Thursday, 25 November 2021

Crittall style

 Searching through historic copies of the Herts Advertiser a number of themes are revealed, such as the display advertisements in the 1930s for house builders, as we explored in the previous post. So this time we will extend the same theme by discovering the range of designs and styles which such businesses erected in the newly acquired fields which extended St Albans between the wars.  Many were plain fronted with few embellishments; occasionally a one-type model which limited variety along the streamline. There are many examples of homes constructed in what might be called  "tudorbethan" with external timber mock beams on projecting eaves – many variations on a similar theme. Brickwork, sometimes in more than one colour, may give way to rendering, to provide a more pleasing frontage.

Many features of a modernist (sometimes labelled Art Deco) are included in urban settings, including
stepped wall capping, metal windows emphasising horizontal lines, vertical windows and slab roofed

Occasionally architects produced designs from the, then fashionable modernist stylebook, often sporting flat roofs and distinctive front elevations which may include solid first floor balcony fronts, bay windows with wrap-around (Suntrap) profiles. Both horizontal and vertical features are empasised: vertical windows often set above the front doors; and an emphasis on horizontal lines in the glazing bars,  narrow window openings and line relief brickwork. Simple slab porch tops, stepped tops to the front elevation, all traditionally painted in white on top of rendered brickwork. For the most part architects would select from the palette of features and the first to go would be the flat roofs, preferring instead a traditional pitched roof.

Traditional roofs and open porches to blend with other styles in the road; nevertheless, tall vertical
windows, sun trap bay windows and white rendering combine to illustrate a form of modernist
style along Beechwood Avenue.

Black painted glazing bars, short first floor balconies over the front doors and rendered white or
cream in Charmouth Road.

Examples of Modernist design were not often employed in our East End examples are to be found on the east side of Beechwood Avenue (c1937), a single house in Rose Walk (early 1950s) and a number on the west side of Charmouth Road (c1938).  Fortunately, alterations and extensions which might have complicated or otherwise modified the structure or style are rarely evident, and while our appreciation of the architectural end result will always be subjective the proportions, if radically altered would stand out.

Horizontal lines in brick on the first floor, double sun trap bays, even on the later extension. Echoes
of the horizontal lines are also in the railed fence.

We can't proceed further without reference to one engineering company whose output contributed much to modernism, whether in  homes or commercial buildings, and that is the engineering company  begun by Francis B Crittall in the 1840s.  Its history had been the production of metal window frames which had a long, maintenance-light life compared with timber.  We may be more aware today of the coldness of steel, and of course all windows before recent decades were single glazed, but fashion was always prominent, and metal fames were narrower and allowed more light into the room. 

By the early 1920s W F Crittall (Crittall Windows) had become synonymous with the fashionable modernist style which the company embraced.  We would recognise the metal glazing bars, over the years redesigned to echo the requirements of emphasising the horizontal glazing bars, including curved panes and width/height ratios which, even today, are considered unusual – often referred to as slim frames.  By the 1950s the company's output had galvanised zinc finishes or were in lighter aluminium.

There was much fashion for coloured glazing in the 1930s, and Crittall's was no exception. While more traditional picture scenes and sunbursts were common elsewhere, Crittall's top glazing offered geometric designs as an alternative to plain.

Curved glass is still available for replacement, although where replacement uPVC frames have
replaced the originals the sun trap end section is usually replaced with a flat end at 45 degrees.

The company's manufacturing centre is at Witham, Essex.  Nearby at Silver End Crittall's constructed a small estate of modernist design homes for its employees, and although none feature the curved end bay windows which epitomise the hallmark of a modernist design, the homes here are unquestionably showing off the company's window products.

There may be other isolated examples in St Albans of this type of design – something to look out for in our leisure walks around our patch.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Adverts in the HA

 We are very familiar with the style of advertisements – in colour of course – and the page layouts in today's Herts Advertisers; and when we compare this with a substantially older style the change hits us as a surprise.  Rather old-fashioned; monochrome; plain.  But such changes have realistically crept up on readers gradually, and differences would have appeared minimal in the short term.  Here is a selection of display adverts appearing in the newspaper before the Second World War.

