Wednesday 28 February 2024

Camp

 Last week's blog was about Camp Field, which became Campfield Road, and given that a query was raised by a reader about the origin of the word Camp as a place name, and therefore its connection with Campfield, Camp Hill, Camp Lane and Camp Road, it seems logical to investigate the name of the district itself – Camp.  Where does this name come from and what was its earliest reference?

To justify the name given to the former Camp PH the artist portrayed a camp 
scene with a Roman official in the foreground.  This told the wrong story!

Well, however confusing and uncertain, the name certainly had nothing to do with the Romans.  Erroneously, it has been suggested St Albans began as a Roman city, or Verulamium was formed out of camps set up in much the same way as large infrastructure projects today still require worker encampments.  The former Camp public house hanging sign sported a picture of a Roman soldier, and a modern building on Camp Hill was awarded the name of a Centurion.  To be clear, Camp as a district had nothing to do with the Romans.

An element of civil life in feudal England had for centuries been the maintenance of local militias.  If you have heard of the County Lord Lieutenant one of his (and it was naturally his until modern times) responsibilities was to enhance the militias within his county.  It required an Act of Parliament (the Militia Act 1757) as the Union developed, and as a result required more formal training and places where such training could be carried out.

The militias were not in any way the same as the regular army; they were volunteers, although early muster rolls included lists of local men eligible for active training and service, being called up "when required."  So the degree of voluntary participation undoubtedly varies. The infrequency of their need meant that training was inefficiently – and infrequently – carried out.

The current slopes of Cunningham open space, formerly referred to as Springfield. Here were
gathered volunteers and militia men for ad hoc training exercises during short and isolated periods
of the 18th and 19th centuries; the last such period being in 1915.

In St Albans, Earl Verulam offered land for training purposes; fields on sloping ground adjacent to Cunningham Hill (which is also part of the same topographical feature as Camp Hill, where you climb it from Campfeld Road and the former stream, mentioned in last week's blog. The Camp field itself can still be walked, and viewed from behind Dexter Court where the expanse of Cunningham open space offers views down to London Road.  We are left to imagine how many men were gathered at any one time and for how long, and whether  inhabitants from nearby hamlets were given the opportunity to watch the entertainment.

Men attending training in the 18th and 19th centuries invariably travelled from a wide area and collected at the top of the hill.  It is possible that one or two cottages along the top of the hill were in use by farm labourers working at the nearby farm, and they may have been in use since the early eighteenth century. 

The 1766 Dury an Andrews map is believed to be the earliest to name the location of a 
building named Camp House; the Camp itself being west and south of Cunningham, here
named Garrycomb Hill.
COURTESY HALS




By 1822 a small hamlet had grown.
COURTESY HALS


However, the earliest reference to the word Camp in print was a single building named Camp House standing at the junction with Cell Barnes Lane and Camp Hill on the 1766 Dury & Andrews map.  It is sometimes suggested that Camp House was a public house or beer house.  However, no evidence for this use or name has surfaced, so we are left with the possibility that it was just a solitary house or cottage, which may have provided intermittent refreshment of some kind at times when training camps were organised.  The last known camp used for military training was in 1915, although by that stage many such camps were set up around St Albans.

Images of activity came late, with photos taken during World War One.  Perhaps there were
drawings or paintings from earlier times.

Such training was fairly regular in later militia and yeomanry periods and the location of these camps would have been well known.  Towns occasionally have local names which include the term Camp, either with a prefix or on its own. St Albans does not stand alone.

The need for food required the training field and nearby slopes leading down to London Road
to be utilised as allotments.
COURTESY THE HERTS ADVERTISER

All Ordnance Survey maps from 1822 onward name this little hamlet at the top of the Hill The Camp – note, it was not named A Camp; it was quite specific as this was THE location in the town where the training took place and was therefore The Camp site.

Once the land was available once more it was released for use as an agricultural show ground and during the Second World War for community allotments.  But it has never been utilised for any other kinds of camps – of the leisure variety for example, or for scouts and guides.

