I was born in 1940 and grew up in the village so here are some memories. I now live in Canberra in Australia. Norman Ivory RIGHT: Baby Norman in his pram at No 4 Leather Bottle Terrace. Houses in background are in Curtis Road.
In the 1940's and even into the 1950's Leverstock Green was a rather sleepy medium sized Hertfordshire country village with perhaps just 200 people living in the centre, near village area. It had two shops - one with a post office, two public houses, one petrol garage with servicing, a primary school in Pancake Lane run by the Anglican Church, a Smithy to one side of the village green and two churches - the Anglican Church and a Baptist Chapel. As the years passed into the 60's the Village was largely absorbed into a sprawling suburb of Hemel Hempstead by the New Towns Development Schemes and today the Village is hardly recognizable.
Note from Barbara Chapman: The population for the whole of Leverstock Green was 722 in 1930 and had risen to about 1000 by the mid 50's.
Left: Leverstock Green about 1950. The smithy can be seen on the right, with the pubs and shops and garage on the left. The church tower can just be seen above Church Cottages.
Then as now the Anglican Church overlooked the centre of the village with an open tower for two small bells and a clock that kept good time and the bells ringing the hours. The Baptist Chapel located on the Bedmond Road that lead from the village centre to Watford was actually built in 1841 before the Anglican Church but was demolished due to lack of support in the 1970's and replaced with housing. Much of the history of the village from the
1800's through to this time as recorded in the Leverstock Green Chronicle is to do with events surrounding the two churches. Going to the Church School we - all the pupils - would walk up to the Church every so often for a morning service but as my family attended the Baptist Chapel I know little more about the Church although playing in the Grave yard was a frequent pass time.
Above: Holy Trinity Church about 1950
The two pubs in the village centre - there were more short distances away, and at one time said to have been seven all together, were the Leather Bottle and the White Horse. The Leather Bottle was and still is located in the very centre of the village off the junction of the Bedmond and Leverstock Green roads. It seemed when I was young to be a large building painted white with a wide sweeping brown tile roof. It somehow seems smaller today. It then consisted of a narrow kitchen at the rear and three rooms at the front. The Public Bar at the St Albans end, The Lounge Bar in the middle and the Snug/dining room with an open fire at the other end. The serving bar was between the Public and Lounge Bars. Today the building has been remodeled with only one bar taking up the whole area of the three rooms and the serving bar situated quite differently. [View webpage on "Growing Up At the Leather Bottle" for more photos and information.]
My memory is fuzzy but I believe it was here that I stood as a child and watched big Shire horses draw up with a cart loaded with barrels and then the barrels being off loaded and lowered with ropes down into a cellar through a trap door at the front of the house. The landlord was Mr Cecil Parkins who was the son in law of Mrs Seabrook who had the leasing licence to the pub. She lived in a house the other side of the Pub garden also on the Leverstock Green Road. (The marriage of her son Lesley and Lillian Wilkins was featured in the Chronicle around 1929) During the Second World War both pubs were always busy in the evenings and if people did not have money for food they did for beer. Next to this Pub on the left hand side as looking towards the pub from the road was a black creosote painted barn where the School Head Master Mr Ayres kept his car - it has long gone. When I was a child at the school in Pancake Lane Mr Ayres's car was stolen and I, living near-by, when walking past had noticed the padlock hasps being bent. It was a big to-do at school and the police man questioned me about when I had seen it etc but I really did not help much. I lived in a row of houses mostly terraced cottages just behind the pub called Leather Bottle Terrace but it was demolished to be replaced by the Community Centre about the 1980's.[Note from BC, new Hall was opened in 1974]
Above left: The Leather Bottle about 1950. Above Right: Cecil Parkins at the bar of the Leather Bottle in the late 1940's.
Links to other pages in the Chronicle are underlined in blue, just click on them to be transported, then click the Back arrow to return]
The White Horse was further along the same side of the road the other side of the Post Office Shop and cottages. It had a row of cottages running from it at right angles to the road. Just after the war there were many labourers in the area a lot of them coming from Ireland and they drank at the White Horse. Many times in the evening there would be on going brawls on the forecourt of the pub. I do not know much about the White Horse except that the Leather Bottle was considered to be a bit more up-market.
Above: The Post Office & The White Horse, mid 1950's
Another watching activity of my childhood was at the Smithy over the other side of the road and the green from the White Horse. The Smithy was always surrounded by big piles of rusty horseshoes and scrap iron. The sight of the large farm horses leaning on the Smith at he shoed them hammering great square nails through the shoes and into their hoofs; the smell of the bellowing smoke as the hot shoes were keyed on to the hoofs; the glow and roar of the fire and the rhythmic clanging of the hammer as the Smith shaped and made the shoes, were all fascinating as I stood in the doorway - when allowed - and watched.
