Random reports of holes have probably appeared in various locations for as long as it has been worthwhile reporting them. Last week it was the turn of Oaklands where, rather worryingly, a large hole opened up beneath the foundations of Cedar Court, just east of Longacres. Speculation that it was the result of digging clay for the nearby brickworks (on the site of the modern Marconi estate) can, I think be discounted, as Hardy House*, which previously occupied the Cedar Court site, was also constructed without its builders being aware of fill material, often including rubbish.
A clue might be in the name of the Hill End Farm field on which later developments were built: Chalk Dell Field. Small chalk pits were common in the area, and men employed to dig out the chalk for liming fields. They were generally not very deep and early pits may have been gradually filled by the soil lying nearby.
What is of concern, whatever the cause (and it definitely wasn't heavy rains this time), the bottom of the hole would have been twice as deep as it appears today by peering in, as the soil and subsoil had fallen into a void below.
We will all be intrigued to discover more details about the Cedar Court hole, especially the residents whose homes hover over the newly opened space.
*Hardy House was built (number 420 Hatfield Road) c1920 for Mr A H Farrington, occupied c1930 by Lt Col H M Maxwell, before the Chippington family moved in and opened their chicken farm, from where many local residents purchased chicks or adult birds for their garden hen houses. The wide plot was sold for development in the late 1960s.
The former house, shop and nursery next to St Paul's Church was begun by Frank Sear in 1899. He was later joined by Thomas W Carter and his wife, Ada. Although Thomas was initially successful in deferring conscription, he was eventually called up for service in the closing months of World War One; a few days before the Armistice an injury necessitated amputation of his right leg. The business was taken over by their children following the parents' deaths in 1935.
In Victorian times the district was full of small nurseries, supplying the requirements, initially, of residents of St Albans having gardens and at least a modest additional income to spend on them. Sometimes the nursery proprietor dealt, not with the property owner, but his gardener.
Thomas Carter was listed as a nurseryman. He lived in Lyme Regis, Dorset, though he was a Devon man, born in 1852. He married Ellen Mears from Poyle, but he clearly had no intention to staying close to his roots, for, by 1911 the couple were living in Boston, Lincolnshire.
There were four children, Alice and Mary, Thomas William and Charles. Thomas Wiliam married Ada Grace in 1909, where he was engaged as a nursery foreman.
Meanwhile, the youngest child, Charles Mears Carter, followed a rather different occupation, for the 1911 census informs us that he was an engineer in Northampton. It is, of course, quite probable that his chosen branch was agricultural engineering, but, in any case he developed an interest in motor vehicles.
His brother, Thomas W, had told him of opportunities in a young district on the east side of St Albans. So, around 1930 Charles Mears Carter and his wife, Frances Daisy, came to Fleetville and lived in the house which today is sandwiched by City Glass on the one side (on the corner with Harlesden Road) and Aerial Installations. In Charles Mears Day they were both grocer’s shops.
Opposite was a plot of land in front of the school, which was about to be sold off. Charles purchased it and built a car repair business under the name C M Carter, and which also dispensed petrol. After WW2 the business was sold to Alfred Hobbs – the same family who also developed the business of Tractor Shafts (later renamed Smallford Planters) at Smallford. The Carter/Hobbs garage site is now Kwik Fit.
There is another family associated with our Carters. John Sear, a gardener, and his wife brought up their four children at Lemsford, nar Hatfield. Second child, Frank, was born in 1866, and like his father worked for several of the property owners in that district, learning his trade, no doubt in the company of his father.
Frank sought to become independent, and with his wife, Elizabeth, moved to St Albans in 1899, acquiring a detached house in Hatfield Road. The left side was their living accommodation and they developed the right side as a shop, selling seeds and bulbs, together with gardening accessories, for other newcomers who wished to tend their own gardens. More importantly, there was a triangular plot behind, which was difficult to allocate for housing. Frank and Elizabeth, therefore, purchased this and used it as a nursery, naming it after the collection of earlier fields nearby, called Ninefields. Since his little nursery here was rather small, other small plots were also acquired in order to grow on plants and shrubs.
Sear was joined by Thomas William Carter. It would be interesting to know how these two men met. Thomas would have been very much the junior partner, being 20 years younger. Nevertheless, the sign above the door was changed to Sear and Carter. Together, the two men expanded the firm, and created a contracts department; instead of householders employing their own gardeners, or individuals touting their skills among the rural houses, Sear and Carter advertised contracts. They also negotiated contracts with the city council, and were contracted to maintain Hatfield Road Cemetery, opposite the shop.
