|Postcard of The Brookmans Park Hotel in the 1960s|
Image from Ron Kingdon, part of the Images Of North Mymms Collection
This piece, written by Dorothy Hummerstone about her move to Brookmans Park in the 1950s, appeared in a series of articles published in successive editions of the former North Mymms Local History Society's newsletters, in December 2002, February 2003, and September 2003. We have merged the three into one feature for this site's memories section.
Early in 1954, driving through Brookmans Park we saw a pair of houses being built at the foot of Bluebridge Avenue. Although the builders had only reached the top of the ground floor we were intrigued - these houses had bays! (an impossibility during the licence period). This fact together with the field behind set the seal, this was going to be our home.
We remembered passing Brookmans Park Hotel on our way through the village advertising a restaurant serving lunch and dinner, so we decided to celebrate our decision. The restaurant proved to be in the large room behind the bar, very attractively laid out and which had quite an extensive menu served by waiters in dinner jackets.
|Postcard of Windsor's Estate Agents on Bradmore Green 1990s|
Image from the NMLHS, part of the Images Of North Mymms Collection
The sale of the houses, built by Mr Catchpole who lived in Brookmans Avenue was handled by L.G. Hall whose main office was in Potters Bar but who had an office in the 'hut' on the village green (now Windsors) and this is where we did the original negotiations. Our house would not be ready until March 1955. Three weeks before our move we experienced our first example of the service we were going to enjoy in Brookmans Park. A representative of A1 Dairies called at our home in Hornsey offering to deliver any groceries, milk etc. to our new home at lunchtime on the day of our arrival. True to their word, shortly after we arrived our groceries were delivered by Bill (who was to be our regular milkman) and he made a point of bringing to our notice the foil caps on the milk bottles. Each cap was embossed showing which of their farms supplied that particular milk, (the names Morven Farm and Home Farm come to mind). It was suggested we visit any of these farms unannounced to ensure ourselves that the animals were well cared for and that the buildings and farm machinery were in hygienic condition.
|A1 Dairies, Home Farm, Bell Bar 1990s|
Image from R Kingdon, part of the Images Of North Mymms Collection
Although the numbers of shops around the green were fewer than today - the various services were more diverse. There were no shops beyond the Regent Fruit Stores and neither were there any beyond what is now the Eye Centre. The land beyond that spot was a field occupied by Merrilegs the pony.
After a couple of days it was time to make my first foray to the village to acquaint myself with the shops. The first thing I noticed was if wearing high heels and particularly if it had been raining to walk in the road between Bluebridge Road and Moffats Lane. That short stretch of footpath was just compacted mud. To a town girl born and bred, approaching the village green for the first time was a wonderful sight - a true village green. No walls, no flower beds but two magnificent oak trees with their wide beautifully shaped limbs casting shadows on the grass. But then looking farther ahead Shock! Horror! I couldn't believe my eyes. Outside the Brookmans Park Hotel were parked, of all things quite a large number of prams, minus the babies. Visiting a pub in the middle of the morning? However, apparently the Babies Clinic was held there in one of the rooms. It was rumoured that this clinic must be the only place in the country where young fathers were quite happy to go to collect for their children the National Dried Milk, orange juice and cod liver oil supplied free by the Ministry of Health.
There were three greengrocers, the Regent Fruit Stores, Ken Lewsleys (now the pet shop) and another immediately opposite at the bus stop although this was only there for a short while after we arrived, when it became a shop selling leather goods. There were three grocers, Rawlings (now Statons), Green Stores (now Andrew Ward) and the UK Stores (now Face and Figure). Next to Ken Lewsleys was a baker's which became Candies owned by Dick and Millie Harmer. Next to Candies was a haberdasher's owned for a short while by Mrs Jennings. During her ownership a morning nursery school was held above the shop by Mrs Coleman. When the shop changed hands Mrs Coleman ran her school for ten children at the home of each child, a week at a time. At the change the shop became Berrymans. My memory of Mr Berryman was their annual sale. No buying in, just a standard percentage off all stock. I think for two weeks then back to the standard price.
