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{$text['mgr_teal1']} Cook 1b

What's cooking in Hertfordshire? Cousins All! (Part 2a Vincent)

by Alan D Craxford, Stuart Cook, Lynn Johnston and Helen Kerr
with contributions from Julie Lewis

Introduction: Where it began

Other articles within the website which relate to particular aspects of this story are noted within square brackets in the text. Links to these articles can be found in the table towards the bottom of column 2

Three cooks

Three Cooks - LEFT to RIGHT: Vincent; Walter; George

The common heritage of the four authors dates back to the first quarter of the nineteenth century in the small village of Grandborough, Buckinghamshire. There is some confusion about the actual spelling of the name of the village which was dealt with in the first part of this trilogy "What's cooking in Buckinghamshire? Cousins All [Article A.]. Although now known as Granborough, we will persist with the old spelling because of the period in which this article is set, .

The photograph above is a composite of our respective Cook great grandfathers. The story begins one generation earlier with brothers Stephen and Joseph Cook, two of the ten children of William Cook and Sarah Janes. Vincent and Walter Cook were brothers; George Cook was their first cousin. Walter Cook moved from Buckinghamshire to Leicestershire where he married and raised his own family. His story can be followed in the articles "Too many Cooks ... spoil the brats?" [Article B.] and "A Cook's tour of my family" [Article C.]. The rest of this article will concentrate on the origins and progress of Vincent. The next article will follow George and his offspring to the Hemel Hempstead district of Hertfordshire [Article D.].

The family of Vincent Cook and Eliza Stacey


St John the Baptist (2)

Joseph Cook was the third son of William and Sarah, born in 1827 two years after his brother Stephen. He was baptised at the Church of St John the Baptist on July 8th 1827 and grew up in the family home on Marston Road. He was destined for a life on the land. On July 9th 1849, at the same church, Joseph married Mary Ann, the daughter of Thomas Foskett and Faith Harrap, The marriage was witnessed by Joseph's sister Rose Ann and Philip Rickard who was soon to become her husband. The couple were to have ten children, seven boys and three girls, although three babies died in infancy. Walter was the oldest son, born in 1854. Vincent followed four pregnancies and eight years later.

When Vincent arrived at the family home in Church Street, Grandborough on May 29th 1862 he joined four older siblings: nine year old Rose Ann and brothers Walter (then seven), George (four) and Levi (two). In his first decade the family was beginning to drift apart. Walter moved on first to a farm labouring job in Oxhey near Watford and then to marriage and a family in Leicester. Two more children, a sister and a brother arrived and then tragically his mother, Mary Ann died in childbirth with a final son. Now widowed, Joseph moved with his five youngest children to a house in Green End.

Court 21

A typical Watford Court (3)

Vincent's early working life was spent on the land. As a young man he followed his brother Walter east and obtained an agricultural labouring job at Spencer's Farm on Whelpley Hill. This property lay midway between Chesham and Hemel Hempstead on the border of Hertfordshire. He found lodgings on the farm with labourer Daniel Puddaphatt and family. Sometime during the 1880s he made the move to Watford where he met Eliza Stacey who was to become his bride. Historically Watford developed as a market town on the River Colne to supply and service the farms and settlements in the south of the county of Hertfordshire about 15 miles north west of London and 10 miles south of Hemel Hempstead (3), (4), (5). The single route through the town, which became the High Street, followed the line of the old turnpike which traversed the Chiltern Hills with houses and other properties clustered along both sides of it. In the early nineteenth century the town in places was no more than 200 yards wide and there was an increasing divide in living conditions between the north west and south east end of the town. In the 1830s a huge embankment and viaduct was constructed to carry what became a branch of the London & North Western Railway across the river and the placement of the station marked the boundary between High Street and Lower High Street. As the population swelled, cheap accomodation was thrown up in many Courts, yards and alleys off the High Street where living conditions were very cramped and sanitary conditions rapidly deteriorated as the drainage system was unable to cope. Housing was mixed with pigstys, slaughter houses and open drains. The area was also very prone to flooding by the nearby river.


