Thursday, 31 December 2015

This is 1977

Festalban 77 brochure
There have been many Carnivals in St Albans, but the first, managed by the Round Table, was in 1977.  The event came about in that year as a result of the Diocese celebrating the centenary of its formation.  The period of events was given the name FESTALBAN 77.

There was another major event in 1977, this time a national celebration: the Silver Jubilee of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II.  What with the diocesan and the national celebrations, 1977 and the years which followed, there are memories of street parties, carnival floats and decorated streets.  The carnival floats continued to be a feature of the St Albans Carnival scene until fairly recently.

The best decorated street award for
Cambridge Road in 1977.
In conversations recently among present and former residents of some of the Camp estate streets – especially Cambridge Road – there have been several references to a plaque awarded to Cambridge Road, although the details of where it was sited and the reason for its presentation to the street, are mixed and rather vague.

It is now possible to shed more light on this award as a result of a little 'sleuthing' among the pages of the Herts Advertiser, when on October 21st 1977 – when the cover price was a modest six pence – there appeared an attractive photo, shown right, of the plaque with three smiling youngsters.  Do you know them; are they readers of this blog?  Sarah and David Gilder, and Caroline Mundye.

The plaque was sponsored by the Herts Advertiser for the best decorated Silver Jubilee larger street in St Albans; Dickens Close also won the award for smaller streets.

The plaque was presented to the road's organiser, Mrs Pat Newman.  It is thought that Mrs Newman was also instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Road Residents' Association at about the same time.  Perhaps this event was the reason for the Association's formation.

There are recollections of the plaque being on show, but not specifically where or for how long.  So, we are left with three interesting questions:

Residents aboard the 'Jolly Cambridge' pirate ship, the theme of
Cambridge Road's carnival float.
1.  Was the plaque fixed to the front of a house in Cambridge Road, and if so, which one?

2.  When was it removed?

3.  What happened to it, and where is it now?

Of course, if there are any surviving photographs of these street partying, float-building, plaque-awarding days forty-eight years ago, would you be willing to share them with the present generation of Fleetville and Camp residents?

This brings us back to a recurring topic: former shops in and around Cambridge Road.  Number 16 was a sweet shop.  Is there here a connection with the Newman's?

Sunday, 20 December 2015

One for the Album

Those of you who read the blog post Going to the Shop recently will have been reminded that there were several shops at the Sutton Road end of Cambridge Road.

Cambridge Road
It was partly as a result of an interesting community project nearby that the photograph shown in that post came my way.  For the past year a small group of people who live, or have previously lived, in Cambridge Road and Camp View Road, came together to discover more about their roads and the interesting people who have lived there.  I have been taking an interest, not because I have ever lived in Cambridge Road, but because I walked the road almost every day when I was a child, on my way to and from my grandmother's house.

Juliet at her retirement,
from the Herts Advertiser
Just as I was beginning to recall vague details of people I knew of – including the shopkeepers of course – and recalling a particular person who lived in one of those pairs of semi-detached homes on the hill above Maxwell Road, I received an email about the very same person.  For me Miss Juliet Haddon was just someone I knew of who ran a photographer's studio in Victoria Street,  and who happened to live in Cambridge Road,.  But to Nicholas, who emailed me, Miss Haddon was his great aunt.  Her reputation for producing excellent photographic studies, and working closely with her subjects, was widely known and respected.  What Nicholas lacks is examples of her work.

Juliet Haddon
Juliet was born in Clapham, south London, the daughter of a skilled artist.  While living in Cambridge she trained with a firm of studio photographers and then set up her own studio when she moved to St Albans.  Miss Haddon created a studio in part of what is now Addiktion Cycles, number 101 Victoria Street.  There were always examples of her work displayed in the front window space.  She continued to run her business until the age of 75, when he finally decided to 'call it a day'.  The Herts Advertiser ran a feature article in 1976 to celebrate her significant career and her retirement.  Miss Gertrude Juliet Haddon died in 1986.

I am sure there are residents, or former residents, of Cambridge Road, who knew her as a friend.  If you have any recollections of Juliet I would be delighted to know.  And if you have any photographs taken by her which you would be willing to share, Juliet's great nephew would be delighted to see them; I will pass them on.  The email address is, as usual:

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Running off another copy

There are former firms which operated in the East End of St Albans we know quite a lot about, especially those where, seemingly, everyone's mum, grandpa or aunt worked at one time or another.  Then there are companies we know little or nothing about.

Into this second category falls the printing company of Orford Smith.  This is not the same (Thomas)  Smith who came to Fleetville in 1897 and set up his works along Hatfield Road where Morrison's supermarket now trades.  Orford Smith found his plot in Fleetville – or some might call it Camp – two years earlier and thus became the district's earliest major factory.

