Wednesday 24 April 2024

50th Anniversary of WWCA

 West Watford History Group are delighted to include on our website some of the photographs and information made available at an Open Day held at West Watford Community Centre.

The event was held on Saturday, 7th October 2023 and attended by members of West Watford History Group, who joined the celebrations to commemorate the Centre's 50th anniversary.

Celebrations were enjoyed with the help of entertainment via a karaoke-style sing-along, a dance demonstration by our Manager and her dance partner and music provided by our Guitar Group.  Something was going on all day.

Refreshments were ongoing throughout and tours of the building were accompanied by its history from 1904.

There was face painting for the kids, displays of past events and current activities.  A great time was had by all.

 We were delighted to see so many people enjoying these celebrations, including our willing volunteers, the various businesses and individuals who donated cakes and treats and our guests from Watford Borough Council who were so supportive.

We also had a visit from Peter Taylor, our Mayor, and Councillor Ian Stotesbury.

Deputy Mayor, Aga Dichton, came along in the evening to attend our meeting.

Pavlina Kingsleigh, Centre Manager with Mayor Peter Taylor

Above, a presentation on the history of 15 Harwoods Road given by Sue Ettridge


West Watford Community Association thanks all those who came along to join in the celebrations and Volunteers and Trustees who gave their time to make this such a very special day for everyone.


The history of the premises at 15 Harwoods Road and the Community Centre which has been located there since 1973 is summarised in the following document.  

Extracts from our 1994/95 Annual Report have been used to illustrate how we have progressed in the 50 years since our inauguration. 

(To aid recognition, these extracts have been coloured blue.)

When Harwoods* Road was first being created, the houses appeared before the shops, so in 1900, Nos 1, 3 & 5 were standing, then there was a gap until the houses of Harwoods Terrace (starting from what is No 31 today) were built.

1904 - A Dairy :  
By 1904, the gap had been filled with houses and a row of shops. No 15 was now also called 'Belmont House'. Arthur Grive, a Dairyman, had his business there. The following year, 1905, Walter Wiggs took over the Dairy business. In 1908, another change of ownership was made by William Henry Down, who later went into Partnership with Mr Hayter, who already had a Dairy at 12 Market Street, Watford.

In 1912, it was taken over by J. B. Ryder. He was, undoubtably already prosperous, having a Dairy in the High Street and another as 'Ryder and Sons' in St Albans Road (both in Watford). He was also a Member of the Watford Urban District Council and led the opposition to the purchase of land for Cassiobury Park. He organised a Ballot on the matter with the town (Watford) voting, overwhelmingly, against the deal with the Property Speculators Ashby and Brightman. In the event, the Ballot was ignored.

1928 - A Drapers :
No 15 remained a Dairy until about 1928, when the Grocer E. W. Thomas (who had been the occupant of No. 13 opposite), decided to take on the now vacant Dairy and open it as a Drapers Shop. This business continued for a number of years. The premises appears to have stood idle until 1936.

1936 - The Standard Yeast Company :
The Standard Yeast Company moved in. What they were doing there is unclear, but the company had large-scale production facilities elsewhere where they produced Yeast for the Brewing industry. With Watford's extensive involvement in that sector, it may have been thought prudent to keep a permanent office in the Town.

1956 - Distaff Fabrics Limited :
After a brief hiatus, No 15 next became home to Distaff Fabrics Limited, who were Textile Manufacturers. Again, they were a large-scale producer with textile mills in the North of England, so No 15 was likely a regional office. They remained there for four years until 1960.

1960 - Faksim Supplies Limited :
At this point, the address shifted back to Retail, with the arrival of Faksim Supplies Limited. They were in the business of supplying Artists Materials, Stationery and the Graphic equivalent necessary for a Drawing Office of that era. Faksim remained until 1973, when the West Watford Community Association moved in. 

N.B. * Harwood Road had no 'S' for the first year or so.

The above information was researched by Roger Kattenhorn, who has been closely associated with our Centre for many years and with the West Watford History Group.  Roger's work on this subject is much appreciated and was displayed and discussed with visitors during our open day tours of the premises. 


The additional information below was discovered during West Watford History Group's search for combatants of World War I who emanated from West Watford and was included with Roger's research during our tours.

In the accommodation above the shop at No 15 Harwoods Road, their once lived a young couple whose life was altered when war was declared in 1914. 

Frank Bonham Ryder was the son of John Ryder who was the proprietor of the dairy at No 15 Harwoods Road from 1912 and possibly helped his father run the business.  