Left: Flooding in Lower High Street (4); Right: Railway viaduct over the River Colne (6)

St Matthews

St Matthew's Church, Oxhey (7)

The Stacey family lived in No. 2, Court 30, situated in a small close called Grove Place opposite to the Old Tan Yard just south of the Railway Station. Eliza was born in 1868, the daughter of labourer Stephen Stacey and his wife Elizabeth Wilson. She was the sixth child to be born to the couple and was baptised on February 11th 1870. At the time she had two older sisters (Emma, born 1863 and Kate, 1865) and an older brother (William, born 1867). Sadly Elizabeth had already lost two young children: Sarah aged 2 years and 6 months on January 19th 1864 - her diagnosis was "Scarlatina Maligna" (Scarlet fever) from which she had been suffering for three weeks - and George aged 4 years on February 12th 1864, from Scarlet fever and pheumonia. She lost her next newborn, Mary, who was born prematurely on August 30th 1879 and lived for 3 hours 10 minutes. Her eighth and final pregnancy also ended in the death of a baby girl they named Ellen of "infantile debility" on March 18th 1872. Elizabeth had apparently been unwell for some time, probably for two or three years. Within weeks of her final confinement, Elizabeth, too, died. She was aged 33 years. The certified cause of her death was "Phthisis" (pulmonary tubercolusis). She is likely to have displayed increasing pallor, weight loss, languidity, racking cough, bloody phlegm and night sweats. Although tuberculosis is not mentioned in respect of the deaths of the children and is now known generally not to infect the newborn directly, the disease does have marked effects on pregnancy causing prematurity, low birth weight, damaged immune systems and failure to thrive. This could explain the dwaths of her last two infants.

Vincent's family

Vincent and family

Vincent and Eliza were married on October 1st 1887 in St Matthew's Church, Oxhey (just a couple of miles from where Walter had worked a decade before). After the ceremony Vincent and Eliza moved into Court 30 with her now solo father. Both the men were employed as general labourers. In the next decade Eliza gave birth to five children, two boys and three girls, all of whom lived to maturity. By the turn of the century, Vincent moved Eliza, their five children and Stephen into No 4, Court 23 which was in nearby Woodmans Yard. This may have been due to the pressure on living space from his expanding family but the census return for 1901 also listed Court 30 as being unoccupied and condemned. A large part of the area was occupied by the malting houses of the Benskin's Breweries and next door to the Court were the Brewery stables. Vincent had found work as a labourer for the London & North Western Railway whilst Stephen was working for a local gardener.

Vincent and Eliza

Vincent and Eliza

Stephen Stacey died in the early months of 1902. Eliza gave birth to two more daughters in 1902 and 1904. One curiosity of note of the time: Vincent was one of the guests at the wedding of Edward Hudson and May Marie Elkington on April 30th 1902 at St Mary's Church, Aylesbury. He is noted to have given them a flower vase (8). There is no other known association with the couple.

In 1909, Vincent and the family moved house again, this time to Clifford Street, just north of the High Street Railway Station. The station itself initially only had a single platform which was built into a deep cutting. It was rebuilt in 1913 as part of the North Western Electrics scheme and a second track was laid around the platfordm. The new line from Euston opened with steam locomotives on February 10th 1913. Electric trains were introduced and operated from April 16th 1917 when the Bakerloo line was extended from Queens Park to Watford Junction via Watford High Street. The electric units, known as Watford Joint Stock, were jointly owned by the London Underground and the London & North Western Railway. (9). Vincent registered his membership as a labourer (number 565908) with the National Union of Railwaymen in the Watford Branch on May 30th 1914. He was promoted to the grade of chargeman (a station platform supervisor) and this was reflected in his re-registration (number 787416) on May 26th 1917.

Vincent and Eliza were to make one more move. In 1919 they settled in a house they called "Riverside" on Water Lane. Vincent retired from the railway in November 1928. Eliza died in the early months of 1935, aged 66 years. Vincent continued to live on in Water Lane. In 1939 he was being looked after by his now married daughter, Annie. He died on February 15th 1941.

