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Transcript TitleBlake, Thora (O1995.3)
IntervieweeLen Green (LG), Reg Dye (RD), Thora Blake (TB), Clara Stocks (CS
InterviewerPeter Ruffles (PR)
Transcriber byJean Riddell (Purkis)


Hertford Oral History Group

Recording no O 1995.3

Interviewees: Len Green (LG), Reg Dye (RD), Thora Blake (TB), Clara Stocks (CS), Maissie Ditton (MD)

Date: December, 1994

Venue: 62, Hertingfordbury Road, Hertford

Interviewers: Peter Ruffles (PR)

Transcriber: Jean Riddell

************** unclear recording

[discussion] untranscribed material

italics editor’s notes

Peter Ruffles was showing slides of Hertford Past.

PR: Hertingfordbury Road, the wall, Lord Salisbury's wall and land inside. Jimmy Walls had his gardens the other side, summer houses and fruit trees. He had. the iron foundry in Chambers St. The door in the wall went into the conservatory where he grew …. big gates set in recess and in recess was Holy Cross at edge of town from where Cross Lane got its name. Narrowness of 414, both houses at the end of Sele Road, to come down shortly.

CS: Shop at end of town?

PR: Nice if it was, but roundabout initially.

RD: Bottle neck under bridge.

PR: British Rail have already done foundations for second bore. Mrs. Cousins, sister-in-law of Mrs. Richardson, kept the shoe shop.

MD: Rosie Dunnage! She used to terrify people, falling over, used to run after them shouting; controlled condition near the end. Salvation Army! Always thought of her when they sang 'Will your (ankle) anchor hold.'

PR: Narrow Cross Lane. Mrs. J. Walls … gate demolished … Holy Cross.

CS: Mr. and Mrs. Dickins had a garden in there.

PR: Nearly all property owners here had allotments.

TB: Another house on the corner of Cross Lane, Thorne's

PR: Mother and Mrs. Walls talking. Rectory garden from North Road. Miss Wigginton …. then to curate's house. Mr. Barker's ambulance, kept it in garage.

LG: Evans lived there.

Ladies: He left the house that Dr. Anderson is in to go there.

TB: No, he left that to Mrs. Jollands and we swapped. We had that one and then he had the one in Queens Road.

PR: He used to stop people passing by for a chat.

CS: Did his reading by the light of the lamp.

MD: He was keen on archaeological finds, was a pest to the workmen at the Castle so they buried pieces of an old chamber pot with Latin on it. The inscription defies repeating. Old Harry near the Postern Gate dug it out.

LG: He used to live in Fore Street.

Ladies: A house opposite the Blue Boy, glorious staircase, a Queen Anne house.

Transcriber note: Georgian, built 1750’s

CS: I went to a meeting there and he generously gave us big sugar sweets. Mrs. Dickins said they were rather large and Harry offered to break them up for her.

TB: I remember he wanted something for a whist drive, went through all the drawers and came out with a big match box, big Swan Vestas.

MD: I think he came of a very good family.

LG: Yes, he did.

PR: The Ebenezer, first view of inside, when gallery added.

LG: Dangerous corner, North Road, fork side. When you came down you couldn't see if anything was coming down Hertingfordbury Road - Chapel in the way.

RD: If the Civic Society (existed) then, would they have objected?

ALL: No, I don't think so.

TB: That Gascoyne Way should have been built out of the town. I lived in Fore Street as a child. There was talk about a new road. We would have lost part of the garden. It was shelved. Later they used the same plan. People argued it was out of date. It should have been higher up.

RD: They should have used Hornsmill Road straight through. I fought against it. I was Church Warden at the time. If I could have found the plans that people were buried in the churchyard from the plague of London I could have stopped it. They was burnt in the old church. They wouldn't allow anyone in while they took the graves out, they cased it all in lead coffins came out, names etc. good as the day they went in there. One of the vaults they took out, pure white, not a bit of damp had got in. Solid lead coffins.

PR: Dyes' coach …. Nelson pub….very narrow road opposite the school.

RD: I remember a steam roller coming along there past the chapel. A lorry hit it and the big front wheel just snapped off.

PR: Roche's …. still in the family..... There was Defty's Laundry.

RD: Scales' the butchers.

Ladies: Nora Turnbull and your brother. She was headmistress of St. Andrew's School.

