The Story of a Canal Family

The canal system had created a completely new way of life and some 'canal families' lived their lives on and beside the canal for generation after generation.

This is the story of one canal family:-

The Stratfield family

This family history refers to the start of the canal, when a completely new way of life had been born. Families were slowly created as Canal Families, working, living, marrying, on and along the canals, with a life cut off in many ways from other people.

The Tring area, where the Stratfields lived.

The Stratfield family, calling themselves variously Stratfield, Stratford and Stratfull in different documents, had lived in the Tring aria from at least 1809, when the William Stratfield the elder, married Rosannah Dyer, at Marsworth Parish Church. This was soon after the canal had been cut, but his family may have been living in the area for years. He was born in 1787, rather too young for him to have helped to cut the canal himself, though he would have watched it snaking across the fields. The passage of hundreds of navvies, with their completely foreign ways, must have been the talk of the countryside.

The first in the family known to have been connected with the canal was his son William (the Second) who married Ann Brooks at Tring Parish Church on 10thJune 1845. The couple were to have eleven children. Two died in infancy, but the other nine lived and married.

In 1872, on the death of his first wife, William Stratfield married Ann Munday, and they had a further five children, all of whom survived and married. This created an enormous network of relations and step-relations. William died on 141h February, 1881 and, two months later, his last child was born at Aston Clinton. No doubt Ann had returned to her parents in this time of stress.

Fourteen out of sixteen was a high survival rate in Victorian England and speaks well for the fresh, country air. Many of the children grew up to follow the canal as boatmen and women, or lock-keepers. One, William Murray, was a carpenter, but his address at Berkhampstead was 'Canal Side' and at Northchurch, 'Lock House'. Presumably there was always some canal connection and his second wife was the daughter of a lock keeper.



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Updated August 8, 2011