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.