St Albans' Own East End

The Sixties

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Angry wives don't like the fall-out in Hatfield Road (November 1963)

When the North wind blows it's the signal for house-proud wives in Hatfield Road, Fleetville, to grab the washing from the line, shut the windows tight and prepare for the big 'fall-out'.  And the wind is a warning, too, for fishmonger Mr J Alvarez to cover the fish on display in his shop.

Angry wives and shopkeepers in the area allege that smoke from a chimney at Ballito Hosiery Mills results in shops, houses and parked vehicles, being showered with black oily spots.  Complained Mr Alvarez:
"This has been happening for some time but has got worse in the past fortnight.  I first noticed the soot on the pavement outside, then some of the customers asked what all the black spots were on my fish.  I've often had to wash the fish again."

A young housewive with three children, Mrs D Clampin, who lives almost opposite the main entrance to the mills, says the soot is lying thick on her window cills, and no sooner did she put her washing out to dry than it was filthy again.  "My husband sent a letter of complaint to the factory about a month ago, but nothing has happened since."

Even round the corner in Arthur Road they can't escape the menace.  "It comes over like a big black cloud," declared Mrs Margery Dockree, of number 44,  "Upstairs you tread it in like sugar.  I dare not leave any of the windows open, or the soot is all over the house."

A spokesman for the company said this week: "The matter is in hand.  Work is being carried out on a new chimney.  But we would prefer at this stage not to make any further comment."


A selection of news items appearing in the Herts Advertiser fifty years ago in the 1960s.  The collection will grow during the next few weeks and months.

Art therapy as a form of treatment at mental hospitals is not a new idea, but at Hill End Hospital patients have been encouraged for the first time to enter their work in a full-scale exhibition.  Reaction of staff who viewed the exhibition when it was given a private showing at the hospital last week, was one of surprise and delight.

There were 118 exhibitors representing a cross-section of professions and ages.  Although some of the patients previously dabbled in art, for many it was their first attempt at self-expression.

Perhaps most striking was a painting of St Albans Abbey
shrouded in ghostly shades, with black broody clouds motionless overhead.  Undoubtedly the work of a talented man.  He had now left the hospital to work in an art studio, although he had since left there and drifted into a succession of other jobs.

A young school teacher entered a painting of her home from memory.  An airy watercolour of dancing girls was the work of a schoolgirl.  Startlingly realistic was the portrait of one of the hospital cleaning staff, leaning thoughtfully on her broomstick.

Credit for the exhibition must go to the art therapist, Mr J Barsby.  "Art therapy," he says, "gives the patient a sense of satisfaction arising out of accomplishment."

The exhibition left the reporter with the impression of a wealth of talent that has, until now, remained hidden.  The only pity was that this was a private showing, and no members of the public, apart from friends of the staff, were allowed a viewing.


Hill End patients stage art exhibition (November 1963)

Peake's in merger with Aquascutum  (February 1962)

A merger between the old-established family business of W O Peake Ltd of St Albans and Aquascutum and Associated Companies Ltd, was announced.  Aquascutum is to pay about £350,000 for the share capital of Peake's.  One third will be paid in cash and the remainder in Aquascutum shares.

Workers at Peake's factory in Hatfield Road (illustrated) were called from their machines and offices to be told of the decision – signed and sealed only a few hours previously.

The announcement was made by Mr Gilbert Peake, Chairman
and Managing Director of W O Peake Ltd, since the death of his father Mr William Oliver Peake, who founded the company.  Mr Peake said that the merger would mean greater expansion for the house of Peake.  He was sure that the two companies would work amicably together.  Mr Gerald M Abrahams, of Aquascutum, said that the products of his company and Peake's were among the best in the world.  There was no reason why both companies should not continue to progress and expand.

After the meeting Mr Peake told the Herts Advertiser that Peake's subsidiary company, Cotsmoor Ltd would continue to remain in the ownership of his family and was in no way associated with the merger.  It was intended that the employees of Cotsmoor Ltd in St Albans should be merged into the factory of W O Peake Ltd, which would continue to operate as an independent organisation, promoting and selling "Rodex" garments at home and abroad.  The products of Cotsmoor Ltd would be manufactured exclusively at Leighton Buzzard.

Over 750 people work at the Hatfield Road factory.                                                     Photo DIANA DEVEREUX.