Frank was called to arms during World War I and did his duty, but lost his leg in battle and returned home in 1919, a disabled man.

Frank moved to Princes Avenue when he returned to England with his wife Dorothy and their two children, Dorothy and Jack.  He eventually moved away from Watford, where he had practiced as an electrical engineer and was living on the Isle of Thanet at the time of his death at 76 in 1963. 

It is highly likely that World War 1 had a negative effect on Frank and his family and many other families.  

How many other stories are there about families living in and around Watford during the early years of the 20th century?


The West Watford Community Centre was the first multi-cultural and multi-racial establishment in the area and the groups supported by the Association, whilst now using larger premises due to their success at gaining members, still appreciate how much they gained from hiring the Centre in their formative years.

All of our own Centre-based activities remain open to everyone in our neighbourhood and where possible from other areas, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, age or disability.  


In 1973 when West Watford Community Association was formed and took up the tenancy, the shop and accommodation at 15 Harwoods Road, with stable at the rear, was owned by a man who had a handicapped son.  When the owner died his property was left in trust to his son and Watford Borough Council eventually acquired the property from the son's trustees.

The project was set up jointly by the Young Volunteers Force Foundation in Watford (established in 1969), Watford Borough Council, Herts County Council and their Department of Social 

Joan Mathers Secretary to 1974, then first Co-ordinator


John Holt, Secretary of  West Watford Community Association

Joan Mathers started the weekly Community Service Group and coped with many and various tasks.  John Holt, who took over from her as Secretary, organised a much sought after gardening service for the elderly.  John's attachment to Trinity Church aided him in bringing the two organisations together and many WWCA shows and events were held at the church.

Joan and John kept detailed records of activities and services by volunteers, helped with fundraising and organised steering groups to consider the needs of the residents.

The activities and services grew from these early days and between 1976 and 1995 Friendly Evenings with music and food were very popular, as were garden and street parties.

The Senior Citizen's Club in the early 1970s when they met regularly in Trinity Church Hall

In 1983 Joan Mathers retired and Jackie Maunders took over as Co-ordinator.

At that time there were over 200 volunteers and around 150 children attending our street parties.

In 1986 an approach was made to the Council for funding to redevelop the Centre.  Councillors were impressed with WWCA's excellent record of service and the work took place shortly after.

WWCA moved into temporary accommodation in Harwoods Road and used St Michaels church hall for some of the regular events.

It took a little time and a lot of hard work when WWCA moved back to 15 Harwoods Road, but eventually relationships were built up with residents and business partners and the Centre was once more in its rightful place, at the heart of West Watford.

The challenges West Watford now faces are, in the main, high utility and food costs, both affecting the Centre and local residents, an increasing number of young people suffering isolation and often poverty and lack of adequate housing. 

Over the past 20 years, the population has become more diverse and there is a younger majority, many of whom are single.  This group often become isolated and need help settling into new homes.

WWCA is constantly reviewing its services in order to improve them and provide the community with a place where people can meet others, learn new skills, keep fit, seek advice or comfort and generally feel at home in their own community centre. 

However, we continue our programme of running daytime social/discussion meetings aimed at older people and are equipped to support our housebound residents with meetings and talks via Zoom, phone calls and email.  This became a feature of our services during the COVID 19 pandemic and during lockdown and has proved very popular and successful.

An early garden party in Rickmansworth Road.

Preparations for an early street party in Holywell Road, outside the Community Centre.

In addition to street parties, there was a crèche for young children and a Summer Play Scheme for older kids who were taken to places such as the Royal Observatory in London, out and about to farms and parks and to plenty of organised activities at the centre and elsewhere.


Although we still have many families with children, these are now often catered for by other charitable  institutions. 

However, our weekly Toddler Group helps many young and isolated mothers and carers of various faiths and cultures to interact with each other and learn about other such groups in the area held on different days. 

Communication problems are also lessened, as the meetings provide a forum for practicing language skills.

 Whilst numbers in our fitness groups are restricted due to lack of very large hall space, we can accommodate yoga and mild exercise classes.  

Our larger rooms are suitable for junior dance classes and we have catered for these throughout the past 50 years. 

When WWCA first opened the Centre, there was a great need for room space to be available for hire to various institutions concerned with settling residents into the area and giving children and adults extra learning facilities.

Even in 2024, there are still needs in this category and other categories such as learning basic household skills in order to help children with Maths and are open to suggestions for other classes. Our digital inclusion classes and special cooking classes are of immense help to many people and we are constantly reviewing the possibilities of learning on our premises.  

