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West Watford History Group

History of West Watford and environs


Alan Williams, now living in Dumfriesshire, is a former resident of West Watford, having lived in his grandmother’s house in Hagden Lane from 1948 – 1950, before moving to Whippendell Road and then to Croxley Green in 1966.   He sent us the following recollections about the Fowler's Jam Factory, which he has kindly allowed us to add to the website.


"I was really interested to see the article about Fowler’s Jam Factory on your website.  I  remember it well.  In the late 1950s, I was one of “the kids” who used to collect up old jam jars around West Watford and return them to Fowler’s for re-use.  This was a very early example of recycling, but one which I am sure environmental health legislation would completely disallow these days!    As a 9 or 10 year-old, it was also a very early piece of entrepreneurship on my part!  Using one of those wooden trolleys with old pram wheels, I – and other kids – would go from door to door, asking “Got any old jam jars, missus?”   Then on Saturday mornings, and only Saturday mornings, Fowler’s would be open to receive our trove.  For which they gave us a halfpenny per jar.  For the rest of her life, my mum would recount the story of how I returned from my first expedition to Fowler’s, beaming with pride and announcing, “Look, mum, they gave me a whole shilling!”  The thing was, though, that this was well before “globalisation” and in those days there was no such thing as a “standard jam jar”.  They were all different shapes and sizes, and in particular the screw caps were not in the least bit the same.  So we took all these jars to Fowler’s in the full knowledge that at least 50 per cent would be totally useless to them.  But we kids were devious... in order to disguise the fact that we were taking money from them under false pretences, we’d stack the jars in the crates upside down!!  We thought we were being so clever.  It’s only as you grow up that you realise that the man at Fowler’s must have been fully aware of our little trick all along, but would never have been so hard-hearted as to deprive a kid of his halfpennies!"



On the "Herts Memories" website, John Perry had boyhood memories of "Shopping In Watford"

He recalls:

Off sales  

"Most public houses had an off sales door, if older children were sent for a bottle of beer then the bottle stopper was sealed with sealing wax, fancy not trusting us, most pubs were completely barred to children, if they were present while their parents were drinking, then they stood outside with a lemonade and an arrowroot biscuit about six inches in diameter, a lot of people would say poor little devils if it was cold. Beer and lemonade bottles were always prized because they represented money when returned to the pub or shop, they would be taken back at once to become money before they were dropped and smashed. Fowler's jam factory in Sydney Road would buy jam jars for cleaning and refilling, then there were both one and two pound jars, at different prices of course."  


A West Watford resident recalls:

"The dad of one of my school friends used to drive a lorry for Fowler's Jam. One summer holiday - this would have been in the late 50's - he took us with him on his deliveries. Not allowed, of course and we had to duck down in the cab until we were out of Watford. I think we went to a factory somewhere in London and remember me and my friend squealing the place down when a wasp flew into the cab. I remember also the very strong sweet smell that came from the factory."

In the booklet Wartime Memories of West Watford, Sylvia Matthews recalls: We used to do things to get money for ourselves. We would knock on doors for jam-jars and take them to the jam factory and get a penny for each jar we had.