Sunday, 30 December 2012

Newcomers?

Two items of news were announced recently, although only one was directly connected with St Albans' East End.  On the site of part of Hedges Farm the decision to authorise construction of the proposed rail freight depot arrived from the Government.  As with most controversial decisions, individuals will, inevitably, stress those aspects of the project which support their own point of view.  It might be loss of farmland, increase in noise or traffic; or it might be more job opportunities or a chance to improve the bypass, especially at the two roundabouts.  I'm not taking sides on this one!

The second item also affects farmland, and this time it is very much in our own yard.  The simmering  proposal, now made more urgent by the loss of government funding for upgrading Oaklands College at what it calls its Smallford site (but is actually at Oaklands), the college intends a large number of homes and a link road at the former Oaklands Agricultural College.  There is also an intention – at least in outline – to develop an unspecified area along Coopers Green Lane and at Little Nast Hyde Farm.  In total several hundred homes would be built.

Once again I do not intend to take sides.  But I do remember there being a paragraph in Sir Patrick Abercrombie's Greater London Plan set out during WW2, where he firmly rejected the idea of further development between St Albans and Hatfield which would risk the two towns coalescing.  And that was before Hatfield New Town arrived and before St Albans council allocated industrial and retail sites to Butterwick Wood (there is not much left of the Wood these days, either!).  On the other hand, let's remind ourselves of other farms which subsequently grew houses instead.  If we live in one of those "new" homes, or in one formerly on extensive nurseries which had helped to feed the local population, or Londoners, how to we form our argument to deny others the right to a home?  The answer might lie in where those new residences could or should be constructed.  Does anyone have ideas about where, in the East End of St Albans, or around Hatfield, new homes might be constructed for the young families of tomorrow?

Until seventy years ago fields here grazed cows and produced cereals.



Saturday, 8 December 2012

Percy Hall

Many wonderful stories about the East End of St Albans are emerging as news of Volume 1 spreads, or through contacts with Fleetville Diaries.  A ninety-one year old who spent his early years in Clarence Road.  The grandson of the manager of Patience, Butcher, at the Crown – Aberdeen House as it was called then, on the corner of Albion Road and Hatfield Road.  The family of Mr Hobbs, owner of the Hatfield Road garage which is now Kwik-Fit, whose home had been in Colney Heath Lane.  Then there is a former teacher who has remained in the house her parents purchased on the Beaumonts estate in 1937.  And the family of the first landlord of the pub with a unique name: the Bunch of Cherries, which began life as a pair of builders' huts.

Fleetville Saloons 195 Hatfield Road
Finally, this week the family of hairdresser Percy Hall has been sharing details of the various properties in Hatfield Road, and in Cambridge Road, in which his business prospered.  The one most of us whose memory extends back that far is 195 (now the New World shop).  But others had been next to the Liberal Club and next to former Ben Pelly opposite the Cemetery.  However, it was discovered that for a short time the very first shop was at Bycullah Terrace, where currently Londis trades.  It was great to discover the second photograph (below), where Smith's, bakers (later Spurriers and ABC) is on the left and the premises which is still a house in this picture, where Kendall's traded.


Fleetville Saloons, 211 Hatfield Road, c1935
There are four new schools photos on the website this week, all from the former Marshalswick Boys' School where music teacher Neil Hamilton developed and maintained a number of choirs, bands and other groups.  Also in the Group Pictures section is the Marconi football squad of 1960, when they were County League Champions.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Smallford launch

To follow up the recent blog about Smallford, I was pleased to be in the audience last Wednesday evening for the official launch of the Smallford project, which includes a restoration of the former station building and a funded stories project based on the recollections and research work undertaken by Smallford residents.  Jeff took us through the details of the projects and, through his open and enthusiastic approach, he gently encouraged his audience  to volunteer.  So, in the next year or two, look east for some real community work in action.

Fleetville Diaries, the "local history people" group has now reached another milestone, with the notice of its annual general meeting, and as with many groups it aims to keep this formality to a minimum about of time at its Wednesday meeting this week.  No long (or even short) reports; no endless voting for officers and committee members.  Just a brief annual report and confirmation that is all is well – if that is agreed by those present – and on to the more interesting element of the evening.

During the past few months a number of letters and emails have been received, some of them with photographs, and we will be bringing some fascinating information to the attention of everyone.  To discover more you just have to be there!


Sales of the book have begun to increase as Christmas approaches, and already half of the number of copies of the second printing of Volume 1 have been sold.  If you would like your copy signed by the author you must order it through the website.  If you would like a Subscribers' Edition copy of Volume 2, again, you need to order it through the website by the end of January.  The number of copies of this edition which will be printed will be determined by the number of orders received.  If you would rather wait, copies of the general edition will be on sale from the end of March next.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

As time goes by

During the past month I have been engaged in the laborious task of checking the text for Volume 2.  Checking for meaning and context, for spelling and punctuation, and maybe for repetition, if a similar point had been made on the previous page, for example.  Readers will have realised something was up, since there was no blog last week.  It is only when sitting in front of a computer screen, morning after morning, that I realise how much I really do not know, and that in spite of a fairly massive photo library, how many subjects remain partly or wholly unrepresented in my collection.  But then, where would we go if we knew everything, and what would happen to our interest in photography, and in the places we discover, if our image collection was already complete?  

During the past fortnight I have met, or spoken to by phone or email, people who are arranging to spring a Christmas surprise on friends or family with a copy of St Albans' Own East End – and of course I have to be part of that surprise if they live in St Albans.  It is a very personal relationship an author has with his readers if they come face to face with a book's author at their own front door.

Recently some interesting events have been happening at Smallford, with a surge in interest in the little district traditionally known as The Horseshoes.  A few residents are beginning to garner recollections and offer local knowledge about the place where they live.  Although well-known by a few, it does surprise others, that there was, in the 1930s a greyhound track, which then became a motorcycle speedway track.  Today, it is still possible to discern where it was, between the footpath on the east side of the garden centre and the pond to the west of Popefield Farm.  The latter building does, in itself, have a considerable history with documentary references in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.  I was fortunate enough to be able to be welcomed inside in the 1950s to what I recall as a very solid structure with strongly constructed staircase and a kitchen with a range at the rear.  But when you are a child you do not take that much notice of architectural details.

