This page was last updated on: September 6, 2015
Matthew Leno Senior, 1830~1904
Feather Fancier & High Bailiff
Matthew Leno was born in Flamstead on June 14th 1830, and married Ann Reggett in 1849. They were later to move to Markyate before finally settling in Leverstock Green at Cox Pond Farm in around 1882. There is a record of Matthew playing cricket for the Boxmoor & Hemel hempstead Cricket Clubs between 1850 and 1870. Their son, Matthew Junior and family, lived at Westwick Row Farm and his daughter Annie (see thumbnail photo below right (click to enlarge.), was married to Harry How, a member of the well known family from WoodLane End Farm. Harry’s father Daniel How, had like Matthew Leno, been Head Bailiff for Hemel Hempstead. Matthew Junior’s son Edgar lived and farmed at Hill Farm Leverstock Green , (See 1901 census returns below), though in 1891 he had been listed aged 16 as living with his Grandparents Matthew & Anne at Cox Pond, together with his aunt Helen (27). Edgar's occupation then was given as a Milk Carrier.
Matthew was a poultry and pheasant breeder with a life-long interest in poultry, and had risen to be one of the country's top poultry judges. He was one of a set of international judges at Feather Fanciers shows and exhibitions in many parts of Europe & officiated at the Paris Exhibition of 1878. The plate (L) shows his gold & Silver Bantams which won first prizes at Crystal Palace and Birmingham in 1871, and comes from "The Book of Poultry" published by Cassells in about 1880.
This chromoloithograph has recently been purchased for Dacorum Heritage Trust by The Friends of Dacorum Museum
Mr Leno was a very prominent man in the public life of Hemel Hempstead up to the year 1896 but upon to the approach of incorporation movement he gradually withdrew from active work, not on account of any lack of interest in the town’s affairs, but owing to his state of health and the distance he lived from the town. Mr Leno was high Bailiff of the Hemel Hempstead from 1886-7, and this Honour was the due reward of the inhabitants for his faithful service as a guardian of the poor and a member of other bodies. In the second year of his office as Bailiff the work of the local town improvement committee was brought to a head and it is recorded that: “The old premises known as the Lamb and some shop property were purchased and pulled down and upon the site was erected a Market square, shambles and three shops..” The present square and market place buildings will ever stand as a monument to the zeal and work of the late Mr Leno as chairman of the committee who carried out such a notable improvement. one of the most pleasant features of which was the formation of the open in the narrow High Street and the exposing to view of the grand old parish church.
He took a keen and active interest in the life of his local community and was a regular attendee at Holy Trinity Church Leverstock Green, and was one of the school managers for Leverstock Green School for many years.
He entered into local politics and was High Bailiff for Hemel Hempstead in 1886 & 1887, but this was not to be his last Case of local politics and elections.
To quote from his obituary in the Hemel Hempstead Gazette:
Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the variety of items relating to Matthew Leno's tenure as Bailiff.
In June 1890 Matthew Senior was a candidate at the election for new Boxmoor Trustees. Polling took place at the Corn Exchange in Hemel Hempstead High Street. Mr. Leno was not elected however, receiving 180 votes which placed him 17th out of a list of 26. Only the first 9 were elected. [Gazette 28th June 1890] Also in June 1890, on attending a meeting of the Hemel Hempstead Highways Board of which he was a member,, he is reported to have called attention to “the large number of men employed on the roads at the present time in comparison with the number employed at the corresponding period last year, there being 17 now employed at a cost of £11 1 2 for the previous week…” [Gazette 28th June 1890]
Matthew Leno was finally defeated in the Parish Council elections of April 1897. The election resulted in the surprise defeat of two “veterans of the town’s public affairs”, one of which was Matthew Leno Senior of Cox Pond Farm. It was felt by the Gazette reporter of the day that as Mr. Leno was a Leverstock Green resident, and the polling station was in the Corn Exchange in Hemel Hempstead town centre, the long distance Leverstock Green voters would have to travel could have been to blame for his defeat. This was the last election for the Hemel Hempstead Parish Council, with Hemel becoming a Municipal Borough in 1898.
