West Watford History Group

History of West Watford

The Red Lion

The Red Lion public house and former stable block occupies 105 Vicarage Road, although its address in 1901 and earlier was Colney Butts.  The pub dates back to 1751, although the current buildings are an 1890s rebuild (circa 1895), designed for Benskins Brewery by Charles P Ayres (F.S.I), a notable local architect who designed a number of other locally and nationally listed buildings in Watford.

Until recently, the Red Lion was a continuously functioning public house with a strong community significance and the site itself is remarkable for the survival of the historic curtilage associated with the public house. (In law, the curtilage of a house or dwelling is the land immediately surrounding it, including any closely associated buildings and structures). 

Watford Borough Council's "Locally Listed Buildings" document gives the following description:

"Irregular plan. Two storeys of brick with the upper floor rendered in white. Splayed angle facing road junction. Pedimented gables pierce the eaves line over main first floor windows. Between these, smaller cruciform windows with quoin surrounds. Band between lower and upper floors carries house and brewery names in decorative script. One round arched entrance to second left bay and one flat headed to right facing Aynho St. Large tripartite ground floor windows (central lights have arched transom) with splay flat heads. Quoins to ends and splay corners on upper floor. Decorative keystone features to all openings. Slate hipped roofs with red clay ridge tiles and three brick chimneys. Former stables are also of brick with pitched slate roof featuring red clay ridge tiles. Stone cills below window openings. Brick plinth and detailing below eaves at gable ends." 

Taken from the Census records of 1790 - 1940 are here just a few names of the families who resided in/ran the Red Lion:

1851 - George Halsey/Victualler & Carrier/Watford, Hertfordshire Census                                                                             1851 - Sarah Halsey/Wife/Shenley, Hertfordshire Census                                                                                                           1851 - Alfred Halsey/Son, Watford/Hertfordshire Census                                                                                                             1851 - Eliza Halsey/Daughter/Watford, Hertfordshire Census                                                                                                     1851 - Joseph Emmerson/Visitor, Gardener's Labourer/Shenley, Hertfordshire Census                                                       1851 - Emma Emmerson/House Servant/Shenley, Hertfordshire Census                                                                               1851 - William Furle/Servant, Bramfield, Suffolk Census                

1861 - Arthur Hart/Inn Keeper, Elstree, Hertfordshire Census                                                                                                     1861 - Sarah Hart/Wife, London Colney, Hertfordshire Census                                                                                                  1861 - Eliza Halsey/Daughter-in-Law/Dressmaker, Watford, Hertfordshire Census                                                              1861 - Alfred Halsey/Son-in-Law/work in Iron Foundry, Watford, Hertfordshire Census

According to the 1771 and 1881 Censuses, the Beeson family were in residence, in 1891, Henry Poole and wife, in 1901, the Hake family, with Jane Hake herself and her family hailing from Deptford and West Ham. This family appear to remain in residence until a Mrs Ethel Blake is recorded in the Post Office Directory of 1922, up until 1937, after which a Geo Bagley is the new name.  (see link below for more information)

In more recent years the Red Lion became ever more closely associated with Watford F.C. The pub came under new ownership, was refurbished and re-opened in 2006 as the Yellow and Red Lion. (According to the Watford F.C. archive, in 1890/91, after only one season at Colney Butts Meadow, the club became the football section of the newly-formed West Herts Club & Ground at Cassio Road). However, beset with problems the pub closed again and was boarded up. Most recently (August 2015) a campaign has been launched to save the buildings as a community pub.  

The area of Colney Butts included the Red Lion, the stables and adjoining land, the "cottages" at the end of the strip of land next to the pub, now much enlarged which, together with the Red Lion pub was historically a small holding with surrounding meadows. Colney Butts House, across the road from the Red Lion, became Watford Printers (see photo gallery). 

In August 2016, following much debate about its future, the Red Lion reopened, to be run on behalf of No. 8 Hostels, a chain that also runs some pubs in London. 

 References:

 Watford Borough Council - Locally Listed Buildings

 We are indebted to Kevan for permission to publish some of his research taken from the Census records listed above. For much more detailed information regarding the Red Lion and other pubs around the country, please follow this link  http://pubshistory.com/HertsPubs/Watford/RedLion.shtml  and use the drop down menu.

WFC archive 

Watford Observer