PR: Appointed in 1899. Retired the year I was born. Head of infants first then whole school. Attended St. Andrew's Church as a babe in arms 'till well past ninety. Tom's Sunday duty to take her to '11 o'clock'.

Ladies: Maskew's, antique dealer.

PR: The lady there, the Town Council's oldest allotment holder, Mrs. Blades.

LG: She's ninety four. Lives in Cedar Close. Goes out every day, sometimes with trolley, comes back loaded.

TB: All Sele were allotments.

PR: I went with Gordon Moody once into these cottages, the roof, oldest in town, soot on the inside of tiles, before chimney had ladders in earlier years. Both empty, being renovated. Ginns, Mr. Cole, Davis' sweet shop, Mr. and Mrs. Ballard.

Transcribers note : now 58 and 60 St Andrew Street

RD: Newspaper shop.

PR: Pateman's Dairy, Crosses grocer's shop, the Lantern, Crawley, MacRaes.

TB: Mrs. Kemp got fined half a crown. Stopped by a policeman and argued with him. She didn't think she needed to stop. Her name in the Mercury a week later. (At junction Hertingfordbury and North Roads & St. Andrew Street.)

LG: Fish and chip shop.

PR: Cold Bath!

LG: How did the name come? A dismal pub!

MD: Total immersion for Baptists across the road, and then used to go across the road to warm up.


LG: Big yard at back. In old days travelling players used to perform.

RG: In North Road opposite Waters' Garage. That was one of the first pubs in Hertford. Barrels used to go on shelves.

Transcribers note: This is describing where the Cold Bath pub was, built 1822, originally it had been on North Road on the end of Cross Lane

LG: They cleaned the gateposts and discovered lettering underneath.

Transcribers Note: This was The New Inn built 1857 also in North Road)

Ladies: Ivy Buck, before, Mrs. Blackford.

PR: (to Len) you told me to get up on Midsummer morning at 6 and I did this year!

LG: It's worth doing …. St. Andrew Street ….

PR: Behind the betting shop where Mrs. Neale lived, then 15, St. Andrew St. …. front door …. new hall at Grammar School …. can see Gladstone Arms, corner of Pegs Lane …. shows Gascoyne Way in a good light. One of my favourite (?) pictures …. Hale Road …. ultimate destruction.

I remember the long drive to the Grammar School. I had to go up there for an interview with the head. Remember being left at the bottom and walking up. Now, Cull brothers, bachelors, very old, three of them, one left now, Reg, in his eighties. Frank died two years ago. Bert wore a bowler.

MD: One wore a Trilby, one wore a cap and one wore a bowler.

CS: During the war, the police asked the warden, “Anything untoward happened?”

“Well,” he said, “A chap came along here and the first time he was wearing a bowler, etc. etc.” (They were very much alike.)

LG: I went to the shop to buy something. There were two counters. He bent down to get something. I looked round and thought he'd popped up on the other side!

MD: They put that in the panto one year (?)

PR: Allotments side, Grammar School drive, building no. l Queens Road once police station. John Checkley …. Mayor John Forrester ….Castle Street .... White Horse one of three pubs of Nicholls Brewery ….-off West Street …. Two Brewers in Port Vale and Warren House ….

TB: Where the Gladstone is and the lamp post, that used to be a little tiny sweet shop and I used to go to a private school in West Street. Also Barber's corn shop where the dairy was.

PR: Then 55 and 57.... Captain Cannon .... Tom Gripper on his bicycle; Morley (Blake) in new car. Just pulling down two houses there …. Stanbridge's end shaved off ….cycle shop. Swallows' Cash stores there …. Black Swan.

TB: Little tiny office in front of brewery and I used to have to take an order in for mother and father because my school was just beyond it. And it was a high ledge. I could hardly see over the top and two Miss Nicholls lived in the big house, now flats and we were terrified of them. If we stopped outside to talk, they'd tap on the window. There used to be cottages on this side where the Harts lived. Bullocks Lane …. Webb's factory (glove factory) .... We used to see the smoking chimney from this house.

Ladies: Skins used to dry outside.

ALL: First class gloves!

Side B

TB: They come from different places, the Cowper family are still the staunch family of it.

Transcribers note: not sure what this means as the tape was turned over and the beginning on the conversation is missing

PR: Shall I put the kettle on?

LG: People killed in Hertford in the war

TB: Mrs. Brett, that was the landmine.

