The WRIGHT family of Wheathampstead

Compiled by Keith Wright
(2 March 2002)

16th Century | 17th Century | 18th Century | 19th Century | 20th Century | Surnames included

Wheathampstead families page | e-mail Keith 

The 16th Century

The earliest reference I have been able to find concerning the name Wright is of ROGER WRIGHT who married JOAN FINSE at St Paul's Walden in 1562. The Wheathampstead Parish Register shows that he was buried on March 31st 1616; his wife Joan a year earlier on March 14th 1615.

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The 17th Century

In 1609, ROBERT WRIGHT, husbandman, sold about one acre situated in the commonfield known as Sedcott Field in Wheathampstead to Sir John Garrard for the sum of 7 10s 0d

The Allen index to the Parish Registers and Bishops` Transcripts includes many WRIGHTs around the first quarter of the 17th century, including several  baptisms of offspring of ROBERT who died in November 1632:  the inventory of his personal effects and household goods shows a total value of 7 6s 0d. 

Unfortunately the records are rather thin on the ground in the mid 1600s, although there is evidence of WILLIAM and THOMAS WRIGHT both marrying and having offspring.  The latter was a churchwarden from 1632 to 1633: he died in1639 and his estate was divided between ALICE his wife and his four daughters, MARY, ELIZABETH, ALICE and SARAH.

WILLIAM WRIGHT died in January 1642. He lived at Gustard Wood and he left his `house and orchard belonging to it` to his son , also WILLIAM, but his `nowe wife An` was given a life tenancy.  WILLIAM'S daughters, ELIZABETH and JAYNE were left 12 each; half to be paid straight away and the other half when they married or reached the age of twenty four!

WILLIAM'S inventory showed that he owned a variety of animals, including sheep, cows, hogs and a horse; also oats and barley and much timber. The total value was 101 14s 4d.

The Wheathampstead Parish Records show that a WILLIAM and SARAH had a son, WILLIAM who was baptised on December 10th 1667.  There is no record of their marriage at Wheathampstead, but a WILLIAM WRIGHT married a SARAH Gibbs at Sandridge on June 30th 1664.

WILLIAM (born 1667) married CHRISTIAN PRIDMER at Ayot St Lawrence on April 10th 1692. They had many children, all born in Wheathampstead between 1695 and 1707.

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The 18th Century

WILLIAM and CHRISTIAN (a female name in those days) had a son, JOHN, born in 1703 and he was my 4 x great grandfather. CHRISTIAN died in 1708 

WILLIAM remarried, this time to MARY CATLING at Ayot St Peter on February 5th 1716; his father, WILLIAM died the same year. They had five children, the last being born in 1730 - another WILLIAM!  He became a carpenter and lived at GUSTARD WOOD.  Old accounts show that he carried out many repairs to St Helens church and was in partnership with Richard Kilby.  A bill dated 1807 shows that he made a coffin for the 2  year old daughter of William Swallow, at a cost of 10 shillings. In 1765 WILLIAM married MARY MESSER. They had no children and WILLIAM died in 1811 aged over 80 years. His Will indicates that he owned several cottages at Gustard Wood.

WILLIAM and Mary had a son, JOHN who was born in 1702 and married MARY `ROFF` (ROLPH?) in 1729.  I believe that JOHN was also a carpenter. Their eldest son, also JOHN was born in1734 in Wheathampstead and he married JOANNA DIMMOCK at ST Paul's Walden in 1760.

JOHN and JOANNA WRIGHT ended up farming at Barleybeans farm which is just north of Kimpton. I believe that they had a hard life: their first son, JOHN, died aged only eight and their daughter SARAH who married ISAAC IVORY, whose family farmed at Ansells End, died in her thirties. JOHN lost his wife JOANNA in 1784 and JOHN himself died in 1797.

The Kimpton militia lists described JOHN as a Yeoman Farmer and his Will confirmed that he was a `copyholder of the farm and several other properties, at Kings Walden. His heir, JAMES ( my great great great grandfather) was born in 1767 at Barleybeans and died at Gustard Wood in 1846 aged 79 years.  Unfortunately JAMES turned out to be the first of several black sheep in the family!

