Recent acquisitions to the Library

The Society’s Library is continually acquiring books and other documents through donation and purchase. If you’d like to consult any of them, you can find them in the Library. Some publications can be borrowed – if in doubt, consult one of our friendly librarians.


The library has been blessed with a number of new and significant acquisitions during the last couple of months.

The first of these is the deed of sale of the White Hart Inn, and four acres of land, on Holywell Hill, in 1792. We are indebted for this to the family of the late Clare Marion Seeley, who lived for many years in New England Street. It has been added to the Society’s collection of property deeds and, like all our acquisitions, will be accessible to members and researchers when the library re-opens.

We have also acquired, for a very reasonable price, a collection of 300 architects’ plans of local properties. You may have seen coverage of this in the Herts Advertiser in March. The plans shed light on the development of housing and commercial property in St Albans between the 1870s and the 1940s, and include plans of a hosiery mill, the Marks & Spencer building and Mallinson House in the city centre, and domestic properties around the city. Such documents are rarely available for the public to study and we are lucky to have them and to be able to make them available for research.

Equally valuable in demonstrating changes in the city over the years are about 30 black and white photographs from the estate of the late John Rudling. These date from the 1980s and feature what were once familiar local buildings then on the point of demolition or repurposing. Subjects include the water tower behind Sandridge Road, the Ballito factory on Hatfield Road and the railway control centre at Bricket Wood.

Last but by no means least… we received the donation of an invaluable collection of books and pamphlets from the Abbey as part of the Beardsmore Gift in 2017; the books are already catalogued and work is well-advanced in adding the pamphlets to the online catalogue as well. Now, thanks to Caroline Howkins and Andy Lawrence who provided the transport, we have taken possession of 56 (yes, 56) albums of postcards, about 4,500 in total, as part of the same donation. These have come to the library since its closure and I haven’t been able to see them myself yet, but I am looking forward to it and I am sure that other members are as well!

Recent journal articles

Harpenden & District Local History Society Newsletter, no. 139, December 2019.

  • pp. 9-13 “Rothamsted, the bee and me”, by Peter Tomkins. The author was an apiarist at Rothamsted from 1946. The work of the Bee Department is described with emphasis on his time there.
  • pp. 19-22 “Brocket Hall” a report by Jean Gardner of a talk given by Andy Chapman. The history of Brocket Hall is explored through its occupants including the Brocket, Melbourne and Cowper families.
  • pp. 25-26 “The Cross Keys: formerly the White Hart”, by Rosemary Ross. A brief history of this Harpenden hostelry.

Herts Past and Present, no 35, Spring 2020.

  • pp. 2-7 “The miracles of King Henry VI. Part 1, The miracles recorded in Hertfordshire, 1489-1500”, by Heather Falvey. After his death in 1471 at least 368 miracles were attributed to Henry VI. Three miracles were recorded in Hertfordshire. One man survived a sword wound in Barnet, another saved from a fire in Berkhamsted and a third recovered from the plague in Elstree.
  • pp. 9-14 “Life between the wars at Boarscroft Farm, Tring: The significance of ephemera”, by Shelly Savage. The household, personal and business history of the farm, run by the Bunker family, is told through a collection of accounts (some illustrated) dated 1922-1946.
  • pp. 25-28 “Managing the poor in Hertfordshire, 1635-1795: Part 4, Bastardy – ‘Losing’ the child”, by Carla Herman. Many women accused of infanticide were acquitted due to difficulties proving there was a live birth. Those found guilty often faced the death penalty. Records are few for the period and most examples are drawn from earlier years.

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