Matthew Senior was a poultry and pheasant breeder, who, as has been previously mentioned, held a life-long interest in fancy poultry, and had risen to be one of the country's top poultry judges. He was one of a set of international judges at Feather Fanciers shows and exhibitions in many parts of Europe & he had also officiated at the Paris Exhibition of 1878, where he was presented with a bronze medal and a signed picture of the then Prince of Wales.
Cox Pond Farm (see photo right) became know as the Pheasantries, as can be seen from the letter heading below, and was his principal base. However, part of his obituary from THE FEATHERED WORLD implied that he also reared his birds at his son’s farm, Westwick Row Farm, which was supposed to have aviaries sufficient for 600 pheasants. I have not yet been able to confirm for what he received the Royal Warrants shown on the letter heading, but one assumes it was for the supply of game birds to their Majesties.
In September 1902 The Gazette published an article headed MATTHEW LENO AS POULTRY JUDGE Which was originally taken from the "Illustrated Poultry News" part of which I print here:
"For more than a quarter-of-a-century the name of Mr M Leno can be found on schedules and catalogues as a judge of poultry at many of the leading shows throughout Great Britain and Ireland. No man who ever handled a judging stick can boast a higher or more well-deserved reputation both for honesty and ability. Born on June 14, 1830, he has watched the growth of the fancy from its infancy, kept himself perfectly acquainted, with the various changes of breed and fashion, and never becoming fossilized, but always ready to judge the standard of the times. He has proved himself not only one of the soundest all-round judges, but also one of the best friends to the interests of the poultry fancy at large."
The article then went on to chart Mr Leno's career in owning, (from the age of 7), breeding & exhibiting and judging various fowl and in particular the Bantams for which he was renowned, finally noting that :
"One of the red letter days of his career as a judge was when, in 1878, he had the honour to judge at the Paris International Show, and was presented with an etching of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales (now King Edward VII) who was president of the British Commission and whose own autograph was attached to the etching,. also a handsome medal, presented by the French Minister of agriculture for services rendered. Both these are naturally greatly prized by our old friend "
In September 1902 The Gazette published an article headed MATTHEW LENO AS POULTRY JUDGE Which was originally taken from the "Illustrated Poultry News" part of which I print here:
"For more than a quarter-of-a-century the name of Mr M Leno can be found on schedules and catalogues as a judge of poultry at many of the leading shows throughout Great Britain and Ireland. No man who ever handled a judging stick can boast a higher or more well-deserved reputation both for honesty and ability. Born on June 14, 1830, he has watched the growth of the fancy from its infancy, kept himself perfectly acquainted, with the various changes of breed and fashion, and never becoming fossilized, but always ready to judge the standard of the times. He has proved himself not only one of the soundest all-round judges, but also one of the best friends to the interests of the poultry fancy at large. "
The article then went on to chart Mr Leno's career in owning, (from the age of 7), breeding & exhibiting and judging various fowl and in particular the Bantams for which he was renowned, finally noting that ......
""One of the red letter days of his career as a judge was when, in 1878, he had the honour to judge at the Paris International Show, and was presented with an etching of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales (now King Edward VII) who was president of the British Commission and whose own autograph was attached to the etching,. also a handsome medal, presented by the French Minister of agriculture for services rendered. Both these are naturally greatly prized by our old friend "
They were a prosperous and well respected family, with Matthew Senior being one of Leverstock Green, as well as the new Borough’s most prominent citizens. The photograph on the left shows Matthew Senior with his son Matthew Junior, Grandson Edgar Pearmon and his Great-grandson Edgar Cyril. Sadly, this prosperity was not to continue. As what was referred to as “agricultural depression” made itself felt, the Leno fortunes waned and by the middle of the first decade of the 20th century, Matthew Senior was dead, after a serious decline in his fortunes; his Grandson Edgar had emigrated to Canada to seek a better fortune; and his son Matthew Junior had been declared bankrupt.