Present staff, Trustees and other Volunteers appreciate the dedication of those who were involved with the Centre in earlier times and do our best to continue the tradition of serving the community in the best ways possible.

This was Arthur McLean’s final plea in 1995.  We too would appreciate more volunteers coming forward to give a hand.   It would make a world of difference to what we offer the community and give such immense satisfaction and joy to those who volunteer and spend time together and with members of our community.

We continue to rely on our willing band of trustees and other volunteers  to involve themselves in the promotion and maintenance of our activities.  


West Watford History Group hopes you have enjoyed reading this brief summary of West Watford Community Association's 50 years of activity.

If you wish to learn more about WWCA and the Centre in Harwoods Road, please do not hesitate to contact:

Centre Manager: Pavlina Kingsleigh 

West Watford Community Centre (Registered Charity No 1141618, Company Limited by Guarantee Number: 7386863)

15 Harwoods Road  

Watford  WD18 7RB  

Telephone: 01923 235488

Email address:



There are activities to suit  people of all ages and abilities when it comes to exercise.  We host social gatherings, advice is available during our drop-in sessions and Digital Inclusion classes and from our office.  We hold special events throughout the year and craft sales in Spring and near to the December festive season.  Our events are advertised via Facebook, on the website and on notice boards throughout Watford.

We are keen to learn from our residents about any activities they believe would be suitable for setting up by the Centre or any improvements they believe should be made to those we are currently running.  We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at one of our Monday Coffee Morning meet-ups with neighbours and friends, where newcomers are always welcome.

With many thanks to Sue Ettridge, Centre Trustee and Volunteer for the wonderful history she has put together here. 




In 1973, a book by Alan W. Ball was published by Watford Borough Council titled 'Street and Place Names in Watford'. An index of streets and roads and various maps and photographs were included. There is also a fairly comprehensive introduction to the book which puts forward reasons and histories for the naming of the streets (and is worth reading - copies available from the Library no doubt), but for this piece I intend to focus on those streets and roads primarily within the West Watford area, although the actual boundaries of the area will doubtless be breached. 

It would probably be welcome to many to have an update, but that would take considerable work and research, although where the naming of new street names and roads is obvious, these will be included (it is hoped to get clarification rather than rely on assumption). So this is very much ongoing.

ADDISCOMBE ROAD:  Up until 1903 the present Addiscombe Road was part of Fearnley Street, but there does not appear to be a reasonable explanation for the change of name. 

ASCOT ROAD: King Edward VII was a keen supporter of the racing calendar and one of the Ascot races was named after his wife - the Queen Alexandra Stakes - a very popular figure. In 1913 when a road was laid out south of the Rickmansworth Road, Ascot was an obvious name for it.

AYNHO STREET: William Gough, of the builders Clifford and Gough, was born in the  Northamptonshire village of Aynho. When he developed four streets to the north of Vicarage Road between 1890 and 1893, he used names from his boyhood haunts in Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire, which accounts for Aynho, Banbury, Oxford and Souldern Streets.

BANBURY STREET: See Aynho Street.

BELGRAVE AVENUE: Watford was fortunate in having large landowners living on its borders, who took a great interest in the development of the town. Lord Belgrave, 1st Marquis of Westminster (1767-1845) developed the area of Westminster which became known as Belgravia. His third son, Robert Grosvenor, was created Lord Ebury in 1857 and lived at Moor Park. The Grosvenor family provided numerous M.P.s for Chester and South Cheshire from the 16rh century right up to the 1870s and all these family connections gave Watford the names of Belgrave Avenue and Chester Road, Ebury, Grosvenor and Shaftesbury Roads,

BENSKIN ROAD:  It doesn't need much explanation to learn that Benskin Road was named after Joseph Benskin, the brewer. He came to London at the age of 13 and after much hard work, made his way into the hotel business. In 1867 he moved to Watford and bought Dyson's Brewery, also known as the Cannon Brewery, with the business expanding until Watford Ales became available throughout the south of England.

BRIGHTWELL ROAD: This is a name dating back to at least the twelfth century when the word used was Brithewelle. There were several variations over the following centuries until the present Brightwell was reached in the 1400s. Its probably means bright or clear spring water welling out of the ground and on maps of the area 'Brightwell Spring' is actually referred to close to Brightwell Farm, the history of which can be found by referencing the menu.

