Sunday, 19 February 2012

St Albans feels proud

This advert has the feel of the 1950s about it.
Another East End company, Marconi, with
sites at Longacres and Hatfield Road,
supplied a world market in communications
and electronics products.

There are many firms and their products which either have/had their roots in St Albans, or chose the city in which to expand.  I always remember my first seminar in georgaphy at Birmingham.  Our prof really impressed me by knowing some industrial process, product or company which thrived in every town from which my fellow students came.  I nearly caught her out, however.  She informed everyone, "that I lived very close to Shredded Wheat town."  Which of course it was; the station name plates had formerly stated 'Welwyn Garden City, the home of Shredded Wheat'.  It was produced by the firm having the trade name Welgar, a shortened form of the town's name.

There are, or were, dozens of much smaller firms, who, although they did not have a name on the national stage, were very familiar locally; two of them with names many people confused.  There was Tuckett's, a well-known local ironmongery and general stores from Camp and Hatfield roads.  And then there was Tuckey's.  Tuckey's owned a car sales and repair trade.  Today such a trade in the Broadway, St Peter's Street would be unthinkable.  But in the 1920s they sold Ford cars from where the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) premises are now.  The firm also developed a piece of ground on the corner of Grimston Road and Stanhope Road, where now ATS will provide exhausts and repair brakes.  A Tuckey's advertisement is on the welcome page.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Two academies

From separate girls' and boys' elementary schools admitting
c300 pupils in 1938, the mixed establishment of over twelve
hundred has proposed its next step.

Last year it was announced that the presently-named Francis Bacon School was about to re-style itself.  In the current vogue for such matters it was about to become an academy.  Presumably this has more to do with top level organisation and funding than the nuts and bolts of classroom curriculum.  From September and its change of name – the Samuel Ryder Academy – it will also become an 'all-through' school, which, I assume will solve the issue of primary places for children growing up at Highfield.  An interesting concept this, because all-through schools were the norm from the 1870s onwards,  through the board schools era and local authority elementary structure; in St Albans they only disappeared in the 1930s.
Turning to a secondary school which began as  senior elementary schools, it has been announced that Beaumont is applying for academy status, and hopes this will run from September 2012.  Given that Beaumont is a highly successful secondary school, specialising in languages, maths and computing, there must be key financial and independence reasons for this move.  No decisions have yet been made, but it is in the public domain, there having been an item in the Herts Advertiser last week.
This blog is now available to view in an alternative format.  At present a link on the welcome page will take you there, where it  appears in a new window – this is the version you are now reading.  During the next few weeks preparations will be made to migrate the website to a new home on the web.  The address will be the same and its look and feel will remain as it is now.  There may be new or different features, and these would need to be explored.  One of these it the blog, and it is for this reason that the blog appears in two formats for the next month, after which the links will be changed and the existing format will be removed.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Winter colour

Wrap up and walk outside at this time of year and what do you see; what do you feel?  Much depends on the day itself.  We have experienced some flat. sombre, grey days and they can feel somewhat depressing.  Nevertheless, armed with an umbrella, an extra layer or two if it is especially cold, a scarf and hat, and the experience is embracing.  Every step of the way we can be looking forward to a hot cup of coffee when we return home.  That is, unless we take it with us in a small flask.

We have also witnessed days of brilliant blue skies, warmth from the sun on our faces, and a vague mist as the damp ground evaporates before our eyes.

When photographing, grey oppressive days produce flat pictures, which need some tinkering with afterwards.  On the other hand, harsh contrasts can be produced on sunny days and absolutely nothing resolves itself from the shadows.

If you're planning parkland – or a garden – for all year
inspiration, it would be a mistake to ignore dogwood
for its sheer brach warmth in the winter landscape.
Imagine my delight, therefore, to take a walk along Sandringham Crescent and dwell on the open woodland, taking in various dogwoods sporting their red-ness in the uplifting sunlight.  No shadows to worry about, just bold red and mellow green with the whisper of birch in the background.  Inspirational Marshalswick!

The story continues

"The journey is the reward" – Steve Jobs.

There is always a point in the writing of a history when the author has to rest his pen, as last week's blog outlined.  Whatever date is selected, there will be a day soon afterwards when fresh information adds to a part-told story.  Or additionally acquired information can cause existing research to lurch in a different direction.  
In history the story is never complete.  Most, if not all, of those stories in Volume 1 have the potential for exploration of alternative avenues, discovery of new witness statements, or have speculation replaced by firm facts.
Last week I referred to a plaque fixed to the entrance hall of W O Peake Ltd, and, of course, the many unanswered questions on this site also have a chapter to themselves in the book.  There are new leads on the Crown Hotel, on two properties between the Midland Railway and Granville Road. and on a group of cottages at Horseshoes.  A stunning new document has emerged concerning the Fleetville Cinema, expanding this topic significantly.  And that is not the only cinema with some surprising new documentation attached to it.
St Albans' Own East End Volume 2: Insiders will be a very interesting companion to Volume 1: Outsiders.  Only another fourteen months to wait!

Book files ready

Today marks what was once known as a 'red letter day', which originally referred to special red dates marked on calendars for feast days or bank holidays.
On reflection, today is even more special than that.  All of the computer files which have been carefully designed and compiled during the past few years, have now been merged, paginated and indexed.  All details, including photograph credts, last-minute inclusions of yet more pictures, and whether or not to include a comma here and there, have been dealt with.  The author's pen, or its computer-age equivalent, is now rested.  At least until work continues afresh on Volume 2.  All that remains is the arrival of the ISBN information; the files will then be sent to the printer.
It is, indeed, a momentous day.
Yet activity does not stop.  This morning I have turned my attention to an image which will be referred to in Volume 2.  It is a much-degraded copy which appeared in the Herts Advertiser shortly after the death of William Peake, the founder of the coat factory and its fine buildings opposite Clarence Park in Hatfield Road; buildings alas, which were demolished.
This plaque was placed on the wall just inside the main door.  The big question, though, is: what happened to the plaque?  Was it destroyed?  Was it handed to surviving members of the Peake family?  Was it acquired by an enterprising employee at the time the factory closed?  I can confirm that it was not placed in the replacement building.
Were you a former Peake's employee?  Do you recognise this plaque?
Do you know where it is now?
Certainly, the plaque deserves its place in the East End's Hall of Fame: St Albans' East End in One Hundred Objects.  The first fifty appear in Volume 1, with the remainder taking their place in Volume 2.  If you have any information about the plaque, the author would be delighted to hear from you.