Agriculture in the West Herts area had shown a marked decline during the last quarter of the 20th Century, and over the country as a whole, and even internationally things were just as problematic. It was, however, not just the decline in agriculture, but also poor health which contributed to the fall of the House of Leno! It is a timely reminder to those of us a century later, of how lucky we are to have antibiotics and advanced medical help available, together with help from the State in the form of tax credits etc, should we really fall on hard times.
It is particularly interesting to note, that the article below from “THE FEATHERED WORLD” was published only two years after The Hemel Hempstead Gazette article shown earlier on this page which had outlined Matthew Leno’s career and praised his period as High Bailiff of Hemel Hempstead.
Financial misfortunes are hard to bear at any time, but when they come in old age, after a long and honourable career, they seem doubly distressing. The Fancy will therefore learn with the deepest regret that Mr.. Matthew Leno, after struggling manfully against adverse seasons and the many other causes of agricultural depression, has had to give up his farm, and is now left in sadly reduced circumstances at the age of 72. It is hoped that if a small fund can be raised by subscriptions from the thousands of fanciers whom Mr.. Leno, as our oldest and most respected poultry judge, has served so well, our old friend may be able to take a small house and a little ground, and there continue to keep the Bantams and other poultry with which his name has been so long connected. Mr. Walter Firth and Mr.. Proud have started the fund with subscriptions of 1 guinea each, and to these Mr. Lewer and I shall be pleased to add like amounts. With a nucleus of £4 4s may I therefore ask all my readers to subscribe as they are able, and so assist us to reach a nice round sum, whereby we can practically express our regard and sympathy with Mr. Leno in his hour of adversity. I shall be obliged if letters for the fund be endorsed on the envelopes, “Leno Fund”.
The initial response to this appeal was not quite as would have been wished by Mrs Lewer who had inserted it, so a further appeal was published a few weeks later:
TESTIMONIAL TO MR. MATTHEW LENO – In the issue of Sept 2nd and 9th an appeal was made to the fanciers which possibly on account of the holiday season and bright weather not being conducive to letter writing, has not brought forth the response which I anticipated. I therefore venture to repeat the not issued on Sept.2 relative to a project which all who knew Mr. Leno cannot but wish well: -
(There then followed the paragraph previously mentioned.)
Following hard upon the appearance of this paragraph came welcome subscriptions as follows: - Major Terry, 21s; Mr. H E H Way, £1 0s 10d; Mr. Burton 21s; Mr. P H Davies 10s 6d; and just to hand is a guinea from Mr. R T Thornton, with a letter expressing his sincere sympathy for our old friend, and wishing the fund success. The amount to date is £8 18s 4d, and it only needs a little practical sympathy on the part of the Fancy to enable us to realize the modest hope expressed in the appeal made. All subscriptions, however small will be gratefully acknowledged in these columns. – ETHEL COMYNS-LEWER
It is particularly ironic, as Matthew Leno himself a few years earlier at the end of October 1896 had sought similar help with the backing of the local newspaper, for the one of his farm workers Mr. W.W. Thorne. This appeal made headline news in the Gazette. Sadly Mr. Thorne's wife had recently died at the age of 34 after giving birth, leaving Mr. Thorne a widower with 9 children to look after. The youngest being 23 days old, the eldest 14 years old. By the end of the year the Gazette reported that the fund set up by Matthew Leno for Mr Thorne was doing very well. Nearly a complete column of the Gazette was given over to detailing the donations made to the fund. It was decided the fund should close on December 12th, but when the article was published, the fund had nearly reached the grand total of £10. Donations had ranged from 6d to 10/-. [Gazette 5.12.1996]
As well as seeking assistance for his workman, Mr. Leno had formed a Sparrow Club, with the intention of attempting to reduce the local sparrow population, considered by many farmers to be a pest, harming their crops. Mr. Leno called a meeting at the Bell Hotel in the High Street for like-minded persons, and was duly elected chairman of the society. The club members were responsible for slaying 12,585 birds during the first quarter of 1897, a feat deemed worthy over a century ago, but one which in today’s climate would be frowned upon. (see article Dec 2005 and RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2007 details.)
