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Welwyn Garden City
Author: Frances M. Brockhurst, L. R. Drage, Reg. Cannon, edited by H. E. O'Connor
Published: 1940 (*approx) by Ed. J. Burrow & Co Ltd, Cheltenham and Strand, London.
Format: Paperback 10" by 7½" with 52 pages
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Holidays in Hertfordshire
By Frances M. Brockhurst
Of all English counties Hertfordshire seems the most desirable. Perhaps because it is the essence of a peace-loving people with its neatly-hedged fields; narrow, deepset lanes; little towns, and hamlets that scarce own a name. It is not a spectacular county — except for its trees, the magnificence of which are apt to make one catch one's breath. But it has something more than awe-inspiring grandeur, something which clutches at the heart and leaves its imprint in memories of light feathery rain; sun-dappled woods; wind rustling in the bracken, and the gold of gorse matched against the purple of heather.
The county is low-lying in the south, the hills rolling in from the north-east, gently undulating at first, but gradually increasing in height and reaching their highest in the west. Because of this people flock to the west, declaim upon its beauties, marvel at its beech trees and picnic on its commons, dismissing — without knowledge — the gentle pastoral scene, the dainty village and historic town of other parts of the county. This is a pity, for the charm of Hertfordshire lies in its unexpectedness, and I have found some wonderful spots in the most unlikely places. Much Hadham, for instance, a lovely Tudor village tucked away amid quiet cornlands, close to Bishop's Stortford, birthplace of Cecil Rhodes; or Westmill, a charming, aloof village just off the main Buntingford-Ware road, its pretty green shadowed by a magnificent chestnut tree.
But then, the villages are the pride of Hertfordshire. They are story book villages with houses and cottages grouped about a green, and the church — square-towered or with a spire — presiding seriously over the little gathering. Sometimes there is a communal pond, replete with ducks and geese, and always an inn, a real old English inn with the genial air of having tasted and approved its own brew.
About the villages the countryside varies considerably, but whether they are tucked away amid the rolling beech-clad Chilterns in the west; set in the sweet, pastoral scenery of the east; sink friendlily into the valley of some tiny river; or nestle in the fond embrace of a wonderful common — the Hertfordshire villages are uniform in their loveliness. All bear the imprint of another, older, England. An England which grew, as the trees grow, from the soil.
Traces of old Hertfordshire are many, and for the antiquarian the county is a treasure-house indeed. Even for ordinary folk, such as I, there is a thrill in the fascinating remains of the great Roman city Verulamium, with lovely old St. Albans on the hill opposite; or in the ancient camp at Letchworth, neighboured by that most modern of creations — a garden city. From Letchworth you can travel along the Icknield Way through the little old town of Baldock — where there is a clock on the gable of a farmhouse which is said to be three hundred years old — and up over Deadman's Hill on the summit of which are barrows that make the Roman occupation seem a thing of yesterday. Follow the Icknield Way, but eight miles farther and you will come to Royston, a busy, bustling old town of narrow streets and tortuous lanes. Here is a cave, said to have been excavated by the Early Britons, its walls decorated by rather crude sculpture of the thirteenth century. Close neighbour to the town is Royston Heath — also known as Therfield Heath — a lovely expanse of common on which racehorses are trained and on which, also, is an ancient tumulus.
It is appropriate that a county so filled with the storied past should have the only Folk Park in the Empire. This is in New Barnet, and here you may see and marvel over the changes that have taken place in social life in Great Britain from prehistoric times to the reign of Queen Victoria.
Rich in antiquities, Hertfordshire is also rich in legend, for tradition dies hard in the country. Who could forget the killing of the highwayman when the stake still stands at the cross-roads to prevent his ghost from wandering — as at Datchworth ? They say in the village that if the stake is removed or wears away, then at twelve o' the clock at night the ghost appears on the village green and continues to appear until the post is renewed. Then there is the gateway leading into Brookman's Park at Hatfield. A strange gateway, built about the time of Henry VII and rarely, if ever, seen in use. Folley Gate it is called, and a farthing is said to have been laid between each brick. Then again, there is the still, silent pool — the Apostles' Pond — which lies in the midst of the wonderful expanse of woodland and heath, sweeping upland, and warm folded valley that is Chipperfield Common. Encircling the pond are eleven lime trees. Once there were twelve, but one was felled to symbolize the fall of Judas Iscariot, and all attempts to grow one in its place have failed. But I could go on like this indefinitely, for wherever you go in Hertfordshire, in deepest country or busiest town of legend and history, fairy tale and fact.
The towns of Hertfordshire are as fascinating as everything else in the county. They, too, have a rich heritage from the past, and if they have not grown large and unwieldy it is to their credit, not detriment. Nearly all Hertfordshire towns enjoy a rural setting, for the county is true to its old industry — agriculture. Watford, the largest town in the county, for instance, is the home of many industries. Yet anyone who has walked in Cassiobury Park, followed the course of the river Gade to the fine old mill at Ironbridge lock, or wandered in the chequered shade of Whippendell Woods — where the silvered leaves of the birch gleam against the dark clothing of coniferous pine — would remember it as a country town rather than a busy industrial area. So it is with other towns.
Hertford, the fine old county town, where "modernity camps uneasily on the site of history" — to use the apt phrase of another — has expanded considerably within recent years. But not out of recognition. Many an ancient building still remains to brighten, with overhanging eave and bulging wall, the trim austerity of modern streets. About it are such fascinating places as the delightful old village of Tewin, set high on a hill with wonderful views of the surrounding countryside; Panshanger Park, the noble seat of Lord Desborough, with pleasant little Hertingfordbury at its gates; Bayford, burial place of William Yarrell the naturalist; and the busy, attractive market town of Hoddesdon, with its lovely woodland setting and memories of Izaak Walton.
Then there are the two garden cities — Welwyn and Letchworth — experiments in town planning which have more than proved their worth; busy, old-fashioned Hitchin fragrant in summer with the bloom of the lavender which feeds its lavender water and scent distilleries; and the lovely old Chiltern town of Tring, notable for the Rothschild Zoological Museum and Tring Park — once the country residence of Lord Rothschild — with its wonderful expanse of woods and gardens, where "wych elms sweep the ground with crinoline leaves. Behind them stand the firs, then the elms, then impenetrable depths of shade and darkness."
Such is the county of Hertfordshire. If in telling of its loveliness I have wandered a little, jumped from east to west, from river to wood, it is because I know and love some parts of the county better than others, and it would need someone far more purposeful than I to marshal into rigid order the joyous crowding memories of intriguing footpaths leading to woods blue-carpeted with hyacinth and bluebell; of tiny chattering rivers; and villages nestled close within the hollow of a hill, or hidden within the shelter of mighty trees. Had I been purposeful I might never have known the fascination of Hertfordshire, I should have stayed on the main roads and missed the delicious, rural country-side which opens out before the wanderer lured onward by the fingerpost marked "Footpath."
Sport in Hertfordshire
By L. R. Drage
Good sport is plentiful in Hertfordshire and Hertfordshire folk have established an enviable reputation for good sportsmanship. Few counties can boast better organized sport. The county spirit is strong. The Herts County Cricket Club, the County Football, Hockey and Rifle Shooting Associations are all old-established bodies, but in recent times the county spirit in Herts sport has been greatly fostered by the formation of county organizations for rugby, golf — amateur and professional — lawn tennis, bowls, lacrosse, swimming, badminton, athletics, squash racquets, cycling and netball. In all forms of sport, the standard of performances is improving year by year.
There are over thirty golf courses in Hertfordshire, including the municipal course — Batchwood Hall, St. Albans — opened in 1936. Among the better-known clubs are Ashridge, Moor Park, Sandy Lodge, South Herts, Porters Park, Verulam (brought into prominence by the late Samuel Ryder, the donor of the "Ryder" Cup), West Herts, Old Fold Manor, Oxhey, Hartsbourne Manor, Berkhamsted, Broxbourne, Radlett, Royston, and Brookman's Park, with which Major Percy Burton, the President of the English Golf Union, is associated. Golf is growing in popularity. Harpenden, a town of about 10,000 population, has two courses !
The competitions of the Herts Golf Union, and its counterpart for the ladies, attract much attention. Few counties can boast a higher standard of professional golf. The Herts Professional Golfers' Alliance, which holds fortnightly tournaments on various courses between October and April, has many distinguished exponents of the game in its ranks, including T. H. Cotton, Abe Mitchell, Ted Ray, Sandy Herd, A. G. Havers and E. E. Whitcombe, just to mention a few. Every opportunity is given for amateurs to join in these competitions.
