Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Missed the Flicks

 Not only were there no houses on what later became the recreation ground, but there were few homes built on the T E Smith land  between Royal Road and Tess Road (now Woodstock Road south) either.  A row of  six small homes appeared in Royal Road, and one detached and two adjacent semi-detached houses on the west side of Tess Road.

1922 OS map showing the school and (circled in blue)
the police station and police houses.

1922 OS map showing the Hatfield Road block outlined in red.
MAPS ABOVE COURTESY NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND

This was the point, in 1906, when the County authority concluded it needed to take decisive action in providing services for this extensive series of private residential estates, and with more to come; open spaces, education facilities and the Police Constabulary were definitely not part of the brief of house builders.  The County moved its police station into the first house in Tess Road with the Sergeant and Constable living next door.   In the 1970s all three buildings were demolished to provide land for parking and a children's nursery.  The largest land acquisition came to provide – at last – land for an elementary school; this came following pressure from countless parents who had to send their children "over to the Camp School".

Royal Road to the left; Woodstock Road (Tess Road) to the right. The little car park and the
building beyond are the site of the former police station and police houses.
The 1922 OS maps (top images) show a broad band of vacant land adjacent to Hatfield Road, and it remained in that state until c1930 when another service lacking in Fleetville was finally provided: more adequate medical support.  While there was a doctor and a dentist at The Crown end, it was not until shortly after 1930 when Dr Smythe built a detached house and surgery at the corner of Royal Road.  It still sports the original name of Fleet House, and it was distinctive in possessing a corner front garden.  Although it sits snugly into the Hatfield Road streetscape it actually belongs to Royal Road. Fleet House was later converted into a pair of flats and the original rear garden plot was then used for a small detached house, 2B Royal Road.

Fleet House to the left and the parade beyond in 1964.
COURTESY ST ALBANS MUSEUMS

Post-conversion view of Fleet House with added access to ground floor flat.

However, Dr Smythe was beaten into second place by the arrival of John Smith, stationer and draper who previously ran the third shop in Bycullah Terrace, which also had a corner devoted to a Post Office.   It had been a busy shop and Mr Smith sought more space for his trading. Purchasing the corner plot at Tess Road he engaged the building partnership of Goodwin & Hart to create what everyone still knows as the Fleetville Post Office.  The original garden plot faced Hatfield Road, but an extension to the Post Office and drapery was constructed on the garden c1960.  This is now the separate business of MediVet. 

The Post Office still with its rear garden and name fascia A Rankin Smith in 1964.
COURTESY ST ALBANS MUSEUMS

The shops c1960.  The extension being constructed in the garden of The Post Office.
COURTESY JACKIE ALDRIDGE

The trend in the 1930s for a single building combining several shops, and also identified in a recent post, was continued here where three standard width units and a pair of half-sized units were built.  First to open was Percy Hall's hairdresser departments for both women and men.  Mr Hall had previously opened his first salon nearby in Bycullah Terrace and had others around Fleetville at different times.

Recent view of the shop which began as Harpers Motors and later St Albans' Scooters.

When Norman Harper first opened his Motor Sales showroom as late as 1939 the legal documents reveal this block of land had still been in the ownership of the estate of Thomas E Smith from the former printing works opposite.  Although now a phone repair shop the street elevation still has the original bracket arm for frontage lighting; street lighting in the 1930s was still quite poor.

The two half shops began as London Central Meats and a studio photographer.  After the Second War they were Baxter's Butchers and Garrard Fruiterers; and along the sideway to the right was a signwriter's business for S T Broad.

The Post Office with shops beyond.  This is where building activity took place in 1912 to create
Fleetville's cinema. This is the orange block outlined on the second map above, and occupied
a wider plot than had been paid for, according to the court report in the Herts Advertiser.
COURTESY GOOGLE STREETVIEW

A plan and front (Hatfield Road) elevation drawing of the cinema.  Not a single showing
took place, and no sooner was the building up than, by court order, it was taken down.
COURTESY HERTFORDSHIRE ARCHIVES & LOCAL STUDIES

So, where do the flicks come in?  Well, the building came – and went – so quickly that not a single performance took place. Russell Edwards living in Granville Road claimed to be a showman, and saw a business opportunity which wasn't entirely legal and put up a secondhand tin building as a picture house/cinema.  Without using his own funds this serial mischief maker assured an investor that the cinema was already open and operating profitably and attracting patrons in numbers which, in fact, could not possibly have been accommodated.  In fact it was just a pile of tin and iron lying on the ground and the men engaged to erect it were sometimes not paid.  Creditors caused Edwards to be taken to court – again, and the court ordered that the building, so close to opening, should be taken apart and sold to defray court costs.  When did this occur? In 1912, so becoming the first occupier of this block. And where was it?  It all happened on the plot which is still Fleetville Post Office today.  