H C Janes Ltd was one of the key house builders during the 1930s and in St Albans one of the estates the firm was responsible for was the even numbered side of Elm Drive.  Appreciating that new homes could be plain and the street scene off-putting when potential purchasers arrived to view, the company arranged for street trees to be planted to soften the landscape.  Other builders paid for trees and shrubs to deck the front gardens for the owners' arrival. The next advertisement illustrates how building societies became more popular and encouraged savers "for your future home".  The alternative was an "easy terms" equivalent over a number of years.  All who aspired to become home owners were offered considerable choice of properties between the wars; the concept of homes to buy rather than homes to let was seen as a family investment.

One building society local to St Albans was the St Albans Permanent Building Society, whose leading light was Cecil Preece.  With Cockcroft builders the company maintained premises in Fleetville.  It was not  unknown to find similar connections with other complementary businesses.   In this example the building society's new Spencer Street premises was highlighted as a contract for J T Bushell.

House builders often sought a competitive edge against other nearby builders; one might offer double skinned walls, boarded lofts,  driveways or styled front gates and front doors.  Burgess builders, having acquired plots along almost the whole of Oakwood Drive (the Dalehouse estate), went even further in providing a choice between bungalows and houses, and also laid a concrete road surface at a time when this was often left for the local authority to manage on behalf of house owners later.

Builders were naturally proud of the individual structures they had won contracts for, and so were ready to list them in their advertising. Bushells, in Catherine Street, were therefore particularly satisfied with their construction of Verulamium Museum in 1939.  While we may recognise the external view, the original internal and unextended exhibition area has been much forgotten by residents who visited in its earlier days.

Whereas the majority of earlier homes had been short terraces, J Hammond & Son Ltd, whose base was opposite St Peter's Church, constructed fine well-proportioned semi-detached homes, including along Beech Road.  As with many homes of the 1930s period many have since been provided with side and/or rear extensions and any number of loft conversions and enclosed porches, producing a rather muddled street scene compared with the clean complementary designs of the originals.

There was much experimenting with materials and building methods in the 1930s.  Concrete attracted the attention of commercial builders in particular and appropriate advertising appeared over a wider area; although even Hoddesdon, home of Bell & Webster, was home territory of the Herts Advertiser in those far off years.  We know of at least one local building which was a B&W speciality undertaking government contracts during the Second World War: the Day Nursery (1942) at Fleetville, now Fleetville Community Centre (adapted 1979-82).

Finally, commercial companies occasionally discover there is more to be gained for them and their customers if an existing building can be adapted and upgraded – today we might call it repurposing.  Northmet Electric first generated electricity in 1908 from a site in Campfield Road – part of its frontage has also been repurposed.  When it came to marketing the sale of electricity and electric goods Northmet Electricity, later to become part of the Eastern Electricity Board, took possession of Ivy House and nearby premises in St Peter's Street north and St Peter's Close.  In a period when it was largely the wealthier residents who owned their own properties and who therefore had control of the facilities to make their homes more comfortable, the range of showroom spaces would have made their customers feel "at home".  So it is appropriate to observe that in the adjacent residential road of St Peter's Close there were  advertisements by Mandley & Sparrow, house agents, at the same time.  A prominent photo along a spaciously laid out road was a large  detached home of traditional design.  No doubt already completely fitted for electricity, both lighting and power.  It should be added that the house shown may have been from another location where similar homes had already been constructed.

Sunday, 7 November 2021

Community Football

 This week we are going to unpick a few community football issues from the very early years of our East End, and we begin with what is believed to be the first known amateur team which was formed c1890 from the residents then living in the new homes east of the Midland Railway, Cavendish, Albion, (upper) Camp, Stanhope and Granville roads.  A club by the name of Stanville FC was formed, the portmanteau name using Stanhope and Granville in its name.

Stanville FC adult team (there was also a reserve and junior squad) c1897.  However the setting is
not identified.  The gentleman centre back row is undoubtedly Thomas Oakley, who in this year was Mayor of the city.  Whether Mr Oakley had a formal connection with the club is not known, but he was present on this occasion!