But the long lane which began at Hatfield Road and finished at Hill End Lane had a long history as Camp Lane, meaning quite literally the lane which leads to The Camp.

Sunday 18 February 2024

Camp Field


Portion of a scene painted by John Buckingham (1800-1881) near the Camp Field at the foot of
Camp Hill.   Today the Campfield Road/Dellfield road junction is nearby.
COURTESY ST ALBANS MUSEUMS

 Few of us with knowledge of the east side of St Albans will need a reminder of the location of today's blog.  Leaving Hatfield Road at The Crown, descend Camp Road and pass under the Blue Bridge.  At the very lowest ground and before climbing Camp Hill, turn left. This is  Campfield Road.  A small branch railway line arrived in the 1860s (the original reason for the bridge, although it wasn't blue then - in fact not the same bridge at all! The railway separated the growing Hatfield Road to the north from the dairy fields and hamlet of Camp Hill to the south.  The artist John Buckingham, painting in the mid 19th century, portrayed this junction very effectively; the road ahead is Camp Hill. 



OS maps surveyed in 1875, 1897 and 1922.
Field number 427 in 1875 was Camp Field. Between it and field 429 was a footpath between
Camp Hill (The Camp) and the Hatfield road.  The two square buildings on the south side
of Campfield Road (1922) are the Electricity Works and Sphere Works.
COURTESY NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND

On the low-lying land, where Campfield Road is today, there had been a small chalk stream, the same one which had flowed from Marshalswick towards Fleetville before turning across the gently sloping Camp Field towards River Ver.  It is doubtful if much remained of the stream even in the 1860s, but it might have provided one reason a portion of the reason may have eventually been sold out of farming for development.



1930s homes line around half of Campfield Road as well as Valerie Close, Roland Street and one
side of Sutton Road.

We note that the Campfield Road of today is quite lengthy from Camp Lane (now Camp Road) to Sutton Road.  The eastern section is largely semi-detached homes built c1930 by Mr W Stephens for the rental market.  Before that date the field at the eastern end was used by the Oakley family to graze dairy cattle, and for the first decade of the 20th century was utilised as Fleetville's first recreation ground, mainly for the use of of local football teams.  Along the boundary between the upper and lower fields ran a footpath from the oldest section of Camp Hill, downhill towards the stream bed and gently up the opposing slope towards Hatfield Road – opposite where today the western boundary of Fleetville Recreation Ground.

The Miskin built structure as designed for George Orford Smith, including its manager's house
before the site was extended for the Salvation Army's Campfield Press.

The main workshop of the Musical Instrument Works.
COURTESY SALVATION ARMY ARCHIVE

Meanwhile, at the lower end the sale of the water meadow was completed in 1895 to Mr George Orford Smith, who had a sizeable and specialist printing works – thus becoming the first such works in the Fleetville area and relegating T E Smith to second comer by two years.  Orford Smith's works were designed and built by Christopher Miskin & Sons, and included a manager's house.  The company specialised as a fine-art printer, producing high-quality multi-pass colour expensive work for clients, including Illustrated London News.

The modified front building of the 1908 Electricity Works for the nearly completed new
residential development.

However, the works remained in business for only five years, and in 1900 an equally expensive winding up process took place and the buildings were sold on to the Salvation Army which moved its printing, and shortly after its musical instrument works, from the East End; that is, London's East End.  The road, or rather track into the field, was called Campfields.  The road's first iteration was barely longer than the works itself.  However, the Salvation Army also acquired additional land, and so it was that the buildings for the city's electricity works was acquired from the Salvation Army's William Booth in 1908.  The administrative building of the works still stands and is now being converted into residential accommodation to be known as The Old Electricity Works.  New buildings for the development have been constructed at the rear on the site of the former generating furnaces.

Advertising by Engineering & Lighting Equipment Ltd
COURTESY GRACES GUIDE TO HISTORY OF INDUSTRY


ELECO's contract along Victoria Embankment.