Association Football is played in every town and village. Watford, the only professional club, competes in the Third Division (South) of the Football League, and has a rapidly increasing following. Hertfordshire has won the Southern Counties Amateur Championship eight times since 1922 — a record which no other county can equal. St. Albans City, who have one of the best amateur grounds in the South, Barnet, Hitchin Town, one of the sixteen original competitors for the F.A. Cup, Letchworth Town, Leavesden and Apsley take part in the leading Amateur Leagues. In the county itself, nearly three hundred clubs have one or more teams playing each week in the large number of well-organized competitions. Herts has produced many well-known players, including Arthur Grimsdell who captained England, Ivan Sharpe, who broadcast the F.A. Cup Final in 1936, W. H. Minter, L. C. Finch, A. W. Loveday, H. E. Miller and R. Cooper, all of whom have gained international honours.
The Rugby game, hardly played in the county prior to 1914, is now taking a firm hold. Well-established clubs include Old Merchant Taylors (Croxley Green), West Herts (Watford), Harpenden, Barnet, Mid Herts (Welwyn Garden City), Welwyn, Toc H (Barnet), Letchworth and Bishop's Stortford, while there is a number of good Old Boys' sides, including Old Berkhamstedians, Old Albanians, Old Fullerians, and Old Hertfordians. The Old Georgians can also field a strong XV. The Herts County Union winds up its season with an annual seven-a-side tournament played on the West Herts Sports ground, Watford, in aid of charity.
Each year the number of hockey clubs in the county increases. St. Albans, Barnet, Broxbourne, West Herts, Barnet and Radlett are all in the first flight. The County Association is a strong body which not only has a proud record of successes in inter-county matches, but also arranges touring teams to visit various festivals. Ladies' hockey is flourishing. There are nearly thirty well-established clubs and the County Association's team won the East Anglian Women's Association's annual tournament at Clacton in 1938.
Cricket is, perhaps, the oldest game in the county. The St. Albans Club, which plays amid beautiful surroundings at Clarence Park, was founded in 1666, and there are others which have records dating back more than a century. In addition to St. Albans, Leavesden, West Herts, Bushey, Berkhamsted, Radlett, Barnet, Chorley Wood, Broxbourne, Bishop's Stortford, Hertford, Welwyn Garden City, Harpenden, Stevenage, Letchworth and Hitchin all field strong elevens. There are numerous junior teams in every town, and there is hardly a village or hamlet which does not possess at least one club. There is much good country-house cricket, while in many of the towns and some of the villages, Cricket Weeks have been revived.
Much has been done to foster the game by the Herts County Cricket Club. In addition to taking part in the Minor Counties Championship — of which Herts were runners-up in 1935 and champions in 1936 — the County Club plays more than thirty County Club and Gentlemen of Herts matches in all parts of the county during the season, and also visits the principal schools, including Haileybury, Aldenham, Berkhamsted, Royal Masonic, St. Edmund's College, Merchant Taylors, Bishop's Stortford College, St. George's and the Barnet and Watford Grammar Schools. No stone is left unturned in the unearthing and fostering of the young idea.
Miss K. E. Stammers (St. Albans) and E. Higgs (Hatfield), both internationals, are products of Hertfordshire Lawn Tennis. There are clubs — many with both grass and hard courts — in every town. The County Association which promotes many competitions — both individual and inter-club — arranges coaching by a professional, and has its centre at the Moor Park Club, Rickmansworth. The open championships are decided at the Harpenden Tournament in June. A Schoolgirls' Doubles Tournament — attracting an entry from a wide area — is also held at Harpenden, and the Junior Championships are held at Radlett towards the end of August.
Bowls is another game which has gone ahead rapidly since the inception of the County Association, which now has a membership of fifty clubs, many with Cumberland Turf greens. Herts has yet to attain distinction in National Bowling spheres, but it has an outstanding player in R. W. Pickering (Watford), who has played for England in twelve series of international matches, being captain in 1932, while members of the St. Albans Club have figured in the finals of a National Championship.
There is a county Rifle Shooting Association, which meets at the Panshanger Range, and the Old Albanian Rifle Club has made its mark at Bisley, where it now has its own headquarters. Chess is catered for by a flourishing County Association, which has affiliated clubs in Watford, Barnet, St. Albans, Harpenden, Hertford, Letchworth, Hoddesdon and Welwyn Garden City. Boxing is chiefly fostered in Hertford, Watford, St. Albans and Hemel Hempstead, where amateur tournaments are frequently held. There is motor-boat racing at Rickmansworth. Cyclists have clubs in many towns and are banded together in county bodies for road racing and time trials.
Coursing is a sport which still has many followers, meetings being held by the North Herts Coursing Club, mostly in the Hitchin district. There are greyhound racing tracks at Watford and Hitchin. The Greyhound Racing Association's kennels are at the Hook, Northaw. Badminton is much played during the winter season, and the County Association, besides arranging inter-county matches, runs a League for its affiliated clubs. Squash Racquets is increasing in popularity. Clubs include the Aldenham Masters, Hardenwick (Harpenden), Radlett, Tring, Letchworth Hall, De Havilland's (Hatfield), and Haileybury, and the County Association not only holds championships but has grown strong enough to carry out a programme of inter-County matches.
There is much good sculling and some sailing on the Lea. Pigeon Racing has many devotees, there being some exceptionally good prize-winning lofts owned by Herts fanciers. The dearth of swimming facilities in the county is being remedied. Up-to-date baths have been provided at Letchworth, Hitchin, Hemel Hempstead and Watford, while there are excellent pools attached to several road-houses. The County Association carries through a programme of championships and holds inter-county Swimming and Water Polo matches.
One of the outstanding features of recent years has been the extraordinary development of women's sport in the county. The Herts Ladies' Golf Union has many affiliated clubs; the county Women's Hockey Association is particularly successful. The Association, which arranges coaching for its clubs, concludes its season with an inter-club tournament.
Members of the Herts Lacrosse Association have frequently played for England. Boxmoor and St. Albans are strong clubs. Table tennis has become the most popular of the winter indoor pastimes. Clubs and Leagues have sprung up rapidly and a surprising feature has been the high degree of skill attained by the women players, no fewer than six members of clubs in the St. Albans district having gained international honours. Women's cricket, under the leadership of that distinguished player, Miss Marjorie Pollard, is making rapid strides, particularly in the Stevenage district, and a County team has been fielded.
Athletics are catered for by the Herts County Amateur Athletic Association, which holds its track championships at St. Albans in June, and its cross-country championships in January. Many notable personalities have been associated with athletics in the county, including T. H. Hampson, the Olympic Games 800 metres champion, S. A. Tomlin, a British Empire three-miles champion, who is now Honorary Secretary of the County Association, and A. J. Collyer (Watford Harriers), the A.A.A. 880 yards champion in 1938.
Hertfordshire is a good hunting country. The Hertfordshire Hounds have two packs — North and South. The Puckeridge hunt the North-east; the Enfield Chace (formerly Smith-Bosanquet) the South-east, while the neighbouring Hunts are the Old Berkeley, the Whaddon Chase, and the Cambridgeshire. The Aldenham Harriers have kennels at St. Albans; the South Herts Beagles, with headquarters at Aldenham have a big following; and the North Middlesex Farmers' Drag Hunt meet from time to time in Radlett and the neighbourhood.
The Herts Hounds and Aldenham Harriers hold Point-to-Point Races at Friars Wash annually, while the Enfield Chace Point- to-Point Meeting takes place on the Herts and Middlesex borders, near Potters Bar.
Despite the rapid urbanization of large parts of the county, there is still no dearth of shooting in Herts, and the angler has the opportunity of some good freshwater fishing, particularly in the reservoirs at Tring and Elstree and on the River Lea. The Verulam Angling Club has well-stocked private waters near St. Albans.
Commerce and Industry in Hertfordshire
By Reg. Cannon
Although on the threshold of London, parts of it even being in the Metropolitan Police Area, Hertfordshire has very largely maintained its agricultural character, though its big towns are fully alive to the undoubted possibilities of the great market provided, so close at hand, by London. Complementary with this many large London firms have realized the advantages to be obtained by setting up their works in a county so close to the industrial hive of London.
They have found lower rates, better living conditions for the workers, and splendid transport, for Hertfordshire has more through roads than any county in England, and five main line railway systems radiate from London and traverse the county on their way to the north, while its water-ways are far from being negligible forms of transport, including, as they do, the Grand Union Canal. The London Underground Railway has already pushed out its tentacles into Herts, and will doubtless expand still further into the rapidly developing districts on the London side.
The facilities for residential and industrial development in the county can have received no better recognition than when Hertfordshire was decided upon by the late Sir Ebenezer Howard as the site for his first great experiment in garden cities, when he chose Letchworth, then a tiny hamlet and now a thriving urban district, and of later years his second town planned on garden city lines has grown into Welwyn Garden City.