Also this week I was speaking to someone who also grew up on the Beaumonts estate at the same time as me, and whose father was also in the Home Guard, training on the vacant ground where Hazelwood Drive north is now.  So her father is probably in this photograph, which I publish again in the hope that more faces might be identified.  My father is sitting second from the right end of the front row.  Can we locate one or two more of our fathers, grandfathers, uncles or next-door neighbours?


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Smallford on Mud

Readers of this blog may have wondered why there was no new post last weekend.  The reason was a busy and very successful St Albans and District Local History Network Conference, the second such event to be held at Verulamium Museum.  The day was packed with a most interesting and varied programme of presentations from those engaged in projects around the district.  There was a report by District Archaeologist Simon West about the recent discovery of a hoard of gold coins.  Chris Green gave a fascinating report about his research, over a number of years, about the Old Town Hall.  New and existing books were reported on, and we were fortunate to be able to dip into developments at Redbourn Museum.  Just a few of the 18 talks to a lecture room full of excited people.

I must mention one more, because Smallford Residents' Association is planning an interesting future on two fronts.  It intends to create a history group and develop a range of stories based on the hamlet.  It also has an interest in the former railway station building adjacent to Alban Way and now largely hidden from view by undergrowth.  Fortunately it is also protected by boundary fencing and the fact that it finds itself on privately owned property.  On Monday of last week a group of us were able to make a visit – hence the caption Smallford on Mud – and gain access to the neat little timber structure and to the former stationmaster's house.  I listened while enthusiastic members of SRA spoke of their intention to renovate the station, and their plans for future uses further down the line – as it were!










Now, this time last year I opened an invitation to order a special limited edition version of Volume 1 of the book.  As those who purchased it will know, the otherwise-identical edition was a burgundy clothbound book with gold lettering, separate illustrated jacket and ribbon marker.  Each purchaser had a unique number printed in the front and their name added to the list of subscribers.

The time has come to repeat this opportunity for Volume 2 and within the next day or so, full details will be posted on the website.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Pinewood Close

The homes which were built on the south side of Hatfield Road in the 1920s had very long back gardens which extended as far as Oakdene Way.  Many of the houses were also detached so the widths were also generous.  These were the homes westwards of Longacres.  Of course, until this road was opened up just before WW2 – formerly there had been a track which led to the Hill End brickworks – the long gardens could only be accessed from Hatfield Road.  Once the brickworks had closed the land was opened up.  Part of it became smallholding land, and there was a wartime pig club too.  In the 1950s there was talk of buying the far end of the gardens, with the intention of driving a road through and constructing houses.  All this happened when I was a child and little did I realise how much of the gardens would be lost.  Today there is the width of Pinewood Close with its footpath, and the footprint of the Pinewood Close houses and their front and back gardens.  Today Pinewood reaches as far as the eastern end of the Willow estate; the boundary between Beaumonts Farm and Hill End Farm.
The entrance to Pinewood Close from Longacres.

And we think that building on people's back gardens is a recent practice.











Another question answered:  Among the correspondence received this week has come a solution to the long-standing question on this website: what is the origin of the road Swans Walk (with or without its apostrophe) ?

Ben Swan first came to St Albans in the 1890s and launched a small business dealing in bicycles.  Later this grew into a car business which launched the name Marlborough Motors.  Once he had retired Mr Swan built a house in Colney Heath Lane, which he named Marlborough House (there was, of course, another Marlborough House, owned by Samuel Ryder).  The present bungalow development is on the site of Mr Swan's house, and the road is therefore named after him.

Kendall's:  Mention has been made previously of Stanton's timber and coal business in Castle Road.  A member of the Kendall family has informed me that the coal business was sold to the Kendall family. Of course the Kendall business flourished in Bycullah Terrace and diversified into other areas; indeed, the Kendall name it still above the door.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

October conference

Last October the newly-formed St Albans and District Local History Network brought sixty or so people together for a one-day conference to share the research and other projects they had all been engaged in.

Well, it's October again, and the Network is holding its second conference, such was the success of the first.  It is being hosted by Verulamium Museum and is on October 27th, beginning at 10:30.  Almost all of the places have now been booked but there are still five places left.  If you have nothing better to do on that Saturday and don't need to concern yourself that it is the first weekend of the half-term break, email sanetwork@me.com to reserve your place.  There will be some fascinating presentations throughout the day.

The latest search for pictures and recollections concerns a section of Ashley Road.  From the former railway to Drakes Drive it was just a farm track until the 1960s.  On one side of the track was T W Russell and the St Albans Brush Company.  On the other was the former brickworks,  the old pits being filled in with the town's rubbish.  Holloway Brothers, building contractors, used the site as a base, and the first modern building to appear next to the railway track was Post Office Telephones.

When the brickworks arrived in 1899 a group of three cottages were erected opposite Cambridge Road, for employees, given that the location was remote from all other housing at the time.  The properties were demolished in the 1960s to enable the industrial estate to be built.

I am searching for photographs of the cottages and/or the trackway, commonly known then as the Ashpath and the Cinder Track.  In addition, if you have any recollections of this area I would be pleased to hear from you.  Currently there is no known picture of the old bridge over the railway here either.   Email the author on saoee@me.com



This little incident (right) occurred in August 1955; the location was Camp Road railway bridge.  Were you among the onlookers?  Did you see or hear the derailment?  Did your parents tell you about it?  The line was restricted to freight at this time; passenger traffic, such as it was, ceased in 1951.  Nevertheless, getting this loco back on the rails again was a bit more difficult than lifting the loco on your 00 model railway!



Sunday, 7 October 2012

It's no longer there!

Every so often I come to my senses.  It is possible to become so used to the street scene which is in the here and now, but totally obliterate from my mind the street scene which used to be.  Then searching for photographs of the former layout and land use, draw a blank.  I can give you any number of pictures of the Clock Tower or the Cathedral, or a different photo of St Peter's Street for every day of the year.  But there are locations which never were photogenic or important enough for anyone to use time and a length of film to record what was there, even once.  And that's a shame.

Here are two examples from this week's problem-solving exercise.  We now think of Albion Road as being almost exclusively residential.  I know that many residents will remember buying fish 'n' chips on the right-hand side going down.  After number 25 on the left are some rather impressive two-and-a-half storey homes (right).  They are newish, which raises the question of what was there before, since the rest of this little estate is around 120 years old.   Just one picture has turned up of the former buildings.  Dye works, cleaners, iron foundry, rubber works; all were here at some point, but presumably only one owner at a time.

Does anyone have other Albion Road pictures which also show these industrial buildings within an otherwise residential street?








