Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Update - Workhouse Bricks Campaign

For all those interested in the Group's "Save The Bricks" Campaign, we would like to share with you an update on the situation. Our Secretary wrote to Watford MP Dean Russell, who had conveyed an interest in what we were trying to achieve and the following is the response we received: 

"I’d like to reassure you and the members of the West Watford History Group that as an integral part of a listed building the workhouse bricks are not under threat of demolition or removal by WHHT.

 We are still at an early stage in our Outline Business Case (OBC) and still a long way off from considering our Full Business Case (FBC) which is the point we need to reach before any work on the redevelopment of our buildings at Watford gets underway.
 
We would be happy to talk to the group at some point next year to explain this and I’ve copied our redevelopment communications leads into this email so they can add the group into our stakeholder communication plans.
 
Many thanks for raising the concerns of the group with us and please be assured that we would not wish to damage a listed building in any way."

In the New Year, Dean would be pleased to facilitate the meeting mentioned. 

Best wishes,

Gideon Benedyk

And our response to him:

"Dear Gideon

Thank you so much for forwarding the WHHT's response to your recent message concerning our Save the Workhouse Bricks campaign.

We appreciate that they have a long way to go before any redevelopment of the hospital site goes ahead, but one of our main concerns is that the walls of the building containing these bricks may eventually be demolished.  The building is Grade 2 listed and, therefore, does not qualify in the same way as a Grade 1 listed building which would be saved in its entirety.  Perhaps only the facade fronting Vicarage Road would be preserved.  

However, we look forward to next year when perhaps the the Trust is further ahead with its plans and could meet us to discuss a possible solution to ensuring the preservation of these artefacts that are of historic significance in Watford.

In the meantime, we will keep an eye on the erosion problem that is inevitably damaging all of the brickwork on these buildings and will pass to Sarah Priestley, our Museum Curator and Sian Macdonald, WBC Heritage Officer, an outline of the recent correspondence we have had.

Please extend our gratitude to Dean Russell MP for his interest and for his offer to facilitate a meeting with the parties concerned.  

A copy of all correspondence has been passed to Lynda Bullock, Chair of West Watford History Group, who has asked that this matter be placed on the agenda for our next WWHG meeting."

Kind regards

Sue Ettridge (Secretary WWHG)

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Rembrandt House

Rembrandt House in Whippendell Road is a locally listed Edwardian building from the early 1900s, once the Watford Speedometer and Magneto Works. They supplied speedos for the Vickers Vimy’s first transatlantic flight in 1919 and also manufactured all Rolls Royce engine magnetos until 1932. Later the building housed printing works associated with the Sun Engraving Company and Rembrandt Photogravure.


North & Sons of Watford - timeline, taken from Graces Guide
of Watford, Herts. (1923)
1839 Formed as a watch-making company
1904 Commenced making automotive components
1905 Moved to Watford
1920 February. Issued catalogue of magnetos. [1]
1920 October. Exhibited at the Commercial Motor Exhibition at Olympia with magneto equipment for commercial vehicles. [2]
1926 Employing 630 on a 115,460 sq. ft. factory
1927 Watford magnetos.
1933 North and Sons Ltd, then one of the leading manufacturers of magnetos and also a manufacturer of speedometers and other instruments for motor vehicles, was purchased by Lucas in 1933 for £22,347. Lucas subsequently recovered half the purchase price from SmithsJoseph Lucas Ltd took over the magneto side of the business and Smiths the instrument side.

Below is a Timeline of the Sun Engraving Company: taken from www.gracesguide.co.uk

Sun Engraving Company

1911 Edward Hunter and his partners established a new firm at Milford House, just off the Strand in London.
1918 Absorbed the Mezzogravure Co.
1919 Sun Engraving absorbed Andre Sleigh and Anglo and consolidated all production operations at Whippendell Road, Watford.
1932 Sun Engraving acquired the Storey Brothers interests in Rembrandt Intaglio Printing Co; Storeys moved the company from London to Watford, and renamed it Rembrandt Photogravure. 
The story of Rembrandt Intaglio Printing Co is an interesting one and this link tells you about them:  https://www.stampprinters.info/DS36.pdf  
1934 moved the Rembrandt operations to Watford, renamed as Rembrandt Photogravure.
Developed large rotary photogravure facility to produce magazines and catalogues. By about 1935, the firm was producing 70% of Britain’s mass-market magazines.
1937 Odhams Press was one of the largest customers; made an offer to Sun Printer’s owners to buy their company, which was declined. Odhams than set up its own photogravure printing operation in North Watford - Odhams (Watford) Ltd[1].
WWII Printed propaganda material as well as all manuals of aerial reconnaissance photographs used for the invasion of Europe. The firm was also involved in the production of munitions, and in activities connected with the production of the atomic bomb.
1945 Sold the printing operations to Hazell, Watson and Viney of Aylesbury. Formed Hazell Sun Group.
1968 The engraving company was sold to C. and E. Layton Ltd. and ceased operations at the Whippendell Road site.