The next site to be developed, and appropriately next to the electricity works, was an engineering company, Engineering & Lighting Company Ltd (ELECO) which had begun its life in the Lower Lea Valley.  It specialised in the manufacture of electric street lighting.  One of its earliest products was the globe lighting columns along the Victoria Embankment beside the Thames.  It is probable this product prompted the works to be named Sphere Works.  The company also acquired a site opposite, adjacent to the printing works, using land previously occupied by the Salvation Army's tennis courts.



The former Herts Advertiser building, now Phoenix House

After a century publishing a newspaper in the centre of the city the Herts Advertiser moved out to the suburbs, and to a site known to all today as Phoenix House.  In the 1960s the local news was published from here, and although the address is Camp Road, Phoenix lies along Campfield Road leaning against the hill which is Camp Hill.

On both sides of Campfield Road were temporary land uses during the Second World War; on the east side shelters were driven into the hillside; and on the west there were quarters for the Home Guard, and additional temporary buildings; de Havilland Aircraft Company occupied much of the Salvation Army Musical Instrument Works – later taken over by Boosey & Hawkes.

So, Camp Fields, or Campfield Road, a street of two halves; homes on the east and businesses on the west.  Although nothing original remains on the railway side apart from a section of boundary wall, there is plenty of activity in the many industrial and business units which trade from here.  And even more trade on the Sphere Trading Estate opposite.


Sunday 11 February 2024

Gurney Court

 Ah, we're back to Gurney Court again, although the only time it has been featured previously was in connection with the origin of the street's name.  We are not even going there today!  Our visits investigate what might make the road out of the ordinary, different, or even unique.

Gurney Court Road is one of a pair of north-south residential roads (the other being Charmouth Road) built in the 1930s although the proposals for the development predate the First World War. In fact the seeds of development might be traceable back to the 1860s, when the Midland Railway Company was seeking a route to link its line at Bedford southwards to St Pancras via St Albans.  One option, which was not taken forward, was to build through what would later become Fleetville, across Hatfield Road towards Sandridge.  However, the selected route was closer to the eastern boundary of St Albans Borough, through land belonging to Earl Spencer and close to Marshals Wick House owned by the Marten family.

To the right of the Midland Railway are the allotment lands, with the majority of the Marshals
Wick House park on the right side of the map.
COURTESY NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND



The developed parallel roads of Gurney Court and Charmouth roads almost complete for the
1939 published map.
COURTESY NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND


On one side the fields between the railway and the boundary of the Marshals Wick park north of Sandpit Lane became treatable has a block of land distinct from the larger portion north of the railway, as far as Sandridge Road. 

During the early years of the twentieth century allotments became popular, not so much as a leisure time pursuit, but for the health and well-being of residents on limited incomes and living in smaller terraces with only small gardens.  So pathways were laid out and allotments were let out.  The same land was utilised during the First War for military training, and for the storing of building bricks, not to mention the inevitable intensification of food growing.

There were a lot of homes to sell c1936, and a rather optimistic walking time
to reach the railway station.


The final owners of Marshals Wick House were George Nisbet Marten and Anne Marten, and the house was unsuccessfully offered for sale in 1921, some time after the death of George.  However, once it became evident that buyers for the house might be thin on the ground plans for redevelopment were taken forward.  As with other estate and farm land on the edge of the city Earl Spencer disposed of his adjacent three fields for new homes, while ensuring a proper connection was available from Hatfield Road – for the railway station – through both sections of Clarence Road, to link with his new roads north of Sandpit Lane.  His new road layout conveniently followed allotment paths and the detached and semi-detached homes began to appear, starting with those along Gurney Court Road. 

A coordinated plan of Stimpson, Locke and Vince, still will no office in St Albans, laid out the proposed plan for both the estate and the Spencer land, both largely a grid in layout; Gurney Court and Charmouth roads following a typical plan for the time of very lengthy mainly straight roads in parallel.  The houses were mainly grouped according to a builder's choice and the developer's rule on minimum values for the number of plots the builder had  purchased.  So the effect as we walk or drive along the road is of a pleasing design palette  typical of the mid thirties.



