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Ed. − On the 31st December 1926, the British Broadcasting Company was dissolved and its business taken over by the non-commercial British Broadcasting Corporation, ‘The BBC’.  Thus began radio broadcasting as we know it today.  The following article from the Parish Magazine expresses fear about the detrimental impact on churchgoers of broadcast or ‘arm chair religion’ religion.

Tring Parish Magazine August 1927


We can only consider in a short paragraph the results of “wireless” from a religious point of view.  In favour of it are the facts that it has enabled thousands of invalid and agèd people to hear a religious service from which perhaps they have been cut off for years and the remainder of their life.  Many others, also, who never attend a place of worship have heard a good sermon each week and a religious service.  In the near future, too, probably it will be possible to broadcast a service to those thousands of our own country men and women who are living in isolated parts of our Empire, and who hardly ever see a clergyman.

We are also told by parents that the “wireless” keeps their young people at home on weekday evenings when without it they have sought amusement outside the home.  Anything which strengthens home life is valuable.  On the other hand, the wireless keeps people at home on a Sunday evening also when they would have gone to Church.

Now, listening in an arm chair to a service at your ease, however much you try to enter into the service, is not the same as going to Church.  No doubt you can hear a better sermon on the wireless than you get at your own Church, but that is not the point.  Such an arm chair religion is of little value.  We ought to go personally to God’s House regularly not merely to hear a sermon, but to maintain the public witness to God before the world, but above all “to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy Word, and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul.”  We have lately missed some of our regular worshippers.  Will they think this over?

Is such an easy kind of religion as listening to a “service” at home worth much to you?  And is that all you are prepared to give Almighty God once a week?  Religion has got to cost us a great deal if it is to be worth anything to us at all.  The great insidious danger is that this vicarious kind of worship will act as a soothing syrup to the conscience and finally put it to sleep.  Above all, no one can plead the sacrifice of the death of Christ and receive His Body and Blood on the wireless.  And that is “generally necessary to salvation.”


Ed. − in addition to BBC broadcasting (previous article), 1926 also saw the arrival in Tring of mains electricity.  The next article from the Parish Magazine reports on the replacement of the old electric generating set with mains electricity. The generator, installed in the Vicarage gatehouse in 1909, comprised a 4½ h.p gas engine running on coal gas supplied by the mains (fed by the Tring Gas Light & Coke Company’s works in Brook Street).  The engine drove a dynamo that charged a bank of lead acid accumulators.  Once charged, these could run the Church lighting system for up to 5 hours.

Tring Parish Magazine, September 1927


The difficulty about the electric Lighting of the Church has been most happily solved, as it has been found possible to modify the current of the public supply to suit our present wiring.  By means of a “transformer” we shall be able to use the system we now have for 2 or 3 years longer, which will give us time to collect the money for the wiring which will be required by the full power of the public supply.

This is a great convenience as the present year has been a heavy one, and to have found £150 or so before its end would have been a considerable difficulty.  Will people kindly remember the “Church Electric Wiring Fund” as I believe that it is the intention of the churchwardens to start such a fund at once? Sometimes when it is desired to make an “offering” there is doubt as to what it should be given, and here is something which is a real necessity for our public religious life and to which it might be suitably devoted.

The Church authorities are most grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Kemp for the long suffering way in which they have endured our present private plant upon their premises, until such time as we could mature plans for being connected with the public supply.

Tring Parish Magazine, November 1927

The faulty condition of the old cable and of other sections of the apparatus in the Parish Church are the cause of the very poor lighting, recently, of the main portion of the Church, and it has become urgently necessary that the substitution of a new cable for the old one, as well as other necessary work, be taken in hand.  The work to be done now will happily form part of the whole scheme of re-wiring which must shortly be proceeded with, at an estimated cost of £150.  A fund has been opened and subscriptions are appealed for without delay that the work may be put in hand as soon possible.  These may be paid into the National Provincial and Barclay’s Banks, or to the Churchwardens.

The old apparatus has served us for eighteen years, and so it is apparent that the present state of affairs is by no means extraordinary.

Tring Parish Magazine, January 1928

The first part of the re-wiring and renewals made necessary by the connecting up with the public electricity supply has been completed in an entirely satisfactory manner by Mr. Gilbert Grace, at a cost of £42, which amount will absorb all the present subscriptions to the Electric Light Fund, together with the amounts realised by the sale of the old engine and batteries now no longer required.  The transformer and its fitting have yet to be paid for, and the greater portion of the work, to complete the rewiring scheme, has yet to be done.  Probably more than an additional £100 will be required, and an urgent appeal is made to all member’s of the congregation, and to others who may be interested, to subscribe without delay to the fund now open at the National Provincial and Barclay’s Banks.  The transformer has a life of 2 years; it has now been in use for 4 months; it is not paid for; and 4 months so soon becomes 2 years!


Tring Parish Magazine, December 1935


The opening meeting of the new session of the the Mens Society was held in the Church House on Monday evening the 4th November, and we were very fortunate in getting Mr. MacDonald to come and speak to us on “Tithe,” a subject which in some districts has caused disturbing incidents, and in general has given rise to a great deal of controversy.

Mr. MacDonald began by saying that he hoped he would not send us all to sleep (he evidently was not accustomed to the Church House Chairs) and then made his audience sit up by stating that there is now no such thing as Tithe.

He explained that from early times “tithes” or “tenths” of the produce of the land had been given to the parson, but owing to the difficulty and inconvenience of collecting the tithes in kind, Tithe owner and Tithe payer in many cases agreed to a modus or money payment in lieu of tithe, and that by the Tithe Act 1836 the payment of tithe in kind was abolished, and land was assessed to tithe rentcharge according to its then fertility or bearing capacity, the amount payable varying with the price of corn.

The present Tithe Rentcharge thus became a charge on the land and in 1891 it was made illegal for the Landowner to make his tenant responsible for its payment.