In a nearby location I am unable to find even one picture of the site.  It is on a corner of the former Gaol Field at the Stanhope Road end of Camp Road, which used to be a small nursery.  These houses (right) occupy the site today but until the 1950s the first house on this side of the road was number 12.

According to the street directories it was known as Yokohama Nursery Co Ltd, in the ownership of Mr A Dimmock.  It appears to have been a nursery since the mid 1920s, which is when the Corporation, then in ownership of the prison estate, began to sell the field adjacent to the building.



Does anyone have a photograph of this nursery, or any sales or marketing literature for it?  The author would like to make a former piece of the east end better known than it is.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Walking to the shops

Saturday afternoon, September 29th, Fleetville.  Around two dozen of us gathered for a gentle walk from Morrison's to the Crown.  We stopped every hundred yards or so to discover the history of the development which became the marketing people's "Mile of Shops".  Bycullah Terrace, which appeared old enough at 1900, was finally trumped by a trio of shops at the Crown, which could could be traced back to the mid 1890s.  In between were a multiplicity of former semi-detached houses and short terraces, which at some point in their long lives were transformed into shops.  There were those premises which had never been anything else, and the prize here must go to Fleetville Cafe.  There have been interesting companions, such as a pair of little grocer's shops next door-but-one to each other.  Or the Crown end having three butcher's shops within a hundred yards of each other.

There are also occasional shops no longer with us, such as Sear and Carter's florist's shop which has now been replaced by St Paul's Place; Grimaldi's old garage which has been replaced by two large new shops; the old Con Club building where the two original shop spaces have been re-instated in style as food establishments; and the newish flats on the old Plymouth Brethren site which incorporated a ground floor shop unit (even though it is not being used for that purpose).

There is an intriguing background to Hatfield Road and its shops, which are still largely local businesses for local needs.

Accompanying us on our walk were also members of two well-known Fleetville retailing families: Percy Hall's Hairdressing Saloons and P H Stone's Newsagents.

A call from a brick researcher

A request has come my way from Roger Miles:
"A significant part of Bernards Heath saw brick-making carried on in the past.
A number of old clay-pits can still be seen on either side of the length of
Harpenden Road through the Heath. These local bricks are identifiable by
their appearance, a strong red or orange-red colour usually and a distinctly
sandy texture throughout - not just sand dusted in the mould to help release
the brick. Some of the bricks also have the maker's name or initials in the frog
(the hollow in the top). Alterations to Victorian/Edwardian period houses often
produce examples of identifiable local bricks. A prominent maker on the Heath
was Jacob Reynolds and Dixon is another name.
Bricks of similar type were made at other sites around St Albans and will
probably only be distinguishable if lettered.

It would be of interest to hear of finds of bricks of the type described, which
have lettering in the frog. Bernards Heath brick-making stopped early in the
20th century, so houses built after 1920, say, would be unlikely to contain
Heath bricks, unless re-used.  Details to note are:
The three dimensions of the brick (ins or cms), colour, lettering in the frog,
address of the building and, if known, date of construction. Photo if possible.

N.B. Any bricks that are pink or pink-red, hard and smooth, with LBC or
PHORPRES or FLETTON in the frog are definitely not of local manufacture.
Other, common, 'foreign' bricks of the period, from Bedfordshire, are rough, but
not sandy, and purple, purple-red or purple-grey in colour."

If you have any information for Roger, he may be contacted at rogmiles@compuserve.com

Friday, 21 September 2012

Finding the station

There is a path running alongside my house and it was perfectly usable last year.  Now weeds and shrubby stalks that look as if they might turn into trees at any time, have blocked the access.  All of this in twelve months.

The last train was in 1951; no more waiting passengers.
So I have some sympathy with the folk at Smallford who have a plan.  The Residents' Association would like to rescue the platform building which was the Smallford (earlier Springfield) railway station along the old Great Northern route between St Albans and Hatfield.  What is stopping them is the difficulty of locating the station, and even greater difficulty gaining access to the space on which it stands.

After the railway was closed the yard was occupied by firms which required open storage space.  In the 1960s the platform and structure were clearly visible and accessible.  Some time later the boundary fence was moved to the front of the platform and because the additional space did not provide any benefit to the commercial operation, weeds, shrubs and small trees used the opportunity to do what plants do best; they grew.

It is probable that the decision to close off the station has protected it.  Not only has the foliage sheltered the walls, but damage from vandalism would have been less likely.

The remains of the platform at Nast Hyde Halt.
Smallford Residents' Association are to be congratulated for committing itself to such a restoration project, but it is, of course, dependant on receiving grant-aid for the work involved; and the organisation should know whether its has been successful during the next few weeks.

Next week the blog will be devoted to the forthcoming St Albans and District Local History Network conference at Verulamium Museum on October 27th.  Any local group with historical and community interests will be part of the Network if they wish to be and all they need to to is register an email address or other contact detail with the Network at sanetwork.me.com


Anyone who would like to attend the conference on Saturday October 27th may apply for a delegate place on the same email.  There are currently about 25 places available.  Further news, including the programme for the day, will appear on next week's blog.


Sunday, 9 September 2012

Chandlers Wood

Entry to Chandlers Wood from Skyswood Road.
Following my walk along Highfield Lane the previous week, I chose a destination today which I had not visited for fifty years.  I wanted to start and finish in two small remnants of old woodland:  Skys Wood and Chandlers Wood.

Once again the morning was warm, with a clear azure sky; not too hot up the hill which is Kingshill Avenue and its well-proportioned Nash-built homes with their first floor shutters, many of which remain in place.  Queen's Crescent connects with Skyswood Road where is found the main entrance to Chandler's Wood.

Back at Skys Wood the pocket of trees is relatively open with sunlight streaming down to the woodland floor, and occasional walkers being taken by their dogs on a morning stroll or brisk run.  Close by is the children's playground, quite busy as I passed by.

Little sunlight reaches the woodland floor at Chandlers Wood.
While I had often visited Skys Wood – and in any survey I would expect a substantial majority of active people have – I doubt whether more than a small minority have entered the altogether darker, denser planting of Chandlers Wood.  It is hemmed in on all sides by the ends of gardens along Sherwood Avenue, the dog-legged Skyswood Road, Bentsley Close and The Ridgeway.  You are constantly aware of fencing panels around the perimeter, but it is just as easy to become absorbed in the scuttling of birds and squirrels, and the breaking of small twigs underfoot.  I discovered once more the steep-sided dell which may, at some distant time in the past, have been the source of chalk for liming or building.

