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Short accounts by Tring residents of aspects of their lives and of past events



THE WAR AND TRING, by John Bowman

MEMORIES OF A 6 - 7 YEAR OLD EVACUEE, by Marlene McAndrew, née Tallman





THE ROSE & CROWN INN, TRING, by Wendy Austin



THE POLISH CAMP AT MARSWORTH — 1948-1958, by Sandra Costello

ANOTHER 100th ANNIVERSARY (NOT WW1), by John Savage




THE TRING AND AYLESBURY TRAMWAY that might have been, by Ian Petticrew

A WALK AROUND TRING as it was in the eighteen nineties, by Joseph Budd



The War and Tring
by John Bowman, March 2005


“Make very field give a greater yield.”
Bucks Herald, 5th April 1940.

Tring is a small market town nestling on the scarp face of the Chiltern Hills facing North to the Vale of Aylesbury.  During WWII it was a self-contained community of some five thousand people.  There were many shops, which covered most of the needs of everyone.  The local industries mainly catered for agriculture.  Much of the land surrounding Tring and the Vale was owned by the Rothschild banking family.  Their estates were extremely well run, and were modern in their outlook.  There was little unemployment and the Rothschild family assisted the local council to provide decent housing.  In the late nineteen-thirties, after the death of Lord [Walter] Rothschild, the estate around Tring was sold off to the tenant farmers and others.  This made little difference to the way of life in the area.

When the Second World War started in September 1939, nothing changed much from normal life for a few months; it was a gradual process.  The local Territorial Army of the Second Battalion of the Hertfordshire Regiment was mobilised.  As time went on, men volunteered or were called to join the Armed Services.  This caused some shortage of labour in local industries which were changing to war orientated operations.

As most of the men were now serving elsewhere, women were working on the buses as conductors at the London Transport Bus Garage in Western Road.  The Silk Mill in Brook Street became an engineering works with its own foundry.  Parts for aircraft engines, airframes, tanks and many other items were manufactured and finished for assembly elsewhere.  The Post Office, which was a Government Department, started to employ women as counter clerks and sorters.  The delivery of letters and parcels was still left to men.  In agriculture, all land which was unproductive was requisitioned by the Government and used on a national basis for the production of crops which were suited to the soil locally.

The Ministry of Agriculture formed its own army.  This was called “The Women’s Land Army”.  Women were trained as tractor drivers, operators of machinery used in farming, and in all aspects of animal husbandry.  Most were billeted in large houses such as rectories though some were housed in army huts built for the purpose.  As you can appreciate, this was a very efficient use of labour, as seasonal tasks, such as the harvest and haymaking could be tackled on a collective basis.

Many other large organisations moved from London to the Tring area.  The Rothschild Bank moved into the Mansion.  The Exchange Telegraph Company occupied the Mill buildings at Hastoe Farm.  This was an important communications organisation, which served commercial needs worldwide.  At Newground, on the way to Berkhamsted, you will see some large warehouse buildings beside the Grand Union Canal in Beggars Lane.  These were built to store emergency stocks of food for distribution.  These stores were called “Buffer Depots” and were built for the Ministry of Food at strategic places all over the country.

The way people shopped was very different from the way we do today.  It was common to shop once a week, and when Ration Books were issued, one registered with a particular grocer.  In those days, sugar, tea, butter, lard, bacon, cooked meats and lots of other products were not pre-packed as they are today but were cut, weighed and packed to order.  When one walked into a grocers shop, the aroma of coffee mixed with that of dried fruits, butter, cheese and spices, was absolutely delicious and pleasurable.  The grocer - in our case - visited our home at West Leith on Tuesdays.  He took our order and told mother of any special offers he had to hand.  He returned on Thursdays with our order.  On the following Tuesday, if mother was not satisfied with, say, the bacon, too fat, or whatever, he was told in no uncertain terms.  Everything was put right on Thursday.

When the war started, there were nine butcher’s shops trading in Tring with the butchers attending the local cattle market to purchase their meat on the hoof.  At least five butchers processed their own meat.  As mentioned, when war started a Government Department was formed called “The Ministry of Food”.  The production, control, and distribution of meat were taken from the butchers and they received their supplies from central depots.  The local slaughterhouse belonging to the Tring Co-operative Society was chosen and licensed for the Tring area.  The manager and buyer was Mr Gilbert Rance who lived in King Street.  The local markets continued to operate but were also controlled by the Ministry of Food.  The same Ministry also promoted the production of vegetables at home.  Help and advice was given to householders and societies to obtain good seed and to rotate crops for maximum effect.

If your garden was big enough, you were encouraged to keep a pig or chickens for eggs or meat.  These animals were fed a mixture of kitchen waste and meal, unlike today.  An egg cost as much as a two pound loaf of bread.  However, my mother kept chickens so we faired very well.

There were many bakers’ shops in Tring who baked daily.  Many bakers called on houses in the surrounding area daily.  I can remember four different bakers calling at our house, all on different days.  So you can see our lives were well organised.

As our armed forces grew in size, accommodation became a problem and small units began to move into the surrounding area, one of the first units to arrive was No. 1 Tractor Battery, Royal Artillery, who occupied the Stables at Pendley Manor.  Nissen huts were built in the wooded area alongside Station Road.  The stables - where the Court Theatre is now - became the workshop area.  This unit was part of Anti-aircraft Command.  They serviced and repaired the anti-aircraft guns which surrounded London.

A Royal Navy Depot was established in buildings at the rear of 51 High Street, now Metcalfe’s.  This land based ‘ship’ was named H.M.S. Aeolus, Aeolus being the Roman mythological ‘God of the Winds’.  The purpose of this depot was the supply of kites and balloons to the Royal Navy, for meteorological and shipboard anti-aircraft defence.

In the stable block at the Mansion a variety of army units were housed.  A field company of the Royal Engineers was one of the first.  I worked at a garage at the end of Western Road called Wright & Wright (engineers and coach builders) so I saw most of the soldiers’ vehicles.  They came and asked me to inflate their tyres with our airline.  At the beginning of the war a variety of vehicles such as motor coaches, London taxi cabs, were modified into pick-up trucks.  These vehicles were requisitioned from civilian use due to the shortage of army vehicles.

Early in the war a large airfield was built on flat farmland the perimeter bordering Long Marston, Cheddington and Marsworth.  Although the main camp buildings were at Lower End Marsworth the airfield was named Cheddington.  This was because the nearest railway station was Cheddington.  The Royal Air force operated from the airfield.  When the U.S. entered the war in 1941 the U.S. Army Air Force also operated from there.

Aerial photograph of RAF Cheddington looking north, 3rd March 1944.
The bomb dump is at the top, the control tower and technical site are at the bottom.

When war started the Home Office organised Civil Defence so that the population of Great Britain could help themselves in the expected aerial bombardment.  The Auxiliary Fire Service was formed to supplement local Fire Brigades who in their own turn became the National Fire Service.  The Red Cross and Saint John’s Ambulance Brigade staffed first aid posts and emergency hospitals.  In Tring we had a military hospital at Drayton Manor and a maternity hospital at Home Farm in Park Road.

The town was split into sections.  Each section had an air-raid warden.  He was responsible for making sure that no house showed any light during the “Black-out”.  If a bomb dropped in his section he would evaluate the situation and call forward rescue or fire support if needed.  The rescue section was housed at Honours Yard in Akeman Street, this being a builder’s yard.  The section comprised men working there.  In 1940 volunteers were required to form a civilian/military formation called the Home Guard.  The volunteers were lightly armed and knew their own area so would have been invaluable if the Germans had invaded us.  Youth organisations, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides supported the civil authorities.

Army Cadets attended training with the army and Home Guard and sat examinations for certificates which, when they joined the army, entitled them to trained soldier’s pay.  The same applied to Air Cadets and Naval Cadets.

During the early part of the war, London and the larger cities were subjected to very heavy bombing.  Heavy damage to buildings and communications occurred and volunteers were brought in from other areas to assist.  Our own Civil Defence organisations relieved the exhausted firemen and rescue teams in London; some even went as far as Portsmouth to help out.  When the heavy raids on London occurred we could see the red glow away to the East with the flashes of anti-aircraft guns firing at the enemy aircraft.

Quite a lot of bombs fell in the Tring area.  Fortunately not much damage was done.  There was some damage to a house on the corner of Albert Street and Langdon Street.  The third of a stick of four exploded in front of our house in Duckmore Lane.  It dropped behind four haystacks but shrapnel made some holes in our roof and some window glass was broken.  In Long Marston, a bomb destroyed the school and a public house.  There were no children in school at the time, but one person [Ed. - a teacher] was killed.

Air-raid shelters were built along Tring Road and Station Road in Long Marston because of the close proximity to the airfield.

The schools in Tring and surrounding villages accepted evacuated children who were billeted with families around.  This caused overcrowding in the classrooms so some classes from the junior and senior schools in the High Street moved over the road to the High Street Free Church opposite.  The Akeman Street Baptist Chapel also housed classes.  The infant school in King Street used the Temperance Hall in Christchurch‘ Road.  So you see, even the children were involved in the War effort.

The Regal in Western Road, 10th December 1943
Sunday’s programme includes Ronald Regan

February 1942 was a time of sadness and dismay to many families in Tring.  It was announced that Singapore/Malaya and Hong Kong had fallen to the Japanese Forces.  Many of local soldiers were serving in an East Anglian Division, which went into captivity at Singapore.  The Japanese Army moved the prisoners to Siam (now Thailand) where they were put to work building a railway through the jungles towards Burma.  They laboured under dreadful conditions, with little food and medical care available.  They were brutally treated by their guards and many died from sickness, malnutrition and brutality.  Although the majority of soldiers involved were British, Australian, American and Dutch soldiers were also imprisoned and suffered much the same.  Six men from Tring died between 1942 and 1945.  Many more survived and returned after the war, most never really recovered from the privations received in the camps.

It is said that during March 1942 extra allocation of rations were made available in Tring as a bolster to moral.  During the war years, thirty-four men gave their lives for our freedom.  Their names can be seen on the upper facets of our war memorial and also in the ‘Book of Remembrance’ displayed in the Parish Church.

I cannot comment on the celebrations when the war came to an end.  I was serving in the Royal Engineers in Belgium; we were repairing Belgian Railway engines in Mechelin, a city between Antwerp and Brussels.

In conclusion we must not forget that it was not all work and effort.  Entertainment was well catered for.  There were two cinemas in Tring, “The Regal” in Western Road and the “Gaiety” in Akeman Street.  Programmes were changed twice weekly with a special programme on Sunday.  The children were not forgotten, they had a special Saturday morning session.  There was usually a dance held in the Victoria Hall each Saturday, or one could travel to Aylesbury or Berkhamsted to dance.  The forces stationed hereabouts could go to the Y.M.C.A. in Tabernacle Yard, Akeman Street, where they could get refreshment and write home.  They could even get their socks darned by the volunteer ladies who tended to mother them.

I hope this has gone some way in painting a picture of life in Tring during World War II.


by Marlene McAndrew, née Tallman, Novem,ber 2006.

