St Albans' Own East End

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These questions have now been answered

Guildford Road factories

Today there is little evidence of the former factories of the Ribbon Company and Janes & Green portable buildings works in Guldford Road.  Do any photographs exist of these two factories?  Or advertising material?  Did Janes & Green issue catalogues of shed designs?

Smallford post office and stores

The sub post office and stores is located in Station Road, next to Alban Way.  It is part of a 1930s-style semi-detached house.  The local directories indicate that Charles Simmons kept a post office business and shop in this road from at least as early as 1907.  As there appear to be no properties of that age now, where might it have been at the beginning of the 20th century?

Answer

The firm of Janes and Green was launched in 1922, by Henry E Green of Castle Road, and his father-in-law Robert Janes, who lived at 8 Guildford Road.  In its time 10 of the 12 family members worked for the firm.  The Herts Advertiser, in 1963, named three other kinds of "portable" buildings, other than sheds, greenhouses and garages which the family firm manufactured: a hospital wing, an auctioneer's office and an art studio.

Answer

The directories consistently placed the post office in Station Road, but were incorrect.  Charles Simmons and his wife Ann ran a shop and post office in what is today High Street, Colney Heath, almost opposite the Crooked Billet public house.  Thanks to John for helping to solve that question.

The banana store

Do you have any recollections of the Fyffes banana store at Smallford?

National Fire Service garages

According to the Herts Advertiser the National Fire Service (NFS) had garages in Fleetville, one of which was planned for conversion in 1948 for council use.  Does anyone recall where these garages were?  On the land where Queens Court is now, maybe?  Or at the back of the Ballito site, where there had previously been a formative fire service serving the Smith's printing works and the growing Fleetville?

Answer

This warehouse has been identified as a building, now demolished, behind the present Homebase store.  It may have been the same building as used for emergency food warehousing during WW2, but that still needs to be verified.  It was used for ripening bananas before being dispatched to shops.

Answer

The old Drill Hall site near Blacksmith's Arms PH was used, as well as the Fleetville site.  The two houses on the site were labelled NFS1 and NFS2.  Allegedly, they occupied the land now occupied by the western block of flats at Queen's Court.

Static water tanks

A rectangular tank was on Fleetville rec, the subject of a question in Parliament regarding its close proximity to the underground shelters. Where were there other tanks?

Speedway at Smallford

Just before WW2 speedway meetings were held with clubs from other Herts towns.  The track was at Smallford "on the Hatfield Road".  Did this track lie along the main road, along Station Road or Oaklands Lane.

Answer

Three other tanks are so far known:  in Jennings Road /Blenheim Road (circular tank); close to the Ashley Hall at the Ashley Road/Hatfield Road junction; and at the junction of College Road/Cambridge Road. But confirmation is still needed about whether these last two were rectangular or circular.

Answer

The speedway site was between Notcutts and Popefield farm house.  It is suggested it was also used as a greyhound racing site.  So that also forms a new question (see Info Needed)  The 1937 OS map shows the layout of the site.  The entrance from Hatfield Road was just to the west of the pond.  Today the rectangular site can be seen clearly on Google Earth.  A building existed on the east side of the oval track.  Perhaps this was a small viewing stand.

Photos of W O Peakes's factory

We are searching for photos of the impressive frontage of the W O Peake factory in Hatfield Road, opposite the park.  Especially one which shows the floodlit building.

Answer

A black-and-white photograph has been located, and this low-definition shot (right) from a cine film.  A higher quality panorama shot and a floodlight picture, especially one in colour, is still needed.

Photos of W O Peakes's factory

We are searching for photos of the impressive frontage of the W O Peake factory in Hatfield Road, opposite the park.  Especially one which shows the floodlit building.

War installations at the Crown and Clarence Park

Knowledge of installations along the roads leading to and from the Crown junction is still sought, but there is now evidence of former underground shelters in the park – see lower photo above.

Answer

A black-and-white photograph has been located, and this low-definition shot (right) from a cine film.  A higher quality panorama shot and a floodlight picture, especially one in colour, is still needed.

Answer

Although no information has yet been supplied about the open space in front of The Crown, the dry hot weather, together with recollections, has identified an underground shelter (was there more than one?) to the east of the drinking fountain adjacent to Hatfield Road.  A long rectangle formed by a line of stones, and square escape hatches have shown up in the parched grass in July 2010.  Presumably, the shelter was primarily for employees of W O Peake Ltd.

Merrilands School, Elm Drive

A private school of that name was in Elm Drive from c1933 but had closed by 1960.  What is known of the school?

