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.

The Sun Clock Tower

The Sun Clock Tower, as it is known,  is a former industrial pump house and clock tower located to the south of the junction of Ascot Road and Whippendell Road, diagonally opposite The Rising Sun (a Brewers Fayre and Premier Inn). It was designed by a London based architect George W. Knight (F.R.I.B.A.), who was one of the principal designers at the firm of Stanley Peach & Partners.

It was built in 1934 and is an ornately decorated Art Deco style building from the inter-war period, somewhat unusual in terms of form and composition. The clock tower of this single storey building rises to three storey height, was of multicoloured bricks and concrete walls with Italian green-glazed tile hipped roof. 

This pump house was built over an artesian well by the Sun Engraving Company who had a very large printing works opposite (the site now redeveloped) and was for the purpose of extracting water for industrial purposes.

A document published by Watford Borough Council (2010, but more recently updated) entitled "Locally Listed Buildings in Watford" documents "a large number of buildings that do not merit statutory listing under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, but are of architectural and/or historic value. As part of the Council's Urban Conservation Strategy, the Council is of the view that the contribution that these buildings make to the history, character, streetscape and identify of Watford is worthy of protection".

Page 127 of this document gives a full description of the Clock Tower:

'Rectangular plan. Building designed to house an artesian well and two pumps for the Sun Engraving Company, on land purchased from Watford Borough Council. One storey structure with central clock tower that is 518cm. from ground level to the apex. The walls are of reinforced concrete and small creased brick, laid in Flemish bond. Roof is hipped with slightly upturned eaves and of Italian green glazed tiles. Square centred clock tower element has rendered and textured wall, with a pitched roof of same materials as other roof. Tower topped by simple metal weathervane. Square projecting clock frames below the tower eaves level with circular openings for clock faces (refurbished). Geometric letters 'S.U.N.' lie below one another, pierced through the east and west tower walls. At base of east wall, a tall narrow window is covered by a wrought iron grille, engraved S.E.C. (for Sun Engraving Company). Single storey modern addition to south of building'. 

The Clock Tower fell into disrepair some years ago and was quite recently the subject of a dispute between the owner and Watford Borough Council, the dispute hindering its restoration.

For a full history of the Sun Engraving Company, please follow this link, where you will find a timeline, history, photographs, maps, reminiscences and a cine film with the clock tower featured quite prominently in the first few frames (made in about 1935):

 References:  Locally Listed Buildings in Watford, produced by Watford Borough Council, available to download as a PDF

The History of Sun Engraving and Sun Printers   
The Watford Observer - various reports and stories

The Red Lion

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

Until recently, the Red Lion was a continuously functioning public house with a strong community significance and the site itself is remarkable for the survival of the historic curtilage associated with the public house. (In law, the curtilage of a house or dwelling is the land immediately surrounding it, including any closely associated buildings and structures). 
Watford Borough Council's "Locally Listed Buildings" document gives the following description:

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

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

1851 - George Halsey/Victualler & Carrier/Watford, Hertfordshire Census 

1851 - Sarah Halsey/Wife/Shenley, Hertfordshire Census      

 1851 - Alfred Halsey/Son, Watford/Hertfordshire Census      

 1851 - Eliza Halsey/Daughter/Watford, Hertfordshire Census 

 1851 - Joseph Emmerson/Visitor, Gardener's Labourer/Shenley, Hertfordshire Census     

1851 - Emma Emmerson/House Servant/Shenley, Hertfordshire Census 

1851 - William Furle/Servant, Bramfield, Suffolk Census
1861 - Arthur Hart/Inn Keeper, Elstree, Hertfordshire Census  

1861 - Sarah Hart/Wife, London Colney, Hertfordshire Census

1861 - Eliza Halsey/Daughter-in-Law/Dressmaker, Watford, Hertfordshire Census 

 1861 - Alfred Halsey/Son-in-Law/work in Iron Foundry, Watford, Hertfordshire Census

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

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

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

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


 Watford Borough Council - Locally Listed Buildings

 We are indebted to Kevan for permission to publish some of his research taken from the Census records listed above. 