I remember finding myself in a largish room in a vicarage in Northchurch where a lot of women and children were sitting on settees, chairs and chaise-longue types of furniture amid a certain amount of quiet confusion.  Eventually my mother and I, and several others, were sent to a large house in a hamlet called St. Margaret’s.  The house had been a youth hostel so the bedrooms were dormitories and the kitchen was equipped for large-scale catering.  School was reached via a long lane, frequently blocked by herds of cattle which our town-bred mothers found quite intimidating.  The school consisted of one room and all I can remember doing was making patterns with zeros and crosses on squared paper.  Gradually all the women left St. Margaret’s finding the isolation depressing and rather frightening, especially as the house was the last in the row and there was an army base nearby.  My mother feared she would be left there alone with me so she too asked to be transferred.  The letter informing my father of the move was delayed and he came down one cold and wet weekend, only to find the house locked and empty.  As he had nowhere to stay and no means of getting back to London that night he had to break in.

As a temporary measure we were next billeted in Tring with a family called Birch; their daughter Marion was about my age and prevented me from picking dandelions, alerting me to the fact that they were likely to make you wet the bed.  We were subsequently transferred to Miswell Cottage, Miswell Lane, whose occupants were Mrs. Mary Kemp and her husband Bert, who was in the Home Guard, her father “Gramps” and their son Roy, roughly my age.  Mrs. Kemp was a warm-hearted and cheerful woman who seemed to enjoy having another young woman’s company.  Her husband was in the Home Guard; he was more reserved, possibly shy.  He used to go out early in the morning and bring back mushrooms for us to have with the most delicious pink, curly bacon.  It was the first time our family had ever eaten either bacon or mushrooms.  Roy had red-gold hair and freckles and a large, wonderful farmyard set with which we often used to play.  One day ‘gramps’ died, and my mother was asked if she would like to see him laid out; she didn’t really but couldn’t refuse.

Most of the London children seemed to be allocated to a school in a kind of sports pavilion, but I was allocated to Gravelly School in King Street, which was a very happy time for me.  The head teacher, Miss Hollywood, was a pretty Irish woman, who seemed to love children and to fill the school with her warmth.  She was accompanied everywhere by a younger curate who obviously adored her.  The school comprised three rooms and I was in Miss Dyker’s class; the other teacher was called Miss Dell and I think she came from London.

We lived in a flat in London and I had never had a garden.  I remember going out early in the morning and standing on the slightly raised area nearer the house in a state which I can only describe as ecstatic.  The grass, the trees, the birds, thrilled me in a way I can recall to this day, and I used to sing “The sun is shining clear and bright, come out into the morning light....”.  I don’t know where I learnt that song but it seemed appropriate.  There was a pear tree in the garden with one huge William pear.  Miss Lizzie promised it to me if I was a good girl.  I watched it grow with eagerness longing for the day when it would be mine.  Alas!  Before it had been picked some wasps had eaten a large piece out of it.  As a compensation, maybe, we often came back to the house to find a saucer of sugared raspberries waiting for us on the kitchen table.

My father was living alone among all the bombs and destruction, working on the prototype Mosquito plane.  Cabinet makers were a “reserved occupation” and were allotted this special duty because of their skill in very fine woodwork.  The weekends which my father spent with us must have been a welcome break from the blitz and the make-do meals. However, although the Finchers liked my father, they eventually informed us that they were unaccustomed to having a man in the house and they would prefer him not to come down anymore.  So we went back to the blitz.

The de Havilland DH-98 Mosquito, the “wooden wonder”.
Wood workers (right) planing the top boom on a Mosquito before machining.

On Friday nights when my father came to Tring we used to wait for him opposite the Rose and Crown, where there was a bench.  One day the coach arrived and we saw him in a window seat, fast asleep.  We waved and yelled, but couldn’t rouse him, so the bus took him on to Aylesbury.  On a Sunday morning he would often take me for a walk towards Berkhamsted, and we would pick up conkers and look at the watercress beds, all novelties for a London child, or we would visit the museum.  Occasionally we would go to a pub with a garden where my parents would have a shandy and me a lemonade.  This was another thing we never did in London.  Life for our mothers must have been very boring.  Away from their own homes, with nothing to occupy them, no husbands, no friends or families to visit, only one cinema, what could they do with their time in a small town?

The one place we could all go to was the Victoria Hall, where two rooms were allocated as a kind of social centre for the Londoners.  One room was used as a canteen and the other as a lounge, where we gossiped, held concerts, played cards and occasionally had someone to give us a talk.  I especially remember a member of the Rothschild family, a lady whose French accent was so impenetrable that nobody could understand what she was saying.  In the evenings our two rooms were the only areas in the building illuminated and l found the dark passages and the stairs leading up to other black regions, very creepy.

Sometimes in good weather we went to a recreation ground in Miswell Lane, where there were swings and two horses, which the bolder children rode.  There was also the weekly cattle market which provided some entertainment, especially one day when a bull got out and everyone scattered.  There was children’s Saturday morning cinema at the Regal.  I went once but hated it; it was like Bedlam.  For our weekly bath we went into Berkhamsted or Aylesbury on the bus.  Berkhamsted seemed to us a dreary place, very poor-looking and drab.  We preferred Aylesbury, which felt like a real town, with a bit of bustle.  There was a time when we went to Aylesbury every week, to visit my father in hospital.  He came down one weekend with his hand tied up.  He had injured it at work and some splinters had got in and it had become “poisoned”.  The pain was so bad that he ended up in the Royal Bucks Hospital where he spent several weeks.  He was told that if he had left it any longer he would probably have lost his arm from septicaemia.  He was probably run down and needed the rest anyway.  Children were not allowed into adult wards in those days so while my mother visited dad I used to sit on the grass outside where I made friends with another little girl who taught me how to make daisy chains.  My father was an easy-going, friendly man, who always got on with people.  However, in the hospital his fellow patients on both sides were Buck’s countrymen and they found each others’ accents mutually incomprehensible.

At one stage my parents considered storing our furniture to save on rent and avoid possible destruction by bombs, so my mother answered an advertisement for a store-room in Tring.  We went to a grand house, through kitchens full of uniformed maids and briefly saw an old woman, apparently the house-owner.  The store-room turned out to be a damp, dirty outhouse.  My mother was furious and deeply hurt that anyone should suggest our beautiful furniture could be stored in such conditions and at such a price! It seemed apparent to her that this woman did not expect working-class people to have decent homes and possessions.  The whole idea was dropped.  My memories of Tring are happy ones.  For the adults, far from home, worried about the future, lonely, it must have been a less pleasant time.  Some of the younger women used to go to dances at Halton Camp and a certain amount of flirtation and affairs went on.  They were condemned then, but war turns all normality on its head.  Some married couples were separated for years; people need company, laughter, affection.  With retrospect and as an adult, I feel sympathy for them all, including the Tring householders who shared their homes with strangers.

I would like to add that most accounts of evacuees give the impression that we were impoverished, ignorant little waifs who encountered comfort and culture for the first time when we were evacuated. In my experience this was not the case.  We had the benefit of LCC schools, which offered us a much better, progressive education than we found in the village schools.  The families who were evacuated with us to Tring were from the skilled working-class who had modest but nice homes and who were often shocked at the conditions in which some country people lived.  We were sometimes offered digs, which were more primitive than anything we had ever seen in London.  I imagine some of them were farm labourers in tied cottages and with very low wages.  Some of the husbands were worried that our mothers would give their wives “ideas” about a better life-style!


November 2007.


Bucks herald, April 1909

At the end of the nineteenth century, William Bethell moved from Aston Clinton to Long Marston and set up a blacksmith’s shop opposite the present Village Hall.  This is still called Ford Cottage [should be Old Forge Cottage].  His wife made sweets to supplement their income.

The business thrived as, of course, the blacksmith in a rural community was then of prime importance, so they moved to larger premises on the village crossroads.  There they had stables, a hay loft, a blacksmith’s shop with two hearths and a cycle shop.  When the motor car came on the scene, William adapted to the times, and petrol was delivered from Aylesbury once a week.  This was sold in two-gallon cans, and was delivered by horse and cart from the Shell depot at Norfolk Terrace.

In those days bicycles could only be purchased in flat packs - what’s new!  Stove enamelling facilities were also set up in the cycle shop, and the equivalent of a taxi service was begun, using a horse-drawn governess cart.

Joe and Bill, his two sons, later worked in the business.  A regular customer was the Veterinary Surgeon to the London, Midland & Scottish Railway.  In those days most railway stations delivered goods to their final destination by horse and cart.  Horses were also used to shunt railway trucks.  When the animals were injured, they were taken to Cheddington Station, and the Vet would bring them back to health on his land at nearby Puttenham.

A railway company horse shunting.

Most of these horses were large Shires. On their way from Cheddington to Puttenham, their first stop was at the blacksmith’s shop to have their heavy shoes removed. (I have one of these, which measures 7% inches in diameter, on our garden gate.) A bar was welded across the front of the shoe to grip the sleepers, and rubber pads were fixed to the back to stop the horses slipping on the cobbles. On one occasion, the horses were taken to a nearby field, and Joe was sent by pony and cart with his tools to remove the shoes. When he jumped down to undo the gate, the Shire horses plus pony and cart immediately galloped out down Potash Lane. Joe was concerned how he was going to explain this to his farther, but a few minutes later the horses returned to the field of their own accord, and stood quietly until Joe could remove their shoes. Jack Winfield, who lived in Cheddington Lane, told me, getting up at 6am one morning he heard an enormous clattering of hooves coming up the Lane. He looked out of the window and saw just one man leading eleven gentle giant Shire horses back to Cheddington Station.

ln the mid-1920’s, William Bethell realised that the motor car was in its infancy, and would be ‘the thing’ in years to come, so petrol pumps were installed (BP and Shell), and a car was bought for taxi work. This was a Hotchkiss (made in France), and in due course, it was replaced by a Morris Isis, said to have belonged to the Rothschild family at Tring.

At the beginning of World War II in 1940 Cheddington Airfield was built, the firm of Wimpey being the main contractor. They came to Bethell’s garage for most of their petrol, and often used up nearly all the garages supply in one day, and this at a time when petrol was rationed and supplied through coupons. Joe’s wife, Maud, used to cycle from the garage to Marston Gate Railway station, put her bike in the guards van, and catch the single-track train to Aylesbury. There, she gave the coupons in at the petrol depot, and only then would they come out to re-fill the tanks.

As farmers acquired tractors, traditional blacksmith [farrier’s] work declined, but this was largely oflset by the increase in pony-riding. Bill continued in the blacksmith shop, whilst brother Joe drove the taxi, sold petrol, charged batteries, and repaired bicycles and punctures. Bill retired around 1970, because then there was less business, as customers wanted a travelling blacksmith to go to them.

The business ticked over, with Joe living on the premises. When he finally retired he lived with his daughter, and the premises were sold to Market Garage, Tring. The various buildings were demolished and a modem Ford franchise garage built (totally out of keeping with the village scene). Unfortunately, this coincided with a renewal of petrol rationing in the mid-1970s. The garage was then divided between a re-finishing/spray/vehicle body repair area, and a showroom selling up-market motorcycles, all trading under the name Morphy Motors. They held the agency for Triumph, Gilera and another, but this was not a success, and the buildings were demolished and replaced by houses.

I have an interesting recollection of the Great Train Robbery of 1963 because police arrived to search all premises within a 15-rnile radius of Bridego Bridge. When they examined the hay loft (beneath which two cars were stored), they called the Army Bomb Disposal Squad to remove incendiary devices left by the Home Guard during World War II. These were so crude that boxes of matches were found beside them. The thinking behind this was that the Home Guard would somehow stop enemy tanks advancing down Cheddington Lane. (Yes, Dad’s Army was exactly as you’ve seen it on television.)

