Tuesday, 16 October 2018

They Recognised Me

In May 2017 the published blog was titled "You'll Never Guess What, Mum."  It centred on a published postcard showing three young boys outside the entrance to Hill End Asylum in the early 20th century.  A selective enlargement of the threesome enabled us to see their faces clearly, and although it wasn't possible to say who they were we created a possible scenario for the day on which the photograph was taken.


It was just a photograph, and these were just three boys.  Except that one visitor to this site thought he knew more.  Dennis emailed to let us know:

"I have reason to speculate the possibility of who one or two of the boys may be. You see, My great grand father, George Goodchild was the Clerk and Superintendent at the hospital for around 30 years, from around 1896, before the first buildings had been built, up until his death around Christmas time of 1927, therefore, as I understand, he would have been the resident of Hillside house at the time that the photo was taken. Furthermore, My grandfather, Arthur Gerald Goodchild (Jerry), was born to George Goodchild and his
wife  Florence Ida Goodchild, at Hill End on the 31/10/1904.

Hillside is the house in view through the gates.

MBE awarded in 1927.
So, Dennis thinks it is likely one of the boys is his grandfather, Arthur, possibly the boy on the right.  But his grandfather had an older sibling, who is probably one of the other two, with a friend.

George Goodchild.
George was already an experienced practitioner in his field before gaining the post at Hill End as the Hill End project began, before the buildings went up and before his site house, Hillside, was completed.  He must have been dedicated to his role, for in June 1927 he was awarded an MBE for his Hill End career – Dennis retains this in the family. He died at the end of the same year.

We therefore not only have possible photos of George's two boys, but we have a photograph of George himself, published in the Herts Advertiser alongside his obituary.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Behind the Main Road

In 1924 Covington's brought to auction the property called Winches.  This former tiny farm and development opportunity was not just another site on which houses could be built.  It lay immediately beyond the city boundary and therefore in the Rural District, which meant that the future occupants would pay lower rates (now known as Council Tax).

The farmhouse and rear fields were acquired by the Institute for Tropical Medicine; the narrow field to the west of the access drive would later become the plot for a public house.  It was the front field which attracted most attention, and most of us travelling along Hatfield Road associate the development with a parade of shops and a line of semi-detached homes.

If we have noticed the side road at the eastern end, the majority of us have never travelled along it – at one time there was also a through access from the western end, but that has long since been blocked off.  There had always been a notion that the western end had never been fully completed; whether true or not this is the road known as Wynchlands Crescent.

The line of shops had always provided a useful range of retail both for everyday and specialist needs, and anyone who has attempted to park outside will have discovered that the former grass bank is just as challenging now that there is a double-height kerb!

Street party parade at the western end of Wynchlands Crescent in 1945  COURTESY ANTHONY MEYRICK
Recently we showed a photograph, one of a series submitted by Tony, with children enjoying themselves on a parade at the western end of Wynchlands Crescent.  The occasion was either VE Day or VJ Day.  Next to the end house, number 44, then owned by Mr & Mrs Brimble, was, and still is, the low fence protecting a small electricity transformer supplying power to the houses in the development.  The bystander at her front door, the right-hand porch of number 40, was undoubtedly Mrs Taylor.

When Stewart recognised the houses and one or two people, it is because he used to live just around the corner in one of the Hatfield Road houses.  He wondered whether he had been part of the street party; and it does seem possible as it would not have been possible to close Hatfield Road for such an event.

'City' Garage owned by Messrs Flowers & Etches who lived in the adjacent
The council had always retained a small depot at the eastern end of the Crescent, against the Oaklands boundary, but what was stored there I have no idea.  One further property, between that depot and the first of the even-numbered houses, was a large garage for storing a few small buses.  The owners were the partnership of Mr Flowers and Mr Etches, whose families lived in numbers 2 and 4.

New properties, The Acorns and Woodland View have now replaced those former uses.  Next time you are Oaklands way, pause at the shops and then explore Wynchlands Crescent.  Maybe even Winches Farm Drive; the old farm house can still be spotted among the homes of the new estate.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Platoon ... As You Were!