The village was located on the road between Hemel Hempstead about two and one half miles away and St Albans about five miles away. At this time the village from Curtis Road towards Hemel Hempstead was administered from Hemel Hempstead and in the other direction from St Albans. Two bus services ran through the Village - the 314 a double decker bus from Hemel to St Albans and the 320 a single decker bus from Hemel Hempstead to Watford. I remember the 314 came up a steep hill out of Hemel Hempstead and on several occasions the bus broke down on the hill when I was a child traveling with my Mother.
The buses coming from Hemel stopped just in front of Mr Ayres garage and when I was six I remember waiting at the bus stop with my Aunt for the bus to take her back to St Albans where she lived at that time and when the bus drew up a big tall man in army uniform got off and without seeing us went round the yard to my home followed by my Aunt and then by me. It was my Father returned from the war. That was the beginning of a big adventure as I learned that I was no longer the man of the house.
The double decker bus can just be seen here, climbing out of the village en route for Hemel.
One big event each year was Guy Fawks night. Getting into September me and the other youngsters in the village raided all the hedgerows in the lanes around the village finding and cutting down branches of trees and young trees and dragging them to the village green. All through September and October this continued until the end of October when a huge bonfire was contracted. We stacked the branches and trees together with a great space in the middle. Then we went round the shops and everywhere for paper and boxes and to the garage for old tyres and filled the middle completely. On November 5th usually at six or half past this bonfire was lit and it would burn the whole evening. We children were always frightened that the boys from Belcony just up the Leverstock Green Road towards Hemel Hempstead would come down and light the bonfire on a previous evening too soon. It may have happened in the past. The biggest bonfire ever built was for VE (Victory in Europe) day and the garage owner Mr Vandall used his hire car to drag the trees to the green. Some of the children that collected the wood and built the fire were photographed sitting on top of the huge piled up bonfire and the photo was in the Hemel Gazette.
The Green at that time was much smaller than today. Where the Green today is big enough to play cricket on and stretches back to the road where the estate of houses built in the 60's? is, when I was young there was a hedge row across from the big leaning tree that is still there today and the pond not there today, to the Blacksmith Cottages. The other side of the hedge was a field belonging to Ison's Farm that is probably gone now as well. The first money I ever earned was when I was five years old picking up potatoes and putting them in sacks after the spinner had thrown them out of the ground. Many people from the village would collect to do this and I joined in and on the insistence of some of the women there the farmer gave me two shillings - I was very proud and happy and took the florin home to my Mother.
[Note from BC - the "green" was enlarged to accommodate the cricket pitch in the mid 1960's with the Pavilion being built in 1966. Beyond that is what was known as the Martin's Estate (not sure why as it was built by Laings) made up of The Horseshoe, Malmes Croft, Misden Drive and the roads of the "Lake District", and includes Woodfield School, on the site Mr Ison's Northend Farm house.]
My Mother Hilda Wilkins was a Leverstock Green girl and born in 1912 lived when she was young in Post Office cottages. When Curtis road was built? [1924, BC] 1920's they moved there to number 8. She went to school at the Church of England School then in a small building in the Bedmond Road opposite the Church. There were I suppose about 16 to 20 pupils.[Well over 100 BC - see Pancake Lane site] Later the Church had the primary school in Pancake Lane built and the old school building went into disuse. The Head Master Mr Ayres lived next to the old school building between it and the Baptist Chapel. I think the old school building and the Master's house may still be there. [See pictures above]
Leverstock Green's schools in the early 20th century ( left) and the school master's house, the only part remaining today. (right.) Click on images to enlarge.
Mum's Father William was the Sunday School Superintendent at the Baptist Chapel and she became the Church organist and is mentioned in the Chronicle to do with Chapel events in the period 1929 to 1932.[See 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932] After she married my Father and he returned from the war they both did organist duties and he became the Chapel Treasurer and Secretary. I attended of course - three times every Sunday. I remember at the end of the wartime when my Mother played the organ at the services I sat with my Grandfather in his pew. The Chapel then would hold a maximum of about 110 people seated in the pews. It was full and with people sitting down the isles every Sunday at that time and I would sit looking at the pictures in Granddad’s Bible and looking at the red writing. (The words spoken by Jesus were in red). This is one of my favourite memories because for some reason I always felt happy when sitting with my Grandfather. He was a tall man for that time and I was quite young and small. He would leave the pew half way through the service to take the collection plate round. People came from all around the area to those wartime and just after the war services. Many events were held like suppers and festivals. The Harvest Festival was very special and the whole of the front end of the Chapel around and including the pulpit was full of produce. I used to go down the Lane hedgerows to collect 'Daddy’s Beard' to decorate the Chapel. The produce was all donated and was the biggest and the best and afterwards was auctioned off.
