The Leather Bottle, Leverstock Green in the 1950's.
Reminiscences of Madge Field, nee Parkins,
of life in Leverstock Green between the 1930s and 1960's.
I'm extremely grateful to Madge for all the help she has given me over the years, and especially for letting me publish these reminicences here. My thanks also go to her sister Jill Ray, as well as herself, for the use of photographs etc.
My parents & I came to live in Leverstock Green with my grandparents at the Leather Bottle in 1932 where my Grandfather (Mother's side) was the Licensee. After his death my Grandmother was granted the licence which later went to my father. Consequently it was in the family for a very long time.
It was a really friendly village pub where the regulars met socially and enjoyed darts and dominoes (Box). Lovely roaring fires for them to sit around and before we had electricity we had oil lamps. The Cricket & Football clubs held meetings there, also their Annual dinners a favourite on the menu was home made lemon meringue pie. The cricket club had their matches at Cherry Trees Farm the home of Mr William Gale and the Football Club played in Mr Wyles field.
Cecil Parkins (landlord) at the bar of the Leather Bottle (left) and (above) a characature.
I can remember as a little girl, before retiring to bed popping in to say to the customers "Goodnight Gentleman all" I don't know whether this made me sleep any better but it was certainly a ritual.
We had no bathroom and usually on a Friday in came the tin bath. Quite a performance to heat the water in pots and pans but one consolation was having the bath in front of the kitchen range which was very cosy, but you were never sure if anyone would pop their head around the kitchen door.
My grandparents owned a pony and trap which was their way of transport.
A water trough was outside for the horses passing through. Where the car park is now we had a beautiful garden cared for by my uncles which visitors really enjoyed during the summer.
The village shop & postoffice, as well as the White Horse. Mrs Parkins, Madge's mother can be seen coming from the shop back towads the Leather Bottle.
There were 3 bars (Parlour posh side), saloon and taproom. We had a harmonium in the parlour (small organ) and one of my uncles, Mr. Bill Seabrook played it when he visited. He also played the Church organ.
We had some memorable Christmas times as everyone enjoyed making their own entertainment. We usually had to wait till after 3pm before we could have lunch. My aunt and her family would join us and we would all sit at long wooden tables with bench seats around a roaringfire. Most enjoyable.
Before my time there were 4 public houses in the village so the customers certainly had a good choice. We were on good terms with The White Horse nearby.
Several well known people patronised us (over the years), Petula Clarke, Sir Stanley Rouse who was chairman of the Football Association, William Lucas who lived at Leverstock Green Farm, William Russell from Coxpond and Cavan O'Connor, Irish Singer who resided at Danehurst. [Click here to find out more about Cavan O'Connor]
On occasions I served in the bar and was fortunate to meet so many people.
My family told me that during the 1st World War the Queen's Westminster Rifles Regiment was stationed in the village. To commemorate this they kindly donated a Window to the Church. [Click here to find out more about the QWR in Leverstock Green] I feel sure there was no shortage of gentlemen friends for my mother and aunt, and mother married a PArkins and my Aunt married a PErkins a strange coincidence as there was only one letter different I their names.
Mr. William Child lived in the house opposite my present house (i..e Hill House) and he owned a Brick Kiln in Tile Kiln Lane. The house was built of his own local bricks. The Three Horseshoe Garage (where present filling station is) was also a tearoom and they catered for cycling parties. Sid Verndell's taxi service.
Where the playing fields now are, people had allotments to grow their own produce. Behind the Leather Bottle was also a row of houses.
I played many a game of tops marbles and skipping in the road outside the Leather Bottle hard to believe today. I also rode a bicycle. We had great fun skating on the Pond where the cricket pavilion now stands. Another real Village colourful event was the Hound meet on the Green and this would attract a number of visitors
Above: Bath time for Madge in the summer.
Left: The Leather Bottle from the garden.
Below: The Hertfordshire Hunt on the green about 1937.
The Village as it was before the coming of the New Town. The Leather Bottle can be seen to the right of the war memorial. (This was moved to its present position in front of the church in the 1990's.)
The Village Pond - a great place for skating in winter.
In the lounge bar of the Leather Bottle, 1960s.
The Three Horseshoes Filling Station and tea rooms, about 1940. The White Horse PH is the white building to the right.
Mr. & Mrs Skeggs owned the Corner Stores, the Corner House at the top of Curtis Road and it was convenient to have home delivery by a local baker (Wadkins) and Butcher (Keens). Mr. Boatwright delivered milk with his horse and cart. Milk from the churn to jug. I wonder about hygiene.
The reverse of this postcard, postmarked 1954, says "This shows the fat little pony and the funny little milk cart that Mr. Boatwright used to bring round Leverstock Green.".
Mr Wright (an appropriate name) had a wheelwrights yard and shed just by the Leather Bottle where he repaired amongst other things horse carts which were necessary. He was also the church Verger. Blacksmith Row is also appropriately named as Mr. Mears was the village blacksmith and he worked in a shed on the right of the cottages. It was fascinating to watch him shoe the horses.
It looks very different today as some of the families from the old cottages would hang their washing out on the green.
Right: Arthur Mears, the Village Blacksmith, taken in the late 1930's.
Below: June 1945. The road through the village was much narrower than today, and there were no pavements. The green, which included the wide verges in front of Blacksmiths Row and Leverstock Green Farm, covered quite a large area, even though the bulk of the area which constitutes today's cricket green was only aquired in the 1960's.
Details of how Leversock Green Residents raised sufficient funds to build the hall can be found in individual year entries between 1904 & 1920, or by clicking here for the full story.]