Orford Smith had a large printing works constructed by Miskin's in Campfield Road.  And because it did not last long in his hands it is also the same building generations of St Albans people have known as the Salvation Army Printing Works, or the Campfield Press.

Orford Smith was fascinated by the new colour printing machines then becoming available (as was Thomas Smith of course, which is why he also brought his works to Fleetville).  Orford Smith's business, however, was a particular kind of colour printing for expensive products, such as reproductions of paintings and the colour plates for inserting into books.  In particular he was able to produce entire special issues of magazines which commemorated events of the day.

Of special importance were the souvenir issues of Illustrated London News (1842 to 2003).

Discovering the output of former printing works is often difficult.  So far I have tracked down just three products printed by Thomas Smith's machines, and to that I can now add one item from the Orford Smith works.  But what an item it is.  Illustrated London News published the souvenir issue celebrating Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.  Sixty pages, and only the advertisement pages were in black; the rest were pages of rich, glorious, pure colour, including gold and silver.

It was painstaking work and very expensive to produce, with up to sixteen passes for separate colours, with three different weights of high quality paper, before being bound into a book.  The result was nothing like one of today's Sunday supplements.  If an extra batch of copies was required the task was as time-consuming as preparing for the main print run.

If you chose to specialise in this high-end printing work, the risks were themselves high.  Very high.  We don't know whether it was this particular job which brought Smith's business crashing to the ground, or an accumulation of contracts, all of which may have cost a lot more than the agreed price.  But by 1899 the building was closed and a long recovery operation lay ahead for the administrators.  It was the result of this which brought the Salvation Army to St Albans.

So, let's enjoy three sample pages from the ILN's souvenir Diamond Jubilee supplement.  As we can see – some supplement!

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Just Going to the Shop

Joseph Haynes at the shop, which is in his wife, Clara's, name.
It has been mentioned just once or twice in this blog devoted to the largest concentration of suburban retail in St Albans, that – even here – the individual corner shop was just as important to the East End as the rows of shops between the side roads along Hatfield Road.  The corner shops were possibly even more essential, given that in almost every case they were general groceries, which also sold a range of other goods which nearby householders might require at short notice.

Having swept all aside in the post second world war period, the major supermarkets are today  beginning to appreciate the value which customers once placed on the corner shop, as mini versions of the big stores once more come closer to where people actually live.

The premises today.
The reason for exploring corner shop culture yet again in the SAOEE blog series, is a photograph sent in from a member of the family who used to own one.  Although long-since closed it is still possible to see the evidence in the surviving fascia at 42 Camp View Road.  Here was the shop of Mr and Mrs J Haynes, and of course, Mr Haynes is standing in front of his business.

It seems that Mr Haynes' shop consisted of the main shop window section of two storeys, with the family living accommodation to the right, where can be seen part of the bay window.  At some point the side garden was brought into use for a single storey extension to the shop, although there was very little depth to this section, the plot boundary being steeply angled.  The quality of the building work connecting the extension to the main shop was, perhaps, not brilliant!

Shortly before WW2, the St Albans Co-operative Society secured the purchase of the space to the left of the shop – we can see a workshop on the site, as its owner, Mr J Mann was a coach builder here.  The Society built twin shops on the plot.  On the right, next to Mr Haynes, was a butchery; on the left was the Society's grocery.  Interestingly, the butchery's address was 44 Camp View Road, while the grocery became 2 Cambridge Road.  There were two doors from a single entrance.
Next door arrived the Co-op!

BUT – and this was significant – this was the time when Co-op shops became more popular.  It was also a critical time for retailing of all types.  For a time Mr Haynes' shop was taken over by Mr G Price.  But to have two small general shops next to each other was competitively challenging, and one trader had to give way.

Today the street frontage looks very different.  Two properties have been made out of the accommodation, and in order to provide separate entrances the bay window is replaced by a door.  Would we now know whether there was ever a shop here?  Well, the clue is in that fascia.

Note: there were other shops in and around Cambridge Road, for which we have  regrettably seen no photographic record.  Perhaps there is the odd picture around; if you have one, do please contact

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Friday evening at the Trestle

What did you do last Friday evening?  If not an impertinent question, you might have stayed at home or made a visit to the cinema.  Of course you may have been working a night shift.