Stanville's name appeared regularly in 1890s editions of the Herts Advertiser, playing other district teams, such as Abbey, Hatfield, Campfield (after 1995), Harpenden and Redbourn.  A report on one match in 1891 describes a home game played on its home ground in Hatfield Road.  This tantalising fact is set to test us.  Clarence Park is still three years from its opening, although the field from which the Hatfield Road side of the park was created had previously been a meadow known as the Fete Field and available for public events by the city's residents.  Another possibility was part of a field just east of St Peter's Farm.  The 1898 OS map shows unbuilt land on the corner of Stanhope and Camp roads, the green in front of St Peter's Farm, and a corner site on Hatfield and Lemsford roads. Perhaps these plots
were rather small for such a game.

How long the Stanville club lasted is uncertain, but the Adult School which opened in Stanhope Road in 1911, soon created its own football team, under the management of one of its members, Charles  Tuck, who ran a motor garage business in Hatfield Road, east of Sutton Road.  We might speculate that players from Stanville moved over to the Adult School team if some of their friends also transferred, or perhaps Stanville Club closed in favour of the Adult School.

The St Albans Adult School team from 1921, taken outside the School in Stanhope Road.
The team trainer/manager, Charles Tuck, is on the left of the middle row.

We know of another community street football team thriving in 1911, Glenfield FC – another portmanteau from Glenferrie and Sandfield roads, where the majority of their players are thought to have lived.  Once more, we have little idea of the lifespan of the Glenfield team and whether it was able to manage the frequent transfer of residents living in the rented homes in that part of Fleetville.  No doubt, as with other local teams, good or enthusiastic teens and adults from further afield would be encouraged to participate.

Another street football team was Glenfield FC, where many of the players lived in Glenferrie or Sandfield roads.   

We are, of course, not surprised by the existence of a football team in part of Fleetville in 1911; after all much of Fleetville east to Beaumont Avenue was either complete or in build before the First World War.  Whether such teams were able to re-form in the 1920s is uncertain.

However, there is an intriguing announcement in the Herts Advertiser during September 1898: the fixture list for that season up to the following April.  The list was headed Fleetville FC !  So, let's discover where the name Fleetville came from.  The printing works was in build during 1897, was completed during 1898 and named The Fleet Works, after the company's London address at the lower end of Fleet Street.  The rest of 1898 was taken installing machines and searching for a small number of skilled employees, although there were no houses closer than Cavendish Road, and Camp district was empty other than Camp Hill.  Factory owner T E Smith laid out plans for his Ville of workers' homes opposite the works, and placed advertisements for builders from 1899.  The name of the proposed development was initially Fleet Ville.  It would be a further year before a small number of homes in Arthur and Tess roads became habitable, and a year later than that when a few homes on the Slade building estate were also ready.

This photo of c1911 shows the locality which had been first identified as Fleet Ville and then as
Fleetville from 1898.

To have a ready name, Fleetville, for the residential district seems to us far too early, but ready it obviously was; to have sufficient residents, both adult and junior, ready to form teams also appeared far too early, but ready they obviously were.  In September 1898 the team – under whose management we know not – applied for affiliation to the district Football Association, which was accepted.  The Association had already received entries for the Cup from the following teams: St Albans A team, Campfield (probably from the Orford Smith printing works), Abbey, Harpenden, Elstree, Ware Excelsior, Stanville, Hatfield and Fleetville.

At the end of the first half of Fleetville's first season the Herts Advertiser announced that a member of its junior team was to be censured and cautioned for disorderly conduct during a cup match against Stanville FC – a local derby!

September 1898 was probably the first occurrence in the newspaper of the name Fleetville.  The usage of place names not officially titled and created, usually takes time for people in a locality to become acquainted with such words which enter the common language naturally.  Fleetville apparently entered the local lexicon far earlier than we had all imagined.

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Granville and Stanhope

 The two previous posts have drawn our attention to Conservation Areas (CA) in localities within our eastern districts –  Clarence Park and nearby residential roads, and Sleapshyde.  Perhaps a number of readers have or will take the opportunity to explore these streets and the buildings which lie along them.  It is usually only when we are walking that we are afforded the opportunity to notice details along a street. This week the third and final Conservation Area is Granville and Stanhope roads, where two of the three roads are busy thoroughfares in their own right.

