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.