Former chapel, now Trestle Arts Base
Forty people or so made a visit to a place in St Albans' East End which many have heard of but fewer know much about.  The Trestle Arts Base is at Highfield, surrounded by new houses and is close to the open spaces managed by Highfield Park Trust.  The former chapel of Hill End Hospital has now been brilliantly converted into flexible spaces for arts activities, performance, including mask work, and exploration opportunities in the performing arts for children, young people and adults.  We will return to Trestle in a later blog, but in the meantime do visit

Former Hill End (centre), Cell Barnes (top left)
Ashley Road industry and Camp (top right)
The purpose of Friday evening's function was to enlighten residents who live locally on what lies under their feet, especially if they live at Highfield itself.  A talk was the centre-piece of the evening, held in the Apex Room at Trestle.  Originally titled A Place Called Hill End and renamed Highfield: What Lies Beneath for this event, the talk explored the history of mental care and different ways in which society has managed it during the past two centuries.  Hill End was one of those huge sprawling Victorian edifices which always struggled with increasing patient numbers and earned an enviable reputation for developing care and treatment strategies; even giving life to a daughter hospital nearby called Cell Barnes.

Friday's visitors were able to pinpoint various hospital facilities, now demolished, in relation to the current homes on the site, and understand more about the layout and names of some of its roads.

The ticket revenue for the event will support Highfield Park Trust and the upkeep of the beautiful former hospital grounds and new open spaces.
Surviving Hill End ward block

More talks

A number of groups and organisations ask for talks about the East side of St Albans, which is Mike's speciality subject, following the publication of his two books, St Albans' Own East End.  A programme of talks is being arranged for 2016, and organisations are invited to book a date for their members.  During 2016 all of the donations collected at the talks will be in aid of that final million for the new Museum project by Renaissance St Albans.

Groups have a range of subjects to choose from:
The 'Mike' talk at Trestle last Friday.

A Crown Story
Nurseries and malting, treadwheels and commuting, a fete field and a park.
Beaumonts: a story of two manors
One missing manor, then another, a Cromwell Connection, a take-over, then everyone wants to live here.
Camp: the place on the hill
No better place to live than near a stream or two, and watch the militias at play.
Fleetville: a game of consequences
There was no planning or order here; no-one in control; but there were opportunities as well as penalties.
Flicks at Fleetville (about 25 minutes)
St Albans’ fourth cinema; the one no-one’s even heard of.
The Chalk Rooms of London Colney
How a village managed to educate its children.
A Place Called Hill End
The story of a missing community that came to a place and called it Hill End.
East to Smallford (for second half of 2016)
The connections between land, people, road and rail from Oaklands to  Hatfield.
Paying the Price
The fogotten story of the Reading and Hatfield Turnpike Road.
St Albans’ Own East End: an overview
The parish which became the backbone of two books.
Letting photographs tell the story (for second half of 2016)
What stories are revealed from the surviving photographs of St Albans’ East End?
Letting ‘Herts Ad’ photographs tell the story (2)
What stories are revealed from the Herts Advertiser Re-photographing Project?

For further inquiries please email

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Houses of a public kind

Historically there have been as many public houses in a single street in the city centre as were established throughout East End of St Albans – and one or two I have included below because they are or were on what are the undrawn boundaries of the eastern districts.

King William IV, Baton, Bunch of Cherries (Speckled Hen), Plough, Rats' Castle, Crown, Camp, Mile House, Comet, Three Horseshoes, Blackberry Jack.

Mile House (though it was on the southern side of London Road, it was still considered a local for many living on the London Road estate, or Mile House estate) morphed into apartments many years ago, and Camp closed earlier this year, again, for development into apartments.

If a local pub closes, as recorded in this blog previously, there is often a substantial journey to make to the next one which remains open.  Such was the case with the Camp; the Plough at Tyttenhanger, Rats' Castle or Crown may mean resorting to the car.  But that means of transport always requires one member of the party – assuming you are not visiting on your own – to not consume an alcoholic drink.

So we might ask the question, why are many pubs closing?  Of course they have been doing so for a long time, and several of those who opened in the East End of St Albans were enabled to open in the first place because their owners were able to transfer licences from unprofitable city centre locations.

Not all pubs are under threat of course; whether a typical drinking house or a "new style" establishment, pubs can and do thrive in all sorts of locations.  Companies have discovered that going out for a drink or a meal is big business. Family pubs are the new thriving hotspots.  Of course, those who simply want an old-fashioned drinker will sometimes shudder at the thought of their local being converted to a family oriented restaurant, where children are also catered for, including a play garden or an indoor den.  Such a conversion is not always possible given that new demands must be made on limited space.

The Camp PH did have plenty of space, and good car parking too.  So it is not easy to understand why its owners, McMullen's, appeared not to take the bait.  Perhaps it was not especially interested in changing its business model.