I’m asked from time to time where the Go-Kart track was in Long Marston. It was on the Cheddington side of the Cricket Club (about one field back) and remained until July 1960. This was made by linking the concrete areas where bombs had been stored for use by aircraft flying from the World War II Cheddington Airfield. (This is now an Industrial Estate on the opposite side of the road.) How do I know all this? Because Joe Bethell had two daughters - Mary and Jose, and I’ve been lucky enough to have been married to Jose for 45 years.


by Shelley Savage, November 2009

The part of Tring known as Dundale is on the northern edge of the town, bounded by Dundale Road and the B488, the Icknield Way.  John Oliver, a map-maker, drew one of the earliest maps of Hertfordshire and that c.1695 shows the hamlet of Tring, very simply, with a church and three roads.  North of the village is the word “DUNSDELL”.  A map of 1725 by John Warburton shows “DUN DELL”.

In their book “The Landscape of Place Names”, Margaret Gelling and Ann Cole write: “DUN is a hill or upland expanse, or, an uninhabited hill adjacent to a settlement.  DAEL means ‘pit’ or ‘hollow’ and its related word DELL is found referring to very small ‘valleys’, and for natural or artificial hollows.”

Miswell Farm, about 2 kilometres to the east, was once a moated property with a spring that fed the ‘moat’, now a substantial lake.  This and ‘Dundell’ are on the spring line.  Both were exploited in 19th Century by a man who was important in our local history, William Kay, who, in 1824, built a silk mill in Brook Street.  Although the town was already supplied with water this enterprise needed a great deal more. To augment his supplies he drew water from the lake at Miswell and had a tunnel dug from below its surface leading to the hollow at Dundale.  The work was carried out manually by men with pickaxes.  One may assume that he made a substantial bund to dam the water at Dundale.  Then another deep tunnel was dug from the Dundale lake through to the silk mill.  The two lakes, at Miswell and Dundale, were called ‘balancing ponds’, so that the water in both should be maintained at the same level, and this is what happens today.  Since the developments at Dundale in 2001, British Waterways has the responsibility for maintaining the water supply because it feeds the summit of the Grand Union Canal along its connection with the Wendover Arm.

Dundale Lake today

The Rothschilds and Dundale Wood

William Kay’s Estate in Tring was extensive, covering about 3000 acres.  Among its properties was Tring Park, which was let to the Rothschild family in the 1830s and sold to Nathan Rothschild in 1872.  The latter became closely involved with the life of the town and when the Silk Mill closed in 1898, he purchased it from Kay,the lake at Dundale being part of the property.

The site was soon developed as a ‘pleasure garden’.  Dundale Lodge, completed in 1891 (now demolished), was on the northern edge of the land.  It was designed by Tring architect William Huckvale in the traditional local Rothschild style.  This house was designed to allow entertainment for boating and fishing parties on the lake, and a little later a boathouse was built on its edge.  The site was planted with trees along the border of the property and around the lake, many of which remain in place.  An orchard of mixed fruit trees was established, as well as lawns and shrubbery.  The lake was stocked with brown trout, and there were game birds.  Subsequently an avenue was built to connect the pleasure garden with the Tring Park Mansion.

Dundale Lodge

Some details of the pleasure garden are furnished in the auctioneer’s prospectus when it was put up for sale in 1938.  The “picturesque property known as Dundale” comprised a Chalet Style House of brick, half-timbered and rough cast with tiled roof, the accommodation being: a large Garden Room with a cloakroom, a WC and a separate entrance, plus a Sitting Room, a Living Room , a Scullery, fuel barns, washhouse and WC and a Veranda along the whole length of the Garden Front.  The Grounds included “Lawns, Shrubberies Ornamental Water, Valuable Orchard and extensive kitchen Gardens and the area of the whole is about 11.259 acres.”

The schedule for Dundale Cottage and Land was £1,500.00.  The slightly curious, separated ‘large Garden Room’ may be explained by the local rumours of important figures (perhaps from the London aristocracy and royalty who frequented Tring Park at that time) using it for clandestine meetings, where they were provisioned from Tring Park house.

It has been noted that Nathaniel Rothschild (Natty) assembled a fine worldwide collection of conifers at Tring, some planted at Dundale.

The Second World War

The Home Guard was active in Tring in the early years of the war.  Noting that the Icknield Way was a major route, a number of young men constructed large, circular concrete road blocks with iron pipes through the centre.  These were positioned within the wood, adjacent to their defence post, behind the chestnut paling boundary.  The plan was that if the enemy approached in light tanks, the Home Guard would roll the blocks along the ground into the middle of the road, and attack the enemy.

In about 1950 the land was bought by Joseph Eggleton, a local man who loved nature and the song of birds.  He called it his wildlife garden.  He left the area as it was for his own private enjoyment, and that is how an area that had been carefully managed with tree plantings, ornamental shrubs and a garden, left unmanaged for decades, became a secondary wood.

The 21st Century

The site was identified and adopted as a Wildlife Site in Dacorum’s Local Plan, a local designation which triggers protection policies, and a Tree Preservation Order covers the whole site.

In 2001, it was bought by a development company which carried out an ecological survey, and plans were put forward for development of a relatively small section of the land, with the remainder being given to the local authority as a wildlife site.  This was accepted, with restoration of the lake and some basic management of the wood, plus an endowment for its continued care.  The eastern section is fenced off from the public.

Current woodland management means that trees which are culled, or die, are lefl in situ to decay and provide a rich habitat.  Among the wildlife were signs of muntjac deer, and an abundance of grey squirrels.  It may be possible that the Edible Dormouse (the common name for the Glis Glis) was responsible for damage to the swamp cypresses.  A number of badger setts were noted, and bats were known to use the site for foraging.  The ivy clinging abundantly to the trees provides an especially good micro-climate for bats.  Twenty-seven species of birds were recorded during the breeding bird surveys, with over 50 species recorded at the site over a period.  A good number of common frog, common toad and smooth newt were found.

Considerable work has been carried out on the site during and since the development.  There is a path around the lake and public access to the area is from Nathaniel Walk and the Icknield Way.  The lake still has large fish in it, sometimes visible.  The trees especially worth noting are the fine Swamp Cypresses alongside the lake, and the tall Black Pines which can be seen from Tring Park House.


a talk by Dave Hammond reported by Ann Reid, May 2011.


Mr Hammond is a qualified medicinal herbalist.  He had a business for some years but when that finished he didn’t want to retire.  To become a herbalist he had to study at university for four years and then do 500 hours of clinical practice.  He holds clinics in local towns and teaches herbal medicine.  The first picture we saw was taken in the garden of the Jeffrey Museum in London.  It has four herb gardens covering four centuries-16th to 19th.

The Victorian age was one of great change.  At the start of Queen Victoria’s reign 80% of the people lived in villages and men worked on the land.  At the end of the 19th centaury 80% of the people lived in cities.  Life expectancy in the cities was 22 years mainly because two thirds of children died before the age of five.  Alcohol and opium, both of which were easily available, contributed to ill health.  Sherlock Holmes was described as using opium and Charles Dickens said opium gave him “Six delicious hours of oblivion”.

Operations were very basic and the mortality rate was high.  The surgeons had no knowledge of germs, they only washed their hands after performing an operation.  The breakthrough came when Louis Pasteur discovered bacteria in milk and Joseph Lister experimented with anti-sceptics.  Neither were accepted for many years so people were still dying unnecessarily.  Later Marie Curie discovered radium which led to radiotherapy and William Rontgen’s work on the cathode ray tube led to X-rays now widely used in medicine.

Mr Hammond went on to tell us more about herbal medicine used in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  We saw photographs of some of the common herbs.  One, instantly recognisable was the Foxglove, producing digitalis for heart problems.  This is not now widely used, Lily of the Valley being used instead as its easier to define the correct dose.  Other herbs included coltsfoot and liquorice, described as anti-inflammatories and used for calming coughs.  Mint and chamomile also featured in herbal medicine, as did dandelion, plantains and nettles; both stinging and white.

We saw a slide of a Victorian Home Herbal Medicine Book.  Most families had one and recipes included how to make soothing drops from Valerian and the use of Hawthorn flowers and berries in the treatment of minor heart ailments.  The recipes were still used well into the 20th century but things changed with the dawn of the NHS when medicines were free and easily available.  At this time herbalists were treated with some scepticism but now they are more accepted and there are about 1,000 registered in the country.  They all have to have the same rigorous training as Mr Hammond had and are now recognised as medical professionals.  They work in conjunction with doctors.

Our speaker then explained how ointments and creams were made using natural ingredients.  He described a potion using marigold petals mixed with olive oil and beeswax to treat eczema and insect stings.  Using a cafetiere the mixture could be compressed with the plunger and left for a month or so until ready to use.  Rosemary can also be used in this way and is good for rheumatism.  He then demonstrated the technique with an electric hotplate on which he heated olive-oil and beeswax into a paste.  While it was still hot he poured some cold water onto the mixture.  It crackled and bubbled and then, to our surprise and slight amusement, the fire alarm went off in the hall.  Luckily the talk was almost at an end for no-one knew how to turn off the very sophisticated alarm.  We thanked Mr Hammond for a very interesting and well informed talk but we left the hall with a very noisy alarm still ringing in our ears.  It was later turned off by the caretaker!


by John Savage, July 2011
(Read this article with an O.S. Map by your side)

Everybody with an interest in the history of Tring will be aware of its location on the ancient routes of Akeman Street and Icknield Way, the former generally known as Roman and the latter of earlier origins.  A recent discovery of a splendid book, “Roman Roads in the South East Midlands” which details research undertaken in the late 1950s by a group of academics calling themselves The Viatores throws much more light on the subject.  The following is taken from that publication, which is available in the Buckinghamshire County Record Office.

Akeman Street originated as a Belgic route and was adopted as an early road in the Roman system, linking Verulamium with Alchester and Cirencester.  Akeman Street is a generic name for a Roman road meaning “the road to Bath” and comes from the Saxon Acemannesceatre.

Akeman Street actually diverges from the Watling Street near Edgware, with a link from Verulamium joining it at Nash Mills, from whence the route of the Roman road follows the course of the Gade and Bulbourne valleys to Bourne End, but not on the course of the present road until just west of Bourne End church.  From here the routes coincide, through Berkhamsted and Northchurch as far as the junction with Hamberlins Lane at Dudswell.  Here the modern road meanders through Cow Roast, but the Roman road took a direct line, including part of Bottom House Lane, rejoining the modern road just to the northwest of New Ground, at a triangle of waste ground.  Examination of the current Ordnance Survey Explorer Map easily identifies the route, and The Viatores found aggers (embankments) and flint metalling on this section which should still be traceable.  From here, the modern and Roman roads again coincide, with a marked turn of direction at the Pendley lodge, where the Ridgeway Path crosses.  At London Road Lodge in Tring the Roman road continues straight across Tring Park to pick up the line of Park Street and Park Road.  A grassy agger, 45 ft wide and 1 ft high can be seen on the section through the park and a trial hole dug here in 1960 revealed that the metalling consisted of flint and gravel, bound with lime mortar.  This section ceased to be a public road in 1711 when through traffic was diverted via London Road and the High Street.  Ironically, Tring’s present Akeman Street is not on the line of the Roman road, being at right angles to it.  The middle section of the modern Park Road meanders slightly to the north, but the Roman road followed a straight line; The Viatores found evidence of the Roman road on the original course here and it would be interesting to see whether that evidence is still discernable.  Re-joining the modem main road at the Park Road/Western Road junction, the route then makes a 23.5 degrees turn to the northwest at Tring Cemetery setting a straight course all the way to Fleet Marston, to the west of Aylesbury.