BURTON AVENUE: Not mentioned in Alan Ball's book and cannot find a name reference.

CARACTACUS GREEN: Although there may have been an ancient British chieftain called Caractacus, there was also a racehorse of the same name, much more associated with Watford, who won the Derby in 1862 at odds of 40 to 1, making the owner, Mr Charles Snewing of Holywell Farm, a considerable amount of money. After the notable win, Mr Snewing hosted a large celebration at his farm where vast quantities of food and drink were consumed and there was much accompanying entertainment.  (see the much more detailed story of Caractacus in the drop-down menu).

CARDIFF ROAD: In the 1880s, 1890s and early 1900s, Cardiff was one of the major ports of the country with coal from South Wales being exported all over the world. At this time it was second only to London and Liverpool in the volume of its exports and third only to London and Liverpool in the volume of its imports. It was in 1893 at the high point of the history of the port, the Cardiff Road was laid out in Watford.

CASSIO ROAD: Also known as West Herts Sports Ground, It was the home ground of Watford Football Club from 1898 to 1922. In the early twentieth century, Cassio Road was used for athletics, cricket and football. By 1920 spectator facilities included a pavilion and covered standing areas on the western touchline, and a covered terrace behind the northern end of the pitch. Watford Football Club moved to Vicarage Road in 1922. The only other explanation for Cassio Road must be the association with Cassiobury.

CHAFFINCH LANE: This is an old track that ran from Brightwells Farm across what is now King George V playing fields to Tolpits Lane following part of the parish boundary. At one time it crossed over the LNWR from Rickmansworth to Watford, now the Ebury Way, but was truncated when the line became disused and the bridge demolished. It is now mainly just the small lane that runs in from Tolpits Lane to the Holywell Community Centre. 

CHARLOCK WAY: There's no explanation for the naming of Charlock Way in Alan Ball's book. Charlock is a weed and it's quite likely it grew unhindered on the area of the sewage farm upon which Holywell Estate was later built. 

CHERRYDALE: The junction of Hagden Lane and Rickmansworth Road was cCOLEalled Cherrydell Hill and at this point stood the 'Hagney' Lane turnpike gate when Rickmansworth Road was part of the Reading and Hatfield Turnpike Trust (1770-1881). In the same area fronting Rickmansworth Road was also a house called Cherrydell, while on Hagden Lane opposite the entrance to Mildred Avenue, was another house called Cherrydale. When it was demolished and new housing developed in 1968, the road created retained its old name. 

From this evidence it seems obvious that whole cherry orchards must have existed here at one time (see the piece Cherry Orchards in the drop-down menu), a view supported by Chauncey, the County historian.

CHESTER ROAD: See Belgrave Avenue/Kensington Avenue. 

CLIFTON ROAD: Clifton and Westbury-upon-Trym are both suburbs of Bristol and when two roads were built out of St James' Road parallel to Cardiff Road in 1875, it would have been completely logical to name them after districts within this other great port, which faces the chief city of Wales across the Severn Estuary. However, both Clifton in North Oxfordshire and Westbury in North Buckinghamshire are villages only a few miles from Aynho, the birthplace of William Gough of the building firm of Clifford and Gough and it is therefore assumed that he was responsible for naming them. This assumption is strengthened by the fact the both roads are just on the other side of Vicarage Road from Aynho, Banbury, Oxford and Souldern Streets, which William Gough developed and also named in memory of places he would have known intimately in his youth. 

CLYSTON ROAD: The Watford Parish Registers date from1539 and the first marriage recorded in them was between John Clyston and Elizabth Kyne. It seems almost certain that if John Clyston himself could have known that a road was named after him in twentieth century Watford, he would have been more than a little startled at this totally unexpected rise from rural obscurity to urban fame.

COLE KINGS: This was a farm on the south side of Hagden Lane where the present turns a sharp right angle just south of Belgrave Avenue. A variation of 1728 was Cold Kings and the meaning is obscure. In Essex 'Cole' appears as a corruption of 'Colne' for the river ts hat reaches the sea through the estuary below Colchester, and in Watford this may in fact simply be a piece of ground once owned by a man called King which is situated near the River Colne. 

A more extensive description and history of Cole Kings can be found in the drop-down menu.