LG: But the V2 that came down on Mill Bridge?

Transcribers note: This was actually a V1

TB: I was in church that morning. I thought the church was coming down. It went over the church and then it turned round and went back.

CS: I remember another one coming over during a Sunday morning service.

RD: Were there many over Hertford?

MD: Yes, a lot. We were on the line.

RD: Where did most of them drop then?

TB: Most at Hatfield and one at Goldings.

MD: Someone was killed there. The blast threw him against the wall. The damage that one on Mill Bridge did to property, it's a marvel no one was. It's just lucky that it was about six in the morning and no one was.

TB: No, it was about quarter to nine because I was at the early service. I came out and I couldn't get down St. Andrew Street. My one thought was to get home, and it was thick with blast and I went back and went down the Bridges. Father Budge (?) only a year there - curate, said he didn't hear anything.

(Tea and coffee comes out.)

CS: (to Peter) In this bag of pictures I brought you there's a picture of Christ Church. I want to show that to .Mrs Lye (?) who lives in Archers Close. Then I'll hand over the picture for you to keep after that. You tell them the tale of Heffer and Christ Church. Have you heard it, Len?

PR: Tell us.

TB: He was a choir boy at Christ Church and he brought the choir boys out on strike. They wanted sixpence more, or something. He used to live nearly opposite us (Cowbridge)

CS: (to LG) Do you remember him at school, or was he before your time?

LG: No, he was at Longmore, actually, but he left before I came here.

TB: You know the little house, well it's a big house now, next to the bridge on Cowbridge, big gardens in front? Heffer lived in one.

CS: There are two houses that stand back.

TB: I thought it was the one where Coopers lived.

CS & All: No, no, no, the other side of the river.

CS: Doris used to talk about his father (who) wore a thin red tie, such a thin one and he said he could tell the time by Doris going to church every morning.

TB: Henry Lawrence says “I've got no time for Heffer. He stole my fish when we were fishing on the bank down there”.

MD: My dad had no time for him. He thought he was a sort of devil incarnate, a Communist.

TB: He started young. He hasn't altered, has he? He was apprenticed as a carpenter in Hertford.

LG: The vicar of Christ Church said he wanted some hymns sung at Easter and so Eric Heffer said they wanted another sixpence and took them all out on strike.

RD: Why was Christ Church demolished?

PR: Abel Smith built it.

MD: The population wasn't sufficient so they joined up with Bengeo. The church let the Company of Players have it because they said we were not going to make a profit and we were doing something for the entertainment of the town.

CS: I went to the infant school. My brothers and sisters had all been to a private school and the private school was in a building which the County Council took over afterwards, but it was across the playground from Port Vale School and they made it into a cookery centre at one time and this dear lady, Miss Cooper, I think her name was, she gave up that building and had the pupils in her house in Fanshawe Street. But it was too far for little ones to go so I went to Christ Church.

LG: I think they wanted to pull it down and build houses?

TB: Yes, that man has bought the old nursery behind the cemetery. Salmons' Nursery and moved his business up there.

RD: They've been refused planning permission.

PR: Yes, but there's a better application in now.

TB: Yes, three houses, it's in today.

LG: Is that connected to the Church still?

PR: The tin huts? I think it was - it wasn't the church hall it was a parish room. It was where the scouts met.

CS: One vicar got the money together and bought a gravel pit which came at the end of Farquhar Street in order to build a church hall down there but they never had the money to build it and eventually they sold the gravel pit and people have built houses on it.

(Some talk about it being a junk yard - not very clear)

CS: No, it was a very nice house with a beautiful garden and it was Archer bought it and turned it into a junk yard and there was Miss Pokey Archer on the corner of Chambers Street and when Bertha was receptionist at Laceys', she was a niece of Lacey (Miss P.A.) she (B) used to say - let me see – “what name?”

PR: Was she the lady that had the little Austen Seven?

CS: Yes, she did and ran it until it ran into the ground.

(Talking all together, snatches of wanting to be out into the meadows with wild flowers; the Warren; Balls Park. Peter then offered cake. A few more pictures; mixed talk no real threads; slides again)

All: Creaseys! The Arcade, it was a nice cut through to the bus garage.

PR: A lovely picture, Harringtons, down by Cooper Signs, Mac's in the background.

