Friday, 17 January 2020

Dr Francis Henry Wilson Iles

This piece has been written in response to a query elsewhere on the website from Mr Les Carpenter under the chapter on Brightwell's Farm, part of which reads:- 


"Many years ago I found a small dark Blue covered book about Watford, in the main Watford Library, it was I think a late 19th century print and which detailed how this most modern sewage system (as it was then) was built and how it operated. I have since tried to find this book but the librarians tell me it no longer exists, at least for public reading. If anyone can find it and re-produce the chapter I am certain many will find it very interesting. The same book describes a certain Dr. Isles who was very generous when treating the poor. The story goes that he treated, for free, a young waif but in the process suffered a tiny scratch. The wound would not heal and he consulted his friends in Harley Street who could do nothing. It was probably a form of blood poising or sepsis, which for in those days, there was no cure. When he died the whole Town is said to have turned out for the funeral procession down the High Street as he was so well known and loved by the townspeople. It is sad that he is not remembered by a street name in the Town".

After some research and input from a member of the group, it was discovered that the book in question is: History of Watford and Trade Directory by Henry Williams. A copy is in the possession of another member and the following, a glowing tribute to the great man following his death, is taken directly from it:

"Great as was the loss sustained by the death of Mr John Sedgwick, still greater was that which occurred on Wednesday 19th September 1883, in the death of Dr F. H. Wilson Iles; and perhaps no event at Watford ever cast so deep a gloom over the place as did this sad and untimely occurrence. The professional duties of medical practitioners are often fraught with danger and, apart from the pay they get for their services, a debit of gratitude is due to them for the promptitude they show in obeying the summons to a bed of sickness, and the risk they run in many cases where the disease is of a contagious nature. Particulars of the circumstances that led to the melancholy death of Dr Iles were inserted in the Watford Observer on the 22nd September 1883, together with an excellent biographical sketch, which I cannot do better than quote here:

'It will be remembered that on Tuesday, the 21st August last, Dr Iles performed an operation known in the medical profession as a 'tracheotomy', a method of effecting an artificial channel for respiration in cases of croup or diphtheria. Whilst so engaged he inflicted a slight wound on his left forefinger, close to the nail, which, we are informed, scarcely amounted to a scratch, so slight, indeed, as to pass almost unnoticed by Dr Iles himself at the time. On the following Friday, however, symptoms of inflammation, portending blood-poisoning, set in, and Dr Iles next morning went to London to consult his friend Mr Rouse, of St George's Hospital, knowing that that gentleman's large experience in such cases rendered his opinions of the highest importance. By his urgent advice he gave up work and immediately resorted to active treatment. For some days there was great pain and swelling, although at this period there was scarcely anything to indicate contamination of the system; indeed; matters progressed favourably until Wednesday in last week, by which time Dr Iles had completed all arrangements for a visit to the seaside, where he hoped to res-establish his health in a short time. But on that day his partner, Dr Stradling, perceived an alarming evidence of impending internal complications, which induced him to telegraph for Mr Rouse at once. The result of the consultation led to the projected visit being put off, and the wisdom of that decisions was demonstrated by the fact that from this time the symptoms increased in gravity day by day to such a degree that Mr Rouse, on the Monday following, took a serious view of the patient's chance of ultimate recovery. This opinion was destined to be verified only too soon, for between none and ten o'clock that same evening, Dr Iles awoke from what appeared to be a comfortable sleep, with paralysis of the palate and organs of speech, which rendered breathing a matter of extreme difficulty. He never spoke again. The whole of the left side became similarly affected and, after lingering for rather more than twenty-four hours, during which he was obviously conscious at intervals, he passed quietly away about midnight.'  (He had contracted diphtheria)

"No words that might might here be set down could evoke such feelings as must have welled up from a thousand hearts when the startling news was borne to them. It would ill become us to intrude on ground so sacred by any conventional phrases."

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

St Michael and All Angels Heritage Week 2014


The following presentation was displayed in September 1914 at the Church of St Michael and All Angels in West Watford as part of the 2014 Heritage Weekend events. It was researched and created by members of the West Watford Local History Society.

Church Concerns up to outbreak of war August 1914

1913 saw the new church in use and the transformation of the former church into a social hall. A social celebration for communicants in the hall in April, was attended by 300. While the year started with an outstanding debt of nearly £3,000 for the new church’s building and fittings, by March the debt had been reduced to £445. The old building previously used as a social venue was still used for some activities and was called the “Institute”.

New residents in “this vast district” were invited to leave contact cards in a box provided in the church. The population of King’s Ward was due to grow by 5.5% in 1913, faster than in any other ward. Its population reached 16,650 by 1914. 147 new homes would be built in West Watford in 1914, when another Mission Church at Cassio Bridge was mooted to meet the needs of the growing population. Services and activities were already taking place in the Good Samaritan Mission, a pre-fab metal structure in Holywell Road.

A Mr Crabtree joined the church from college as a lay reader, with good experience gained in Manchester. He would superintend the Good Samaritan Mission.