Clarence Park is at the top; Station Way on the left; the trianglular 
space in the middle is formed of Granville and Stanhope roads; the two
houses in Grimston Road are on their own at the bottom; St Peter's
Farm homestead is on the top right.
This week's Conservation Area is bounded by Hatfield Road (between the Midland Railway and Crown junction), Station Way, Grimston Road, and the rear boundaries of homes on the south side of Stanhope Road.  

Stanhope Road looking east before WW1. A tree-lined street with
The Crown PH at the lower far end.

It is believed Stanhope Road was named after Philip Henry Stanhope (1781-1837), one-time president of the Medico-Botanical Society of London, who bred 55 species of orchid within the Stanhopea genus. I am less certain of the naming of Granville Road, although an individual of this surname is reported to have received bequests from Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough.  Grimston Road is, of course from Earl of Verulam, James Grimston (1809-1895) whose base was at  Gorhambury.

The CA comprises entirely of a single development estate, which was formerly a field, known as Hatfield Road Field or "the field next to the chain bar" (of the Reading & Hatfield Turnpike at the top of Camp Lane), owned by Earl Spencer and worked by Thomas Kinder for his company's brewing business.  Its transfer for development (or at least that part not required for the railway) was part of Kinder's retirement from business plan and the owner's opportunity c1880 to build homes for users of the railway, some of our early commuters.  Also included in the Conservation area are the buildings of St Peter's Farm, The Crown PH and the Hatfield Road frontage buildings between the Crown PH and Albion Road.

Shops were added to the eastern end of Stanhope Road and are included as locally Listed.

All of the villas on the south side of Stanhope Road are locally listed; mainly built between 1886 and c1914, and most are detached with bays or semi-detached with double bays, offering a satisfying variety to the streetscape.  Just a small number of more modern homes use plots not sold during the main construction period, and at the lower end were built four shops during the main development period.  These, together with the former post office, Alexandra House and corner shops at the front of the Cavendish estate provided the local shops for the development's early occupiers. All of the houses and shops on the south side are locally Listed, even those which are modern.

The northern end of Granville Road containing locally Listed villas.

Regrettably the street trees planted at the road edge in the 1880s were removed in the 1920s when buses began to use Stanhope Road to reach the station.  Whether they were suitable species for roadside planting I don't know, but the restricted width for a main road and inevitable street parking for most of the villas – despite a wide footpath – results today in a harder streetscape.

The north side of Granville Road is lined with villas for half of its length from the Grimston Road end, but development eventually slowed down.  Some ground was left unbuilt and the remainder became an infill industrial building, both of which have been replaced by modern blocks of apartments in keeping with the rest of the street: The Maples and Ashtree Court.  All of the properties on the north side border a modern road, Station Way, which is busy with buses and station-bound cars.

The villas between Granville Road and The Crown along Hatfield Road were replaced by this 
Neo-Georgian style factory building for W O Peak.  This was itself replace in the 1980s.

Number 108 Hatfield Road next to Station Way which is the only house in the group not to be
locally Listed.

Hatfield Road, facing Clarence Park, was developed with two and three-storeyed villas.  While those remain at the station end, the homes below Granville Road were gradually replaced by extensions to the former W O Peake coat factory, and have been replaced for a second time with modern residential flats and offices.  Photos exist for the neo-Georgian factory, but extensive searches have failed to reveal images of the range of villa terraces that preceded it, which is very disappointing.  Above Granville Road the gradient of the bridge embankment of the 1860s becomes evident as the homes built on the original field level have allowed for a lower-ground floor to be designed in.  All except the house nearest Station Way are locally Listed.  This exception is not explained in the document other than not to mention number 108.  Yet this house is shown, along with the others, on the 1897 OS map and appears to be the original building.

A pair of houses in Grimston Road is included in the Conservation Area and are locally Listed.

In addition to the houses mentioned in the three above roads is a pair of more modest houses in Grimston Road.  The space for these was created by shortening the plots of the properties in adjacent Stanhope Road.

The deNovo Place apartments at the northern end of Stanhope Road where previously had
stood St Peter's Mission Church and then St Albans' Adult Schools.

On the island side of Granville Road is the Spiritualist Meeting Room which opened in 1910.