For much more detailed information regarding the Red Lion and other pubs around the country, please follow this link  

WFC archive 

Watford Observer

Watford to Croxley Green Branch Line

Work on the Watford to Croxley Green Branch Line was begun in 1908 in response to the growing influence of the Metropolitan Railway, with  a new passenger service being created along the branch line originally built to serve the Grand Union Canal. The extension involved the construction of a bridge over the Colne and a much more substantial bridge over the Grand Union Canal. In 1911, after the LNWR took over management, plans were announced confirming proposals for the electrification of the line (along with the existing Rickmansworth branches) and in addition, an electric train shed with sidings was to be built, making connections with the Watford and Rickmansworth line at Croxley Green Junction.

The Watford to Croxley Green Branch Line opened on 15th June 1912 with a freight service being provided from 1st October 1912. The following year, an intermediate station was built; known initially as 'Hagden Lane', it was soon changed to 'Watford West'.  It is interesting to note that Watford West was closed from November 1914 for the duration of the Great War and that on 10th March 1913, Croxley Green station buildings and platform were totally destroyed by a fire thought to have been started by Suffragettes.

Initially the branch was operated by steam power, often a rail-motor, but the Croxley Green electric service commenced on 30th October 1922 (the electrification of the Rickmansworth branch being the last part of the project to be completed and electric trains did not run on that line until 26th September 1927). In October 1922, after electrification was complete, there were 25 trains running to and from Watford and in 1925, the Watford to Croxley Green local service, which had been weekdays only, was extended to cover Sundays. However, by the 1940's, the Sunday service was axed, along with the late evening workings. Although identified in the Beeching Report for closure in 1966, consent was refused, being vetoed by Barbara Castle who was Minister for Transport at the time. A peak service only continued to run for many years.

On 4th December 1982, a new stop funded by the Football Trust, Watford F.C. and Watford Borough Council, was built on the east side of Vicarage Road to provide support for the increased crowds coming to see Watford Football Club, who had risen from the fourth to the first division. The stop, named Watford Stadium Halt, was a single concrete platform costing £200,000 and was opened by Elton John in conjunction with Lord Aberdare. At appropriate times a six car e.m.u. provided a shuttle service to and from Watford Junction. Unfortunately, the success of the club at that time was short-lived and so was the shuttle service. 

In 1988, an attempt was made to revive the fortunes of the Croxley Green branch by running a twice hourly daytime service. However, Croxley Green station had fallen into a bad state of disrepair by this time with the single platform being boarded up and a temporary structure erected on either side of the line. Late in 1989 the rotting original platform was demolished, together with much of the original Watford West station structure. From January 1990 the Watford to Croxley service was reduced to one 7.00am return working from Watford Junction on weekdays only.  

In 1996 a new road cut through the line just east of the Grand Union Canal bridge, severing the route between Watford West and Croxley Green. For a short time services were replaced by a bus and then by an occasional taxi. The branch was 'formally closed' in 2001.

Proposals were put forward to link the Metropolitan Line from Croxley to Watford, but have now been shelved (2019).


West of Watford - Watford Meropolitan & the L.M.S. Croxley Green and Rickmansworth branches by F.W. Goudie & Douglas Stuckey, published by Forge Books 1990. An invaluable source of information studded with photographs.

Underground History - North of Harrow and Wealdstone - Hywel Williams. A history of the line and several photos can be found here of the disused branch line showing it in its entire length.

Wikepedia:  Watford and Rickmansworth Railway.

 Nick Catford:

The Watford Labour Church

Watford Labour Church

The following is a history of the Labour Church Movement and, in particular, the history of the Watford Labour Church, a Church described here in wonderful detail and which played an important part in the Movement. We are wholly indebted to Roger Kattenhorn, whose excellent research this is and for his permission to reproduce the work here.  Copyright remains with him.