Neither remnant suggests ancient wild wood, but of long-neglected managed woodland tapped for the timber it produced for building.  Not one human – with or without a dog – made a visit during the half-hour I was there, but occasionally there was evidence of activity: small piles of cut branches and quartered trunks.

Though I had become used to the cool interior, stepping out into the sunlight again reminded me that this was a morning with the temperatures in the mid twenties.



The Uno bus firm could have chosen its colours to match the Olympic palette.  If it had been asked to provide bus services in an around the Olympic Park, its smart fleet would have been quite at home, adorned in its pinks and purples.  It wasn't, but the company was, like a family dressed in its best clothes, able to promote the Games just by being itself.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Highfield Lane

On a beautifully calm and sunny morning in late August I walked along Highfield Lane, from the shops at Russet Drive to the noisy bypass.  When walking there is time to observe, time to spot details which otherwise pass un-noticed.  For example, in all the years I have used this lane never had I previously spotted that the name board has had an alteration applied to it.  I had rather taken it for granted that a name as long as Tyttenhanger Green might be abbreviated on a traffic sign to Tyttenhanger.  Someone had clearly taken offence, as the letters GN had been added as an afterthought.

Forgotten had been the wooden finger sign at the T junction.  But there it was, just peeping out from the foliage of the colourful planting next to the bench seat.

The tree trail has been created to follow the new footpath near Starlight Way, with a sizeable hedge separating it from the road on that side, so that it is possible to only see the first floors and roofs of Home Farm Cottages opposite.  I made a mental note to search for the origin of the name Cranwell used for the new homes nearby.

Peaceful walks may be had through Highfield Wood towards Nightingale Lane and, leaning against a field gate at one point it was only the occasional and far-away sound which disturbed the silence.  Further along, a horse was being moved from a paddock across the road to Highfield Farm and a chain saw began its work to cut through the branches of a group of tall fir trees at Highfield Hall.

The hedges were bulging with hips and displaying the last of the bright flowers, and just around the corner at the Hall was the straight green lane which leads to the junction of Nightingale Lane and the bypass at London Colney roundabout.

It might be thought that the return journey to Russet Drive would offer me a repeat of what I had already seen, but some vistas can only be appreciated, or even seen for the first time, when facing that direction.  So, diagonally across the fields to the east was the line of Tyttenhanger Green homes which line the road as far as Hixberry Lane.


Then there was the sign in part of what is now Highfield, formerly Hill End, which informs us by the Football Foundation  that the sports field was the home of St Albans City Youth Football Club.  This prompted me to recall how many acres of ground on many fields have been given over to sports clubs in the East End of St Albans.

There are times when it is instructive and rewarding to leave the car at home, or at least to park somewhere safely and proceed on foot.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Creating an atmosphere

The fourth of this year's guided walks in Fleetville took place on Saturday 25th September.  Called Laid to Rest in Fleetville, it took the form of a walk around the pleasant cemetery in Hatfield Road, pausing every so often near to a headstone and hear a story associated with the person or family laid to rest at that spot.

We hear about Jonas Ellingham, stationmaster at London Road, who was
callously murdered by his wife.
Sixteen stories were told about artists and entertainers, businessmen and retailers, farmers and researchers.  We were pleased to have in our company the grandson of Percival Cherry Blow, a notable architect of St Albans.  We were also able to take a look inside the chapel which was last given a makeover in 1945.

It was a wonderfully atmospheric afternoon, with rumbling thunder and occasional flashes of lightning around us though, thankfully, not overhead.  One downpour in the middle of our walk did not cause us to run for shelter.  Instead, we raised our brollies, donned our waterproof gear and carried on.

Laid to Rest has been the most eagerly anticipated new walk this year, and there are already plans to create a second Laid to Rest for next year, with a number of new stories.  Though we will repeat this year's walk, perhaps with adaptations.

The first printing of St Albans' Own East End is now almost exhausted, and the decision has been made to order a reprint.  New copies should be available in about four weeks.  It is always good to reach this point, since it confirms that the first print run was not over-optimistic, and an author usually enjoys the prospect of a book continuing to be in demand!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Joining the book club

While the east side of St Albans has Boggy Mead Spring and Ellen Brook, both of which flow directly into the Colne, the west and south of the city are custodians of the Ver.  The east did have at least one stream which flowed directly into the Ver, but the fall of the water table in the aquifer below ground has meant that no-one alive today was witness to these watercourses.

I have posted here previously that the period 2011 to 2013 is a golden age for local publishing.  Joining St Albans' Own East End Volume 1 is now The River Ver: a meander through time which was launched appropriately at Moor Mill, Bricket Wood, yesterday, August 18th.

Although the author is Jacqui Banfield-Taylor, the task has been a shared one with her father Ted Banfield, who died leaving his dream book unfinished.  Jacqui picked up the task and the result is this  delightful A4-sized book.  It is not just a collection of views of the river.  The book explores life and history along the entire length of the Ver from its uncertain bubbling source just across the border in Bedfordshire to its confluence with the Colne at Bricket Wood.

It is a Halsgrove publication, so, welcome to another local book.

If you have been clicking on external links on the main St Albans' Own East End website, and then not  able to find your way back without starting again, many apologies.  The link should take you to a new page, so that the page you left is still underneath.  I will try to resolve the problem as soon as possible.

Among the new photographs recently arrived are four from Oakwood Primary School, of which three have been added to the School Groups page this week.  Class groups are great, because there are around thirty young and mainly smiling people waiting to be identified!  If you attended Oakwood in the 1960s, or know people who did, do take a look.


Saturday, 11 August 2012

The horse mystery

Having taken a short break in order to give my total patriotic support to the competitors in the various sports of the Olympic Games, I am now turning my mind to a topic which is mentioned regularly whenever the topic turns to the Hatfield Road Cemetery.

"You know there are horses buried there."

Really?

I first heard about this rumour several years ago, but it appears to have had a resurgence since the staging of Morpurgo's book "War Horse."

View west from the green burial area.
St Albans District Council's Management Plan 2008 also refers to this mystery: "Rumour has it that a large grave or pit at the back of the cemetery, and now surrounded by hedges, was used to bury horses, infected with anthrax, that died during the First World War.  However, there is no documentary evidence to support this theory."

