Wednesday 24 April 2024

50th Anniversary of WWCA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pavlina Kingsleigh, Centre Manager with Mayor Peter Taylor

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Joan Mathers Secretary to 1974, then first Co-ordinator


John Holt, Secretary of  West Watford Community Association

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An early garden party in Rickmansworth Road.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Centre Manager: Pavlina Kingsleigh 

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

15 Harwoods Road  

Watford  WD18 7RB  

Telephone: 01923 235488

Email address:



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

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

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


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