Thursday, 24 December 2020

2020 into 2021 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


We should not write off 2020 as the worst of the worst and try to forget it. Hopefully we have learned many things from the struggle of the last few months. History doesn't have to be 20, 50, 100 or 200 years ago. History is yesterday. 2020 is a history we should not forget. Many, many people made it what it was, for good or bad.  Many experienced loss, mental anguish, hope, new friendships and a strengthening of the human spirit. 2020 was History with a capital H. Let's not forget it, but let us not be a slave to it. 2021 is a New Year and more history in the making. 

Happy 2021 


~ oOo ~





 It is Christmas Day in the Workhouse,
  And the cold bare walls are bright
With garlands of green and holly,
  And the place is a pleasant sight;
For with clean-washed hands and faces,
  In a long and hungry line
The paupers sit at the tables,
  For this is the hour they dine.

And the guardians and their ladies,
  Although the wind is east,
Have come in their furs and wrappers,
  To watch their charges feast;
To smile and be condescending,
  Put pudding on pauper plates,
To be hosts at the workhouse banquet
  They've paid for—with the rates.

~ o ~

At the end of a very difficult year, remembering those less fortunate than ourselves. 
One thing we can all do, Be Kind

Wishing everyone a much happier 2021



Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Update - Workhouse Bricks Campaign

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Gideon Benedyk

And our response to him:

"Dear Gideon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kind regards

Sue Ettridge (Secretary WWHG)

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Rembrandt House

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


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

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

Sun Engraving Company

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

 

  

Photographs copyright Lynda Bullock 2012

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



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

    




Photographs copyright Lynda Bullock 2020

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


Photograph copyright Lynda Bullock 2020


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


- oOo -


References:

Timeline taken from:   www.gracesguide.co.uk



Directory of British Architects


New to Watford - Blog December 2016

- oOo -


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


  

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

WEMCO

A Timeline of WEMCO - Whippendell Marine Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






Photographs copyright Lynda Bullock


-oOo-


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

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

As of 2020 the site is under development. 


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

Watford Observer - January 2018

Photographs by Lynda Bullock taken 2012


Monday, 18 May 2020

Tolpits Lane


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

British History Online - Parishes, Rickmansworth 

Various Maps of the area





Sunday, 3 May 2020

Taynton Murder

The sad and tragic case of the Taynton Murder in West Watford

The following developed from an original post by Brenda Ambrosone on The Original Watford Memories and History Group page in April 2020. The post garnered a lot of interest and the following accounts are from various contributors, a large amount of information being from a Mr Rob Cassidy who submitted the following:

From a newspaper article posted by Mr Rob Cassidy from:
 https://newspapers.library.wales/view/3786214/3786220


MURDER AT WATFORD. A man and woman named Taynton, residing at South-terrace, Vicarage-road, Watford, went out about eight o'clock on Monday night, leaving in the house a son, Walter Joseph, aged 15, and a daughter, Jessie Maria, aged ten. When the mother returned at half- past ten she could not get admission to-the house, the doors being locked. She prevailed upon a neighbour named Williams to force an entrance by the back window, and he found the daughter lying on the floor of the living room in a pool of blood, the brains being scattered about her. A hammer was lying by her side, covered with blood and hair. The poor girl was still alive, but she expired immediately after the arrival of Dr. Stradling's assistant. The boy was returning home, apparently unconcerned, about half-past eleven, and was arrested in the road by the deputy chief constable of the county, who was waiting for him. On the boy's clothes were found stains of blood; blood was also found on the thumb of his right hand. The inquest was held on Tuesday evening at the Police-station, Watford, before Mr. R. W. Brabant, Deputy Coroner. Joseph Taynton, the father, said he left home at twenty minutes to nine. The deceased and her brother Walter Joseph were then in the kitchen, Walter reading and the deceased knitting. They appeared quite happy. When witness returned, about ten minutes to eleven, he was told what had occurred by the. police. He had left his tools in the kitchen. Caroline Taynton, the mother, said she left home at a quarter to eight, and returned just after ten. She knocked at the door, but got no answer. She heard a moaning inside. She called Mr. Williams, a neighbour, then went into the house by the scullery window, and opened the front door for her. The deceased was lying on her back in the kitchen, covered with blood. She had in her hands the knitting needles and piece of stocking she was knitting. Walter could not be found. Superintendent Hammerstone produced a shoemaker's hammer, which he found in the kitchen, covered with blood. He apprehended the prisoner at half-past eleven, and found stains of blood on his right hand and clothes. He cautioned him. The boy said nothing. Dr. Cox said the deceased died a few minutes after his arrival. There were three puncture wounds above and a little in the front of the right ear, and a large depressed fracture of the skull on the whole of the right side of the head, about five inches long and four inches wide. The wounds were such as would be caused by both the flat and the sharp ends of the hammer. They could not have been caused by a fall, or self-inflicted. The jury returned a verdict that there was not sufficient evidence to show by whom the injuries were inflicted.


