Sunday, 26 August 2018

Was It That Long Ago?

Earlier this month I began a review of 1968 – fifty years ago – and promised to continue recollections of that year in the East End of St Albans in the autumn.  Realising that September onwards will be very busy, with the anticipated new St Albans' Own East End website, I should probably complete the 1968 review earlier rather than later.  So here it is!

Marshalswick was blessed with two bus routes, 354 and 341.  The latter arrived via Sandridge Road and Pondfield Crescent, terminating at a stop near Kingshill Avenue in Sherwood Avenue.  However, with the newly opened Sherwood recreation ground, the terminating bus stop was seen to be a potential danger.  The Herts Advertiser gave no explanation of the potential danger, but the bus was changed to terminate one stop back – but it still presumably passed the entrance to the rec on its return journey via Kingshill Avenue.

St Albans Rural District Council engaged Belfrey Building Systems to construct 151 homes and flats for the elderly in The Ridgeway and Chiltern Road, near to the former Marshalswick School.  Part of this development has already been replaced, probably making it first second generation property in Marshalswick estate.

de la Rue, already well known for its security and currency services in Porters Wood, now opened a third building in Lyon Way for currency counting machines and cash issuing systems.

New bridge approach in Sandpit Lane.
July brought some confusion to motorists with the complete closure of Sandpit Lane bridge for rebuilding.  An emergency weight limit had been in place.  Pedestrians were able to cross the railway on a temporary structure – the first time they had protection, for the old bridge was too narrow for footpaths.

It was announced that there is a severe shortage of teaching space at Marshalswick School.  Not surprising given that only half a school was constructed in the first place, 1959, due to shortage of funds.

Ronald George with one of his works at Arlow Gallery.
Ronald George, a former pupil of Beaumont and Marshalswick schools, presented an exhibition of his work at Arlow Gallery, George Street.

Marshalswick Free Baptist Church opened in Sherwood Avenue.  The church had previously occupied The Tabernacle in Victoria Street, from which it had brought its original organ, suitably adapted and rebuilt.  The building was designed and built by Johnson Fuller Ltd.  The church was full for its first service.

Traffic signals at the Five Ways junction between Beech Road and Marshalswick Lane have been installed.  To make the junction working more straightforward Marshals Drive was severed from the junction and diverted onto Marshalswick Lane opposite Gurney Court Road.  That leaves the other Five Ways junction – The Crown – still without lights.

The Lyon Way company of Tractor Shafts has won a silver award for its automatic potato planting machine.

Much needed remodelling and new buildings have been completed at Oaklands Agricultural College, which is responsible for three farms (Oaklands, Hill End and Bayfordbury) totalling over 700 acres.  There are now 100 residential students and over 300 part-time students on day release and evening courses.

Sunday, 12 August 2018


This week we are opening up our diaries for 1968, exactly fifty years ago.  Some of us were not then born, others will recall some of the events readily.  No further explanation, so here goes:

Nearby residents uneasy about a rubber factory in their road, were relieved to discover Belpar Rubber planned to move from Albion Road to the new Butterwick industrial area.

Hatfield Laundry, where the Emporium was until recently, opened a new premises in Wellfield Road, Hatfield.  It also traded in Wheathampstead.

The Ministry of Transport had long intended a series of pedestrian underpasses across newly widened London Road at Whitecroft, Drakes Drive and Mile House.  The City Council wanted traffic lights instead; we now know who won that battle!

Clifton's, the Smallford manufacturers of system buildings – no longer in business – announced it would also supply plant hire vehicles.  The company was located in Smallford Lane at the former access to Butterwick Farm.  Other businesses occupy the site today.

It was proposed that Hill End level crossing will be lowered to road level now that the railway has fully closed.  The height difference was eight feet and the ramp quite steep.

Marconi Instruments Ltd is to invest further at its Longacres premises, and at a three-storey block on the previous Fleetville b Ballito site, now Morrison's.

Mr A Hobbs owned 2 acres of land in Colney Heath Lane, including a filled-in dew pond.  He has tried farming it, creating an orchard, growing Christmas trees and rearing animals, but the land remained waterlogged.  He had applied for permission to build houses in 1964 and now does so again.  He was refused once more, but, from the close named after him, we deduce he eventually got his wish!

Mr W H Laver, founder of the timber importer
and trader.
At the end of March Nottcuts, a business with several garden centre outlets, announced that it had purchased the nurseries at Smallford belonging to Sear & Carter.

W H Laver, timber merchants with several branches including opposite Fleetville Recreation Ground where Morrison's Refuel is, is celebrating the centenary of its opening at Corner Hall Wharf, Hemel Hempstead.

Discussions ensued about trying to reduce the amount of traffic on the ring road.  As we know this was easily achieved in the end by not calling it a ring road!

Sherriff's, the farming family which had a long-established garden shop near Hatfield Station, opened a shop at The Quadrant.  It was located on the Ridgeway corner where Giffen's Electrical had been and where more recently is Ladbrokes.

Hatfield College of Technology.
Hatfield College of Technology, first established as a result of apprenticeship schemes with de Havilland Aircraft Company, became a Polytechnic in 1968; the first step on the road to becoming the University of Hertfordshire.

Two students from Beaumont School, Glen Wade and Malcolm Turner, were winners of a cookery competition at Hertfordshire County Show.

All of that in six months; so having reached the middle of 1968, I will pause until the Autumn before discovering what else was making the East End news fifty years ago.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Meet Me at the Drill Hall

In our, sometimes traumatic, re-living of the First World War and the churning over of the ethics and morals, inhumanity and desperation, we have reached, with much relief, close to the end. Not that anyone was in a position to confirm that at the time.  Nor was The End anything other than the the Armistice and the laying down of weapons.  There are always consequences, and for countless families it was barely the beginning of new struggles in the lives to be lived in the future.

There used to be a building in Hatfield Road, almost opposite the Marlborough Almshouses, called the Drill Hall.  Drill halls were part of town life all over the country and became the headquarters of the local defence corps, now known as the Territorial Army.

As we observe from an advertisement which appeared in the Herts Advertiser in April 1918, Captain Charles Dunning of the 23rd Herts Volunteers implored every able and willing man up to the age of 60 to meet him at the Drill Hall.  This was one of many such calls even at this late hour for men to fill a variety of duties, for fighting and for support.  The battle was not yet won.

For those who came to meet Dunning or other officers, and signed up for active duty at or behind the Front, there would then be, perhaps two or three months of training undertaken locally and then in centralised camps in other parts of the UK.  By August recruits, whether volunteers or conscripts, and both from a steadily depleted pool of available men, were fully on duty.

One such man extracted from that pool in April and sent to the lines in early autumn was Thomas W Carter, who was living with his wife and children in Hatfield Road.  Since 1916 he had successfully appealed against conscription on several occasions.  He ran a successful business.  In his defence he continued to stress his work as agricultural, a key term given the extreme shortage of some foodstuffs.  In peacetime it had been a nursery and garden contracts business – and would be again – but in wartime the emphasis had changed.

Ada and Thomas on holiday after the war.

Thomas' luck ran out in April 1918.  At his final appearance at the Tribunal the latest appeal was turn down. By autumn he was in France, and the active part of his duty lasted barely a fortnight.  Within days of November 11th, Thomas' wife received news of  injuries to her husband's thigh, neck and arm.  His right leg was amputated below the hip.

Following treatment he was returned home; the business of Sear & Carter continued and was later taken on by his children.

The Drill Hall focused people's attention on their collective duty as they perceived it, and the decisions they made on the day they signed up.  But the consequences were far-reaching for all.