Of recent years the county has become almost a gold mine for the building and associated trades on account of the rapidity with which whole areas of new houses have sprung up to house the workers for the new factories.
The six principal centres in the county are Watford, St. Albans, Hertford, Hitchin, Ware and Bishop's Stortford, though there are altogether some fifteen market towns, into which on market days is poured the produce from the very considerable agricultural areas which surround them. Grain production continues on a very large scale, and Hertfordshire wheat has always commanded good prices in the markets of the country, and sugar beet is also fairly extensively cultivated. On the market gardening side cultivation under glass has reached a high standard, particularly on the alluvial gravels above the Lea Valley, and at Cheshunt the market gardening industry has such a firm hold that about 30 per cent of the male population over 12 years of age are employed as gardeners or gardeners' labourers. Even the rivers are put to good use in many parts of the county and much watercress finds its way to Covent Garden from Hertfordshire. Orchards brighten the county with their acres of blossom in Spring, and in Summer, at Hitchin, fields of lavender make a sight never to be forgotten, before the purple heads are harvested to be distilled into lavender water in Hitchin.
Of the native industries of the county, malting, which has its centre at Ware — once the most important malting centre in the country — and paper making, which is centred at Hemel Hempstead, Kings Langley and Watford, are among the most important. The straw plait industry, which formerly employed thousands of people in their own homes, has been killed by more modern methods and foreign competition. Clustered along the canals, railways and the great new roads, are many factories.
Watford has extensive factory industries, including block-making for the printing trade, printing on a very large scale by Messrs. Odhams, and the manufacture of milk beverages. Among Watford's flourishing concerns is the firm of Keens (Watford) Ltd., widely known as "The House of Dependable Foodstuffs." This firm, which has its registered offices and factory in Marlborough Road, Watford, makes sausages and meat pies, cooked meat of all kinds, and provides a variety of dainty comestibles for the table. The factory is in every way hygienic, and installed with the latest electrical plant. The firm has depots also at London, Colchester, Margate and Portsmouth. St. Albans, which shares with Hertford the sittings of the County Quarter Sessions, has boot factories, large printing works, a brush factory, and hundreds of its workers are employed in the manufacture of silk stockings. Hitchin, the northernmost town in the county, has a wide agricultural belt and its industries consist of engineering, distilling, tanning, joinery, and it has also a very large bacon factory. The concentration of industry at the two garden cities has been one of the most noticeable of the county's industrial growths of recent years. At Letchworth some 8,000 people are employed in engineering, vehicle construction, perambulator making, furniture manufacture, making scientific instruments, silk, embroidery, rubber articles, and corsets. There are also various metal trades, printing, bookbinding, the making of photographic paper, and the almost incredible variety of industries ensures that a constant supply of skilled labour is at hand. With its population of 16,000 Letchworth has, in its thirty odd years, outgrown many towns in the county.
Nearer London, Welwyn Garden City, the younger of the two garden cities, has also proved attractive from an industrial point of view. It has large film studios, the Shredded Wheat factory, firms engaged in printing, carbon cutting, motor car building, making agricultural machinery, wireless apparatus, silk dresses and stockings, gas engines, brass Working machinery. It is a very significant fact that more than 20,000 people annually go out of their way to visit the home of Shredded Wheat at Welwyn Garden City. These visitors come by train and coach and private car from every corner of the country out of a sheer desire to see for themselves how their favourite breakfast food is made. They are always welcome, for not only is the Shredded Wheat Company proud of the food it makes, it is proud too of its modern factory home and the scrupulous methods employed throughout every stage of production. Everything is open to inspection every day of the week except Saturdays and parties are conducted round and shown just how one of the finest health foods in the world comes into being.
The laundry needs of Welwyn Garden City and the surrounding countryside are in the capable hands of the Welwyn Garden City Laundry Ltd., whose works are situated in most beautiful surroundings, and on one of the highest points of the county. Their equipment is thoroughly modern and up-to-date, and since they started business eighteen years ago have been steadily increasing in size, so that work is now provided for nearly 100 people.
Further to the north-east Baldock and Royston have common industries in the brewing trade, and one of the largest industrial concerns in Baldock is a silk stocking factory which has brought many new residents to the town and made the building of a large housing estate necessary. Along the Great North Road, to the south, is Stevenage, where are large joinery works making school furniture, and where motor-cycles are also made.
Barnet, on the London edge of the county, in addition to being famed for its annual horse and cattle fair, has factories for the manufacture of pressure gauges, joinery, dental instruments, photographic materials, mineral waters and rope, and there are several printing works and a large photo-engraving works.
Bishop's Stortford has brickfields, motor and sacking works and a foundry, and there are also malthouses, while at Hertford, the county town, the industries are chiefly concerned with the making of malt and oilcake, the sale of corn and the production of flour, and it also has iron foundries, breweries, and brickfields, coach and motor works. At Hertford the County Council has now built its huge new offices at Leahoe, and in future there will be no meetings of the County Council at St. Albans, which used to share with Hertford this distinction. At Elstree and Boreham Wood are some of the largest film studios in the country.
No article on the industries of Hertfordshire would be complete, or representative of the county, without mention of the various rural crafts, which are encouraged by the holding of special classes at the annual County Agricultural Show in Hatfield Park. Basket making still flourishes at Watford, Royston, Hertford and Berkhamsted, and Hitchin has a trade in wickerwork, while Royston also has its hurdle making, and Hemel Hempstead and Boxmoor their turnery.
The whole of Hertfordshire is supplied with electricity by The Northmet Power Company, with the exception of the urban districts of Hitchin, Letchworth, Baldock and Welwyn Garden City, the borough of Watford and that part of the county west of St. Albans. Domestic supplies are afforded under a popular two-part tariff known as the All-in Rate. This consists of a fixed annual charge payable quarterly plus ½d. per unit for all electricity used for any domestic purpose, including lighting. The rate is so designed that under normal conditions the fixed charge plus the cost of lighting units at ½d. is approximately the same as the cost of lighting units on the flat rate. Consequently all electricity used for purposes other than lighting costs only ½d. per unit, For comfort, convenience and economy no other arrangements can compare with electricity at this price. Northmet Electricity Showrooms (thirteen of them) have been established throughout the county each with an expert staff anxious to serve every electrical requirement of the public. — R.C.
The Chief Centres of Interest in Hertfordshire
Barnet — also known as Chipping Barnet or High Barnet — is a pleasant and rapidly growing market town, set on a lofty ridge near the picturesque Hadley Woods and the Middlesex border. Its elevation is 430 feet above sea-level; it is built on either side of the Great North Road and it is the centre of an Urban District which includes Arkley, Totteridge and Rowley, with a population of 25,000.
Although the nucleus of the town — the long wide High Street whose many inns are reminders of the coaching days — is of considerable age, the outskirts have been intensively developed as modern housing estates and the town is now practically continuous with New Barnet and East Barnet, a mile or two south-east.
The town is by no means unknown in history or literature. Dickens lovers remember it as the place where Oliver Twist met the Artful Dodger, and every schoolboy knows of the Battle of Barnet where Edward IV crushed the Lancastrian forces, and Warwick the Kingmaker met his death. The site of the battle, which was fought on the 14th April, 1471, is marked by an obelisk on Hadley Green, just outside Barnet.
One link with the past indelibly associated with Barnet is the famous horse and cattle fair, supplemented by a pleasure fair, which is still held in September, although it has been crowded off its original site by building developments.
Barnet Fair came into being in the reign of Henry II, who granted a Charter for its inception and continuance. Subsequently in the reign of Elizabeth this charter was confirmed, and although many attempts have been made in the past to abolish it the Fair has survived and never fails to attract dealers in horses and cattle in large numbers, from every part of the British Isles. The Pleasure Fair, with its merry-go-rounds, shooting booths, coker-nut shies and inevitable distractions, noise and blaring mechanical music, grows rather than decreases in popularity and draws huge crowds of pleasure seekers — young and old — from London and the surrounding districts.
About three hundred years ago Barnet derived a certain fashionable notoriety as a spa, and people were beginning to resort there to drink the waters. Pepys, indeed, records in his diary that he, on one occasion, drank five glasses, but a more reliable testimonial to their excellence is provided by Fuller who, writing in all seriousness in 1662, declared that the spring waters of Barnet had effected so many cures as to give promise of atoning the loss of life suffered in the Battle of Barnet. The Physick Well, by which name the spring is known, lies in the attractively planned Wellhouse Estate. It has, however, been out of use for many years, but an analysis made in 1923 discloses mineral constituents of proved therapeutic effectiveness. A pleasing superstructure designed on the lines of an early Stuart building was erected over the well in 1937 by the Urban District Council.
