Watford Printers - Colney Butts House
In the 18th century an area on the outskirts of Watford was called Colney Butts. This area included the Red Lion in Vicarage Road, 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, a farmhouse across the road from the Red Lion, eventually became Watford Printers.
A comparative look at some early maps seems to confirm that there was a building on the site of 58 Vicarage Road by 1805, but it is not shown on the 1766 map.
There was certainly a property on the site of 58 Vicarage Road when the tithe map was created in 1842; plot no. 1717 was owned by Jonathan King, (presumably the Jonathan King who owned Watford Place), with Henry Catlin as a tenant. The property was described as “House, Outbuildings, Barn & Yard” at the time.
The house was extended in the 19th century and in 1910 the property was bought by the architect William H Syme, who had designed other buildings in Watford.
We know from the 1911 census that the house was being lived in by Percy and Annie Louise Nunn and their children. It was no longer listed as Colney Butts, but as 58 Vicarage Road.
A report of the Head of Management for the proposals for development of the site stated -
"Architectural interest: A complex building with elements dating from three centuries. Part designed by the architect William H. Syme (F.R.I.B.A.), who was responsible for a number of other Locally and Nationally Listed Buildings in Watford.
Function & Historical interest: The oldest part of the building was originally known as the Colney Butts House. Originally part of a farm and recorded as existing in the eighteenth century, this is one of the oldest houses that survive in Watford. Part of the two storey section was substantially extended during the mid-nineteenth century, when it still remained as a farmhouse. In 1910 the property was purchased as a home by the architect William Syme, who added the single storey element on the western side in 1911.
In 1924 William Syme sold the site to Watford Printers, (which was established in 1921 as a Workers Co-partnership Society). They employed 80 people. In the 1930s the industrial extension was added. Obviously over the years the building had changed dramatically, leading to the loss of most of the original house. No record of the building can be found in the 1939 census.
The following description of Watford Printers Limited was to be found on the site 'Shopify' -
And the following is a piece written by Jo Francis for the 'PrintWeek' website:
In the decades that followed, further urban development in the area was limited. To the south-east of the Red Lion Public House, a group of buildings had been developed, originally as part of a farm, but later as a more distinctive property known as ‘Colney Butts House’. This property is recorded from the eighteenth century and can be clearly seen on the 1842 Tithe Map. The most significant new development in this area, that is visible on the Tithe Map, was the development in 1838 of the Watford Union Workhouse. During this period the track may have been known locally as ‘Union Street’ – in connection with the workhouse. However, it is detailed as ‘Hagden Lane’ on the 1871 OS Map, before being detailed as ‘Vicarage Road’ on the 1896 OS Map. The etymology of the name that lasted for this stretch of road related to the location of St Mary’s Vicarage on a stretch of the road further east, which has since been cut off by the Exchange Road section of the inner-urban ring road. Hagden Lane still exists as a street name, but only now relates to a stretch further to the west of Vicarage Road.
A combined piece of research by Lynda Bullock, Sue Shrimpton, Ed Bristow, WBC, Stephen Danzig, Genevieve Arblaster-Hulley and with acknowledgements to Jo Francis - PrintWeek and Marie Claire-Kidd of Coop News
Maps from "Maps of Watford 1766-1938" Mary Forsyth - available at Watford Museum or viewable on the WBC "Conservation Area Character Appraisal - The Square - January 2017" where there is also a portion of the Tythe map for the area.