St James Church, on neighbouring Watford Fields, was consecrated in 1913 and improvements to Vicarage Road cemetery chapel were completed. The Reverend Littlebury, priest in charge at St Michael and All Angels’, proposed to gift a lectern and seat to the cemetery chapel.

Residents of the parish were reminded in the parish magazine that following a court case, wedding banns and ceremonies not conducted in the parish church, were invalid and illegal.  

Parishioners were also called to support a national demonstration in Hyde Park against proposals to dis-establish the Church of Wales. A local protest parade and meeting in Clarendon Hall also took place.

January 1914 saw the formal dedication of the new church, followed by a tea party for the “large and comprehensive church family”. The church would be a “rallying point for all forces to gather round and a radiating point from where strength should issue.”

Parishioners were asked to donate ingredients for a soup kitchen which operated from the Good Samaritan Mission throughout the winter of 13/14. School children of working parents were provided with a hot lunch and the sick and elderly with jugs of soup. 300 children “in need” were entertained at a Christmas party on Boxing Day in the Institute, each going home with a small present.

The Church scout troop which had started in 1911 and which previously met in the Good Samaritan Mission, transferred to the new hall and still had a few places for boys 12-16 “of the right stamp” who would benefit from scout-type activities and “a course of steady drill”. As an “up to date branch of the Church Lads’ Brigade,” it was intended to prepare boys for “Christ’s army” not the military.

The girls were not forgotten. Girls’ Club members were allowed to play cricket in Cassiobury Park on summer evenings, led by 1914 by Miss Pinn, Tyrell Pinn’s sister. Tyrell Pinn was very active in the church community and was considered by Reverend Littelbury as his “right hand man”. Miss Pinn taught the girls not to protect their wicket with their long skirts. A church Lads’ Club for confirmed church goers over 14, was started by John Searle in the Institute. Working parties to sew plain and fancy goods for sale to raise funds continued to meet regularly, presided over by Reverend Littlebury’s wife. The men’s club led by Tyrell Pinn, thrived as a result of a busy programme of football fixtures until the voluntary enlistment of club leaders including Pinn brought football activities to a halt.

Three weddings took place in 1913: William Beck of Whippendell Road wed Cissie Hughes. Alfred George Anning of Harwoods Road, wed Florence Ethel Bullen and Thomas Harry Bailey of Hagden Lane married Agnes Southam. All three local men were destined to lose their lives in the war.

Early in 1914, the War Office was supporting a local press campaign in Watford to stimulate recruitment to the regular army and “to tell in plain English what are the conditions.” The National Service League was active locally and nationally, sending a deputation to Lord Asquith, to press their sense of real danger that regular and territorial British forces were under-strength. Lord Asquith was opposed to national service but supported “better physical training for young men aged 14-18.” At this time a public meeting was scheduled in Kingham Hall in the town to debate “the Present Aspect of the Peace Question”. Clearly, a sense of war danger was in the air.

Meanwhile in May 1914, St Michael’s scouts attended Empire Day celebrations in Hyde Park and a parish fundraising pageant was in planning in June when Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination started a steady slide towards hostilities. While Austria-Hungary was declaring war on Serbia, marriages continued to take place in the church- James Gurney wed Mary Anne Smith- and the parish as a whole was preoccupied by a performance of the most popular D’Oyley Carte Operas. This pageant took place in “a woodland dell” in Cassiobury Park, in a ”perfect alfresco theatre” against the backdrop of Cassiobury’s ancient walls. Parish ladies staffed the refreshment and tobacco stalls. Declared “an artistic triumph” by the London Gazette, and winning “the praise of London critics as well as local opinion”, it was an artistic but not a financial success. Expenses were heavy and the eventual net profit was £120.

August 1914  The Outbreak of War

Watford Free Churches Council was urging the Government to not get drawn into “this disastrous conflict” and to remain neutral, only days before the declaration of war on August 4th after Germany invaded Belgium. The Reverend Littlebury wrote of the “awful news” that Europe was involved in a “terrible international war”. Army reservists from the local police and the post office immediately joined their regiments and territorial regiments were on the move, including 100 men from Watford in the Hertfordshire Regiment.  The scene shown below must have become commonplace.

Lords Clarendon and Ebury write to the local newspaper and with the local Labour Church, warn the town Council of likely hardship among the population at home as panic buying results in food shortages, certain trades decline and short hours and lay-offs make rents un- affordable. Formed of people from a cross section of the town, the Watford Executive Relief Committee raises funds and oversees the impact of war on the poor. Mr Chaston is the Kings Ward representative on this Committee. 182 cases of need in the ward are already registered by the end of September, resulting in 89 grants, 62 refused and a decision on 25 pending.

Led by General French, the British Expeditionary Force lands in France and proceeding to the Front in Belgium, is outnumbered by German forces at the Battle of Mons and ordered to retreat by Lord Kitchener. Two parishioners of St Michael’s are among British casualties. Frederick James Sanders was killed in the battle while Thomas Ashby of Kings Avenue died of wounds received.