Sorry you missed the show!

Next time we'll trace the story of the most well known Hatfield Road trading quarter, Bycullah Terrace, and discover the origin of its name.


Wednesday, 16 September 2020

For the People of Fleetville

Red: three fields formerly owned by the Grammar School.
Blue: field purchased by T E Smith for the Fleet Printing Works.
Orange: field purchased by T E Smith for his Fleet Ville housing.
Green: Part of the same field left undeveloped and acquired by Charles Woollam.


Recent aerial of the recreation ground during a dry summer period.
COURTESY GOOGLE EARTH

 We have now reached the end of St Peter's Farm where the property boundary lines up obliquely from the main road.  The former fields outlined in red on the above map identifies land which was owned by St Albans Grammar School and managed for it by the Verulam Estate.  The blue field was acquired by Thomas E Smith for his printing works in 1897 and he acquired the green and orange field opposite to lay out a hamlet for his employees.  

Others were also laying out streets and houses nearby on the former St Peter's Farm, and so Smith did not use all of his land – the green part of the field on the north side of Hatfield Road – otherwise there may have been a further street of two of small homes had the demand evolved.  You will see that there were no homes on the west side of Royal Road.

William Bennett, well known in the building trade, had rented at least part of the green field to store building materials, including bricks, which he needed for his construction activities in the Slade building estate.

In 1912 Charles Woollam, mill owner and a trustee of the Grammar School that had sold two of the three fields to Thomas E Smith in order to fund the expansion of the school adjacent to the Gateway, purchased the green field from the Smith estate using his own funds.  He had noted with some concern that Fleetville was growing quickly and no land had been allocated specifically as open space for the use of this district's residents. He gifted this land to the City Council in 1913, the year in which the authority had taken over responsibility for Fleetville from the Rural Council. A covenant protected the use to which it could be deployed, for the recreation of the people of Fleetville in perpetuity.  By name it was initially called Fleetville Pleasure Ground or Playing Field; later became known as Fleetville Recreation Ground, or Rec, but is now sometimes referred to as Fleetville Park.

No sooner had the council prepared the ground, built retaining walls and installed railings (some of which remain in place) than there was a call to dig it up for emergency allotments.  After some disagreements the allotments went instead to the field where Fleetville Junior School is today.

Pre-WW2 family photo, with the school as a backdrop.  This was before the recreation ground
railings were removed on this side.  Today the seat is occupied by part of the front of the
Community Centre.
COURTESY FLEETVILLE INFANT SCHOOL & NURSERY



For the next 25 years the Rec was rather bland with just one set of children's swings near the Royal Road corner (chain locked on Sundays as was the custom in St Albans); and a public toilet block added in 1938, the same year in which emergency zig-zag trenches were excavated in preparation for war.  Gates in the fencing at bottom of Burnham Road gardens enabled quick access to the trenches.  Additional trenches were added in 1939 and 1940 for the benefit of the school; all were deepened to 8 feet, bricklined and covered, and fitted with electricity, heating and telephone.  They were accessed from steel doors at Royal Road with an emergency exit in the rec field, the latter can still be noticed in parched grass in hot dry summers.  A temporary day nursery arrived in 1942 for the benefit of mothers who worked in the munitions factories locally – this building is still in use as the Community Centre.  

A 1939 aerial of the recreation ground in the middle.  The 1938 open zig-zag trenches are visible.
So too is the diagonal footpath between the Hatfield Road and Royal Road gates. Within that
triangle is the new public toilets block and the children's swings.  Also clear is the grass wear from games of football!
COURTESY HERITAGE ENGLAND

The temporary wartime children's nursery, today used by Fleetville Community Centre. The car is
parked where once a ramp and steel door led below ground level to emergency shelters for the
use of children at the school.

Two further installations during the war were an ARP hut next to the newly opened toilets, and an emergency water tank located where the zip wire is today.

Recent photo of the recreation ground without its original pre-war hedge line resulting from
road widening in the 1960s.

Plan prepared by Design Team Partnership in 1989 for a proposed underground car park for 194 cars under the recreation ground.  It would have occupied the southern end, but the proposal was not taken forward.