Station 1
Station 2

Watford High Street Station: Platform and outside views

George Stephen (1891 - 1954)

First born son George arrived on July 22nd and was baptised at St Mary's Church Watford on August 12th 1891. As a growing boy he moved with his parents through Woodman's Yard and Clifford Street. By 1911 he had found employment as an engine cleaner. He never married. By 1921 he had moved to a house in Whippendell Road which ran from the west of Watford towards Croxley Green. This was owned by electrician Frederick King and his wife Ethel. Initially there were two other boarders, George Shepphard and George Frederick Thornton although they had moved on by 1922. George was still with the Kings at the time of the 1939 Register when he was employed as an electrical switch gear storesman. He died at Whippendell Road on March 14th 1954. Probate for his will was granted to engine driver Archie Herbert Mayes on April 29th 1954.

Maud (1893 - 1891)


Herbert Toms


Maud Cook
(Taken when she was in service)

Eldest daughter Maud was born on August 20th and was baptised Maud Elizabeth Kate on September 8th 1893. Her early years were spent growing up in an expanding household. By the time of her eighteenth birthday she had gone into domestic service and was living in the household of Edward Charles Rice Oxley, a colliery agent who sold coal to merchants, his wife and four children in Rickmansworth Road.

Maud married Herbert Henry Toms, who started as a railway carriage cleaner, in Watford on January 29th 1916. Herbert was born on March 3rd 1888 in the Stephens District of St Albans and was baptised on May 20th 1888 at Holy Trinity Church in the village of Frogmore, 2 miles south of St Albans. His father, Edwin WIlliam Toms, was an agricultural labourer; his mother, Ruth Holly. He had an older brother named Alfred Percy who had been born in 1883. Alfred married Lily Agnes Crockett in Watford in the spring of 1909. They set up home in Victoria Road taking Lily's widowed mother Jane with them. By 1911, Herbert had moved with them too. Alfred became a railway fireman and Herbert ultimately became a driver in Watford and drove the first electric train on that line. It is likely that through this employment the Toms became acquainted with the Cook family.

Electric train

Electric train stock

It is not known where the couple made their first home but electoral rolls for 1920 and 1921 place them at No 17 Water Lane, two doors away from Vincent and Eliza. The following electoral rolls then list them as living with Maud's parents at Riverside for the next eight years. Then in 1928 they moved to a house in Gammon's Lane, North Watford a few hundred yards away from where her younger sister Kate had settled with her husband Percy Kiff. This was to become their home for the next 30 years. Herbert, always known to the family as Bert, suffered in later life from marked arthritis of his hips and knees which caused him to walk with a bent over posture. He died in Watford in the early months of 1961. Maud lived another 20 years, dying at the age of 88 years in the spring of 1981.


Maud with Dorothy and Betty at Blackpool about 1937

Family GroupStation 2

A family portrait
Rear: Dorothy and Betty; Front: Bert and Maud


A family gathering at Gammons Lane, probably to celebrate a christening
Sitting in front are Dorothy and Betty Toms and Joan Eileen Gibbons

The children of Maud and Bert

i. Percy Walter

Vincent and Percy

Vincent and Percy

First of four children, son Percy Walter Toms was born on January 17th 1917. When he was old enough he became a coach builder. At the outbreak of the second World War he was still living at home in Gammons Lane. He married Joan Phyllis, the youngest of the four daughters of Sidney King and Florence Agnes Hine in the town in December 1942. Joan was born on December 29th 1922. Sidney King, born on January 22nd 1887, was a platelayer and railway ganger (the head of a gang of labourers) as shown in his National Union of Railwaymen membership record dated January 28th 1928. He had served with the Royal Engineers during the first World War. The family home was in Stanmore Road, Watford. His wife, Florence, died in the autumn of 1949 and Sidney remarried - to Mary Jane Dunham - in the spring of 1954. This was not universally welcomed by the family as none of his four daughters attended the ceremony. Mary Jane had been working as a barmaid in the hostelry which Sidney frequented. He died on January 22nd 1964.

Percy and Joan had a son and a daughter after the end of the second World War. They moved to Selsey in West Sussex in 1978. He died there in the summer of 1994 and was cremated in Chichester. Joan passed away in Hitchin on May 11th 2018.

Percy wed

Percy Toms and Joan King wedding party, 1942

My Grandad and Grandma - A Personal Remembrance


Mother (Joan Phyllis), me and Grandma Maud

My memories of Grandma Maud and Grandad Bert are very scant. I'm not sure if this is because my father, Percy Toms, was taken ill at an early age. He was diagnosed with cerebral atrophy, which would now be called Alzheimer's Disease, and I think the family found it very difficult to come to terms with it. I was told that, when I was christened at 6 months, Grandad Bert was holding me and, unfortunately for him, I'm afraid to say, he was covered in my mess. I think this was always a talking point at family gatherings.