It could be said on behalf of those who objected to pay “tithe,” especially in the Eastern Counties where “tithe” is heavy, that when the tithe rentcharge was assessed in 1835 the land there was good corn land but that now in many cases it had fallen down to grass, and the tithe rentcharge perhaps represented more than the present value of one-tenth of the value of the produce, but it seemed that a great many of the objectors had bought their land recently with full knowledge of the charge thereon, and did take, or should have taken, this into account in arriving at the price paid for the land; so that in these cases the objection was hardly logical.

Mr. MacDonald explained the difference between small and great tithes and how the latter were often taken by the absent Rector leaving only the small tithes for the Vicar of the Parish.   He also gave instances of parishes where there is no tithe, where there is only Rectorial Tithe, and where there are both Rectorial and Vicarial Tithes.

Mr. MacDonald’s personal stories and anecdotes in connection with the buying and selling and collecting of tithe (we did not know before that Shakespeare was a Tithe Owner) were much appreciated, as was also his reading of Cowpers poem [Ed. see below] on tithe, and those present described the meeting, as to the numbers present, the subject, and the lecturer, as one at the best we ever had.

Ed. Following the 1836 Tithe Act, a number of later Acts changed the law on Tithe payments, which were finally abolished in the 1977 Finance Act.



Come, ponder well, for tis no jest,
    To laugh it would be wrong;
The troubles of a worthy priest
    The burden of my song.

The priest he merry is and blithe
    Three quarters of the year,
But oh! it cuts him like a scythe
    When tithing time draws near.

He is then full of frights and fears,
    As one at point to die,
And long before the day appears
    He heaves up many to sigh.

For then the farmers come, jog, jog,
    Along the miry road,
Each heart as heavy as a log,
    To make their payments good.

In sooth the sorrow of such days
    Is there to be expressd,
When he that takes and he pays
    Are both alike distress.

Now all unwelcome at his gates
    The clumsy swains alight,
With rueful faces and bald pates −
    He trembles at the sight.

And well he may, for well he knows
    Each bumpkin of the clan,
Instead of paying what he owes,
    Will cheat him if he can.

So in they come − each makes his leg,
    And flings his head before,
And looks as if he came to beg,
    And not to quit a score.

And how does miss and madam do,
    The little boy and all?
All tight and well.   And how do you,
    Good Mr. What-dye-call?

The dinner comes, and down they sit:
    Were eer such hungry folk?
Theres little talking, and no wit;
    It is no time to joke.

One wipes his nose on his sleeve,
    One spits on the floor,
Yet not to give offense or grieve,
    Holds up the cloth before.

The punch goes round, and they are dull
    And the lumpish still as ever;
Like barrels with their bellies full,
    They only weigh the heavier.

At length the busy time begins,
    Come neighbours, we must wag.
The money chinks, down their chins,
    Each lugging out his bag.

One talks of mildew and of frost,
    And one of storms and hail,
And one of pigs that he has lost,
    By maggots at the tail.

Quoth one, A rarer man than you
    In pulpit none shall hear;
But yet, methinks, to tell you true,
    You sell it plaguy dear.

O, why are farmers made so coarse,
    Or clergy made so fine?
A kick that scarce would move to horse,
    May kill a sound divine.

Then let the boobies stay at home;
    Twould cost him, I dare say,
Less trouble taking twice the sum,
    Without the clowns that pay.


Tring Parish Magazine, December 1941


In 1867, our beautiful Church presented a very different aspect from that of to-day.  The altar was bare, the only ornamentation being the newly-erected reredos, with three panels, the centre one containing a cross in white marble, and the sacred monograms on either side.  The Altar Cross, candlesticks and vases were given at a much later date.  The family from the Park occupied seats in the chancel, and they entered through a doorway in the south wall, a scene of awe to my childish eyes!

The singing was led by a choir of girls, apprentices at the Silk Mill, who sat near the small organ in the north aisle of the nave, and the responses were made by the Parish Clerk.  Over the chancel arch the Ten Commandments were inscribed, and above them the text: “The Law was our Schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ,” on either side, a picture of Moses and of Aaron, these being afterwards removed to the end of the north aisle.  There was no chancel screen until a much later date.  The seats were nearly all appropriated, although my father, who was Vicar’s Churchwarden, wished them to be entirely free and open.  The incumbent preached in the Genevan black gown, and said that he intended doing so until he was ordered by his Bishop to preach in the surplice; once I remember seeing a preacher wearing black kid gloves!

Tring Church Reredos today.
Designed by W. F. Howard in 1928, the Reredos depicts New Testament scenes.

Children’s services were unknown, and families came together to Church, the younger members patiently attending the long morning service, consisting of morning prayer, Litany, and the Ante-Communion service.  All the same, there was a large congregation, and the children never dreamed of not wanting to go to Church; habits of reverence and self-discipline were being formed, and God’s House was in later years indeed our spiritual home.



Tring Parish Magazine, January 1944.


From “The Fiddle’s Father” to the Electric Organ,
by Arthur MacDonald.

The organ console, Tring Parish Church.

The instrument we have today was originally built in 1890 by Henry Jones & Sons of South Kensington.  It has twice been rebuilt and extended, first by N. P. Mander & Co. and secondly by Saxon Aldred of Redbourn.

Photos and information courtesy of Cliff Brown,
Organist and Choirmaster, St. Peter and St. Paul, Tring.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the music in Tring Church was supplied by a small orchestra housed with the choir in a gallery fixed to the East wall of the tower, the instruments being a Double Bass or “Fiddle’s Father,” one or two violins, and some quaint wind instruments.  The School Master led the band, and the congregation in their horse-box pews were accustomed to turn West towards the choir when singing.

In course of time a barrel organ replaced the orchestra in the Western gallery, causing a moral as well as a mechanical revolution.  The choir struck, and refused to sing, stung to this drastic step not only by the presence of the hurdy-gurdy but by derogatory remarks as to their performance being “like a parcel of bulls.”  The Vicar was equal to the occasion, and refused to preach — “No singing, no preaching.“  This outbreak of hostilities was eventually got over, and peace again reigned.