Post-war the junior children took to using the field for games lessons, but this was frowned on by the city council who wanted their bit field back from the County Council. A line of young trees were planted beside the shops, and in the 1960s a corner of the main road was shaved off and widened on safety grounds; resulting in the loss of the original field hedge with partial replacement of the original boundary wall.  Children living west of the rec will recollect an informal access point via a couple of missing railings next to Andrews' greengrocery.  That short cut disappeared with the improvements!

A scheme came to light in 1989 for a 200-car underground car park with ramp and six emergency staircases emerging at regular points in the field, as well as a number of light wells.  No one appeared to have considered the impact on organised events and team games.  Anyway, the plan was abandoned.

In more recent times there has been activity equipment for children and young people right across the park, and although the toilets were closed a popular cafe and seating area has appeared.

Next time we shall continue moving eastwards to the later developments between Royal Road and Tess Road (now Woodstock Road south). It might have become an entertainment hub!

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Hostelry which never was

The Hatfield Road buildings east of Harlesden Road, with the recreation ground east of the
treeline.
COURTESY GOOGLE EARTH

The image at the top of the blog post on 14th August looking east from Sandfield Road, includes developments which took place east of Harlesden Road, but something seemed to be missing, partly because we think we are looking at the recreation ground in the distance; a point mentioned in that post.  In fact, it is future development land which we will come to shortly; the rec is out of sight in that photo.

By 1964, when this photo was taken, the corner grocery shop had become a bank.  The next shop, 
also a grocery has a house between them.  A short line of fir trees marks where a meeting house was
built.  Beyond is Fleetville's first shop parade.
COURTESY ST ALBANS MUSEUMS

But first we will look at the orange block east of Harlesden Road.  There is a detached address which is a shop, on the corner, and a semi-detached pair but both parts now looking very different.  No doubt, when new the semi-detached pair with their little front gardens would have looked smart.  Edward Hanley owned the corner shop  – he also owned and ran a grocery on the south side of Hatfield Road near The Crown. This one at Harlesden Road was managed by James Harrison, baker and confectioner, followed by two more bakers in turn until resumption of peace after World War 1 when Teiji Orihash took over baking and added a grocery.  There are still former residents of the district who recall being taught to play the piano by Mrs Orihash at lessons given on a first floor grand piano.  There is some doubt whether or not Mr Orihash kept his shop open throughout the hostilities after 1939, although the 1942 Kelly's directory still lists the shop.  However, after the war, Mr Orihash thought it prudent to change his name to Hugh Orton in view of potential hostility towards his Japanese origin.  In the mid-fifties number 173 was transferred to Lloyds, the last of the big clearing banks to open in Fleetville.  They had a relatively short presence in Hatfield Road, until the mid-seventies, before the present traders, City Glass, took over, and created another example of additional premises built on the rear garden space.

A snowy scene in the 1930s centred on the house then being occupied by Charles Carter. The
grocery to the right was then under the management of H W Bennett.
COURTESY CAROLYN HAYWARD

The other two premises in the orange block were semi-detached homes until 1911 when the righthand house, number 177, was adapted to become a shop; H W Bennett's grocery, just two doors from the corner shop.  Walter Brooker took over from around 1948, but, as with many other small grocery traders, they suffered from the arrival of the supermarkets.  Brooker's therefore became a television aerials shop, and more recently the latest in trend purchases: vaping.

In the middle there remains one house. Although there have been several occupants, more is known about one of them during the 1930s. Thomas Carter, who had already established himself in the horticultural business, Sear & Carter, near St Paul's Church, encouraged his brother Charles, with an interest in agricultural machinery, to set up business in St Albans.  So, in the early 1930s Charles acquired the house at number 175 and a plot opposite on which he built Carter's Garage.  Later it would became Hobbs' Garage and is now Kwikfit.

Breweries are usually early to lay claim to land in development districts for future public houses.  In 1899 Benskins purchased the red and blue plots in the top picture for a public house, hostelry and carriage yard – presumably similar to The Crown, which was being constructed during the same year.  Directly opposite to Benskins' proposed establishment a competing company, Trust House, acquired a site for a hotel and accommodation for dining and drinking.  This launched a twenty-five year,  acrimonious battle between the two companies and many of the property owners in Fleetville which was only resolved when Benskins transferred its interest to the site on which the Rats' Castle was later built.  But there was no hotel.