JAMES married ELIZABETH IVORY from the well known farming family, by license at Kimpton in 1791. Between 1792 and 1818 they had 8 children, the youngest, GEORGE, born in 1818, was my great great grandfather. JAMES had 6 of his children baptised as `job lot` at Kimpton in 1820.

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The 19th Century

Transportation and Poaching!

The Land Tax Records show that JAMES continued farming in Kimpton for  several years but eventually gave up: the 1841 census shows that he was a butcher living in Gustard Wood.

On 24th July 1838, JAMES, extremely inebriated, sat in his cottage, armed with a pig knife, threatening to do dreadful things. His daughter, fearing the worst ran out on to the common and sought the assistance of the Rev Joseph Douton who was passing by in his carriage. The Reverend, who was the curate of Wheathampstead, went to assist and was injured by the knife. Up before the magistrate, JAMES was sentenced to 15 years transportation. He spent some time in Hertford gaol but following recommendations from the prison surgeon to the Chairman of The Board  of Visiting Governors was pardoned, because of his age (72 years! ) and poor health.  He died at Gustard Wood in 1846 at the age of 79 years. The case was fully reported in The Hertford and Bedford Reformer and the papers regarding his pardon are retained in the Public Record Office.

GEORGE WRIGHT, his youngest son (my great great grandfather), married SARAH PARSONS at Wheathampstead in 1842.  He was a gardener and lived very near The Tin Pot at Gustard Wood. There were 5 children; the eldest, FREDERICK became `the cucumber king`, DANIEL went to work for the railways and ended up as the station master at Llanfair p.g. in Anglesea. The next son was JAMES, my great grandfather, who became a very well known character in the village.

SAMUEL, the youngest of the brothers also went to work for the railways and in the 1881 Census was noted as a porter at Ardwick near Manchester. SARAH, the youngest, married into the RUSSELL family who farmed at Astridge farm, Gustard Wood.

GEORGE, doubtless in common with many of his neighbours, went poaching.  Just before Christmas 1870, he and several others went to Brocket Park at night in search of game.  They were challenged by a keeper and during the resultant fracas, the keeper was viciously assaulted. The poaching gang were caught and GEORGE and one accomplice, WILLIAM EDMONDS were found guilty and sentenced to 5 years penal servitude. The third defendant, JOHN ROLPH of The Hill, Wheathampstead was discharged. GEORGE'S daughter, SARAH, who was only 13 at the time, appeared as a defence witness in court. The trial was reported in detail in `The Hertfordshire Mercury` in March 1871.

Although later on, he became a pillar of society - successful business, wealth, on the Parish Council, etc, FREDERICK, following in his father's footsteps, was caught by one of Col Ames`s keepers in Chancey Wood, one Sunday evening, in February 1878.  There was  a struggle and FRED also found himself before the magistrates at St Albans Petty Sessions. FRED, who was 26 at the time, pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to two moths in prison. There was a full report of the case in The Herts Advertiser on 8 February 1868.  I have not been able to find `Chancey Wood` on the map, although there is a `Sauncey Wood` shown.  I believe that Col Ames lived at The Old Rectory, Ayot St Lawrence. 

GEORGE was allowed out on license before completing his full sentence: in August 1875 he accidentally fell off a ladder and died in September at the age of 57 years. The story is that he was picking fruit in an orchard when one of the pigs that were kept there, pushed the ladder over. I believe that this was also near The Tin Pot.

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The 20th Century


FRED started off with nothing but became a very wealthy man: he married  a woman with ambition and drive - CHRISTIANA DAVIES from Offley near Hitchin. FRED learned to be a shoe maker and then became a grocer and had a small shop at Gustard Wood; his wife started up a hat making business and eventually had a small factory near The Folly.

By the 1880s FRED had enough money to buy a piece of land next to `The Cross Keys` on the common and started a nursery business.  Later on he built the large house that is still there which became the family home.  The business flourished and a second nursery was established in Dyke Lane: this was run by his 2nd son, also FRED (1877-1953). The site is now a housing estate and one of the roads is called Wright Close. The eldest son, ALFRED disagreed as to whether flowers or vegetables should be grown and went away to Rayleigh in Essex, where he ran his own nursery.  The third son, WALTER went to a firm of Consulting Engineers in Bristol where, like the writer, trained to be a Civil Engineer.  He spent many years in Lagos Nigeria from where he was repatriated in 1918, suffering from Blackwater Fever.