Three typical types of home lining Gurney Court Road.



The road with no homes along it: Harptree Way


On the road's eastern side the houses are punctuated by one very short connecting road, Harptree Way, itself having no homes fronting it.  Under the original layout plan Harptree Way would have been significantly longer, extending across Charmouth and connecting with Home Wood Road (now Homewood Road).

Gurney Court Road is on the right; the Midland Railway cuts itself beneath the St Albans Road
bridge.  Marshals Drive and Marshals Drive sandwiched the North Lodge when laid out, although
today Gurney Court Road continues across the unbuilt plot fronting Marshalswick Lane and
is therefore a little longer.
COURTESY NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND


Next to the triangle at the Sandpit Lane end of Gurney Court Road, where it might be thought the first homes belonged to the beginning of the road's sequence, the numbering reveals these to be the rather intermittently located dwellings of Sandpit Lane itself.  At the north end we may observe the road is now a short distance longer than its pre-war distance, having been driven through to Marshalswick Lane.  The road layout of Marshals Drive has been marginally shortened. North Lodge is now at the end of a stopped up Marshals Drive, allowing for a simpler traffic connection into the Sandridge Road/St Albans Road intersection.  The result is, of course, a congested junction at busy periods of the day.

Consider this: if you lived in the bottom third of Gurney Court Road how far away would be your walkable distance to the local shops?  It was not an error that shops were excluded from this development.  Their exclusion was built into the covenants of the estate! Even the later Quadrant shops are quite a step!


Monday 29 January 2024

Bycullah

 In the previous blog we explored where you could have travelled to in the days of turnpike roads should you have turned off the Reading & Hatfield at Hut toll (in today-speak that would be from Hatfield Road to Colney Heath Lane).  We followed a private toll road via Tollgate Road until reaching the Great North Road east of Welham Green, which is the Enfield & Lemsford Turnpike).

After the closure of the toll system the roads became open for public use without charge as ownership transferred to the Highways Board and then to many county authorities, as they still are today.

For us on the east side of St Albans there are two interesting connections between the town of Enfield after the closure of the toll system, specifically Fleetville, and the other Marshalswick.  For those who have already clocked the title of this blog will have guessed  that the Fleetville connection is probably Bycullah Terrace, the parade of Hatfield Road shops opposite Morrison's.

The section of Hatfield Road between Arthur Road and Woodstock Road South.

In passing, the Marshalswick connection is Jersey Farm, for Dr Corner moved his farm from a part of Enfield Chaseside close to the Northern Hospital because the Piccadilly Line extension was being built nearby.  More of that on another occasion.  

Enfield Chase and its early settlements, some of which still feature within the modern London
Borough.  
COURTESY THE ENFIELD SOCIETY


The outer terminus of the Liverpool Street to Enfield Town station which helped to promote
early residential commuting development in the nearby Bycullah estate.


There has been a long-standing bus connection between St Albans and Enfield.  Route 313 bus
waiting at St Peter's Street.

We will focus on the Fleetville connection which is close by on Chaseside, west of the historic town of Enfield.  The Chase itself was an ancient open and wooded space across the boundaries of Hertfordshire and Middlesex.  As London expanded and the communities of Southbury, Edmonton and Enfield itself, grew larger, the part of the Chase close to the Town (Enfield Town) attracted the first railway route (of three), so an estate close to the station and close to the western boundary of the existing urban area was sold for residential development; mainly large detached villas and equally spacious semi-detached homes, of which the key road was named Bycullah Road.  Today the majority of the addresses have been replaced by blocks of flats and modern town terraces.