COLNEY BUTTS: The word 'butt' was often used to describe a piece of land that abutted or bordered onto a larger holding and was also the term  for a practice ra, for nApartge, especially in connection with archery. However, there is no evidence of archery being practised here and although colney is sometimes used a a corruption of coney, meaning a rabbit, the nearness of the river makes it more likely that this was simply a small area of ground close to the Colne, rather than scrubland infested by rabbits or men with long bows. The farm buildings of the property were roughly at the junction of Vicarage and Occupation Road (see Yellow Brick Road). In the 1851 census they were in the possession of William Ballard, the owner of the notorious Ballards Buildings. The farmhouse later became the home of Watford Printers.

There is more information and history on Colney Butts House in the drop-down menu.

COMBE ROAD: Francis Combe and Elizabeth Fuller were the founders of public education in Watford. Over 60 years before Elizabeth Fuller's Free School was started in 1704, Francis Combe, by a will of 1641 left 'ten pounds forever, to a free school in Watford, in the County of Hertford, for teaching the poor there to cast accounts, to read English and to write'. Apart from Combe Road, Francis Combe, this pioneer of education, is commemorated by the Francis Combe County Secondary School in Horseshoe Lane.

CROXLEY VIEW: Though not mentioned in the book of Street Names with an explanation, given its location, the naming is fairly obvious, given that the road running from Tolpits Lane is looking towards Croxley, which can be seen from the top.

CRUSDADER WAY: See Scammell Way.

DURBAN ROAD: Many British towns have streets named after places, battles or commanders prominent in the wars of the nineteenth century. When two streets were being built in Watford at the height of the Boer War, it was natural to name one after Durban, the principal town of the very English Natal and the other after Pretoria in the Transvaal, where Lord Roberts liberated 3000 British prisoners of war when he captured it in June 1900.

EPSOM ROAD: One of the 'newer' roads off Tolpits Lane, most probably named from the racehorse Caractacus winning the Epsom Derby in 1862. (see Caractacus Green)

EUSTON AVENUE: Euston Square in London was named in 1825 after Lord Euston, the son of the Duke of Grafton. The first section of the London and Birmingham Railway was opened from Euston to Boxmoor in 1837 and in view of Watford's close connection with the development of the line, it is strange that no street was named after the terminus until 1911. At the time, it was possibly felt to be especially appropriate as the 75th anniversary of the opening of the service was due in 1912.

FARRALINE ROAD: This was originally part of Wiggenhall Road until 1898, after which it was named after 'Farraline House' (see more information in drop-down menu). 

FEARNLEY STREET: Mary Morrison in 1629 appointed trustees to oversee the income from land in Watford and place poor children as apprentices. The trust was renewed by deed in 1824 and two of the principal gentlemen of the town, James Howard and Edmund Fearnley were named among the trustees of that date. Up to 1903 the present Addiscombe Road was part of Fearnley Street. 

GREENHILL CRESCENT: David Greenhill (1876-1947) was considered one of the most exceptional men ever to be a citizen of Watford. Born a Londoner of mixed Scottish and Sussex descent, he rose from a printing apprenticeship in Camden Town to become Director of Sun Printers Limited. He took a keen interest in the town and his most important achievement in this sphere was the support he gave to the Peace Memorial Hospital. In spite of the vital part played by his firm in the Second World War, it's likely his reputation will rest ultimately on the work he did between the wars in the production of periodicals in general and Picture Post in particular. It is also no accident that a just tribute was made to him with the naming of Caxton Way, after the first English printer.

HAGDEN LANE: It has been suggested that this might be 'hedge dene', a sunken way with hedges on both sides or more ingeniously that the 'hag' part of the name refers to a witch. A more likely explanation is that the word is a combination of the Old English 'haca', a bend and dell, a valley, as the line of the modern road still follows faithfully the several bends of the former lane. 

HARWOODS ROAD: in 1314 mention is made of a John Hereward and Harwoods itself was first recorded in 1506 as a small manor owned by the monastery of St Albans. By 1609 it had become incorporated in the Manor of Watford and in the 18th century the variant Harrod Farm was in use. It subsequently passed through several hands until the property was bought in 1770 by the 4th Earl of Essex and in n1900 the 7th Earl sold the Harwoods Farm Estate to Charles Brightman, the well-known builder and contractor who, along with his partner Robert Ashby, was instrumental in forwarding the rapid growth of Watford during the Edwardian period and after the First World War. 

HATTERS FARM:  Brightwells Farm was at one time known as Hatters Farm, but no explanation has, as yet, been found for this.