The parish church is perhaps the most noticeable feature of the town, for it occupies a prominent site in the High Street at the junction of Wood Street. The site was first occupied by a church in 1250, but this was demolished in 1420, and the structure which was raised in its place was in turn restored and enlarged in 1875, and the present building dates from that time, It is, however, worthy of inspection and is noted for its interesting carved bench ends, although nearly all modern work, while the tower is a landmark.
Another interesting feature and a relic of former days is the Tudor Hall in Wood Street, a part of the original Elizabethan boys' grammar school, This school, now housed in new buildings, was founded in 1573, at the request of Robert, Earl of Leicester.
For the rest the town is up-to-date and progressive. It enjoys excellent public services, and modern educational facilities. The development on the outskirts of the town during the last twenty years has increased the population twofold. The offices and headquarters of many public services covering a wide area are centred in the district. A large part in the development of the town was played by the firm of Harland & Son, auctioneers and estate agents, who deal in properties through Hertfordshire as well as Essex and Middlesex.
Berkhamsted — the town among the lovely hills — is pleasantly situated in the picturesque north-west corner of the county. It is a town of considerable antiquity. It was known as "Beorcham" in Roman times, and in the year 697 Wihthraede, King of the Anglo-Saxons, held a great council here. It was referred to as "Berchehamstede" in the Domesday Book, and it is related that, following the battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror "crossed the Thames at Wallingford and proceeded to Berkhamsted . . . to receive a deputation of the Saxon nobles, which awaited him there to offer him the Crown." The castle, now a ruin, occupies the site of an Anglo-Saxon fortification; it was besieged in the reign of King John; it was the favourite residence of Edward III and Edward IV gave it to his mother the tragic, Duchess of York, and last occupant.
Berkhamsted stands on high ground above the Bulbourne Brook, with a glorious background of hills. It has an excellent health record, due in a large measure to the dry invigorating air, high situation and salubrious surroundings. North of the town, 600 feet above sea-level, are the wind-swept Berkhamsted and Northchurch Commons.
North of Berkhamsted Common is the well-known Ashridge estate of some 4,000 acres, now the property of the National Trust and providing a tract of parkland, woods, common and open down, for public use in perpetuity. Ashridge House, erected on the site of a thirteenth-century monastery, is an imposing mansion with a frontage of 1,000 feet. It was given to the Conservative Party by the late Urban Broughton and is used as a political training school for members of the party.
Berkhamsted is a residential centre. It is less than an hour's run from London, within walking distance of the most beautiful countryside in the Home Counties. It is a shopping centre of considerable importance, with up-to-date public services, and it possesses scholastic facilities of quite exceptional merit. Finally, it is well-equipped for all kinds of outdoor sport, including golf, and there is a modern open-air swimming pool.
An old-world town of great charm, Bishop's Stortford is built on both banks of the River Stort, about 14 miles north-east of the county town of Hertford by road, although it is rather more — 18 miles — by rail from the same centre. The place gets its name in part from the river, which in ancient times was forded here, and in part from William the Conqueror, who gave the town to Maurice, Bishop of London.
It is the centre of an urban district and has a population approaching 11,000. It has long been recognized as an important market-town with thriving industries. The fact that the river Stort is navigable until its junction with the river Lea at Roydon is responsible for the passage through Bishop's Stortford of large consignments of merchandise, principally malt, which is produced here in large quantities, and grain, which is used locally in brewing. The chief industrial activities of the town are the manufacture of matches, the making of concrete mixing machinery, malting, brewing, and there are brickworks and lime kilns.
The modern development of Bishop's Stortford as a residential town owes much to the late Sir Walter Gilbey. Hockerill Park, which he laid out as a residential area, is a memorial to his practical interest in promoting the welfare of the town. This charmingly-laid-out estate preserves a park-like appearance and the houses represent the best traditions. In other parts of the town, too, dwelling houses of the very best type have been erected.
In Nettleswell House, South Road, on July 5th, 1853, Cecil Rhodes was born. His father was the Vicar of Bishop's Stortford at the time of his birth. The house is now a Rhodes Museum. Finally, in brief, the chief sights include the parish church, in which there is a Rhodes memorial window; the sixteenth-century "Boar's Head," Wind Hill; the George Inn, North Street, dating from the sixteenth century also; and Waytemore Castle, remains of a fortress crowning "The Mound "in the public park.
These two busy residential townships lie within a mile or so of each other on the main road between Cheshunt and Ware and about midway between these two places. Broxbourne is a delightful little place on the Lea Navigation watered by the New River, which passes through the parish. It is only 16 miles from London. Good railway, coach (Green Line) and bus services connect both Broxbourne and Hoddesdon with Town.
Hoddesdon, too, is watered on the north and east by the New River, and the Lea, which outside the town forms a union with the River Stort. These rivers, which meander through a delightful countryside hereabouts, were once favoured by Izaak Walton.
Both Broxbourne and Hoddesdon have grown immeasurably since then, but the developments which have taken place in residential property are largely the product of recent years and represent a welcome progress. The proximity of these two places to London, coupled with their intrinsic charm, has popularized them with people who have to do their work in Town, and there is no doubt that further building development will take place to meet future demands. Local estate agents, of the standing of Messrs. Bridgman & Sons, of 70 High Street, Hoddesdon, who have been in business for over a century, will be pleased to advise applicants of property in this district which is in the market.
Despite modern developments, Broxbourne still retains an air of rural simplicity. It possesses a notable Perpendicular church built of stone and flint and dating from about the year 1420. This church contains a number of interesting monuments. Another feature of interest the Crown Inn, which bears the notice "No dogs or Claypipes admitted."
Hoddesdon, while not possessing a fane of the antiquity of Broxbourne's noble structure, has a very fine parish church in the Church of St. Paul, erected in 1732. The town also boasts a number of interesting sights, connected with the past. In High Street, Rawdon House, now a convent, St. Monica's Priory, was built in the early seventeenth century.
Bushey is a modern township about 13 miles by road from Hyde Park. It occupies a healthy site at an elevation of over 500 feet above sea-level on breezy uplands just north of the Middlesex border, and is an ideal residential centre, which has a special appeal for those who enjoy rural surroundings not too far away from London.
Not the least of its attractions are the remarkable views which can be obtained on a clear day from Bushey Heath. From this spot it is possible to pick out St. Albans Abbey, Ashridge Monument and Windsor Castle, while miles of intervening open country are spread out panoramically to the view.
The immediate surroundings of Bushey are most attractive and although recent years have witnessed much building development the essential rural character of the place has suffered little, and it is still possible to enjoy a walk in a country lane without losing touch with modern facilities of transport. There are few places in fact even in Hertfordshire which have so many country footpaths and leafy lanes, possessions which must be accounted among the amenities of the place. Indeed, it is said, Bushey received its name originally from the profusion and luxuriance of woodland foliage in and around it and it is still well wooded and shady. Another theory is that the name "Bissei" which appears in Domesday Book, and attributable to Anglo-Saxon times, means Byssa's Island — a suggestion that in times long ago, Bushey began its existence as a collection of lake dwellings.
Whatever its origin, the fact of its antiquity emerges, and even today, here and there among its modern shops and houses — for the present township of some fourteen thousand inhabitants is chiefly of recent growth — there are witnesses of the past, notably the ancient timbered buildings seen opposite the Bell Hotel.
Municipal government is under the control of an Urban District Council which has been largely responsible, through wise administration, for ensuring the residential character of present-day Bushey. The continuance of its rural character has been ensured by the operation of a comprehensive Town Planning scheme which has controlled building activities and directed development according to carefully conceived plans.
The municipal amenities and social services compare favourably with those obtaining in any modern residential community. Electricity is supplied from the generating station at Watford, and Gas by the Watford and St. Albans Gas Company and the Gas Light and Coke Company. Water comes from deep wells in the chalk at Bushey, Eastbury and Beerygrove, and is, after softening, pumped to consumers by the Colne Valley Water Company. Health services are up-to-date and the statistics published by the Medical Officer of Health disclose that Bushey is amongst the healthier places of the county.
For the rest there are all the usual amenities associated with a progressive residential township. Ample facilities exist for organised sport, such as football and cricket ideal golf courses are provided by the Hartsbourne Manor Golf Club at Bushey Heath, said to have been in his heyday a rendezvous of Dick Turpin, and the Bushey Hall Golf Club attached to Bushey Hall Hotel.
Educational facilities are above the average, for here are the Junior and Senior Schools of the Royal Masonic Institution for boys; the Royal Caledonian School, St. Margaret's School, a boarding school for girls, Rosary Priory, and a selection of private schools.