Bycullah House and its extensive grounds in the early 19th century before the City commuting
 estate across nearby Chaseside.
COURTESY NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND

Before the early 19th century development there was already one sizeable estate property immediately north of the station, separated only by Windmill Road.  It was named Bycullah House.  The estate land probably amounted to several acres having been purchased by a retired officer of the British Indian Army, Col R D Riddell.  At present I am limited to evidence from published maps which show a large house, a number of separate buildings, lawns, formal gardens and smallholdings.  A private drive (later extended into the current road called Bycullah Road) connecting with Windmill Hill.  Bycullah House, and therefore the later Bycullah Road was named by Col Riddell from his association with the district of the same name in Bombay (now Mumbai).

Portion of late 19th century Bycullah estate to the west of Bycullah House from which the
estate and its connecting road took its name.
COURTESY NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND

After Col Riddell's occupancy of the House, and its subsequent owners, the Bucullah residential estate grew beside it.  Within around 70 years a writer and printer with some experience and investment moved into Bycullah House.  His printing business was adjacent to Fleet Street, easily accessible from the Town station.  His name was Thomas E Smith, who had opened Smith's Printing Works at Fleetville in 1897.

The connection with Fleetville begins here with Thomas E Smith both owner of Bycullah House
and Smith's Printing Works, the beginning of Fleetville, then outside of the city boundary.


He had naming rights over the nearby roads, including the section of the Hatfield road adjacent to the works, which he called Bycullah Terrace.

Mr Smith died in 1904 and Bycullah House passed on and remained occupied until the Second World War, surviving as a building, but minus much of the remaining surrounding grounds, until the 1960s.  However, we can show that a residential road in Enfield and a very short length of Hatfield Road, Fleeetville remains as a link to Thomas E Smith and a Colonel of the British Army in India.

Bycullah House has now been replaced by infill housing.  Bycullah Road is at the bottom of
this aerial view.  Halfway is a new access drive to the modern houses, which was the original
access via a private driveway and Windmill Hill.


Friday 19 January 2024

Tollgate

 In the UK there are  approximately 112 roads with the name Tollgate* in them, for all suffixes (lane, way, street, road corner, and so on); in addition there are a modest 15 roads with the word Tollhouse in them.

The first of several Tollgate Road street plates after leaving High Street, Colney Heath.

The answer to the question why such a route contains Tollhouse or Tollgate must be straightforward enough: during the period of around two centuries up to c1880s (although some closed earlier) in which  turnpike roads existed it is surely a section of road approaching a toll gate and/or toll house which will have been given – verbally at least – that most obvious of names.

In much the same way as so many roads in the vicinity of railways are labelled Station Road or Bridge Street.

The side road gate and house (no longer extant) near Hatfield Road in Colney Heath Lane. Named
Hut Wood Toll.  Painted by John Westall.

Through our east end of St Albans passes a section of the Reading & Hatfield Turnpike. Today the route is Hatfield Road and St Albans Road East, and if you peruse the website www.stalbansowneastend.org.uk you will discover a whole topic about the R&H, including its side roads which branch from the turnpike and where toll houses and gates lay in wait for those paying a charge.

But there is a road with the label Tollgate Road just east of Colney Heath village, although there appears to be no recorded Turnpike Trust to control this length of road.  Tollgate Road begins at the roundabout at the south-east end of High Street, Colney Heath.  It retains this name until becoming Dixons Hill Road shortly before reaching and bridging the A1(M), a modern road, although in former times the target would undoubtedly have been the Great North Road which is now labelled A1000. 

High Street view south-east to the start of Tollgate Road.



On the north side of the road was a separate farm known as Little Tollgate Farm, the main farm
on the south side.  Both are now Tollgate Farm.



After the road changes its name to Dixons Hill Road in the vicinity of today's A1(M) it passes
through Welham Green.


Evidence from various maps shows various short sections have been remodelled to enable the road to join the A1(M) and then aim for the A1000 near Welham Green Station where this road is still formally named Great North Road.  This section of the Great North road was controlled by the Galley Corner to Lemsford Turnpike Trust (Galley Corner can be found near Enfield).

