Sunday, 21 December 2014

The naming of homes

By 1932, a small collection of families living in New South Wales had become friends; and one reason for their bond was their joint origin.  Five households had emigrated to Australia from St Albans: Mr and Mrs H Harvey, Mr and Mrs Robert Clifton, Mr and Mrs C Wren, Mr and Mrs William Howard, and Mr and Mrs R Clifton junior.  As might happen on a particular celebratory occasion the five families met up at the home of Mr and Mrs Clifton, pictured behind the group.  The Cliftons named their house Fleetville.  I have no doubt that a small amount of research will reveal that they had previously lived in one of Fleetville's roads before emigrating.  A memory of a previous life.
Fleetville, Ascot, Brisbane, NSW

When Mr and Mrs Alfred Nicholson arrived in St Albans in 1900 to open a coat factory in Fleetville, the couple had one of the first homes to be built in what was then Upper Park Road – now the section of Clarence Road north of York Road.  It was an impressive detached house, in which they lived for the next six or seven years.

Asphodel, Clarence Road
The preponderance of house names was not simply a fashion; names had a very practical application. The process of numbering a street was only undertaken once the majority of houses were present.  So, the only method of identifying an address was by owners giving their houses names.  Alfred Nicholson named  his house Asphodel.  Asphodel, it appears, is a colourful herb; it is also referred to in Greek mythology.  Once the property changed hands, however, the new owner chose a different name, and so the house became known as Holbrook.  Later still it became Mure.

Highclere, Woodland Drive
Jackie contacted me recently about her grandparents' house in Charmouth Road, named Redley.  Names often evoke memories, as in the Fleetville example above.  They may also intend to impress, as in Buckingham Palace given to a modest cottage in the middle of a terrace (although I have never seen this particular example).  Names may also be portmanteaux, as in Jackie's reference.  Her grandfather had previously run newsagent's shops in Redhill and Worley, hence the house name Redley, which was later transferred to a new house when he moved.

My own parents, moving into a newly built house on an unfinished estate in 1939, called their home Highclere.  I have no idea why they selected this name – it was some seventy years before the Downton Abbey drama series.  In our particular case the Post Office allocated numbers within a few months, but I still retain one letter address to them at Highclere, Woodland Drive.  But not enough time to get a nameplate fixed to the gate!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Underground in Fleetville

No, not THE Underground, as in an extension of the Bakerloo Line.  Underground, or under ground, as in below the surface.  Rooms below ground floor level – cellars – became of strategic interest to St Albans Council at the start of World War Two.  It recommended that, where possible, they were strengthened for use as small air-raid shelters to protect the occupiers, and if necessary, visitors to the address.  The County Council had provided underground shelters at Central School (now Fleetville Junior School), Fleetville School (under the recreation ground) and at the County Boys' School (now Verulam).  Camp School also received an underground shelter.  Privately, Ballito Hosiery Mills had extensive underground shelters on its site where Morrison's is today.

The war disappeared into the past and life returned to an approximate normality.  Eventually motoring again became popular – once we could afford to avoid exporting vehicles.  During the sixties and seventies various arrangements were made to ensure it was possible to park somewhere close to people's homes, but it became increasingly challenging to find spaces to park along Hatfield Road.  Even today, we might wonder where we would be without the extensive surface car park at Morrison's.

Apart from tinkering with a few yellow lines and a bit of one-hour parking, it is easy to imagine that no-one has given much thought to the congestion along Hatfield Road created by parking bottlenecks, particularly in the narrow section on the Crown approach and outside Bycullah Terrace.

However, there was some beavering away below the surface!  Design Team Partnerships in Clifton Street produced a plan for their client City Car Parks for an underground car park in Hatfield Road.  Perhaps we should remember the year; it was 1988.  The fact that there is no underground car park in Hatfield Road will inform us that the plan did not proceed; or to use another phrase it didn't get through planning.

Taking a leaf from the council in a precedent set in 1939, the proposal was to create a substantial car park under the rec – yes, under – and then restore the surface, replant, and restore the children's playground.  Apart from the temporary upheaval of removing so much spoil, there would have been a number of permanent reminders of what would lay beneath, in the form of light wells and six staircases linking the car deck to the park.  They would have been screened with shrub planting, meaning that much of the rec near Hatfield Road would not have been available for recreational games.

Of course, it is unlikely to have been a free car park, although the promoters did suggest local residents could have used it for their cars overnight, and it would have provided a "valuable reinforced space in case of disaster."  So that was reassuring!

Now let's imagine that it had been constructed.  Would, today, it be thought of as a safe space, especially in the evenings and overnight?  Given a choice would drivers prefer to use the (chargeable)   underground car park or the free Morrison's car park?  And what kind of junction, so close to Morrison's, would link the ramps to Hatfield Road?  This could have become Fleetville's major accident zone, and so soon after the County Council's attempt to remove that status by widening the road by eating into the rec in the process.