 

  

Photographs copyright Lynda Bullock 2012

The link below will take you to the detailed recollections of Mr John Castle who worked at  Rembrandt Photogravure (1955-61) and Sun Printers (1961–66).  Illustrating the account are several photographs including one of staff members outside the Highwayman Public House in Tolpits Lane. 



In later years Rembrandt House passed into multi-occupancy use, housing at one time Castile Games and Toys Ltd by Rembrandt Games Ltd, which included jigsaw puzzles.
Parts of the building were still in use in the 1990s, but once vacated, the site of 3.4 acres was acquired by Henley Homes to develop into apartments. The industrial buildings at the rear were demolished to make way for flats.
The project by Henley involved the conversion and restoration of the locally-listed Edwardian print works into 43 modern apartments, where the exterior had become dilapidated, the windows and roof needed replacing, the brickwork was dirty and the decorative details of the plasterwork had eroded away. The restoration of the decorative plasterwork frieze and pediment would require a specialist trade, but it was key to completing the restoration, so this went ahead. The missing parts were recreated using skilled moulding techniques and the rest was gently cleaned and stabilised, before all being repainted in a neutral stone shade. The surrounding brickwork was also cleaned by hand to ensure that the surviving decorative detail was not further eroded. For this conversion Henley Homes won the Regeneration/Restoration Award in the International Design and Architecture Awards 2017. 

    




Photographs copyright Lynda Bullock 2020

A last point of interest is the feature on the exterior wall towards the lower end of the building. Perhaps it once displayed a plaque for the Speedometer and Magneto Works? (The writer of this piece has not, so far, been able to find any photo depicting this).


Photograph copyright Lynda Bullock 2020


Though now defaced, I believe this is Henry James Wise, Architect 1873 - 1940


- oOo -


References:

Timeline taken from:   www.gracesguide.co.uk



Directory of British Architects


New to Watford - Blog December 2016

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If anyone has any recollections of working in Rembrandt House, we would be happy to hear from you.


  

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

WEMCO

A Timeline of WEMCO - Whippendell Marine Company

Whippendell Marine can trace its history back over 100 years to the early days of electro-mechanical technology. Over the years the Company has been an innovator of products for the controls industry and its equipment and systems can be found in a broad range of industrial applications across the globe.

1900 - Thomas Kesnor & Co Ltd., founded in Fulham, London.

1911 - The Company moved to its purpose built site on Whippendell Road, Watford.

In 1916 The Company changed its name to the Watford Electric & Manufacturing Company Limited as a consequences of its concentration on Automatic Switchgear.

The 1930's saw the Company grow rapidly with the development of many patented devices for motor starters, such as the Eddy Drag Retarding Device. In 1936 it became a public company listed on the London Stock Exchange.

During WWII the Company's output was concentrated on manufacturing for the armed forces, including electrical assemblies for the de Havilland Mosquito, and control gear for the Royal Navy, the foundation of today's business.

Throughout the 1950s the Company was active in many areas of industry, and in particular was building large switchboards and motor control centres for the power generation and water treatment industries.

During the 1960's the Company developed a range of modern contactors and fuse switches, as well as its shockproof MCA contactor range for use in Naval Applications. These components are still in use today across a wide range of industries and in the most demanding Naval Applications.

In 1967 the Company was bought by Harvey Hubbell Inc. of the United States for it's range of standard control products such as the UCA contactors and the UFS fuse switches.

1975 saw a management buyout of the systems business and the creation of Whippendell Electrical Manufacturing Company (Watford) Ltd (WEMCO). The new Company continued to supply a broad range of industries but with a special emphasis on Naval and Mercantile Marine applications.

During the 1980's the focus of the business switched more to Naval and Marine applications and the Company won major contracts on the Trafalgar Class and Vanguard Class nuclear submarine programmes.

With business expanding, the Company acquired The Electrical Apparatus Company (UK) Ltd., which helped expand its portfolio into embarked aviation ground power systems.

2000 - Development of the latest ground power control system was completed and the Company was awarded a contract from the UK MoD to supply a capability upgrade to HMS Invincible. 2 years later a further system was awarded for HMS Illustrious.

2004 - The Acquisition of RAMAC Engineering Ltd., in 2004, confirmed the Company's position as the leading supplier of aviation ground power systems to the UK Royal Navy and one of the world leaders in the field. Further contracts were awarded for the supply of the aviation ground power system to the Type 45 AAWD and a capability upgrade to the Type 23 frigates.

2005 - The Electrical Apparatus Company is renamed Whippendell Marine and the naval and marine operations of all the businesses are brought under one company.

2010s - The Company expands its support business and is awarded a contract to support aviation ground power systems across the UK RN and RFA fleet. Work also continues for the Astute Class submarines and in 2013 Whippendell Marine is selected to design and supply the aviation system for the new MARS fleet tankers.

2015 - Whippendell Marine was awarded Supplier of the Year by BAE Systems Marine Submarine Solutions for its work on the Astute programme.