Grandad Bert had a brother, Alfred, and at some point Grandad Bert and Grandma Maud lived with him at Victoria Road, Watford. My own parents moved in there later. I remember spending bonfire night in my early years at Gammons Lane. Dad and Grandad would build a bonfire and set off the fireworks. If my memory is right, Mum and Grandma would make soup and baked potatoes. I do have memories of going to Grandma Maud's house. To keep me occupied I would be given a newspaper and a pen and told to cross out all the "the"'s in the paper. After Grandad Bert passed away we took Grandma with us on holiday for a couple of years and she spent Christmas with us on many occasions. I know that we went quite often for a walk to Bedmond on a Sunday and had afternoon tea there. Also on our Regimental Sunday walk we would go to see Auntie Annie at Water Lane. [- L.J.]

Family Group 2

Maud: Gladys on knee, Percy

Family Group 3

A family portrait: Bert, Gladys, Percy, Maud


Percy holding Lynn, Joan (1953)

ii. Gladys

Toms group

A Toms family group about 1948

Eldest of the three daughters of Hertbert and Maud Toms was Gladys, born on December 28th 1917 and baptised Gladys Katherine Maud. She was destined to marry twice. Her first husband was George Ernest William Wimpress who she married in the summer of 1938. Born on June 8th 1910, he was the son of George Wimpress, a drapery warehouse porter, and Emma North. After their marriage Gladys and George settled in Great Elms Road, Hemel Hempstead. George was a boilermaker and fitter. They had a son and a daughter. George was taken ill in the autumn of 1947 and was admitted to the Peace Memorial Hospital, Watford. He died there on October 27th 1947. Still living in Hemel Hempstead, Gladys married George Willis, a general labourer in the printing trade. George died in the area in 2000. Gladys moved to Oxford where she died on January 7th 2007.

Continued in column 2...

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Last updated June 24th 2020

The children of Maud and Bert (continued)

iii. Betty

Girls Brigade

Dorothy and Betty, Girls Brigade


Bob and Betty's wedding

Middle daughter Betty Joan Toms was born on March 13th 1928. In the days before the second World War with her sister Dorothy she was an active member of the Girls Brigade. She married Robert Raymond Kerr (who had been born on May 21st 1924 and was always known as Bob) at Christ Church, Watford on September 18th 1948 and they spent their early married years with her parents in Gammons Lane. Robert was the son of Robert Thomas Kerr and Caroline Pursell. In 1939 the Kerr family were living in Shaftesbury Road which is on the opposite side of the Waterfields Recreation Ground across the river from Water Lane. Bob's father was a motor engineer and fitter.

Bob and Betty had two daughters, Susan in 1949 and Helen in 1951. Betty died in Watford on November 21st 1991. Bob died on February 6th 2012 in the Tendring Meadows Care Home, Tendring in Essex.

Nanny and Grandad Toms - A Personal Remembrance


The horse trough

Our grandparents were always very special to my sister, Susan and me. We spent a goodly amount of time with them in Gammons Lane, North Watford both whilst we lived with them as babies and toddlers until our parents managed to get a council house and move to The Brow on the Woodside Estate in Garston and during the numerous and regular visits we made as children. Every Friday whilst at Leavesden Green Junior School, High Road, Leavesden, Susan and I would catch the 306 bus outside school and travel to The Horse Trough (it's still there!) in Gammons Lane to visit Nanny and Grandad Toms. We would wait there for Mum to arrive after work and her weekly appointment for a shampoo and set at the hairdresser's in St Albans Road. Toasting fork toast with melting butter and strong Hornimans tea made for cosy winter visits and summer rose-scented picnics on the front lawn highlighted this safe and welcoming haven.