Finally, Bushey has always been and still is, a beauty spot. It appeals to the artistic temperament. Turner studied and sketched Bushey, and the versatile Sir Hubert von Herkomer, who designed the remarkable German-Gothic house known as "Lululand," in Melbourne Road, founded his school of art here. His picture of St. ]ames's Church, with its graveyard sloping down to the village pond, is very well known. Sir Hubert is buried in this church; so is the celebrated Colonel Silas Titus, a native of Bushey and author of the curious pamphlet, Killing Noe Murder.
Cheshunt is the centre of an urban district comprising the township of Cheshunt, Waltham Cross and Goffs Oak, and having an estimated population of about 18,000. It is situated about a mile and a half north of Waltham Cross, close to the Hertfordshire, Middlesex and Essex border, and in spite of very considerable building development the environs of the town on every side are open country, and to the west almost on its border are the magnificent woodlands of Epping Forest. The town slopes to the Lea valley and is watered by the passage through it of the New River. From the higher ground on the west side, the views across the valley towards the Forest are very charming, while the rich woodlands and lush meadows, the gently swelling uplands and leisurely willow-edged streams provide the town with an environment of rare beauty.
The town is essentially residential. It is thirteen miles by road from London and is served by an excellent system of fast buses. A very frequent service of trains is maintained daily each way between Cheshunt and Liverpool Street — on the Broxbourne-Ware branch of the London and North Eastern Railway — and the distance, fourteen miles, is covered by express trains in 27 minutes.
Cheshunt is a place of great age and this is evident in its picturesque main street. It possessed at one time a direct association with Richard Cromwell, the deposed Protector, in Pengelley House, his home, which stood near the Parish Church, but the fine old house Cheshunt Park, just north of the town, still preserves the connection with the Cromwell family — it was once the property of Oliver. Cheshunt Great House still remains. This noble old place was built in the 14th century and was later owned by Cardinal Wolsey. It contains a fine old hall, staircases and dungeons, and was once surrounded by a moat — part of which remains. Another place of note on the west of Cheshunt is Theobalds Park, the seat for years of the Meux family. In the grounds stands Old Temple Bar, removed here from Fleet Street in 1888. Theobalds (or Tibbolds as it is called) was once a royal residence, but the palace, in which Charles I was proclaimed, was destroyed by the Roundheads.
The crowning glory of Harpenden is its splendid Common, an expanse of many acres of upland, gorse-covered and breezy, which reaches southwards from the High Street for over a mile towards St. Albans. As the Common widens out from High Street, it rises gradually, and from its highest point it affords magnificent views over a picturesque neighbourhood, which takes in the beautiful Harpenden valley, the lovely wooded country round Rothamsted, and the green pastures and wheatfields which give Wheathampstead nearby its name.
Of the old-world town itself, it can be said to have grown in comparatively recent times from an agricultural village of about a thousand inhabitants to a residential town of gracious proportions, and one of the most attractive around London.
Although twenty-five miles from St. Pancras on the main line of the London, Midland & Scottish Railway, there is a very frequent service of fast trains which cover the distance, on the average, in forty minutes. The town is also served by the London & North Eastern Railway and in addition there is an excellent service of buses which link Harpenden up with every town and village in the neighbourhood.
It is therefore possible to live in the charmingly rural surroundings of Harpenden, and work or shop in London, for as a result of careful housing development in recent years, estates have been developed on all sides of the town and comfortable well-built houses of artistic design have been erected, which can either be rented or purchased. Sanitation, public services and health services are all up-to-date, and the climate and general health of the district is held in high estimation.
The High Street is the principal thoroughfare and one is immediately struck by its spaciousness. It is exceedingly broad, probably one hundred and thirty feet wide from house to house. The main road through is bordered on one side by beautiful greensward and trees, from which the footpath is marked off by a white pillared chain fence. The trees represented are limes, Norway maples, old pollard elms and near Station Road is a fine chestnut.
The High Street is of course the shopping centre and its picturesqueness is heightened by the varied character of its buildings, many of which are of antiquity and others quite modern. At the north end of High Street, the rustic ancestry of the town is suggested by Church Green, upon which stands the War Memorial Cross, and in the north-west corner of the Green, the turreted tower of the Parish Church rises dominantly to make a very attractive picture. Around the Green are some of Harpenden's older houses, two or three brick houses of seventeenth-century date.
A few minutes out of Harpenden, close to the Common, are the fine buildings of the Rothamsted Experimental Station, where much good work in agricultural research is carried out in all kinds of scientific investigations connected with the soil and its products.
The great charm of Hertford is its rural setting. It lies near the conflux of the Mimram, Beane and Lea, and a fourth stream, the Rib, flows through the borough. On the outskirts of the town are fields and beautiful parklands forming a wide green belt; woods of oak and hornbeams, with a tall undergrowth of bracken; and avenues of stately limes and beeches. There is, in fact, no town of similar size within the same radius from London — twenty-two miles by road — so absolutely rural in its surroundings as the county town of Hertfordshire.
It is not the largest town in the county by any means — there are between 12,000 and 13,000 inhabitants — but it is a very old place with an interesting history, and well deserves its position. When Caesar was warring with Cassivelaunus there was a British settlement on the site of the present town. The name Hertford was given by the Saxons and for a time the town was the residence of their kings and a place of considerable importance, for in 673 it was the meeting place of the National Synod. During this period the Saxons were troubled by the Danish invaders and during the ninth century Hertford was the subject of several unwelcome attacks, which were finally quelled by Alfred the Great, who managed to divert the course of the river Lea and so ground the Danish fleet.
It was Alfred's son, Edward the Elder, who built Hertford Castle. The Normans replaced it by a larger and more imposing structure and up to the time of the Civil War it had a succession of notable owners and equally notable prisoners — the latter including King John of France and King David of Scotland. The town benefited by the royal favour, and secured several charters of incorporation and various privileges.
The castle stands in extensive grounds in the centre of the town. Of the original buildings only some of the outer walls remain, The present castle is of later date and has been restored from time to time; it is the property of the Marquis of Salisbury and is used as a municipal building. The grounds, which are bounded on the north by the river Lea, are attractively laid out with lawns and flower beds, and there are several public tennis courts and a bowling green.
In the town itself there are many old buildings. Hertford's agricultural interests; leather-works; flour mills; biscuit, chocolate, game food, glove and tooth-brush factories; carriage and motor-works and breweries have not been allowed to spoil its picturesque appearances, and timbered and pargeted houses of fifteenth and sixteenth century date neighbour modern shops and residences in the main streets. Lombard House and the old Hale's Grammar School were built in the seventeenth century and the Shire Hall was designed by the Adams brothers. The finest buildings in the town, however, are those of Christ's Hospital, in Fore Street which are largely modern, and the newly-completed County Hall, standing on high ground in the southern part of the borough. Christ's Hospital was the first public school for girls to be founded in this country and it is now a model of its kind. Haileybury College, one of the best known boys' public schools in England, lies in extensive grounds about three miles from Hertford, at Hertford Heath. On the outskirts of Hertford also is "Goldings," a large country house which has been converted into one of Dr. Barnardo's Homes for Boys.
Within the borough, at Bengeo, is St. Leonard's Church, an unusually interesting little Norman building, reached over the stream-enclosed Hartham Common and the fir-covered hillside known as The Warren. The other churches in Hertford are largely modern, and of only moderate interest, although at All Saint's there is a well-known gravestone in the churchyard — to Sarah Young, "a Pious Christian — and 38 years so Kind and Loving a Wife as Never gave her Husband An Angry Word."
Within a few miles of Hertford are some of the most interesting places in the county : Widford with its associations of Charles Lamb; Arnwell with those of Izaak Walton; and Queen Hoo Hall, once a hunting lodge of Queen Elizabeth and the scene of one of Scott's romances.
Hitchin is a busy old-fashioned market town in the northern part of the county close to the Bedfordshire boundary. It is about 15 miles north of St. Albans, through Wheathampstead, and about thirty-five miles through St. Albans to Hyde Park. The town is picturesquely situated in a valley watered by the little river Hiz, and it is well known for its fragrant lavender plantations which occupy the hill-slopes to the south-east. The town, indeed, is encircled by hills on every side except the north, for it lies beneath the north-east edge of the Chilterns, and their high chalk hills and wooded combes are in pleasant contrast to the rather flat country to the north.
By both road and rail, Hitchin is in direct line of communication. It is on the main line of the L.N.E.R. from King's Cross Station; the distance, thirty-two miles, is covered by a frequent service, many trains accomplishing the journey in thirty-seven minutes. Hitchin is also the railway junction for Cambridge and the Fen country, and it is linked to Bedford and the L.M.S. system. There is also an excellent system of short and long distance bus services, which provide speedy connections with all the outlying towns and villages as well as more remote parts of the country.
