The story of the arrival of homes and a station, and then the disappearance of a number of the same homes.
The 1911 census enumerates two families living at Horseshoes (now Smallford) and Ellenbrook. In one household there were two boarders who were employed as a green keeper and a golf labourer. In the other household there was a golf professional and a horse driver at a golf club, which the census describes as Hatfield Road Links.
The dawn of the 20th century was a period of building development along the road from St Albans to Hatfield. The airstrip would later be laid on part of the former Harpsfield Hall Farm; Ellenbrook Fields occupies part of this land today. A row of large, mainly detached, homes began to line the airfield side of St Albans Road West from opposite Ellenbrook Lane as far as the access road to the Police Station opposite the Galleria. None of these homes remains today.
The occupiers were in well-paid jobs: banking, accountancy and other City-based careers. This was the clientele the developers had been anticipating, and on the back of the promise of a large number of similar homes – most of the rest never materialised – persuaded the Great Northern Railway Company to construct a halt at Nast Hyde for residents to make the connection at Hatfield for trains to the City.
A golf club would be a further social benefit and was likely to be the kind of facility likely to be provided by a developer. So, where was this club?
There is a website devoted to former golf courses that identifies it as 18-hole Nast Hyde Golf Club. In 1914 the Secretary was Colonel Schreiber and the Professional E Gow. It is presumed that the period from 1910 to 1914 the course was under development, hence the identification of nearby residents as workers on the golf course. The course and the houses were part of an attempted land sale dating from 1889. The estate possessed land on both sides of St Albans Road West, including Beech Farm.
Over a period of a decade some thirty homes were erected but it was clear many more were anticipated. By 1914 the development came to a halt as increasing numbers of men volunteered for military enlistment.
A further attempt to sell 441 acres was made in 1925 by Foster & Cranfield, London, including what had been the formative golf course, now clearly identified as 36 acres between Coopers Green Lane and St Albans Road West, immediately south of Home Covert. The 1925 estate sale brochure gave the option "to re-open the golf course or to develop…eminently suitable for … detached houses or bungalows." But not a single house was built; the intervention of de Havilland Aircraft Company put paid to that.
However, two fields did come to be developed, south of St Albans Road West, as the Selwyn and Poplar estates, although part of the latter was not built until after the Second War. Oh, and the part of the 1927-built Barnet Bypass between RoeHyde Interchange and the Comet Hotel is on former Great Nast Hyde land purchased at the time, 1925.
Nine of the homes were constructed on the north side of St Albans Road West on wide plots between Ellenbrook Lane junction to the later built Harpsfield Parade shops. The first four lay underneath the University de Havilland Campus car park and another under Mosquito Way roundabout. The last surviving house, Ellenbrook House and renamed Ellenbrook Club for senior staff of de Havilland, later became Hatfield Lodge Hotel; today Beale's Hotel is on the site.
In spite of everything, the land which had just about become a golf club is still undeveloped, within the boundary of Ellenbrook Fields, the country park which has yet to be created. So there is yet the opportunity for a golf course, though maybe not 18 holes. It may even sport the title Nast Hyde Golf Course: just speculation!
NOTE: PHOTOS OF THE NOW-DEMOLISHED HOMES HAVE YET TO BE FOUND, AND THE ORIGIN OF THE SELWYN NAME IS ALSO OBSCURE.
This photographer probably met a good cross-section of St Albans' residents, and of all ages and occupations.
The work of Juliet Haddon is likely to live on in St Albans for ever. It will live on in photograph albums, framed portraits on the mantlepiece. For thousands it will re-live precious moments. Miss Haddon lived at 45 Cambridge Road and for 37 years photographed people from her business in Victoria Street.
Clapham-born Miss Haddon came to St Albans in July 1939 and set up business despite the difficulties of the war years. She came to the city from Cambridge where she had trained as a photographer for three years. Her employers told her she was too good for them and should branch out on her own. Helped greatly by her mother she set up shop and before long was taking pictures of people and children of all ages from all walks of life. Portraits have been her speciality but weddings and commercials work have all received her expertise.
It was her father's skill as an artist which set her on the road. She said, "I tried to be a portrait painter with the camera. Having watched my father work for years I have tried to get the essence of a person I have pictured, rather than the outline. Any picture I did I did it my way. I think you have got to spend time with a person. You cannot just sit them down and go bang bang with the camera; you have got to give them consideration and give them time to relax."
Over the years she produced thousands of pictures, all personally signed.
"All subjects are nice but I did enjoy doing pictures of men and children. I am very fond of children, and though I have had some that have screamed and howled and yelled, they were exceptions rather than the rule."
The Juliet Haddon business was augmented at various times by other staff, and continued for a while under Mr Alan Archer.
HERTS ADVERTISER ARTICLE
This is the brief story of the man who came to the UK and became known as the Orchid King.
The Herts Advertiser in the 1880s and 1890s contained little St Albans news; but it was purchased largely by local people with a good amount of disposable income and some influence in local affairs. Sander's clients were likely to come from those readers who were better off and perambulated in higher social circles. So he ensured there were regular articles about him and his business.
Frederick was born in Bremen, Germany in 1847 and he served his apprenticeship with a small horticultural firm. He then gained a position with the very English-sounding firm of Peter Smith & Co, Hamburg.