The road crosses over the railway and reaches today's A1000, Great North Road, which was
controlled by the Galley Corner & Lemsford Turnpike Trust.

So we know of two turnpikes, the Reading & Hatfield, and the Galley Corner & Lemsford, between which appears to be a roughly west-east road by the names of Colney Heath Lane, High Street, Tollgate Road and Dixons Hill Road (formerly just Dixons Hill).  The give-away name is, of course, Tollgate Road.  Further emphasis is placed on the name as it passes Tollgate Farm, and formerly Little Tollgate Farm on the opposite site of the road. And that's not all; an area of nearby woodland has been called Tollgate Wood.

The vehicle is turning into the entrance of (Little) Tollgate Farm, as shown in an earlier photo.
Take note of the green bank beside the road and in front of the car.  The constriction would have embanked or possibly fenced to enclose half of the present road's width.
We will observe it on both of the maps below.

At this point we should refer to a detailed spreadsheet listing all known tollhouses, whether extant or lost, in Hertfordshire**. Number 34 on the list names the gate "North Minns" [sic] but describes the location of the gatehouse as "Tollgate Farm, Colney Heath, Roestock."  Further location detail describes "Tollgate Road, from Mimms Hall, north of North Mimms Park."  Rather disappointingly, the spreadsheet informs us that, as with the majority of gate houses in the list it is "lost", in other words, it no longer exists  and had not done so at the time of the 1890  OS 6 inch map.  Visual inspection of the 6 inch and 25 inch map of 1897 confirms this.

Although there were occasional buildings along Tollgate Road at this time, none was labelled Toll House and none existed on the boundary of the road as would be expected if the intention was to restrict road width and stop traffic to collect tolls. 

There is one more alleged fact about Tollgate Road.  While the majority of turnpikes were organised by Trust – the clues are in their names – an unknown number were privately owned, and the toll road where this house presumably stood was allegedly a private company. So the same amount of data does not survive in the public record.  It is not possible to prove that its private status is the reason for such lack of information; nor is it possible to prove how long in distance the private road was.  It is likely the majority of vehicles using it were making passage between the turnpikes at the Hatfield Road and the North Road.  A toll house midway would have seemed a likely option.

Until now we have one tantalising clue about an apparently privately owned turnpike (or toll) road, but insufficient to be specific about exactly where, nor its specific purpose.

Section of OS six-inch map surveyed c1879.  The Y shape road layout.  Bullens Green is at the top
with Tollgate Road to Colney Heath to the north-west corner and towards Great North Road
southwards.  At the centre of the Y is a curved line on the right of the road which 
represented a bank constricting the road width.  
Beside the curved line are the lettersTP (Toll Point)

COURTESY NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND



The larger scale survey of 1896 shows a more accurate boundary of the obstruction and
a mark indicating it is nevertheless part of the road.
COURTESY NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND

Or are we just not searching well enough?  Searching an earlier OS six inch map does finally reveal where it was; the standard abbreviation for a toll house and/or tollgate is TP, (toll point). It doesn't exactly show a rectangular formation to represent a permanent building, but it does mark a narrowing of the road on the east side – and it is located right outside the entrance of Tollgate Farm itself.  Cross checking with the OS 25-inch map for as late as 1897 the same curved line on the road surface is in the same location, although the abbreviation TP is no longer marked.  The curved line drawn on the roadway would have represented a bank of grassed covered soil or some other obstacle to constrict vehicles to to use a deliberately narrowed part of the road for the benefit of the toll collector.

It is therefore very likely that the private owner of the toll road was also the owner of the farm.  We now have a good deal more knowledge than when I was passing the street plate in the car and asking myself that initial question!

 

* www.findmystreet.co.uk

** www.turnpikes.org.uk

Saturday 6 January 2024

XL-ALL Seeds

 Get ready for our first sleuthing project of the year.  If you are a long-standing reader of the SAOEE website the letters XL-ALL may resonate with you, especially if you occasionally spin through the Questions and Questions Answered pages.