Seven villas were built on the lower end of the north side of Stanhope Road.  The rest of this
side was occupied by the Grand Palace (later renamed Gaumont) cinema. The Chatsworth 
apartment development has replaced the cinema.

The island section, between Granville and Stanhope roads, contain seven villas on the Stanhope (north) side, again, locally Listed.  The apex of the triangle is now on its third incarnation, having begun with the tin church of St Peter's Mission Church, then the Adult Schools once St Paul's Church had opened; today is a modern style of residential apartments, deNovo Place.  In 1922 the remainder became the cinema (Grand Palace, which changed its name to Gaumont) and its car park.  Today the cinema has gone and Chatsworth Court, the name giving a nod to the Dukes of Devonshire, has replaced it.

Finally, a compact plot in the triangle was used from 1910 as a spiritualist meeting house, and its usage for this purpose continues today.  The meeting house is also locally Listed.

Readers may perhaps agree with me that a fourth CA might be appropriate in the eastern districts: the heart of Fleetville, encompassing Bycullah Terrace, Woodstock Road south (formerly Tess Road), Royal Road, the recreation ground, Arthur Road, 
including the former Printing Works Institute and the Rats' Castle, and possibly Burnham Road and Eaton Road.  Fleetville Infants School might also form part of the group.


Thursday, 14 October 2021

Clarence Conservation

The previous post highlighted the details of Sleapshyde's Conservation Area and Character Statement, which is one of only three in the eastern districts out of 27 within the St Albans District.

The Midland railway marks the western boundary of the Clarence
Road Conservation Area and Clarence Road winds its way north-
south on the eastern side.  The houses which are coloured green
are locally listed.

Today I am turning my attention to the Clarence Park Conservation Area (CA) and Character Statement (CS).  The zone is bounded by the Midland Railway, Hatfield Road, the rear of properties on the eastern side of Clarence Road (both lower and upper), and Sandpit Lane.  Many of us enjoy spending time in Clarence Park itself and we will often catch glimpses of houses which line Clarence and York roads, though we may be less familiar with Blenheim Road, upper Jennings Road and Gainsborough Avenue – although the latter contains no locally listed houses to form part of the collection.  Finally, there are four identified structures within Clarence Park, although one of these, Verdi's restaurant, is technically not within the park, a point I will briefly return to later.

The 1897 OS map shows the recently laid-out Clarence Park together with lower Clarence Road
prepared as far as what will shortly become York Road along the line of the footpath (FP).
At this point no work has begun on the Spencer estate, nor Brampton Road.

The Statement briefly confirms the area's history as land belonging to St Peter's Farm which had been owned by William Cotton (who was not referred to) before being partly taken for railway construction and the remainder acquired by Earl Spencer.  The park was formed from two tranches of land: the former fete field, which became the pleasure park and is the area adjacent to Hatfield Road; and the section purchased by Sir John Blundell Maple specifically for a cricket field and other active pursuits.  Only the latter is referred to in the CS, but the fete field was used by members of the public long before the formation of the park in 1894.  Lower Clarence Road and York Road were adapted road layouts which, together with the railway and Hatfield Road, were intended to envelope the park.  Earl Spencer added to this his residential estate reaching Sandpit Lane, the western part of which lies in the northern part of the CA.

The freshly laid-out pleasure park, the former fete field, with the drinking fountain donated by
Lady Maple, the first bandstand, and, in the background is shown the park keeper's lodge.

The cricket pavilion and changing rooms.

Probably the main reason the park remains within this CA is its largely unaltered layout.  It is heralded as an untouched Edwardian open space with the lodge and cricket pavilion both recognised in the CA as original features; also the later-added pay kiosks and earliest football club rooms, the water fountain donated by Lady Maple which was installed soon after the park's opening; all are identified as locally listed.

The only structure which does not fall into the above categories is the building, formerly public toilets for The Crown local area, used today as Verdi's restaurant.  This is no longer in the park as the boundary fence was moved northwards in 1928 to provide extra visibility to avoid a potentially dangerous blind spot for vehicles emerging from Clarence Road. A short time later public toilets were built in this space which reduced some of the visibility earlier gained!