In 1865 Frederick decided to further his career in the UK, and was employed at the nurseries of Carter & Co in Forest Hill, London. It was while he was working here that he encountered orchids for the first time, a plant type in which Carter's specialised.
In the nineteenth century plant travellers and collectors engaged agents in the UK, to whom they dispatched regular supplies of the plants they came across and were interested in. Frederick was fortunate in becoming an agent for three notable collectors of the time. In addition to copious quantities of plants, not all of which survived the various journeys across the globe, Frederick received from them prolific data about the environments, climate and eco-systems in which the samples were found.
In order to receive this largesse of material Sander needed his own premises, and so purchased the former business of Josling's in George Street, St Albans, the back of which he covered in glasshouses.
His ambition was always well ahead of his ability to manage the stock. At one point he received stock from no fewer than 22 travellers, and had received up to one million individual plants of over 200 new or rare orchid species. It is little wonder, therefore, that he quickly sought alternative premises
Sander acquires several plots of land on the east side of St Albans, and on one in 1883 began erecting glasshouses in Camp Road (where Ss Alban & Stephen Junior School is now located). By 1891 there were already four acres of ground under glass and a further 11 acres under construction.
In the next thirty years or so, Sander's Orchids, became a world renowned centre, with important clients, including Europe's royalty, making visits to the Camp Road premises.
A bag of sweets – or an aeroplane; you could have had either from this man.
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 World 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 the 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 twenties, curtailed expansion and increased the risk of flying out of the Stage Lane site. With order books booming for several types of aircraft, the company purchased the flying club at Hatfield Harpsfield, and moved most departments to there 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 in Edgware with a ruptured appendix; one of his carers was Nurse Clarice Usher. Clarice and Bill married in 1942!
Back to 3rd October 1940 when a bomb raid killed a number of employees and destroyed the entire components for the first fifty Mosquitos. Bill was injured as he was sent flying by blast from a bomb on that day. He sustained lung damage.
Until they married Bill remained at Stanmore, though sometimes he used a room at the Stone House Hotel in Hatfield, opposite the works. Then they moved to a bungalow in Radlett. When DHs laid off a large number of employees after the war Bill and Clarice moved to Hatfield Road, taking on the sweet shop formerly run by the Blakeleys.
Although he never learned to fly Bill and Clarice joined Elstree Flying Club as social members.
Bill Grace (in striped suit on the left) at a de Havilland production meeting.
The stability of a large organisation is down to the person in charge and how long he stays.
The following was taken from his obituary which appeared in the Herts Advertiser:
Mr George Goodchild had been Clerk and Steward of Hill End Mental Hospital since its inception. Mr Goodchild, with his wife and family lived in a lodge on the estate. He was only 56 years old when he died, but was "esteemed throughout the country as a man whose knowledge of matters relating to mental hospital administrative work was of an authoritative order."
He received an MBE for services in connection with mental hospital administration.
Mr Goodchild's association with Hill End before the building existed, his appointment being made as the foundations were being laid. Consequently he had to find accommodation locally until the house in the grounds was ready.
He was a keen cricketer and footballer, and he had organised most of the hospital entertainments for patients and staff. "The whole of his energies were directed towards the welfare of the Hospital."
A native of Chelsea, Mr Goodchild first entered on what was to become his life's work at the Surrey County Mental Hospital at Brookwood for four years before his appointment at Hill End. He married two years later.
The family grave is at Brookwood.
He loved his job so much he wrote about it, and then played himself in films about his books.
Gordon Stanley Ostlere was not brought up in St Albans, though he lived here for a number of years. He did, however have a considerable impact and more of us know of him than his name suggests.
Born in 1921 Gordon entered St Bartholomew's Teaching Hospital, Smithfield in the City of London. But a short time afterwards the Government moved the hospital to St Albans under the Emergency Medical Service scheme. Along with the rest of the hospital Gordon migrated to the east side of St Albans where were the mental hospitals of Hill End and Cell Barnes. These institutions had been emptied of their patients and nurses and the Bart's staff and equipment moved in during the late summer of 1939.
While at Bart's Hill End Gordon completed his training and became a surgeon and anaesthetist. He clearly had a sense of fun and observed his colleagues, the patients and the organisation and hierarchy of the hospital closely. He probably took a full part in the shows which the drama society mounted, and there were many recollections of light-hearted tricks played on fellow members of staff, especially superiors. It is possible that Gordon played his part.
He later left his medical experiences behind, and became a full time writer, producing several medical reference books. But Gordon's first foray into writing came in 1952 when, under the pseudonym Richard Gordon his first popular fiction book Doctor in the House was published, the first of around thirty in his career.
There is little doubt that many of the characters in his books are closely based on his experiences and observations in Barts, both in the City and at Hill End and Cell Barnes. When we read a Richard Gordon book, or watch one of the films based on them, we are undoubtedly immersing ourselves in his professional life at Hill End, both on duty and off duty too.
Ostlere had a busy writing career, and he appeared as a subject of This is Your Life in 1974. He is also known to have played cameo parts in a few of the movies made from his books, while he also acted as a professional medical adviser on the film sets.
Gordon Ostlere died in 2017 at the age of 95.
© 2021 St Albans' Own East End Mike Neighbour