A Ryder mature company catalogue by 1930.


Since the turn of the twentieth century Samuel Ryder's company, Ryder's Seeds, had been operating successfully in the city and was a nationally known brand.  Not only did it feature a very wide range of seeds, but the company operated a mail order facility on a fast turn-round, and boasted packets from one old penny – "penny packets" as they were known.  And if there is a profitable and highly successful trader there will always be a copy-cat business person attempting to deceive purchasers into falsely believing they will be buying the genuine product.

By 1907 such a copy-cat firm was advertising seeds: "the most remarkable business enterprise of modern times.  The seeds are sold at the uniform price of 1d [one old penny] per packet."  The advert tells us that "St Albans is known the world over as the distributing centre for these seeds."  But this advertising blurb did not refer to Ryder's Seeds. This was a firm from Leytonstone, not St Albans.  Nevertheless it allegedly brought its operation here, although we should be mindful  it could just have been a registered address.  Its brand name was XL-ALL, giving the address of Hatfield Road.

When customers contacted the company they were sent catalogues which were, in part, copied versions of Ryder's Seed Catalogue.  Of course we cannot say whether or not XL-ALL actually had seeds to sell; possibly they received the orders, kept the remittances but omitted to forward the seeds.  But even if customers did receive seeds from their orders they certainly were not Ryder's seeds.

We do know that Ryder's took the upstart to court and a restraint of trade order placed on XL-ALL.

All that remains is to discover which property in Hatfield Road was in the hands of XL-ALL for this short period of time.  That is where the matter has rested for the past ten years – until last week at the end of December 2023.

I had spent an afternoon searching new and interesting movie film titles which had links to St Albans and which were lodged with the East Anglian Film Archive, storing stock from Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk.  Among the titles I viewed was a short three-shot silent from 1907 – note that year, which was mentioned above.  The film's title was The Animated Pillar Box made by Arthur Melbourne Cooper of St Albans.

The Animated Pillar Box, shot 1
COURTESY EAST ANGLIAN FILM ARCHIVE


On this post are three key stills from the film, one of which provided a connection with the Ryder- XL-ALL story above.  Cooper just happened to include details of a company painted on a wooden gate. Today we might call it product placement, but in 1907 the details  probably just happened to be where Cooper was filming. Coincidental.

The link is:

https://eafa.org.uk/search/?q=&titleDateFrom=1890-01-01&titleDateTo=2024-12-31&perorg=&agentActivity=&locations%5B0%5D=Hertfordshire&featured=&workType=&descriptionType=&sound=&colourType=&searchSort=relevance_desc&pagination=5

The sixth title in the page list.

Why not freeze the film after the first very long shot and take in the white hand-painted sign announcing the location of XL-ALL's warehouse, apparently behind the gate.


The Animated Pillar Box, shot 2. Was this the opposite side of the road shown in shot 1?
COURTESY EAST ANGLIAN FILM ARCHIVE



The Animated Pillar Box, shot 3
COURTESY EAST ANGLIAN FILM ARCHIVE


The long first shot give us plenty of time for take in the house in the background, the T junction foregrounding downhill, with a footpath and fence behind.  The roadway appears to be rather longer than is first seen in shot one, the lower section only seen in the third and final shot.  The painted fence sign may have been nearby.

Remember, the 1907 advertisement stated the firm was in Hatfield Road, but that is a very long road, extending from St Peter's Street to Popefield at Smallford.  Perhaps it was the nearest developed location to Hatfield Road.  Or the house, of course, may have been demolished at any time since 1907.

So the question is, do you know where the house and its junction is, or was?  Any ideas anyone?



Monday 1 January 2024

Remembering 1923

 Time to look back even further than last year as it is now we are at least one day into the new year.  As I have blogged previously I'm jumping back before our memories; back to 1923.  Why not indeed?  So here are a few events which St Albans people found to be recent by the end of 1923.