After the commencement of the restoration of 1861-1881, the Western Gallery was removed, and a “little organ was hung on to the North wall, surrounded by a red curtain, above which the Vicar’s gardener rose to blow the organ by pulling a rope, as for a knell.  The choir boys saw to it that the Christmas decorations included a trail of the prickliest Holly round the blower’s rope.

It was well towards the end of the great restoration before a new (or rather second-hand) organ by Gray and Davidson was subscribed for by the ladies of Tring, and placed in a new organ-chamber, and the choir, instead of the reigning family, occupied the chancel.  Half way through its life of 60 years, this organ was rebuilt under the careful supervision of a friend of Tring Church, a blind amateur organist.  Now, in 1943, it remains to fill the organ chamber in an honourable retirement, and a modern miracle of sound, of American invention, a Hammond Electric Organ, has been installed and was dedicated on the 22nd of September, 1943, being provided by a fund readily subscribed by the parishioners and by friends and relatives of the late Miss Helen E. Brown, a life-long worshipper in Tring Church, as a memorial to her.

Some short description of this wonderful instrument may serve to explain to the majority of us who daily use but do not understand the telephone and radio, how the sound is produced by the electric current from the mains, without any of the old concomitants of pipes, bellows or blower.

A plain but handsome console like a large harmonium, with two manuals and radiating pedals, is placed inconspicuously below and at right angles to the chancel steps near the lectern, fed by two small cables, at a cost of one penny an hour.  Invisible wires carry the impulses from the keys to four concealed sound cabinets from which the music actually comes, high up in the aisles and chancel.  In place of the terrifying vertical columns of stops to be pulled out by acrobatic arm action, is a bunch of little white-lettered black stops occupying a space of about nine inches by six under the organist’s left hand, pressed down with one finger and reproducing the tones of every instrument of the orchestra, while a horizontal row of small white knobs gives every possible combination at will.  The range of tone is far larger than that of a pipe organ, and varies from a whisper to a volume which makes the roof rattle.  “No words can express its sweetness and versatility of tone,” as was said by a friend who had heard the auxiliary organ in Canterbury Cathedral.

Many organs of this type have been fixed in this country.  Those of the Guards’ Chapel in Knightsbridge and Princes Risborough Church in this neighbourhood are in buildings comparable in size to Tring Church.

Now, how are the multitudes of varied sounds made?

The ordinary amateur feels like the dog hearing his master‘s voice through a gramophone; “Where is he? What’s at the back of this?”  When the undergraduate in for a viva voce was asked, “What is Electricity?” and said he knew quite well when he came into the room, but was nervous and had quite forgotten, the Examiner remarked, “This is nothing less than a catastrophe!  There are only two Beings who know what Electricity is, — the Almighty and yourself, and you’ve forgotten!”

It is doubtful whether the details of the organ supplied by the builders will make us any the wiser.  This is what they say about it:

“The sound-waves produced by the Hammond organ differ in no way from those created by any other means.  The vibrations which cause sound to be heard are the same, whether made by a reed a pipe, a voice, or by an electric current.  Research has enabled the scientist to produce the vibrations which are the basic foundation of all sound, to mix these vibrations at their source into the intricate sound-wave forms of which every musical tone is constituted and to amplify them to the required degree of audibility.”

The actual mechanism in the sound cabinet by which the electric current is converted into sound by means of magnets, coils, and 91 rotating metal discs the shape of a three-penny bit and the size of half-a-crown, is such that no layman can understand or attempt to describe, so we must be content to enjoy the result of the miracle without knowing how it is done.


Tring Parish Magazine, February 1946.


Now that Pendley Manor is so much in the news, it is interesting to discover that the Pendley estate was at one the the cause of some considerable friction between the neighbouring parishes of Tring and Aldbury.  Reference to the few existing records of the parish reveals that about 245 years ago a dispute between the above-mentioned parishes over their respective boundaries resulted in a lawsuit, and this is borne out by the following extract from the Vestry Order Book of that time :—

Novemb. 23rd, 1701.

Whereas there is a suite dependinge both in law and equity between ye parishioners of Albury and the parishioners of Tringe in the name of the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poore of the sd. parishes for and concerninge threescore acres of land beinge the land of Symon Harecourt, Esq., at Pendley whether the same lyes within the parish of Albury or the parish of Tringe.  It is now ordered and agreed to at a public Vestry for the sd. parish of Tring.  That the said parishioners will stande by and assist the sd. Churchwardens and Overseers in the defence of the sd. suite And any costs and charges shalbe expended in and about the same shalbe equally and apporconably borne and paid by the said parish.

The order is signed by Dan Clarke, John Rolfe, Thomas Grace, Robert Harding, and 15 others.

The boundary at the present time divides Pendley into two parts.  The Manor is in Tring, but the farm in Aldbury.  I don’t know myself whether or not the area now in the latter parish was the disputed land, but it appears quite probable, Aldbury having won the day.

Pendley was one of the five original manors of Tring, and no doubt this is but one of many thrilling chapters which it has experienced.  The townsfolk probably found the Pendley steeplechase, mentioned by Mr. Arthur Macdonald in “That Tring Air,” far more exciting.  Fortunately, Tring can still count the fine present-day institution, which Pendley has become, one of its most valuable assets.



From the Tring Parish Magazine, March 1946


Tring decided as long ago as 1718 that better provision should be made for the less fortunate members of the community, and resolving not to wait until 1946 for the Government to act, set about the problem with typical Tring initiative. I leave the following extracts from the Vestry Order Book to tell the tale :—

“Whereas the Charge of the poor of the parish of Tring in the said County is become soe great a Burden . . . the Poores Rate being very much encreased to what it was in former times, the parishioners have had severall meetings and came to severall resolutions which are now confirmed by a Publick Vestry . . . . this 2nd day of November, 1718.”

