In 1966, 92 year old Edgar Leno wrote to the Hemel Hempstead Gazette from Canada seeking photographs connected to his family. He and his wife had emigrated to Ontario, Canada in 1904 from Leverstock Green, at a time when the Canadian Government was offering farms and farm land for next to nothing, in an effort to attract immigrants. Edgar and his wife were not the first to migrate to Canada from Leverstock Green. Earlier the same year, two brothers, Fred & Leonard Seabrook had also left the village in search of better fortune in Canada, and the villagers had given them quite a send-off:
A few friends gathered at Adey Field for a social gathering and to present to Messrs Frederick and Leonard Seabrook, who are laving the village for Canada, a writing case, and pipe and tobacco respectively. Both recipients returned thanks for the kindness of their friends, and expressed their great pleasure at being enables to say Goodbye under such favourable circumstances.
[Gazette April 30th 1904]
The Seabrooks had settled in Saskatchwan, where they prosper to this day.
It is highly probable that the Seabrooks and Edgar Leno had been present at the “Magic lantern” slide show given at the Baptist Chapel on 28th February 1903. The Gazette reported that:
“…..a lecture was given by Mr G Putnam of Canada illustrated with 67 lantern slides kindly lent by the Canadian High Commission before a crowded attendance...............The exceptionally fine views of the towns, industries, and magnificent scenery of Canada were much enjoyed.” These lantern shows, together with pamphlets and posters such as these depicted here, were part of a highly successful programme instigated by the Canadian High Commission at the beginning of the 20th Century to encourage immigration.
These lantern shows, together with pamphlets and posters such as these depicted here, were part of a highly successful programme instigated by the Canadian High Commission at the beginning of the 20th Century to encourage immigration.
Edgar, who would have been 29 or 30 at the time he took his young family to Canada, had suffered a general decline in prosperity, along with his father and Grandfather, which was generally attributed to a decline in agriculture. (See item on Matthew Leno Senior). In May the previous year he had been sued in the courts for non-payment of debts as follows:
William Messenger Boxmoor £1 1s, Walter Gentle, Bedmond £16, William Breed Abbots Langley, £16, , Woodman Bros. Hemel Hempstead £10.0s 4d - judgement was given against Leno who did not appear at the court and he had to pay within 14 days. [Gazette 2nd May 1903]
Edgar, who according to the 1891 census, had started out as a Milk Carrier when he lived with his Grandfather Matthew Leno Senior at Cox Pond Farm, had since at least 1901 farmed at Hill Farm Leverstock Green. Edgar had married Elizabeth Floyd in November 1899, when they were 24 and 26 respectively.
At the time of the 1901 census, Edgar lived at Hill Farm with his wife Elizabeth. Staying or possibly living with them at the time, were Elizabeth’s brother and sister-in-law and family. However given that Edgar and Elizabeth’s son, also Christened Edgar, was born shortly after the Census, it seems likely that the Floyds had come to stay in order to support the family through Elizabeth’s confinement.
By order of the Mortgagees
Short notice of sale
HILL FARM LEVERSTOCK GREEN
Mr HC Potter is favoured with instructions to sell by auction on the above premises on
FRIDAY SEPT 11TH 1903 at 2pm sharp
THREE useful CART HORSES, guaranteed good workers, three Spring TIP CARTS, nearly new, two spring Carts , with ladders and copses, three sets of Nearly new strong cart harness, complete with Wantees and reins, six head-stall halters, with Line and logs, six nose bags, two eight-bushel Galvanised corn buns (new), stable stencils,, two Large waterproof cart covers, eight patent Chicken rearers, one cast iron manger and hay Rack, one broadcast corn sower, one paring knife and potato moulder, one pair of three-feet Portable millstones and gear complete, large Galvanised cart shed, 18 ft by 12 ft, one dog kennel and puppy house with iron fencing, large Portable fowl-house on wheels, six poultry houses, wire netting and stakes, sundry harness Sack barrow, two stepladders, iron wheelbarrow,
one oat crusher, one roll of new barbed wire and
Numerous other effects.
Further entries respectfully solicited for this
sale not later than Sept 9th 1903. Cata-
logues can be obtained on application to
Auctioneer 48 London Road, Boxmoor,
Click here to add text.
Hill Farm 2003 copyright Barbara Chapman
Apart from the census information, and Kelly’s directories, we know little of Edgar Leno before his court appearance and subsequent emigration.
We do know however, that is grandfather Matthew Leno Senior, who had been a highly respected member of the community and High Bailiff of Hemel Hempstead, had fallen on hard times. (See article on Matthew Leno Senior). He was eventually to die in December 1904.