HEALEY ROAD: Charles Healey (1856-1939) was a well-known personality in Watford and for many years was Manager of the Healey Brewery, which was owned by his mother. The enterprise was taken over by Benskins in 1898 and Charles Healey remained a director of the latter until his death. He was a notable soldier, served in the Boer War and was a member of the National Defence Corps. He was also an artist and several of his sketches used to be on view in the Central Library. In the early 1900s there was a move on the part of the Public Libraries Committee, of which Healey was a member, to black out betting news in the daily newspapers. Healey was scathing in his denunciation of what he considered a manifest absurdity and it is not without a certain irony, which he would have been the first to appreciate after making such a stand, that the road which commemorates him should be next to Caractacus Green, named in honour of the Derby Winner of 1862.

HIGH VIEW: Likely speaks for itself having a clear view out across King George V playing field.

HIMALAYAN WAY: See Scammell Way.

HOLYWELL ROAD: Holywell Road runs from Harwoods Road to Harwoods Recreation Ground. The name first occurs in a Vestry Book of 1698, although there is no evidence of a well having been discovered in the area. The name is common throughout the country and is usually associated with refreshing water of springs or wells which often flowed when all else had dried up. It seems likely that the use of it in Watford is the close proximity of the Holywell Farm to the similarly designated Brightwell Farm. The former Holywell Farm and Holywell Hospital, the Holywell Industrial Estate and the Holywell Housing Estate were/are all in relatively close proximity. For an in-depth history of Holywell Farm, see drop-down menu.

THE HORNETS:  'The Hornets' is the nickname of Watford Football Club and, when a link road was cut between Fearnley Street and Merton Road, it was given this name in honour of the team's 50th anniversary. 

KELMSCOTT CRESCENT, KELMSCOTT CLOSE: William Morris acquired Kelmscott Manor in 1871 and it remained in his possession until his death in 1896. Frederick Hunt Gorle (1872-1931) was Chairman of the Watford Urban District Council from 1919 to 1920 and a such a great admirer of Morris that he called his own house at the junction of Stratford and Hempstead Roads, Kelmscott, when it was built in 1908. He was also the moving spirit in naming these two streets when they were constructed after the First World War. 

KENSINGTON AVENUE: This may have been inspired simply by Kensington being a particularly pleasant London suburb or, as Belgrave Avenue and Chester Road are close at hand, by the fact that Lord Ebury was a son of the 1st Marquis of Westminster. The latter owned a great deal of Westminster itself and this includes within its boundaries most of Kensington Gardens, the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial.

KING GEORGE'S AVENUE: Most likely after King George V

LIVERPOOL ROAD: The late 19th and early 20th century was a boom period for Liverpool and its port became the largest in the country outside London. It seemed logical therefore, that when a new road was constructed in 1895 to run out of Cardiff Road, it should be called by the name of this other great seaport.

Saturday 27 January 2024



Ann Rattue

We were saddened by Ann's passing notified in the Watford Observer, the sort of news none of us relish, but indeed realise that it comes to all of us at some time.

Our history group was injected with a charge of brilliant light when about ten years back, this lady on two sticks walked into a meeting announcing her presence as she cleared a place at the table.  From that time on, we knew we had to keep going as we felt inspired by Ann's passion for making things happen.

We learned later that Ann had suffered sickness as a young person, lost very near and dear close relatives due to unexpected deaths and had generally not been given the best hand of cards in life. However, undaunted, even into her 70's and early 80's she continued to learn, pass on knowledge acquired over a lifetime, smile at adversity and be resolute in reaching goals.

One of the goals she wished to reach with us was to establish a place in history for the memorial etched bricks on the walls of Watford General Hospital.  These bricks, inscribed by male residents of the Watford Workhouse in the mid-19th century, are in jeopardy due to erosion and damage.  Ann wrote to the press and hospital authorities expressing our concern that if left unprotected and recognised, these memorials would eventually fall into obscurity.  Ann has guided and encouraged us to keep our Save the Bricks campaign in the public eye and information about the research and findings Ann and other members of our history group have made may be gleaned from our website.

We have lost a dear friend and as a tribute to her dedication to any cause or task she undertook, will continue with our campaign to save the bricks and to also ensure that other aspects of West Watford's industrial and social history remain an important part of our town's heritage.

Janet Golding

16th January 1951 - 24th May 2024

It was with sadness that we learned recently of the passing another Group member, Janet Golding.

Janet was a member of our West Watford History Group as well as Central Watford U3A and our spin-off group Blasts From the Past, inaugurated by Ann Rattue. She participated in our WWHG with frequent talks, wonderfully researched and illustrated, which included her 'Life As A Traffic Warden', 'Mr Gosling's Homes For Aged Women' (search drop down menu), the history of Market Street and not forgetting her excellent contribution to our Aspects of the Past - the Watford Workhouse exhibition in 2017.