The Labour Church Movement

The first thing to remember is that the word “Labour”, used here, has nothing whatever to do with the existing Labour Party. The word Labour here is used as a categorical noun, a generic term for the totality of the labouring or working class, (as opposed to Capital as an encompassing term for the whole Capitalist class). The Labour Church then was intended to be the church and religion of the labouring classes. Its inspiration and creation was largely the work of one man named John Trevor.

John Trevor was born in 1855. He became an orphan early in life and was sent to Wisbech to be raised by his grandparents. These were strict Puritans who force-fed the young John Trevor a terrifying Fire and Brimstone version of Christianity. In his autobiography, Trevor described it thus: “How to escape Hell – that was the absorbing question of my early years”.(1)

It was in reaction to this early experience that brought him, in his teenage years, to the rebellion of Agnosticism. Yet by the age of 22 he had discovered that he could not live without Faith and eventually he found solace with the Unitarian Church. This was a denomination that had stripped religious dogma down to the simplest elements of belief. As their name suggests, the Unitarians did not accept the concept of the Holy Trinity. They also held to a denial of predestination and of original sin. These were important factors in the subsequent development of Trevor’s theology and politics.
Another crucial influence came when he was appointed as assistant to the Unitarian Minister Philip Wicksteed. He is remembered now mainly as an Economist whose ideas prefigured the later Austrian school. In fact, Wicksteed was a polymathic genius and he introduced Trevor to the works of August Conte, Henry George and William Jevons.

In 1891 John Trevor, now a Unitarian Minister himself, was given his own church in Manchester. The following year he attended a conference for Unitarian Ministers in London. It was there that he heard the dock workers’ leader Ben Tillet speaking. Tillet berated the churches for their alienation from the working classes. Trevor had heard similar sentiments from Wicksteed, but was struck by the power of Tillet’s oratory. In a later conversation on this topic, his anarchist, atheist friend William Ballie* told him: “What you want is a sort of Socialist Salvation Army”.(2) The movement that Trevor subsequently devised was more theologically radical and challenging to orthodox Christianity than General Booth’s conservatively militarised missionaries.
John Trevor 

During this period there was a platform of new Churches - the Ethical Church, the Church of Humanity etc. – all were concerned to throw off the maximum of doctrine without falling into the unbelief. What was distinctive about the Church that Trevor established was that it was the first that was created specifically for working people. This tapped into an unsatisfied need and it explains why Trevor’s Church was more successful than these others. Ben Tillet made a speciality of lecturing Christians on the Labour question and he struck a chord with more than just Trevor when he spoke of the alienation of the working class from their churches.
*It was Baillie who also suggested the name ‘Labour Church’.

At that time the Anglican Church was generally considered to favour the Conservatives, while the Nonconformist Churches were thought of as favouring the Liberals. Ministers of both varieties were not above instructing their congregations from the pulpit on how they should vote. Neither of these two mainstreams of Christianity was particularly interested in the needs of the labouring classes. Wicksteed and Trevor deplored the antipathy of the Churches to the growing demands of Labour and felt that the existing Churches were not addressing social injustices as religion should. Trevor said that the contemporary churches saw slums as a sign of God’s anger at sin and a warning to others of its perils. The working classes, however, knowing this not to be the case, simply left the churches. One such, a member of Trevor’s Unitarian congregation, told Trevor that he had left because he could not stand the social climate there. He said that, for him, religion had become identified with “black clothes, kid gloves, tall silk hats and long faces.(3)

When Trevor began preaching his new ideas, he faced much hostility from the Unitarian hierarchy. He finally left the Unitarians to establish his new Church having despaired of the hope that social reform could be supported by any of the existing Churches. These Churches were facing the challenge of Darwin, Lyell and Conte and in reaction to this challenge they had developed a habit of precision in their presentation of religion. For Trevor, this represented the stuffiness and dogma which he loathed. He drew a distinction between faith and theology and he was prepared to cast off the husk of formal doctrine if it were to reveal intact the kernel of Faith. It was an attitude shared by Keir Hardie, the first working class MP, who said: “The more a man knows about theology, the less his is likely to know about Christianity”.(4)