Map showing the course of the Akeman Street through Tring (source “Roman Roads in the South East Midlands”)
The junction with the Romanised Icknield Way is at the Western Road/Park Road junction

Lesser known is the Romanised Icknield Way which, in the Tring area at least, does not coincide at all with the modern route.  From the west it coincided with Akeman Street from Aston Clinton to Tring and branched from that route at the Western Road/Park Road junction, coinciding with Western Road as far as its junction with Miswell Lane.  From here it is thought that the Roman road took a straight line to the north of the present Western Road/High Street, picking up the line of Mortimer Hill, which at the time of The Viatores’ survey was a 9 ft wide holloway.  A footpath marked the line across to Grove Road, now all lost to modern development, although interestingly a short length of the public footpath remains linking Sulgrave Crescent with Grove Road, a Roman survivor!  East of Grove Road the line is marked by a hedgerow to the north of Marshcroft Lane, gradually diverging from it.  Here was found occasional signs of the agger and some indications of flint metalling.


The Romanised Icknield Way crossing Grove Road (source “Roman Roads in the South East Midlands”)
The road shown in yellow is Marshcroft Lane

Passing near Folly Farm (where a Roman cemetery was found when the railway was built) the line is then lost through the old cement quarry until it picks up the line of the public footpath running along the eastern edge of the quarry to join the present route of the Ridgeway Path until it meets the Aldbury-Ivinghoe Road.  Here the modern Ridgeway does a dog-leg before heading on to Incombe Hole, but the Roman road continued straight ahead, as indeed did the footpath until diverted further north.  The modern and original routes converge onto a fine terraceway around Incombe Hole.  At the top of the hill the Roman Road does a ninety degree right turn and heads off through the former RAF station at Edlesborough and thence along the line of a lost footpath via Willow Farm and Vallence End Farm to pick up a track along the foot of Dunstable Downs.

Space does not permit the inclusion of all the details of the evidence used to support these findings.  Although some will have been lost to subsequent development, much should remain to be seen for those who wish to investigate, using the original publication (which includes beautifully prepared strip maps of the routes) as a guide.

Footnote: although the research of The Viatores was evidence based, with conjectured lines filling the gaps between hard evidence on or under the ground, some of their findings have subsequently been challenged.  In the case of the two routes relating to Tring the line of Akeman Street seems pretty certain, particularly on the Nash Mills to Fleet Marston section, with just the route through the centre of Aylesbury perhaps less so.  The Romanised Icknield Way could be more open to challenge and it would be interesting if anybody would like to expound further on this.

Ed - see also Roads and those in Tring


The Rose & Crown Inn, Tring
by Wendy Austin, January 2012

Although the Rose & Crown was sniffily described in 1953 by Nikolaus Pevsner, the famous architectural historian, as “architecturally deplorable” it is now considered a much-loved landmark of the town of Tring, and we await with apprehension to hear of the plans for its possible redevelopment.  What we see now is an Edwardian creation designed by Lord Rothschild’s architect, William Huckvale, but this has not always been so.

The first mention of the Rose & Crown, which was owned by the Manor of Tring, is said to be in 1620 when it was in the hands of Thomas Robinson, but it is probably older than that.  The original building was largely Tudor in origin and the overall design followed the general pattern of a complex of buildings ranging round a sizable yard.  Later on, in the early 18th century, a new frontage was erected and old photographs show three stories, a tiled roof, five dormer windows and an archway entrance to the yard at the rear, the whole standing flush to the pavement with its adjacent shops.

The Rose & Crown Inn (immediate right) in the late Victorian era.

A large area of ground behind the hotel accommodated a bowling green as well as providing a venue for fairs and circuses.  An inn of this type was considered a prestigious building and the central focus of the town.  During the next two centuries both members of the Vestry and Excise Office made consistent use of the facilities on offer, and an entry in the Vestry Minutes of 17 January 1711 records “William Gore Esq. [owner of Tring Park] proposes that this Vestry be adjourned to the Rose & Crown to consider and order all other parish affairs that shall be thought needed”.  In the 17th century the establishment was owned by a well-known Tring family named Axtell who started to issue their own trade tokens.  [These tokens came into use because ‘the man in the street’ had a problem - there was no official small change for use in the market place, and innkeepers in particular were at a disadvantage and many began to issue their own coins.]  Those from the Rose & Crown were stamped with “William Axtell. His Half Penny” and the obverse side “1668 of Tring” and the sign of the crowned Rose.  Beer and porter were brewed on the premises from the 17th century to about 1865, when the beer coolers were removed to 15 Akeman Street.  On William Axtell’s death an inventory of his possessions disclose that he was a comparatively wealthy man, the inn fully furnished on three floors; fully stocked cellars and brewhouses; a woodhouse; a chaise barn and harness room; and outbuildings for horses and cattle.

The 18th century saw the Golden Age of coaching and, Tring being on a busy route to London, meant the fortunes of the Rose & Crown increased accordingly.  The Despatch, Sovereign, and King William from Aylesbury, Leamington, and Kidderminster called daily, and the inn’s own coach The Good Intent ran to London three times a week.  Such was the increase in traffic that two other inns close by, the Plough and the Bell, provided extra stabling. The advent of the railways must have affected trade but, ever enterprising, the landlord in 1852 opened ‘the booking office of the London & North Western Railway’, and a horse-drawn omnibus [see pictured below] carried passengers the one-and-a-half miles to and from Tring Station.

The new Rose & Crown Inn by Tring architect William Huckvale.
The horse bus in the foreground ran a service to and from Tring Station, 1½ miles distant.

In the Victorian age more prosperity came to Tring, and in 1904 the townsfolk made an approach to Lord Rothschild, the Lord of the Manor, with the suggestion that he should enhance the town with a first-class hotel which they considered would benefit all.  He readily agreed, his action being reminiscent of the medieval habit by which a landed lord erected additional accommodation to house the influx of travellers whom by custom were his guests; the new hotel had the added benefit of providing bedrooms for his personal overflow of guests from Tring Park.  When building work was complete the finished hotel, with an imposing mock-Tudor facade well set back from the road, was promptly handed over to the Hertfordshire Public House Trust, an organisation promoted by the Home Secretary, Lord Grey, to provide hotels with added sporting facilities.  And so the hotel has remained until the present day when the need for such hotels in the centre of country towns has almost disappeared, motorists preferring out-of-town travel lodges with parking facilities and standard accommodation.  At the moment, we can only ‘Watch This Space’.

THE LATEST PLANS . . . . are indeed to abandon the hotel and convert the building into apartments with, perhaps, retail outlets and restaurants on the ground floor (Gazette 23 Nov 2011)


by Time Amsden, January 2012.


Tring Memorial Garden

The history of Tring is closely bound up with that of the manorial estate of Tring Park, the origins of which pre-date the Norman invasion of 1066.  Much of the land around the centre of the town belonged to it and some indeed still does.  For the last three centuries it has centred on the Mansion.

Well into the 19th century the hamlet of Lower Dunsley could be found at the eastern end of the town, on the edge of Tring Park and close to the Mansion.  Its only street was effectively a southerly continuation of Brook Street.  In 1872 the Tring Park Estate was bought by the Rothschild family.  Nathaniel, first Lord Rothschild, did not wish to have a village in such proximity and in 1885 he had most of it demolished and its residents rehoused.

Liddington’s Manor Brewery and adjacent houses at the foot of the High Street remained until 1896 when they too were demolished and a wall was built to enclose the land.  Further up the slope stood the Green Man Inn, which lasted until the death of the landlord, John Woodman, in 1903.  It was then demolished and the wall was continued so that the whole area was taken into the Mansion grounds to create a water garden.  A lake was formed as a lily pond and trees including the huge Wellingtonia were planted.

The third Lord Rothschild put much of the Estate up for sale in 1938 although the Mansion and the park were retained.  During the Second World War the Mansion was used as offices of the family banking business and subsequently became a school.  The water garden evidently became derelict during these years.

After the war, many people in Tring including Councillor Robert Grace were keen to create something permanent to act as a memorial to those who had lost their lives and a thanksgiving for those who had survived the conflict. In 1947 a questionnaire showed that a Garden of Remembrance was the most popular suggestion and a committee was formed to raise funds.  It was agreed that the Mansion’s water garden was the ideal place for such a purpose and by 1950 the land had been transferred into the ownership of Tring Urban District Council.  The ground was cleared, the lake bed resurfaced and simple planting carried out.  An opening was made in the wall at the point where it met the 1711 wall across the Mansion vista.  Gates were made by Bushell Brothers’ boatyard at New Mill and the archway reading “Memorial Garden” was made by Hampshire and Oakley of Chapel Street.  The Garden was unveiled in June 1953 to coincide with the Queen’s coronation and dedicated by the vicar of Tring, the Reverend Lowdell.

In 1973 Tring Urban District was merged into the newly formed Dacorum District and most of its properties, including the Memorial Garden, were transferred to the new council. Simultaneously, Tring Town Council was formed with specific responsibilities such as allotments and other matters unique to the parish.

By the mid-1980s the Garden again presented a forlorn appearance.  People were reluctant to go there because the planting had become dense and gloomy.  A scheme for the improvement of Tring High Street, drawn up by Derek Rogers Associates and promoted by Tring Town Council in 1987, recommended that trees should be thinned and the entrance reconsidered.  Dacorum Borough Council agreed to undertake this work and many trees, especially yews, were removed.  A length of wall was taken down, a new planting bed was created alongside the High Street and the gateway repositioned, with new gates made to replicate the old ones.  The work was carried out in 1989-90 with the restored Memorial Garden unveiled by the Mayor of Dacorum in June 1990.

The same report observed that the self-seeded trees behind the adjoining vista wall were overgrown and detracted from the setting of the Mansion. The Arts Educational School removed the trees, bringing the house back into view.  The fourth Lord Rothschild presented Tring Town Council with a strip of land in front of the wall and this was then paved and bollarded, greatly enhancing the appearance of this part of the town.

In 2001 the lake had to be drained and the fish evacuated when it was found necessary to repair a crack in the concrete base. Members of the Tring branch of the Royal British Legion attended a reopening ceremony, and presented plaques listing the names of those men from the town killed in World War II. These are mounted on the brick gate-pillars at the entrance to the garden. Further work was carried out to the lake in 2011, giving it a more natural appearance and installing a fountain.

Tim Amsden,
with acknowledgments to Wendy Austin and Mike Bass

Dacorum Borough Council is hoping to achieve Green Flag status for the Gardens, which will be officially ‘re-opened’ sometime in March.  The overall plan is to create more flower beds, enhance the area with new trees, and remove some of the overgrown bushes and trees.  The Green Flag Award® scheme is the benchmark national standard for parks and green spaces in the UK.  It was first launched in 1996 to recognise and reward the best green spaces in the country.


by John Savage, March 2012.