A group of the houses overlooking the park at the Hatfield Road end of lower Clarence Road.

Numbers 4 to 30 Clarence Road, as well as Alexandra House, are the first group to be locally Listed and the cottages fortunately have unaltered frontages. Alexandra House is the former Barclay's Bank and chemist shop when first opened.

Two pairs of large semi-detached villas just north of the park entrance in lower Clarence Road.

Many of the remaining semi-detached houses in lower Clarence Road and overlooking the park are described as Queen Anne/Domestic Revival style.  They are substantial and so similar but not identical, which prompts the question of their design.  The CS suggests there were at least three architects at work here: Percival Cherry Blow, Henry Hansell and Henry Mence, but others may have also been part of the practices.

An arts-and-crafts style house in upper Clarence Road.

Most of the homes in upper Clarence Road are all on the list even though they were built in a variety of styles. Newer infill properties have been excluded.  However an arts and crafts corner house with a lych gate and well-protected with hedging, is feature at the Jennings Road corner.  A plot on the western side of upper Clarence Road which has remained undeveloped for over one hundred years is, for the first time, being built on and will probably become the largest house in the CA.

Houses in York Road were built between c1906 and the mid-1930s and all face Clarence Park.

Most of the York Road homes, which are detached, are locally listed with the exception of three at the railway end which are later additions to the streetscape.  The much-changed house on the corner of Clarence Road which has been used as a nursery is not included on the list.

A house standing on a Blenheim Road corner.

A house standing on a  corner of Blenheim and Jennings roads.

A similar plot of land in Blenheim Road was developed a few years ago (Sefton Close) following the demolition of a property.  Otherwise almost every house in Blenheim Road is locally Listed.

There were one or two surprising omissions in upper Jennings Road, which result from later building even though the designs appear to be well-proportioned and similar in design to nearby Listed homes.  The south side of the road was built from the 1930s and clearly does not merit Listing.  Gainsborough Avenue, which was also much later, contains no Listed properties along its frontages.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

On the List at Sleapshyde

 Local planning authorities identify particular localities within their boundaries which merit special preservation and conservation.  They  can be designated Conservation Areas (CA). There eighteen such CAs in the city, mainly in the outskirts, and only two of of them, Sleapshyde and Cunningham, are in our East End.  A further 27 CAs have been identified within the city's urban area, of which just two fall within the east end, Granville & Stanhope roads and Clarence Park.

The North Orbital St Albans ByPass is in orange; Smallford Lane runs N-S on the left. Old 
Sleapshyde with three lanes meeting at the tiny triangle is top right. The 1930s estate is the large
tranche of land coloured grey in the centre.
©Open StreetMap contributors

Although brief mention has previously been made of the Granville Conservation Areas in these blogs, I think it is about time further exploration of the character of each of the east end CAs is recorded.  This week I'll begin with Sleapshyde, a compact hamlet sitting between the St Albans Bypass and Sleapshyde Lane, the former joining the latter at the eastern end of the Colney Heath "longabout".  Today, only one third of the built area consists of the historic domestic and agricultural buildings.  

Old Sleapshyde within which are located a few Listed and other significant buildings; a portion of the
1897 OS map around 25 years before the ByPass was constructed.
Courtesy National Library of Scotland

In 1935 builder E Stevens, who specialised in homes for rent, applied for consent to erect 54 homes near the boundary of the then new  Orbital Road (Bypass), but St Albans, the Planning Authority, refused.  The rural council, however, favoured the development to counter the severe shortage of rural housing, and presumably got its way, as there are considerably more than 54 dwellings along Sleapcross Gardens and Sleapshyde Lane today.  None of the hamlet's listed and locally significant buildings sit along these two roads, but lie along the three lanes beyond which converge on a small triangle of land on which there still stands a former public water pump and a former lamp post on top of which is the sign for Sleapshyde.

A heritage picture of The Plough PH when under the ownership of Pryor, Reid & Co, Hatfield.
Modest changes have been made since but the building remains undeniably recognisable.
Courtesy Brian Anderson Collection.