Mr Cassidy then provided a link to the Journal of Mental Science, Vol 35, p385 - 389

(copy and paste the link into your search bar if you wish to see actual pages, but it is reproduced below in full)

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=K9RLAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA385&lpg=PA385&dq=walter%20taynton&source=bl&ots=HiYebabVCo&sig=ACfU3U3c2RLlGAgDS__I2mJPKHo8zQ6IBg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwisgKzfztnoAhVOY8AKHfZmAxMQ6AEwEHoECAcQAQ&fbclid=IwAR1ti6-MRihQpc32IclA-W0tBf2plYlT7wq4isikiIERfSVWsZXkJUbAo5g#v=onepage&q=walter%20taynton&f=false


'Case of Walter Taynton, Charged with killing his Sister, by Geo. H. Savage, M.D.'


"Case of Walter Taynton, Charged with Killing his Sister. By Geo. H. Savage, M.D. From time to time it is worth while recording trials in which persons have been tried for crimes which might have been com mitted while the criminal was of unsound mind, and it seems to me that the case of "Walter Taynton is one of such cases, for though there was some conflict in medical evidence, it was of small moment when compared with the ruling of the judge and the verdict of the jury. In this case a boy of 15 was charged with killing his little sister, aged 10, without sufficient, if any, cause, and the real question was whether he was to be considered insane and detained at her Majesty's pleasure or if he should be treated as having committed murder or man slaughter and punished accordingly. If he were insane, it seems to me to illogical to send him to prison simply for the reason that in the one case the incarceration would be for a limited time, and in the other it would be indefinite and, as the judge suggested, it would be for life. I had always understood that the consequences were not to be treated of by expert witnesses, that, in fact, they had to give an opinion on the facts irrespective of the result of the evidence. If this be not the aspect which we should assume in these cases, one would be inclined to say that as soon as one is called in, if opposed on principle to capital punishment, one ought to stretch every point to avoid the consequences. I have not done this hitherto, and I do not think the case under consideration will alter my action in such cases. I shall now give some details of the case, adding the notes as supplied to me concerning the crime itself. To begin with, the boy is a very small, ugly-looking lad, with a low forehead, narrow palate, and heavy, sullen aspect. His father is a shoe maker, a steady, sober man, whose paternal uncle died in Wandsworth Asylum, and whose maternal aunt committed suicide. The mother, a delicate-looking woman, is said to be healthy in mind and body. She has heart-disease and curiously coloured pink eyes, without being a true albino. Her father is said to have died of "paralysis and damaged brain," but it must be remembered that he was 77 at the time of his death The boy had convulsions when only 18 months old. He was not noticed as in any way very peculiar, though very back ward in walking and also in learning to speak; he could never dress himself, and up to 12 years old his mother actually had to be present when he was dressing. When old enough to go to school he was found to be very dull, especially in anything to do with figures, so that he could not be made to do the simplest sums of addition. This defect was never overcome, so that as time went on he failed at all the standards for arithmetic, and the school inspector made a special report on him, excusing him from his examinations at school as "obviously dull." He was solitary, not given to playing with his fellows; he was sullen, at times easily roused so as to strike his companions. He seemed all this time to be greatly given to reading books, but both his parents and the schoolmaster said he seemed to carry away nothing from his reading. The books selected were quite natural ones for a boy—books of travel and adventure, and they were not markedly sensational, or what are generally known as bad books. He had no special aptitude, and when he left school his father wished him to take up his trade, but found him hopelessly dull, so that he could not be taught even the most elementary parts of his trade. His father did not think this was due to any special distaste to the work.* He would get away and read his books, but never entered into home-life and pleasures like the rest. He was not a bad or untruthful boy; he went to chapel and to Sunday school; he was not emotionally religious. It should be remembered that he was ugly, and that, with a big, fat nose and slight strabismus, it is not surprising that he accused the boys of making fun of him, and he is said also to have complained, rightly or wrongly, of his little sister doing the same. This was not substantiated; but I am quite willing to admit that this may have been the case for a time, and that later he passed into a state of morbid self-consciousness, in which he imagined others made these remarks.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Holywell Farm

Some photos of Holywell Farm


From the Sale Catalogue 1887


Britain From Above photograph 1921, Holywell Farm bottom centre


Holywell Farm, 1958




Wednesday, 18 March 2020

The River Colne

From History of Watford - Trade Directory, 1884 by Henry Williams


The river Colne rises in two streams, one at Colney Heath, near Hatfield, and the other between Elstree and Barnet; it flows south­west in a winding course through Herts to Rickmansworth, and leaves a few miles south of that place. The area of its basin in Herts is 200 square miles. Looking at that part of the valley of the Colne in the parish of Watford, one is led to the conclusion that in the olden times this valley was one marsh or swamp, and that the artificial banks, which now hold the stream and direct its course through the centre of the valley, were made to concentrate the water for the use of the neighbouring mills.