In 1924 only the orange block buildings have
been developed. A small and larger plots acquired by
Benskins remain open during the lengthy objections
to the sale of alcohol in the district.
COURTESY NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND

The line of WW1 troops passing the shops, with the 
smaller open plot behind the leading soldiers.  We can also observe where the righthand former
house has been converted into the shop which one day will be known as Brooker's.
COURTESY ST ALBANS MUSEUMS

Benskins land consisted of a small and large plot.  As soon as Benskins felt the opportunity of future trade on this site slipping away, the company was prepared to relinquish the smaller plot, which the Salvation Army purchased.  There are, of course, two possible reasons for this move.  Either the church group wished to construct a citadel, Sunday school or other meetings place, or it was a strategic purchase to squeeze out Benskins.  Well, the Sally Army didn't build, and when the opportunity arose the Mid Herts Bill-Posting Company rented both the small and large sites for advertising.  The small site remained as a poster site until around 1956 when the Plymouth Brethren group, which had previously occupied a small premises in Hedley Road, constructed a meeting house.  When it was no longer required for this purpose c2005 it was replaced by residential accommodation with the design containing echoes of the neighbouring frontages to the east.  Although there had been an option for a ground floor shop in the plan this did not materialise.

The Plymouth Brethren Meeting House built in the mid-fifties on the smaller plot formerly
owned by Benskins and subsequently acquired by the Salvation Army.
COURTESY ROBIN DE SMET

The same smaller plot more recently.  Long gone are the days when the land was used for
displaying large advertising posters.  Unfortunately a photo of that period has not yet been found.

Benskins finally relinquished the large plot (the blue block in the top picture) c1927, and this presented the opportunity for a shop parade of four establishments for the first time in Hatfield Road.  Set further back from the kerb the front elevations were typical of their time, with herringbone brickwork and first floor bay windows.  The original plan was apparently insufficient for the demand even at the time of opening, as the irregular space between the planned development and the boundary with the recreation ground a single floor shop unit was added.  Until the early fifties there were a variety of occupiers, but from 1956 Andrews greengrocery, was opened there.  In 2020 the same family is still trading here.

The five shops shown in 1964 with their frontages and before improvements to the roadway.
COURTESY ST ALBANS MUSEUMS

When retail trading returned to normal after WW2 we should remember that the parade was still young.  In the period up to the mid 1970s the first shop was a confectioner (Dorothy Miles and then her son David Miles. Miss Gurney and then Mrs Wright, managed a ladies' hairdresser. In the third shop was Mr Macpherson, chemist, followed by St Albans' Scooters. A butchery run first by Hedley's and then J Johnson was in the fourth unit.  Andrews greengrocery was and is in the lock-up shop at the end.

However, today the former confectionery, has been converted into residential.  The front elevation, though modern, still respects the original design, although the herringbone brickwork was been lost.

This recent view illustrates the grey frontage of the former first shop now converted into
residential.
COURTESY GOOGLE STREETVIEW

In this series of posts we have found many examples of houses converted into shops as Hatfield Road became a true shopping street; in this post, however, we've drawn attention to a rare example of a shop being converted into a house. Next time, in a break from looking at the built Hatfield Road, we'll pause to provide an insight into the origin of the Recreation Ground, sometimes these days referred to as Fleetville Park.





Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Hedges remain

These are the premises described below, between 159 Hatfield Road and Harlesden Road corner, bounded by the red line.
COURTESY GOOGLE EARTH

The previous post, Squeezing One More In, demonstrated that the need to add more accommodation to the Fleetville streetscape is not a new concept and began early on.  The first properties to call on this time are 159 and 161 Hatfield Road.  As with so many addresses this building was a semi-detached pair, built by George Emerton, who also put up the Oak Villas (numbers 139 and 141) among other homes.  Both of the original tenants realised, as had others along the road, that there was commercial advantage in gaining permission to convert their homes into shops with flats above; Mr Bennett sold provisions, and Mr Guy was a milliner. They were both the first occupiers.  Below are two photos of this pair of former homes, the first taken in 2012, while the other is very recent.  Notice the difference?  In the back garden space accessed from the driveway between 157 and 159, a new house has been added – yet one more squeezed in!  Two long-term trades and tenants may be recalled by older residents.  Mr North managed a wet fish shop, while from the same shop space Mrs North sold fruit and veg. There were occasions in the 1950s when your author recalls walking home with one of the North  children, being invited to the flat above and being offered an item of fruit on the way. Even today number 159 is divided.  Next door was a chemist, run first by Mr Pike and then Mr Kine; today it is a charity shop.

This 2012 photo of 159 and 161, then Cartridge World and Oxfam, with the driveway between them 
and SK Carpets.  Compare it with the picture below, a 2019 closeup of the driveway with a
newly built house at the far end.

