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!