The latest news, of course, comes from the Quadrant.  This is a busy, often congested, quarter, developed as the high-density zone of the new Marshalswick estate.  Its pub was originally intended to be constructed opening onto Marshalswick Lane, but many residents living on that road in c1960 objected.  The site in The Ridgeway is quite spacious, and has the benefit of being able to borrow parking during its most busy hours.  The whispers about possible closure (actually not whispers given that a planning application has been lodged) are generally considered disappointing news, and if its owners are really struggling to attract customers, a family-centred establishment with brilliant marketing would surely make sense, given the large residential and retail zone it is a part of.

The acid test is the ability of the local community to persuade its owners.  I wonder how long we will have to wait.  You could contact Punch Taverns and let them know how you feel.  The company lives in Burton on Trent.  Good luck.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Here we go again

It is in the nature of these things that we pick the junk mail from the hall mat and throw away, not only the double glazing and pizza leaflets, but a vital item of information for us, our family and our neighbours.

This time some residents of Smallford may have missed attending a consultation meeting at the St Albans Rugby Club HQ  because they did not know about ...

... proposals by Brett Aggregates to open up the ground at the ends of their gardens for yet another gravel extraction site, on  land at the western end of the former aerodrome formerly belonging to de Havilland Aircraft Company and later Hawker Siddeley and British Aerospace.

Parts of the huge site have already been developed for business, residential, university and retail.  But a large swathe is reserved as open space.  Indeed, Ellenbrook Fields is a pleasant zone of recovering open land following the removal of the concrete air strip.

We must have sensed that below the surface there were useful minerals, which one day would be removed.  After all, the district does have a track record for supplying aggregates to the world, and to the east and south of St Albans we have experienced gravel extraction at Colney Street and Harperbury Lane, London Colney, Coursers Lane, Roehyde, Colney Heath, Oak Farm, Beech Farm and other sites.  So the news of proposed workings at the former Popefield Farm should not come as a surprise.

No-one would deny that aggregates are needed for the construction industry and for roads – and that there will be plenty of new homes coming to the districts between St Albans and Hatfield in the next ten years.  Some residents, of course, don't want the homes or the workings, and of the extra traffic that will come in their wake – the same fears which are attached to the proposed freight depot at Hedges Farm, Park Street. The narrow and already-busy single-carriageway Hatfield Road will indeed be busier and noisier than today.

Since the days of the St Albans Sand and Gravel Company after World War Two, when the call was for gravel to rebuild London, there have been proliferations of holes in the ground, and in recent years its successor company, Lafarge, has sought to close exhausted sites and return land to former or new open space uses – with the singular exception of the contaminated Butterwick (although that company may not have been responsible).  Where have we been in those sixty years?  We have continued with our lives and lived with the industry around us.  Today we look back and realise that, taken in the round, the result hasn't been too bad.

It is the prospect which is difficult to contemplate.  Thirty-two years is a long while to wait until the Popefield site is restored and the community park formed for our enjoyment.  Well, I will be well into  my second century by then, but it will be something for a younger generation to look forward to.

But all of this depends on whether planning consent is given!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Books and celebrations

Raise your glasses for 150 years!

First, the celebrations, because that event is happening this weekend, 16th and 18th October.

On October 16th 1865 a station opened on the newly finished branch line between St Albans London Road (then extended to St Albans Abbey) and Hatfield.  It was called Springfield, later renamed Smallford.  Later still the station name had a strapline, for Colney Heath.  Though completely closed since 1968, the former rail route is now a well-used walking and cycling path called Alban Way.

An exhibition and lecture/presentation is taking place on Friday 16th at the University of Hertfordshire.  Although all places have now been booked the event marks the start of birthday celebrations, being preceded by a walk along the route (also, I'm afraid, fully booked) from Hatfield to St Albans.

However, on Sunday 18th, a family day has been planned at four of the still-extant platforms at which the trains once called:  Nast Hyde, Smallford, Hill End and London Road.  Entertainments, music and exhibitions are on offer at times throughout the day. Freely-available brochures, Walk the Train Along Alban Way, help to self-guide you along sections of the route, pointing out features of interest which were, or are, located on either side of the line.

Although most events are free, one or two will need to charge to cover their costs, and contributions will be welcomed to cover the costs incurred in giving everyone an enjoyable experience.

Do go along and say hello to everyone you meet.

Book sale

Many of us recall the great book sales organised by Paton's of St Albans, in the old court room of the Town Hall.  Alas, Paton's bookshop in Holywell Hill is no more and with its departure went the book sales.

However, St Albans & Hertfordshire Architectural & Archaeological Society (SAHAAS) has ridden up to Market Square, as it were, with wagon-loads of books for sale on Saturday 24th October in the Assembly Room of the Old Town Hall.  Browsing and buying is from 10am to 4pm.