There then follows several resolutions, of which I quote a few :—

“that a House of Maintenance be provided for the poor . . . . in order to prevent the giving or paying of weekely allowances and Collections or House Rents to or for the said poor to any person or persons whatsoever.” — “resolved and agreed to take the Parsonage House . . . . and also the Inclosed Courts and Gardens belonging to the said House at Eight pounds per annum” — “resolved and thought convenient that 3 Cowes be bought and kept for the use of the said House” — “that All Parishioners whatsoever that Aske reliefe . .. . . shall he lodged, fed, clothed and maintained” — “that A man be sent to at Once who is thought Experienced in A worke of this nature . . . .. to treat with the parishioners on this undertaking” — “whereas it is thought necessary that A Sume not exceeding £200 be raised . . . . and William Gore, Esqre., haveing been pleased to offer to lend the money . . . it is agreed to take up such a sume and pay Interest” — “resolved that the Master . . . . shall have power and liberty to hire out any of the poor people . . . . to any . . . . that shall have occasion for their service He receiving what they shall severally earn and be accountable to the parishioners for it.”

The townsmen wasted no time in their project, and a week later met again, when they decided to appoint “Mr. Matthew Marriott to undertake the Care of the poor” and “in consideration of the great pains and trouble the said Matthew Marriott shall be att ” agreed to pay him £25 “for the first yeare,” £20 the second, and £18 the third year.

They also ordered, “for the better regulation of the House,” that nobody should be admitted “without the Licence under the hands of five of the chiefest Freeholders and Parishioners and the hands of the Overseers of the Poor.”  Anybody entering the House, or taking in any Children, to be lodged, without this Licence were to “be sent to Bridewell and farther punished” (Bridewell — gaol).  An inmate who refused “to worke orderly and soe many hours as the Master commanded” was to “be sent to the House of Correction.”  Any person who would not work “pretending sicknesse” which might be “discovered by their Stomachs or otherways ” merited severe punishment.  Anyone found “O Begging or Chaseing” was to be sent to the House of Correction.  Everybody in the House “of Healthfull Bodyes and able” were to “fix by five or before and goe to Bedd at nine.”  Finally, it was stipulated that “at six of the Clocke in the afternoon“ each Saturday, all townsmen who were willing should meet the Overseers of the Poor to adjust the week’s accounts, and that the Master should, at the end of his weekly accounts, “sett down in writing all the disorders committed . . . that the offenders may be examined by the Freeholders and Inhabitants and punished as deserve.”

Thus did Tring tackle its social problems over 200 years ago.



Tring Parish Magazine, August 1940

June 15th, 1735.

“At a public Vestry of the Parishioners of the parish of Tring this day assembled upon public notice it aprazing that Richd. Gluttor of Barkhampstead Surgeon hath commenced an action against Jno. Baldwin late Oversear of the said parish of Tring in order to charge him as officer of the said parish with a bill for attending and curing Daniel Jugg a certificate man of our parish of Tring, of a soar legg, and we the parishioners aforesaid being willing that the aforesaid Jno. Baldwin should not bear the whole expense of defending the action and being satisfied the same is brought without good cause we do agree to joyne in an equal expense of defending the action.

M. Randolph (Curate), John Harding, Sam Holmes, Edward Browne, John Kingham, John Pegsworth, Matthew Evans, Daniell Barton, John Lake, John Howton, Tho Josephs, Tho Kingham.”

This was followed by a decision a year later to permit the “Overseers John Tompkins and John Lake to borrow of Mr. John Tovey the sum of Forty-five pounds for the use of the parish in order to defray the Law Charges in a cause lately determined between Flutter and Baldwin.”

Tring, March 27, 1744.
“At a Vestry assembled I, M. Randolph, do nominate and appoint Thos. Humphrey Wheeler to be Church Warden for the ensuing year.

M. Randolph,

It is likewise agreed at the said Vestry that John Rolfe be the other Church Warden for the same year.

M. Randolph, Thomas Chappell, John Yates (or Gates), Henry Newman, Thomas Monk, Hugh Goodspeed.”

There is also a legal document included in the book by which the Bishop of Lincoln instructed the Minister and Church Wardens to place parishioners in the pews with which the Hon. William Gore had seated the Parish Church in 1715.  So far as possible they were to place them in the new pews corresponding to their old sittings, and these parishioners thus placed were not to be molested under pain of the law by any other parishioners of Tring.  A list of pew holders followed.



on the 24th August 1751,

At the assizes at Hertford, Thomas Colley received sentence of death, for the murder of Ruth Osborne at Tring.  It appeared on the trial, which lasted several hours, that some of the neighbours thinking the deceased was a witch, and her husband John Osborne a wizard, had it cried at Winslow, Leighten-Buzzard and Hamel Hempstead, on their several market days, that they were to be publickly ducked on Monday, April 22, at Tring: That the overseer of the poor of Tring having heard of this, and believing both the man and his wife to be very honest people, in order to prevent the same, sent them into the workhouse. That the master of the workhouse, hearing on Sunday, April 21, that a number of people would assemble next day in order to duck them, he in the middle of the night removed them into the vestry-room adjoining to the church, believing the sanctity of the place would have some awe upon the mob: That about 11 on Monday morning, a great mob, thought to be above 5000, came to the workhouse, and demanded these poor people, and on his telling them they were not there, they rushed in and searched the house, and all the closets, boxes and trunks; and that they were so infatuated, that they searched the very salt-box for them: That there being a little hole in the ceiling, where the plaister was broke, Colley hallowed out, Lets search the ceiling; which they did accordingly, and not finding them, declared they would pull the house down if they were not delivered to them; and accordingly they pulled down a large wall belonging to the house, and also pulled out all the windows and window frames, and threatened to burn down not only the workhouse, but the whole town of Tring, if they were not delivered up: That the master, fearing the consequences, did at last inform them where the two unhappy people were: upon this they went to the vestry-room, broke it open, and took them away in triumph.