Edgar was one of at least 8 children of Matthew Leno Junior. (d.o.b. April 19th 1874) Without consulting Court rolls etc at HALS, which I have not yet had time to do, its impossible to say precisely how the three Leno properties (Cox Pond, Westwick Row Farm & Hill Farm) were held. It would appear that Matthew Leno Junior leased Westwick Row Farm from the Earl of Verulam, and I am assuming that this was a farm let rather than Copyhold. However, as a mortgage was obviously involved in Hill Farm it is reasonable to assume that was Copyhold or Freehold. We know from many sale particulars etc. that in 1827 Cox Pond was a copyhold property, and its reasonable to assume it may have remained so until Matthew Leno Senior purchased the copyhold. Reports in the Gazette for 1910 show the estate was at the time the Freehold property of Mrs Sarah George, in the tenancy of W How. The wording of the advert in 1910 suggesting that it was perhaps a farm let rather than copyhold purchase. I am uncertain at this stage whether or not Mrs George bought out the copyhold from Matthew Senior, or whether it had been a farm-let all along. It would also seem from the reports in Feathered World (see M Leno Senior) that Matthew Senior used some at least of the land at Westwick Row Farm to rear aprox 600 pheasants.
I think what we can reasonably assume, is that the misfortunes of the three generations of Leno are very much linked, as they all effectively reached rock bottom at much the same time. Which one of their affairs caused the others to fall like dominoes is not clear, though it would not be unreasonable to assume that it was the failure of Matthew Senior’s enterprises which, together with his ill-health and death, and the ill-health of Matthew Junior, which finally put the nail in the coffin so to speak. From the article on Feathered World it would appear that the whole roller-coaster was set in motion by fairly universal agricultural depression, and from the safety of the 21st century, it is worth remembering that in 1904/1905, that there was no welfare state, and that medical science had yet to discover antibiotics and other drugs. At the beginning of the 20th century, if you were so unwell as to be unable to work, then unless you held some sound banking investments, this could have a direct bearing on your income and ultimate liquidity, so if your business was failing, and then you became ill, bankruptcy would very quickly appear on the horizon.
Possibly the earliest intimation that all was not well with Matthew Leno Junior of Westwick Row Farm was a letter addressed to Messrs Harding & Sons from A. Tremayne Buller (whom I assume was an agent of the Earl of Verulam), dated 19th July 1904 This was 6 months after his father’s friends had appealed for monetary help in The Feathered World.
19th July 1904
Westwick Row Farm
Mr. Leno tenant
Will you please arrange to put in a distress for rent on Friday next.
There are 10 or 12 beasts and some hay. I fear the growing crops are worthless.
Overleaf you will find a statement of Leno’s account.
A Tremayne Buller
Arrears of rent Westwick Row Farm…….£409. 19s 4d
Half year’s rent to Lady Day Last £153. 0s 0d
The sum of £562.19.04d which Matthew Junior owed was the equivalent of £41,695.09 in 2006 according to the retail price index.
The sum owed probably related to a total of 2 year’s unpaid rent to Lady Day 1904 (i.e. 25th March). It would seem likely therefore, that Matthew Junior had paid no rent since March 1902.
A reply to this letter was sent from Hardings stating that they were essentially too busy to deal with the matter, so had put it in the hands of Mr. W. Dorant. They then went on to point out that “you cannot destrain for more than one year’s rent.” [HALS: D/EV.E83 RE Westwick Farm 1904]
At the beginning of August 1904 (6th) The following advert appeared in the Gazette concerning Hill Farm Leverstock Green :
“Mr. W. Dorrant will sell by auction on the premises as above on Friday August 19th 1904 at One o’clock, by direction of Mr Leno who is leaving the farm, the valuable live and dead stock and growing crops”
There then followed a list of growing crops including 23 acres of barley and 23 acres of oats. However, other documents lead me to suppose that is was actually Westwick Farm (or Westwick Row Farm) which should have been advertised, and Mr. Durrant had slipped up when giving the Gazette office the ad.
During the same month, August 1904, Westwick Farm, part of the Earl of Verulum’s Estate, was sold. Harding & Son of St. Albans, Estate Agents, managed the sale both of the lease and the live and dead stock. [HALS: D/EV/E83] It is not 100% clear whether it was Westwick Farm or Westwick Row Farm which was for sale, but the latter is the most probable. This confusion arose because the various documents concerning the sale of the property, refer to it under both names, rather than just the one. Matthew Leno, the departing tenant, referring to the farm as Westwick Row Farm, as did other correspondents, however, the catalogue for sale of live & dead goods referred to Westwick Farm, as did adverts in the Gazette, and Kelley’s Directory for 1902 – yet the 1891 and 1901 census refer to Westwick Row Farm. It is also worth noting that at much the same time, the Ordnance Survey was also somewhat confused. The 19th century maps always correctly identified the two farms, however, the 25” 1924 and 1947 OS maps, had transposed the names of the farm, Westwick Farm becoming Westwick Row Farm ( all one word) & Westwick Row farm being labelled Westwick Farm. They reasserted their rightful names on the maps by 1971.
The bundle of papers at HALS has a note which says: to Mr. Leno Jun: but unfortunately no map accompanied them to enable us to verify the correct answer. However, the census returns make it most likely that he was resident at what is today known as Westwick Row Farm. [HALS: D/EV.E83 RE Westwick Farm 1904]
ABOVE LEFT: Westwick Row Farm from the poultry sheds; ABOVE RIGHT: Westwick Row Farm House, from the main entrance. This end wall conceals a full cruck frame. BELOW: The 14th century end of teh farmhouse, with a modern outshut kitchen added to the right of the doorway. Copyright Barbara Chapman 1995
Westwick Row Farm's 18th Century Barns seen LEFT: from WEstwick Row to the SE, and RIGHT from Westwick Row to the NW. Copyright Barbara CHapman 1995 & 2000
In November 1904, having given up the farm, Matthew Leno Junior and family moved to the Rose & Crown in the village, having taken over the tenancy of the pub.