The event, organised in conjunction with St Albans Civic Society, is raising funds for the much-anticipated conversion of the OTH into a new Museum and Art Gallery.   The event will have a good mix of older and nearly new books.   Welcome back to the book sales – although I think this is a one-off event.  Do support it to bring the day of the new museum even closer!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Another empty space

Thousands of vehicle drivers pass this spot every day; the double roundabout at the complicated junction of Hatfield Road, Beechwood Avenue, Beaumont Avenue and Ashley Road.  Even in the 1930s there were observations about sightlines from Beaumont Avenue, and in the 1950s from Ashley Road.  The junction has always been made more difficult because Hatfield Road chooses here to bend.

The junction in the early post-war period.
Children on their way to and from Fleetville School walked along Beechwood Avenue and crossed Beaumont Avenue to reach Hatfield Road or the alley, even though their presence would have been blind to left-turning drivers from Hatfield Road.  And those children were often unaccompanied by adults.

Pre-World War Two, the proposed "Circle Road" would cross at this point and there were many discussions about installing a roundabout.  The concerns were ignored, but eventually traffic signals were installed at this intersection of the Ring Road.

The garden wall of the house built on the green space.  The
street shelter had been to the left of the blue sign, and the post
box to the right of it.
An interesting photograph has recently surfaced, showing part of the junction in the early 1950s (the caption gives a later period but I am sure that is not correct – but I may yet be proved wrong).  The green space behind the brick building was a pre-war builder's yard – the entry from the road can still be detected, the way subsequently blocked by a street plate.

The former brick police box was sited where the flowers
now bloom.  The 1960s house is behind.
The City Police Force introduced wooden remote police boxes in the 1930s so that officers did not need to return to the Victoria Street Police Station at the beginning and end of each duty.  In 1939 it was decided to renew these offices in brick.  The public could also use a phone from the window to call the emergency services.  In the same style, but out of shot to the left, was a street air-raid shelter and a posting box with an arrowed sign on top pointing to Fleetville Post Office.  The shelter was played in by children until the entrance was boarded up.

The well-known local building firm of Tacchi & Burgess was

engaged in building homes in Sandpit Lane and Chestnut Drive, and the company took the opportunity to let everyone know in the same manner as hundreds of other hoarding signs throughout the 1930s.  The sign was removed at the end of the project, but the framework remained for many years, while children played on the patch of rough grass.  When the brick police box was removed, at the same time as the street shelter, a public telephone box was placed up against the first house to the right.
Approaching the junction from the Hatfield side in c1900.

Of course, a house was eventually constructed on the grassed space, and the present flower bed stands where the police box had been.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Goodbye ... for now

The weekend of 12th and 13th September, is the district's Heritage Open Days.  A number of buildings and sites will be open for everyone to visit, often arranging special activities or displays.  How many residents of the city have never climbed to the top of the Clock Tower?  Come on, be honest.  Yes, I thought so.  Take the opportunity now!  We are used to the Signal Box being open every month, for us to pull levers and investigate what an old-style box was like inside.  This Sunday the Signal Box is also hosting an exhibition of photographs and artefacts by the Hertfordshire Home Guard Living History Group.

The Museum of St Albans, at least until September 20th.
The following weekend, September 19th and 20th, is of course London Open House weekend.  But there is a far more important event to celebrate closer to home.  On Sunday 20th the Museum of St Albans (MoSTA) closes its door for good.  Born as the Hertfordshire County Museum, the building has been added to and knocked about a bit over the years, but hundreds of residents have known it as the "dear little museum in Hatfield Road.  Most of us are quite unaware that the former archivist's bungalow at the back has been home to some remarkable research as well as being a key meeting place for planning new exhibitions and installations.  And beyond that a restful garden.

However, this little gem is no longer able to provide an appropriate level of exhibition space to satisfy  a district with the history of this great little city – even without the wonderful Verulamium Museum.  This is where the Old Town Hall enters the story, for as soon as the final funding is received, it is the OTH which will be home to the New Museum of St Albans.

View through the top floor round window to the garden below.
Which brings us back to Sunday 20th.  An intriguing art installation has been growing on the top floor of MoSTA recently, even as other galleries are being denuded of their displays and placed into storage.  Lyndall Phelps has used a number of recently accessioned artefacts in her installation; they represent a range of the significant industries which once thrived in St Albans.  Visitors are able to see the gallery grow, and reach completion on Sunday 20th September, when there will be a celebration of the museum's longevity between 2pm and 5pm.  The Mayor, so used to opening things, will be on hand to formally declare MoSTA permanently closed.

At that point it will be time to look forward to 2017, when a different mayor will no doubt do his or her civic duty and open the New Museum of St Albans at the Old Town Hall.