Uniform train

Bert in uniform with his granddaughter Susan

When Susan and I were both at school, Mum started work at Yeatman's on Cherry Tree Road, Watford. She was secretary to the sales director able to do 100 words per minute on the typewriter and 200 words a minute shorthand. Yeatman's was a sweet factory so our house was never short of a sweet or two or Sunny Spread Honey for which they were famous. School holidays were always spent at Nanny and Grandad's. We'd travel on the bus in the morning alighting in the Harebreaks where mum would go off to work and we'd walk down Longspring to the Toms' residence and then back again to meet her at about 4.00pm. Piles of comics, playing cards, learning to knit and sew, sorting the button tin, playing "up the rec"(*) on the swings and "lizzy"(**), excursions to nearby woods for bluebell and blackberry picking, a weekly visit to the North Watford Library, a good mile away, to change our books, all kept us entertained and content.

The holidays also brought visits from great aunts, aunts, uncles and cousins too. We always sat in the back room. The front parlour was never used except as Auntie Dot and Uncle Bill's sitting room when they lived with Nanny and Grandad after their marriage and the birth of Lesley, their daughter, in 1956. Maud and Bert always provided accommodation for newly-weds until they could acquire a home of their own. The kitchen was called the scullery and Mondays heralded wash day when the copper was filled with hot soapy water to boil the bedding. Nanny was a dreadful cook (despite her maiden name!). She had a gas cooker, which looked very old fashioned to me, and insisted on cooking everything in the oven at regulo 12, the highest setting, which meant that everything was burnt on the outside and undercooked or raw on the inside. [- H.K.]

* The Rec = The Callowland Recreational Park on Gammons Lane;
** Lizzy is a roundabout shaped like a conical hat

iv. Dorothy

Youngest of Herbert and Maud's daughters, Dorothy Freda Toms was born on September 30th 1930. She married William Randall in the spring of 1954. They had one daughter, Lesley, born in 1956. William died in Watford in 1994. Dorothy continued living in the town and died in March 2006.

3. Kate Stacey (1896 - 1970)


Kate Stacey Cook

The second daughter of Vincent and Eliza Cook, Kate Stacey, was born on February 23rd 1896. By 1911, fifteen year old Kate had assumed domestic duties for the household after her older sister Maud had moved on into domestic service. After the end of the first World War, she married Percy Kiff in Watford in 1919. Percy Joseph Benjamin was born on January 17th 1894 in Hunton Bridge, Abbots Langley near Hemel Hempstead to bricklayer's labourer George Kiff and his wife Elizabeth Cooper and was baptised there six weeks later. He was the youngest of thirteen known children (nine of whom were still living at the time of the census of 1911). By then, Percy had taken on an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker and the family were living in Cecil Street. Following the outbreak of hostilities he enlisted in March 1915 and became a private in the Royal Army Service Corps. His attestation records show him to be 5 feet 8 inches with no distinctive marks. He arrived at Aldershot on June 18th 1915 and embarked for Le Havre, France the following week where he was posted to Rouen. He served for only two months and was then discharged "physically unfit to bear the strain of military duties" (10). On his return to England he spent time in the 3rd London General Hospital. As well as the 1914/15 war medal, he was granted the Silver War Badge under Paragraph 392 (xvi) King's Regulations.

Silver War Badge

Silver War Badge

Percy returned home to his parents' home and after they were married he and Kate settled there too. Then in 1922, the couple moved a mile or so north to a property in Gammons Lane. The couple had three daughters: Joyce (born in 1920), Katherine (1922) and Doreen (born on November 28th 1927). Percy barely had time to become acquainted with this new arrival as he died on May 30th the following year.

Kate continued to live with her girls in Gammons Lane until after the second World War. She died in the town in the spring of 1970.

4. Walter (1897 - 1955


Walter and Emily

Vincent and Eliza's second son, Walter, was born on December 7th 1897 and baptised at St Mary's Church, Watford on January 14th 1898. By the time he was thirteen years old he was earning a few pennies a week as a school milk delivery boy. On December 22nd 1923, he married Emily Rose Darvell at the Church of St John the Evangelist in Watford. Emily had been born in Chesham, Buckinghamshire on January 31st 1898, the eldest daughter of carter Daniel Darvell and his wife Mary Ann Palmer. Walter was living in the family home in Water Lane and the couple settled in with Vincent and Eliza after the ceremony.

