St Albans' Own East End

100 objects



similar to Barrowfield Bar


Example from Bluehouse Hill

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100 objects

The British Museum/BBC project The History of the World in 100 objects, can inspire us to search for objects which have a more local connection; in this particular case, the Story of the East End in 100 objects.

They are all objects which have a particular relevance to the eastern districts of the city and help to tell its story.  We would very much like East Enders to add to this collection with objects which you think have played a key part in your lives here, or for the district as a whole.

The objects may not, in themselves, be unique to the eastern districts.  For example, the coronation mug was given to children in many schools around the city, but this one was presented (full of sweets) to the author at Fleetville School.  So it is part of our story.

Central (now Fleetville Junior) was the first city secondary school to be opened by the county education committee, in 1930.  It was also the first school designed to include a performance area.  Soon after, schools also included dressing rooms.  One object therefore represents the opportunities which schools took in presenting plays and concerts.

Email the author with details of a local object which you think should join the collection. 

St Albans' own east end in one hundred objects: 1 to 20 

There is no known surviving tariff board for the Reading and Hatfield Turnpike.  However, to illustrate what one may have looked like, this example from Lancashire has been used.  Tolls and conditions will have varied from turnpike to turnpike and over a period of time, with

avy carts and herds paying the most; walkers paying only a nominal amount, or nothing at all.  In places the tolls may only have been payable during daylight hours.  Most tolls on the east side of St Albans were paid on a side lane, but main toll points across the road were at the Fiddle (Hatfield) and Horseshoes (Smallford).


similar to Barrowfield Bar


Hatfield to St Albans branch 1877


and St Albans Times


19th century, Wheathampstead


found 1940, Salisbury Avenue


former Sander Orchid Nursery


Beaumont Avenue until 1929


Sander Orchid Nursery


Pageant brochure, 1907


Example from Bluehouse Hill


Cavendish Road


Beaumonts Farm, discovered c1950




Tyttenhanger Park, 1850


late 19th century St Albans


painting by John Buckingham c1850


Horseshoes, now Smallford

Previously the city extended its boundaries as far as Lattimore Road, a full thirty years before the arrival of the Midland railway station. During which time housing had been raised on the Bedford Park estate and St P
eter's Park.  The council negotiated an expansion to roughly three-quarters of a mile from the Town Hall.  The resulting added areas included land to the east of the new Midland Railway.  Although still a nursery, the boundary cut right through it.  When the homes were built, some houseowners found themselves paying the city rate, while others paid the lower rural rate.  Most of the posts have now disappeared.
It is unlikely that leaflets were produced, as is the case today.  Instead, tables were printed in the press; this one from the Herts Advertiser.  Connections were also shown between Hatfield and Kings Cross.


near South Lodge, Oaklands

While this mile post was not significant in encouraging later development, it is one of the oldest surviving objects of the eastern districts.  As with the others along the road, it was cast at a foundry in Reading.  The number of miles to Reading shows how unusually long the toll road was compared with the norm.  The other side face, not seen here, had later, hand-painted, lettering applied for towns onwards of Hatfield, possibly due to a later amalgamation with the Hertford and Ware Turnpike Trust.

In the years before there was a piped water supply, at least three wind pumps were known: at Sander's Orchid Nurseries, beyond Cavendish Road; at Smith's Printing Agency, Hatfield Road; and at Oaklands Farm.  A fourth may have existed at Jersey Farm.  Since none exists today, and no clear photographs have been found to establish the precise designs, this generic picture of a modern equivalent will have to suffice.
This newspaper was launched in 1855 and counted a large swathe of the county in its circulation area.  To begin with, national news was included too.  Although copies were available in the public library, early readers were mainly property owners, businessmen and traders – all of whom may have seen their names in print occasionally.  Gradually the newspaper became more inclusive and its readership widened.  Shortly before WW1 photographs began to appear.