The Pest House, Sandpit Lane (now Oaklands Lane)

St Peter's parish had a pest house - to accommodate those with contagious diseases - in Oaklands Lane, near where the community sports area is.  When was this building demolished?  Does a published drawing or photograph exist of the pest house. and if so, where?

Answer

Mary Rome, who lived in Elm Drive as a child, has been in touch to say that she was a pupil from 1948 to 1954, and there were approximately 10 to 12 pupils.  The uniform was grey and orange.  Miss E M Kell was the teacher, in a bungalow with a timber conservatory at the back "which leaked in wet weather".  The only heating was a paraffin one and in winter they often kept their coats on.  Mary enjoyed her time there.

Answer

This building was put up for sale in December 1884; this is therefore presumed to be the year of its closure as a contagion hospital.  The city's medical health officer ordered that all of the contents should be burned and the building fumigated before further use.

9th St Albans scout hut

Would former members of the 9th group (Sandpit Lane) be able to confirm whether its first hut at the junction of Sandpit Lane/Lemsford Road was a nissen or a wooden hut, and what it had been previously used for before 1947?

The XL-ALL seed company

According to a 1907 advertisement the company was located in Hatfield Road; "the most remarkable business enterprise of modern times.  The seeds are sold at the uniform price of 1d per packet."  The advert tells us that "St Albans is known the world over as the distributing centre for these seeds."  Does anyone know of this firm, how long it lasted, or whereabouts in Hatfield Road it was located?

Answer

A former scout leader has been in touch to say the original hut on the site was, indeed, a metal nissen hut, first used on the site in 1948.  The group moved there from Culver Road church hall in that year.  The brick hut was completed in 1954.  The 9th Group was started by Rev Cyril Isherwood in 1924.

Answer

This was a company from Leytonstone but with a registered office in St Albans.  It copied the Ryder practices and even copied parts of the Ryder's Seeds catalogues.  Ryders took the new upstart to court and a restraint of trade order was placed on XL-ALL.  All that remains is to discover what number Hatfield Road was its registered address.

Dahlia nursery in Hatfield Road

A former pupil of Beaumont School recalls that "from age 12 I worked across the road at Jescott nurseries until I left, tending the dahlias in field and greenhouse."  This would be the period 1956 to 1959.  Do you have any recollection of this nursery in Hatfield Road, opposite Beaumont, and maybe some contact with it, knew the owner, purchased plants there?

Smallford cafe

From the 1930s to the 1950s was Fred's Cafe (which became Sam's Cafe), situated along the main road.  It was on the south side of the road.  Where was the cafe in relation to the buildings there today?

Answer

The premises were at 388 Hatfield Road; the owner was Mr E C Cooper.  The nursery was at 388 Hatfield Road.  Ernie Cooper had a smallholding behind the house (where the playing field is).  He also grew dahlias on Roger Aylett's new nursery in the 1950s.  He was an expert hybridiser.

Answer

Colin Wilson emailed to let me know that the cafe was on the garden centre side, and not as I had suggested.  Which means that not all of the buildings were demolished for road widening in 1935.  The directories state that the cafe and the Four Horseshoes beer house were still in business c1960.

Hertfordshire's best-kept village

Do you know which organisation, committee or group runs the Hertfordshire Best-kept Village Competition?

The Royston Club

The Royston Club, is not in Royston Road, but nearby College Road.  But why?  The club is understood to have been formed just after WW2 and had a peak of around 400 members.  Do any former members or officers of the club have recollections or additional information?

Answer

The competition has changed its name to the Hertfordshire Village of the Year competition.  It is run by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) in conjunction with Hertfordshire County Council, and is sponsored by Hertfordshire Community Foundation.

Answer

Joan has emailed to say that she believes the Royston was so called because it originally opened in a house in Royston Road and then moved to larger premises in College Road.  A favourite watering hole of her father after a Sunday morning's work on the allotment.

Fleetville Cafe

The cafe has been dispensing refreshment from the time the parade was built.  A large rectangular public clock used to announce the name of the premises and give the time (erratically) to passers by.  Does anyone know when the clock was first installed and when it was removed?

Sydney Barlow

Sydney lived in Castle Road, and in 1931 featured in the Herts Advertiser as a talented 11-year-old pianist.  Does anyone know whether Sydney took his musical career any further?

Answer

A photograph has turned up, showing the Cafe in 1964 WITH CLOCK!  The definition is sufficiently good to crop a close-up of the time-piece at just before 3pm.  It was known for being correct just twice each day!

Answer

The St Albans Gang Show 1939 programme lists "Mr Sydney Barlow for good work and much time devoted to musical accompaniment for the show, both for the rehearsals and at all performances."  So Mr Barlow was still in St Albans, physically and musically, until at least 1939.