When FRED senior died in 1933 at the age of 91 years he was very wealthy indeed. All the property had to be sold and WALTER purchased Gustard Wood nurseries which he ran until his untimely death (aged only 61) in 1941.  He had two children, WALTER and MARGARET.  The latter lived for many years in a bungalow in Marford Road, appropriately named `Barley Beans.` WALTER junior retired to Gloucestershire where he died last year (2001), well into his eighties. He was a rich source of family history. WALTER senior became chairman of St Albans Rural District Council in the late 1930`s and was a very good golfer.  The youngest of FRED WRIGHT senior's sons, - ARCHER (unusual name) had a go at farming: his father bought a farm near Redbourn.  This proved to be not a success and WALTER junior told me that his uncle went to Yarmouth where he ran a guest house.  One of ARCHER'S offspring JIM, made the headlines in the late 1940s as he and his wife VERA set off for Australia by motorbike and sidecar. The Evening Standard ran a feature on this showing a photo of the couple on his machine.  I believe that they remained 'down under'.

All of FRED seniors four daughters married well and the second eldest, CHRISTIANA, married into the BUSBY family; her father in law having the chemist's shop in Harpenden. 


Born in 1849 at Gustard Wood, JAMES was my great grandfather and despite having a hard life also lived to a great age: he died in 1941 in his 92nd year. He sired 11 children, 8 by his first wife ELIZA CRAWLEY.  Their first son was ALBERT WRIGHT, born in 1880 and my grandfather. ELIZA died in 1898 aged only 49 years. JAMES remarried in the following year to SARAH ALDRIDGE.

Unfortunately JAMES was also a black sheep and made a number of extended visits to St Albans gaol: mainly petty offences (by today's standards) stealing for example, 'four bushels of chaff' and 'three pecks of barley' on another occasion!  JAMES earned a legitimate living as a 'General Dealer' or in other words a kind of Steptoe: very different to his elder brother FRED senior!

The first son from the second marriage was ARTHUR who was a very well known character in the village where he was the postman for many years.


My grandfather married SUSAN HEWSON at Wheathampstead in 1905: 3 children were born.  In December 1914 he volunteered to go to war and was in France by the following month.  He was present at the battles of Loos and Vimy Ridge. He also saw action at Ypres Cambrai and was wounded at the battle of Bullecourt in the German offensive following which he was taken prisoner in March 1918.  Tragically, his wife died as a result of the influenza epidemic in 1918.  Two of my grandfather's brothers, GEORGE and LEONARD also went to France during the Great War and remarkably they all came back! GEORGE was a good footballer and had the chance to play for Aston Villa in the 1920s but turned it down!

When he was repatriated from France at the end of the Great War, my grandfather spent a while in hospital in London where he met his second wife, FLORENCE BLANCHE RYAN who was my grandmother. They were married in Battersea and my father WILLIAM JAMES (1920-1998) was their only child.  My great grandfather WILLIAM RYAN had migrated from Cork in the 1860s and formed a very successful whitesmith's business in Wandsworth where my grandmother was born. My grandparents spent the rest of their lives in Wheathampstead and for many years ran The Walnut Tree pub in Church Street, opposite St Helens.  It was closed in the 1960s and is now a private house (inset photo shows my father outside The Walnut Tree).  My great grandfather, WILLIAM RYAN spent his last years in Wheathampstead, living with my grandparents: he died in February 1927 at the age of 87 years.  I believe that he was buried in St Helen's churchyard but I have not found a headstone.


My father was born at The Hill in 1920 and lived at The Walnut Tree with his parents when in his teens. With the outbreak of war my father was called up in 1939 and joined the RAF and in about 1944 was subsequently posted to India, where he remained until after the end of the war.  He married my mother, DORIS MARY SEWELL at St Albans Abbey in October 1942.

I was born in September 1943 and have no brothers or sisters.

Although some of the WRIGHT family have not strayed far from the village, others have migrated and can be found in Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Devon, Dorset, Essex, Gloucestershire and Norfolk.  I believe that there are two branches of the family in Australia and one in USA.

I have appended below, a list of local families that married into the WRIGHT family and I have more detailed information, so that anyone who is interested can contact me if they wish. e-mail Keith

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Surnames included


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