An additional attraction was a grass tennis court which was later made into a hard court in about 1948. I spent many happy hours there and in 1956 won the Singles Cup and also the Doubles with Bernard. (See photo below)
A special treat on a Saturday night was the 2p dance that Mr. & Mrs Leat ran. No disco in those days just a piano and drums. The Hall was used for plays, functions and we had our wedding reception there.
Below: Leverstock Green Tennis Tournament winners, 7th September 1956. The mens' singles winner was Ted Milmer (left|), the ladies singles winner Madge Field, who also won the mixed doubles with husband Bernard (right).
Mr. Field, Bernard's father had a small timber yard at Hillside cottages and often had some on display on the green.
Above: Madge & Bernard Field's wedding, 1952. Above Right King Charles II Cottage Westwick Row 1952, their first home.
Members of the dancing class held by Mr. & Mrs. Leat at the Parish Hall posed for this photograph in about 1946 which was takenon the old grass tennis court next to the Hall. Madge is in the front row of those standing, fifth from the right. Mrs. Leat is standoing far leaft and Mr. Fred Leat on the far right of the back row.
The old vicarage was at the top of Pancake Lane, later called Daneshurst and Pageants were often performed in the large garden. Mr. Allt an Insurance broker at Lloyds, bought the house during the war and used it for an Office to keep records. I used to work as his secretary very handy from the Leather Bottle and I later went to work in London when the office moved back to the city. I remember one afternoon he gave us time off to see the classic film "Gone With the Wind".
There was also a Baptist chapel [Click here to view picture] which was situated opposite where the church car park now stands. The local school was also in Bedmond Road adjoining the Old School House. [Click here to view picture.] Mr. Walter Ayre was the Schoolmaster. Later of course the Church school was built in Pancake Lane.
The first fetes to be held in the village were in the garden of Orchard Lea, the home of Dr. & Mrs. Lea in Tile Kiln Lane, and this event took place on Whit Monday with side shows and teas. Mrs. Lea also ran a Bible class and Boys Brigade group.
Above: A watercolour painting of the Old Vicarage, thought to have been painted by the Rev. Arthur Durrant.
Below: A WI Pageant held in the Vicarage Gardens about 1930.
Below: Blessing the new school in Pancake Lane, 11th October 1930.
We had a brownie and guide pack who met in the hall and on occasions the Guides were invited to Westwick House, home of Mr. & Mrs Barbour just along the St. Albans Road where they were able to use the attic for games. Miss Lynette Barbour their daughter was our leader.
Above left: Leverstock Green Girl Guides c. 1936 Above right: 1st Leverstock Green Brownies c. 1956
Some of the original buses were open top and on the way to St. Albans some of the branches overhung the road so you would duck to avoid them.
The local lads went off during the war years and one of our girls was a GI bride. She had triplets. They struck oil in their garden. (In the States.)
The Royal Mechanical Engineers were based at Cupid Green and the local girls, including me were invited to their dances.
We had to blackout the windows at the Leather Bottle, but one consolation we had our own air-raid shelter as we used the cellar. We needed plenty of blankets to keep warm but the smell was quite pleasant.
Several small incendiaries were dropped around the village and one landmine along near Finches Farm. We did have a Home Guard to protect us and they operated from the home of Mr. Shuffrey at Leverstock Green Farm.
Mr Aldridge was our village Policeman, known as Bill to the residents. He would sometimes come in to the Leather Bottle after closing time for a friendly chat; he wasn't often needed in a Police capacity.
There was a large cherry orchard in Bedmond Road on the right hand side past Chambersbury Lane. Black/White Heart.
Mrs Grimwood and Miss Mortimer lived in a large house Tempe down Pancake Lane where Lombardy Close is. They were known locally as the Lady Gardeners. They had a beautiful garden and Tennis Court and organized garden parties.
My Father's parents lived in Kiffs Farm, now known as Dell Cottage. His father was a fish merchant. There was an outhouse with a fish fryer and he would sell it locally. They used a well for their water and oil lamps for lighting.
One thing that always fascinated me was the Inglenook Fireplace where you could sit on either side of little seats and as it was a wide chimney on a clear night you could look up and see the stars. Not quite so handy for the toilet as this was quite a trek up the garden, in a wooden hut (with seat). This was pretty chilly when it was frosty. There was a lovely orchard with a huge walnut tree which as you can imagine we enjoyed picking. My uncles used scythes to cut the grass for haymaking.
Above: William Parkins the Village fishmonger, seen here with his son Thomas and their fish cart frm which they made deliveries around the locality.
To begin with we had no surgery in the village, the Doctors operated from Alexandra Road Hemel Hempstead. We had more home visits in those days. The Local (District) Nurse, Nurse Hendry attended. Eventually a surgery was established at the bungalow at the corner of Malmes Croft &The Horseshoe
There was an isolation hospital at Bennetts End for Scarlet Fever & Diphtheria. I caught Scarlet fever and was the only one in the hospital for six weeks. It was quite an ordeal as it was the first time I had been away from home and nobody could visit me. My mother would go past in the bus and see me in the garden. Even the Leather Bottle had to be fumigated.
You can see there have been a lot of changes but I hope this has given you a little idea of how life was here. It really was a picturesque village but even with progress I think it is still a very desirable place to live and I certainly have no desire to move away.
The picture albums and press cuttings below show additional pictures of life in Leverstock Green from the 1930s to the 1960s.
Click to link to principle LG Chronicle web pages.