This quote does state DURING the First World War; in other words, the war itself may have been incidental; it was simply a period of time.  If true, these would not have been horses returning from the front, but local horses.  But the question remains: why would the owner/s of any kind of animal have been granted burial rights in a burial ground designed and reserved for people?  It is true that "the back of" the cemetery did not come into use for burials until after WW1.  The copse of trees adjacent to the railway was there in an arial photo c1920, but the other tree planting along the boundary is more recent.  The ground south of the nearby path shows no sign of a fenced off area.

It is, of course, entirely possible that animals may have been buried in the field while it was still in agricultural use and before being purchased by the Council.

Many of use have talked around this subject without coming to any conclusion.  It may be one of those rumours which persist – just like the one which suggests Hatfield Road was part of the Earl Salisbury's  'gout road' which he paid for, or the one suggesting Owen's Brickworks supplied the bricks for the building of Hill End Asylum: neither of these appears to be true.

So, if you have any evidence which will lead to the efficacy of the horse story, or not, I would be delighted to hear from you.  You may have heard the story, but knowing the story is not enough.  If the evidence can't be found, then the horse story will have to remain one of Fleetville's legends.


Sunday, 29 July 2012

A classful of faces

Fleetville Infants Class 1950 – all forty-six of us, plus Miss Randall of course.
Recently, from New Zealand arrived this photograph, capturing a young class from Fleetville Infants' School in 1950.  Around 45 children and their teacher sat patiently around the side of the small building, waiting for the cue to say "cheese".  Now, what would any Key Stage One teacher today say of the prospect of steering that number of young minds through the early years section of the National Curriculum?  Although a year older than me, there are many children who I recognised, either by name or by face; some immediately, but with others a hazy recognition emerged but slowly.  Anthony, who sent the picture, had identified a fair proportion of the children – with the help of one or two friends who also appear.

This is where the rest of us can help.  As you can see from the version of the picture on the website www.stalbansowneastend.co.uk  – and now sitting on a brand-new page reserved for school group pictures – a few faces are presently unknown.  If you identify yourself, or a class friend, would you let the author know: saoee@me.com  More group pictures will follow shortly.


This used to be Rollings' site; before that it used to be Oakley's
The second photograph was one of many taken on one of those brilliantly blue-skied mornings we are occasionally blessed with.  Down at ground level, however, the space is quite empty.  Here, in Camp Road and next to the Camp public house, had been a large blue warehouse shed, first erected for the wholesale confectioner and tobacconist J B Rollings and Co Ltd, which, until c1970 had its premises in Hatfield Road.  Before that move, the site had been what remained of Oakley's Dairy Unit, whose fields had long since been swallowed up by homes, whose occupants were potential customers requiring milk!  The wholesome white stuff was therefore brought in for processing and bottling.  I am sure there are many interesting stories about Oakley's which have not yet surfaced.  If you have a tale to tell, visited the premises, worked there or retain a clear recollection of the buildings and the dairy operation, do email saoee@me.com This will support the stories already known about the delivery side of the business.  Meanwhile, progress on the redevelopment of this site will be followed with interest.

Finally, twenty-five of us enjoyed a guided walk this week around residential streets in parts of Fleetville north of Hatfield Road.  While a number are regulars on our summer walks, we also enjoy meeting with locals who are joining us for the first time.  Appearing for the first time this year is Laid to Rest in Fleetville.  There is less walking involved but we will sharing brief stories of some former residents who have been 'laid to rest' in Hatfield Road Cemetery.  This has clearly been a popular theme, as by the time this blog appears it is possible there will be no more places left – remember, it is essential to book ahead through Fleetville Diaries.  In which case, look out for the walk appearing again in the FD programme.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Incoming pictures

Among the photographs recently loaned or given to the author are one or two stunning subjects sent in by Darren.

First, are two great studies for J H Stanton and Son, who ran a wood business in Castle Road.  As I understand it, there is a distinction between wood and timber; in that the latter has been cut and prepared for further use, whereas wood has been cut from the tree but otherwise not seasoned and cut to size.  I am sure there will be readers of this blog who will correct me if I am wrong.  In the photograph shown is a stack of wood, and there are logs lying around.  The company also described itself as a wood merchant.

The firm was based at number 84 Castle Road, and also occupied the space where the newer houses on the corner of Burleigh Road are, as well as the yard that later became St John's Ambulance Brigade site, behind the house.

John Stanton came to St Albans around 1907 and lost no time in setting up his trade, although he began by working at one of the many gravel pits in the area.  The company was still in business in 1960, according to the Kelly's Directory of that year.








Next we turn our attention to Peake's, a quality clothing manufacturer in Hatfield Road, opposite Clarence Park.  Neither the firm or its buildings are there now, but  memories of former employees abound.  However, there are too few photos, both of the buildings and the people engaged in their normal working tasks.  Fortunately two pictures were received recently by Sheila, whose mother was employed by the firm in the 1950s.  A larger version of this picture will appear in the group pictures page of the website; you may recognise a relative of yours, and if so the author would be eager to hear from you.


Finally, a postcard tracked down by Andy, arrived in the post.  A wreath forms the pictorial element of the card, but at the bottom is printed:

Established 1797.  Messrs J and J E Watson.   New Zealand Nursery, Hatfield Road, St Albans.

This address covered three different sites.  The main nursery was alongside Lattimore Road on part of what is now Loreto College.  They also had a site where the Cavendish estate was eventually built, and they used land at Smallford.  A definitive explanation of the name New Zealand in the firm's name is still being sought.







At Fleetville Diaries we are looking forward to our next guided walk on Wednesday evening (for details, see the Fleetville Diaries website – it is essential to book as the number of places is limited to 25).  We will be perambulating along some of Fleetville's roads to discover how the developments took place and who lived where.

Finally, the long-standing question of the speedway track at Smallford has at last been confirmed.  The 1937 large-scale Ordnance Survey map shows the track circuit, together with a structure which may have been a modest grandstand, halfway along the eastern side – although "grand" is probably too grand a word for its possible size.  Entry to the site was from Hatfield Road, immediately to the west of the long and narrow Popefield pond alongside Hatfield Road.  The site may still be seen from Google Earth.  Find Popefield Farm; then locate Nottcuts Garden Centre.  In the space between can be seen the distinct shrubby rectangle of the track site.  Perhaps a field walk in Ellenbrook Fields Country Park may reveal some surface evidence of the stand and trackway.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

An Olympic event

Torchbearer Farida Ussmane walking her flame past
Queen's Court, Hatfield Road.
I don't know; you wait over sixty years for a key event, and then two occur on the same afternoon.  It was either support Andy Murray in his quest to win a Wimbledon final, or turn out for the Olympic torch as it slogged its way through Fleetville.  As it happened I managed to do both, partly due to a rain delay in SW19.