Sadly this new venture was not to be successful. On 29th August 1905, Matthew Leno Junior applied through the St. Albans Bankruptcy Court to have himself made a bankrupt. The headlines in the Gazette gave little scope for him or other members of the family to keep the matter to themselves.
ABOVE:The Rose & Crown, as seen about 1903
LEFT: Now a private residence known as The Elms. Copyright Barbara Chapman 2002
MR MATTHEW LENO’S BANKRUPTCY
At the present time Mr. Leno was publican of the Rose & Crown PH in Leverstock Green, and he had formerly been a farmer at Westwick Row Farm for 17 years. His liabilities ran to £1,153 13s 1d, with assets of only £122 7s 6d. Mr. Leno had taken over the Rose & Crown on November 15th 1904, having given up Westwick Row Farm in September 1904. He had not been able to keep on the farm and his effects, including furniture had been sold under distress for rent. Mr. Leno gave evidence that he had at the time been led to believe that the Rose & Crown would be a good living. It had cost him £75 to take over the pub, with an annual rent of £10. He held the pub on a monthly tenancy but had never seen an agreement. He went on to add that trade had been poor. The examination of the case was adjourned.
[Gazette Sept. 2nd 1905]
Concert at Leverstock Green Schoolroom
Friday February 23rd 1906
Piano selection: Miss Croft
Song: Mr.. Moore
Song: Miss Malin
Song: Miss Sears
Ventriloquist: Mr.. Victor Grey
Song: Mr.. Jackson
Song: Miss Jeffrey
Recitation Mr.. Walker
accompanied by Mr.. Jackson
Director: Mr.. Moore
In the troupe: Mr.. Moore, Mr.. Mears, Mr.Seabrook, Mr.. Sears, Mr.. B. Sears, Mr.. Ingham, Mr.. L.Cooper, Mr.. Cooper, Mr.. W. Seabrook, Mr.. Dell, Mr.. Wright.
The License for the Rose & Crown was reported in the Gazette as having been transferred from Matthew Leno to George Edward Wood at the Watford Petty Sessions on 14th October 1905 . The Chairman of the bench commented on how frequently they seem to have transferred the license to the pub; and apparently at one stage it was considered whether or not there were too many licenses premises in the village. Because the village was divided between the three areas of jurisdiction, no one area appeared to have too many licenses granted. However, it would appear o the evidence of the bankruptcy proceedings against Matthew Leno that there might be a problem over the amount of trade. The Magistrates granted the license to George Wood as he was reputed to have an excellent character, but ensured he was aware of the potential problems. [Gazette 14th Oct. 1905]
I am uncertain as to what happened to Matthew’s family after that, but given that various adverts and concert listings appeared in the gazette, I assume that for a while at least they continued to live somewhere within the village.
Also in February 1906 Sybil Leno was involved in a local entertainment, the programme for which is shown on the right, and she also took part in several races at the Village Fete & Sports, winning several prizes, and in
December 1906 a brief advert appeared in the Gazette each week in the run-up to Christmas as follows:
MISS LENO Leverstock Green, Ladies own materials made up. Terms moderate.
[Gazette December issues 1906]
Apart from the death of Matthew Junior’s eldest daughter Winifred, aged 30 in 1913, and his wife Mary in 1933, nothing further has so far emerged concerning the Leno family from 1906 until the notice of Matthew Junior’s death in the Gazette thirty years later.
Under the headline DEATH OF MR M LENO the paper reported that Matthew Leno had died in St. Albans on Sunday 5th January 1936 aged 83. It went on to say that For many years he had been resident at Westwick Row Farm, and was of a quiet disposition. Unlike his father, he did not play prominent part in local life. Matthew Leno Junior was for some time in business as a dairyman and farmer, and like his father was for some time a keen poultry-man farmer.
Matthew Junior and his wife are buried together in Holy Trinity Churchyard, along with Matthew’s parents, his daughter Winifred, and Mary Ann Leno of Plymouth who had died at Southampton in 1896. The burial register showed her to have been aged 50 at her death, though her memorial stone says she was 49. Whatever her actual age I conclude she was either Matthew Senior’s daughter, or perhaps less likely his sister. Whatever relation she was she must have been a close member of the family, for her body to be brought to Leverstock Green from Southampton for burial.
Matthew Junior was something of an enigma, but we do know from the article he contributed to the Gazette in 1966 when he was 82 (see top of this article), that his father had been at one time a volunteer fireman in Hemel.
Canada obviously suited Matthew Junior’s son Edgar and his wife, as they prospered and lived long. He sent this photo of himself and his wife on the occasion of their 65th wedding anniversary (October 1964), - My appologies for the poor quality. Edgar would have been 91 and his wife 93. I have no information as to how long they lived after the 1966 article.