Watton at Stone: A small hamlet with a big heart
PUBLISHED: 17:44 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:13 20 February 2013
Marie Hardingham takes a look at bygone days in Watton-at-Stone and what makes this charming village an asset to the people who live there today
THE attractive parish of Watton-at-Stone is situated between Stevenage and Hertford in the valley of the River Beane. As you enter the village from the Hertford approach you see the imposing church of St Andrew and St Mary across the fields and the town's war memorial
The greater part of this tiny hamlet dates from the 20th century although some examples of 18th and 19th century architecture still remain. The pretty parish stretches along the high street with pubs and shops adorning either side. There is a nursery and primary school and the co-educational Heath Mount independent school is located just on the outskirts in Woodhall Park. The Waggon and Horses, The George and Dragon and The Bull provide watering-holes for the locals and a selection of shops include a supermarket, post office and a Chinese take-away, making it a village full of amenities.
With the development of housing estates life in Watton has changed considerably over the years especially since the closure of the Holden du Cros salmon packing factory in 1988, which was the main workplace for many residents and now the majority of villagers commute to surrounding areas.
Alan Rattue, 56, has lived in the village all his life and is a bit of a local historian. He collects all sorts of village memorabilia and has nearly 700 picture postcards dating way back to 1903. 'Each one tells a story,' says Alan.
The married father-of-two, who lives in the High Street, has been assembling his collection of postcards since 1984 and is currently writing a book on the history of the parish. He laughs, 'It started as a hobby, now it's an obsession.'
In 1968 the whole village was cut-off due to severe flooding. The local scout hut, which Alan helped build, was completely flattened and washed down river, blocking up the bridge and damming the water which resulted in the bridge collapsing. It was absolute devastation and boats were used as transport for a while. Both the bridge and the hut had to be totally rebuilt.
Alan believes the village demonstrates a strong community feel and adds, 'Life here is very social, people will always stop to chat.'
Alan Rattue is currently writing a book on the history of the parish and is appealing for help.
If anyone knows who is in the 'rabbit breeder' picture, left, then please contact Alan at email@example.com
Bend it like Watton
The quaint parish used to have a rifle club but in those days it was frowned upon for women to join such activities. Then one day the club relented and a woman was permitted, but while out shooting she accidentally shot and killed a cow and that put paid to the rifle club altogether.
Poaching was a common past-time for locals back then, but today in the village hobbies centre mainly on sporting pursuits such as kick boxing, cycling and tennis, and there is also a ladies football team. Currently they
are raising money for a new sports
field which is ironic really as the old sports field is where the rifle club used to shoot and where women were forbidden.
Manager of the team, 29-year-old John Fitzjohn, says, 'I moved to the village in 1994. it's a great place to live for anyone who likes sport, there's a variety of clubs available for all ages ranging from football to rambling.'
John Fitzjohn is looking for more players for the ladies football team.
If you are interested contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org