They had a son they named Kenneth Walter Vincent Groves Cook on March 14th 1925. By 1927 they had moved into a house in The Harebreaks, a road which ran through North Watford parallel to Gammons Lane. Walter became a charge hand at one of the large breweries. At the outbreak of the second World War, Walter assumed the post of Senior Air Raid Warden. Emily enrolled with the Civil Nursing Reserve of the St John's Ambulance. Kenneth was still at home working as an accumulator service operative. Walter was taken ill during the early summer months of 1955 and was admitted to Watford General Hospital where he died on June 9th 1955. He was interred at North Watford Cemetery three days later. Emily was admitted to the same hospital in the winter of 1976 where she died on December 21st 1976. She was buried alongside her husband in the New Year 1977.

5. Ethel Rose (1900 - 1971)

Ethel Rose was the next daughter to appear, born to Eliza on July 20th 1900. She was baptised at St Mary's Church on August 17th 1900. She was still at school when the war broke out. She was to marry John (Jack) Arthur William Gibbons on Christmas Day 1925.

Ethel wed

Ethel Cook and John Gibbons wedding party, 1925

Ethel Rose

Ethel Rose Cook


Jack Gibbons


Jack in uniform
note the 'wound stripes' above the left wrist

John Gibbons was the son of Arthur William Gibbons, who had been a veterinary assistant and a corn merchant's clerk, and Louisa Laura Lord. He was born on March 25th 1893 at Trimley St Martin, a village about 10 miles south east of Ipswich in Suffolk. After leaving school in 1907 John became apprenticed to hairdresser Ernest Paignton in Brentwood in Essex which he completed in 1911. In 1915 he enlisted as Private 3081 with the 4th Battalion, the Essex Regiment. He joined the Gallipoli Campaign in Lemnos in the Dardanelles in August that year. He was reported wounded in action on October 18th 1915, for which he became entitled to wear a "Wound Stripe" under Army Order 204 dated July 6th 1916. Over the following years he saw action in Eastern Europe including Macedonia, Serbia and Bulgaria. He was promoted within the Regiment to 200850 Sergeant.

Carey Place

Carey Place, now Crown Passage (5)

Upon his discharge from the Army, he set up home in Watford where he started working as a Gentleman's Barber, an occupation he following for 40 years. His first domicile was at No. 2 Carey Place, one of the Courts of the High Street now known as Crown Passage. In the electoral Roll of 1920 he was noted to be a Military Voter. He stayed there until his marriage to Ethel Rose. Following their marriage they spent a few years living with Vincent and Eliza in Water Lane. In the 1930s they moved to Thorpe Crescent, on Eastbury Road in Oxhey. During the war years, Ethel served as a Special Constable. In later years, they moved to Newbury in Berkshire to join Joan, who had married Ernest Riggs in 1944, and their young family. Ethel died in the Sandleford Hospital in that town in February 27th 1971. Jack was admitted to Newbury District Hospital where he died on February 4th 1975. Jack had loved his time in the service and even attempted to join up for the second conflict but was deemed to be too old. He did take on Special Constable duties though for the duration. He delighted in telling the young children stories of his time in "The Great War". He had lied about his age when he had joined up which meant that he always celebrated his birthday on the wrong day; a fact which only came to light when Joan requested a copy of a birth certificate.

Childhood visits and other things - A Personal Remembrance

Ethel Rose

Joan Eileen

The Cook sisters were so similar in looks and were very close. My memory of them has become rather clouded by time. As we lived in Newbury, mum (Joan Eileen) would take us to Watford by train for a fortnight's stay with Ethel and Jack in the summer holidays. We visited one of the sisters shortly after her husband had passed; I think Maud. I was fascinated that her husband was on the mantle piece, or rather his ashes were. In fact I must have asked why and was told to wait until we had left, all would be explained. This must have been at 76 Gammons Lane because I recall that opposite the house was a Metropolitan Cattle Trough. I have tried unsuccessfully to find it on Goggle Street view, the road lay out has changed dramatically. I was delighted to see the photograph of it above.