Today Tring station enjoys a more frequent train service (4 per hour off-peak, and even 2 per hour for most of Sundays) than at any time during its 174 year history, so it is interesting to compare this with the service provided by the London & North Western Railway in 1895, as seen in Bradshaw’s Guide.

There were then 12 trains a day to Euston on weekdays (with 14 from Euston of which one required a change at Watford) and 5 (3 from Euston) on Sundays.  Additionally there was a late night facility from London on Tuesdays when the midnight train to Glasgow stopped at Tring, to set down only, on informing the guard at Willesden.  Fascinatingly, this train made a different request stop each night; Leighton (as the station was then called, being renamed Leighton Buzzard on 1 July 1911) on Mondays, Tring on Tuesdays, Boxmoor on Wednesdays, Berkhamsted on Thursdays, Bletchley on Fridays and Kings Langley and Wolverton on Saturdays.

Another interesting addition to the service was the 5.00pm Euston to Wolverhampton train, scheduled to run non-stop from Watford Junction to Leighton, but which would stop at Tring to set down First Class passengers only on notification to the guard at Willesden!

Business travel was quite well provided for with trains to London at 7.36am, 8.43am, 8.57am and 9.30am with a similar provision in the evening.  At other times the frequency was sparse with gaps of over two hours between trains.  Considering the relatively few trains, rather bizarrely two of the trains to London ran within 5 minutes of each other (at 6.58pm and 7.03pm).

Compared to today where trains generally take 35 or 42 minutes (with the fastest at 30 minutes) between Tring and Euston, the times in 1895 were considerably slower.  Most trains took about an hour and a quarter, with the slowest all-stations taking almost one and a half hours.  However, some of the trains at business times were quicker, making the journey in just under an hour.

The trains serving Tring went to and from quite a diverse set of places.  On weekdays the trains to London originated from Bletchley (x4) and one each from Liverpool, Stafford, Nuneaton, Rugby, Northampton, Leighton, Cheddington and Tring.  From London the Tring trains went to Bletchley (x7), Tring (x2), Cheddington (from Watford), Leighton, Northampton (x2) and Wolverhampton.  On Sundays the trains to London originated from Bletchley (x2), Wolverhampton (x2) and Birmingham.  From London the meagre three trains went to Rugby (x2) and Leighton.  I should mention that this information is as best I can deduce because in those days generally the timetable confusingly did not differentiate between through and connecting services.

We will now look at the stations between Tring and Euston in 1895 and how they have changed since:
BERKHAMSTED (no change)
BOXMOOR (variously and erratically later Boxmoor & Hemel Hempstead, Boxmoor for Hemel Hempstead, Hemel Hempstead & Boxmoor and Hempstead; settling on Hemel Hempstead 1963/4)
KINGS LANGLEY (the intermediate Apsley was a late addition, opened by the LMS on 26 September 1938)
BUSHEY (renamed Bushey & Oxhey 1 Dec. 1912 and back to Bushey 6 May 1974)
PINNER (renamed Pinner & Hatch End on 1 February 1897, Hatch End for Pinner on 1 February 1920 and Hatch End on 11 June 1956.  Now only served by Euston- Watford local trains).  The remains of the old main line platform are still visible from the train.
HARROW (renamed Harrow & Wealdstone 1 May 1897)
SUDBURY & WEMBLEY (renamed Wembley for Sudbury 1 November 1910 and Wembley Central 5 July 1948)
WILLESDEN JUNCTION (main line platforms closed 3 December 1962)
QUEENS PARK (no change)
KILBURN & MAIDA VALE (Closed 1 January 1917, reopened on same site as Kilburn High Road 1 August 1923.  Now only served by Euston- Watford local trains)
LOUDOUN ROAD (Closed 1 January 1917). Later South Hampstead opened at same location; remains of old station on main line still visible from the train.
CHALK FARM (Closed 10 May 1915).

All of the then intermediate stations were served by some trains to/from Tring, indeed some stopped at all of them!  Willesden Junction was then an important interchange with the radial North London Line to Broad Street (for the City), Kensington, Clapham Junction and through trains to the District Railway; almost all trains, including long distance expresses, called there.

Fares in 1895 were: Tring-Euston (single) 5 shillings First Class and 3s 4d Second Class.  Third Class (known as “Parliamentary” or “Gov” in the timetable because regulated by statute to 1d per mile) was 2s 7½d, exactly based on the 31½ miles (rounded down to the nearest half mile) distance.  In the reverse of today, in the early days of railways far more First Class tickets were issued than any others, with Third Class trailing very much behind.  No doubt the poor and working classes neither had the need nor means to travel.

In this time before bus services the railway would also have been the means of travel from Tring to Aylesbury, by changing at Cheddington (originally Aylesbury Junction) onto the branch line (the world’s first branch line, incidentally) from there.  Indeed in earlier days there is evidence of through trains from Tring to Aylesbury.  The intermediate station on the branch line at Marston Gate (on the Long Marston-Wingrave road) was usually shown as a “signal” stop, i.e. by informing the guard if you wished to get off or signalling the train to stop if you wished to board.

Finally, a lovely snippet from the timetable.  The “Irish Boat Express”, 9.30am Euston to Holyhead which ran non-stop from Watford Junction to Northampton, conveyed a slip-coach, when required, for Leighton during the Hunting Season.  (A slip-coach was a carriage attached to the end of a train, cast loose as the train approached the due station, and brought to a halt by a guard with a hand brake).  To cater for such hunting parties to return from Leighton the afternoon “Birmingham Express” would “stop by signal at Leighton to take up Hunting Parties during the Season.”


by Sandra Costello, July2013.

Polish servicemen and World War II

The heroic part played by Polish airmen, soldiers and sailors on the side of the Allies during World War II is well known.  However from the early days of the War, Western Poland was occupied by Germany and Eastern Poland by Russia.  When peace returned to Europe in 1945 all Poland was behind the Iron Curtain.

With the war over, most Polish servicemen did not want to return to what they regarded as occupied Poland.  One of the options offered to them was assistance to start a new life with their families in Britain.  Many took advantage of this and as a result some 30,000 Polish people came to live in Britain, where some 40 hostels were made available to house them in camps left empty by the running down of British forces.  Life was very difficult for them: many had been forced for years to live in communal conditions, and among them were many children who had never experienced normal life.  Those who came to Britain had to try to assume again the responsibilities of independent people, but in a strange land and with a different language.

The Polish Hostel at Marsworth

Some 900 Polish people, including whole families, came to Marsworth in 1948, and were first accommodated in huts on the perimeter of Cheddington Airfield at the end of Church Farm Lane.  After about five years the camp was relocated to a bigger and better site once used by the RAF, then by the US Air Force, off Long Marston Road.  Food was cooked in central kitchens and eaten in communal dining halls for the first two or three years, until cooking stoves could be installed in the accommodation occupied by each family.  The huts did not have running water, and internal partitions were few.

Affect on Marsworth

To begin with the village of Marsworth, with a population of only 316, objected to this huge influx.  However according to a report in the Bucks Advertiser of 1949, “Already the people of Marsworth village have accepted them as ordinary families” and the Polish people “now live happily in Marsworth”.

With the number of Poles exceeding the population of Marsworth by nearly three times, the small local school did not have room for the extra children.  A school was therefore set up at the hostel where virtually everyone, irrespective of age, attended classes to learn English.  One of the huts was converted to a chapel and many community activities were carried on, including football, volleyball, a youth club, women’s circle, and a Polish ex-servicemen’s association.

The people of Marsworth were able to mix with the Polish community by attending the dances, cinema and other entertainments held at the hostel.  This was a great help as the Poles were keen to learn how British people lived.

The end of the camp

In the 1950s those at the hostel were eager for homes of their own and a more normal life as part of the British community.  In their preparations for moving out of the hostel they learned a lot from local people who helped them to gain confidence and make contacts.  Those who were able to work found jobs and this was made easier when some employers provided transport in a variety of vehicles from and to the Hostel.  Contacts at work speeded up the learning of English as well as improving knowledge of life outside the Hostel.

The numbers living at the camp reduced steadily as families found work and homes elsewhere, with the largest numbers leaving in the first couple of years.  In 1957 the Marsworth school roll included the names of 25 Polish children, indicating that the school at the hostel had closed.  By the late 1950s numbers had dwindled sufficiently for the few remaining to be accommodated elsewhere, and the camp to be closed.  The field that housed it has since been returned to agriculture and all that remains is some concrete.  The only real legacy of the Polish presence in Marsworth is some 15 graves in the churchyard of All Saints Church.  Those buried in the churchyard were mostly drowned — they swam in the reservoirs, which were not allowed, but they could not read the warning notices.  Whenever there was a Polish funeral, all the Poles from the camp turned out and the procession would stretch all the way from the Camp to the Church.

For the Polish people, Marsworth was a pleasant village where they were able to find security and become independent persons again, and that gave assistance when it was needed after the horrors of war.

Polish return

In September 2008, Stanislaw Jakubas, now an Assistant Professor at Krakow Academy of Fine Arts, paid a return visit to Marsworth.  He was born in 1948 at Bedford Hospital; his parents were then living at the first of the two Polish camps — ‘Site Twelve’, situated opposite Church Farm House.  He recollected the various ‘barracks’, but his memory was sketchy as he was very young.  He also remembered attending kindergarten at a building in Church Farm Lane opposite the airfield (now long since returned to pasture).  He especially remembered playing with another young boy, Ross Miller of Church Farm.

After about five years the Polish people were relocated to a bigger and better camp situated near Bluebells, on a field bordered by a concrete road leading towards Wilstone.  He recollected the layout of this camp, with its coal store at the entrance, the various barrack buildings, the laundry and chapel.  He attended Marsworth School, and also remembered a large building then situated opposite Lower End garage where concerts, etc. had been held on a stage.

In 1956 Stanislaw went with his family to live in Canada.  He didn’t want to lose touch with his friend Ross, so he sent him a letter in a bottle which he threw overboard.  The bottle was picked up 10 months later on the Irish coast.  Apparently this story made the BBC News and was reported widely in the local press.

‘Site 12’ was down a long lane close to the airfield and near a yellowish brick farmhouse with several barns.  The main site was close to a canal.  If you go to HP23 4NF on Google Earth you should be able to see the latter site from the air.  There is nothing there now as all the buildings have been cleared for farming.


by John Savage

1st March marked the 100th anniversary of Tring’s first motor bus service on which date in 1914 the London & North Western Railway took over the station route.

The station bus service, the earliest in Tring, started when the station opened in 1837.  It was to be over 80 years before any other buses served the town.  The horse buses were operated by local people and by 1899 we know that the service was terminating in the back streets at the “King’s Arms” probably where the horses were kept.  Change came in 1903 when the Tring Omnibus Company was formed to take over the service; all the directors and shareholders were local people.  A new omnibus was purchased for £99.15s and £300 compensation paid to the previous operator, C & J M Buckle.  Lord Rothschild soon joined the board, suggesting that his financial support was already necessary.  By 1906 the company was in financial difficulties, and in 1907 resolved to go into voluntary liquidation.