The town is clean and pleasant, wearing the groomed appearance of a place efficiently managed by a progressive public authority, and the broad main streets — Bancroft Street is one of the widest in the country — have an attractive air of antiquity.
The water supply, of which there are ample reserves for all purposes, as well as the electricity supply, which is obtained from the Northmet Power Company, are under the control of the Urban Council, but gas is supplied by the Tottenham and District Gas Company. Public services are modern and the town enjoys a high standard of health. The surroundings too are healthy and picturesque.
Hitchin is mainly a residential town and as such has developed to a marked degree those amenities more particularly associated with the residential as opposed to the industrial centre. It is well endowed with open spaces and recreation grounds. Of the latter, Bancroft Recreation Ground is perhaps the most popular, and ample provision is made here for tennis players and bowlers, with a bandstand for music during the summer. But Hitchin, for that matter, takes kindly to sport and recreation of all kinds, so that those who want to follow hounds have ample opportunity of doing so, as the Hertfordshires, Puckeridges and Cambridgeshires, meet frequently in the neighbourhood. Cricket, football, hockey and indeed all organized games, are represented by good amateur clubs, while golfers have two excellent sporting courses within easy reach of the town.
Hitchin is very old and has had an interesting history. Roman relics have proved that there was a town of considerable importance on the site during the Occupation. Its name is not known, but it was doubtless the Hicce of Saxon days, where Offa lived in royal splendour while awaiting the completion of his castle four miles away. After this time the manor of Hitchin changed hands frequently, and was at one time the property of the kings of England — Henry VIII, alone, made a present of it to three of his queens. Hitchin has also had its share of distinguished — and notorious — residents. George Chapman, the translator of Homer's Iliad, is known to have completed this work at Hitchin, but the story which gives the town as his birthplace is mere conjecture. The notorious Eugene Aram, executed for murder, was tutor at a school in Golden Square — after the crime was committed, but before his arrest; and Sir Henry Bessemer, whose name is inseparably associated with steel, was a native of Charlton in the parish of Hitchin.
There is a great deal of interest to see in the town. The spacious thirteenth-century church in particular, is noteworthy, for it contains what is believed to be a genuine Rubens — a painting of the Adoration of the Magi. A slab which has come to be known as the "freemason" tile is another rarity; of fourteenth-century date, it depicts a primitively sketched workman who, according to modern masons, is giving the sign of the craftsmen in the second degree. Under the chancel is a crypt, said to have been used as a prison for royalists during the Commonwealth.
Close to the church are the Biggin almshouses, still preserving some of the old fabric of a fourteenth-century Gilbertine nunnery. The quaint little houses are built around a quadrangle, and some of their rooms have painted panels, one bearing the date 1585. In Bridge Street the Priory, a private residence, occupies the site of a Carmelite monastery.
From an industrial aspect Hitchin is of growing importance and the Council has made provision in its town planning schemes for the erection of factories upon suitable sites and of a character not likely to have an adverse reaction upon the residential amenities of the town. The existing industries, which are of considerable importance and magnitude, include the manufacture of agricultural implements, engineering, the production of metallic powders, medicines and chemicals, bacon curing, tanning, joinery products, glove-making, and lavender distilling, for which Hitchin has long been famous and which is the basis of its most important industry — the making of lavender water and soap. In July and August the lavender covered hill slopes around the town add very considerably to its charm.
Unlike the famous Topsy, Letchworth did not "just grow"; it was planned, carefully and minutely, down to the very last detail, before even the first brick was laid. Letchworth was the first venture in systematic town planning, and, in its present form, has only been in existence since 1903, although the original village dates at least from Norman times and its little twelfth-century church is still in use. At the end of the nineteenth century the population numbered little more than it did in those far-off times — about four hundred people lived in the three tiny villages of Letchworth, Norton and Willian. About this time Ebenezer Howard's book — published in 1898 under the title of To-morrow and reprinted later as Garden Cities of To-morrow — began to receive attention. This book advocated the building of an entirely new type of residential and industrial town, with separate areas for dwelling houses, business houses, factories and workshops, and encircled by a belt of open country to be retained as a "rural lung."
As a result of this, First Garden City Limited was formed in September, 1903, to create a town for the benefit of the community; an estate within reasonable distance of London was bought, plans were prepared, and one month later the first sod of the new town was cut by Earl Grey in the middle of the estate.
Letchworth is a new town, for it bears little resemblance to the tiny village it has supplanted. It is convenient, clean and well-cared-for, with no slums and a carefully designed lay-out which is still adhered to when new buildings are erected. The town was planned to accommodate ultimately a population of from 35,000 to 50,000 inhabitants, separate zones being allocated for a shopping centre, a civic centre, residential areas and an industrial area. Norton and Willian are tiny villages, and their charm has been preserved by their inclusion in the rustic belt. The population is about 19,000.
In planning the town all types of overcrowding were avoided, and large spaces right in the centre of the town have been left open, so that as Letchworth increases in size public buildings can be erected in prominent positions.
The roads are wide and lined with trees and grass verges, and the rose hedges which border many of them have become a distinctive feature of Letchworth. The houses are attractive and pleasantly varied in style, and their position is largely determined by their value. All of them are surrounded by large gardens, ranging from one-twelfth of an acre to two acres, according to the size of the house; in addition, there are many recreation grounds and, surrounding all, the agricultural belt, about three thousand acres in extent.
One of the famous homes of England is Letchworth Hall, built by Sir William Lytton in 1625. A charming Jacobean Manor House, with some fine oak work and still bearing the Lytton Arms on its south side, it has been carefully but completely modernized and is now a licensed, first-class hotel. Standing in the finely timbered grounds of Letchworth Park, with two hard and two grass tennis courts, a croquet lawn and two standard squash racquet courts, and adjoining an 18-hole golf course, it is an ideal resort for mind and body. An illustrated brochure will be sent by the Manageress on request. The hotel is owned by First Garden City Ltd.
Letchworth has a large open-air swimming pool, surrounded by a sun-bathing beach; 300 acres of parks and open spaces in which other outdoor sports are equally well provided for, and there are two cinemas, a theatre and a number of public halls where concerts and entertainments are frequently staged. In addition, there are many social and educational societies with a wide range of activities. In the matter of education Letchworth is no less enterprising, and among its excellent schools it numbers a Grammar School and one of the leading co-educational establishments in the country. The commercial area has 192 shops, which include seventeen of the best known multiple firms in the country.
Letchworth is also an active industrial town, though this fact is not immediately apparent to the casual visitor. It possesses over 216 factories and workshops, with a very wide range of industries employing about 12,000 people; and under the zoning system the factories — which in most cases stand in spacious and attractively-laid-out grounds — are confined to two clearly defined areas, where they are out of sight and hearing of those living in the quieter residential districts. For his work in connection with Letchworth, Ebenezer Howard received a knighthood — which may be accepted as a national appreciation of his work. There is a memorial stone to the founder in Howard Park.
Radlett is a modern residential place on the track of the great Roman highway from London to St. Albans, known as Watling Street, about two miles north by west from Elstree, well known as the British centre of film production. It is 15 miles by rail from St. Pancras, and besides the frequent service from that station there are also fast trains from Moorgate Street station in the heart of the City — a convenience which facilitates travelling for a great many business people who find it more attractive and healthy to live in this charming country place, amidst peaceful and pleasant surroundings, than in London.
It is essentially modern and residential, catering for select residents who appreciate the advantages of a picturesquely situated place sited high in lovely surroundings. Many new houses have been erected in the neighbourhood to meet with the demand for more accommodation in recent years. The houses are of the better class design and workmanship, equipped with the very latest modern labour-saving fittings. It enjoys the benefit of efficient public services, gas being supplied by the Watford and St. Albans Gas Company, electricity by the Watford Corporation and water by the Colne Valley Water Company.
It is obviously largely a product of modern development. There are no antiquarian interests of any kind, even the parish church was built as late as 1864 and enlarged in 1907. Although it is almost certain the Romans knew the place, and their legions marched many a time through what is now the main street — still called Watling Street — there is a record of only one Roman find of any consequence in the place — a potter's kiln which was unearthed here in 1898.
Finally, as befitting a purely residential district, the shopping facilities are of the best, special attention is paid to the promotion of outdoor and indoor recreation of all kinds and there are also excellent educational facilities with ample provision for the practice of their religion for Church of England, Nonconformist and Roman Catholic communions.
The south~west corner of Hertfordshire thrusts a long arm between Middlesex and Buckinghamshire. Rickmansworth occupies the head of the "peninsula," and its boundaries adjoin both counties — Middlesex on the east, Buckinghamshire on the west. It is a busy and pleasant little residential town, and its centre has been built round the crossing of two important thoroughfares — the main roads from Slough to St. Albans and from Harrow to Berkhamsted. Its convenient situation, its admirable rail service — it is within half an hour of the metropolis — and the fact that it lies in pleasant country, has made it one of the most popular residential centres north of London. Before this development it had for some time been a moderately busy agricultural and industrial town, but this aspect has recently been declining in importance, although one of its oldest trades — the manufacture of paper — is still in a flourishing condition.