Fortunately perhaps for Matthew Senior, with his death coming only a couple of months after the initial appeal, he did not live long enough to witness his son’s illhealth, decline and eventual bankruptcy. (See ……. ) The following is the obituary which appeared in The Feathered World.
MR. MATTHEW LENO.
It is with deep regret, that I have to chronicle the passing, suddenly- but peacefully, away, as if in sleep, of our Old and respected friend on -November 29th last, at the age of nearly 75. Just lately Mr. Leno had been suffering from an acute attack of bronchitis, and doubtless to this cause and the sad trials' he has recently had to fare, after a long and honourable career, this unexpected ending must be attributed. To his family the empathy of all who knew. Mr. Leno will go out, in no small measure, for to many, as; to myself, to meet Mr. Leno, at a Show was a pleasure, and his. retirement of late years from active service as a judge seemed to sever yet another link between the Fancy of yesterday and its successor of today.
It is but a few weeks ago that, hearing. of tile troubles which through depression in agriculture had fallen upon our old friend. I issued an appeal through these columns for funds towards a testimonial to this veteran judge, and the nucleus of what we all hoped would eventually be a satisfactory amount had been already subscribed, Those who have given to the "Leno Fund" will be -glad to know how touched and grateful Mr. Leno expressed himself when the scheme was first mooted, and it is pleasant to think that the fact that, he was not forgotten by those for whom he had worked was amongst his latest recollections.
In No. 761 a recent portrait of Mr. Leno and three younger generations of his, family was published, but I have thought, it better to-day to republish a portrait taken in the old days, thirteen years ago, when he was actively engaged in judging, for the face then portrayed will be that familiar to more of his old friends.
Of Mr. Leno personally the following particulars may be of interest: Mr. Leno was born on June 14th, 1830, and lived all his life in Hertfordshire and for many years at Market Street, near Dunstable, before he moved to the old house at Cox Pond. Since he was eight years old he always had a feathered pet, and the first birds he ever possessed were a pair of red Jacobins. When passing along the New Road (now Euston Road) by the old Stagecoach, in company with his father and a friend of thee family he asked the former to buy a pair of pigeons. But Pater familias turned a deaf ear to the entreaty. The friend, however, on his next visit to town purchased the Jacobins and made the boy happy. He early imbibed a 1love for farm poultry, and took instantaneously to the pursuit to save his mother, owing to a rheumatic affection, going out of doors to feed her turkeys and ducks. It was in the parish of Hemel Hempstead that he first commenced to keep fancy poultry and to the parish for Dunstable. where he took up more strongly that ever the Seabright Bantam and light and dark Bantams, with which he was very successful. It is fifty-one years since he first showed at the Surrey Gardens three gold and silver Bantams and a trio of silver-spangled Hamburghs. The latter won first prize, and were claimed at £5. The Bantams took second.
He then showed at Hitchin some Cochins and silver Bantams that were produced from silver-spangled Hamburgh cock and gold Sebright hen. They were larger than are usually shown, but they were all claimed, and Mr. Leno never heard where they went to. He bred and exhibited silver and gold Sebrights for many years, occasionally showing light and dark Brahmas, and with the latter he won a cup at Hitchin – Mr Horace Lingwood then showing. He also won First and Special at Birmingham with La Fleche hens, when they were less known then than they are now. For several years Mr Leno officiated as Judge at many of the principle shows, and was one of the jurors at Paris Exhibition of 1878, and received a bronze medal and the portrait of the Prince of Wales with autograph, in connection therewith. He also judged at Antwerp in 1889 and 1890; and at Dublin, Belfast, Palace, Birmingham, The Royal, Edinburgh, Kilmarnock, etc. The first invitation to judge came from Dorking. Mr Leno judged with veterans like Messrs Hewitt, Tebay, Dixon and Tegetmeier. In pheasant rearing Mr. Leno was at one time most successful, and at Westwick Park had room enough in his aviaries for 600 pheasants, and also went in very extensively for wild ducks, beside a good deal of farm and fancy poultry.