It has been said that the Labour Church was a forerunner of a move within Christianity towards a more immanentist view in religion, but Trevor was almost literal in his idea that God was manifesting His Will in the rising Labour movement, just as he had once used Christianity.
In the existing Churches we heard how God had been active in the world two thousand years ago, but since then, nothing. At the Labour Church you would hear how God was active in the world right now”. (5) The point of the Labour Church, as Trevor saw it, was to “develop the religion of the Labour Movement into clearer self-consciousness”.(6)

In 1891 Trevor drew up 5 Principles for all Labour Churches to adhere to. These were ratified by a Union of Labour Churches.
1)     The Labour Movement is a Religious Movement.
2)     The Religion of the Labour Movement is not a class Religion, but invites members of all classes in working for the abolition of commercial slavery.
3)     The Religion of the Labour Movement is not sectarian or dogmatic, but free religion, leaving each man to develop his own relations with the power that brought him into being.
4)     The emancipation of Labour can only be realised so far as men learn both the economic and moral laws of God and heartily endeavour to obey them.
5)     The development of personal character and the improvement of social conditions are both essential to man’s emancipation from moral and social bondage.
After the founding of the first Labour Church in Manchester, the movement spread rapidly. Churches sprang up in the cities of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Fenner Brockway told an instructive story about the genesis of the Bradford Labour Church. At a public meeting organised by a Liberal candidate who was opposing a Socialist, a number of wealthy Non-conformist Ministers sat upon the Liberal platform. Fred Jowett stood up and gave them a warning: “If you persist in opposing the Labour Movement … we shall establish our own Labour Church”.(7)

As more Labour Churches came into being, the response of the existing Churches varied from complacency to contempt. Dr G. B. Barrett, the Chair of the Congregationalist Union, saw it more clearly – “This attempt of Labour to vindicate its right to a place in the Church of God [is] a rebuke as well as a warning to us**(8)

(**The established Church ultimately revised its opinion to the extent that William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, said of a Leicester Labour Church Service he attended in 1907 “I have never felt so near the real presence of true religion.” – quoted in ‘William Temple – F.A. Iremonger’ 1948 p332)

The Labour Churches did not take hold so well in the South of England and John Trevor described London as “the despair of the Labour movement”. Watford’s Labour Church was something of an exception in that sense and also in the fact that it seems to have continued flourishing long after the demise of the movement elsewhere.

Such was the background to the Labour Church movement. Entirely opposed to dogma of any sort, what form then, did their services/meetings take ?
Hymns were still very popular. The Labour Church produced its own Hymn Book, but within it, alongside some approved traditional hymns, were songs by William Morris, Charles Kingsley, Longfellow, Tennyson and Edward Carpenter, who’s ‘England Arise’ seems to have been something of an anthem of the Church. The normal service took place on Sundays and seems to have been conducted along these lines:-
A hymn
A reading (from a Socialist writer rather than scripture)
A prayer
Notices and Collection
A hymn
An address (usually from a guest speaker)
A hymn

Some churches, perhaps recognising a need for ritual, worked out a form of ceremony for Births, Deaths and Marriages. Most Labour Churches involved themselves in some form of community or charity work. Most enduring of all their activities were the Socialist Sunday Schools for children and also the Cinderella Clubs that provided treats for children.