Other news from 1963

Little Cell Barnes Farm is to become a community centre for London Road estate.  All of the barns, presently used by Parsons' Poultry, will be available; the farm house will be adapted in conjunction with a branch library.

The cost of the Marshalswick School swimming pool, paid for by the parents, will cost £2,000.

Mr F V Ault, manager of Ballito Hosiery Mills, welcomed the decision not to join the Common Market.  He said that if the result had been 'yes', costs would have risen.  The 'no' result has given a new lease of life to the hosiery industry, he stated.

Marconi Instruments Cine Enthusiasts (MICE) is an active group at the works.  It was formed in 1961.

Marshalswick Residents Association discuss the possibility, and hope, for a community centre.

Having only been open a few years the ring road is now so busy that traffic signals are required at three junctions: Ancient Briton, King William and Hatfield Road/Ashley Road.

The 16th SA Scout Group celebrates its 10th birthday.

A proposed housing development at Jersey Farm is discussed.  The scheme is considered controversial, especially as no schools are intended on the development.

Lily Thompson is featured in the Herts Advertiser; she helped to make Bibles at Campfield Press for 51 years, starting at 5 shillings (25p) per week.  Her sister, also employed there for 45 years, is also retiring.  Her boss said, "we never examined your work because we knew it was right."

The new permanent building at the Bunch of Cherries PH has now replaced the temporary wooden huts, under the tenancy of Les Thorpe.

Joan Ryder, youngest daughter of Samuel Ryder, formally opened the Sunday school at St Luke's Church.

Residents in Colney Heath Lane are objecting to further gravel extraction on the east side of the lane by St Albans Sand and Gravel Company.

An oil pipeline between London and Liverpool is to be laid under part of Colney Heath.

Mr Thomas Nash, of Nash Homes has offered a quarter-acre plot in Sherwood Avenue for use as a Baptist Church.  Meanwhile, joint family services between the Baptist and Methodist churches are held at Skyswood School.

Floodlights have been installed at Clarence Park for St Albans City FC.

Senior Scouts have built a new den  (November 1963)

Mr J Kingham,m Assistant County Commissioner for Senior Scouts, officially opened the 2nd St Albans senior scout den in Camp Road, St Albans.  The den, which adjoins the main hut, was built by the scouts themselves, and is tastefully and brightly decorated.


A great deal of time and trouble was spent on it, and as a result, the seniors responsible have earned their handyman's badges.

Mr Kingham said that to be a senior scout was to reach the pinacle of scouting achievement.  The new den would be a magnet for younger boys in the troop, and he was sure that the group would go from success to success.

Mr Kingham congratulated the senior scout leader, Mr M Pond,
on his leadership and on the way he had been able to draw the west effort out of the seniors.

The pictures:

Top: Original Salwey HQ built on Hill End hopsital-rented land off Camp Road, where Liberty Close is now.

Bottom: The den starts on the back of a lorry, having formed one of two temporary bars of the original Bunch of Cherries PH.



Race track road a death trap (July 1966)

Residents have a new name for Cell Barnes Lane.  They call it Danger Mile and believe it could become the worst accident black spot in the city.  For months parents of young children have been worried about the traffic, which they claim uses Cell Barnes Lane as "a race track", but on Friday an accident involving a small boy brought forth a new flood of complaints.

The main concern of residents is the large number of children in the vicinity.  Many of them attend Cunningham JMI School, and have to be met and taken to the school by their parents, even if they live only a few minutes walk away.  The Headmaster of Cunningham School, Mr R W D Field,  said that, "he was very worried about the traffic.  We cannot allow the children to use the main entrance because that leads onto Cell Barnes Lane.  They have to use a side entrance, because their safety is more important than convenience.

Mr David Stuckey, of Rodney Avenue, claimed that 90% of drivers on Cell Barnes Lane exceed the speed limit.  He flet that parking was the major fault on the road: "There should be a no-parking area opposite the layby in front of the shops."

"There is not one pedestrian crossing," said Mrs Janet Claridge, of Cell Barnes Lane.  "I am always worried about my two children because of this terrible road,  The cars just race along."

Ballito closing works (December 1966)

Courtaulds, who took
over Ballito Hosiery Mills in September, have decided to close down production at the St Albans factory next year.  The jobs of nearly 600 people are affected by the decision.  Ballito will remain a separate company and will offer a number of jobs to men and women at Luton and at Baldock. 200 people might have to find other jobs.  Many will be office workers.