An unlikely rescuer came in the form of the Home Counties Public Trust House (a forerunner of Trust House and Trust House Forte) who owned “The Rose & Crown” and who took over the service, terminating at the “Britannia” PH.  In 1911 they proposed extending the service to the Cemetery Gates in Aylesbury Road, but it is not clear whether this actually happened; certainly in 1913 it was curtailed at the “Rose & Crown” from the “Britannia”.

In 1914 the HCPHT gave notice that they were discontinuing the service as they too had been unable to make it pay.  Tring Urban District Council requested that the London & North Western Railway take on the service, which they duly did.  The new motor bus service terminated at the Cemetery Gates and provided a “frequent” service between 8.00am and 9.30pm.  With the grouping of the railways in 1923 the service passed to the London Midland & Scottish Railway which, in 1928, extended some journeys (on Fridays and Saturdays) to Aldbury.  By 1929 the service had again been curtailed at the “Britannia”.  Books of 24 or 50 tickets could be bought from the station at a discount, and there were also monthly season tickets.

With the imminent creation of the London Passenger Transport Board the LMS sold out its local bus services to London General Country Services in April 1933.  LGCS changed the terminus to Beaconsfield Road and gave it the route number 317.  In July 1933 it thus passed to the LPTB (London Transport) who soon renumbered it (by January 1934) to the familiar 387.  Later in 1934 they gave the Tring Station to Aldbury section (still Fridays and Saturdays only) a separate number, 387A, although this silliness ceased in 1935 with all the service again becoming 387.

The more recent history is another story; other than to say that, apart from an interregnum from 1985 to 2002 when the route was numbered 27, it has stayed as the 387 to this day.


by Ian Petticrew, July 2016.

The development of gas lighting in the 19th century had a dramatic impact on people’s domestic and working lives.  Gas provided a far more efficient and economic form of lighting than the candles and oil lamps that preceded it.

In 1812, the London and Westminster Gas Light & Coke Company became the first public gas manufacturing utility and it proceeded to spread gas lighting through London’s poorly lit streets, an innovation that soon became popular elsewhere.  The first town in our area to acquire a gasworks was Aylesbury.  In 1834 the Aylesbury Gas Company began operations on a site located at Hale Leys.  Gas became available at Hemel Hempstead in 1835 when a gasworks was opened in Bury Road.  In 1849, the Great Berkhamsted Gas Light & Coke Co. was set up to provide street lighting; and then . . . .


A public meeting will be held on Thursday evening next, March 14th 1850, at the Commercial Hall at 7 o’clock to take into consideration the report of Mr. Atkins on the practicability of introducing Gas into the Town.

The advertised meeting was well attended and ended with the unanimous decision being taken “That in the opinion of this meeting it is desirable that gas should be introduced into the Town of Tring”.  A committee was formed comprising William Brown, Frederick Butcher, H. S. Rowbotham, Henry Faithfull and Alexander Parkes to “ascertain the practicability of establishing a Gas Company in this Town.”  It was decided that the prospective company would require capital of £2,000, to be raised in £10 shares, and that each director would need to hold at least five shares to qualify.

At this stage a site for the Gasworks had yet to be found, so the directors took Atkins on a conducted tour of the Town during which a former gravel pit on Brook Street was identified as a suitable location.  The gravel pit was the property of David Evans, owner of the Silk Mill, who agreed to sell part of it to the Company for £60.

Construction went ahead and gas was first released into the mains in September 1850 . . .

On Wednesday last, the town of Tring was all in a bustle, in consequence of that being the night which was fixed upon by Mr. T. Atkins, of Oxford, the contractor, to light the gas for the first time.  Great preparations were made to celebrate the event, and an immense concourse of people was present.  The men who had been employed at the works were sumptuously regaled with a supper, at the Green Man Inn.

In gasworks of the time coal provided the raw material.  Wagonloads were delivered by rail to Tring Station and carted to the gasworks by local hauliers.  Gas was then extracted by baking the coal in enclosed ovens called ‘retorts’ in which the coal was starved of oxygen to prevent it burning.  This process produced a crude gas that contained unwanted substances, such as sulphur, that had to be removed by purification before the gas could be released into the mains.  Other by-products were useful and could be sold, including coke and coal tar - when motor vehicles arrived and measures had to be taken to seal road surfaces to prevent dust and mud being thrown up by this new faster-moving traffic, coal tar mixed with granite chippings became a popular road-surfacing material.

For over a century coal gas was manufactured at the Brook Street gasworks on the site now being developed as a block of luxury flats (old gasworks sites are generally heavily contaminated - decontamination of the Tring site cost £400,000 before building could begin).  Many local businessmen served as the Company’s directors until, in 1930, the Company was sold to outside interests.  In 1948 the Tring Gas Company (as it had become) was nationalised and incorporated into the Southern Gas Board. Then, in April 1957 the following notice appeared in The Bucks Herald . . . .

Tring gas now comes from Oxford. For 105 years the 5,000 people of Tring have had a gasworks, but Southern Gas now pipe from Oxford.

By then coal gas had a limited life.  In 1967 the first natural gas arrived from the North Sea and over the next 10 years British Gas carried out a massive programme to convert gas appliances to burn this new type of fuel.  Tring converted to natural gas in January 1969.  For some years a large gasholder marked the site of the Tring gasworks, but now all that remains is the former gasworks manager’s house (by local architect William Huckvale).



by Wendy Austin, September 2016.

Originally most men of influence in the City of London lived near their workplace, but as they grew wealthier, they started to consider more congenial surroundings for their families.  The age of commuting was born, mainly with a north-westerly trend, as the lack of river bridges delayed development southwards.  In spite of the discomforts of coach travel at that time, these men of substance began to buy country estates when a deer park was a highly desirable status symbol.  In 1702, Henry Guy’s property, the Tring Park estate, became available and was purchased by Sir William Gore.

Both figuratively and literally Sir William was very much a bigwig in the City, for in 1692 he had been knighted at The Guildhall by William III.  In the same year that saw the arrival in Tring of Sir William and his lady, he achieved the supreme appointment of Lord Mayor of London and, to mark this event, the traditional splendid procession and pageant had progressed through the streets of the City.  The gilded coach was proceeded by elaborate horse-drawn floats carrying figures from mythology depicting finance and enterprise.  Among his business concerns Sir William numbered a place on the committee of the East India Company, and was a founder member of the Bank of England, his only setback being a failed attempt to be elected as Tory candidate for the City of London.

Daniel Defoe, passing through Tring on his travels, reported “at Tring is a most delicious house, built å la moderne ” which referred to the mansion purchased by Sir William.  It had been erected in the 1680s to a plain but pleasing design, said to be that of Sir Christopher Wren.  Surrounded by a small deer park, it had gardens described as “of unusual form and beauty”.  Sir William’s healthy income soon allowed him to buy another 300 acres to add to his estate.  He and Lady Gore, together with their eight surviving children, presumably settled in happily and started to enjoy the wide vistas of parkland, with a backdrop of the beautiful beech woods along the Chiltern escarpment.

As we all know, even when one finds the ideal property, there is always a snag — at the Tring Park mansion the problem was traffic.  The main road through the town at that time followed a route to the south of the house, passing in front of the windows of the chief reception rooms.  The elegant walnut furniture and Delft china probably rattled as coaches and wagons rumbled by and, an even worse horror, the general populace could catch a glimpse of the family dining.  This state of affairs was swiftly rectified when Sir William’s son inherited the estate, and petitioned to move and sink the level of the road to the other side of the house.  As this then became the route of Tring High Street, today’s traffic congestion in the town can be blamed firmly on William Gore junior.

He had not waited too long to gain his inheritance, for by 1707 both parents were dead.  Ever a dutiful son, he erected in Tring Church an enormous memorial.  Their life-sized marble effigies are attired in the height of early-18th century finery, Sir William wearing an immense and elaborate periwig.  Accompanied by a graceful gesture of his hand, he is discoursing to his wife, who stares stonily ahead into space.  Having now heard her husband’s stories for almost 300 years, she is probably entitled to look a trifle bored (below).

The Gore memorial, Tring Parish Church

In due course, Tring was also chosen for his retirement home by an eminent banker.  In 1931 Sir Gordon Nairne did not expect to own anything so grand as a mansion in a park, for his origins were modest, and his success in life had been built upon his own ability, application, and integrity.  He was a son of Scotland, born in Castle Douglas and, after working in Glasgow, he entered the Bank of England in 1880, and served there for fifty years until his retirement.  His talent for financial management was recognised at the comparatively early age of 41 when he was appointed Chief Cashier.  Perhaps Gordon then allowed his grave features a twitch of a smile of pride on the first occasion that he saw bank notes bearing his own signature.  The novelty must have worn off, for he held the post for sixteen years, and part of this time covered the critical period of the Great War.  This was especially difficult for banking as the Treasury issued currency notes through the Bank of England in almost unlimited amounts, with inevitable inflationary effects.  The Bank was in safe hands however, and Gordon Nairne received his deserved reward.  In 1917 he was created a baronet, and the following year appointed to the newly-created post of Comptroller.  A Directorship followed in 1925, Sir Gordon being the first member of staff to achieve this position.  His wise guidance was appreciated elsewhere too, as he was honoured by other countries, including France, Belgium and Japan.

When he left the Bank in 1931 he and Lady Nairne sought a pleasant home in the country.  Their choice fell on The Furlong, a large house of unremarkable design in Park Road, built in the late Victorian period by a wealthy vicar of Tring.  The couple entered into the life of the town, dutifully undertaking the worthy sort of community activities that were expected from people in their position.  Sir Gordon remained a busy man, serving as a Governor of the BBC, and as one of His Majesty’s Lieutenants for the City of London; he also found time for his favourite pastime of horse-riding.  After a happy retirement he died in 1945 aged 84, and was buried in his family’s grave at Putney Vale cemetery.  Later, The Furlong became an annexe of a convent school, and was then demolished in the 1980s to be rebuilt as retirement apartments.

For the time being, Tring’s ‘moneymen’ have departed.  It remains to be seen whether the twenty-first century will see yet another eminent man of finance wishing to spend his annual bonus on an expensive property and put down roots in our town.


by Wendy Austin, July 2018.

Forget the dominating and magnificent edifice on the south side of Kensington Gore in London, as many and varied were the structures erected to the memory of Albert, the Prince Consort.  Some people may not know that one such existed in Tring; unsurprisingly, it can be found in Albert Street.

Its origins are obscure, but by the 1880s local newspaper accounts show the hall served a useful purpose as a venue for various events and meetings.  For example, the Mothers’ Union gathered in the hall; the Church Lads’ Brigade used it for band practice; William Brown, the land agent and auctioneer, held sales there; technical classes were run by Dr Spurway, who lectured on sanitation, nursing, and first-aid, all of which were described as “useful to the wives and daughters of working men”.

It also served as a useful space in which to hold bazaars and rummage sales.  At that time, the latter were obviously a novelty, as one account shows it was necessary to explain to readers exactly what a ‘rummage sale’ was.  The account reads:

“ .... .. on Saturday 25th ult, the Albert Hall presented a remarkable scene.  At the invitation of the Vicar, the parishioners had ‘rummaged out’ the contents of their attics, storerooms, closets and dark corners and had collected what had been cast aside as worn-out and useless, to be sent to the Hall, to be sold for the benefit of the fund from which the little expenses of the Parish Charities are defrayed.  On the previous day, the donkey cart of Cogger, the sexton, perambulated the town going from house to house collecting the things that had been turned out for the sale . . . . . . . .”


