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. 

The Canal at Watford

The Canal at Watford - by Stella Merryweather

The branch which was never built.

This piece was prompted by a talk given to the group By Fabian Hisock of the Rickmansworth Waterways Trust. Key material was included in the talk for which thanks are due. The remaining material was researched by the writer from the sources named. 

The 1793 Act of Parliament which authorised the Grand Junction Canal company to raise funds to construct a main line from Brentford, to the Oxford Canal at Braunston, also authorised a branch to Watford. However, despite the enthusiam of the Earls of Essex and Clarendon for this plan, the town declined in due course to pay for the work, so the branch was never built. Instead, the canal passed by the town and when the stretch from the Thames to Two Waters Hemel Hempstead was completed in 1798, its closest point to West Watford was at Cassio Bridge. An Act of June 1795 had also authorised a branch to St Albans but this was also not built. The Grand Junction Canal reduced the distance to London from the Midlands by 60 miles (100 kilometres)—via Oxford and the River Thames—and made the journey reliable. As a result it thrived: in 1810 it carried 343,560 tons of goods to and from London, with most of it passing near Watford.   

Watford’s wharves

Of the two nearest wharves to Watford, one Lady Capel's Wharf off the Hemsptead Road had been built because Watford was the closest point to London where coal could be unloaded from the canal without paying a 1/1d per Ton toll. This toll had originally been imposed by the Corporation of London on all coal landed from boats in the port of London to pay for the rebuilding of St. Paul's Cathedral after the great fire of 1666. The coal unloaded at Lady Capel's Wharf continued its journey by cart and wagon but the commercial use of Lady Capel's Wharf ended in 1847 when the original lease granted by the Earl of Clarendon expired.

Cassio wharf

Cassio wharf was on the north side of the canal, west of the bridge carrying Rickmansworth Road over the canal. Street and trade directories of the time give a clue to wharf activity. Pigot’s 1837 Directory lists John Cooper operating at the “new wharf” at Cassio Bridge The same directory declares that “goods forwarded to John Rogers at his wharf are forwarded to all places on the line of the canal as also to all parts of the kingdom”. Kelly’s Directory lists John Cooper in 1859 as wharfinger at Cassio Bridge as well as corn merchant. The photo below taken prior to the construction of the Metropolitan Railway viaduct in 1925, shows a busy scene, with piles of bricks on the wharf, destined no doubt for the intensive development of the town which was then in progress. Peacocks 1895 Directory lists J Pratt, builders’ merchant, as offering builders “Cowley stocks and inferiors supplied by boat” i.e. types of brick. By 1897, the same bricks sourced from brickworks conveniently south of Watford on the canal, are offered for supply “by boat or cart”. Later still 1905 Peacocks lists Pratt as supplying bricks from “canal and railway wharves.”  

The railways competed with the canal as carriers of goods throughout the second half of the nineteenth century yet the pairs of narrow boats thronging the water in the photo show a continuing high level of activity at the canal wharf at this time. One boat at least bears the insignia of Fellows, Morton and Clayton, one of the largest canal carrying companies. Whether owned by companies, businessmen or by their master boatman, it was not unusual for whole families to live and work on the boats. Women and children are visible to the rear of one boat and on the tow path and of boats recorded as lying at the wharf on census night in 1901 and 1891, all had wives and children on board.  

Census night 1861 - A snapshot of boats moored in the Watford registration district

In 1795 less than 4% of boatmen owned their own boats but gradually a flourishing economy developed of owner boatmen operating as carriers on the canal. These, known as Number Ones, would have family living on board and acting as part or all of the crew. While a reasonable living could be made, boatmen working for a company were better off than those who worked for themselves. “Number Ones”, were far more at risk financially. If a horse died or broke a leg or was ill the boatman was out of work. If there was a bad frost and the canal closed self-employed boatmen earned no money, whereas men who worked for a carrying company could get advances on their wages. 1

On census night 1861, five boats were lying near Watford, but only only one, the Sarah, was owner operated. Not unusually, the master boatman was illiterate and had to make his mark on the census entry. The place of birth of the crews on all boats is overwhelmingly in the Midlands. Wives appear on the list of crew along with assistants as young as 10 and some female assistants, although the majority listed are male. It was not unusual for young children to work on the canals. They may have had little education like their parents but they were practical and ready to work. Often they were lent to other boats to help other members of their own family. As there was a finite space on each boat, this helped families reduce over-crowding.1

Of the cargoes listed on each boat, timber, salt, coal and corn, are all typical. Also typical are the paired narrow-boats which required larger crews and could have been “fly” or express boats.

NamePlace of birthOccupationMooringName(s) of boat(s)CargoSizeRegistered
William Neader
Thomas Coaldicott
WarwickshireownerHuntonThe SarahTimber30Banbury
Mary      Coaldicott
John Lawman
WarwickshirecaptainHuntonDiscovery andSalt54Droitwich
Anne lawman
Emma Shelly
Anne Sharman
John Shelly
Henry Elliott
Thomas Cardwell
Thomas Ward
DerbyshirecaptainHuntonThunderbird andCoal 60?
Mary Ward
Elisabeth Ward
Michael Jones
George Moore
Thomas Bales
WarwickassistantBridgetons Bridge
William Burton

(Please scroll across to see full record)

A West Watford Boatman

In 1901, Frederick Stratfull or Stratful 39, a barge boatman on the canal was listed living on census night at 57 Fearnley Street in West Watford with his wife Ann and six children. Frederick’s birthplace was Marsworth in Buckinghamshire where he grew up the son of an agricultural labourer and a straw plaiter. It was not unusual for carters and farm workers living in areas the canal passed through to find work on the canal. Either because he had to or because the work was better paid and/or more congenial than farm labouring, on census night 1881 he was 19 and listed as a barge mate living on a boat on the canal at Harefield. Ten years later he is married with one daughter and living on the canal at Gebbels Brickfield Dock, again at Harefields. In 1901his six children have places of birth listed which are all on the canal system i.e. Cowley, Camden Town, Langley, Brentford, Kings Langley and West Drayton so must have been born and lived for some time on board.

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