The Cafe was run by two ladies who served beautiful home cooked lunches. Finally in this block was a children's clothes shop, owned by Miss J Dudley, who also handmade some of the most exquisite girl's dresses herself.
|Postcard of Bradmore Green, Brookmans Park, looking south east|
Image from Ron Kingdon, part of the Images Of North Mymms Collection
Crossing the road on the corner (now Raj Tandoori) was an electrical shop owned by Mr and Mrs Maas, selling televisions, lamp shades and LPs etc. Then came Rawlings the grocers and then a dress shop, here the owner suggested you took home any dress you liked to try with accessories to see if it suited (you were never asked for a deposit, you were trusted). The two shops on the corner were owned by Archie Copeman who ran the confectioner's and newspaper shop and Doris his wife, who ran the hairdresser's. Adjoining 'Archie' in Brookmans Avenue was a car showroom with a garage repair shop and petrol pumps completed the block.
Opposite the garage, was a chemist then owned by Brian's parents Mr and Mrs Coombes. What is now Alldays was in fact, two separate shops. Next to the chemist was an open-fronted fresh fish shop where Doris imaginatively displayed fresh and shellfish on very large marble slabs. She also offered a further service. For special celebrations she would order for customers a cake made entirely from ice cream, from Borehamwood, suitably decorated. Next door was Duncum's the butcher's. Children loved visiting here because 'Uncle Stan' never failed to produce a sweet from under the counter. In addition to fresh meat they sold pies made and baked behind the shop. Their game pies made to order, were truly prizewinning. I recall on at least three occasions seeing silver cups won at various food exhibitions. Next came Green's the grocers, then after the library, a shop selling and repairing shoes and finally Regent Fruit Stores.
On the corner of Peplins Way was a DIY shop, later taken over by Tycon. Next was a toy shop, the Post Office cum paper shop, and a hairdresser's, one side for ladies run by Margaret and another for the gentlemen.
There were not so many private cars in those days (to have a garage built in Bluebridge Avenue cost an extra £125) so public transport was essential. This comprised one bus per hour plus one steam train per hour, My outstanding memory of that bus is, if it was running early it would wait at the stop until the correct time. On one occasion running down the avenue I was amazed to see the driver look up the road, see me and wait! A few months after we arrived a Green Line was added to our service. It ran through Barnet and the West End to Dorking. For a short while no one in charge of the timetable seemed to notice that although both buses took the same route to Barnet, and although each ran once an hour they were scheduled three minutes apart.
|Ernie Wicks at Brookmans Park Station on 22 May 1969|
Ernie retired a few weeks later on June 13
Image from Ron Kingdon part of The Images of North Mymms Collection
I mentioned we had one train per hour. I am sure anyone who lived here in the middle 1950's will remember the gentleman in charge of the station. In the hour between trains he could be found in the hotel, so travellers needing their season ticket changed would give them to him there and their ticket for the journey would be ready at the ticket office on the following morning. My husband and I have very endearing memories of this gentleman. First, according to the job he was doing at the time, he changed his hat, a ticket collector when a train arrived, station master, when waving his green lamp to the driver. Only once did I see him wearing 'porter'. Our second memory is of going to the station on two or three occasions immediately after our arrival in Brookmans Park to enquire about the times of the trains leaving Kings Cross and always met with the same answer "Ooh! They don't tell me anything out here." Finally when we were at the station awaiting a train, he was already on the platform with his lamp, when a train went straight through the station on its way to Kings Cross. His face was a picture. Rushing back to the ticket office to harangue 'them' on the phone we could hear him shouting as he went 'they didn't tell me it wasn't going to stop!' Sadly while he was gone another train came in, which we boarded. Looking back we saw him hurrying back but he was too late to wave his green lamp.
While steam trains were running it was possible to walk along the line path where, about halfway along was a stile to enable people to climb the fence, cross the line and rejoin the footpath opposite to cross the field to the little bridge in Bluebridge Road. When the line was electrified it was deemed to be too dangerous to cross the railway, the trains being too quiet to warn walkers of their approach so the stile was removed.
|Moffats Farm, Moffats Lane, Brookmans Park in the 1950s|
Image from E. Stamp, part of the Images Of North Mymms Collection
When we moved into our house the land behind, now Gobions Open Space and Gobions Woodland Trust was a farm worked by Mr Canham.