Hopefully we will be welcomed by some of the staff and volunteers who, during past few years have welcomed us as we walked through the Hatfield Road doors.  To them a big thank you for your smiles and helpfulness.

So, on September 20th it will be goodbye ... but only for now.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

New estate

Marketing brochures – we come across them all the time.  All the big house-builders produce glossy magazines in colour; their pictures looking stunning in their pristine surroundings with newly-laid grass.  'Don't anyone tread on the drive now we have raked it for the publicity pics!'

The unmade Lynton Avenue when the
builders were still on site.

It was just the same seventy or eighty years ago.  The photos will have been black-and-white, and the paper an inferior quality.  The content was the same but, to us at least, told in an old-fashioned style.  The message: buy our houses because they are the best around.

Internal views from one of the
first homes to be finished.

In 1928, Charles Hart and Walter Goodwin purchased a small field, Daniel's Field, on the south side of Camp Road.  Daniel's wasn't very deep and the layout of the homes reflected that: three closed avenues.  The left and right ones, Lynton and Glenlyn avenues, were culs-de-sac, with two pairs of semi-detached houses around the turning circle.  The middle road, Windermere Avenue, was designed rather differently, with houses along both sides, but leading to a white gate at the far end.  Beyond was an allotment field, but it was designed in this way to enable the opening up of this road in the future if the allotments should ever become homes.  Between the avenues there was space for homes along the Camp Road frontage too.  Taken together, this was the New Camp estate, distinct from the Camp estate on the north side of Camp Road.

The illustrations for the brochure were all taken in Lynton Avenue, the first of the roads to be completed.

"The general character of the houses seems to indicate the most careful forethought of the needs of the future, combined with tasteful variety of detail and meticulous selection of the best material.  The main consideration has been that of fitting up the houses with labour-saving devices in such a way as to reduce domestic work to an absolute minimum, and no consideration has been allowed to interfere with this idea."

Photo postcard for the Firwood estate.
The same partnership went on to construct other developments, including the first part of the Firwood estate off Colney Heath Lane, which was then completed after World War 2.  Goodwin and Hart continued to market their homes, with brochures, posters and photo postcards.

In other areas A A Welch distributed brochures for his houses on the Beaumonts estate, and T F Nash enticed potential owners with similar brochures for the new Marshalswick estate.  No doubt there is similar illustrated printed material for other housing developments in and around St Albans ... if only it could be found.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Sixty-one years ago

Last month a photo appeared here of the former Sutton Road railway bridge.  It had come from an 8mm film shot in 1954, believed to have been taken by a resident of Cambridge Road.  The film is available to be viewed at the BFI Player website (search "St Albans").

The opportunity should not be lost in identifying other scenes from that film.  For those who remember the scenes as they were the experience will be pure nostalgia.  If you are younger, you will certainly identify the locations.

We begin with a screen grab from Wellington Road, taken from the junction with Cambridge Road.  The film followed these three children on their bikes for some distance along a largely car-free road, and now they have paused near the camera to chat, and maybe decide what they might do next.  They all appear to feel quite safe.  The children probably lived in the road.  Today they would be about 68 to 70 years old, and today it would not be possible to take such a photograph of an empty roadway.

The comprehensive play park at Clarence Park today is generously provided with equipment.  But many of us recall the swings, the bucking horse, and that spinning roundabout which could be made to travel in either direction as fast as a child or teen could push it.  Hold on very tight!

The far eastern end of Camp Road led to the entrance of Hill End Hospital.  There is a small roundabout there today; the Lodge is still identifiable, though, somehow not as imposing today with its plainer windows.  The entrance gates to the left of it have gone, and with them the former hospital buildings behind.  Was it actually possible for a Green Line bus to stop right on the corner, as the stop flag seems to indicate on the left of the picture?

There are a few roads which rarely get a mention; one of them is Springfield Road.  Don't know there it is?  Look for it at the junction of Camp Road and Cell Barnes Lane.  It is T-shaped, and this nice shot discovers one of the Ts.

It is not surprising that the man is pushing his bicycle, for this is Camp Hill.  The building in the background, at the foot of the hill, is the former Campfield Press (Salvation Army Printing Works). The grass beside the hill would later be occupied by the Herts Advertiser and, more recently, Centurion House.

Double deck buses under London Transport ownership were still the norm, and this full vehicle on the 341 route to Hatfield shows an advertisement for Martell's as it turns from Stanhope Road into Hatfield Road.

The same bus pauses at the stop opposite to Martell's coal office (the former coachman's house for the Crown Hotel) – a nice connection with the photo above.  Further along the road was the shop of E Hooker, a well-known glass trader and maker of stained glass windows.  The old sodium street lamps are still in situ; they had caused such a rumpus among a number of women in 1938 because of the yellow lights' effect on the way their faces looked after dark.

