LEGGATT (plaintiff) vs. WEEKES (defendant)

This was an action for assault and false imprisonment. There was also a count in trover for seizing the plaintiff’s property and another for services rendered. The defendant pleaded not guilty and, as to the assault, that the defendant was trespassing and he used no more violence in removing him than was necessary. He also paid 15/- into court.

The plaintiff was a painter and decorator living in Little George Street, Portman Square and the defendant formerly carried on business in Chelsea as a builder of conservatories and greenhouses, but had now retired. In September last the plaintiff was employed by the defendant as journeyman to assist in decorating a house at Temple Dinsley in Hertfordshire of which he had taken the lease of a residence for his family.  It seemed that a misunderstanding arose between them and that the defendant gave the plaintiff into custody for stealing some stencil-paper patterns which the plaintiff alleged were his own property. Having been locked up for some time, he was brought before Mr Dashwood, a magistrate at Hitchin, by whom he was immediately discharged.

The defence was that the plaintiff refused to leave the house when told to do so and that a policeman was called in to remove him but that the defendant gave the policeman no authority to take him into custody. The defendant appeared before Mr Dashwood but said he made no charge for stealing or any charge at all against the plaintiff. The jury gave a verdict for the plaintiff – damages £50.


Evangelisation Society. On Monday, a farewell tea and meeting was held in the gospel tent of the Evangelisation Society. Mr G Attwood, the Missioner in Charge (who has been holding meetings in the villages of Codicote, Woolmer Green, Whitwell and at Preston) bidding farewell to his hearers till next season. The tent was neatly decorated and presented an inviting appearance. About a hundred sat down to a substantial tea and after this a public meeting was held. The spacious tent was well filled by an appreciative audience. 23 September 1899)

ACCIDENT. On Wednesday morning, Mr H Barham, in company with Mr Morgan, was driving in a trap to Preston, in which was a heavy iron wheel, when the horse took fright and ran up a bank overturning the cart and throwing out the occupants both of whom sustained cuts and bruises. (26 July 1890)


George Reed, Thomas Fairey, William Palmer and Francis Brown, All of Preston were summoned for not sending their children regularly to school and an attendance order was made in each case. (21 March 1891)


William Jeeves, landlord of the Chequers Inn, Preston, was charged with refusing to admit the police to his licensed premises on 13 September and George Jenkins, a labourer of Preston, was charged with being found on such premises at a prohibited hour. It appeared that two police sergeants, Martin and Spriggs, watched the house on Sunday morning from half-past six until ten. At the latter hour, the landlord’s brother-in-law, Jenkins, went into it and the officers went to the door some two minutes after but found it was locked and they had to wait twelve minutes before they were admitted. For the defence it was urged that the landlord’s daughter who had charge of the house (her father being in the garden) did not know that the men at the door were policemen as they were not in uniform and that they were admitted in five minutes which considering the circumstances was not an unreasonable delay. Jenkins, it was also contended, had a reasonable excuse for being in the house as he came with pig’s food and he had nothing to drink. The landlord was fined 10/- including costs and Jenkins was convicted but cautioned only. (19 September 1891)

Hertfordshire County Court. The plaintiff (Spencer, an engineer of Walsworth) sued the defendant (Dew, a farmer of Preston) for £2 5/- for a brass strap made to the defendant’s order. Mr Dew paid £1 14s 6d into the Court and the only question in dispute was as to the balance, 10/6d which was charged for a wooden pattern prepared in connection with the making of the strap. The defendant contended that the strap was an ordinary one and that he had never been called on to pay for a pattern before. His Honour came to the conclusion that it was necessary to make a pattern and gave judgement to the plaintiff for 10/6d with costs, at the same time saying the defendant was entitled to the pattern that had been made. (1894)

ACCIDENT. On Monday evening a serious accident befell a man named Weston who looks after the electric lighting at Temple Dinsley, the house of Mr Barrington-White. It would seem that the top of the blow lamp blew off when Weston was close by and that his clothes were set on fire. Fortunately help was at hand but he was severely burned and had to be taken to hospital where he remains under treatment. (16 November 1907)

DEATH FROM A COW’S KICK. William Hare (62) a cowman living at Preston Green and employed by Mr Fenwick of Temple Dinsley died on Sunday as a result of being kicked on the head by a cow on December 27.