Janet's ready smile, sense of style, as well as her welcome contributions to our group will be sorely missed.




Thursday 8 June 2023

Cherry Orchards

Cherry Growing in Watford and surrounding areas

The growing of watercress in the local area, especially around Watford, is quite well documented, but perhaps not so cherry growing. A glance at old maps of Watford from an Anonymously Recorded History of Croxley Green - The Croxley Green History Project, it was noted in 1891 that ‘cherry growing has been a prominent, though diminishing industry in Croxley for some generations. The choosing of a “Cherry Sunday” as being a suitable time for a mass picking of the crop is a custom that has lapsed, but it was a great and happy attraction to local people and to others from farther afield’.

Going back to earlier records (1608), it was noted that in the 200 acres of coppices in Abbots Langley, numerous oaks dominated the woods, but well grown ash and beech trees were also to be seen. At Harwoods Farm, Watford, there were not many large trees - only 7 elms and 2 oaks. At Pinchfield in Rickmansworth there was a profusion of oak, ash and elm apparently in equal numbers. Yet not all trees were for timber. Cherry trees were a notable landmark near Penman's Green and this fruit was thereafter consistently associated with Sarratt, Chipperfield and Kings Langley.

Should you be able to go back to a similar time to get a glimpse of life in Watford during the reign of James I, you would find probably only 125 dwellings in and around the High Street. The population would have been no more than about 500 or 600 people. After crossing the 'great bridge' over the Colne and proceeding up the hill, you would soon pass the house and orchard of John Weedon, called the Saffron Garden. Once near the Vicarage, the houses would become closer together and there would be several inns to allay a thirst. But all around the town lay a pleasant scene of stables, barns, gardens, closes of pasture for horses and small orchards. Immediately beyond were the common arable fields and farms.

An interesting glimpse of the district in William Penn’s time is contained in the famous diary of John Evelyn. The entry for April 18th 1680 reads: “on the earnest invitation of the Earl of Essex I went with him to his house at Cashiobere in Hartfordshire”. The estate is described in detail, and he also comments – “The land about it is exceedingly addicted to wood, but the coldnesse of the place hinders the growth. Black cherry trees prosper even to considerable timber, some being 80 foote long”.

And from General View of the Agriculture of Hertfordshire, Drawn up for the Consideration of the Board of Agriculture and Internal Improvement. Chapter IX Orchards. p 143 – 144:
“In the south-west corner of the county, and particularly in the parishes of Rickmersworth, Sarret, King’s Langley and Abbot’s Langley, Flaunden, Bovingdon, and partly in Watford and Aldenham, there are many orchards: apples and cherries are their principal produce. Every farm has an orchard; but the larger the farm, the smaller the orchard. Orchards are found chiefly in farms from 20 to 50 acres. The apples are most profitable; but cherries very beneficial to the poor, in the quantity of employment which they require in gathering the crop, for which the poor are paid from 4d to 8d per dozen pounds. In ten years after planting, cherry-trees begin to bear: each tree should have nine square perches of land (a perch being equal to 16.5 feet). A full-grown tree will produce 50 dozen pounds in a good year; and from 10 to 20 years, six dozen: prices vary from 10d to 3s a dozen. The caroon and small black are the favourite sorts. The Kentish will not thrive here at all. None of the apples are for cyder; they sell for 1s. 6d. to 8s. the basket, or bushel: a tree produces from two to 25 bushels. The orchards, whether of cherries or apples, should be under glass and fed with sheep; mowing the hay is so bad for the trees, that some orchards which were very productive while fed, have produced nothing after a few years of mowing. For ten years after planting, great care should be taken to keep the trees from the sheep, as their rubbing injures them. No orchards are worth above 4?£ per acre. They rarely exceed four or five acres, as I am informed.”