School photo taken at Bedmond Road. Thought to be about 1922/23. Norman's mother, Hilda Wilkins is in the checked dress next to the Teacher, probably Walter Ayre, who took over as Headmaster in 1922..
As a child the lanes round the Village were very important. Especially at holiday time Mother would give me breakfast and then off I would go till Dinner- time (mid day) and again after dinner until teatime. We children would get together and go off over the fields and down the lanes - Green Lane, Tile Kiln Lane, Chambersbury Lane, Blackwater Lane, Westwick Row, Pancake Lane - getting into as much mischief as we could without getting caught. Then most of those Lanes had no houses in them or very few and were
bordered by fields and now they are all built up. Birds nesting collecting Bird's eggs in spring was a favourite. We children knew all the Bird's and the colour and size of their eggs. Blowing a bird's egg was a tricky operation. Another in fruiting time was scrumping. A favourite on the Village was a row of Bullace trees. In the Bedmond road opposite the end of Chambersbury Lane the village houses finished and there was a five-barred gate leading into a large field between the Bedmond Road and the St Albans Road. A footpath went across the field next to the last houses on both roads.The other side of the field on the St Albans Road was a loan house fairly large with a large garden and the row of Bullace trees next to and
overhanging the field. With much stealth we used to cross the field get pockets full of the small yellow plums and escape through the hedge into the St Albans Road. This same field when harrowed before spring was a place where Pewits used to nest. It was quite a feat to lie still on the ground watching for the Pewits to land and then run a long way across the field to their nests almost invisible except to keen young eyes. And then to remember the place and eventually after a search to find the impression in the ground
where the bird was nesting and find the two quite large buff/whitish coloured speckled eggs.
Two early photos ( beginning of 20thC) showing the Baptist Chapel. In the left hand image you can see the school as well. In the right hand image, the photo is taken from the school playground in about 1910 on May Day. Click to enlarge the images.
BELOW: Sheep (and Jill Parkins, daughter of the Landlord of the Leather Bottle & the Shepherd) on the village green about 1944 Click to enlarge.
A favourite place to play was the large bomb craters in the fields round the village. There were two quite close. After bombing London the bombers used to continue northwards over the Hertfordshire countryside unloading left over bombs over the fields before turning eastwards to go back home over the North Sea. [See LG in WW2] The craters were rather enormous and we children spent many hours running and playing in them. As I grew older they became full of trees and were fenced off. They will have gone now.
One of the things as a clear memory is playing on the green in the evenings during the war. Long convoys of trucks and tanks etc used to come through and we would call out to the American Soldiers 'Got any gum Chum' and they would throw hands full of chewing gum to us. A scramble would follow to see how many we could get. The Air Raid Sirens used to sound on a regular basis. In the beginning Mother and I would get in to the cupboard under the stairs. But soon we used to just ignore it. Although of course like everyone else Mother would seal off the windows at night with large black draped frames to not let light show outside so that the bombers and fighters could not see the village. In every area watchmen would go round the areas every night to make sure there was no light showing. My other Grandfather my Father's
Father, was a watchman in Hemel Hempstead. By the way Hemel Hempstead is pronounced - 'emerlemstid' or was then.
The memorial for the first world war and later the second world war was then located at the junction of the Bedmond Road and Leverstock Green Road in the fork between the roads. [See photo above] When I last returned to England it had gone. [Note from BC - the memorial was removed only a short distance to the section of green next to Church Road as the high volume of traffic made services well nigh impossible at its original site. See photos of memorial in its past & present location] Every Remembrance Sunday all the Sunday School and Congregation from the Baptist Chapel and the Congregation from the Church would walk down to the memorial and a short joint service was held.
Every one on the village then knew everyone else and I remember my Mother 'going' round the village house by house when I was a bit older listing all the people in every house that had 'had to get married'.
My Father on behalf of the Chapel was on the Village Hall committee. When I was young it was a well used venue. Mother belonged to the Women's Institute and they would put on events including a play each year. The Chapel had its Sunday School treat day there one Saturday every year. Jumble sales and the like were held on a regular basis
LEFT: Members of the Leverstock Green Baptist Chapel's Women's League prior to one of their annual summer outings, sometime between 1945 & 1954
Pictured are Back Row L-R: ?, Mrs Ison, Mrs. G Wilkins, Mrs. Ivory the Chapel organist, ?, ?, Mrs Rogers, ?