Some time ago, when excavating at the 'Watford Gas Works, the workmen found a number of bones, which were submitted to Dr. Brett for examination, who pronounced some to be human, and others those of a horse and red deer; they were afterwards seen by a professor of anatomy, who fully confirmed Dr. Brett's opinion thereon. The theory this circumstance introduces is, that the ford once at the bottom of the town was much wider than the present stream, and that some unfortunate man on horseback attempted to cross it and both were lost in the swamp; and that the other bones were those of one of the wild deer with which the woods of this county abounded centuries ago.

Fifty years ago the Colne at Watford abounded with fish, including fine trout, pike, and perch, and for many years no restriction existed as to fishing, and this sporwas indulged in so extensively that the river was nearly bereft of its finny occupants. 

Some years ago, however, Mr. Jonathan King and others concerned stopped the angling to a great extent, and the quantity of fish increased. At various times Mr. King put a quantity of Neuch√Ętel trout in the stream, and some fine ones have been occasionally caught - one in April, 1883, by Mr. C. H. Thomas, of Colnebrook, weighing nine pounds and three-quarters. In 1856, when there were plenty of fish in the Colne, Mr. King netted, at Wiggen Hall, fifty-four pounds of trout in one day. At one time the canal in Cassiobury Park was dragged periodically with a net, and a large quantity of fine fish caught, the best of which were sent as presents to some of the inhabitants of Watford. Mr. Mead has stated that the largest quantity of eels caught on any one day at Watford Mills was about three hundredweight. Fish hatching was carried on at one time by Mr. Hibbert, Lord Essex, and Mr. J King.

About thirty-five years ago there was a public-house at the bottom of Water Lane, close to the river, which when closed was turned into the two cottages now there. The sign was the "Fighting Cocks," a very apropos sign, as the brutal pastime of cock-fighting was carried on there at one time. During the time of the last occupant, Mrs. Lucy Deacon, it was a pleasure-boat station, where one could hire a boat and enjoy a row up the river as far as Bushey Mill Bridge; the charge was one shilling per hour, and the person or party hiring the boat was required to leave half-a-crown with the landlady as a security against any loss she might sustain by damage done to her boat. The house and premises were generally crowded on Sunday afternoons and evenings, and not infrequently a spill into the water occurred when the boat was occupied by youth who had indulged freely in drinking before they had started on their voyage up the Colne. The bridge over the river, and also that over the ditch beyond, were widened by the late Mr. Majoribanks; he also desired to widen the bridge over the Rickmansworth Railway in Water Lane, but the company's terms were not acceptable to him, and consequently an improvement so desirable was not carried out.


Picturesque Hertfordshire - On the Colne - Raphael Tuck "Oilette"



From 'The Making of Oxhey Park'  (original research by Jean and Keith Alexander - edited by Lynda Bullock) 


Boats and Bathing

In January 1926 Mr Andrew-Artha was given permission to provide and hire out boats on the new Corporation’s water at Wiggenhall. This was initially for 3 years and he would pay £30 a year if Sunday boating was allowed, otherwise £20 a year. The number of boats was limited to 12 and the type and construction had to be approved. Permission was also given to erect a boathouse. Boats were hired out at 3d and 6d a session and by 1929 the boating licence was being shared with a Mr Lock. Mr Andrew-Artha also had to insure against accidents and exercise proper supervision. But in June 1926 the Corporation Engineer was instructed to put up notices warning boaters about straying onto stretches of the river owned by the Gas Company and again in May 1927 there were further complaints of persons using boats beyond the Corporation’s bounds. 


Also during this time, there was an on-going battle between those who wanted strict Sunday observance and those who did not. The Estates Committee did recommend that boating be allowed seven days a week, but at a later meeting two aldermen proposed boating only be allowed on weekdays and the amendment was carried. In May 1927 Mr Greenfield asked again for Sunday boating, but the matter was deferred ‘until the current licence expires’.  A year later the Estates Committee turned down another request, this time to sell minerals and confectionery on Sundays and a few weeks later the lessees of the boathouse had to write a letter of apology to the Town Clerk for doing just that -  selling minerals on a Sunday.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

West Watford Snippets

A selection of snippets from various sources relating to or mentioning places around West Watford, which will be added to over time. 