The older parts of Rickmansworth lie in the hollow of the hills, but the newer residential areas have chiefly been concentrated on the slopes of the surrounding heights, some two to four hundred feet above sea-level. The atmosphere is dry and bracing and exceedingly healthy and the surrounding country is charming, characterized by beech woods, gorse and bracken-clad commons, gentle hills, leafy winding lanes, and meadow-bordered streams.
One of the most pleasant features of Rickmansworth is its situation near to many little rivers. There are the Chess, the Colne and the Gade, all flowing near the centre of the town — one of them nearly encloses the partly fifteenth-century vicarage, believed to be the oldest in Hertfordshire. Then there is the Grand Union Canal, sufficiently rural to be picturesque, and — for more sophisticated tastes — the Aquadrome, a large sheet of water, made up of Batchworth and Bury Lakes, popular with swimmers and anglers.
The old part of Rickmansworth is chiefly confined to one long, narrow street, and it still retains a quaint, rather old-fashioned air, in spite of the developments which have taken place on the outskirts. As might be expected, in the High Street are some of the most interesting buildings in the town. Basing House, now the offices of the Rickmansworth Council, was for the first five years of his married life the home of William Penn, the Quaker; The Limes was once the residence of Gerald Massey, the barge-boy poet and well-known Egyptologist; while The Elms was for some years the home of George Eliot. In the High Street, on the front of the Woolworth premises, is a memorial stone, recording the erection of some almshouses on that site in the seventeenth century.
Few towns can offer the equal of the parks, common lands and recreation grounds of Rickmansworth. Aggregating 650 acres, including three golf courses at Moor Park (one a public course) acquired by the Council for all time, they are a great asset to the district, In addition, the popular Sandy Lodge Golf course is within the boundaries of the Urban District.
Rickmansworth Park, is the site of the Masonic School for Girls, whose large buildings, designed on the most modern lines, have been erected in recent times. Nearby, in equally large grounds, are the imposing new Merchant Taylors' School buildings. The fact that Rickmansworth was chosen as the site of both these schools when moved from London is a tribute to the healthy climate of the district.
St. Albans is one of the most ancient places in England and it has certainly had a more eventful history than any other town in Hertfordshire. Before the coming of the Romans the Belgic king Tasciovanus had built his capital near the site of the later Verulamium. After the Roman Conquest of A.D. 43, a new city was built on which the high rank of municipium was conferred. Destroyed by Boadicea in A.D.61, it was rebuilt in stone in the second century, and remained the third largest city of Roman Britain. About A.D. 303 St. Alban was put to death for espousing Christianity. In 793, three centuries after the Roman city had fallen into decay, Offa of Mercia built a monastery on the site of the martyrdom of Alban, and around this grew up the city of St. Alban.
That, very briefly, is the early history of the old city, in mediæval days a celebrated pilgrim shrine and today a lively industrial and residential centre with a wealth of associations, and a great many old buildings which give it a veritable air. The Old Fighting Cocks Inn, indeed, is reputed to be the oldest licensed house in England.
Chief among St. Albans' treasures is its cathedral, which not only has the longest Gothic nave in the world and the tallest lancet window in the country, but still possesses the reconstructed shrine of St. Amphibalus, for whose sake St. Alban was martyred, a Norman tower built of Roman bricks, and a great many more details of interest. St. Michael's Church contains the famous monument to England's former Lord Chancellor and philosopher, the great Francis Bacon, who lived nearby at Gorhambury.
The other "sights" include the Abbey Gate House and Wax House Gate; the Clock Tower, which contains the city curfew bell; Bleak House, reputed to be the Dickensian original; St. Stephen's Church ; Bernard's Heath, where the second battle of St. Albans was fought, and the ruins of Sopwell Convent, traditionally the scene of Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn.
A little west of St. Albans lie the ruins of Verulamium, extending over 200 acres. Here can be seen the only Roman theatre in Britain, while much remains of the city walls and gates. Several fine mosaic pavements are in the Verulamium Museum, and another, complete with central heating, is preserved in situ.
Ware is the centre of the malting industry in Hertfordshire, and in consequence a conspicuous feature of this animated town is the number of drying kilns, with their characteristic cowls. Its industrial activity is, however, not solely confined to brewing — for it boasts important engineering works, food product factories, and one of the first buildings noticed on approaching the town from London is the envelope factory of Ware Valley Mills. The presence of these flourishing industries does not, however, detract from the town's development as a residential centre, for it possesses intrinsic merits which claim recognition.
Ware is surrounded by beautiful country; it possesses modern amenities and up-to-date public services; its standard of health is above suspicion and it is singularly free from epidemic disease, and since it is within easy reach of London it has attracted attention and popularity as a place of residence. Property development has taken place in recent years and many charming new houses have been built upon good sites.
The town, which is ancient and historical, is a pleasant place with narrow winding streets and a bright and breezy air. Most of the houses have an old-fashioned appearance, due to the upper storey projecting over the lower one. Its attractiveness is heightened by the picturesque "backs" which overlook the navigable river Lea. The inhabitants of Ware make the most of their river. Many houses on its banks have rooms built over the stream; rowing boats are moored to small landing stages; children sail their boats on it; and patient anglers fish from the tow-path. It is not suitable for swimming, but this is of no consequence, for Ware possesses a large and up-to-date swimming pool, surrounded by sunbathing decks. This pool lies in the grounds of Ware Priory, an historic old building which is now the property of the council.
Ware Park, lying between Ware and Hertford, has been acquired, together with the mansion, by the Hertfordshire County Council and converted into a hospital for tuberculosis cases.
The Johnny Gilpin Inn recalls memories of Cowper's hero, who, wishing to ride to Edmonton, was reluctantly carried on to Ware. Pepys came here, also on horseback, several times, once with his wife, but their adventures were hardly as spectacular as John Gilpin's.
The Great Bed of Ware, referred to by Shakespeare and capable of sleeping twelve people, unfortunately left its home town many years ago. At one time it occupied a room at Rye House, Hoddesdon, and later on, it was for a period in the Saracen's Head Hotel, Ware. It is now on view at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and it bears the date 1453.
The most remarkable fact about Watford has been its phenomenal growth from the middle of the nineteenth century. Although it came into existence first in Saxon times and has continued to be a populated centre ever since, it was regarded as of little or no importance either in history or industry until the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1850, the town consisted of one long street and the population numbered no more than six thousand inhabitants. In 1880, the number of inhabitants had risen to about ten thousand. In 1882, the area of the district, being then 530 acres, was increased to 871 acres, and in consequence at the next census in 1891 we find that the population had increased by seven thousand to seventeen thousand. By the time the twentieth century opened it showed a surprising growth, for in 1902 the population was nearly thirty thousand. In the census of 1931 it had risen to 56,805 and it is now estimated to have increased to nearly 66,000 and is the largest town in Hertfordshire. As may be expected with increased population the town has expanded in all directions, and the High Street, the oldest part of it, has become a busy thoroughfare lined with modern shops and multiple stores, and as a sign of the times, two cinemas. The majority of the other premises were erected in recent times, and many blocks of buildings are of quite remarkably imposing appearance.
Radiating for several miles from the High Street in every direction, new districts have grown up and in recent years housing development has proceeded to keep pace with Watford's ever-increasing population. A great many people have settled in Watford solely because of its residential amenities, to which must be added the powerful incentive of its ease of access to London. A large number, too, have been drawn to Watford's many industries, which are numerous and flourishing enough to employ a large number of executives who find adequate accommodation in pleasant surroundings in the town or its immediate neighbourhood. These industries cover a wide variety of activities, chief of which are brewing, printing, photographic work, and engineering.
One of Watford's best assets from a residential point of view is its beautiful situation in the Colne Valley, just north of the Middlesex border, about 3 miles north-west of Bushey and about two north-east of Rickmansworth. Its surroundings are very charming, and despite the contiguity of modern developments, of quite a rustic character, abounding in woodlands and wide stretches of parkland. The climate is of a healthy bracing nature, and the public services are operated efficiently and with an appreciation of modern requirements.
Watford is well planned, and has developed upon spacious lines, with broad residential thoroughfares, and for a number of years now has been regarded as the shopping centre of Hertfordshire, Its civic status is that of a municipal borough, having received its charter of incorporation in 1922. It is governed by a Town Council consisting of ten aldermen and thirty councillors presided over by the Mayor.
