Archive: South Mimms 200 Years Ago


A friend whose researches take him into the British Newspaper Archive online searched for “South Mimms”, recently sent me a few of the entries he found:

From the Reading Mercury, 24/12/1770
On Friday sen’night the Rev. Mr. Michael Smith, A.B. was instituted to the Vicarage of South Mimms, in Hertfordshire, by the Lord Bishop of London, being presented thereto by the Lords Commissioners of the Seal.

From the Newcastle Courant, Saturday 13/11/1773
Thomas Collins and Timothy Murphy, charged with stealing a brown horseman’s coat, two pairs of sheets, a new bible, marked Samuel Chester, a shirt marked R.M., a piece of Irish cloth, a huckaback table cloth, and other things, the property of Samuel Chester, at the Duke’s Head, at South Mimms, Middlesex. Thomas Collins is about 30 years of age, about five feet ten inches high, pock-marked, black long hair, had on a ragged snuff-coloured coat. Thomas Murphy is about 28 years of age, about five feet five inches high, black short hair, pitted with the small-pox, and had on a ragged blue surtout coat. Give notice to the above office, or to the said Samuel Chester.

From the Manchester Mercury, Tuesday 16/11/1779
Days appointed for the Payment of DIVIDENDS.
Nov. 18th. John Read, of the Parish of South Mimms, in the County of Middlesex, Dealer and Chapman; at Guildhall, London

From the Scots Magazine, Friday 1/10/1784, p. 32 Lunardi’s Aerial Expedition
At half after three o’clock, I descended in a corn field, on the common of South Mimms, where I landed the cat. The poor animal had been sensibly affected by the cold, during the greatest part of the voyage……

From the Kentish Gazette, Friday 4/9/1789
Articles of Agreement, signed this day at the White Hart Inn, South Mimms, between Thomas Johnson and Isaac Perkins.

From the Northampton Mercury, Saturday 9/10/1790
Monday at the Public-Office, Bow Street, an inhuman wretch of the name of John Shepherd, the servant of Mr. Bond, a farmer at South-Mimms, was committed for trial, for inhumanly treating a horse of his master’s, by violently beating him about the head with his whip, and nearly tearing out his tongue.

Every friend to humanity must earnestly hope that the above wretch will meet with the most exemplary punishment. His offence is capital; should he be found guilty, his merited ignominious death may possibly prove a salutary lesson to those worse than savages in human shape, coach-men, carters, and ass-drivers, who daily practise their wanton cruelties on the harmless brutes under their care.

What is striking is that local newspapers in the 18th century were reporting stories that were not at all local to their readership. Why was the appointment of a Vicar at South Mimms interesting to readers in Reading? In any case, the list of Vicars in the church porch names Thomas Attwood as Vicar instituted in 1770! Perhaps the Rev. Smith was his stand-in priest, a common practice then.

What interest had readers in Newcastle in petty burglaries in South Mimms? Possibly, though charged, the two miscreants had not yet been apprehended (and how easy it is to slip into the quaint language of the time), and this was a “Wanted” notice being sent to towns along the Great North Road, Collins’ and Murphy’s escape route. Similarly with the Chapman’s dividends: his investors may well have been as far away as Manchester.

Lunardi’s Aerial Expedition was an early hot-air balloon flight, and was written up as a story written for the Scots Magazine. But what and where was the “common” at South Mimms, which in those days included all of what would become Potters Bar and parts of Barnet?

Were the boxing fixtures (then a murderous sport) being agreed at the White Hart of interest to people from Kent?

Finally the good people of Northampton must have been appalled at the story of the inhuman wretch who ill-treated horses. But it is interesting to note that, while the language condemns John Shepherd, his innocence is still admitted as a possibility. This contrasts with the way that our present-day media, and the general public, judge people before they have had a fair trial.

Has South Mimms changed for the better? Judge for yourself!
William Marsterson