The ducking of the Osborns.

It further appeared, by the deposition of several witnesses, that the man and woman were carried to a pond called, called Marston-Meer, and separately tied up in two several cloths or sheets: That a rope was tied under the arms of the deceased, and two men dragged her into the pond: and then standing one on one side the pond and the other on the other, they dragged her quite cross the pond several times: That after this they brought her to the pond side and set her down, and then served the husband in the same manner, and so on alternately till the woman being brought to the shore the 3d time, and laid on the ground, soon expired: That each of the three times Colley went into the pond, which in mud and water was not quite 2 foot and ½ deep, and with a stick in his hand, turned the deceased over and over, and pushed her up and down several times: That when he came out of the pond, he went round among the people, and collected money of them as a reward for the great pains he had taken in shewing them sport by ducking the old witch as he called the deceased: That when he was in the pond, one called out to him and desired him to come out, and let the woman alone, for if he did not, he would certainly kill her: but he refused to come out, and said she was a witch, and he would duck her again: and that he did, after that, turn her over and push her about in the pond several times: that the 3d time of ducking her, the last before she expired, he took hold of the cloth she was wrapt in, and pulled her up and down the pond, till the same came off and her body appeared naked: and that then he pushed her on the breast with his stick, which she endeavoured with her left hand to catch hold of, but he pulled it away. -- Thus, according to the opinion of the surgeon at the trial, this poor woman expired by suffocation with water and mud. She was in the 70th year of her age: but her husband, aged 56, being a lusty strong man, survived the inhuman treatment of these barbarous miscreants.  Several other persons were indicted with Colley, two not yet taken, and the rest to the jurors unknown: but it is hoped they will soon be discovered and receive the just reward of their crime.

Saturday 24th August 1751

This day Thomas Colley, for the cruel murder of Ruth Osborne, on supposition of her being a witch, was executed at Gubblecut-cross near Marlston-green in the parish of Tring in Hertfordshire.  About 10 on Friday morning he received the sacrament at Hertford, administered to him by the Rev. Mr. Edward Bouchier, when he signed a solemn declaration of his belief relating to witchcraft; which he desired might be carried to the place of of execution, and was there publickly read, at his earnest request, just before he was turned off, by the Rev. Mr. Randal, minister of Tring, who attended him in his last moments.  He was escorted by 108 men belonging to the regiment of horse blue, with their officers, and two trumpets; and the procession was slow, solemn, and moving.  Friday night he was lodged in St Albans goal; and at five the next morning was put into a one-horse chaise with the executioner, and came to the place of execution, about eleven and after half an hour spent in prayer he was executed, and immediately after hung up in chains on the same gibbet he was hanged on.  The infatuation of most of the people in that part of the county was such, that they would not be seen near the place of execution, insisting that it was a hard case to hang a man for destroying an old woman that had done so much damage by her witchcraft. It was said, he was to have been executed a week sooner, but when the proper officers came to convey him from the goal, a prodigious mob assembled and would not suffer him to be taken out of prison.

His Declaration, above mentioned, was as follows.

 Good people:

I BESEECH you all to take warning by an unhappy man
s suffering; that you be not deluded into so absurd and wicked a conceit, as to believe that there are any such beings upon earth as witches.

It was that foolish and vain imagination, heightened and inflamed by the strength of liquor, which prompted me to be instrumental (with others as mad brained as myself) in the horrid and barbarous murder of Ruth Osborne, the supposed witch, for which I am now deservedly to suffer death.

I am fully convinced of my former error, and with the sincerity of a dying man, declare that I do not believe there is such a thing in being as a witch; and pray God that none of you, thro
a contrary persuasion, may hereafter be induced to think, that you have a right in any shape to persecute, much less endanger the life of a fellow creature.

I beg of you all to pray to God to forgive me, and to wash clean my polluted soul in the blood of Jesus Christ, my Saviour and Redeemer.

So exhorteth you all, the dying Thomas Colley.

Ed. − Colley was executed at Gubblecote Cross.  His body was then hung from the gibbet in chains, where it is reputed to have remained for years.


Tring Parish Magazine April 1925



Mr. Vaisey has shown us an old copy of the Star newspaper dated March 20th, 1793 in which is given a long account of a Meeting of the principal inhabitants of Tring assembled together to uphold the government and constitution in Church and State and to pass certain resolutions.

The document is too long to quote in full but begins as follows:—

“We, the inhabitants of the Parish of Tring, Herts., assembled in Pursuance of an Advertisement signed by the Church-wardens, think it our duty to express our sentiments and resolutions on this and arduous conjuncture of public affairs.

Then follow Sixteen Statements.

1. We declare that our attachment to the present Constitution of our Country in Church and State is firm and unchangeable

2. We do not hestitate to assert that no government, either of antiquity or modern times, has ever consulted so judiciously the collective and individual happiness of the human race.

8. We  proclaim in this public manner our unshaken loyality to his present Majesty King George III, the father of his people; under whose mild and equitable reign this nation enjoys an unexampled stroke of public and private prosperity.

16. We therefore associate for the purpose of resisting the designs of nefarious men, who have all to gain, and, nothing to lose, by a change: and are come to the following resolution.

Here followed certain resolutions.

“Resolved, that we will defend to the utmost of our power, the British constitution, composed of King, Lords and Commons, etc.

Resolved, that Drummond Smith, Esq., Thomas Harding, Esq., Rev. Dr. Dupré, Rev. Marmaduke Bannister, Rev. Michael Dupré, William Cunningham, M.D., Mr. John Rolfe, Mr. Samuel Snelson, Mr. Bartholomew Rolls, Mr. Richard Mead, Mr. Edward Foster, and Mr. Samuel Herbert, be a Committee.

Resolved, that these resolutions be inserted once in the Star, and once in the County Herald.”

