Sunday, 16 July 2017

All mixed up

Sutton Road, which emerges onto Hatfield Road at the Rats' Castle public house, was named by the development partnership of Ekins and Giffen as they laid out their Camp estate in 1899.  Arthur Ekins was brought up in the village of Sutton, near Ely in Cambridgeshire and therefore named the road after his birthplace.

But they weren't the only people with an interest in the road.  On the eastern side, owned by Beaumonts Farm until 1899, the former toll house had been sold off a few years earlier and rebuilt as a house with shop; the public house is now on this site.  Earl Verulam and St Albans School owned the field on the west side and sold it to Thomas Smith in 1897.  Down came the trees lining this part of Sutton Road (no more than a private farm track then) and up went his printing factory.

Under some pressure Beaumonts Farm placed all of the land on the east side on the market in 1899.  Tom Tomlinson and Horace Slade between them acquired development rights up to the railway (now Alban Way) and this became the Castle estate.  South of the railway Alfred J Nicholson purchased land for a coat factory, now awaiting conversion into apartments.  It was he who named Hedley Road, but no other changes occurred until the late 1920s.  The field on the west side from the railway to Camp View Road continued to be grazed by Oakley's dairy cows, and before Fleetville Recreation Ground was laid out, this field hosted many local football matches.  It was, viewed from Sutton Road, an attractive tree lined field.

Two shops and a laundry arrived at the junction of Sutton and Hedley roads in the late twenties.  Mrs Dennison opened a general store and confectionary on the corner; Mr Bowman's pharmacy was next door.  Next to that was built a detached house, to which was quickly added a workshop laundry.  After much open space a pair of houses was added, and after more space a pair of shops at the corner with Cambridge Road: Morley's bakery and Gray's fish shop.  The bakery is closed but the fish shop is very much open for business.  All looked out onto the field opposite.

In 1933 Earl Verulam sold the field, which extended most of the way to Camp Hill.  Ernest Stevens, a well-known house builder of the time, constructed his estate of around 150 homes fronting the west side of Sutton Road and along three new roads, Campfield Road, Valerie Close and Roland Street.  The 1930s was the period when most new housing was built with the intention of selling through building societies.  Mr Stevens built specifically for rent and his homes found tenants even before they were completed.

So, Sutton Road was mainly full, other than the spaces left on the east side.  A proposal was put forward in 1938 for the largest space to be used to bring some entertainment to Fleetville, in the form of a skating rink.  However, a similar proposal had been taken forward by the Ver Hotel in Holywell Hill, and the Sutton Road rink didn't proceed.  St Albans Coo-operative Society acquired the site for its vehicle maintenance centre –  the Society already had a dairy and a bakery nearby.  This was the building which, in the 1970s, the Society intended to make into a supermarket, but following widespread complaints and a planning refusal by the Council the Co-op purchased the former Ballito factory.  Today it belongs to Morrison's.  The original workshops are still operating as D P Motors.  During the history of this site, other commercial buildings grew up, accessed from a private road which only showed its name in recent years, Pickford Road, and the final space was finally built on with two homes in the 1960s.


There is, however, one mystery to Sutton Road.  The plot which is the site of the park homes named Woodvale Park was not sold by Earl Verulam in 1933, which presumably was not his to sell.  Being adjacent to the railway, and being vaguely fan-shaped with the narrow end at Sutton Road, it has never been used for anything other than caravans and then the present park homes.  Indeed the site  extends further west than Woodvale Park.  From Alban Way can be seen the line of the rear boundaries of Campfield Road homes.  Railways with sidings all over the country have similar shapes. Yet the railway never developed it and never seemed to acknowledge it as theirs.

So, that's the mystery, unless you can solve it.

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