Lost Hertfordshire: book reveals insight into old England

PUBLISHED: 13:06 14 March 2017 | UPDATED: 13:06 14 March 2017

Red Lion Yard, 81 High Street, Watford c1890

Red Lion Yard, 81 High Street, Watford c1890


After scouring historic archives, the author of Lost England 1870-1930 has gathered hundreds of photographs of public spaces to give a revealing insight into Victorian and Edwardian England, including Hertfordshire. Here we republish some of those familiar yet unfamiliar images

Lead image: Watford had two main intersections for coaching traffic, one at either end of the High Street, so there was great demand for accommodation. The Red Lion’s frontage was on the High Street, with its carriage entrance giving on to Red Lion Court and the Yard. Close to the Essex Arms, it appears to have had another two inns opposite, and there were numerous others along the High Street.

Village pond, Aldbury, c1930Village pond, Aldbury, c1930

View is north-east across the village pond of this archetypal Hertfordshire village. The Greyhound public house is centre left, with a single car outside. The photograph is taken from approximately the position of the village stocks, which still remain, as does the Greyhound.

Looking south across Market Place towards the Ionic portico of the town hall, built in 1831 to the design of George Smith. Its Palladian facade remains a landmark of the town centre.

St Albans Town Hall, c1930St Albans Town Hall, c1930

To the right in the distance, the ancient tower of St Albans Cathedral is visible. The mainly Romanesque Benedictine abbey, dating from the 12th century, acted as the parish church and continued to do so after it was given cathedral status in 1877.

On May 22, 1455 a Yorkist army under Richard, Duke of York, routed a Lancastrian force after intense fighting around Market Place that resulted in the capture of King Henry VI.

Viewed north-east towards the Corn Exchange on the left and the old Post Office opposite. Both buildings are extant. The Corn Exchange, built on the site of the old Butcher’s Market, opened in 1859. To the immediate left, Nos. 15-23 were businesses owned at the time by Alfred Elms Neale; his father Samuel, from whom he inherited the business, had run furniture and drapers shops in the street. Alfred later owned a motor car dealership on Church Street.

Fore Street, Hertford, 1922Fore Street, Hertford, 1922

The view is from an elevated position, possibly from the building at the corner of the High Street and St Albans Road. In the foreground on the right is The Wellington public house, with the twin steeples of the High Barnet Methodist Church beyond. St John the Baptist church is in the distance.The Wellington no longer survives, and the main part of the methodist church has gone, but the steeples provide a dramatic entrance to The Spires shopping centre, opened in 1989.

High Barnet High Street, c1895High Barnet High Street, c1895

View looking south from what is today HSBC bank, its colonnade visible to the right. The gently curving street leads downhill towards the valley of the River Ver, which gave St Albans its Roman name of Verulamium. Today the scene remains much the same, except that the road is narrowed with wider pavements. A motorcycle and side-car (foreground right) and several cars and vans can be seen.

Chequer Street, St Albans, 1921 (Francis Frith Collection)Chequer Street, St Albans, 1921 (Francis Frith Collection)

The lodge gates lead to the Elizabethan mansion of the park. The gates were built in 1802 and were demolished in the 1970s.

Entrance Lodge at Cassiobury Park, Watford, 1890-1910 (English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty Images)Entrance Lodge at Cassiobury Park, Watford, 1890-1910 (English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

A number of mills operated in Rickmansworth, processing silk, cotton and paper as well as cereals; the chimney of one can be seen on the right. Mill End ran south–west from the High Street, generally following the course of the River Colne. The Plough was a Benskins-tied pub.

Looking north-west down the street, with carts and wagons outside the Spread Eagle public house to the left. The Essex Arms and SPQR Stores stand opposite. Between them is the entrance to the Corn Exchange, occupying the rear of the hotel built in 1855 on the site of the old Market Hall, which burned down in 1853.

Mill End, Rickmansworth, c1900Mill End, Rickmansworth, c1900

Lost England: 1870-1930

Market Place, Watford, c1890 (English Heritage)Market Place, Watford, c1890 (English Heritage)

Philip Davies, an architectural historian, spent seven years trawling through historic photographs of England around the turn of the 20th century, compiling the best 1,500 in this 558-page book .

It is published by Historic England and available in hardback, RRP £45.

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