(21 January 1911)


DEATH OF Mr. F ARMSTRONG. We regret to state that the death occurred on Tuesday at Hill Farm, Preston of Mr Frederick Armstrong, one of the most prominent and best known agriculturists in the Hitchin district. Of a genial and open-hearted nature, Mr Armstrong had hosts of friends in the neighbourhood and it is only just twelve months ago that he was entertained at a public dinner at Hitchin and presented with a life-sized photograph of himself by over a hundred friends. The deceased gentleman had farmed at Preston for over forty years and in his early days was for many years a member of the Herts Yeomanry. A staunch conservative of the old school, Mr Armstrong was a strong Churchman and took great interest in the building of the new church at Preston a few years ago. Mr Armstrong leaves a widow, three sons and two daughters. The interment will take place this (Saturday) afternoon. (1 April 1911)

SALE BY AUCTION OF PRESTON HILL FARM – a compact and eligible enclosed farm of upwards of 240 acres of arable pasture and wood with newly built farmhouse, excellent homestall and cottages for labourers. Most freehold and about 62 acres copyhold – let for £38 pa (subject to about £17 pa outgoings)

George Wright, farmer of Preston (41, at Preston Hill Farm and married to Elizabeth) in the parish of  Kings Walden and a married man was charged by Susan Tooley (C61 house servant of Wright, aged 19) of the parish of Ayot St Peter with being the father of her illegitimate child. It appeared from the evidence that the complainant had been living in the service of the defendant as a domestic servant. An order was made upon the defendant to pay 5/- a week for the first six weeks and 2/6d a week afterwards and the costs. (15 March 1862)

FUNERAL OF MRS ELIZABETH DARTON. On Thursday, 18 November 1852 the mortal remains of Mrs Darton

were deposited in the family vault in Hitchin Church. They were bourne to the tomb and followed thither by the

tenantry of the Temple Dinsley estate, most of whom, with their fathers before them had for many generations

lived and laboured on the property. In her, the poor have really lost a friend, for while her attention was more

especially directed to the wants and needs of her poorer neighbours, still the houseless wanderer never sought

relief from her in vain. (20 November 1852)


An order was made on Thomas Webb of Preston to pay 1/6d a week to support the illegitimate child of Mary Ann Watson. (21 December 1850).

At an inquest on Amy Field (65) wife of T Field, shoemaker of Preston, of the parish of Hitchin it appeared that

the deceased was taken ill on Saturday night and died early on Sunday morning (18 April) before medical aid

arrived. Verdict, ‘Died by visitation of God’. (24 April 1852)


The insolvent debtor case of Thomas Scott, late of The New George, Drury Court, Strand, Middlesex, licensed

victualler and now of Preston was heard at the County Court, Hertford. He had been advanced £100 to make

necessary alterations and repairs, however he had stripped the house of all fixtures and fittings and decamped.

He also took several barrels of beer. He was arrested at his mother’s house at Preston (Mary Scott, 61 of

Blacksmiths Lane) on 24 March. The brewers accused him of fraud, showing in the balance sheet for example

10/- paid for servants when he had only one servant girl who was paid 1/6 or 2/-. He also had beer from the

company costing £77 and worth £100, whereas he had only accounted for £85. The judge thought the brewers

were guilty of reckless speculation by putting in Scott without checking whether he was a fit and proper person to

be put in charge of the house. But Scott’s conduct had been ‘very cruel and wicked’.(9 May 1857)

NOTICE OF BANKRUPCY. Ebenezer Foster, formerly a farm bailiff at Kings Walden and now an inn-keeper (of the Red Lion) and hay straw and soot dealer at Preston, was discharged as a bankrupt. (20 May 1865)


SALE OF SWAIN’S BLACKSMITH’S SHOP (The Old Forge). Brick built dwelling house, old fashioned

blacksmith’s shop, six acres of rich old sward, two barns, stable, cow house etc sold by proprietor at the White Swan Inn, Stevenage. The house comprises a parlour, kitchen, wash-house, brew and bake-house, dairy, cellar and four roomy chambers (conveniently fitted up with closets), good garden, substantially built blacksmith’s shop now in the occupation of William Swain. The six acres are divided into three enclosures ornamented with fine thriving trees and an orchard planted with choice fruit trees. There is an enclosed farm yard, two barns with oak lank floors, stable, cow house, wood shed, piggery etc in excellent repair and well supplied with water. (Auction held on 15 March 1836)


Daniel Wilstead/Wilston (45, of ‘The Wilderness’) of Preston, wheelwright, was charged by Mr Bellamy

Assistant overseer, with neglecting to support his wife and child whereby they became chargeable to Hitchin

parish. Committed for one month hard labour. (23 September 1854)

William Jeeves (46), landlord of the Chequers Inn, Preston was charged with refusing to admit the police to his

licensed premises on Sunday 12 July 1891. George Jenkins (59), a labourer, was charged with being on the

premises during prohibited hours. Police Sergeants Martin and Spriggs watched the premises from half past five

to ten o’clock on the morning in question and saw several people go in and out of the side gate and Jenkins went

in at the front door shortly before ten. Martin followed but found it locked. When the police tried the door

immediately afterwards, they found it locked and it was not opened for some minutes. They saw no drink about.

For the defence it was argued that the defendant had kept the house for twenty years and that he opened to

admit the police as soon as he knew they were there. Jenkins was his brother-in-law and had come with some

pigwash and had nothing to drink. Jeeves was fined 10/- and Jenkins was cautioned. (19 September 1891)