Moving on, below is an example of a pair of homes which remain residential addresses, even retaining their individual tiny front gardens.  Together with the shop numbered 167, all were owned by Frank Sear.  Mr Sear ran a dairy shop.  Built into the premises was a covered driveway to give rear access between the cottages and the shop.  The photograph below shows this drive with a wide door at the street end.  Today it has been converted into a narrow shop; a Thai Takeaway.  Even Mr Sear's former shop has a narrower frontage today to give independent access to a first floor flat.

A photo taken c1924 with three homes retaining their front gardens, and three shops; on the left was Henry Sear's dairy shop; centre right was Miss Moore's Dining Rooms, later to become Leslie
Townsend radio and bicycle shop; and extreme right is the corner boot and shoe shop.

In 2012 the centre shop is the former Henry Sear shop; the narrow shop to its left was the gated driveway to the rear.

The next property, number 169, was a side-by-side pebble-dashed detached building, having residential rooms on the left and shop on the right; the shop beginning life as a butchery run by Walter Aldridge.  However, for a few years prior to World War One, Miss Moore ran a cafe ("Dining Rooms"), and one of the two ladies standing at the shop doorway was undoubtedly Miss Moore, whose name hung on a horizontal boom flagpole, no doubt to attract attention.  From the 1920s and for the next 70 years or so it was known as Townsend's.  Useful for the early days of radio (and later television), Mr Warner and then Mr Leslie Townsend, sold components, and batteries, undertook repairs, charge up accumulators, and then widened the trade to include bicycles.  From an "alladin's cave" of a store room at the back many customers will have recalled absence from the shop for what was thought to be a long period until, finally, a spare part was located.

A 1970 shot of Mr Townsend's shop and the corner shop as a heating engineer.

A different view of Townsend's shop, now a charity shop, and the earlier boot shop and heating
engineer, now a beauty salon.

On the corner with Harlesden Road a shop with diagonal entrance was opened in 1903 for bookmaker H Copus & Son.  In fact, Horton's and then Samuels, also boot and shoe makers, repairers and retailers, continued to thrive on this corner until around 1970, when major improvements were encouraged in the heating of homes and other buildings.  T A Horn had an important local part to play in this trend.  Walk around to the side elevation in Harlesden Road we note some colour relief to the brickwork was achieved by introducing occasional lines of red bricks instead of stocks, a similar effect being used around the windows and doorway.  The former garden has also been used entirely for additional ground floor accommodation.  We should remind ourselves that, in laying out the plots at the turn of the twentieth century it was with the building of residential accommodation, not shops, in mind.  One of the original blue enamel street plates, fixed by the rural council to designate Harlesden Road in 1906, is still visible at first floor level.

In the event that some readers may be carrying out their own research into Hatfield Road developments and discover that the address numbers used here do not correspond with their own findings, the original numbers were allocated when there was still much undeveloped land and the Post Office resorted to guessing how many to reserve for future use.  It was not until 1930 that a revised numbering plan was prepared and activated the following year.

Next time we will discover the story of one of the politically most controversial events in Fleetville's early history.

Friday, 14 August 2020

Squeezing One More In

 Continuing our detailed virtual walk along Hatfield Road, and in some cases imagine we are early residents exploring the "mile of shops", last time we had reached Sandfield Road.  The next block now takes us as far as Harlesden Road, although there is sufficient material this time to proceed roughly halfway – twelve properties  would be too many for a single post!  However, the perfect photo to begin with is Andy Lawrence's newly acquired picture of what the photographer had termed "The Promenade".

A c1912 photo of the properties between Sandfield and Harlesden roads.  Sun blinds are
prominent, with Mr Gibbs showing a corner version to further highlight the location of his
shop.  Note the three first floor bays nearest Sandfield Road, one of which is missing in a
later picture below.
COURTESY ANDY LAWRENCE

Since we left Glenferrie Road we would have been, in an earlier time, at the hedge line looking into a field formerly known as Long Moody, and already, by 1902, the corner plots now have buildings on them. At Sandfield Road this was a fine shop owned by Samuel J Gibbs who aspired to furnish the tenants and owners of the homes then being built around him.  As a corner shop he was able to display two full windows, and as intended the Gibbs family lived above the shop.  But as he became more successful the shop began to expand upstairs.  Around 1910, Mr Gibbs therefore purchased number 4 Sandfield Road behind the shop – not far to travel to work! It was, in fact the only house, close to the Hatfield Road boundaries; otherwise land remained open until number 20, so what happened to number 2?  Well, on the 1922 map a house seems to have been constructed on the rear garden of number 4.  Perhaps an initiative of Mr Gibbs who felt he did not need a rear garden.  So, even in those early days of the district extra houses were already being squeezed in!