Readers can always detect when life becomes extra busy for local historians, whatever they are doing: the number of blogs per month falls.  This September has been one of the busiest on many fronts, and only one blog has so far been posted.  So just in time I am able to sneak in another one!

The previous post revealed previously unseen photos of the Home Guard, submitted by reader Tony, whose grandfather featured in the images.

You will recall that we were left with a few questions; namely, the identity of the unit, the particular event, the location of the urban space with the bus stop, and of the more rural one with the avenue of trees in the background.

de Havilland's Home Guard unit at Hatfield Park.
Thanks to Tony's uncle, who has now also seen the pictures, we  have answers to all four queries.  The event was the occasion of the final disbandment ceremony for the Home Guard in 1945.  No doubt these ceremonies occurred in most districts – there was certainly one in Market Square, St Albans.  Hatfield held its  ceremony in Hatfield Park; it is believed the units of the town  marched past the Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire.  This gives our clue to one photograph.  Crowds of people are lining a wide path watching the Home Guard units march past.  Those with an intimate knowledge of the park may well identify the avenue of trees.

de Havilland Home Guard unit at Hatfield Station.
Following the march-past this particular unit arrived at the forecourt of Hatfield Rail Station.  A map of the time reveals this was the site occupied by the present, and pleasant, modern station building and car park alongside Great North Road.  No wonder I did not recognise it with its little buildings around the open space.

Finally, Tony had let us know his grandfather had worked at de Havilland's during the Second World War.  That was the final clue, for it was indeed the de Havilland Home Guard detachment.

The discovery of these photos and the background knowledge is important.  Few HG official records remain, and almost no  members of the HG are now around.  So whatever memories they shared are now our responsibility to record and share.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Platoon ... Halt!

Let's face it, most of us are quite willing to give up an unspecified amount of time to volunteer for what we believe is a good cause.  Even this week a railway company is asking for volunteers to become Station Ambassadors at a few of its otherwise unstaffed stations.  In the 2012 Olympics there were 70,000 games makers without whose dedication the Games would not have been possible in the planned form.  Most major events since then have also seen large numbers of smiling volunteers.

It's not a new concept; volunteering has a noble and ancient history, often borne from loyalty, from protection and security, and from expectation.

The call also went out by Secretary of State Anthony Eden in May 1940.  The country needed volunteers to help defend the Home Front; he eventually got well over a million members of the Local Defence Volunteers, later known as the Home Guard.

The remaining numbers who served are so few now, and most of the accounts of their training, duties and encounters have now either been told or lost; and the official logs and other records of membership and service have long since been destroyed.  But with such a large active volunteer sector, most families resident in Britain at the time and since can count at least one, and possible many, uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents who were for various reasons unable to become part of the regular fighting Services, but who were proud members of 'Dad's Army', as it was nicknamed.

Children's parade in Wynchlands Crescent, possibly 1945 and possibly linked to a street party.

One of those remarkable discoveries occurred recently when regular SAOEE site visitor Tony uncovered 1940s photographs which included his grandfather with his platoon.  A platoon group shot is accompanied by others of the group on parade.  There are bystanding crowds and we therefore assume the occasion might be either on establishment, or when the HG stood down at the end of 1944, or perhaps when finally disbanded in December 1945.  We know that Tony's grandfather lived at Oaklands, and there is also a wonderfully happy photo of a children's parade in Wynchlands Crescent, with two of their number holding a 'God Save the King' banner.

We have not yet identified the location of the parade – but it was clearly on a bus route!

There were many HG units in St Albans, but it does seem likely that this was one based in or near Oaklands, or perhaps a works unit for de Havilland's, where Tony's grandfather worked.  Still a mystery are the locations of these parades, especially the urban open space with advertisements and a bus stop (above).  If anyone recognises the place, even though it may no longer exist, we would welcome your input.  And there is just a chance that you might recognise a 'private on parade' or a junior in Wynchlands Avenue.

