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.