German forces try to encircle Paris but in a series of encounters, the Allies force them in September to withdraw east of Paris across the Marne. Both sides suffer 25% casualties at the Battle of the Marne including a parishioner, Edward Pritchard of Harwoods Road and William Griffin. 

Watford rifle club in Willow Lane is opened up to all. The local paper starts a regular Roll Of Honour column.

Reverend Littlebury writes in the parish magazine: “Do we realise we are almost within echoing sound of an enemy’s canon...” Millions will be sacrificed “to satisfy the lust of a few for temporal power”. He is shaken by the idea of Christian nations fighting each other. Parishioners have a first duty to pray; secondly to give to local and national relief funds. “Don’t try and ignore it as if the war meant nothing more than the upsetting of our plans. It is our affair. Our brothers who are fighting so gallantly are fighting for us. We must make our sacrifice too.”

Scouting in Watford


1st Watford South Scout Group

(Countess of Clarendon’s Own)
incorporating 82nd Watford South

A History 

Scouting became popular following publication of THE SCOUT, a magazine that had caught the imagination of boys throughout the UK following Lord Baden-Powell’s camp on Brownsea Island in 1907.
On 1st March 1908 two Watford school boys – Alan Emery (whose birthday it was) and Marchant Scrivener (whose family ran a nursery and flower shop in Queens Road) – gathered some friends together at Alan’s home in Escourt Road and took the Scouting Oath.
In June 1908 Harold Collins, who lived in Cassio Road, Watford, and a friend, also swore in their Oaths in the shed of their school, Watford Boys Grammar.
They all practised their Scouting skills in Whippendell Woods dressed in makeshift uniforms, although Alan’s parents had bought him a hat from a Watford clothing shop.  Later that year, the two patrols formed the original Scout Troop.
The Group was the first registered in Hertfordshire when it became  

1st South West Herts (Lady Hyde’s Own)

When Patron Lady Verena Hyde became the Countess of Clarendon, the title of the Group changed accordingly. This privilege has remained with the Group since the death of Lady Verena in 1963.
The first mention of a club room occupied by the original Group, was that in 1909 meetings were held in the annexe of the Presbyterian Church in Clarendon Road. Then came several moves around Watford until, in 1930, when the opportunity arose for the 1st to acquire its own HQ in Durban Road East.
The Group had plans to expand Scouting in West Watford, so a sister Group was formed - the 2nd/1st - which took premises in Harwoods Road.

The Labour Church, Durban Road East, Watford 

The building was registered as a meeting place for Religious Worship on 2nd November 1901.
Headquarters premises Durban Road East, Watford, secured for the Cubs, Scouts and Rovers in 1931 by Adrian Brough, Group Scoutmaster in association with Harold Collins, Founder member of the Group and Assistant District Rover Scout Leader and Percy Puleston, Assistant Scoutmaster.

The Years during the 2nd World War 
  • The Rover Crew was depleted due to war service
  • The Cubs and Scouts suffered a lack of leaders
  • Adrian Brough was left to run the Group with less help
  • Despite this, the windows were blacked out, records safely boxed and the boys struggled on, assisting the war effort themselves with jobs such as helping build Morrison shelters, making camouflage netting and acting as messengers
  • Headquarters was used as a base by Street Fire Watchers and ARP
  • Troop used Victoria School air raid shelters to meet due to the air raids

There was a time when a Scout Troop bearing their colours and marching along the streets of Watford was a familiar sight. The age of heavy traffic and streets crammed with parked cars has led to the demise of such spectacles.

Mr Gosling's Homes

Mr Gosling's Homes for Aged Women in Cassio Road opened in 1906. Henry Gosling (b. c1854 - d.1918) was a missionary at the Watford Town Mission in the lower High Street. He visited the elderly and saw many impoverished ladies who were concerned about how to pay the rent for their accommodation. 

Mr Gosling's charitable work began in 1896 and with assistance from some affluent local people he raised funds to rent a cottage; then another and eventually had ten cottages in Watford.  He rented rooms at the small sum of 6d. per week and his daughter collected the rents and enquired about the health of each lady.  Annual house-to-house collections started and with help from a Mr. A King-Smith Mr Gosling bought land in Cassio Road to build new homes.  Mr King-Smith's daughter laid the foundation stone and the Cassio Road Gosling homes for aged women were opened in 1906.

The single rooms were let to approximately 22 respectable ladies over 60 who had been residents of Watford for over five years. They were required to give two references and be checked over by the Gosling Homes doctor. There was a housekeeper on site and everything was provided for the residents except clothing.  There was a bathroom upstairs, cold water upstairs and down and a wash-house in the garden with a copper and mangle for laundry.

In 1959 there was a refurbishment and a bedroom and living room was created for each resident, plus the number of bathrooms increased. Central heating and fire doors were also installed. 

Gosling Homes are still occupied and are now converted to 7 flats plus an onsite manager.  The criteria now is for "ladies over 50 years of limited means".


We are grateful to Janet Golding for this piece of research. 

References:  Echoes of Old Watford, Bushey and Oxhey - Ted Parrish
                     Mary Forsyth at Watford Museum
and               Gosling Trustee Mr Garnett Harper. 

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