Was this part of the same parade? With so many spectators it was a popular open space.
Assuming everyone was present this is the complete platoon.  These pictures were often taken at a HG training hut,
but we don't yet know where this one was.  Any ideas?

It is a great little collection which can fortunately now be shared with a wider audience.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Was It That Long Ago?

Earlier this month I began a review of 1968 – fifty years ago – and promised to continue recollections of that year in the East End of St Albans in the autumn.  Realising that September onwards will be very busy, with the anticipated new St Albans' Own East End website, I should probably complete the 1968 review earlier rather than later.  So here it is!

Marshalswick was blessed with two bus routes, 354 and 341.  The latter arrived via Sandridge Road and Pondfield Crescent, terminating at a stop near Kingshill Avenue in Sherwood Avenue.  However, with the newly opened Sherwood recreation ground, the terminating bus stop was seen to be a potential danger.  The Herts Advertiser gave no explanation of the potential danger, but the bus was changed to terminate one stop back – but it still presumably passed the entrance to the rec on its return journey via Kingshill Avenue.

St Albans Rural District Council engaged Belfrey Building Systems to construct 151 homes and flats for the elderly in The Ridgeway and Chiltern Road, near to the former Marshalswick School.  Part of this development has already been replaced, probably making it first second generation property in Marshalswick estate.

de la Rue, already well known for its security and currency services in Porters Wood, now opened a third building in Lyon Way for currency counting machines and cash issuing systems.

New bridge approach in Sandpit Lane.
July brought some confusion to motorists with the complete closure of Sandpit Lane bridge for rebuilding.  An emergency weight limit had been in place.  Pedestrians were able to cross the railway on a temporary structure – the first time they had protection, for the old bridge was too narrow for footpaths.

It was announced that there is a severe shortage of teaching space at Marshalswick School.  Not surprising given that only half a school was constructed in the first place, 1959, due to shortage of funds.

Ronald George with one of his works at Arlow Gallery.
Ronald George, a former pupil of Beaumont and Marshalswick schools, presented an exhibition of his work at Arlow Gallery, George Street.

Marshalswick Free Baptist Church opened in Sherwood Avenue.  The church had previously occupied The Tabernacle in Victoria Street, from which it had brought its original organ, suitably adapted and rebuilt.  The building was designed and built by Johnson Fuller Ltd.  The church was full for its first service.

Traffic signals at the Five Ways junction between Beech Road and Marshalswick Lane have been installed.  To make the junction working more straightforward Marshals Drive was severed from the junction and diverted onto Marshalswick Lane opposite Gurney Court Road.  That leaves the other Five Ways junction – The Crown – still without lights.

The Lyon Way company of Tractor Shafts has won a silver award for its automatic potato planting machine.

Much needed remodelling and new buildings have been completed at Oaklands Agricultural College, which is responsible for three farms (Oaklands, Hill End and Bayfordbury) totalling over 700 acres.  There are now 100 residential students and over 300 part-time students on day release and evening courses.

Sunday, 12 August 2018


This week we are opening up our diaries for 1968, exactly fifty years ago.  Some of us were not then born, others will recall some of the events readily.  No further explanation, so here goes:

Nearby residents uneasy about a rubber factory in their road, were relieved to discover Belpar Rubber planned to move from Albion Road to the new Butterwick industrial area.

Hatfield Laundry, where the Emporium was until recently, opened a new premises in Wellfield Road, Hatfield.  It also traded in Wheathampstead.

The Ministry of Transport had long intended a series of pedestrian underpasses across newly widened London Road at Whitecroft, Drakes Drive and Mile House.  The City Council wanted traffic lights instead; we now know who won that battle!

Clifton's, the Smallford manufacturers of system buildings – no longer in business – announced it would also supply plant hire vehicles.  The company was located in Smallford Lane at the former access to Butterwick Farm.  Other businesses occupy the site today.