It was certainly chaotic, and a perfect example of how so many thousand people could, with the accumulated mass of bodies, close roads by occupying them.  Children took the opportunity to play games in the middle of Hatfield Road during the gap between the initial police outriders and the brash and irrelevant sponsor vehicles.  Irrelevant in all other senses than the fact that they paid for this snake of an event.

There has probably never been another event in the history of the East End of St Albans that has managed to bring so many residents onto the streets.  Unless, that is, anyone can remember an earlier event.  From the photos I have seen and the day I remembered, not even the coronation carnival procession on wet June 2nd 1953, which formed up at Oakwood Drive and travelled into the city centre, drew as many people as today.

You probably will never be able to play in the middle
of Hatfield Road again.
Gazebos in front gardens, parties at pubs, hawkers selling flags and self-inflating torches,  chairs on the pavement and groups hanging from balconies.  It was one big messy street party.  But as for the purpose of it all; blink and you missed it.  Farida Ussmane from London, who had the honour of carrying the torch from Beaumont Avenue at least managed to walk her section, which was just as well as we wouldn't otherwise have seen much at all, so hemmed in was her narrow corridor and so surrounded by the athletic muscle men of the police escort.

This afternoon will be a landmark event in the life of this part of St Albans.  Thousands of memories and millions of photos will ensure that July 8th 2012 will become part of our recorded history.  We all witnessed St Albans' own "moment to shine."


There would remain only one further obstacle: the amount of time required to leave Morrison's car park.


The party's over but the crowds linger across Sutton Road.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Larks and a park

An annual event arrives once more all too quickly, and during the week preceding the 24th, all concerned with Larks in the Parks at Fleetville Rec, were scanning the skies and checking weather forecasts.  Although early threats of rain did not, fortunately, materialise, except for a couple of short showers, the wind was rather strong.  But the sun came out and hundreds of people enjoyed themselves.

At the Fleetville Diaries and St Albans' Own East End marquee there was a steady stream of visitors  discovering our exhibition, Best Days of Our Lives, chatting to members, and meeting the author of St Albans' Own East End.  More books were sold and many leaflets distributed.  As important as anything, it was the people we were fortunate enough to speak with which made our day.  Thank you to all who gave a little of their time to call at the stand and meet us.

On Wednesday 27th a number of local people met in the warm evening at Clarence Park for the second of this season's Guided Walks.  On this occasion it was led by author Kate Bretherton, who many will know through her illustrated book The Remarkable Trees of St Albans.

We have to thank Sir John Blundell Maple for the wide variety of spectacular trees he chose for Clarence Park when designing the open space, opened in 1894.  And as you can imagine a number of them are varieties of maples.

Casual users of the park joined us temporarily as we walked the park, and at the end we were all reluctant to leave, choosing to extend our evening's stay with conversation in the cooling dusk.


Our next Guided Walk is on Wednesday evening 25th July.  Titled, Living in Fleetville, we will meet outside the Community Centre.  But I should stress that it is important to book your place as we have placed a limit on the number of people able to join the event.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Anniversaries

June and July are generally busy months for outdoor events and other celebrations.  We hope you can squeeze in a visit next Sunday to Fleetville Rec, where the 2012 Larks in the Parks fun day will be taking place.  As with many other community events, it runs with little funding.  Organisations arrive with their stands, their music, their food and their smiles – and everyone enjoys themselves.  Fleetville Diaries will be present; as will the author of St Albans' Own East End, Mike Neighbour.  Copies of the book will be on sale, as well as a photo exhibition: Green East End.  Diaries' exhibition The Best Days of Our Lives will also be there.

A number of young families at Elm Drive in May 1945.
An outdoor event held 67 years ago in Elm Drive is now featured on the website.  Jenny has sent in photographs of the Elm Drive street party in 1945, celebrating VE Day.  The growing collection of group photos probably proves just how engaging they are, with so many faces to try and remember.  So, if any blog readers have group pictures of any kind – together with any names if that is possible – do get in touch.

Fifty years ago the city council finally completed the land purchases necessary to compete the ring road.  The Ashley Road railway bridge had to be replaced and the pot-holed track that is now Ashley Road made into a proper road.  Finally, former farmland between Cambridge Road and Drakes Drive would become the final link.  Considering that the council was talking about its "circle road" in the early 1920s, forty years to build a road seems some long-drawn-out achievement!

While on anniversaries, here is a minor one, though important to residents at the time.  A spare plot on the corner of Ridgeway and Briar Road was destined to become a block of flats in 1961.  The planning authority did not like the idea, and neither did the nearby residents already occupying their new homes. Without too much fuss, the plan for flats was dispensed with, and maisonettes were constructed instead.

And get ready for the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Baton public house.  Although not built where originally intended in Marshalswick Lane, permission was agreed for a Ridgeway location at The Quadrant.  Until the Baton opened the nearest inns were King William, the Bunch of Cherries and the Rats' Castle.  Cheers!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A railway footprint

There has been much talk in recent months about the proposed High-Speed railway line (HS2), and much of the talk has been from those whose homes are nearby to the proposed route.  Who would not wish to defend their patch?  At the same time those who manage the railways in the UK see the future benefits in this new route.

Midland line looking from Sandridge Road towards Sandpit Lane.  Only two
tracks were laid at first.
Anyone travelling through "our patch" of the Midland line, or peering over one of the bridge parapets, would hardly give a thought to similar debates which raged in the 1860s.  Yet, at the time they would have been major livelihood-threatening issues.  Homes would have been demolished, farmland consumed, and roads and footpaths affected.  The land owners, mainly Earls Verulam and Spencer, plus George Marten, and Thomas and John Kinder would have carefully assessed the value of what they might lose and the compensation they might receive.  Though without a voice, the land labourers would also have worried about loss of livelihood and homes.

Without land owner intervention we might have lost the Beaumont Cottages.  We certainly lost a hovel in Camp Road, near Dellfield.  The building might not have been up to much, but it was home to someone.  We might have lost the little Toll House at the junction of Hatfield Road and Camp Road; but then, it was lost anyway forty years later when the general store was built in its place at the bottom end of Stanhope Road.  In complaining about the earliest proposed alignment, the land owners discovered that a revision brought the tracks perilously close to Dell Cottage in Sandpit Lane.  A further amendment changed the tracks from one side of the house to the other, but fortunately a little further away.  And that is how the Midland Railway was built.  Dell Cottage still overlooks the passing trains.

