The National Census has recorded everyone’s address and occupation almost every ten years (except in 1941) since 1841. By collecting the census records from Smallford during this period, a good overview of the changing patterns of life and range of work available can be gleaned.
In 1841 the majority of males were labourers on local farms, although this category may have included casual employment on roads and lanes, or to carry out basic tasks as and when required. Sons may also have accompanied their fathers on any work undertaken. It would be another thirty years before the first Education Act, and even that did not make full-time education compulsory.
A number of women carried out straw plaiting at home. In fact, most wives gained a modest income in this way – 21 adults stated this as their occupation, and all households with at least one adult plaiter probably also used one or more of their daughters in preparation of the material.
Joseph Hart kept the Tom & Jerry beer house on the north side of the Hatfield road, and William Simpkins the Three Horseshoes public house. Next door, Edward Lines worked at the blacksmith’s shop, no doubt gaining some trade from the passing traffic on the turnpike road. Thomas Prachett was a bricklayer. At such a time this definition also included those who made bricks and undertook general building work. Wiliam Rudd was the toll keeper at the gatehouse; his wife and three members of the Gibbs family also residing at the toll gate house may have also played a role in toll collecting, possibly at Nast Hyde and Colney Heath Lane, where there were small toll houses.
The image below is from a painting by local painter John Buckingham. Named Smallford it refers to the former little settlement at the southern end of Colney Heath Lane. The lane in the painting might be Colney Heath Lane or Sion Lane (now Barley Mow Lane). Photo courtesy St Albans Museums.