Middle Row L-R: ?, ?, Mrs Gurney, Mrs Seaby, Mrs Rose the Pastor's wife, Mrs Milmer, ?, ?, ?,
Front L-R: unknown children, Mrs DeBeager, ?,?.
If you can fill in any more of the names, please contact me.
A WI Pageant, shown here on the (old) Village Hall tennis court. Taken sometime in the 1930's & 1940's. If you can give me a more precise date, or name any of the participants, please let me know.
In the first class it was fun. I could already mostly read by the time I went to school so it was quite easy and the teacher was nice. I can still picture Mrs Wykes and especially remember when in the afternoon we had to put our heads down on the desk for a sleep. I was always surprised that I always did sleep. The most impressing memory from that time was one afternoon when we were cutting out and the little girl next to me and I decided to cut our hair. Both of our hair were very blonde and it was not long before there was quite a pile of yellow curls on the floor. We really got in to trouble and stood in the corner for quite some time. We never did it again.
The centre two class rooms had a retractable wooden partition wall between so that when there was a meeting or event that all the school attended the partition was pulled back and the two class rooms made into one larger room. For some reason this always impressed me and I found such occasions exciting and so memorable. And when I moved up into the second class when the other classes filed in was something that has stuck in my mind. Our teacher in the middle school was Miss Doggett a strict but good teacher.
In the top class for the older students with the Headmaster Mr Ayre as the teacher, the four seats in the far corner from the door were for the top four and usually eldest children. When I first went into the top class the top children were still a few months or a year older than I was. Julia Rice was at desk number three and I used to leave sweeties in her desk very secretly with no one especially her, knowing who left them. At the end of that year the older children went off to other schools and I was moved up into seat number four. Eric my cousin was in seat number one. We were the children who would be selected to sit for the eleven plus exam.
The village hall featured in school life and every day at school we would walk in class up to the hall for school dinners. Sometimes they were quite nice but mostly very ordinary. Much against teachers instructions we used to share the food around eating what we liked. I used to hate macaroni cheese and we had it every week. Fortunately other children liked it. The teachers used to sit up on the platform having their lunch as well so it was not easy to give away disliked food as they could see us easily.
The hall was also used for school events and I remember the school doing Alice in Wonderland. I guess parents must have come to watch. We rehearsed for quite a while. I would have been in the top class by then and probably 10 which would have been in 1950. One scene was the Mad Hatter's tea party. I was the Mad Hatter, Eric was the March Hair and between us - Oh joy! - was Julia who was the Dormouse. I think I may have messed it up a bit not because I couldn't remember but because Julia was there and I was so nervous. As part of the play I had to put my arm round her - so did Eric which wasn't so good.
In the 1950's from time to time Morris Dancers would meet on the village green during summer afternoons when it was fine. They would usually meet and dance in the part of the green infront of but next to Black Smith's Row. The other side of the Road from Post Office Cottages. It seems to me that they would come about two or three times in the summer months. Often when they did quite a lot of people from the village would come out and gather round to see them. And of course the 'horse' would come round afterwards to get donated coins. The dancing was colourfull with them in their white uniforms and with the bells which jingled as they danced. The part that I like was when they danced with the batons with the sound of the batons hit together and finishing up with one dancer raising all of the batons in an intertwined pattern together. I seem to remember that perhaps once or twice at other events we had a maypole at May celebrations as well.
LEFT: In the playground at Pancake Lane c. 1947. Included in the photo are:
front row (left): JeanFaithful,
seated: Margaret Lumb & Jill Parkins,
boys: Derek Greenfield, Eric Gurney, Joseph Chamberlain, Norman Ivory, James Dunbar, Godfrey Foulder and James Dawkins.
About that time they also used to put on a picture show in the village hall in the evenings. One particular favorite was 'The Black Hand'. I went once but the film frightened me so much that I never went again. Of course I could not admit the reason to the other children.
Morris Dancing 1952. The colour photo ( originally a slide) was taken by Fred Buglass who moved to the village that year at the time of the Coronation. See the "hobby horse" to the Left of this photo.
Also known as the peewit in imitation of its display calls, its proper name describes its wavering flight. Its black and white appearance and round-winged shape in flight make it distinctive, even without its splendid crest. This familiar farmland bird has suffered significant declines in the last 25 years and is an Amber List' species because of the importance of its UK wintering population.