2019 - After 107 years in Watford, Whippendell Marine moved to new premises in Milton Keynes, providing a modern manufacturing facility within a greener environment and more secure building.






Photographs copyright Lynda Bullock


-oOo-


In January 2018 plans to redevelop "an icon of Watford Industrial Heritage" were released. 

Oakford Homes planned to turn the Whippendell Marine site on Whippendell Road into 81 homes comprising 51 one-bedroom and also 27 two-bedroom apartments. In a letter to residents of the area and ahead of their planning application, Oakwood Homes stated that:
"All the buildings on site are in a poor state of repair and there has been no interest from other companies to buy the site for continued employment use due to concerns about access for larger lorries and the changing nature of the area".  

As of 2020 the site is under development. 


References: 
https://www.whippendell-marine.co.uk/Company/History.html

Watford Observer - January 2018

Photographs by Lynda Bullock taken 2012


Monday, 18 May 2020

Tolpits Lane


'There is only one street named Tolpits Lane making it unique in Great Britain' so perhaps it is worth writing about.

From an ‘Anonymously Recorded History of Croxley Green’ – Croxley Green History Project:-

The name Tolpits had existed well before Wolsey’s time as ‘Tolpade’ in 1364, evolving to ‘Tolput’ in 1803 and ‘Twopits’ in 1822 (as noted on an 1822 Ordnance Survey Map and still referred to as Twopits in 1862). According to a Watford Rural District Guide, Tolpade seems to come from ‘toll path’ and was an alternative name for Cassio Mill mentioned in 1086.

About 1416, the Manor of the More (later Moor Park) was conveyed to William Flete (Fleet) who, a few years later in 1435, put up a claim to have a right of way for himself and his cattle from the More across the fields to the market place and church of Watford; in other words, along what would become Tolpits Lane. The Abbot of St Albans went to law and William Flete failed to gain his point. The More did not get its road to Watford till a century later when a greater Cardinal, even than Beaufort - Cardinal Wolsey who, after enlarging the house, sought to also enlarge the park by 170 acres. Seizing land to secure the building of Tolpits Lane, he expelled one of his tenants from a messuage (farmhouse or cottage) called Tolpotts and rebuilt it nearby.

Another story of the common rights is associated with this.  The (Little) Tolpits Cottage (built c1640) caught fire and the villagers turned out en masse to extinguish it.  As a mark of gratitude the tenant is said to have granted the use of the Moor to the villagers for all time as common grazing land for cattle and horses.  Unfortunately the date of this particular event is lost in antiquity and it cannot be said whether it was before or after Wolsey’s time (but Tolpits Cottage still exists).  The dictionary definition of “Moor” is “poor, peaty, untilled ground, often covered with heath”, so the “tenants of the manour” are in any case probably grimly standing their last ground!

According to Alan W Ball’s Street and Place Names In Watford, ‘Tolpits appears in 1365 as Tolpade, which had become Tollepathe by 1529 with a mention of Tolpott bridge in 1594. It seems to have been some form of toll path with the ‘pit’ a modern corruption, but all trace of a toll being exacted in this area has long since vanished. There was also a farm in the area and in the eighteenth century provided ‘Tolpulls’ as another variant in the form of the name.’
Tolpits Farm stood on the corner of Tolpits Lane (just up from Little Tolpits Cottage) opposite Olds Approach and is now part of Merchant Taylor’s school.

In Fitzherbert’s “Book of Surveying and Improvement”, published in 1539, he describes the system of communal agriculture then in use.  “To every townshyppe that standeth in tillage in the playne country, there be errable lands to plowe, and sowe, and leyse to tye or tedder theyr horses and mares upon, and common pasture to kepe and pasture their catell beestes, and shepe upon, and also they have meadowe grounds to get theyr hay upon.”  

Thus we find in Croxley ancient reference to “The Common Moor for the Tennants of Croxley Manour”, the Horse Moor, and Lott Mead. Stories persist of the maintenance of common rights in Croxley, and it is notable that in 1886 when Dickinson’s Mill was greatly expanded, land was purchased by the firm from Lord Ebury to be exchanged for Common Moor land adjoining the Mill.

It was noted, even in the early part of the 20th century, that the exercise of Common Rights persisted with dairymen’s cows pastured on the Common Moor by day, and driven home (as required by ancient law) by night. Cattle are still grazed on the Moor from June to October, but they do not have to be driven home again at the end of the day! The “Commoners” of today are the surviving representatives of those tenants with property entitled to Common rights, and as such they have some say in matters concerned with the Green. Although the land lies almost entirely within the parish of Watford, the inhabitants of Watford have no rights with respect to it.

Tolpits Lane becomes Moor Lane just after you cross the River Colne on the way from Watford to Rickmansworth.

References:

‘Anonymously Recorded History of Croxley Green’ – Croxley Green History Project

British History Online - Parishes, Rickmansworth 

Various Maps of the area





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