Dell Cottage, Sandpit Lane
Big land-eating projects are never easy.  Some winners and some losers.  Not just a problem for the builders of HS2, but emotionally for those in that long and narrow stage who play out the drama of their lives in a small portion of it.  Such issues have affected the railways from the start.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Cool street parties

What is it about us Brits?  Not only do we love street parties – including the chance to string up some short lengths of bunting – but we are prepared to enjoy ourselves, whatever the weather.  Perhaps that should be determined, rather than prepared.  There may also be something more to it as well.  Do you think there is a little bit of anarchy involved; our one chance to close the road to traffic and claim the street space for ourselves for the afternoon?

Keeping traffic out wasn't once a problem, when the number of cars were few.  Any day and at most times the street was ours; it was the children's local playground, at least for those children whose parents weren't too particular about the thought of their offspring mixing with others "in the street."  We only had to look through the front window to see who was "out to play."  Most days were street parties, just not the kind organised for us by grown-ups!

If you have organised an East End street party this weekend do let the author know, and it can be added to the Street Party list on the website.  Burnham and Eaton roads, Beaumont Avenue, Woodland Drive are among those celebrating.


While on our guided walk last Wednesday we noticed a new sign in Sutton Road.  The building in question used to be known as Nicholson's and was named Beaumont Works when new in 1900.  Today it has a new nameplate, Beaumont House.  The owner of the factory, Alfred J Nicholson not only purchased the plot on which the building sits, but a considerable amount of land on which the houses in Hedley, Guildford and Maxwell roads have been developed.  Not only that but he purchased, in his wife's name, land on the west side of Beaumont Avenue, including Salisbury Avenue.  This was all on the former Beaumonts Farm, and so the name Beaumont Works, and now Beaumont House, celebrates this name, now long gone as an agricultural business.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Local publishing flourishes

The book which has become the first of two St Albans' Own East End books had its beginnings over seven years ago.  At least, that was the point when I decided that the information I had collected and the recollections I had noted down would be published.  It was not until late in 2010 that a firm date for publication would be entered in the diary; a date to which I would then have to adhere.

I have no idea how that compares with others undertaking similar projects, but for anyone interested in the local book publishing scene, 2011 and 2012 have become a pair of "golden years".  Three books in each of those years have appeared, and not once of them has been a traditional history of St Albans (let's start with the Romans, tell the story of Alban, the rise of the monasteries, non-conformity, the political scene, and we'll finish with the Victorian city and modern retailing).

Each has been a carefully crafted story in its own right, illustrating convincingly that there is more to St Albans than Verulamium, the Cathedral (we still hang on to that term The Abbey) and the Town Hall.

First out of the starting blocks was Christine Aitken's volume on Childwickbury, which, probably for the first time, enables readers to discover much more about the out-of-town location which was "something to do with Maple and horses."  

Determined to tell a local story by unconventional means, Kate Bretherton published an engaging book called The Remarkable Trees of St Albans.  From this you can learn a lot about trees, but there is also much to discover about people and their associations with those trees.

Not easy to track down – but well worth it if you can – is an unusual autobiography of the teaching careers of twins David and John Sidnell.  The title, I'm Afraid He's Doing His Best, recalls a typical parents' evening comment!  It reminds us of the dedicated and enjoyable work of these two former men of St Albans.

As for 2012, we have already celebrated the publication of the first volume of St Albans' Own East End.  There is no need for further comment here as there is ample embellishment of its story on this website!

Sopwell House Hotel hosted the launch last week of Sopwell, a History and Collection of Memories by Sandy Norman.  Sandy explained that many people consider her part of town to be a forgotten district of St Albans.  But because it is mainly residential does not prevent it from possessing a deep history.  She has used the recollections of twenty or more residents or former residents of Sopwell to assist her in telling the story.

In July we look forward to The River Ver; a Meander Through Time by Jacqui Banfield-Taylor.  Another example of the huge range of local topics which have yet to be explored in print.

Of course, we also know that 2013 begins with the publication of the second volume of St Albans' Own East End!  Could there also be books waiting in the wings for the second half of 2012 and 2013? What an exciting prospect.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Wonderful water

Many people are not aware that the east end of St Albans has its own streams, Boggy Mead Spring and Ellen Brook, both of which flow southwards to meet the River Colne a short distance away.  Many of us fail to notice these streams, partly because they are not obvious from the roads we motor along and partly because, in recent years, little water has occupied their beds.  Both are short in length, rising as springs less than a mile north of Hatfield Road, and as the water table has become lower, there has been insufficient water to flow on the surface.

Imagine my delight, as I was walking between the Lyon Way industrial estate and the Comet, to spot the streams in full spate.  The following day I called in at Colney Heath and discovered a healthy flow at the Colne.  Thank you so much, rains, for filling our streams, at least temporarily!

Boggy Mead Spring, full and flowing once more.
Find it in Hatfield Road between Lyon Way and
Glinwell, but is best seen on the north side of the road.
Until c1990 Campfield Road had its own print works, by the name of Campfield Press.  This was the imprint of the Salvation Army Printing Works which had been turning out millions of Bibles, sheet music items, weekly newspapers like the War Cry, and plenty of general work too.  The Army didn't build the premises it occupied from 1901; but was able to walk straight into a ready-to-go works.  Little has been discovered about George Orford Smith's printing operation, opened here in 1895, but a Fleetville resident has come across legal papers dating from 1899, when a number of creditors effectively put an end to a very high-end printing business.  In order to liquidate the business the site was sold, and the Salvation Army, looking to move its cramped printing and musical instrument works from London's east end, saw a solution.  Full details will appear in St Albans' Own East End Volume 2: Insiders !

Last October, a one-day conference was held at Verulamium Museum for all who are busying themselves, either on their own account, or on behalf of groups and organisations, researching some aspect of local history.  It was a stunning success.  The St Albans and District Local History Network is arranging a second conference so that even more people can exchange information.  I will outline further details at a later stage, but make a note of the date if you think you might like to attend: Saturday 27th October.  The venue, again, is Verulamium Museum.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

A stroll in the park

Highfield Trust was no doubt grateful that the weather remained dry for the fascinating guided walk the trustees had organised, and which was enjoyed by over thirty Sunday morning walkers.  We were talked through the story of Hill and and Cell Barnes hospitals, and were able to spot a few of the buildings and other features remaining from hospital days.  It gave us the opportunity to appreciate the work the Highfield Trust has already completed in what is a long-term development project.  Its legacy will be a wonderful public estate resource, available to all.  Those already lucky enough to live in the residential developments  at Hill End and Cell Barnes, already take advantage of the paths, parks, woods and fields which form part of their home patch.  Thank you Highfield for an enjoyable walk – and cake on our arrival at the end.