Mr Gibbs handed the business on to Henry Lewis, and by the mid thirties Mr Graham Henderson opened a "curios and oddments shop" here, before moving it along to the Laurel Road corner after the war.  The biggest change came with the re-forming of the Grimaldi business in the early days of peace, and its petrol and car maintenance business was augmented by a Rootes car sales showroom at number 149.  Yes, two band new cars could be displayed inside the shop.  Fleetville went into car sales!  For a while you could purchase refrigerators and freezers from here, before Barclays upgraded the premises and moved its bank from the Crown, which it clearly felt was advantageous for business.

Here is number 149 on the corner after the occupation of St Albans Refrigeration in the 1960s.
A pillar-style police call box stands on the pavement corner, and we are just a short time before
new-style road signs.  Every change of occupant, it seems, has brought a different side facade
on the Sandfield Road frontage.
COURTESY ST ALBANS MUSEUMS

The arrival of Barclays Banks has also created modernised and smart external frontage.  For
the first time the building is without its first floor bay window.
COURTESY BARCLAYS ARCHIVE

The next pair of shops came four years later, but were undoubtedly built by the same company as the corner shop.  Today, however the cohesive design is lost as the first floor bay window was removed in the later conversion to bank premises. Although number 151 spent some decades in George Weatherhead's care as a china shop, and then Charles Chuter for outfitting, undoubtedly the most well-known owner began here during the Second War: Frederick W Hickie.  When petrol is in short supply people turn to their bikes; then radio continued its popularity and we became curious about the new television service, Mr Hickie and his son were happy to serve.  Since the mid-sixties insurance and legal services have ventured into the suburbs to demystify one of life's needs which had formerly been found in the side roads of the city centre, sometimes above shops.


Hickie's bicycle and radio/tv shop in the 1950s, with father and son at the doorway.
COURTESY THE HICKIE COLLECTION

The complete development as it looked in 2012.  Again, the first floor bay window and projecting
eaves are now absent.

Number 153 was one of the first shops to break away from from the notion of each trader having his or her own single shop.  Charles Chuter ran his outfitter's from two adjacent properties from the 1920s, thereby signalling that retailing often needs a variety of footprints to work in.  Soon after the war Westminster (later NatWest) moved to join other chains in serving Fleetville, and in recognition of its success, later moved to larger premises which we met last time on the west corner of Sandfield Road.

Number 157's first occupant was James Andrews who sold the comprehensive range of
accessories, fitments and finishings to homes the company had built.  This would later
become Percy Stone's newsagent's shop.
COURTESY (name temporarily mislaid – to follow shortly)

The next pair of shops was clearly intended for a specific purpose.  James Andrews owned a building business.  He had acquired land on the opposite side of Hatfield Road for his builders' yard.  The righthand shop was in the care of his wife for the sale of builders and finishers accessories – and no doubt became the firm's office.  To the left of the central vehicle arch a shop was available to let, which provided a regular rental income; a trade which, until the 1970s, served as one of Hatfield Road's regular and frequent grocery shops.  Peep through the arch next time you are passing and the service buildings to the rear are still in regular use by the present occupiers of both shops: SK Carpets.

James Andrew's shop was on the right, but he owned both shops with access to workshops
through the arch; the left shop was let to a succession of grocer's.

Number 157's longest owner was was also one who had three successive trading addresses and saw Fleetville's very birth. Percy Stone's first store was where the Rats' Castle is today.  He later moved to Bycullah Terrace, before moving again to 157. Although generally known as a newsagent's we would recognise its product range in any newsagent's we walk into today (except perhaps the lottery tickets). There are many former teenagers who will recall their daily roles as paper boys, propping their bikes against the wall under the arch before climbing the steps into the shop.

It is along this section of Hatfield Road where the feature of the ground floor front elevations follow the street line, while the first floors are turned to face due south.  Although the two shops at 155 and 157 are modest in floor area, space being reserved for the arch, the first floor accommodation over the arch provides some compensation.