Stones Orchard

"In Hertfordshire at Croxley Green, Stone's Community Orchard is a 1.4 hectare relic of an orchard once nearly 4 times as large. Such orchards formed an important element of the local economy a century ago. Cherry Sundays were fairs held in July in many orcharding villages in south-west Hertfordshire and combined picking, sales and picking in local orchards including Stone's. Today, new saplings of the dark Carroon (Kerroon) and Hertfordshire Black cherries, as well as local apple varieties and plums, stand among the still flowering ancient giants which Walter Stone may have planted"
(From the Common Ground Book of Orchards, 2000)

Orchards, Trees & Orchard Produce - Hertfordshire information

Stones Cherry Orchard at Croxley Green, (Stone’s Community Orchard) named after Walter Stone, a former tenant farmer, is a 1.4-hectare remnant of an orchard once nearly four times as large owned by the District Council. It has tall cherry trees of Caroon cherries (or Kerroon) and Hertfordshire Black Cherries, and some apple trees including the Hertfordshire cooker Lane’s Prince Albert plus Bramleys, King of the Pippins, Laxton’s Superb and Worcester Pearmain. There are also pears, walnuts and Victoria and Kirkes Blue plums, once grown for Covent Garden market. It was well known within the village for its cherries, but apples, pears, plums and cobnuts were also grown. Such orchards formed an important element of the local economy a century ago. ‘Cherry Sundays’ were fairs held in July in many orcharding villages in south-west Hertfordshire and combined picking, sales and picnicking in local orchards including Stone’s. In the 1970s many of the orchards in the area were lost to housing but Stones was refused planning permission in 1983 and sold to the local authority for £1. It is now part of the village conservation area, managed by the Parish Council. Today, new saplings of the dark Carroon and Hertfordshire Black cherries, as well as local apple varieties and plums, stand among the still flowering ancient giants which Walter Stone may have planted. A survey in 1993/4 recorded sixteen grasses and 60 wildflower species including Black Medick, foxglove, ox-eye daisy, celandine and prickly sedge. There is full public access to the orchard, reached from the village green through a kissing gate. The fruit is available for local people to pick although much is left for wildlife. There are plans to reinstate Cherry Sunday on the green in time.

Cherry Pickers at Stones Orchard, Croxley Green c1915

Courtesy Croxley Green History Project

Situated just off The Green and originally just over 12 acres, the orchard was part of Parrotts Farm and leased to George Stone who came from Sarratt in the late 1880's. When George passed away his nephew Walter Stone took over the tenancy. In addition to the orchard area there was a large meadow where dairy cattle were grazed. This would have contributed to the income for Walter and his family as he provided a daily supply of fresh milk for local villagers. The orchard had an extensive variety of fruit trees, and as the village expanded the orchard became very popular with local residents especially when the cherries were available during June and July. Families would make a special day of it to visit the orchard on so-called 'Cherry Sundays' Having bought a good portion of the plump ripe juicy cherries from the stall set up outside the orchard entrance the families would have a 'cherry picnic.' Maybe father would walk across The Green to the Coach and Horses or The Artichoke for some refreshment too! On this side of The Green the cherry orchards, some attached to the public houses, were known mainly for the cooking varieties.

During the 'cherry ripe time' it was the custom for an organised group/contractor of 'pickers' to bring their cherry ladders to local orchards to pick the fruit for owners or tenant farmers. The trees were very high and the men would climb into the tops of the trees to gather all the juicy fruit. These special ladders were wide at the bottom, and narrow at the top and were designed just for cherry picking, enabling the men to reach the treetops in safety (see above photograph).

'....... returning to my subject of Cherry Sundays I have been speaking to some friends who have lived by the green for most of their lives - Mrs. Grace Brown, and Mrs. Doris Woods granddaughter of Wally Stone who was the chief purveyor of Cherries on the green. He had splendid orchards and sold several varieties of cherries at Rose Cottage where the family lived. There were actually three Cherry Sundays, the second, third and fourth Sundays in July. There was no formal organisation but a great many people congregated on the Green outside the Orchards, the children in their Sunday Clothes. They sat around enjoying the cherries and chatting to their friends. The cherries cost only a few pence, the children paying one penny for a handful. The Coach and Horses sold cherries with their drinks'.

Kay Ragget - The Resident No 160, 1990 Croxley Green History Project

Unfortunately, the cherry orchards of bygone days are no longer with us, although many ornamental cherries have been planted in the Watford area and surrounding districts and old specimens can still be found in the local woods, although I doubt the '80 foote long black cherry timber' referred to by the diarist John Evelyn on the estate of the Earl of Essex.

Research - Lynda Bullock

References - The Croxley Green History Project -
an invaluable source of local history

Common Ground Book of Orchards, 2000

General View of the Agriculture of Hertfordshire, Drawn up for the Consideration of the Board of Agriculture and Internal Improvement. Chapter IX Orchards. p 143 – 144

The Diary of John Evelyn

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