Former Hill End Halt (right); Hill End Hospital (centre) and Cell Barnes Hospital (background left)
One consequence of publishing the book is the number of people who have taken the opportunity of dusting down old photo collections in shoe boxes and albums.  On one visit recently a house owner invited me to peruse a substantial number of "people pictures," mainly teams, classes and employee groups.  One which caught my eye was an early football team photograph similar to those published near the end of Volume 1.  Looking more closely, I could see the word Albion painted on the ball which the goalkeeper was holding.  Here was, undoubtedly another street team, made up from the men and boys from Albion and Cavendish roads.  There will, I am sure, be many such teams still to find.

Another such picture has turned up on the Friends Reunited website: a class photograph taken at Fleetville School in 1955.  It was submitted by Mary Oldcorn, and she would like to recall the names of some of the class members shown (so would I).  Unfortunately, the file size submitted to the website was not large enough for the picture to be enlarged, making the faces more clearly visible.  So Mary, if you are reading this post, could you please send a larger copy; or if anyone else recognises this picture in their own collection and can make a higher resolution scan, there are people here who would love to pick their way along the rows of smiling faces from the past.


Sunday, 29 April 2012

Wet wet wet

When I was about eight I begged to be released from the house and its miniature rivulets pouring down the outside of the windows, to play in the rain.  What a wonderfully different experience it was, and I still enjoy the rain.  With waterproof skin, what more do we need but a brolly and sensible clothes; knowing that the ground is being cleaned and refreshed, ponds, lakes, reservoirs, underground aquifers are being replenished, and of course the formerly almost-dry rivers and streams are beginning to flow more confidently again.

All through recorded history people have written about weather which is out of the ordinary, and I have no doubt there will be such an article in next week's local press.

I you live in St Albans, one benefit of ordering a copy of the book through the wwwebsite is having your purchase delivered to you in person by the author, sometimes within hours of placing the order.  This is great for me as I have the opportunity of meeting my customers and conversing with them.  So, please don't fret that you are unable to see SAOEE in the bookshops, or can't order it on Amazon, even though you can see a picture of the cover and are offered fast delivery!  Email me and you will find me on your doorstep the same day or the next.

Of course, the process only begins once I receive your cheque if you live further away, and you do need to add the postage.  Nevertheless, Royal Mail seem to have brought the packages to customers' addresses within two days.  Well done Royal Mail.

While I was passing one part of town yesterday, it struck me that there was one place I just could not remember after so many years.  I knew where it was, because I was driving along Sandpit Lane at the time, but I am just hoping that someone might have a photograph of the large old house called Monks Horton, once lived in by Mr William Page.  Now, of course, it is a close of some twenty or thirty  homes.

Now that the website has been successfully transferred to a new hosting company, there are changes that are about to happen.  One of these is to replace the old Add Memories page with a new version.  This  will contain snippets of information, recollections and other memories which readers have contacted me about.  You will not be able to upload your own text.  Instead, use the email link and I will be able to add an extract, if lengthy, or the whole of a short message.  Full names will not be used.  Although the page already exists, expect to see the first offerings within the week.

Sutton Road bridge 1916.  Contributed by IAN TONKIN
Finally, do look at the Photo Library page for a new photograph sent to me by a reader.  It was taken in the winter of 1916 in Sutton Road.  In it, some rather smartly dressed (probably) employees of Nicholson's are seen using the new raised and fenced pavement under the inevitably flooded bridge.  This replaced the earlier timber boardwalk on the left side.  The photo sits next to an earlier picture taken from almost the same spot.  Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Bits and pieces

The east end of St Albans gets its moment of glory on Sunday 8th July, when the Olympic torch is carried along Hatfield Road.  The accompanying motorcade will form up at near the Comet at Hatfield, and torchbearers will run along St Albans Road West and Hatfield Road, reaching Oaklands at around 4 o'clock.  Fortunately, this timing may enable Morrison's shoppers to clear the supermarket before then so that the Fleetville roundabout is not congested.  The route leads to the St Peter's Street roundabout and then Catherine Street before the motorcade re-forms at St Michael's for a speedier journey to Hemel Hempstead.  

Sander's loading platform, Alban Way, near Camp Road
The most frequent comment I have heard recently from those who have dipped into St Albans' Own East End Volume 1: Outsiders, is "I didn't know that .... ," to be followed by a particularly interesting piece of text which surprised them.  One drawing which drew the attention of two different people in one day was of the old Marshalswick House, home to the former Marten family.  Another was "that strange platform thing" on Alban Way.  The one referred to on this occasion was the remains of the loading platform on the west side of Camp Road's blue bridge.  This was the loading platform for Sander's the once-famous orchid specialist, whose nurseries were where SS Alban and Stephen Junior School is now.  The platform probably only had a ramp at the road end.  Although not designed as a passenger station or halt, I have no doubt that if an intending passenger signalled with an outstretched arm, the approaching train would stop. Nowadays there are an increasing number of people who have no knowledge of this horticultural wizard who produced classy orchids for those with expensive floral tastes – and that included royalty – who would visit discretely and leave their orders.
St Paul's Church, Blandford Road

Well done to St Paul's Church, who hosted another in its series of Community Days on Saturday 21st April.  Many events were accommodated in the various rooms of the recently extended and renovated premises; and concerts were held in the church itself.  I was there too, in the capacity of author, and there was much interest in St Albans' Own East End.  I was fortunate to share space with an exhibition based around the Olympics, comparing the 1948 Games with those for this year.  Also present was a medal winner from a recent Special Games, an event regrettably less well-known than the main Games and held in the year following.  I remember the first Community Day being very crowded; this year's event seemed almost as busy.

The author's caravan of events next pauses at the Fleetville Community Centre on Wednesday 25th April, where I shall be giving a presentation on an aspect of local history featured in the book: the long history of Beaumonts Manor.  As may have been advertised in an earlier era "illustrated by lantern slides!"  All are welcome at 7.30pm.