Sunday, 31 March 2013

Temporary buildings

During the next few years there are likely to be more temporary classrooms arriving on school fields and playgrounds, as the child population increases.  Previous attempts to ensure there were just enough places for the cohorts of local children were never going to work permanently.  Of course, 'Portacabin' classrooms are nothing new: Camp School's 'bungalow' arrived in 1936, and Fleetville School required similar facilities the following year.

Wartime nurseries, such as the one at Fleetville were made of sturdier materials, but were, nonetheless, a temporary solution to accommodation problems.  Fleetville Nursery, erected in 1942, continues to serve its community functions over 70 years later.  In 1946 huge numbers of HORSA huts were put up at secondary schools to serve the increased school leaving age to 15; and many were still in place to welcome pupils nearly thirty years later when the leaving age was raised further to sixteen.

Churches, of course, have often acquired temporary buildings; both Hatfield Road Methodist Church and St Paul's put up their tin buildings; and the formative St Mary's began with a second-hand timber structure.

The first Bunch of Cherries building.
Scouts are no strangers to wooden or concrete temporary buildings either, although it is rare for these to be replaced with permanent headquarters buildings; the 8th and the 9th are the only groups I can recall having done so.  When, in 1949, a new pub was granted a licence, another type of licence – for a building – could not be given, and so, until 1963, two pre-war wooden huts were pressed into service at the Bunch of Cherries.  And when their time had come, both huts were demounted by willing scouting volunteers and pressed into further service for the 2nd and the 16th scout groups.

Salwey headquarters of the 2nd (Camp) St Albans Scouts.
Several units of the Home Guard had wooden army huts, one standing at the corner of Central Drive and Hazelwood Drive.  These too must have enjoyed second lives somewhere or other.  Similar huts housed prisoners of war at Oaklands, Gorhambury, London Colney and other locations, and were then used to ease the housing shortage.  Then there were the 'ten-year' prefabs which were brought in to do the same job, but with local and national authority approval (the huts were really squatter accommodation).  That ten-year lifespan has stretched until, well, today, as a visit to Mitchell Close will reveal!

Smallford Station today from the former station yard.
Quiet railway branches often relied on timber or metal structures as stations, which might have arrived – by rail of course – in flat-pack form.  Usually given regular coats of company-colour paint they lasted pretty well.  We all know of one local station building, at Smallford, which has remained in surprisingly good condition in the 62 years since it last saw a passenger, thanks partly to it being on private land and covered on one side by undergrowth.  If you are in the city centre during the next two weeks, call in at the central library to view the little exhibition which Smallford Residents' Association have created there.  The Association intends to renovate the former Smallford Station, either in-situ or at another location.

Though not in St Albans, Barclay's Bank opened its Welwyn Garden City branch in a tiny – and I really mean tiny – timber building near the Campus in the 1920s, and International Stores, Sainsbury's and Marks and Spencer were among the retailers who deployed Nissen huts in the years after WW2.

We seem to have relied on our temporary structures in so many circumstances.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Share photos

First of all, apologies for the missing posts recently.  Well, they aren't really missing; just that there was a severe shortage of time to write them.

Last Sunday, a large number of people gathered at Fleetville Junior School for the annual festival of music; a most enjoyable event.  Fleetville Diaries also attended, with a twin exhibition.  Home From Home is a grant-aided project which focuses on the lives of a number of Fleetville residents who came here, often as children with their parents, from Asian, African or European countries.  Share Photos, the second exhibition, displays a number of pictures which have been donated by present or former residents of the eastern districts of St Albans.  Both exhibitions will be on view once more at St Paul's Community Day on April 13th, and then at Larks in the Parks at Fleetville Rec.  We can also take it to other local events during the year if organisers let us know ( )

SACS mobile shop
The importance of Share Photos to all of us continues to be revealed with every new picture which is emailed to me, or hides in each envelope arriving through the post.  Even after Sunday's showing, new pictures have arrived which amply demonstrate the value of searching out photos which may have a connection with other people.  Some of this week's arrivals are on the website, and on this blog.  Keep looking everyone!

There are several pictures around of one of the Co-op mobile shops, but Gordon, who used to work for the company, has also sent one of a fitted-out vehicle just before being stocked with its travelling products.
Imagine the tins of peas and biscuits!

He also found a photo of the Co-op's Cambridge Road grocery shop.

The shop in Cambridge Road.

Camp School class in 1931.
Carlton F C 1945/6
Not only that, but there was a fully named picture of a Camp School class from 1931 and a Carlton football team in which he played.  While, at present, I am uncertain about the origin of the name Carlton, it is understood that its players all lived in or around Burnham Road.  Does anyone else recall the team from the immediate post-war period?

Volume 2 of St Albans' Own East End is still expected to be published in mid-April, which means just three weeks away.  As soon as I have a fixed date this will be posted on the website.  Meanwhile, signed copies of Volume 1 are available.  If you live in the St Albans District, I will deliver it to your door, and of course, free of postage.  Email

Meanwhile, the Smallford Project members have been discovering more about their community, and on Wednesday 27th March Fleetville Diaries will be hosting a presentation by the author of the new book about Sopwell, Sandy Norman.  You are welcome to join us at Fleetville Community Centre at 7.30pm.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Herts Advertiser pictures

Readers of the blog will know that an ongoing project in conjunction with HALS has been the re-photographing of all pictures that appeared in the Herts Advertiser between 1912 and 1960.  This has become necessary now that the newspaper's original photographic archive no longer exists.  Part one of the project has been completed while the condition of many of the issues have not deteriorated beyond the point where they can no longer be handled.

The Herts Advertiser has always sold photographic quality prints of the photographs its staff have taken, even if they were not published.  The first photograph is an example, submitted by Mike.  It is, of course, superior in definition to that which appeared in the newspaper.  Compare it with the smaller version below right.  Two other HA original prints are also shown here, below left and bottom left.

Competition winners at the former
Odeon Cinema

Scouts (group not known) with the

If, therefore, you have a photograph which you, or a member of your family, purchased from the Herts Advertiser more than twenty years ago, would you be willing to share it with us?  It would enable at least a small proportion of the pictures to remain in high-definition format rather than as newsprint dots.  A scan at 300 dpi and saved as a .jpg or .tif can be sent via email to  Try to add as much detail as possible, such as year, event, and the people in the picture.  You will be doing local history a favour!