Later in the year I'll post a few more screen shots from this lovely home movie.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

More jelly and cake

As many readers are aware I am keenly interested in celebrations, particularly street parties.  Even though permission has to be obtained from the council, there is something vaguely guerrilla about walking out into the middle of a road – your road – and taking over the space, having first blocked it off at both ends.  Daring?  I should say so, or that is how it would appear when you are a child!

My first street party was in 1945, on the lower part of the south end of Woodland Drive.  I have no personal memory of it as I was only one-and-a-half years old (at that age the extra half makes all the difference), but I was definitely there!  So, it was quite exciting to discover a street party in full swing in almost the same spot one blissfully warm July Saturday afternoon as we were walking along Central Drive.

Victory street party Cavendish Road 1945  COURTESY LINDA FULLER

I know that there have been other parties between this and that very first 1945 event, so there seems to be an ingrained culture for celebrations in this particular road, and I would imagine there are still one or two residents who recall the biggest of all the Woodland Drive parties in 1953, so large that a procession, fancy dress, sports races, teas and presentations of books to the children had to take place on the field where Oakwood School is now; and all topped by a fireworks display and bonfire on the land now occupied by Irene Stebbings House.  We called it "The Green".

Enlarged section Victory street party 1945 COURTESY LINDA FULLER

Only two weeks later I was offered a copy of a street party picture from Cavendish Road – the Victory Party.  I had heard that a party may have been held in the road in 1945, but until now had not been furnished with any proof.  Well, here it is.  This one was not particularly "guerrilla" as it was tucked away on the little stub of the road just below the Cecil Road junction, and would therefore not have impeded road traffic.

The fence behind the group separated the road from the premises of Sander's orchid nurseries, and is now the pleasant site of SS Alban & Stephen Junior School.  With flags aplenty, and a sunny day, it appears there was a large squadron of Cavendish Road children present in 1945.  It is, of course possible that it was a joint effort with Albion Road.  It has always amazed me how such parties became so well furnished; no doubt schools and churches came to the rescue, and possibly a miscellany of chairs from nearby homes.  In 1945 a householder heaved his radiogram (for a definition refer to a dictionary) into the front garden to provided suitable music, and a piano was heard playing through windows flung open at the front of another house.  All very jolly.

Behind the fence today.

Fortunately, the Cavendish photo is sufficiently detailed to be able to identify individuals; so, if you were there on that glorious day, you may just remember the simple food laid out: sandwiches, jelly, cake and squash, parents having saved up coupons and used a few of their precious rations.  A complete list of known street parties is listed on the website: ; and now there are two more to add.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Mind your head!

Last week the British Film Institute launched its online Player, having digitised hundreds of community films which are now available for us to see when we want to, rather than being inaccessible in film vaults.  The East Anglian Film Archive was probably one of the first to begin collecting amateur footage (although someone may be forced to correct me on that information).

It did not take more than a day or two before emails began arriving asking whether I had seen a film taken of St Albans in 1954.  I hadn't then but I have certainly viewed it now, and what a little treasure it is.  I have selected one screen shot which demonstrates what difference 61 years can make.  Many of the film's scenes might have been taken recently, if we ignore the clothes people are wearing and the cars being parked or driven.

But this one is very different.  When anyone now talks about the Sutton Road railway bridge most of us have to rely on the briefest of recollections, or use the notion of a simple bridge slung across a road with a steam train passing over; we just have no memory of it at all.

So, let me take you to the site.  Sutton Road, where the Alban Way crosses between the Morrison's side and Coach Mews.  Ordinary road, level, good sightlines, no overhead obstructions.  What's the problem?

Former Sutton Road railway bridge looking towards Hatfield Road.
Courtesy British Film Institute and East Anglian Film Archive.
Now wheel back the decades and pause on 1954, and look at this photo.  I know, that cannot possibly be Sutton Road, can it? But it is.  Of course the bridge abutments have been removed to enable a gentle slope to be excavated down to road level.  But look at the sign which warns of a ten feet headroom.  Then the dip carved out of the road; without that hollow the headroom would have been more like 6 or 7 feet, which is all that would have been needed for a mid-19th century private farm track, which is what Sutton Road was.  The road on both sides was full width after the houses arrived, and for decades a battle of words ensued between the railway company and the council to have the road under the railway bridge widened, and paid for by the Great Northern.
Some of us may have been told of the frequent flooding at the bridge, partly resulting from run-off from Hatfield Road, partly because cutting down into the ground brought the water table perilously close to the surface.  Welcome to the Sutton Lakes.  That's what many locals called this little spot during wet weather.