The make-up of the congregation varied. Philip Wicksteed observed “They were of all classes, but the great bulk I took to be workmen”.(9) Other descriptions bear out Trevor’s concern that they were not reaching the poorest workers, “well –to-do members of the working class, respectable responsible working class and decently dressed artisans and mechanics, some of the highest grade”. The majority were male, but women were in higher representation than in other comparable organisations. This was especially so on the platform. Women’s emancipation was paid lip service to at the very least and in Watford, a genuine sympathy for Women’s Suffrage appeared to be the case, albeit within the mental confines of the era.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   The great success of the Labour Church movement, but also a contributor to its decline, was the innovation of a guest speaker who gave an address in place of a conventional sermon. Between 1890 and 1900, thousands were won over to Socialism by oratory as well as the printed word. Listening to a good speaker or a debate was a crowd-puller in a way that it no longer is. All of the speakers at the Labour Church movement were missionaries for Socialism. One of the best of these speakers was Philip Snowden, who said of the Labour Church Movement: “It was something new in politics. It was politics inspired by idealism and religious fervour”.(10) When these speakers appeared regularly at Labour Churches, the attendances soared. However, the breadth and variety of their opinions tended to undermine the necessarily thin religious basis of the Labour Church. John Trevor wanted to push the Movement beyond rhetoric into greater organisation and constructive activity in order to reach the poor. However, the speaker issue tended to prevent this. Furthermore, the speakers themselves tended to use the Labour Church network to further their own aims, which were often more narrowly political. They did practically nothing in return for the Churches than simply turn up. This is one of the reasons why, despite the fact that they featured so many luminaries and celebrities of the era, the Labour Church is virtually unknown today. One can search the autobiographies of these speakers in vain for a mention of the Labour Church. They did nothing to build the Church Movement, content with the idea that by making Socialists, they would create Socialism. Trevor tried other tactics to establish a form of Clergy to do pastoral work, but none of his ideas came to fruition. By 1898, in poor health, he packed it in. He eventually came to the resigned conclusion that “We have a new religious message for the world, but practically no messengers to deliver it”. He remained friendly to the Labour Churches, but declined to offer advice or criticism. He continued to develop his thoughts on philosophy, despite declining health, bereavement and poverty. In 1909 he hinted at another reason for backing away from the Movement. He wrote that he had become increasingly convinced that someday he would be compelled to address the sex question and feared that this would injure the Labour Church cause. At that point his thinking had ascribed to an ideal of the unrepressed individual and free love. He had been much impressed by the example of the Oneida Community in the USA. The development of his thought continued until, ultimately, he despaired of the idea of any religion as an intermediary between the individual and God.

Inglis, in his study of the Labour Church, wrote that where they persisted, it was because they performed some useful secular purpose locally or sometimes as a neutral mediator between groups, as appears to have been the case in Watford, a “common meeting ground – where the SDF Lion may lie down with the ILP lamb and receive the benediction of the Fabian”. (11)

Although it was not a political organisation itself, the Labour Church helped to facilitate a dialogue between the varieties of political socialist organisation. This dialogue, by 1918, allowed them to unite into a Labour Party which, ever since, has consistently described itself as a ‘broad Church’.

Post Script:  In 1942, William Temple, The Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote Christianity and the Social Order. This finally answered the prayers of the now dead John Trevor. It set out an Anglican Social Theology that married Faith to Socialism and a vision of a just post-war society that the Labour Government of 1945 legislated into place.

References to ‘The Labour Church Movement’
1)     My Quest For God – John Trevor, Manchester, 1897
2)     Quoted in Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love, Sheila Rowbottom, Verso, London 2008
3)     My Quest For God – John Trevor, Manchester 1897
4)     Quoted in Churches and The Working Classes in Victorian England – K.S. Inglis, Routledge, Kegan and Paul, London 1963
5)     My Quest For God – John Trevor, Manchester 1897
6)     Ibid
7)     Socialism Over Sixty Years: The Life of Jowett in Bradford 1864 – 1944 – Fenner Brockway, London 1946
8)     Quoted in The Origin of the Labour Party 1880 – 1900 – Henry Pelling, Oxford University Press 1965
9)     Quoted in K.S. Inglis ibid
10)  Ibid
11)  The Birmingham Labour Church cited in: The Reformers’ Yearbook for 1909