The Albert Hall also became the central point for the serving of what were known as ‘Penny Dinners’.  Organised by Tring District Visiting, a national C. of E. charity organisation, cardboard tickets (later metal discs) were distributed to the more deserving children of the town by their school teachers, these tokens to be exchanged for a nourishing meal.  The food and money was donated by well-off citizens of the town, the subscription list being headed, of course, by Lord Rothschild.  According to the late Ron Kitchener, the meals were plain but sustaining, e.g. pea soup, Irish stew and rice or jam pudding, he goes on to quote that in the first year of the scheme, 1,307 tokens were issued.

By the end of the century many other general gathering places had sprung up in Tring, and possibly the hall became under-used, as the premises were then shared with Henry Stevens, a town councillor who owned a shoe shop at No.15 High Street.  He set up a small factory in the Albert Hall which he called ‘The Shoe Mart’ and advertised his wares for sale in The Tring Gazette; examples of his boots and shoes were also exhibited with great pride at Tring Agricultural Show and other such events.  This operation was closed down and sold in 1899.

The former Salvation Army hall in Albert Street, February 2014

A year later the premises became a meeting place for members of Tring Salvation Army who, up until then, had worshipped in what was described as “a draughty uncomfortable little carpenter’s shop”; the Albert Hall then became known as The Barracks.  What happened over the next 20 years is unclear, as an advertisement of 1924 states that the premises were owned by Messrs. Rodwell & Sons who offered it for auction citing that it was ‘a good site for a small factory or similar’, but even so it failed to attract a purchaser.  But a little later the premises were acquired by the Salvation Army, and approval for erection of a new building, at an estimated cost of £1,550, on the site of the Albert Hall was granted in July 1926, with demolition a few months later.  The following year The War Cry was able to report on the opening ceremony of the new Citadel:

“ .... .. for some years the comrades of Tring have laboured under the disadvantage of having no permanent building in which to hold their meetings.  This came to an end last Saturday when, amid scenes of enthusiasm mingled with praise and gratitude to God, they entered their new Citadel .........”

There was good reason for ‘enthusiasm’ as the Tring branch of the Salvation Army had waited 38 years before attaining its own meeting place.  Major modernisation of the premises were carried out in 2001, but the history of the Salvation Army in the town came to an end in 2014 when the building then became an arts and education centre.  It now serves as Tring’s Yoga Studio.


that might have been,
by Ian Petticrew, September 2018.

The street tramway arrived in Britain in 1860 when American entrepreneur George Train opened a short line at Birkenhead.  It was not long before most of Britain’s cities and towns of any size had trams.

Motive power was at first provided by horses, but in an age of steam attempts were soon made to use it to replace animals.  The small steam ‘tram engines’ that resulted were expensive to run and maintain, so when more compact and efficient electric traction became feasible in the 1890s it quickly replaced steam.

However, one steam tramway survived longer than others.  The 2½-mile Wolverton and Stony Stratford Tramway opened in 1887 to bring workers from outlying districts into the London & North Western Railway’s large carriage works at Wolverton.  It ran until 1926 earning the dual distinctions of having the largest trailer cars in Britain (seating 100 passengers) and being our last steam-worked street tramway.

The Wolverton steam tramway

In 1887, reports appeared in the local press of a plan to build a tramway linking Tring Station, via the town, with Aylesbury — whether the system was to be steam or horse powered is not mentioned, but taking account of the length of the line and its gradients, steam seems likely.  At the same time a grander scheme was announced for a steam tramway linking Hemel Hempstead, Boxmoor, Chesham, Berkhamstead and Northchurch.  Descriptions of the route and its gradients held in the Hertfordshire Archives show that detailed surveying was carried out before the scheme was announced.  The line was to commence opposite the goods entrance to Tring Station, cross the Grand Junction Canal over the existing bridge and proceed up Station Road (gradient 1:65) to Tring Lodge, after which it would descend (1:20) to Brook Street.  The line would climb steeply at Frogmore Street (1:18) followed by a gradual ascent to the summit of Tring Hill (1:48) before descending (l :20) to the Vale of Aylesbury, after which the route to the Aylesbury terminus was comparatively level (1:100).

Press reports do not mention the extent to which the scheme was supported by the townsfolk, but there were some objectors:

THE TRAMWAY SCHEME. — A Tring correspondent writes: We understand that Lord Rothschild, Mr. Williams, and other owners of property in the narrow part of the High-street have objected on public grounds to the laying of the Tramway there. Even with the present traffic the street is narrow and insufficient, and accidents, especially on market days, are not infrequent. The promoters will, it is thought, abandon the scheme, without incurring the expense which opposition at a later stage of the order would entail upon them.

Bucks Herald, 17th November 1887.

When the Tring Local Board met to discuss the scheme, their main concern was that part of the High Street was too narrow to meet statutory requirements:

LOCAL BOARD.— The Clerk read several sections of the Tramways’ Act, 1870, which referred to the position of the Board with regard to the persons interested in that portion of the High-street which was too narrow to allow the required width on each side of the rails.— Mr. Elliman thought they should not forget that the tramways would give facilities for getting about, and that they were generally advantageous to a town. It might be the wish of the townspeople to have the tramway.— After some discussion, the Clerk was directed to issue a circular, drawing the attention of the inhabitants to section 9 of the Act of 1870, which provides for the case in which the street is too narrow to admit a width of “9 feet 6 inches between the outside of the footpath on either side of the roadway and the nearest rail of the tramway.”

Bucks Herald, 3rd December 1887.

The Tring and Aylesbury Tramway scheme was finally laid to rest when its promoters met Lord Rothschild, whose main objection to the tramway was that it would not be a financial success.  How this would affect anyone other than the scheme’s promoters and shareholders is unclear, for they would probably have been required to arrange a bond to cover the cost of road clearance should the scheme fail.  The following newspaper report also refers to other objections, which presumably included the narrowness of the High Street, while local folklore has it that his Lordship objected to trams passing his residence:

THE PROPOSED TRAMWAYS SCHEME.— It is stated that Mr. Wilkinson, the promoter of these schemes, accompanied by the solicitor and the engineer, had an interview with Lord Rothschild, Messrs. Leopold and Alfred de Rothschild being also present, at New Court, St. Swithin’s-lane, on , Wednesday, as to the proposed line from Tring to Aylesbury, and that his Lordship having intimated that the line would not receive his support because, among other objections to the scheme, he considered it was a line which would not be a financial success, it was decided to abandon the project.  But as his Lordship at the same time intimated that he felt certain that the line from Chesham to Hempstead would be supplying a long-felt want to the district, and also prove a certain commercial success, it has been decided to press forward the project with the upmost vigour.

Bucks Herald, 24th December 1887.

What is surprising is that the tramway promoters appear not to have foreseen such predictable obstacles before incurring surveying, planning and legal expenses.  To modern eyes it might also seem extraordinary that his Lordship’s word should carry such weight in the matter, but this was an age in which the peerage was considerably more influential than today, as is evidenced by the London & Birmingham Railway’s application to Parliament in 1832, which was thrown out — at great cost to the Company — by Lord Brownlow of Ashridge and a coterie of peers who had no more justification than they happened not to like railways.

As for the Hemel steam tramway scheme, it too sank without trace.  Newspaper reports suggest that although it met with public approval, there were also influential objectors among who was Sir Astley Paston-Cooper, a landowner in the Hemel area (whose ancestor’s objections had helped cause the route of London & Birmingham Railway to be changed).  Cooper, it appears, “thought the tramway horrid.  People in London liked to come into the country to enjoy the peace and quiet there, but would they come if a beastly tramway were introduced?”  The Hemel scheme did obtain its Act of Parliament, but despite overcoming that legal obstacle to its construction it was abandoned, probably owing to lack of finance.


as it was in the eighteen nineties
by Joseph Budd (written c.1966)

In these days of Progress and Changes and with the town centre the subject of much debate, suggestion and criticism, it might be interesting to walk round the town and recall some of the features which have changed during the past three quarters of a century.

View looking down Akeman Street. The Jolly Sportsman (now Louisa Cottages) is on the left.
Photo courtesy of Jill Fowler and Mike Bass.

About 1890, the extent of the town would have been described as “from Lower Dunsley to Bottle Cross, and from the Red Lion to the Jolly Sportsman”. This does not convey much information today, but we will indicate these cardinal points as we walk round.

The George public house at the junction of Frogmore Street and the High Street.
Photo courtesy of Jill Fowler and Mike Bass.

Where to start? Where else but the “George Corner”, but a different prospect from the present time, with the original George Hotel some yards further east making the entrance to Frogmore Street narrower than it is now.

Joseph in Home Guard uniform, 1943

A shop on the other corner of Frogmore Street was Mr Dan Bedford’s barber’s shop, haircut two-pence, shave one penny. Opposite to this on the corner of Akeman Street was Mr Jeffrey’s chemist shop, still a chemist but the name Jeffery is vanished many years ago. The two great flasks of coloured water have also gone, replaced by one only half the size. Two fishtail gas burners behind them showed them up splendidly well as illuminating the shop. Another small burner on the counter was used for sealing wax. When dispensing a bottle of medicine, Mr Jeffery always wrapped it in paper and sealed it before handing it over.

On the other corner of Akeman Street, on the site of the present Market House, was Mr Mead’s slaughter house. This also was further east making Akeman Street as narrow as Frogmore Street. The slaughter house was a timber building, heavily tarred, with a hole in the boards low down through which a rope could be passed to pull down a bullock for the poleaxe. Boys on their way to school would often help to pull.

We will now leave the crossroads and explore the High Street. Next door to the chemist was Mr Lawsons grocery store, a good shop well stocked. One department was the off licence, and one line here that sticks in the memory is a quart bottle of Tarragona Port for two shillings. The liquor trade has now ousted the grocery trade but next door Mr Brown’s brewery has reversed the process and “gone dry” being now a butcher’s shop.

Doctor Brown’s surgery was next door, and he had not yet built Harvieston in Aylesbury Road, now the Convent of St Francis de Sales.

Next, Mr John Bly’s furniture shop and Johnson’s butcher’s shop and slaughter house, the site now occupied by the Midland Bank [on the right of the picture below].

Bank Alley was much the same as at present, except that there were cottages on the right hand side going up. They were dilapidated smelly old places, but some were still occupied. One of the last tenants was old Mr Rivett, a little old man who had to use two sticks to walk. He was one of the people who had to exist on Parish Relief, a few shillings to prevent absolute starvation. An occasional shilling from people like Mr Tommy Glover was a godsend to him. His end was rather pathetic. His favourite walk was to Thorn’s Meadow in Station Road, to sit on the grass. One warm afternoon he just sat and died. He had a Pauper’s Funeral in the Old Cemetery, not very elaborate.

The bank adjoining the Alley was at that time Butcher’s Bank, but has changed its name and proprietors several times, ending up as the National Provincial.

Glover’s next door was considered the premier grocer’s in the town, carrying a large stock of provisions, and also in their off-licence department being agents for W & A Gilbey’s wines and spirits. Incidentally, they supplied a good part of the groceries to Rothschilds at the Mansion, and when Mr Tommy Glover called there for their order (which he always collected himself), it was customary for his to be taken through to Lord Rothschild for half an hour of friendly conversation.