John Dupré, Chairman


Tring Parish Magazine, August 1944


Our Venerable and revered Archdeacon, in whose County-wide work we are all keenly interested, is relieved of the invidious duties of his predecessors of the post-Reformation period of holding Courts of inquisition into the unorthodox misdeeds of every parishioner in his Deaneries, and of punishing by fine, imprisonment, or public confession the smallest deviations from their ecclesiastical or moral obligations.  I believe some of these intolerant old laws are still in force.  Imagine our Archdeacon fining or imprisoning all the Non-conformists of Tring, and all those buttresses of the Church who neglect regular attendance at Divine Worship, and condemning all persons of either sex who make an occasional lapse from strict morality, to perambulate the streets in a white sheet and make public confession of their fault!

Yet this is the sort of thing which his predecessors of the 16th and 17th centuries had to do, as recorded in the “Acta” or records of the Archdeacons’ Courts.  These were usually written in such impossible script and Latin as to be unintelligible to all but the specially expert.  Dr. John Brown, however, in his life of John Bunyan, has managed to decipher for us some items from the “Acta” of the Archeacons’ Courts of our neighbouring County of Bedford, which may give us some idea of the unruly and hilarious doings of our ancestors, and of the beneficial effects of the removal of Gestapo-like inquisitions formerly conducted by the Church into the behaviour of all its members and officials.

The Church of England Courts.

We find one man bringing judgment upon himself for “marrying his wife in their Parish Church in her mask”; another “for being married to his wife under a bush”; and yet a third “for that the day he was marryed he did blowe out the lightes upon the altar and wolde suffer no lights to bourne.”

A shoemaker was punished “for that he kepeth his bed upon the Sundaies and other holy days at time of mattens and mass, as it were a hownde that shuld kepe his kenell.”

One man came into trouble for “folding some sheep in the church during a snow-storm”; and another for “living in the church porch and suffering his wife to travail in childbirth there, and to continue there her whole moneth.”  Women fell under the judgment of the Court for coming to be churched “not as other honest women, but comynge in her hatt, and a quarter about her neck”; or “for not coming in a vaile"; and one brisk housewife, striking out a bright idea on a rainy day, found to her cost that she had offended by “hanginge her lynnen in the church to dry.”

The clergy and churchwardens were often in trouble in the Courts.  One rector was cited for refusing to hear confessions “because it greeves him to heare the confessions made”; another went quite wrong by “taking upon himself to the scandal of his calling, to be lord of misrule at Christmas among certain yongelings”; another by leaving some ecclesiastical ceremony to be present at the more exciting spectacle of an execution.

The churchwardens incurred penalty “by suffering unrulie persons to ring and jingle the bells out of due season,” by permitting a minstrel to play in church at a wedding, and because the white sheet used for penance was missing.

Finally, that chartered libertine the Parish Clerk was dealt with summarily “for that he singeth the psalms in the church with such a jesticulous tone and altitonant voyce, viz. squeaking like a pigg, which doth not only interrupt the other voyces, but is altogether dissonant and disagreeing unto any musicall harmonie.”

Sabbath and Saints’ days observance was strictly enforced. Various parishioners were punished for looking on football players, for playing at nine-holes, for killing meat, and dressing a calf, on Sunday.  Others for performing agricultural operations, or for putting up nets and catching larks, on a Saint’s- day, and others for not frequenting church; Richard Reade, of Keysoe, “sitting with his hatt on usually at the reading of the Epistle and Gospell,” and William Shackspeare, of Odell, for not communicating.

Harman Sheppard, the curate of Woburn, was presented in 1612 for baiting a bear in the church, and some years later the church-wardens of Knotting were cited because on three successive Shrove Tuesdays they and their sons and Mr. Alvey, the Rector of the parish, “permitted and were present at cock fightings in the chancell of the said church in or about the sacred place where the communion table stands, many persons being there assembled and wagers laid.”

In still later years the Rector of Carlton was presented because “immediately before service he did lead his horse in at the South doore into the chancell of Carlton church, where he sett him there and continued all the time of the said service and sermon.”

A Court had to deal with a clergyman who was charged with ensuring an audience to the end of his discourses by the simple expedient of locking the church door upon his congregation, and keeping them there until it was quite dark.  The Rector of Stondon was cited “for reading divine service without a surplice, though it was proved by witnesses that at that time his surplice was at the washers.”

These sacrilegious practices seem to us so far off as to have been impossible, but there are the “Acta” for those who can‘ read them.

The Archdeacons’ Courts were abolished in the middle of the 17th century, and we may congratulate our Archdeacon, and ourselves, that he no longer has to deal with the modern equivalents of these naughty doings.



Tring Parish Magazine, June 1942.


The loss of the railings up the centre path, the iron railings around the 18th century tombs in the Churchyard, the railings round the St. Martha’s Church, and those round the Church House, are now all gone.  All we are allowed to retain are the War Memorial gates, the gate and protective railings at the west end of the Church, the Vestry gate and the old Churchyard gates.  Most people seem to think the Churchyard is improved by the disappearance of the low railings: but some, I know, feel very much grieved and hurt.  The Parochial Church Council did everything possible in making their official application for the retention of such railings as might be considered to be of artistic, historic, or protective value.  The Archdeacon of St. Albans came over and he and I sent a further joint request to the Government official in London.  Till the very last day we thought we had saved the St. Martha’s railings, but on that day I had a telephone message from the Office of Works and Buildings to say that they and everything else must go with the exceptions above mentioned.  This is just one more reminder that we have consented through our representatives in Parliament to yield up what is asked of us towards the winning of the war.

The chief problem is going to be the prevention of the use of the Churchyard as a playground.  The Vicar and and the Churchwardens would be very grateful if members of the Church would give a kind of reminder to any children whom they may see running about within the Church grounds.

This note would not be complete without a word of most grateful thanks to Mr. Westron for his work and help in watching the interests of the Church throughout in this matter of the railings.