 ~ oOo ~

 “If you want to know what Socialism is and what it is not, come to the Labour Church. If you are tired of the make-believe of conventional religion, you will find yourself in a congenial atmosphere and be brought in to touch with men and women who know that they believe and know, too, that it is worth fighting for. No fair-minded person will be content to judge Socialism by what its opponents say of it.  At the Labour Church you will hear what some of the most prominent workers in the movement say about it and you will then be in a position to decide how far it is in accordance with your own ideas. So once more, please come to the Labour Church! 
(1) The Watford Critic, October 1905, p5      

The Watford Labour Church

The Watford Labour Church was founded in 1900. The foundation appears to have been inspired by Frederick Hunt Gorle, who was a human dynamo in the cause of Socialism. He came to Watford in 1895 and was originally from Castleford in Yorkshire. As that county was the heartland of the Labour Church Movement, it is possible that he was aware of John Trevor’s Labour Churches before he arrived. In any event, he was a Wesleyan at the time of his arrival and joined the congregation of the Wesleyan Church (now demolished) in Queens Road. He presumably shared Trevor’s disappointment with the existing church’s attitude to the Labour Movement, for he soon began working zealously to establish a Labour Church in Watford.

 Frederick Hunt Gorle

 The new Church began with its first service on November 4th 1900 at a meeting held in the Watford Corn Exchange. They continued with these regular Sunday meetings until the summer of 1901. By that time they found the cost of hiring the hall each Sunday too onerous and they resolved instead to raise a building of their own. At this time, the Watford Labour Church was described by its supporters in terms that closely followed the ideals of its Founder. It was, they claimed, “the new social conscience, the new ideal in social relations, which is gradually expressing itself in the Labour Movement … the highest thing in our midst today”. (2)  There was also the suggestion that their efforts were viewed with some hostility at the time, as the same source goes on to say, “instead of looking on it with suspicion, religious people should recognise that it is the very stuff of which to build the church our modern needs demand – a church broad as human life itself, but intense and aggressive withal”. (ibid)

A building fund was established and its target rapidly achieved. Frequent week-night meetings kept the members together and a plot of land, on the recently laid out Pretoria and Durban Roads, was acquired. A prefabricated structure that promised “quick erection” was purchased from W. Harbour’s iron building works in South Bermondsey. This firm boasted that they could have “buildings shipped and erected in any part of the world” and that they could provide “Churches, Chapels, Mission and School Rooms, Cottages, Shepherds’ and Keepers’ Huts, Stables, Coach Houses, Farm Buildings (several buildings always on view and 50 tons of iron kept in stock)”. (3)  The advantage of a simple A frame construction meant that as the popularity of the church increased, the structure could be easily expanded lengthwise to accommodate the enlarged assembly. This modification did happen later and ultimately the entire site was filled by the building.

The new church was opened on Tuesday October 1st. F.H.Barnes, a correspondent for the Watford Observer who attended the event, remembered Fred Hunt Gorle as “a very earnest young  man at the opening ceremony … reading letters from well-known socialists wishing the venture well”. (4) At that time Watford was expanding in an unprecedented fashion as the modern town was being created and this area was full of building activity. Now familiar residential streets were coming into being at a rapid rate. The location of the Labour Church was described as ‘behind the Victoria Board Schools’ (a single building that stood where Chater Junior is today). The atmosphere of the haphazard construction of West Watford is captured in an account of the early days of the church, “the members, in quite surprising numbers, having in thick darkness to encounter brick stacks and debris and to wade through such great pools of water, or such formidable heaps of mud as would have damped the ardour of less resolute pioneers”. (5)  Also apparent from this account is the nature of the minimal laissez faire Local Government that these socialists were so opposed to. “After a time, the Urban Council offered to light the new roads if the church would provide the lamps. This cooperation, on principle, the latter refused til at length, by some means, lights did appear”. (6)  It is hard to imagine such a dispute about the responsibility for lighting a public street today.

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