The dispersal of production among other Courtauld factories (including at Skelmersdale and Belper) will assist [in keeping job losses down].  Some Ballito knitting machines will be transferred.

When the take-over proposals were first announced assurances about the future of the Fleetville factory were given.  This was done presumably to pacify the staff; now the building is in new ownership Courtaulds was able to announce what was probably its original intention.


The former Ballito Hosiery Mills, now replaced by a Wm Morrison supermarket.

Water and phones cut in road widening  (January 24th, 1969)

The Morrison's area of Hatfield Road may feel congested at times today, but it was even more narrow before 1969:

Taps dried up and telephones went dead in Hatfield Road this week due to the activities of a mechanical digger being used in road-widening operations.  Water pipes fell foul of the digger on Monday, and it "attacked" telephone cables on Tuesday.  Both supplies were quickly restored.

Work on the road, outside Marconi Instruments (formerly Ballito's) started before Christmas and many traders, and motorists who use the road, are beginning to ask, "When will it end?"

Among the traders who are complaining about the loss of trade is Mr C E Wood, manager of a grocery shop, who told the Herts Advertiser: "We are not getting the passing trade because of the traffic chaos.  Workmen have had the pavement up four times outside this shop."

Mr R Crawley, manager of the Rats' Castle public house said that customers had difficulty in turning their cars into Sutton Road from the main road and consequently were not bothering to stop.

Said Mr A S Dudley, manager of a fish shop: "The noise of the pneumatic drills drives you mad.  They have been going hard at it since last Thursday."  Mr H C Presence, proprietor of a butcher's, said: "I think the road contractors have been held up because the GPO took such a long time to put its new lines in.  The work on the road started about last November.

An official on the site commented: "In order to widen the road, all the main services, gas, electricity, water and GPO have had to move their installations back to the new footpath."

Crossing called Daily Death Dice  (November 15th, 1968)

The Crown junction can still be a challenging set of roads to negotiate.  Imagin what it was like before traffic lights were installed.

St Albans' residents from the Clarence Park area are up in arms over the traffic situation at the 5-way junction by the Crown Hotel.  They say it is extremely hazardous to cross the road at this point, and equally dangerous for motorists.  One resident of Granville Road described the crossing as a "daily dice with death."

The crossing is formed by three roads, Clarence Road, Stanhope Road and Camp Road, all emptying into Hatfield Road at the same point.  Recently, congestion has been aggravated by an increase in the flow of traffic on Clarence Road due to the Sandpit Lane railway bridge being closed.

Mrs M Parr, of Granville Road said: "There is not a single zebra crossing on the Hatfield Road at any point between St Pater's Street and the former Ballito Stocking Factory.  This stretch of road is used by pupils travelling to four schools.  During rush hours it is quite impossible to negotiate the road at the Crown [junction].  The best solution would be to install a set of traffic lights with an all-red phase in which pedestrians could cross."

Such a scheme was recommended by St Albans City Council last year, but on submission to Hertfordshire County Council for approval, it was turned down through lack of finance.

Right: Traffic emerging from Clarence Road onto

the junction forty years after traffic signals were

finally installed at the Crown junction.

Comedian opens new St Albans gardens centre (September 19th 1969)

Comedian Eric Morecombe had local gardeners in fits of laughter on Tuesday when, as unconventional as ever,  he tried to cut the ribbon at the opening of Notcutt's new garden centre, Hatfield Road, St Albans, with a saw.

But it did not work, and after cutting the tape with a gardening knife, Eric and his wife Joan, were taken on a tour of the centre by the managing director of Notcutt's Nurseries, Mr Charles Notcutt.

Eric was able to learn much about the "new instant gardening method", using plants packed in plastic bags.  He planted a rose tree, and was presented with a Twisted Nut Tree in a pot. "I've already got a twisted nut at home," joked Eric.

At the ceremony Mr Notcutt paid tribute to Miss Grace Carter, whose father, Mr T W Carter, founded the nursery in 1933.

Eric Morecome presented her with a cheque on behalf of the company, a bottle of plant fertiliser – and a kiss.  "Miss Carter is popular with the Centre's many customers and is always ready with advice, " said Mr Notcutt.

The Centre stocks 2,000 varieties of plants and carries a comprehensive range of home garden equipment and accessories.