Friday, 7 August 2020

Oak Villas and a greengrocery

Between 1900 and the First World War the pace of building development on the north side of Hatfield Road was brisk, and at any one time there would be some construction happening in all of the streets, and naturally many builders were interested in plots facing Hatfield Road.  In this collection of posts the focus is on houses and shops; we'll return later for the story of the churches.
The area bounded by the red box identifies the Hatfield Road buildings in this post.  The centre pair
are Oak Villas; the left pair are Emerton's shops; the right was Mr Hills' house; finally the two spare
plots between.
COURTESY NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND

In travelling eastwards from The Crown the focus is now on the site between Glenferrie and Sandfield roads. In 1899 George Emerton took a look and became interested in two plots right in the middle.  We don't know whether that was coincidental or whether there was some symmetry at work.  But the outlook across the road was towards the field east of the Cemetery, rather than the burial ground itself.

Oak Villas 1 and 2 with a more modern front garden wall which obscures part of the front bay
windows.

What resulted was a semi-detached pair of houses, solidly built, with doors adjoining, the usual minimum width front garden, and named Oak Villas 1 and 2.  So who lived in them?  According to the street directories George Emerton himself lived in number 1 until 1910, and various tenants in number 2.  The Valuation Office record indicates there were workshops (plural) behind number 1, as if he was using Oak Villa 1 as a base for his building work.  Sisters Olive and Lily Emerton moved into number 2 in 1938 and remained resident until c1973. Equally interesting, number 1 was occupied by P Osborne for a short time and then Henry Jagels.  Their story is followed up below. But in recent years both villas have been converted in a Mosque.

From left to right, the two shops, Oak Villas 1 and 2, and the remaining spare plot. The first shop
blind shades Mr Davies' Toys and Sports shop; finally the original Hills' house, converted into jewellery and later a wool shop.
COURTESY ST ALBANS MUSEUMS

In the meantime, the Valuation Office reveals George Emerton also acquired two plots to the west of Oak Villas.  In c1910 Mr Emerton raised two shops on these plots, which became 135 and 137.  Several Fleetville residents recently noted building alterations taking place and a pair of former shop fascia signs were revealed from an earlier period. 

Until the end of WW1 number 135 apparently remained empty, and then Miss O Emerton managed a confectionery shop there, before being let to a tailoring business.  From 1960 it was home to general engineers and instrument makers and in recent times was the location of a Credit Union.  Number 137 had been a greengrocery from 1912 onwards, firstly by the Osborne brothers, and then by the Jagels family. Henry Jagels and his wife lived in Oak Villa 1, and their son Frederick came to take over the greengrocery from the Osborne brothers.  The upstairs flat was not adequate for a family and as they are believed to have raised three children, the family lived in a house at the Brampton Road end of Glenferrie Road.  The greengrocery was thought to have remained Osborne's, even though it was managed by the Jagel family for over twenty years.  This would might account for the fascia sign.

Recent renovations reveal the former fascia sign for the greengrocery under the management
of the Osborne Brothers
COURTESY PETER ELLIOT

Around two years after Mr Emerton's arrival a house was constructed on the west corner of Sandfield Road.  It was quite narrow and was acquired by Mr Henry Hills.  He was another Hatfield Road occupier who relished the benefit of turning his ground floor into a shop to advance his jewellery trade.  Subsequently it became a drapery and a house furnishing shop.  From 1949 Mr Davies moved in to supply the increasingly popular wool trade, and until 1956 two plots between this shop and Oak Villas remained unused, which is a long period for an otherwise busy district shopping street.  But in that year Mr and Mrs Davies created an extension to the original shop on the corner and opened the ground floor as St Albans Toys & Sports.

A surprisingly spacious Sandfield Road c1912.  On the right is the side-facing living
accommodation of the corner house of Henry Hills.  Unfortunately I have not yet been able
to located a photo of the house frontage or the first version of the shop. The original 1906 Rural
Council street plate can just be seen to the left of the the first floor drain pipe on the east corner.
COURTESY ST ALBANS MUSEUMS

By 1975 the Davies's had handed the property over to Westminster Bank/ National Westminster Bank, which extended the building further to include the remaining spare plot.  The floor to ceiling window sections extended from the entrance on the left to the corner and then along Sandfield Road.  As with all other examples all other national banks had branches in Fleetville, and eventually all closed those branches.
This is how the building was remodelled for its role as National Westminster Bank, although all
references to the bank have since been removed.

Today, the ground floor has an unrelieved and bland office treatment, although it is possible to identify the westward spare plot, then the Davis extension shop and finally the original corner house.



Friday, 24 July 2020

Between bakery and dairy

In the previous post we met builder Herbert Skelton, who was also a developer.  He purchased the rights to build the four shops to the east of Blandford Road, with Jacob Reynolds' Blandford Road lying behind.  This was in 1912, over a decade since the first attempts to develop Hatfield Road as a residential street, only to discover that they were commercially better as shops.  Mr Skelton had built a portfolio of homes further east: two terraces which lay between the former J B Rollings house and his wholesale warehouse, and Glenferrie Road.  He got started on these much earlier, 1902, and managed to retain most of them as cottage homes for almost ten years.