The new bridge is there now. I saw the slabs of the old footpath up in the grounds of Wallfields the planning office, the other day. They've stored all those for use somewhere else in the town, rather like your tale of the side of Port Hill.

LG: Oh yes, the stone setts that they used for the crossings in Fore Street.

RD: I tell you what I can't understand, that bit of ground just over that Folly Bridge was never Cooper. Every year we used to have snow, the council used to put the snow on it. They could never claim it.

PR: No one can prove ownership, neither the council nor he.

CS: And now they've got all those houses ….

MD: …. and the restaurant patronised by royalty!

PR: Genuine gas lamps! They're not your nouveaux lights. I don't disapprove of what's there.

MD: That's down Bull Plain.

PR: That's the very old tobacconists' frontage that blew down one night. The last of the independent lights before municipal street lighting took over. It was knocked by a lorry a few days before the picture. I took it so it would be preserved. A lot of the older shop premises have the end of the pipe where the gas came out. Roses, all preserved, floor levels, ground is sunk, an old stone-faced centre.

(The Vine was referred to - that was in the middle Salisbury Square, with cycle shop behind).

LG: Before the war, the Queen and her sister visited, before father was King, and went to Roses'.

PR: Covered market. That's Copping's on the right. That used to be the first. A Salvation Army place.

CS: Then it was the Ragged School down there. Then there was the cinema next to it.

PR: At that point when the photograph was taken, the Duncombe Arms was flush with the street. Do you remember that little window coming from the Duncombe into the market? Used to long to live there so I could watch people shopping on Saturdays. Now top of Copping's.

TB: They used to have wording about the Salvation Army at one time, and next door, where Pocock is, used to be a ld Bazaar.

CS: Maidenhead Street .... no Market Street

MD: Open market

RD: There was two pubs taken out, the Cross Keys and the Angel.

TB: I was talking to an old chap on the Lea one day, when Waitrose was going up and he said did I know Hertford, and I said, “I was born in Fore Street .” And he said,” I was born over there,” and that was the other side of the river. Yes, my father kept a pub there on the end of the Green. .

RD: Chambers, in the Cross Keys.

PR: Does he live in Bengeo now, Reg?

RD: Yes!

PR: I know him.

TB: Some of the Barbers used to live in that house.

RD: There was thirty two pubs.

PR: What about Bircherley Green, Reg, when was it cleared? 1932?

TB: When the Prince of Wales made that appeal for the clearance of slums everywhere, late twenties. They made that car park then.

LG: I came in '33 and it was well established then.

PR: It was dreary. When we built the Waitrose complex, we didn't actually destroy much.

TB: John Summers-Gill would be able to tell you about Green Street. His father owned some cottages down there and he used to be sent down to collect the rent. Beresford Dean, used to run the Ragged School.

PR: (to Reg) Where were you born?

RD: Mead Lane, no 15.

PR: Is your birthplace still standing?

RD: Yes!

TB: When did you go to Railway street?

(Can't hear answer).

PR: Reg's dad founded the Evergreen Club, on the site of Bircherley Court and there were two chip shops along there. It's the first of the two ….

RD: and Dobson Antiques.

PR: Your father's yard in Railway Street.

RD: He got turned out of Green Street where the baker's is now and they give him this yard in place of it. He had to build his own garage.

PR: There you are, Dye and Son on the wall. No. 28 and 30.

MD: Still got Warner there.

RD: That's a bit of Salisbury's property, and the butcher's.

TB: Salisbury and Desborough owned nearly all the town.

RD: They owned all Church Street except what they sold.

TB: That's the new shop that used to be Wren's

RD: I could never understand that other place of Barber's being up all them years, rat infested.

MD: Made that nice little Warren Place there now.

PR: The warehouse on the corner. Those little sort of doors under the eaves. What were they for then?

RD: Drying the corn. (barley?)

PR: They look too small for taking much in, vents?

CS: Do you remember in Port Vale that big place of McMullen. That was being dried out on the floor.

PR: Another old pub, Lion's Head, and the fish and chip shop, familiar Hertford celebrity, Danny a perfect gentleman when he's sober.

MD: I've heard so many tales about Danny, marriage broke up, was a schoolteacher, had to be regularly dried out.

CS: The rumour went round that Danny had died, but he appeared on Good Friday, in Fine Fare and everyone was looking at him. He wanted to know why. Well, everyone thought he had been resurrected!


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