Following Sear’s retirement Ada and Thomas Carter continued to run the thriving business until their deaths in 1935. The business was taken on by the children, Evelyn, Marjorie, Grace and Roger.
St Albans District Council compulsorily purchased the premises in 1960 to enable the building of St Paul’s Place. However, the business moved to nursery land at Smallford, and in 1968 was sold to Notcutts Garden Centres.
Top: House and shop conversion in the 1920s; above family Sunbeam car in 1925, family aboard. Photos courtesy Mark Carter.
William Grace was not really a sweet shop man. His first love was aircraft, and moved to Stanmore, close to the de Havilland Aircraft Company's works at Stag Lane, Hendon. He was still there when the firm moved to Hatfield. As a production manager throughout World War Two and sustained injuries during bombing of the factory, Bill decided to retire with his wife Clarice, to a much quieter line of work. This is where the sweet shop comes into the story – Grace's.
The following text appears courtesy of Ian Grace, the younger son of William (Bill) Grace who owned and ran the sweet shop in Bycullah Terrace, Fleetville.
Bill Grace was born in Tottenham in 1903, around ten months before the Wright brothers flew. Just seven years later Alliot Verdon Roe flew his AVROE triplane over Tottenham Marshes.
His father returned injured from the First War, but was never able to work again, so Bill had to leave school at 13 to support his mother and three siblings with various jobs, including milk rounds and at tram depots.
In 1920 Bill became an early apprentice at new de Havilland Aircraft Company, Stag Lane, Hendon. Early orders were slow, but when its first aircraft, the Moth, became available that all changed. Bill worked on the Gipsy engines.
Suburban housing quickly surrounded the site in the late 20s, curtailed expansion and increased the risk of flying out of the Stag Lane site. With order books booming for several types of aircraft, the company purchased the flying club at Hatfield Harpsfield, and moved most departments in 1934 and 1935. Bill moved to Hatfield with the company.
As is known the company developed the wooden fighter DH98 Mosquito. Bill applied for admission to the RAF but was turned down because of the critical nature of his work as Superintendent of Stores – all components and materials passed through his hands.
Early in the war Bill was admitted to hospital at Edgware with a ruptured appendix; one of his carers was Nurse Clarice Usher. Clarice and Bill married in 1942!
Back to October 3rd 1940 when a bomb raid killed a number of employees and destroyed the entire production components for the first fifty Mosquitos. Bill was injured as he was send flying by blast from a bomb on that day. He sustained lung damage.
Until they married Bill remained at Stanmore, although he sometimes used a room at the Stone House hotel in Hatfield, opposite the works. Then they moved to a bungalow in Radlett. When DH’s laid off large numbers of employees they moved to Hatfield Road, Fleetville in 1946. Although he never learned to fly Bill and Clarice joined Elstree Flying Club as social members.
Top: Bill and Clarice Grace. Above: Bill Grace (in striped suited on the left) at a de Havilland production meeting. Photos courtesy Ian Grace.
In January 1936 the body from a murder, which had been committed in Soho, London, finished at this spot in Cell Barnes Lane. The story of what took place was told at a presentation at the St Albans & District Local History Network Conference in October 2018. Newspapers around the world reported the story.
Getting acquainted with Hill End water tower, our giant neighbour which stands astride the factory, marking its location from as far afield as Sleepy Hyde and Colemans Green.
Approaching the factory from Hatfield Road, the water tower seems to be part of the Works. In fact it stands well beyond the factory, across the railway and within the grounds of Hill End Hospital.
The tank, 120 feet up, holds 180,000 gallons of water and supplies two nearby hospitals, Tyttenhanger and several other villages.
Others are joining in with the East End conversation. Discover what they are saying. Click Your Turn below.
Highfield Park Trust now has a welcoming new headquarters and visitor centre, right next door to West Lodge, which until recently served the same purpose, but rather inadequately. The new building, which is also the new meeting place for Colney Heath Parish Council, was opened in July by St Albans' Mayor, Cllr Rosemary Farmer. The Mayor is pictured here with HPT Chair Tim Abbott at the opening ceremony.
Scouts from all over the district of St Albans.
They love to meet up every so often. Sometimes joining from other parts of the UK; at others they can shake hands with scouts all over the world.
Discover more information and a larger image; click on the red button below.