The shops – and two homes between Clifton House (see previous post) and Glenferrie Road.

These are two almost identical terraces, with attractive boarded gable ends.  Their current condition reflects the difficulty of carrying out maintenance on this part of a building  The first terrace of four, 119 to 125, consisted of houses.  Indeed, two of them are still private residences, each with their narrow front walled gardens.  When first built all of the properties were homes with porched doorways and ground and first floor bay windows.  That would have been an impressive lineup for the first few years.  The photo below marks the major change in use.  

This image was created in 1911 from outside Clifton Road looking eastwards to Glenferrie
Road, along a still-narrow road.  Here is the bakery in the only year it was managed by William
Davies, followed by the two houses.  Shop blinds reveal the presence of newly-converted
shops.  No parking problems – bliss!
COURTESY HALS, FORMERLY ST ALBANS LIBRARIES

1911 is the first year in which most of the homes became shops, with the removal of the ground floor bays and installation of shop display windows and a door giving entrance to the shop and the existing front door retracted to become an internal access to the first floor from the shop.  They were narrow properties.  We know the photo was taken in 1911 because number 119 became a bakery, losing its little garden in the process, and it was run by Walter Davies.  He only remained for one year, the census year of 1911, and by the following year Mr Freeman Cornwell had taken over.  119 has always been a bakery; even in modern times when it became a pizza specialist.  The carriage house, an earlier form of garage, cart house or workshop lay along along the side entrance and was used for flour storage, although not for the first few year as Mr Skelton and his family were living there.  The workshop is still there at the far end of the sideway. Some present residents of the district will recall a fire at the shop which effectively put the bakery out of business for some time.  During the 1950s the author was fortunate in having the owner's elder son as a friend, and it was to the shop, his home, we gravitated to after school to mop up any stale buns Mr Schnabnel was unlikely to sell before closing time.

The bakery shortly after the fire.

In the first terrace, number 125 at the other end, was another shop recalled by the author.  Although in its first few years it was John Schaper's hairdresser, the majority of its life was spent as a confectionery, managed by Mr O'Dietschi and then by Mrs Fowler.  Ice cream and pop were the young customer's regular requirement!  From the 1970s it became a charity shop and is now a small art gallery exhibiting on behalf of a small number of today's artists.

A traditional view of a confectioner's shop.  How could a child avoid
making regular visits to Fowler's!
COURTESY FLEETVILLE DIARIES

It is lovely to note the two intervening terrace homes between the two shops described above.



The first two shops in the second terrace, 127 and 129, also small homes to begin with, served Fleetville residents with a wider range of products: bookmaker, a bazaar, milliner, government surplus supplies and hobby stores – most of these are variations on a theme! Today it is a nail bar.  Next door today's popular Fleetville Kitchen cafe was preceded by cooked meats and carpets (but not at the same time!)

The final three shops:  Santino's which is now Fleetville Larder; an insurance business which is
now a firm of solicitors; and Cleveland Glass, which now seems to have moved online.

A shop trader well known in these parts between the 1950s and the early 70s was racing cyclist Stan Miles.  He took over from a children's outfitter, and his shop, clearly a converted living room with its fireplace still in position, attracted a large number of teenagers who aspired to own a new cycle they could hardly afford.  Above the fireplace hung the "cycle of the week" which was beyond our reach in more than one way. He later moved his trade to the south side of Victoria Street.

Glenferrie Stores managed by William Lupton between shortly before
WW1.  Could the bikes be fore the delivery boys?  Typically, two shop
windows crammed with inviting products to purchase.
COURTESY IAN TONKIN

We have now reached the next corner, the one with Glenferrie Road. This is where the two terraces differ.  At the right end of the second terrace, this was always going to be a better commercial location for a corner shop, and number 133 never was a house, opening as a grocer in 1903, and among its early tenants was William Lupton, grocer.  He began here in 1906, before moving to number 63 on the corer of Laurel Road until 1914 and closing in Fleetville permanently in 1916,  For much of its life it became Brown's Hedges Farm Dairy and Express Dairies.  Until recently it was also Cleveland Glass.

This is a good opportunity to mention that the property numbers are those in use today.  Until 1932 the numbering was mere guesswork as so many plots had not been developed.  Many of the early buildings erected as homes can still be found in the street directories with their house names.