Ex-officio committee member, Sandy Norman, gave us this insight into Regency life in Sopwell at the 2020 online AGM:
SRA AGM – St Julian’s in the 18th century
As many of you are aware, Sopwell contains a large part of what is St Julian’s. The area of St Julian’s is named after a leper hospital in Watling Street called St Gillian’s or St Julian’s founded in the 12th century. This hospital was annexed to the Abbey and following the Reformation in the 16th century this hospital was demolished and a large mansion was built on the site which is thought to have been opposite the entrance to Vesta Avenue where the Tithe Barn estate is now. The mansion was demolished in the late 18th century.
A small group from the St Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society (SAHAAS) has been formed to research the area. We have been fortunate to acquire copies of a very detailed account book written in two volumes dating from 1738-1785 of a Mrs Ashurst who was a tenant living in St Julian’s Mansion, Watling Street until her death in 1785. St Julian’s was her country house. She had another house in London. Her account books give a wonderful background to daily life in the mid-18th century, specifically St Albans. Most of the pages are for purchases of food commodities e.g., meat, tea, flour, sugar etc. Some are for heating and cleaning materials such as coals, candles, soap and sand. The accounts also detail the wages of servants and payments to tradespeople, etc.
We are beginning to see some interesting patterns emerging now that most of the accounts have been transcribed and we are starting to analyse the data. We know that she bought an incredible amount of meat so she must have been feeding many people!
The outcome of the research will be a SAHAAS publication but we are not sure yet whether the account book will be a publication in its own right or just a database but whatever it is it will be a valuable contribution to 18th century research.
Sandy Norman November 2020