The couple were unable to have children of their own. In 1928 they took in Joan Eileen, the four year old illegitimate daughter of Jack's younger sister Ruby Eliza Gibbons. Joan was born on March 7th 1924 at the Queen Charlotte Hospital in London. Ruby and Joan were moved to the Crossroad Club, a mother and baby home on Alexandra Road, Hampstead from where Joan was transferred to the Poor Sisters of Nazareth Home in East Finchley in July 1924. She remained there for the next four years. Joan was not formally adopted by Jack and Ethel (a solicitor is reported to have said that because the surnames were the same it would have been a waste of money) but they treated the little girl in every way as their own and gave her an amazing life. Joan always thought of herself as "illegal". It is not known who Joan's father was although recent DNA tests have suggested a member of the Roseblade family.

Jack was in touch with his two younger sisters, Elsie and Ruby, before the war. They both lived in London in the thirties. Elsie was a librarian and died of the flu in 1929. Ruby visited Joan only once when she was about eleven years old. Ruby taught her Cats Cradle in the 'best room' at Thorpe Crescent. Perhaps she had discovered she had a brain tumour and wanted to see her one last time, who knows. She died on January 2nd 1936 at Colney Hatch Mental Hospital in the London Borough of Barnet. [- J.L.]

6. Annie Florence (1902 - 1971)

St Mary's

St Mary's, Watford (11)

Annie Cook

Annie Florence

Annie Florence was Vincent's fourth daughter, born on Christmas Eve 1902 and was baptised at St Mary's Church on March 13th 1903. She moved with the family and was still in residence in Water Lane at the time of her marriage in the spring of 1932 to Harold William Bryan. He was born on November 21st 1901, the older of the two sons of carpenter's labourer William Bryan and Mary Ann Gray. In 1911 the family were living in Radlett Road adjacent to the playing fields. After the marriage ceremony, they too settled into the house on Water Lane with her parents and continued to look after Vincent after her mother passed away. At the outbreak of the war, Harold was working as a coal stoker at a laundry. He was also an Air Raid Patrol warden with first aid duties.

They had a son, Alan Walter, born in 1938. Annie died in the summer of 1971 in Hillingdon. Harold died in the early months of 1974 in Watford.

Annie wed

Annie Cook married Harold Bryan

7. Nellie Elizabeth (1905 - 1986)

Last of Vincent and Eliza's seven children, daughter Nellie Elizabeth was born on March 1st 1905. Her future husband was the son of carter James Aitken and his wife Harriet Young who was born on June 9th 1901 in the hamlet of Bedmond a mile or so north of Abbots Langley. He was baptised James George at the Parish Church of St Lawrence in Abbots Langley in July 14th 1901.

Nellie and James marriage took place in Watford on April 16th 1927. Their daughter, Eileen Edith was born on July 8th 1928. They made their home at 39, High Street Bedmond where James worked as a shift foreman in a local factory. His parents, James now a jobbing gardener, lived in a house almost directly opposite at No. 40. James George was taken ill at the beginning of 1960 and was admitted to St Paul's Hospital, Hemel Hempstead. He died there on January 10th 1960. Nellie moved to South Oxhey where she died on March 16th 1986.

Footnote: Three daughters

Three girls

LEFT to RIGHT: Annie; Maud; Evelyn

It is something of a curiosity and a paradox that as these articles have evolved from its roots in a small close-knit community, the branches of the tree have spread out and not only become distant from one another but have also diminished in numbers. The three photographs above were chosen partly because they were the best examples of the girls at more or less the same age. Annie was Walter's daughter, born in June 1887; Maud was Vincent's in August 1893 and Evelyn was George's in September 1893. Annie and Maud were first cousins; Evelyn was their second cousin.

One author believes there is a resemblance between Annie and Maud. Another author has noted that sisters (of Maud's mother) in the present article were facially very similar and a third has wondered if these three girls ever met. Although their grandfathers were brothers and were born in Grandborough which is where Walter and Vincent, too, were born, Walter was in Leicester by the time Annie was born and Vincent had moved to Watford, Maud's place of birth. Stephen, George's father, had moved to King's Langley where George and his daughter Evelyn were born. Although less than 10 miles separated Vincent and George; Walter was 86 miles distant. The relative size of their families was reducing by the generation too: William Cook and Sarah Janes had 10 children and 60 grandchildren (of which Walter, Vincent and George were three). Vincent had 7 children and 9 grandchildren; George had 5 children and 7 grandchildren; Walter had 5 children and 4 grandchildren.