The Character Statement for the CA identifies 8 buildings extending back to between the 16th to 18th centuries, and unsurprisingly most of the Listed buildings fall into this group. First in this discourse and at the end of the northern arm of Sleapshyde Lane is the Plough PH, which should not be confused with the Plough at nearby Tyttenhanger Green.  It contains a popular restaurant. Still with its thatched roof and dormers the 17th century building still backs onto open land.  An annotated wedding photo taken outside in 1913 identifies a former link with another watering hole in the hamlet: one of the party was the licensee of the former Angel PH (see below).

A heritage photo of Sleapshyde Farm, recognisable by its hipped roof.
Courtesy Brian Anderson Collection.

On the section of the lane which returns directly to the Bypass is Sleapshyde Farm.  Unfortunately much of the homestead is hidden behind high fencing with boundary trees and shrubs, but sufficient of its roof is visible to identify its hipped roof.  The CA states its age to be sixteenth century although identifies it to have been a hall style of construction, which suggests it might have been a re-build without changing its design, therefore making the foundations considerably earlier (this has not, however, been verified).  Visitors will identify the extensive dark weatherboarded barns and other outbuildings.

The nearby Farm Cottage is obscured from the lane, but the CA indicates it to be rebuilt in the 19th century around a seventeenth century framework.

The Rose Cottage and Little Rose Cottage on the opposite side of the lane to Sleapshyde Farm.
Courtesy Google Streetview

Along the same arm of the lane but on the other side is a pair of cottages, Rose Cottage and Little Rose Cottage. Both are part of a single structure – you could call them semi-detached.  Most is black weatherboarding with end walls in red brick; the bold chimney stack placed off centre suggests the two cottages are of unequal sizes.  One of the cottages shows evidence of having been extended.

Ye Olde House, which are three separate properties combined.  Set well back from the lane
for improved visibility.

Ye Olde House, at its closest to the modern section of Sleapcross Lane,  is a large and fine building set back from the lane; multi-gabled roof, black first floor weatherboarding with brick ground floor walls.  What might seem like former stables dating from the time of the main house is, according to the CA a modern construction intended for car storage.  Although the name is singular, internally it is divided into three properties.

The former Wesleyan Methodist Chapel with cream surface over the earlier pebble dashing. 
Recent hedge trimming reveals the earlier entry drive and the posting box set into the
brick pillar.

Two un-Listed properties also considered of local interest are Angel Cottage and the former Wesleyan Methodist Chapel.  The chapel is almost opposite the Plough PH.  Until a few years ago the exterior was clad in a soft brown pebbledash, but has recently been rendered in cream.  The rear taller part of the building is on two levels, and its earlier light blue door, bargeboards and drainage pipes are now darker in colour.  It is said that the chapel is one of the earliest in Hertfordshire and was large enough to accommodate the whole population of the hamlet until St Mark's Parish Church was built in 1945.

Now Angel Cottage it was formerly the Angel PH.

At the entrance to the original hamlet in Sleapshyde Lane was a Victorian beer house called the Angel public house.  Although long since closed it was converted for private accommodation, and remains the youngest structure included in the buildings of note in Sleapshyde.

A wander around this pleasant settlement, perhaps following a lunchtime meal or drink at the Plough, will be worth the short time it takes.  Unlike the formal layout of the twentieth century homes along Sleapcross Gardens and Sleapshyde Lane, the scatter of buildings laid out informally at the older end is a pleasant contrast.

The red buildings are listed; the two green buildings are significantly important in the
local context.
Courtesy St Albans District Council

Monday, 27 September 2021

Growing Around Us and From Within

 A regular pedestrian in the 1860s completed her visit to St Albans market and began her return home.  She left behind new houses along Hatfield Road and reached the works taking place on the outskirts for the new railway. Passing the fete field, now part of Clarence Park, the next two buildings were the little turnpike toll house at what is now The Crown and St Peter's Farm, and in the far distance the Rats' Castle toll house.  Nothing but fields were passed by our pedestrian carrying her market purchases.  And nothing more until The Horseshoes (Smallford), although a peep through the trees would have revealed Oaklands Mansion.  Built up St Albans had not even reached Lemsford Road.