Walking out of the front door of the King Harry PH and into a quiet open space.  Such was the
1920s and earlier.  This view from Watling Street is deceptively quiet for even then this was considered a dangerous junction with poor sightline.
COURTESY HERTS ADVERTISER


King Harry corner: a long time before traffic lights appeared, the junction had long been realised as dangerous, but it would be much improved if various outhouses of the public house were removed.  Clearly any improvements didn't arrive early enough as the field (now St Stephen's estate) had already been purchased for housing and therefore constrained widening and visibility.

Cock Lane: the top of Hatfield Road between St Peter's Street and Marlborough Road is about to be widened.  So, with the benefit of hindsight we can conclude the road does not seem very wide today!  It also helps us to date the Blacksmith's Arms PH which was rebuilt further back from its original footprint.

Swimming certificates: for those of us who remember working hard for these little sheets of thin card, certificates for 25, 100 and 440 yards were awarded for the first time to children attending the city's elementary schools.

It was proposed that the market stalls should be lit by electricity; but these matters take much time to resolve and I recall it being the early 1950s before stalls not in The Square were converted from hissing hurricane lamps

In 1923 the Market Square became a car park on most days of the week (see item further down).
It is difficult to see Waddington Yard (now Waddington Road) in this photo.  In the left
background there is a narrow gap between the buildings, which opened out a little behind into
a yard, hence its former name.  The pub on the frontage was demolished to provide car
access and it became Waddington Road.
COURTESY ANDY LAWRENCE

In 1923, and a good time after the access to Spencer estate and Worley Road from St Peter's Street was still called Waddington Yard.  There was a public house on the corner called the Rising Sun.  This would be pulled down to widen the access.  This happened – eventually – and the name changed to Waddington Road.  But it all started in 1923!

A small parish school along Watford Road, St Stephens, was proposed for closure, with just 33 pupils left, although there had previously been over 60.  Interesting move as the field across the road was about to become St Stephen's estate, and a field on the other side of Chalk Hill (now cross by the A414 was M10) had just been sold for development. Fortunately, the closure was temporary.

The sale of Marlborough House in 1923 prompted a swift change in the Victoria Street 
streetscape.  The line of trees on the right are between Trinity Church and Lattimore
Road, but within a very short time they would be gone with the development of
Victoria Street and Marlborough Gate behind.

Marlborough House, off Lattimore Road, and formerly owned by Samuel Ryder, changed hands in favour of the newly arrived Loreto College. This also marked a huge change in the Victoria Street streetscape, which many residents subsequently recalled as a landmark year.

Oster Hills: this substantial private house was sold and became part of the St Albans hospital estate, initially for the accommodation for nurses; the name Oster Hills quickly became more widely known by St Albans folk.

The Poly: the end came for this much converted and altered cinema in London Road. It succumbed to fire originating from the projection room – in those days of highly flammable film.  The cinema was fully enlarged and rebuilt in 1928, and is still popular one hundred years later as the Odyssey.

Public toilets: in 1923 they were beside The Boot PH in Market Place and not well-favoured.  New toilets were to be built attached to the Clock Tower, but of course, these never materialised. Try the Town Hall or George Street!

You may have forgotten, or never knew, but 1923 was the year when The (Market) Square became a parking plot for cars; except for Wednesday and Saturdays of course.  

Not St Albans, but near enough, in the very early days of Welwyn Garden City – how excited St Albans people were to learn that news and its founder Ebenezer Howard. The Canadian-owned Shredded Wheat Company has decided to build its factory in the garden city.  Its arrival gave the new railway station its informal sobriquet: "a return to Shredded Wheat please!"

Though detailed reasons were not given it was announced that unemployment figures for the last year had fallen from 636 to 363. Which must have given many unemployed or lightly employed residents some hope in a dark world.

By the end of 2024 we'll discover what became the events of the year in 1924, but you won't need reminding of the events of the year on which we are about to embark; they will still be fresh in our minds.

Have a fruitful, enjoyable and successful year; we hope there is much for us all to look forward to.