It is of course appropriate that the largest town in Hertfordshire should possess an imposing Town Hall and a set of municipal buildings. Happily this is an accomplished fact and the present buildings were opened as recently as the 5th January, 1940. The main entrance faces the round-about which the assembly hall is nearby, with a separate entrance in Rickmansworth Road. The hall has seating accommodation on the floor for 1,300 people and a further 300 in the gallery. It has been designed primarily for music and dancing and general meetings. A refreshment room or small banqueting hall with kitchen service adjoins the assembly hall. The total cost of the assembly hall and municipal buildings will be approximately £186,000.
The Corporation is responsible for the operation and administration of most of the public services. These include the water undertaking, with an area of supply of over 6 square miles, and electricity with a distributive area of nearly 100 square miles. Under the supervision of the borough Medical Officer, the Corporation has instituted very efficient health services and organized five infant welfare centres of which every advantage is taken by mothers and expectant mothers. The fire brigade is also maintained by the Corporation together with ambulances. These services have, of course, been considerably augmented to meet Home Office requirements as part of the scheme of National Defence. As regards housing, the Corporation has played its part in the provision of workers' houses, and at the present time owns no less than 1729 houses, while a comprehensive scheme of slum clearance has also been carried out.
Other property of the Corporation includes two public libraries, a car park, technical instruction centre, public market, new swimming and slipper baths and children's paddling pool, and the West Herts Golf Course.
Watford has a quick, frequent and comfortable train service. The lines to London have been electrified, and fast trains complete the seventeen and a half miles journey to Euston in twenty-one minutes. Altogether Watford is served by five railway stations, and it is said to boast the fastest suburban railway service in the world.
Most of the lines have extensive sidings, which various industrial firms have been quick to make use of, while the Grand Union Canal, which passes through Cassiobury Park, is also available for the transport of merchandise. Watford Market, which dates from at least the early twelfth century, is still held, though no longer on its old site; until 1928 it had always been accommodated in the High Street, but Watford has become such a large and busy town that it was found necessary to move it to a new site where traffic would not be impeded by the crowds gathered round the stalls.
Although Watford is chiefly a product of the last century several buildings which give some hint of its great age still remain scattered here and there throughout the town. The parish church of St. Mary, for instance, dates from the end of the twelfth century, although it was thoroughly restored in the nineteenth century. With its Katherine and Essex Chapels it forms a large and imposing structure. The grave of Robert Clutterbuck, the Hertfordshire historian, is in the churchyard, and there is also an interesting altar tomb out of which a fig-tree is growing, The rest of the churches are modern and some of them are very well designed — the Roman Catholic church in Market Street in particular, whose plans were drawn up by J. F. Bentley, the architect of Westminster Cathedral. Opposite the parish church of St. Mary are some Elizabethan almshouses erected in 1580; and there is also the fine Queen Anne Free School, built in 1704. Monmouth House and The Platts, dating from the sixteenth century and built by Robert Carey, Earl of Monmouth, also remain, but neither of these buildings is in its original state, both having been restored and converted into business premises.
Near the station is the London Orphan School (now Reed's School), opened in 1871, and accommodating some hundreds of children.
Either in the town or immediately adjoining the borough boundary are public parks and recreation grounds, which, with the recent purchases of Whippendell Wood and part of the Langleybury Estate and with various commons and open spaces belonging to the Corporation, have a total of over a thousand acres. Of these, Cassiobury Park, once the property of the Earls of Essex, is the largest, comprising over four hundred and fifty acres of beautiful and well-wooded parkland in a state of good preservation. The pretty river Gade runs through the grounds, which are laid out with an 18-hole golf course, let to the West Herts Golf Club, and there is also provision for football, cricket, tennis on both hard and grass courts, and bowls. Oxhey Park is situated upon the banks of the river Colne. The covered swimming baths are off Hempstead Road, and they were the first in the country to be heated by electricity. Opposite the Swimming Bath in Hempstead Road is the Central Library, while a Branch Library was opened in 1937 in St. Albans Road, in North Watford.
On the outskirts of Watford is Cassiobridge, noted for its watercress, which is grown in enclosures resembling reservoirs, There are several other places of great interest within easy distance of the town — Bedmond, near Abbots Langley, was the birthplace of Nicholas Brakspear, who, as Adrian IV, was the only Englishman to ascend the papal throne. Boreham Wood, the "English Hollywood" and Elstree, a few miles east of Watford, are of great interest for their vast film studios, but it is not, of course, easy to gain admittance to them.
Welwyn Garden City was begun in 1920 and in planning it, its creators took advantage of every idea which had already been tested out in the erection of other garden cities. It is an attractive and up-to-date model residential and industrial town, characterised by modern houses, factories, shops and park-ways, and developed in accordance with a complete plan for a town of fifty thousand inhabitants. As its population is now on the fifteen thousand mark it will be some years before the town is fully developed.
People from all countries have studied Welwyn Garden City's famous town plan. It provides for the strict zoning of land for different purposes — one zone for residence, one for trading, another for industry and another for open spaces. The natural contours of the site, moreover, have been taken into consideration in planning the lay-out, and every house has been designed on the principle that homes should be good to look at as well as to live in. Inside they are equally well-planned — to make the most of sun and air and to demand the least amount of housework. Those who prefer flats are not asked to live in converted houses; the principal block, Guessens Court, was built especially for the purpose. The apartments — let both furnished and unfurnished — surround a garden quadrangle and there is a restaurant on the premises.
One of the most refreshing features of Welwyn Garden City is the way in which all new buildings are harmonized both with existing buildings and with natural features. As a result every part of the town is not only planned for convenience, but its whole appearance is pleasant and there is no overcrowding.
There is another way in which Welwyn Garden City scores on account of its carefully arranged plan. It is both town and country. It has all the advantages one expects from the former — good and cheap public services, a variety of shops, schools and amusements, and a vigorous social life; it has, too, certain advantages not always found in towns — central gardens, and individual street planting and gardening. But it also retains what most people seek in the country — natural beauty, spaciousness and airiness — for no building is allowed to shut in neighbouring ones — and easy access to unspoilt country. Actually within the town area are open fields and extensive natural woodlands — notably Sherrards Park Wood — while it is immediately surrounded by a belt of park and agricultural land which will be preserved for ever. As for the situation of the town itself, it lies on a southerly slope high up between the charming valleys of the rivers Lee and Mimram, in the most beautiful part of Hertfordshire. Within five or ten minutes of any part of the town is open country, yet London is less than thirty minutes away by fast train. The rail service is excellent, and facilities for road travel are equally good. The town is approached by either the Great North Road or the Barnet By-pass, and there is a half-hourly service of fast coaches from London as well as frequent ones to other parts of the county.
Residents will find that all of Welwyn Garden City's amenities are on a similar high level. There are clubs for practically every kind of sport, including tennis, golf — the 18-hole course lies between the residential area and Brocket Park — cricket, hockey, both codes of football, "Sticky," badminton, fencing swimming, boxing, running and gymnastics. Hunting is available with both the Hertfordshire and the Puckeridge Foxhounds, and Welwyn Garden City possesses a riding school where hunters may be hired. Dry fly fishing can be obtained at the Digswell Fisheries in Digswell Park, and as for swimming, there is a new pool in Lee Valley at the end of Handside Lane and another one at "The Clock" Road House; in Digswell Park is a pool for the use of the Conference House, whose name suggests its use.
Clubs exist for every purpose apart from sports — for arts and crafts, for chess, bridge and dancing, for music, drama, politics and education. Dramatic and operatic societies are particularly numerous.
Welwyn Garden City is, of course, also important as a modern centre for industry although strict zoning makes it impossible for commerce to spoil the residential amenities The factories are of the latest designs, and they have been built in rural surroundings. Houses for the workpeople have been built nearby, and, needless to say, there are no slums The railway line forms the frontier of this zone, cutting it off from the shopping and residential areas. The factories, both English and foreign, manufacture a large variety of articles and many of their patented names are household words.
On the Great North Road By-pass, about three miles from the garden city, is Welwyn proper, from which the new town took its name. It is a much smaller place, with a population of under four thousand, although it is a rapidly growing district and many attractive building estates have lately been laid out a little to the north. It is a very charming little town, retaining some Tudor and Queen Anne houses, and some old-fashioned inns that enjoyed great prosperity in the old coaching days. The handsome old parish church is the burial place of Dr. Edward Young, the author of Night Thoughts.
Arthur J. Howard, F.S.I., F.A.I, Auctioneer and Estate Agent, who has a special knowledge of the town's development since its inception, will be pleased to send on request a booklet dealing with the the amenities of Welwyn, in which there are residences to suit all tastes, both in the town and surrounding country. [written in 1940]
old advertisements from the handbook