Above: Tring Parish Church before its iron railings were removed.
Below: Sir William Gore and Dame Elizabeth Gore Monument (detail),
Tring Parish Church.


The other Church note concerns the Gore monument.  Within the last few weeks a representative of the British Museum has been down to photograph this monument on the N. wall of the Church.  When asking him if he could confirm the important theory of its being the work of Grinling Gibbons in the 18th century, he referred the question to Mrs. Esdaile, the great authority in England on this kind of work.  Space forbids full quotation from her reply, but she says that in 1936 she thought it was Gibbons’ work.  But now, as a result of close enquiry and research, she says that there are many points which contradict this, e.g., the cherubs are not Gibbons’ work; the whole architectural framework is unlike his architecturing, likewise the outwork, the drapery and the wig. “On the other hand, all these points occur in the work of John Nost who came over as assistant to Gibbons’ partner, Arnold Quellin, and whose monumental work is well known.  He uses the internal frame of that form, is fond of that type of drapery, uses exquisite marble outwork on the signed monument at Sherborne, and uses this type of shield, which is not Gibbons.  In short, he fills the bill and explains also the ‘Gibbons’ feeling of the thing combined with his own particular technique.”

The use of the pea-pod, Gibbons’ signature, on the monument, is to be explained by the fact that Nost was so closely connected with the Gibbons’ school.  Mrs. Esdaile adds in her letter that this John Nost was the author of the William III and Mary Memorial, set up on the Royal Exchange.



Tring Parish Magazine, January 1944


I have noted in “That Tring Air” that this compact little name has puzzled all the antiquarians, and that no satisfactory derivation has been arrived at, though there have been many guesses.  There are also very many spellings, adding to the obscurity of its origin.  The earliest recorded appears to be Treing, Treung, in Domesday Book, 1086.  Two very learned local antiquaries have written me on the subject since the publication of my booklet.  The first says: “What can you or I know about this difficult question?  Let us leave it to the experts.  The great Ekwall has no doubt about it.  From one of the 10th century spellings, Trehangr, he concludes that it is Tree-hanger, i.e., a hillside covered with trees.”  To this I ventured to reply: “It is true that Tree or Treow is an old Saxon word, that ‘Hanger’ is still in use in the Chilterns for a wood ‘hanging’ on a hill side, as the charming name Turlhanger for the triangular wood above Northfield in our neighbour parish of Aldbury, and that this and the Tring woods are about the first along the line of the Chilterns from the North East to clothe the hills, the Ivinghoe and Dunstable Downs and their continuation into Norfolk being for the most part bare.  But the South Western extension into Dorset is nearly all wooded, and there are “Hangers” in every parish.  Gilbert White mentions the “Hanger” in his parish of Selborne, Hants.  Why then, was not every parish at the foot of the South Western Chilterns called Tree-hanger or Tring?  Names were given for something distinctive, not generic.”

The second antiquary wrote; “It is perfectly plain to me.  Ing or Ung (plural) meant ‘the men or inhabitants of.’  For the first syllable, the only word in any language ever spoken in England is the Saxon ‘Treow,’ pronounced and meaning ‘Tree,’ so Tring means ‘The men of the Tree,’ referring to the custom of the Hundred-mote or Court of a division of a County being held at a well-known and conspicuous, tree.”  Tring was the head town of the Hundred of Tring in Saxon times afterwards merged with Danias Hundred into the still existing Hundred of Dacorum.  The Hundreds, or divisions of the Counties for legal, military and local government purposes, into areas perhaps comprising a hundred families, were constituted, possibly at the same time as the Counties, before King Alfred’s time.

This derivation seems rather more plausible than Ekwall’s, but is open to the same objection; — why were not the other Hundreds whose court was held at a tree (and there were many) not called Treing or Tring?  Also, the place must have had a name before the Hundreds were formed.  There certainly are some names which are generic and not distinctive.  There is a place in Cornwall called “Rock,” and several rivers called Ouse and Avon, which simply mean water.  So, to my mind, the origin of the name of our town is still “wrapped in mystery.”

The perpetuation of old field names by giving them to modern houses is instanced by my own house, “Hazely,” my late lamented neighbour, Miss Williams’s “Hawkwell,” by “Dunsley” Farm, opposite, and “Goldfield” Windmill.  All these were names of the three or four hundred acre arable fields before the Inclosure of the Parish in c1800, cultivated by the communal plough and oxen.  Another, Hounslow has not been appropriated, perhaps because of its associations with highwaymen and Gunpowder mills.

Arthur MacDonald.


From the Bucks Herald, 8th December 1939.



62 Years a Practising Solicitor

Lifetime’s Work for the Parish Council


As announced in last Friday’s issue of the Bucks Herald, the death of Mr. Arthur William Vaisey, one of Tring’s most prominent townsmen for over 60 years, and senior member of the firm of Messrs. Vaisey and Turner, solicitors, Tring, occurred at his residence, “Holly Field,” The Grove, Tring, on Wednesday of last week, in his 88th year.  He had maintained his full professional and public activities until the week-end before his death, so that despite his great age and the fact that he was unwell during the early part of last week, his passing was quite unexpected and is deeply regretted.

Holly Field in Grove Road.
 Demolished in the 1970s and the land redeveloped as Hollyfield Close.
The large house just visible was called
Netherby.  It too has gone.

Mrs Vaisey predeceased her husband on September 4th, 1925, at the age of 71.  Mr. Vaisey is now survived by an only son (Mr. H. B. Vaisey, K.C. and Doctor of Civil Law, Vicar General of the province of York and Chancellor of the Dioceses of York, Carlisle, Derby and Wakefield) and seven daughters, together with grandchildren and a great-grandchild.  Miss M. Vaisey, one of his daughters, is a member of the Tring Urban District Council.  His younger son, Captain Ronald M. Vaisey, of the R.F.A., a solicitor, who had practiced in partnership with his father, was killed in action on September 7th, 1918.