[Feathered World, November 1904]
RIGHT: One of the many trophies won by Matthew Leno. The inscription reads:
AND NORTH LANCASHIRE
MATTHEW LENO ESQ.
For the best
GOLD LACED BANTAMS
Jan 24th 1857
There were manifestations of regret and esteem on all sides, and a large concourse of people assembled. The body was conveyed to the church by a large number of mourners followed, which together with the villagers, nearly filled the sacred building. The Rev. a. Durant, vicar of the parish officiated, and the service was choral, a full surpliced choir being present. The 90th psalm was impressively chanted and the hymn “Now the labourers task is o’er was sung. As the body was conveyed from the church, the Dead march in Saul was played upon the organ by Mr. W. C. Child the organist. After the committal portion of the service at the graveside, the choir sang “A few more years shall roll” The service throughout was deeply impressive and many were visibly effected. The chief mourners were: Mr M Leno (only son) Mrs Leno (widow), Mrs Hoar, Mrs Negus, Mrs King, Mrs Vincent (daughters) and Mr W Leno and Mr. L How (grandsons), Miss Sissie Leno, Miss Sybil Leno, Miss Bessie Negus (granddaughters) Mrs M Leno (daughter in law) Mr W Leno (brother) Mrs A Adams (sister) Mrs G Leno (sister-in-law) Mr. A Leno (nephew) Mr H How, Mr Hoar, Mr Negus, Mr King, Mr Vincent (sons in law) Mrs Bromfield (widow’s sister.)
Amongst the numerous body of gentlemen present were the mayor of Hemel Hempstead (Alderman Maitland Thompson) the town clerk of Hemel Hempstead (Mr Lovel Smeathman), Messrs E H Woodman (Woodman & Sons) J K Hart, J Bailey, W Saunders, W H How, W J Williams, C Beamant, T D Cox, R Bowers, G Atwood, A Orchard, W` Parkins, A Seabrook, W Child, W Wright etc.
There was a beautiful collection of floral tributes………………(a full list of what was given and by whom them followed)
The funeral arrangements were in the hands of Mr W Fensom Undertaker of Queen Street Hemel Hempstead who satisfactorily carried out the details.
Perhaps out of respect for his young widow, the Gazette did not mention that he was laid to rest with his first wife Ann. His headstone, along with those of other members of his family, are to be found close to the path near the East End of the Church. His daughter Annie and her husband Harry's graves, are to be found elsewhere in the graveyard, nearer the church porch.
The inscription on Matthew senior's headstone reads as follows:
SACRED TO THE MEMORIES OF
ANN WIFE OF
OF COX POND FARM
DIED JANUARY 20 1892
AGED 71 YEARS
HUSBAND OF THE ABOVE
WHO ENTERED INTO REST
NOVEMBER 29TH 1904
AGED 74 YEARS.
23.11.2005 / Fully revised 4th - 6th May 2007/ adjusted for new style computers 6 Sept. 2015
Hemel Hempstead Gazette
The Feathered World
Illustrated Poultry News
The Herts Mercury Hemel Hempstead Observer (via e-mail from Graham Sherman & Archives of HTCC)
The Book of Poultry pub. by Casells c 1880
The History of Hemel Hempstead - ed. Susan Yaxley
Royalty to Commonners, by Joan & Roger Hands
Monumental Inscriptions in Holy Trinity Church Graveyard, Leverstock Green & Market Square Hemel Old Town
UK Census returns
Archives of Dacorum Borough Council
(Royal Warrants Association - information pending)
Additional material supplied by Angela How, Matthew Leno Senior's great-great granddaughter.
Click to link to the following
LEVERSTOCK GREEN CHRONICLE
A detailed history of one village in Hertfordshire UK