Toy Soldier Tattoo

Although never specifically added as a question, the author has been searching for photographs or programmes of these Tattoos, presented by the St Albans Scout Troops; the later ones in conjunction with Brocks Crystal Palace Fireworks, whose factory was nearby near Redbourn.

Hobbs Close

Hobbs Close is a short road off Colney Heath Lane, and along with Swan Close and Merryfields, this long-standing question has now been partly answered.

Answer

Recently a copy of a Tattoo programme has been shown to the author at the fine archive and museum of Hertfordshire Scouts, for which permission to reproduce has been given.  This copy, in excellent condition, dates from 1935.

Answer

Alfred Hobbs owned a house in Colney Heath Lane and also ran the firm Tractor Shafts in Lyon Way.  Thanks Colin for this information.  The plot of land he owned in CHL included sufficient land to form the houses on the north side of Hobbs Close, between the ends of CHL gardens and the former railway (Alban Way).  The plot was formerly the field known as Cow Leys on the tithe map.

Swans Close

This is a question about the street name Swans Close and how it came to be called that.

TA Centre in Camp Road

When a row of cottages on Camp Hill was demolished in the 1950s some of the land was used as a Salvation Army Sunday School and a small printing works.  It has also been suggested that part of the site may have been a TA headquarters.  Do you have a recollection of when it might have moved here from Harpenden Road, and how long the TA remained at Camp Hill?

Answer

After Benjamin Swan retired from the motor business (Marlborough Motors) he lived in a house called Marlborough House in Colney Heath Lane.  The present housing development of bungalows is on the site of this house and the road has been named after its former owner.

Answer

A local authority map, dated 1965 does not show the building, which was in front of the former bakery.  It had disappeared by the time the apartments of Baker's Close were erected (when was this?)  for they are partly built on its footprint. 

Photo (left) courtesy Mick Connolly.

Kiosk in the park

There used to be a tea kiosk, a small brick building with varandah, at Clarence Park, close to the cricket pavilion.  It has long since been  demolished.  Many residents will recall buying drinks and ice creams there.  Does anyone have a photograph which includes the kiosk?

Plymouth Brethren Meeting Room

If you were a member of the Plymouth Brethren group who built a meeting room between Harlesden Road and the rec c1960, the author would very much like you to get in touch - and especially if you have, or know the whereabouts of, a photograph of the building.

Answer

It is reported that the kiosk was run by a team of sisters from Upper Culver Road.  Granny Rose Manners led the team, ably helped by Bess Bunn and Ada Salt.  Would still like a photo though!

Answer

A member of the PB has been in touch.  The group initially had premises in Granville Road, and during the course of WW2 acquired a temporary building erected at the corner of Hedley and Maxwell roads, finally buying the Hatfield Road plot and building its meeting room c1953/4. Photo left.

St John's Prep School

A resident who grew up in Fleetville recalls attending St John's Preparatory School in Beaumont Avenue. St John's Lodge, formerly Avenue House, has now been replaced by the houses of St John's Court.  The directories make no reference to this school.  Does anyone else have a recollection of the school, knowledge of a uniform or any documents, such as reports, letters or photographs?

Best decorated street plaque

A plaque was presented by the Herts Advertiser to the residents of Cambridge Road, for winning the best-decorate street competition in Silver Jubilee year, 1977.  We have lost track of the plaque.  Was it ever displayed?  What happened to it?  Where is it now?

Answer

The school moved to Jennings Road.  It had been previously run by Miss Bessie Hitchcock, daughter of Mr and Mrs W Hitchcock, then of St John's Lodge, Beaumont Avenue.  Miss Hitchcock's school was at 75 Jennings Road, on the north side.  It first appeared in the 1936 street directory when the house was new.  Incidentally, Mr Hitchcock brought the name with him from their previous home in Verulam Road, replacing the previous name, Avenue House.

Answer

As part of the research carried out by Fleetville Diaries the plaque has been located.  It had previously been displayed on the front house wall between numbers 16 and 18 Cambridge Road.

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St Albans' Own East End

Golf links along Hatfield Road?

In fact, the golf links, sited opposite Selwyn Drive as an enticement to prospective purchasers of homes built along St Albans Road West and Ellenbrook Lane in the early years of the 20th century, did not last long.  Nor did the house-building, thanks to the intervention of WW1. or the length of time before many of them faced the bulldozer, thanks to the development of de Havillands.  The course was immediately south of Home Covert wood.  An attempt to revitalise the original housing estate and golf course in 1925 failed, but Selwyn and Poplar estates came about shortly afterwards.  The land was owned by Great Nast Hyde Estates.