George W. Cook, the subject of the next article, began a trend in an occupation that continues to this day. His first business as a wheelwright was Cook & Sons with a shop front in the High Street of Kings Langley. His sons and grandsons continued that business which evolved from horse drawn wagons into the repairs and sales of cycles, motor cycles and eventually motor vehicles of all kinds. Ultimately they became garage proprietors in different locations and although skipping a generation and one hundred and thirty four years later the family is a garage proprietor here in the U.S.A. It must be in the blood. However I am not aware that George or his successive generations associated with or even knew of Walter's or Vincent's kin. I do know something of Watford and my grandmother, Dorothy Clark was born in the same street where Maud's family were living in 1939 and within a mile of so of where Vincent Cook lived. I have been associated with the Craxford family site for over 10 years but for most of that time it has belonged to a different section (See "Transatlantic Explorations" in [Article E.]). As my co-authors have said, working on these articles has been an eyeopener and a voyage of discovery of our unknown cousins. [- S.C.]

What I have gleaned over the last couple of days is that the Cook family had exceptional family nurturing values and good moral's that have hopefully been passed down through the generations. Vincent and Eliza always welcomed newly weds into their home, as did Maud and Bert. My parents would open their doors to anyone who needed shelter; not sure that I would be so hospitable. It is also comforting to know that each generation have carried on the pastimes of childhood. Joan was still playing "Put & Take" with her great grand children. Then there was the button box. I have three boxes which come out when my grand children visit. Each button has a memory attached to it. We learned to knit and sew. Ethel was an accomplishment embroiderer until she had a massive stoke in her 57th year. I have a patchwork bedspread which Mum made years ago, each square is from one of Ethel's and Mum's summer dresses. It conjures such good memories. [- J.L.]

The authors admit that they knew little or nothing of the other branches of the family until they started their research studies which has been rapidly expanded by the internet. One author [- A.D.C.] was perhaps fortunate in knowing Annie (and two of her siblings) from childhood and her own daughter was a co-author of articles in this website's early days. However there was never any reference to Walter's own family or where he came from: indeed we had been told the apochryphal story that he had "walked all the way from London to Leicester".

At least the format of these articles has helped to illuminate this diverse family and celebrate their memories.


The authors would like to express their thanks for the help, comments and suggestions from the following in the construction of this article: Contributors to the Hertfordshire Forum (including Rosie99) at RootsChat.Com.

Links to the articles mentioned in the text are in italic capitals below:

Article A.: An examination of the Cook family in Grandborough What's cooking in Buckinghamshire? Cousins All!.
Article B.: The original Winslow Boy Too many cooks ... spoil the brats?.
Article C.: A personal memory of Walter Cook A Cook's tour of my family.
Article D: George in Kings Langley What's cooking in Hertfordshire? Cousins All! (Part 2b George).
Article E.: Transatlantic Explorations The ORANGE pages.


1. Family tree graphic: Freeware Graphics: Vintage Kin Design Studio, Australia
2. St John the Baptist Church, Grandborough: The Churches of Great Britain and Ireland. (c) David Regan.
3. Photograph: A Court on High Street Watford Slum Housing in Watford, 1850s to 1930s Herts Memories
4. Reference to Grove Place and Old Tan Yard Hampson, Watford, late 19th century Hertfordshire Genealogy
5. Conservation Area Character Appraisal: High Street / King Street - includes Carey Place, now Crown Passage. June 2013, Watford Borough Council
6. Photograph: Five Arches Over the Colne, Watford The Railway Viadict from an old postcard. Hertfordshire Genealogy
7. A Grade II Listed Building in Oxhey, Hertfordshire Church of St Matthew from an old photograph: British Listed Buildings
8. Marriage of Mr Edward Hudson and Miss May Elkington: Page 8 Buckingham Advertiser and North Bucks Free Press, Saturday May 3rd 1902. The British Newspaper Archive; © The British Library Board.
9. Station Name: Watford High Street in Disused Stations: Site Record by Nick Catford
10. Kiff, P., Private Royal Army Service Corps X4116 England, The National Roll of the Great War 1914-1918
11. Photograph of St Mary's Church, Watford in Old Postcards about 1910. Hertfordshire Genealogy

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