When this scene was taken the year was 1954; passenger rail services had stopped in 1951, but freight traffic – mainly coal and scrap – continued well into the 1960s.  As soon as the line was officially closed the bridge deck was removed, but it was still a while before the re-levelling and widening of the road took place and you could drive a bus along Sutton Road.  Not that one ever was driven along the road (unless you count the buses which turned into Sutton Road from Hatfield Road and reversed into Castle Road before making their return journey 'into town'.

This picture is a historical gem from a notorious little corner of St Albans' Own East End.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Getting engaged

No, not engaged to be married, but engaged with a particular interest group.  Choose an interest, any interest or activity, and there will probably be a group we could join somewhere in the St Albans district.  If not here, perhaps within a five mile radius of the Town Hall.

An increasing number of us are taking an keen interest in local history, or our family's history; and that's great for this blog, the website St Albans' Own East End, the local history group Fleetville Diaries, and for the St Albans & District Local History Network.

The Network will this year celebrate its fifth birthday.  It throws a bash each October at Verulamium Museum, but, of course, the nature of the event is in the form of a one-day conference.  This year's conference programme was published on Friday last, and what a variety of topics will be covered.

Smallpox in St Albans, investigating the local story (Elanor Cowland, former curator, Museum of St Albans)
Agincourt Veterans in St Albans (Peter Burley)
Medieval Lives and Liberties (Elizabeth Adey)
"Look What We've Found" (Catherine Newley, Curator, Museum of St Albans)
School Log Books: a Rich Resource for Local Historians (Patrick McNeill, Wheathampstead)
Archaeology and Town Twinning (Brian Adams)
Vickers Experimental Tank (James Brown)
Flicks in Fleetville (Mike Neighbour)

If you are unfamiliar with the term flicks, those of a certain age and urban upbringing will have referred to a cinema visit as "going to the flicks"  after the irritating flickering experience sometimes noticed on the screen.  Of course the observant will already have noticed that this presentation is offered by the author of this very blog!  If, by any chance, you are puzzling over where "the flicks" might have been in Fleetville, then book your place now for Saturday 17th October, 10:30 to 16:30 at Verulamium Museum.  Booking is essential as the number of places is limited.  Email

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Soup, Soap and Salvation

General William Booth
One hundred and fifty years ago a couple made history.  Through the dedication of Catherine and William Booth was formed the East London Christian Mission, which was later re-branded The Salvation Army.  It was in the earliest days that the Mission, serving the poorest and most desperate families of Mile End, that the motto "soup, soap and salvation" summed up its prime function.

While, today, we see the SA as a benevolent organisation with a huge international reach and wide-ranging support networks, the early days were very different.  Through its street work campaigning against the effects of alcohol, such was its success that street riots broke out, often at the behest of breweries and publicans, whose trade was negatively affected.

Courtesy Salvation Army
Courtesy Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is well known for two publications, which it printed at Mile End: The War Cry and Junior Soldier.  With the increasing volume of copies produced each week, production was moved to St Albans, and soon afterwards its musical instrument works also moved next door, in Campfield Road; neither building exists here today.  But The War Cry does, and Junior Soldier has a modern offshoot, KidsAlive.

The organisation's main base in St Albans, its citadel, is in Victoria Street.  It had arrived in the city to carry on its evangelising work, and in 1883, purchased the former private baths and swimming pool site in that road. Later the structure was rebuilt with a fine frontage.  But the Army encountered the same battles here as elsewhere, and police had to be marshalled to quell the frequent riots.

The Salvation Army had other sites in the city too.  The little church on Camp Hill was opened by the Salvation Army as a Sunday School in the late 1950s, having borrowed other accommodation in the interim.  A site in Fleetville had been acquired from the brewery Benskin's.  Now, that WAS a coup!

The printing works after extensions in Campfield Road.
Many people living in St Albans, whether or not they worked at the printing works, felt the Army was part of their lives.  Its brass band turned out at the then-new housing estates in rotation, and I recall it playing on Sunday afternoons on spare ground at the junction of Central Drive and Woodland Drive.  On Sunday evenings, whether they had cycled or walked, the band finished up in the Market Square outside the (old) Town Hall, band players playing and songsters singing, the familiar gusto hymns we knew from our own churches and schools.
The Citadel in Victoria Street.

If we lived in the Camp and Fleetville districts we all knew at least one Salvation Army family, and possibly several.

Today the Salvation Army may appear to be a very different kind of organisation from the traditional one some of us remember, but if there is one service the Army has always been known for it is putting in touch parents and their offspring when the latter have encountered issues which resulted in them leaving home and tearing apart from their roots.

On this one hundred and fiftieth anniversary, happy birthday Salvation Army.