Sunday, 28 October 2018

Moths

While we are waiting for the hoardings at the Comet Hotel to be removed following that building's upgrade, here is a related topic – and, I suppose, to some degree, a little marketing.

A few years ago I was a regular reader of a monthly magazine titled Best of British.  Its range of subject matter was, and still is, based on the periods of recent times within readers' recollections.  So, the matters of everyday life from the Thirties onwards are featured in its articles, and there is a varied collection of correspondence from the journal's readers.

Recently it appears that the publishers have had bulk deliveries sent to a selection of retailers, including supermarkets.  I am uncertain how extensive or systematic these piles have been, but I did take the opportunity to re-acquaint myself with Best of British, and I quickly re-accustomed myself to its comforting style.

Airfix kit  COURTESY BEST OF BRITISH MAGAZINE
A series feature near the back is called Out of the Box and appears to focus on kit models; many of us will remember arrays of plastic shapes fixed onto plastic frames.  The box of the series title includes a range of accessories according to the model, tubes of smelly glue and perhaps a miniature container of paint, depending on the manufacturer.

St Albans Refrigerator shortly after closure in 1964
COURTESY ST ALBANS MUSEUMS
Children of the 1950s sometimes purchased their Airfix kits in a box from 149 Hatfield Road on the corner with Sandfield Road.  It had been a car showroom for Grimaldi Bros but was then taken over by St Albans Refrigeration.  Stanley Lawrence also used a counter within the shop for his model supplies.

The model featured in BOB's September issue was de Havilland DH82a Tiger Moth, an Airfix kit in red and white.  In real life this was one of several small civil aircraft types manufactured by the company when it was still operating from Stag Lane, Edgware, before moving to Hatfield. Later still the Tiger Moth manufacture moved to Oxford.  Apart from use as trainers for military and civilian use, air taxis and leisure craft, this little bi-plane was affordable by individuals with a good level of income, or for hire by the hour from flying schools.
de Havilland production brochure for the Tiger Moth series
COURTESY IAN GRACE

It is testament to the design and quality of this little craft from Hatfield that versions of the Moth are still in use today.  And if you should be wondering about the name applied to this series it would be useful to understand that Geoffrey de Havilland, founder and owner of the company, was an enthusiastic entomologist.  When not in the factory and at the drawing board he could often be seen wandering the extensive site on which the runway was laid out, searching for evidence of a wide range of insects.


So, there were tiger moths in the grass, tiger moths on the runway and in the air, and there were, and still are, kits of tiger moths in cardboard boxes!



Tuesday, 16 October 2018

They Recognised Me

In May 2017 the published blog was titled "You'll Never Guess What, Mum."  It centred on a published postcard showing three young boys outside the entrance to Hill End Asylum in the early 20th century.  A selective enlargement of the threesome enabled us to see their faces clearly, and although it wasn't possible to say who they were we created a possible scenario for the day on which the photograph was taken.


COURTESY ANDY LAWRENCE

It was just a photograph, and these were just three boys.  Except that one visitor to this site thought he knew more.  Dennis emailed to let us know:

"I have reason to speculate the possibility of who one or two of the boys may be. You see, My great grand father, George Goodchild was the Clerk and Superintendent at the hospital for around 30 years, from around 1896, before the first buildings had been built, up until his death around Christmas time of 1927, therefore, as I understand, he would have been the resident of Hillside house at the time that the photo was taken. Furthermore, My grandfather, Arthur Gerald Goodchild (Jerry), was born to George Goodchild and his
wife  Florence Ida Goodchild, at Hill End on the 31/10/1904.

Hillside is the house in view through the gates.


MBE awarded in 1927.
So, Dennis thinks it is likely one of the boys is his grandfather, Arthur, possibly the boy on the right.  But his grandfather had an older sibling, who is probably one of the other two, with a friend.


George Goodchild.
George was already an experienced practitioner in his field before gaining the post at Hill End as the Hill End project began, before the buildings went up and before his site house, Hillside, was completed.  He must have been dedicated to his role, for in June 1927 he was awarded an MBE for his Hill End career – Dennis retains this in the family. He died at the end of the same year.

We therefore not only have possible photos of George's two boys, but we have a photograph of George himself, published in the Herts Advertiser alongside his obituary.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Behind the Main Road

In 1924 Covington's brought to auction the property called Winches.  This former tiny farm and development opportunity was not just another site on which houses could be built.  It lay immediately beyond the city boundary and therefore in the Rural District, which meant that the future occupants would pay lower rates (now known as Council Tax).

The farmhouse and rear fields were acquired by the Institute for Tropical Medicine; the narrow field to the west of the access drive would later become the plot for a public house.  It was the front field which attracted most attention, and most of us travelling along Hatfield Road associate the development with a parade of shops and a line of semi-detached homes.

If we have noticed the side road at the eastern end, the majority of us have never travelled along it – at one time there was also a through access from the western end, but that has long since been blocked off.  There had always been a notion that the western end had never been fully completed; whether true or not this is the road known as Wynchlands Crescent.

The line of shops had always provided a useful range of retail both for everyday and specialist needs, and anyone who has attempted to park outside will have discovered that the former grass bank is just as challenging now that there is a double-height kerb!

Street party parade at the western end of Wynchlands Crescent in 1945  COURTESY ANTHONY MEYRICK
Recently we showed a photograph, one of a series submitted by Tony, with children enjoying themselves on a parade at the western end of Wynchlands Crescent.  The occasion was either VE Day or VJ Day.  Next to the end house, number 44, then owned by Mr & Mrs Brimble, was, and still is, the low fence protecting a small electricity transformer supplying power to the houses in the development.  The bystander at her front door, the right-hand porch of number 40, was undoubtedly Mrs Taylor.

When Stewart recognised the houses and one or two people, it is because he used to live just around the corner in one of the Hatfield Road houses.  He wondered whether he had been part of the street party; and it does seem possible as it would not have been possible to close Hatfield Road for such an event.

'City' Garage owned by Messrs Flowers & Etches who lived in the adjacent
properties.  COURTESY TONY BILLINGS
The council had always retained a small depot at the eastern end of the Crescent, against the Oaklands boundary, but what was stored there I have no idea.  One further property, between that depot and the first of the even-numbered houses, was a large garage for storing a few small buses.  The owners were the partnership of Mr Flowers and Mr Etches, whose families lived in numbers 2 and 4.

New properties, The Acorns and Woodland View have now replaced those former uses.  Next time you are Oaklands way, pause at the shops and then explore Wynchlands Crescent.  Maybe even Winches Farm Drive; the old farm house can still be spotted among the homes of the new estate.