This index was compiled by Jon Mein from the following book:
St Albans c.1820 ‘The People’
A Directory of the Adult Male Inhabitants for the Borough of St Albans, c.1820
Complied by the St Albans c.1820 Map Group (Eveline Alty, Donald Ashby, David Dean, Kathleen Goad, Mary Harrington and Alan Pickles)
Published in 1990 by the St Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society
The following information about the records is reproduced from the introduction to that volume:
In 1982 St Albans c.1820 ‘The Town’ was published. It consisted of a detailed set of maps of the Borough with accompanying text describing the topography and way of life in St Albans as it was at the time. This complementary work, St Albans c.1820 ‘The People’ was largely compiled as part of the original project and is now published as an aid to those researching local history or with an interest in genealogy. According to the 1821 census the Borough contained 4472 persons. The directory thus contains the names of some 70% of adult males in the population, 71% of the families were then employed chiefly in trades and handicrafts and 17% in agriculture.
The year 1820 marked the start of a new reign. It was the height of the coaching era and preceded by a few years the running of the world’s first public passenger train. Infant mortality remained high (about 30% died before the age of 5 years), medical knowledge was rudimentary, less than half the population could read and write and public hanging was still a popular spectacle. Whilst some of the worst excesses of the eighteenth century had been mitigated, most remained within living memory.
St Albans was a small market and staging town. The Borough retained its pre-monastic dissolution boundaries and the Mayor and aldermen were fighting a rearguard action for their near feudal rights and privileges relating to local affairs. The population and its officials indulged in blatantly corrupt electioneering practices. Bribery, treating and the abduction of witnesses was to become a national scandal some thirty years later. The main streets of the town had recently been paved, but remained ill lit, dirty and smelly. Another 50 years were to elapse before sewers were laid.
Nearly all the inhabitants must all have known each other, if not from personal contact, then by sight, reputation, or from local gossip. Many lived in the town from birth to the grave, some families for several generations. Strangers would have been readily identified as such. Few aspects of life could have been private and there was a need for good neighbours in times of difficulty. For most of the population, the pace of life was slow and ambition must have been limited.
Compilation of the Directory
The principal list of names has been derived from three contemporary sources, from the records of the Court Leet, a Poll List and a Rating and Assessment list. Some discretion has been applied in deciding whether repetition of a name represents one person, or two or more persons of the same name. Despite this, historical accuracy and integrity have been maintained by including the references for each entry (not included in this transcription - JM). The final decision is thus left with the reader who may have additional information from other sources of research. It may be noted that a small number of names is duplicated where there are likely to represent one person. This has been done where the name in question has been entered more than once in the same original source document.
The Borough and ‘town’ of St Albans
The Borough of St Alban had fixed administrative boundaries which enclosed some 320 acres of land. The term ‘town’ was used loosely to describe the built-up area. The Borough included the town, with the exception of the a few isolated houses and that portion of St Michael’s village which lay beyond the Black Lion, at the bottom of Fishpool Street. (see map on page 3 of St Albans c.1820 ‘The Town’)
1. Record of the Court Leet for 1820
2. Poll Book for 1820
3. Rating assessments and payments, 1820
4. Register of baptisms for Abbey parish, 1819-21 inclusive
5. Register of baptisms for St Michaels parish, 1819-21 inclusive
Notes on References
In St Albans the Court Leet (and View of Frankpledge) functioned until well into the 19th century. Its main concern by this time seems to have been the appointment of constables for each of the four wards of the Borough and the presentation of certain types of public nuisance.
The records of the court consist mainly of a list of officials: including the mayor, aldermen, assistants to the mayor and constables together with a jury and others who attended the court, the latter listed by ward. The qualifications for attendance have not been determined, but no women are listed. Of the list of some 619 names, at least two appear twice under different wards.
The Poll List contains the names of those who voted at the election for the two parliamentary representatives for the Borough. The list identifies whether the voter resided in St Albans, his occupation, qualification for voting and the choice of candidate. The franchise was limited to males (presumably adult) who were either freemen of the Borough or qualified under rules as ratepayers. The list contains the names of some 425 St Albans residents.
The Tax Assessments list for the Borough contains the names and occupations of both men and women, listed by ward. It gives a property rent or value, tax assessment and sometimes mentioned the type or location of the property concerned. Names are duplicated where property is held in more than one ward. The list contains some 528 names.
The parish registers for St Michaels and the Abbey parishes contain the dates of baptism, names of those baptised and those of their parents and occupation of the father. Since the catchment area of the parish registers extended beyond the Borough boundaries, the registers were only used to supplement information concerning names already mentioned.
Other useful sources
• The lists of Grand and Petty juries for the Borough Quarter Sessions court. Typically 110-120 names for each year (see Notes by the Transcriber below).
• A trade directory for the Borough, believed to have compiled c.1822. This document was photographed by permission of the late Tom Beardsmore and a copy can be consulted in the local history section of the main public library in St Albans.
• Parish registers not otherwise quoted, notably the baptismal register fo the parish of St Peters.
Notes by the transcriber (Jon Mein)
This directory was published in 1990 since when a full transcription of the Borough Quarter Sessions Rolls has been published by the Herts Record Society. A copy is available at SoG’s library (shelfmark HT/PER)
The award-winning St Albans c.1820 ‘The Town’ is available at the St Albans City Library or at the library of the St Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society (www.stalbanshistory.org.uk)
All the primary sources used in the compilation of the directory are available at the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS) in Hertford.
St Albans 1820 [Index]
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