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 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

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.