Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Former Typo

Today we are familiar with the abbreviated word typo as referring to a keyboard error resulting from hasty typing, or maybe even hiding unfamiliar spelling.

However, an organisation we would today recognise as a trade union was launched in 1849.  It was the National Typographical Association, with roots in Sheffield.  Its fortunes were seemingly variable, with separate regional and local groups appearing and disappearing in several parts of the country.  Although there had been small local groups in Hertford and in London, St Albans Typographical Association (STA) was created in 1899.

St Albans was home to several printing establishments, and formation at this date would have been given weight by the print works which grew up in the Fleetville and Camp districts at this time: Orford Smith, established in 1895; T E Smith in 1897; and Salvation Army in 1901 (in the building vacated by the short-lived Orford Smith works).  Many other much smaller printing businesses survived if not thrived and enriched the St Albans printing scene.

In 1920 the STA celebrated what is described as its Coming of Age, and issued a commemorative booklet, the rather damaged cover of a surviving copy, being shown above.  Two timely observations come to mind from the contents of the brochure.  First, one page is devoted to a list of its members who had fallen in the Great War.  These announcements were widely publicised from 1919 onwards, and appeared on plaques, and later, on war memorials.  The members (shown below) are local people.  While not everyone might have been a resident of the city, most will have been.  And in case any of these men's names have not appeared in other forms during the recent Armistice commemorations, we are pleased to recognise their brave efforts here.

Second, the brochure lists the businesses which supported the 21st birthday of STA.  They were Campfield Press, Taylor & Co, Photochrom Co Ltd, Dangerfield Printing Co Ltd, Gibbs & Bamforth, and W Cartmel & Sons.

One major Fleetville firm missing is, of course T E Smith, Fleet Works.  As we have come to realise through unsuccessful research, no closure details have ever been been recorded, and although it is widely assumed to be 1918, its managers confirmed that no printing had taken place at the premises after 1916, even though the building remained continuously busy – but that's another story.

We assume that, had the Fleet Works survived the war in tact it too would have supported the STA birthday bash.  Its absence in the list, however, confirms its rocky end through lack of skilled men.  Perversely, although there would have been no guarantee of continued success under other circumstances,  the print unions (plural) did guarantee the firm's demise by their refusal to allow women to take on key roles, even though they might have learned the appropriate machine skills.

If any members had thought about it at the time, it might have added an edge to the STA's celebrations.

Note: the Typographical Association merged with the London Typographical Society in 1964, to form the National Graphical Association, which with later mergers became the extant Graphical Paper & Media Union.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Move Over

For the past ten years the website has published many stimulating images and thought-provoking commentary about the part of St Albans with no overall name – it was Ernest Townson, a manager of the printing company which arrived in Fleetville before anyone lived there, who first coined the phrase in 1912.  St Albans' Own East End was then borrowed by the author (me) for the two books about the district and for the title of this blog, which has in itself published well over 400 posts.

There comes a time in the life of all software when replacement is due, and that on which the current website was originally built is no longer supported by its creators.  We have spent the past four years with our fingers crossed, hoping that nothing would go wrong.  Fortunately nothing has, but to continue along that precarious path is tempting fate!

At the beginning of 2018, therefore, I charted the long learning process of building a new version of St Albans' Own East End on RapidWeaver.  And over ten months later it is finally here, with the support of Chillidog Hosting.

The new format enables a more versatile design and an ability to present detail in more creative ways.  Please do not imagine, however, that when you start to explore the new site you will necessarily have a fault-free experience during the next week or so.  I still have a list of corrections to make, but the new site, now labelled , will settle down and be enjoyable for all to engage with.  

And as usual there is an email page for you to let me know what you think of the new format, and to send your recollections, news and images.

The site will now no longer be updated, although it will remain available for a while while we become used to attaching the suffix or changing the address in the Favorites (favourites!) section of our browsers.      

Today, we all experience the web on a variety of devices and via several different browsers.  Fault-free running cannot therefore be guaranteed for everyone all of the time – at least for a few weeks.

Nevertheless, upwards and onwards for!

Saturday, 10 November 2018

First Pictorial Record

The first photographs to appear in the Herts Advertiser coincided with the preparations for the First World War, and through the war years there were a very few portraits of local men who had been killed, injured or honoured.

Although the number of pictures appearing gradually increased during the Twenties they were all what photographers called exterior images.  There was just insufficient light for pictures to be shot indoors.  I suspect church service pictures would have been frowned on at this time. Especially the Armistice, later Remembrance, services which took place in the Cathedral.

The first Armistice-related pictures date from 1920 when side-by-side photos of the recently completed war memorials at Welwyn and Wheathampstead appeared in the edition of 6th November, and although Remembrance articles appeared thereafter it was 15th November 1924 before photos of representative groups marching to the Cathedral appeared and a picture of the Mayor laying a wreath at the St Peter's Street War Memorial.

These were the days when photographs were taken by others and handed in to the Advertiser office, so articles were rather randomly illustrated.

Peering into a hole
Random reports of holes have probably appeared in various locations for as long as it has been worthwhile reporting them.  Last week it was the turn of Oaklands where, rather worryingly, a large hole opened up beneath the foundations of Cedar Court, just east of Longacres.  Speculation that it was the result of digging clay for the nearby brickworks (on the site of the modern Marconi estate) can, I think be discounted, as Hardy House, which previously occupied the Cedar Court site, was also constructed without its builders being aware of fill material, often including rubbish.

A clue might be in the name of the Hill End Farm field on which later developments were built: Chalk Dell Field.  Small chalk pits were common in the area, and men employed to dig out the chalk for liming fields.  They were generally not very deep and early pits may have been gradually filled by the soil lying nearby.

What is of concern, whatever the cause (and it definitely wasn't heavy rains this time), the bottom of the hole would have been twice as deep as it appears today by peering in, as the soil and subsoil had fallen into a void below.

We will all be intrigued to discover more details about the Cedar Court hole, especially the residents whose homes hover over the newly opened space.