It was proposed that Hill End level crossing will be lowered to road level now that the railway has fully closed.  The height difference was eight feet and the ramp quite steep.

Marconi Instruments Ltd is to invest further at its Longacres premises, and at a three-storey block on the previous Fleetville b Ballito site, now Morrison's.

Mr A Hobbs owned 2 acres of land in Colney Heath Lane, including a filled-in dew pond.  He has tried farming it, creating an orchard, growing Christmas trees and rearing animals, but the land remained waterlogged.  He had applied for permission to build houses in 1964 and now does so again.  He was refused once more, but, from the close named after him, we deduce he eventually got his wish!

Mr W H Laver, founder of the timber importer
and trader.
At the end of March Nottcuts, a business with several garden centre outlets, announced that it had purchased the nurseries at Smallford belonging to Sear & Carter.

W H Laver, timber merchants with several branches including opposite Fleetville Recreation Ground where Morrison's Refuel is, is celebrating the centenary of its opening at Corner Hall Wharf, Hemel Hempstead.

Discussions ensued about trying to reduce the amount of traffic on the ring road.  As we know this was easily achieved in the end by not calling it a ring road!

Sherriff's, the farming family which had a long-established garden shop near Hatfield Station, opened a shop at The Quadrant.  It was located on the Ridgeway corner where Giffen's Electrical had been and where more recently is Ladbrokes.

Hatfield College of Technology.
Hatfield College of Technology, first established as a result of apprenticeship schemes with de Havilland Aircraft Company, became a Polytechnic in 1968; the first step on the road to becoming the University of Hertfordshire.

Two students from Beaumont School, Glen Wade and Malcolm Turner, were winners of a cookery competition at Hertfordshire County Show.

All of that in six months; so having reached the middle of 1968, I will pause until the Autumn before discovering what else was making the East End news fifty years ago.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Meet Me at the Drill Hall

In our, sometimes traumatic, re-living of the First World War and the churning over of the ethics and morals, inhumanity and desperation, we have reached, with much relief, close to the end. Not that anyone was in a position to confirm that at the time.  Nor was The End anything other than the the Armistice and the laying down of weapons.  There are always consequences, and for countless families it was barely the beginning of new struggles in the lives to be lived in the future.

There used to be a building in Hatfield Road, almost opposite the Marlborough Almshouses, called the Drill Hall.  Drill halls were part of town life all over the country and became the headquarters of the local defence corps, now known as the Territorial Army.

As we observe from an advertisement which appeared in the Herts Advertiser in April 1918, Captain Charles Dunning of the 23rd Herts Volunteers implored every able and willing man up to the age of 60 to meet him at the Drill Hall.  This was one of many such calls even at this late hour for men to fill a variety of duties, for fighting and for support.  The battle was not yet won.

For those who came to meet Dunning or other officers, and signed up for active duty at or behind the Front, there would then be, perhaps two or three months of training undertaken locally and then in centralised camps in other parts of the UK.  By August recruits, whether volunteers or conscripts, and both from a steadily depleted pool of available men, were fully on duty.

One such man extracted from that pool in April and sent to the lines in early autumn was Thomas W Carter, who was living with his wife and children in Hatfield Road.  Since 1916 he had successfully appealed against conscription on several occasions.  He ran a successful business.  In his defence he continued to stress his work as agricultural, a key term given the extreme shortage of some foodstuffs.  In peacetime it had been a nursery and garden contracts business – and would be again – but in wartime the emphasis had changed.

Ada and Thomas on holiday after the war.

Thomas' luck ran out in April 1918.  At his final appearance at the Tribunal the latest appeal was turn down. By autumn he was in France, and the active part of his duty lasted barely a fortnight.  Within days of November 11th, Thomas' wife received news of  injuries to her husband's thigh, neck and arm.  His right leg was amputated below the hip.

Following treatment he was returned home; the business of Sear & Carter continued and was later taken on by his children.

The Drill Hall focused people's attention on their collective duty as they perceived it, and the decisions they made on the day they signed up.  But the consequences were far-reaching for all.