The turnpike toll house at the entrance to Colney Heath Lane, fully a mile from the housing limit
when the railway arrived in the 1860s.  Only two further toll houses and a farm were closer along
Hatfield Roads at that date.
One hundred and sixty years later hardly a field remains before we become enclosed by the homes of Ellenbrook and the hum of Hatfield.  In the intervening period roads, estates and districts have sprung up to plant homes in the fields, and many of us now live our lives in these once new developments.  At every turn house builders have been led by demand, in some cases jobs brought newcomers to the expanding city; in others grown-up children wished to remain in St Albans in homes of their own to bring up their own families.

Since the Second World War the majority of workshops and factories have been replaced by 
residential properties, both houses and flats.  The former dairy in Burleigh Road.

Local authorities have been set targets by governments for the numbers of new homes published in their latest district plans or local plans.  There was a time when we were largely unaware of expansion plans until workers appeared on site.  Today there are four huge controversies linked to every potential development, even for groups of perhaps five or six dwellings.  The first has been with us since the early post-war period: the Metropolitan Green Belt, land which is now under severe stress from development.  Secondly, the housing targets themselves. Authorities are often constrained from making effective representations against proposals by developers if they genuinely feel land should be protected.  And there are two reasons for this: any development ensures the council is nearer to meeting its government target; and the fear of a developer appealing to government above the council's head and therefore incurring some cost to the authority.

Thirdly, as existing residents, we all feel more empowered today to press our point of view and many of us "within the castle" as it were, wish to protect the view or space around us.  Many of us feel a need, perhaps a right, to retain an open view from our own windows, even if that right does not exist.

Finally, the more expansion is invited, the greater is the expectation that, through taxes, we will have to support infrastructure costs, whether it is for the road network, health and education facilities, retail, parking, leisure and open space.

A proposed development of 45 homes in Perham Way, London Colney, and intended to be marketed
as the Carriage Quarter.

The London Colney site in Perham Way and close to the playing field of London Colney
Primary School.

Two recently announced proposals both affect London Colney.  The first is a development on County Council land and named the Carriage Quarter.  A forty-five mix of houses and flats on land next to London Colney Primary School playing field in Perham Road has been matched on the other side of the High Street by an already completed replacement and enlarged Summerfield Health Centre, located adjacent to the Caledon Community Centre and Library.  This is the smaller of the two developments affecting the village.

The proposed site of the New Settlement in Hertsmere is bounded in yellow.  London Colney is
centre left; Tyttenhanger village is top left; north-west of the New Settlement is the 
Tyttenhanger Park estate and Willows lakes.

The larger by a significant margin is proposed by next-door Hertsmere District Council but will have a considerable impact on London Colney and the village of Tyttenhanger.  Hertsmere's District Plan includes proposals for up to 12,000 new homes spread around the borough, but fully half of that number will be built in a single development currently named The New Settlement.  Its growth will be in a number of phases up to 2050, but the first phase is intended to be complete by 2030.  Included are a number of primary schools, at least one secondary school and a number of other community facilities.  For this size of settlement infrastructure will be critical, especially as its spread is estimated to be twice that of London Colney.

Bringing into one place perhaps 25,000 more people – twice that number in the district as a whole – there will be significant impact on the road network, including M25, M1, A1, as well as St Albans Bypass (North Orbital) outside of the borough but very important to London Colney.  Three mainline rail stations are within the district but none conveniently close to the New Settlement, and of course London Colney has no rail link at all.  No doubt the New Settlement will be well planned but 25,000 people are 25,000 residents, so the proposed community will have to work well with as much attention given to London Colney and the southern and eastern districts of St Albans.

One final point.  One million pounds is a huge amount of money.  This is the current price of many homes on the market in St Albans; a result of the shortage of available homes and the city's frequent presence at the top of so many top ten lists.  And the million pounds headline is not just for large detached properties in so-called desirable districts.  As has been pointed out recently we are at the tipping point of reaching the million for a semi-detached house in quite ordinary suburban east end roads, and that threshold may already have been breached.  Next will come a million for a mid-terrace home.  Anywhere within a hundred or so metres of an OFSTED rated "outstanding" school has the effect of producing a bidding war the moment a homeowner decides it's time to move on.

Many a job has to be turned down as the price of living here is too great.

Such are these challenging times for moving house and deciding just where we all want (and can afford) to live and settle down.