The Spectre of Hagden Lane

At the end of the last (18th) or beginning of the present (19th) century, a man known as Jockey Fenson, who resided at the Lower Infirmary, then known as the Pesthouse, committed suicide and as at that day, felo-de-se  was not admitted to Christian burial, a hole was dug in a dell in Hagden Lane, a short distance beyond the turning to Tolpits and Polecat Farm, and he was buried there. 

Soon a rumour spread that a spectre clad in white walked the lane nightly and might sometimes be seen sitting on the gates or gliding noiselessly over the adjoining fields, and a great fear seized the children of the town and neighbourhood; indeed, many adults refused to pass the dell or go anywhere near it. The perturbation of the people became so great that the parochial authorities had the body removed and, I understand, it was re-buried at night one corner of the old churchyard.  

*felo-de-se - Latin, literally translated  "a person who commits suicide or commits an unlawful malicious act resulting in his or her own death"


From History of Watford and Trade Directory - Henry Williams 1884


Charitable Endowments - Holywell

Also from Henry Williams's History of Watford and Trade Directory is a reference to charitable endowments in relation to Dame Fuller's Free School, 'without which the income it possessed in the time of the foundress would have proved wholly inadequate to carry her pious intentions into effect had it not been for the benevolent consideration of subsequent benefactors who bequeathed certain sums to supply the deficiencies'. 

However, mention is made of a circumstance noted by Mr Clutterbuck in connection with the said school. He says: "Mr Jonathan Cox Lovett, of Holywell, in this parish, by his will dated the 1st of May, 1780, made a reversionary devise of certain estates consisting of Holywell Farm, etc., to the trustees of this school; this devise, however, from having been made within twelve months of his decease and from not having been enrolled in Chancery, became void by the Act of the 9th of George II. c.36, called the Statute of Mortmain. Had this devise taken effect, the rents of the estates so devised would have been fully adequate to the future support of the school; under existing circumstances, however, its income must, in process of time, from the causes I have mentioned, be insufficient to defray its expenses."

Cole Kings


Cole Kings Farm

When the Moor Park Estate was sold off at Auction in 1919, the land that comprised the Estate was quite vast and stretched around Rickmansworth into parts of Middlesex and up towards Watford and included farms, fields, woods, cottages, streams, gravel beds and associated properties etc.

For the purposes of the Auction, the Estate was split into lots, each coloured and numbered and with an accompanying description of what was for sale and in a number of cases, a photograph of the property.

The map shows the area that was, at the time, the Cassiobridge Sewage Farm and what was to become Holywell Estate and Croxley View. Each of the coloured plots was numbered and given a description; for example, the small red plot numbered 81 refers to Cole Kings House, which stood where Holm Oak Park is now on the bend in Hagden Lane –   

“an old-fashioned Residence with modern appointments standing in its own Grounds and occupying a very convenient position within five minutes’ walk of Watford West Station and about one and a half miles from Watford Junction. “ The Sale goes on to describe the building itself including the farm buildings and the Pleasure Grounds which –

“are well timbered and shrubbed and on the Eastern Lawn is a large Wellingtonia and an Araucaria.  They also include a Tennis Lawn, Rock Garden and Vegetable Garden, span-roofed Greenhouse and Vinery”.


The Watford Terrier (newspaper) of 1798 showed that John Dyson II, from the well-known Watford brewing family, already owned Brightwells Farm (also known as Hatters Farm) and occupied a further 115 acres (which could have been Cole Kings Farm south of Hagden Lane). In 1830 he owned 75 acres of Cole Kings Farm, but in 1844, just before his death, the Tithe Appointment shows that he owned 244 acres, which is presumed to be both Brightwells and Cole Kings Farms.



Cole Kings Farmhouse 1988

The building became the site of Austin Cartons, printing and cardboard box manufacturers, but closed in 1987. Plans were subsequently submitted by Oliver and Saunders Developments of New Barnet for 88 one and two-bedroomed flats and studio flats on the site. Residents in the local area had objected to the proposed development and had asked the Council to place a preservation order on the farmhouse. 

However, the Developers said they had waited ten weeks for permission from the Council to demolish, but the Council was six months behind with their planning applications and so, as the building was considered of no architectural significance and not listed, the Company decided they were within their rights to bulldoze. 

Councillor Veronica Conlon who chaired Watford Borough Council's Development Sub-Committee at the time described the action as an act of gross vandalism. "There is so little of Watford's Past left and now another part of the town's history has gone. It could have been revitalised and used for a whole variety of things. The developers seem to have jumped the gun, but there is little we can do."


Written by Lynda Bullock

References:  Moor Park: The Grosvenor Legacy
                      Local Newspaper article


Further photos of Cole Kings can be found in the Gallery

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