His wife told me that Mr Canham's father had farmed the land before her husband and that the farm was 'leased'.
Mr Canham reared store cattle in the fields, so when our houses were built in 1955 he had a barbed wire fence erected about eight feet from our fence to protect them from any damage by his animals.
Frequently he could be seen inspecting his fence and repairing any parts slightly damaged overnight. He told us we could prevent any weeds etc. attacking our gardens from his fields by treating this strip as we wished.
Mrs Canham reared chickens and called each week selling fresh eggs. When the birds ceased to lay they were killed and sold for boiling.
When Mr Canham died his lease died with him, so Mrs Canham moved from Moffats Farmhouse, Moffats Lane into a bungalow she had built near St.Michael's chapel opposite.
For a few years she still reared chickens and sold her eggs but eventually she had to succumb to old age and cease to work.
When the farm ceased to exist the landowner rented the fields to horse owners as grazing for a while and later to a firm of garden suppliers who came periodically to lift the turves for their landscaping work.
|Newspaper cutting from the 1960s, probably the Welwyn Hatfield Times|
From The Peter Miller Collection
Bluebridge Avenue was 'opened up' at the top and this became Gobions Open Space, with a children's play area. Later still the remaining land was put up for sale, purchased by the resident's of Brookmans Park and became Gobions Woodland Trust. Whilst this land was still a farm, I recall seeing from my kitchen window an extraordinary sight. On this particular winter's day there had been an exceptionally heavy fall of snow and although looking across the fields the scene was really beautiful, the snow caused havoc.
A double-decker bus skidded across Station Road just above the junction with Bradmore Lane completely cutting off access to Brookmans Park to Welham Green and a single decker Green Line bus skidded into the ditch by Brook House and the Seal Laundry and Cleaners delivery van skidded into a hedge by Bolton's Farm so no entry into the village that way. The gradients of Brookmans Avenue and Moffats Lane were virtually impassable for cars but for a short while students from the Vet College gallantly tried to help with their tractors. However eventually they had to give up so Brookmans Park was completely cut off by road - the train being the only way out.
About lunch time looking out across the snow covered fields I saw approaching from the direction of Folly Arch what appeared to be a toy train with little low trucks, led by an adult and surrounded by several children. When this spectacle approached the gate from the fields on to Bluebridge Road at the bridge it became apparent what it was - a line of children's toboggans, tied together and loaded with crates of milk and led by Bill, our milkman. Later a little lad appeared at the door with a message from Bill and an apology from him. Would we please collect the milk from the crate at the bottom of Bluebridge Avenue. The children seemed to think it great fun, but I am not so sure about Bill. This action was typical of him.
When our daughter was approaching school age, two people called to enquire if we intended for her to attend Brookmans Park Primary School. On learning that she would be a pupil they informed us that it was the intention with the help of local residents, to build a swimming pool for the children. The local council had agreed to the project providing there was no request for public funding. Consequently a call went out for financial help and also for manual work at weekends. The council passed out the' plans and did say one of their surveyors would assist by periodically inspecting the progress made to ensure no health or safety rules were broken.
When the work was completed the pupils were encouraged but never forced to learn to swim by Mr Thomas (the senior master and deputy head to Mr Harris). Once the children could swim 25 yards they were encouraged to learn to sail at Cheshunt by Mr Thomas on Saturday mornings. A rota of parents volunteered to fill their cars with enthusiastic sailors for the journey. On becoming efficient and sensible sailors, Mr Thomas would take the children away to the Norfolk Broads for a weeks sailing during the school holidays. He really was a dedicated teacher giving up so much of his own time for the benefit of the children.
I don't know who was responsible but once the pool was finished, it was suggested local groups, organisations, churches etc. be invited to hold their summer galas, garden parties on the same day and in the school grounds, making donations to the swimming pool fund - hence Village Day.
How different and delightful life has become since we left town behind. Would we return? NEVER!