By his death Tring has lost one who, coming to the town while quite a young man, was destined throughout his long life to take a noteworthy and highly responsible part in its life and in the direction of its main affairs.  There have been few whose loyal and devoted service have left so permanent an imprint on the history and indeed the character of the town in which he spent and devoted his life.  Wide and varied experience, sound judgement, tact and marked efficiency, combined with his sound legal knowledge, established his high reputation as a lawyer.  All these qualities he brought to bear on the work of every one of his public offices.  In his social and religious activities his fine influence and abilities were always sought and used to lasting advantage, and were always freely given.  But reputation, responsibility and personal importance, thrust upon him by both men and affairs, never spoilt his nobleness of character and his obvious innate sense of proportion.  His approach to the ordinary situations of every-day life and his personal relations with all his fellow townsmen were essentially human, revealing wide sympathies and a keen understanding.  A doyen of the Victorian era, he found no difficulty in keeping his keen and progressive mind fully abreast of the times.  In him were combined a delightful old-world courtesy and charm and a keen insight into the outlook and aims of the youngest generation, which made him a contemporary and a popular and inevitable figure.  To the very last he filled a place and played a part which could not have been undertaken with the same effect and grace by anyone else.  For a long time Tring will not be quite the same without his venerable and dignified presence, without the power and touch of his contributions to discussion and his suggestions for the solution of a difficult problem.  For the last half-century “Tring” and “Vaisey” have been synonymous terms in all that was best, highest and true.  Many old Tring memories, already fast becoming beyond recall, go with him.  He leaves the memory of one whose strength of character and singular purposefulness of life and mind were always associated with lofty spiritual and secular ideals.

Mr. Vaisey was the eldest son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Vaisey, of Stratton, Cirencester. He was born at Cirencester on February 8th, 1852. He was educated at King’s School, Gloucester, was articled to Messrs. Millings, Ellett & Co., solicitors, of Cirencester, and was admitted a solicitor at Michaelmas, 1874.  In June, 1877, he came to Tring, having acquired the legal practice of Mr. Shugar, in which he continued to be actively engaged till the last.  Now known as Messrs. Vaisey & Turner, he was senior member of that firm.  He was thus one of the oldest practising solicitors in England.

At 25 years of age, in the year 1877, he was appointed Clerk to the old Tring Local Board, in which office he continued for 18 years, until, in 1895, the Board was succeeded by the present Urban District Council, which he continued to serve in the same capacity for another 32 years, his retirement, in April, 1927, at the age of 75, thus marking 50 years’ service as Clerk to the two authorities.  During that half-century he had service under seven chairmen, all of whom died before him.  They were Messrs. William Brown, F. Butcher, Richardson Carr, the Rev. Charles Pearce, Messrs. Christopher Batchelor, John Bly and John Stenhouse.  He was succeeded as Clerk by Mr. A. Brooke-Turner, his partner in the firm of Messrs. Vaisey and Turner, who had hitherto been responsible for much of the work and who has since in turn been succeeded by Mr. H. J. Gurney, the present Clerk, who had been Finance Officer to the Council and who had assisted Mr. Brooke-Turner in his Council work.

So long a period of distinguished local government work was worthily recognised at the Urban District Council meeting at April, 1927, during the chairmanship of the late Councillor E. Stenhouse and vice-chairmanship of the late Councillor John Bly, and many tributes were paid to the devotion, skill and prudence which had characterised his work as Clerk.  Mr. Vaisey was presented with a framed and enlarged photograph of himself and an illuminated address as “a recognition of his devoted and valued labours,” these being the gifts of past and present members.  The late Lord Rothschild was among the former members attended the Council meeting to honour Mr. Vaisey, and to pay personal tribute and wish him many years of health and happy retirement.

The photograph has ever since occupied a prominent position in the Council Chamber.


In acknowledging these gifts and expressions Mr. Vaisey related that when he was appointed Clerk the Board had been in litigation for many years with the [Grand Junction] Canal Company and hundreds of pounds had been spent in legal expenses.  The year after he was appointed there was a writ issued against the Council to carry out some work at the reservoir at the Silk Mill, in accordance with an agreement signed years before.  The Master of the Rolls held that it was quite impossible for the Council to carry out the work demanded, and ordered each party to pay his own costs; and their costs came to about £60.  Since then (in 1878) they had not one penny to pay in law costs.


His services to the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul and to church work in Tring generally, were equally devoted and had been continuous during the whole period of over 60 years that he had lived in Tring.  He was the first sidesman to be appointed in Tring, in 1893, when sidesmen were first appointed.  At Easter, 1924, he retired, as Vicar’s Churchwarden, after 17 years’ in the office, and nearly half-a-century of church work was then marked by the presentation to him of a silver cup and a silver breakfast disk, both appropriately inscribed, from his friends, together with an album containing the names of 500 subscribers.  The late Mr. F. J. Brown was appointed to succeed Mr. Vaisey as Warden to the then Vicar (the late Rev. T. V. Garnier).

This by no means marked any diminution in Mr. Vaisey’s interest or enthusiasm for church work, which he continued with unabated vigour until the last.  He continued with great regularity to read the Lessons at church on Sundays, his last appearance in that capacity being two Sundays before his death.  He had continued as a member of the Parochial Church Council, of which he was lay vice-chairman, and as a Tring representative of the Diocesan and ruri-decanal conferences, a work he had carried out for many years.  For many years he was on the Board of Management of the Tring Church School, and was a former secretary to the School Managers.  He took a prominent part in the movement for the restoration of the schools after the Great War of 1914-1918, and had taken the same absorbing interest in the appeal and preparations for the new Church Senior School, a scheme for which the necessary initial outlay had been raised, but which was placed in abeyance by reason of the present war.  The restoration of the Parish Church at different times claimed his ardent and enthusiastic support.



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