This utilitarian and typically agricultural item can now be

found in many antiques shops,
but was a mainstay at all small dairy and mixed farms until the dawn of mechanical milking.  This particular piece found its was from Lamer Farm, Wheathampstead, to the bootmaker's house on Brewhouse Hill; thence travelling to various addresses in Wood Green, Tottenham and Hammersmith, before returning to Hatfield Road.  It now features in a home at Jersey Farm residential district.  The world of agriculture often finds its way into the suburbs.
Dug up from a garden built on part of the former yard at Beaumonts Farm.  This may have been from a farm
animal, but equally it could have been from one of the many horses owned by Edmund Coombe, a non-farming tenant, who lived there in the early 1900s.  It is a reminder that all of us who live, or have lived, in the urban East End, do so because the farms on which our homes are built, were given up as uneconomic by their owners.
This is a reminder of the days when a piped water supply extending to villages and hamlets was a dream.  It may have been considered a right in the town, but the long distances of pipework required to serve a small number of people deterred the water utility company from carrying out the work until recent decades.  There may have been feel-good images of social conversations and dissemination of news around the village pump, but the reality was rather more mundane: heavy routines, poor water quality and problems of obtaining water from shallow wells.
There is much circumstantial evidence of widespread pre-Roman settlement in the eastern districts; a number of finds as well, from archaeological digs.  A resident of Salisbury Avenue was digging a hole  in his garden to
accommodate a bomb shelter.  He discovered a number of interesting pieces and contacted Verulamium Museum.  The clay pieces were from the first century AD, and associated with a Belgic hut of wattle and clay in the vicinity.  The finds made by Mr Simmons are certainly the oldest in the Hundred Objects collection.
This was a 19th century nobleman's carriage used for ceremonial purposes.  Dress coaches were drawn by a pair
of horses, the elaborately dressed coachman in charge of one or two passengers.  The coach was displayed at the London Science Museum between 1967 and 1997, to which place it had been on long-term loan, courtesy of the  fifth Earl Caledon of Tyttenhanger Park.  Many of its journeys would have been made to London, but no doubt it would have been seen on other roads occasionally. 

Courtesy Science Museum, London

So many special trees scream for attention in the eastern districts. 
The Mexican Lime stands in what were the grounds of Orchid House, Camp Road.  It was planted by Friederick Sander c1886, having been presented by the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.
The hat may have been made in St Albans, in one of the many hat factories which spread here from Luton; but the raw material came from the fields in the eastern districts and beyond.
This was home-working for girls and women in the villages and hamlets, in which the plait was prepared for onward sale to the dealers in town, who then sold it on to the factories.  There were also Industrial Schools in the town whre children were learning 'practical skills' (plaiting), alongside writing and arithmetic.

Courtesy Museum of St Albans

Beaumont Avenue was always considered a private lane.  Land owner Thomas Kinder had gates erected at both ends.
These are at the north end.  There is no record of when they were installed, nor when they were removed, although it is logical to think they came to an end in 1929 when the final part of the farm was sold for development.
We are fortunate
in having a number of local landscapes and studies by John H Buckingham (1800 to 1881).  This example is Camp Hill, with the future Campfield Road on the left and Dellfield to the right. 

The artist has portrayed a mother and child who have paused to speak to two road menders.

Courtesy Museum of St Albans

The Nurseries developed
from the mid 1880s on an extensive site at the foot of Camp Hill, and was held in high esteem for both the range and quality of plants and its breeding programme.  Many distinguished clients visited the site, and the company gave employment to a number of local people.  This picture is taken from the 4-volume Reichenbacchia, made famous by the exquisite illustrations by Henry Moon, Sander's son-in-law. 

Peter Sander Collection

The Three Horseshoes
public house was the first point any traveller to St Albans would encounter after leaving Bishops Hatfield.  Smallford is a recently-acquired name for the hamlet which was historically known as Horseshoes.  At one time there was a beer-house opposite, known as the Four Horseshoes.  The hamlet was also a toll point on the Reading and Hatfield Turnpike road.  Today, the Three Horseshoes is known as much for its restaurant service as its bar.  The former blacksmith's shop is now part of the restaurant.
Smith's Printing Agency was renowned for printing in colour, and received regular orders for catalogue printing by horticultural companies.  Examples of such work have not been tracked down.  However, one archived document in St Albans was the souvenir programme for the 1907 Pageant; a weighty tome not noted for its colour, of which
there is none, other than on the cover.  The title page confirms that the brochure was produced at the Fleet Works.


Arthur Road, c1900


former Fleetville Institute, 1899

The original houses
built in Fleetville and Camp are now over a century old.  Many windows and doors have been replaced, sometimes more than once.  Those with original doors may or may not have their original door furniture.  The concept of a letter flap built into the knocker was still a young one; hence the word LETTERS moulded onto the flap, for the avoidance of any doubt.  Otherwise the choice of design was that of the house builder.  Huge quantities of letter flaps incorporated into knockers came out of the industrial Midlands' factories and spread across the country.
The stone was unveiled on the occasion of the opening of the workers' institute belonging to Smith's Printing Agency on the opposite site of Hatfield Road.  The Institute
building had been rendered, probably in the 1920s, and recent works had uncovered the inscription for the first time since then.  The building's current owners have left the stone exposed.  "This stone was laid June 24th 1899 by Thomas Smith Esq, donor of the Institute, which was opened by His Worshipful the Mayor of St Albans Dec 2nd 1899."
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St Albans' Own East End