Monumental Inscriptions

Hertfordshire Antiquarians

William Blyth Gerish

W.B. Gerish (pronounced Gearish) came from an old Norfolk family. He was educated at Great Yarmouth College and entered the service of the London & Provincial Bank.

From his earliest days, his main hobby was the study of antiquarian matters and his life’s work in this connection was done in Hertfordshire, where he came to live soon after entering the Bank, first at Cheshunt, then moving to Hoddesdon and later to Bishops Stortford.

In 1898, he was instrumental in founding the East Herts. Archaeological Society, of which he was Hon. Secretary until he left the County in 1915; his health broke down compelling him to resign his post in London. He went to live in Caister, Norfolk, where he died on the 12th March, 1921, aged 56 years.

His interest in genealogy was stimulated in 1907 when he learned that the Suffolk Archaeological Society were starting a scheme to record M.I.s in the churchyards there. Under the aegis of the E.H.A.S., he undertook a similar scheme in Hertfordshire.

Six years later, with the assistance of a small group of helpers, the county’s M.I.s were fully recorded. Hertfordshire was the first county to do this. The finished work, all in manuscript, filled 13 large quarto volumes comprising 8,000 pages. They contained some 70,000 entries. The transcriptions, however, contained no map or reference point as to where a particular inscription was located. All the volumes are preserved at the British Library but a copy on micro film can be seen at the Society of Genealogists, London.


Branch Johnson, W. “East Herts Arch. Soc. Transactions”, Vol.7 Pt.1 & Vol.5 Pt.2 & 3

Camp, A. “Herts. Past & Present - Everyone had roots”, No.8, 1968

Parker, Jack “Herts. People”, Herts. Family & Population History Society, Winter, 1987

John Edwin Cussans

John Edwin Cussans (accent on second syllable) was born in Plymouth on the 30th October, 1837. Cussans was the fifth child of Thomas Cussans by his wife Matilda Ann Goodman. After education at North School, Plymouth, he entered a commercial house, in connection with which he visited America (1858) and Russia (1861). On his return to England in 1863 he married Emma Prior Ward, a daughter of John Ward of Hackney and Sarah Hunt. Emma came from Much Hadham, Hertfordshire. Cussans became a professed author and devoted the best part of his life to heraldic and genealogical studies. In both of these departments he achieved works of lasting value.

In 1869 the forthcoming “History of Hertfordshire” was announced and occupied Cussans until 1881. The History, though following traditional patterns, broke new ground in quoting from earlier historians the text of monumental inscriptions that, even then, were no longer readable. It is an important supplement to the existing histories of Chauncy and Clutterbuck.

Cussans’ printed text contains instances of pungent quotations from previous writers. The vintage John Edwin is reserved for his own copy in the County Record Office, privacy freeing him from the restraints of authorship, containing as it does several very candid notes on contemporary landowners and parsons - some probably libellous!

In 1881, he entered the Anglo-Californian Bank in London, of which he became Secretary, remaining there until ill health compelled retirement in 1897. He died on the 11th September, 1899, in Upper Holloway and is buried in Highgate Cemetery. He left a widow and eight surviving children in straitened circumstances.


Abstracted from “The Dictionary of National Biography”, Vol.xxii (Supplement) and “The History of Hertfordshire”, Vol. 1, republished 1972.

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