Did you attend the Chelmsford Jamboree in 2000? If so you are probably in this photograph. This is not a group (as in Scout Groups) picture but the contingent of all scouts from the St Albans District who spent a week at the event. The jamboree returns here every four years, and the next will be in 2020. Do let us know it you were there in 2000 and are in the photo, or enjoyed yourself at a more recent event.
A wide selection of activities and events takes place at the Community Centre in Royal Road. The events include a number intended to help raise funds for the future new building project.
We are sure you will enjoy the amazing array of activities.
A number of walks around the East End are arranged each year through Fleetville Diaries, the local history group, including a series of four story walks around Hatfield Road cemetery.
In addition a range of talks is available to local groups and organisations.
THE GREEN RING
Not so much an event, more an activity opportunity.
The Green Ring is now complete and six and a half miles long.
Take a walk or a cycle ride; discover where it leads.
Any time …
Photo courtesy de Havilland collection and Herts Advertiser
The very tail end of 2018 is an apposite moment to stand, figuratively speaking, in the middle of what is now Comet Way, opposite the shops of Harpsfield Parade, and recreate December in 1958.
The carriageway on the Galleria side of what was then named Barnet Bypass was new, obliterating the Stone House and the old St Albans Road into the town centre. The opposite carriageway had been new at the end of …
Wings over Hatfield (de Havilland 1958)
Former Typo (St Albans Typographical Society
Move Over (new SAOEE site)
First pictorial record (Armistice)
Moths (DH Moth models)
They recognised me (boys outside Hill End)
Behind the main road (Winches)
Platoon … as you were (Home Guard from Hatfield)
Platoon … halt (Home Guard from Hatfield
Was it that long ago? (review of 1968)
Fifty (review of 1968)
Meet me at the drill hall (signing up soldiers)
Fire, fire! Pour on water (Fire at Hill End Farm 1878)
Welcome to our new pad (Opening of Highfield Visitor Centre)
It’s in the archive (keeping the stories from Hatfield Road Cemetery)
Sweet sound (restoring a Salvation Army brass instrument)
Recollections all round (four recollections from readers)
The doorstep pint (milk deliveries)
It’s showtime (Herts County Show)
The price of coal (using the Coal Office)
We have a plan (educating Fleetville and Camp)
Fielding for free (picnic at the Barley Mow)
Educating the newcomers (Educating Fleetville and Camp 1)
Spies in Glenlyn Avenue (post-WW1 friendship visits from Germany)
Pothole alley (road maintenance)
Just dropping in (spies over our East End)
Decidedly dodgy (repairs from bomb damage)
On your bike (arriving at London Road estate)
Sweets and planes (William Grace)
Playground closed (informal play spaces)
Travelling east (Hatfield Road east)
Year’s worth of delight (Hannah Sessions calendar)
Enjoy it? It made Mondays (people who inspired us)
A Little Bit Further (extending the city limits)
Learning a Little More (Symondshyde New Village)
An anniversary for Glenferrie (centenary)
Happy birthday (109th for Fleetville School)
Give Me Some Space (improving Fleetville’s roads)
Sorry, we don’t do sliced (Morley’s bakery)
Stop Go (traffic lights)
Farming Outpost (Marshalswick Farm)
One Day We’ll Do Something About It (traffic through Fleetville)
Memory Triggered (growing up in Fleetville)
What do we know about the Mos? (DH Mosquito)
Flag waving (Green Flag Award)
All Mixed Up (Sutton Road)
Nine Nine Nine (police boxes)
Chalet Shops (by the railway station)
Portsmouth Ahoy (careers visit by Beaumont School)
Some People Like Barley Sugars (walking out in the East End)
The Lanes That Move (lane at Hill End which is no longer there)
You’ll Never Guess What, Mum (postcard photo outside Hill End gates)
Sixty Is a Memory (recollections from 1957)
Sutton Lakes (the problem of drainage)
East(er) End Roundup
Engineering In the Round (ELECO)
Converting Industrial Measures (industrial estates)
Patching Up the Past (Duisburg exchange)
No Time For a Round (Nast Hyde development)
View From the Boundary (Clarence Park cricket pavilion)
Junction By Design? (Crown junction)
Updating and Refreshing (Ellenbrook)
Oh For a Bypass (St Albans bypass)
Road With a View (Camp View Road)
A Circle Road (the ring road)
Speak or Text? (phones)
© 2018 St Albans' Own East End Mike Neighbour