Several shops followed before the Rose & Crown, including Baldwin’s (tailor), Stevens (boots and shoes), Allison (corn chandler), etc.

The Rose & Crown, which stood flush to the footpath, had been the principal coaching and posting house, but of course those days were over, and though the stables still contained plenty of horses, the vehicles were no longer coaches, but Broughams, Landaus, and even a wagonette. Mr Jesse Thorn was the landlord. He rented the first meadow on the left in Station Road for his horses in the summer, and it was known as “Thorn’s Meadow” right up to the time houses were built on it a few years ago.

Passing the entrance to the Avenue, we shall come to Mr Ebenezer Charles Bird’s stationer shop and printing works. This shop was up some steps, but the stocks of pencils, crayons, writing books, etc. were a magnet to small boys and girls with a few coppers to spend. Mrs Bird was a nice woman and very kind to juvenile customers. This was Mr Bird’s second wife, his first having died in 1849 at the early age of twenty-five. Her tombstone in the churchyard bears the touching inscription; “Life is even as a vapour which appeareth for a little while, and vanisheth quickly away.”

This was the last shop before the Market Place. On Fridays the first stall this side was invariably that of Mr Garner, pastry-cook and cake baker, from Aylesbury. One of his best known lines was a Madeira cake, complete with paper band and a liberal piece of candy peel on the top, for one penny. Looking over the wall on this side of the Market Place we should probably see an emu or a kangaroo or two surveying the scene from their elevated position, and quite unperturbed by the passing traffic. The road being below the land on either side, in what was known as a “Ha-ha”, was not visible from the Mansion, and the vista from there appeared to be unbroken grass all the way to the horizon.

At the lower end of the Market, where the Memorial Garden Gates now stand, was the Green Man public house. The landlord was Mr Woodman. He collected the tolls from the stallholders, and as he approached each one he had a habit of rattling the shillings he had already taken, and naturally became known as “Jinker” Woodman.

The Green Man public house

Beyond the public house was Doctor Pope’s residence. This was a rather nice house, complete with stables and coach house. He kept a smart carriage and employed a coachman. When this house was demolished it was interesting to note that the window frames were made of mahogany; quite unusual.

From here to the beginning of London Road was Lower Dunsley, so called from its proximity to the “Dunsley Field”, the ancient name for the field which is now Dunsley Farm, and to distinguish it from Upper Dunsley, a collection of old cottages standing near the site of the present farmhouse and buildings. Near the turning to Upper Dunsley, near the main road was the “Pound”. This was a fenced enclosure in which any horse or farm animal which strayed upon the highway could be confined until redeemed by payment of a fine to the Overseers of the parish. The meadow is still known as Pound Meadow.

Lower Dunsley viewed from the Robin Hood Corner.
Photo courtesy of Jill Fowler and Mike Bass.

To return to Lower Dunsley, the iron marker of the Sparrows Herne Trust can still be seen. These were the people who maintained the road and took tolls at the various turnpike gates on the London Road.

Near the marker stood the “Hole in the Wall”, an old-fashioned public house complete with oak-beamed tap room, and a copper “Muller“ for anyone who wished to warm their beer. This did occasionally happen on very cold days, but most beer drinkers would say “It’s poor beer if it won’t warm itself”. The name was only a nickname, as it was only a beer-house retailing beer from the adjacent brewery.

Standing in front of the Hole in the Wall, and looking down Brook Street, one would have seen, on the present Cattle Market, a row of cottages.  These belonged to the Silk Mill, and had been in bygone days  occupied by “Prentice Girl”.  These were girls who had been an expense to the Overseers of their home parishes, and if a girl had a good character she could be accepted as an apprentice at the Silk Mill and earn her living.  There were “house-mothers” in charge of these girls, several of whom eventually married Tring men.

The Mill Pond at this time filled all the space from here to the Silk Mill itself, but when the waterwheel was no longer used most of it was filled in and planted with fruit trees.  These trees have now about finished their useful life, and in 1966 no one bothered to gather the crop.

Leaving the prospect of Brook Street and returning to the Market Place, and passing Mr Billy Fulks’s butcher's shop, we should find the Green Man meadow, which was the recognised site for visiting circuses.  One that came every year was Fossett’s, a good little show, but when “Lord” George Sanger’s  circus came, that really was an event.  The procession around the Town was indeed something to remember. The great wagons drawn by teams of six, eight, nine or even twelve horses had to be seen to be believed.  There being no overhead wires such as telephones and electricity supply, the wagons could be built up to a great height and the climax of the procession would probably be Britannia or some other allegorical figure, seated on a throne nearly twenty feet above the roadway.

A Sanger’s circus parade.

Leaving the Market Place we should pass Mr Putman’s grocer’s shop, and Tomkins ironmonger’s ditto, and come to the Plough Inn, landlord Mr John Penn (now Frank Bly’s shop).  Several of the plait buyers from Dunstable and Luton used to make The Plough their headquarters on market day.

The High Street looking West - the old Market House (below) has been demolished

Following on, to what is now known as Church Square, with its car park and bus shelter, here stood the old Market House.  This was an ugly old building of two storeys, the ground floor paved with flag stones and enclosed by very heavy iron fencing, and the upper story entered by a door in the eastern end by means of a removable step ladder.  On the ground floor, in a brick wall, was the entrance to the “cage”.  This was a dungeon-like cell, very strongly built, dark, and with an oak door four or five inches thick.  There was a stone bench for the occupant to sit on, and the whole place looked most cheerless and uncomfortable.  There was a small grille in the door for observation purposes.

The old Market House in what is now Church Square.

If the old building were to be standing today it would be venerated as an ancient monument, but at that time it was only on eyesore, especially to Lord Rothschild when he came out the of the Avenue in his carriage, and when his Lordship gave a site for a new Market House at the corner of Akeman Street it was gratefully accepted and the old one demolished.

Next to the Market House was Mr Booker’s fish shop and the last shop before what is now Brown & Merry’s offices was Thorps (another grocer).  A memory of this shop is of whole cheeses stacked five high on either side of the doorway.

The Bell Inn was one of the pubs that opened at 6 a.m. for the benefit of customers who had drunk a “skinfull” overnight, and needed a “livener” to “waken the dead”.

Among the shops on this side of the street were Mr Clement’s (jewellery, watches, etc.), Pitkins (saddler and harness maker), Greenings (drapers and clothiers), and Mr James Edwin.  This last shop was famous for pork pies, which were known for many miles around.

Above: looking down Frogmore Street from the crossroad
Below: looking up Frogmore Street towards the crossroad

We are now back to Frogmore Street.  Passing Parsonage Lane, Church Lane, Stratton Place, and Westward Lane, we should come to the “Square”.  This is what is now the Car Park, and consisted of a row of cottages in front, with an archway giving access to a yard behind surrounded by other cottages, with no back doors.  When they were demolished some of the resident families were moved to “Sugars Green”, the council houses off Brook Street near the Gas Works. A few yards beyond the Square was the Pawnshop, which had a regular clientele among the poorest and most shiftless of the populace.  Next to the pawnshop was the Fellmonger’s Yard, no longer used as such but keeping the name.  A fellmonger dealt in sheepskins, which he processed in such a way as to remove the wool and leave the skins ready for conversion into thin leather, suitable for making such things as hedging gloves, etc.  The process was eventually concentrated at Thame, and then the skins were only collected here, and taken there by Mr Jack Olliffe with horse and van.

Almost opposite to the Fellmonger’s Yard was the “horse pond”, the last remaining evidence of a stream which at one time ran through this valley to the Brook (of Brook Street), crossing the road in a watersplash.  When the Silk Mill was built, and the Mill Pond made, this was the main source of the water supply for the waterwheel which drove the machinery.  A culvert was put in crossing Pond Close and discharging straight into the Mill Pond.

Next to the Fellmonger’s Yard was the Black Horse pub, and next again the Red Lion.  These were both lodging houses as well as beer houses.  They catered for “travellers”, not tramps, but such people as organ grinders, street singers, German Bands, mat menders, dancing bear keepers, fire eaters, knife grinders, etc.  The Red Lion had an annex in the back yard which served as kitchen and day room for the lodgers.  The scene in there when a dozen or more were present would have made a good picture for Hogarth.

This couple would visit Tring every 6 months and stay in the Red Lion
for 1d a night, leaving their barrel organ parked in the yard.

Behind this, on land now partly covered by the telephone exchange, was Saws Alley, a row of old cottages built in such a way that the earth at the back was almost up to the upstairs windows.  Mrs Saw lived in one, and the remainder were occupied by a poor class of tenants.  When Mrs Saw died, and her house was cleared out, there was more than half a ton of old clothes, garments which tenants had persuaded her to accept in lieu of rent.

Back in Frogmore Street, and almost opposite to the Square, was the Chapel, built in 1751 (and still used as such in 1890).  Like other Baptist chapels in the Town, this one has a gallery to accommodate the expected large congregation, but whether it was ever necessary is a moot point.  The people who built it never imagined that it would end its days as a residence and antique shop. 

Arriving back at the High Street and proceeding up the School Hill, one of the first shops to catch the eye was a harness maker’s.  This was kept by Mr Jennings, universally known as “Dad” Jennings.  He was also the bandmaster and conductor of the Town Band.  A few yards up the hill on the other side of the road is the Conservative Club.  When this was being built some ill feeling cropped up between two bricklayers working on the front gable end, and the two hob carriers serving them with bricks.  It was a tidy height and the labourers were inclined to take an occasional rest, at which the “brickies” would ring their trowels and call for bricks.  In retaliation, the two hod carriers decided to overwhelm them with bricks, and in a little while they had more than a ton supported by one “ledger”.  Of course it broke, and down came scaffold planks, putlogs, bricks, hods and carriers.  It was a marvel that no one was killed.

Tring Junior School, formerly Tring National School.
Photo courtesy of Jill Fowler and Mike Bass.

A few yards further at the top of the hill  were the National Schools.  About this time great excitement was caused one day by a stag which ran through the High Street followed by Lord Rothschild’s stag hounds.  It was cornered in the boys’ playground.  Fortunately the whippers-in were well up and were able to net the stag and keep the hounds off until the stag cart arrived, when he was loaded up and taken back to Ashridge Park whence he had been borrowed.

The schoolmaster was Mr Henry Hobson, and although his eyesight was failing he was long remembered for doing wonders with the boys he had, in the time he had them.  They would leave school at any time after their thirteenth birthday and if a boy had not got a good grounding in the threes “Rs” by then, it was most likely his own fault.  If a boy had reached Standard Four he could take what was called the “Labour Exam”, and if he passed he became a “half-timer” when he was twelve.  After this, for the next year, he only attended school five half-days a week, and could go to work for the rest of the time.

The other end of the building was occupied by the girls’ school.  The school mistress was Miss Luffman, and like Mr Hobson she held the post for a long time.  She is still spoken of with respect and affection by some of her former pupils.

Opposite to the boys’ school was the chemist shop of Mr Marsh, where many a boy had an aching tooth extracted for which the charge was one shilling without anaesthetic.

the High Street Chapel was nearly new, having been built in 1889, which from the start had attracted a numerous congregation.  It was not as strictly sectarian as some and eventually became known as the United Free Church. By 1896 it was strong enough to send quite a large party to a choral festival at the Crystal Palace, where they sang with choirs assembled from all parts of southern England.

The next building of note was Elm House, the home and surgery of Dr. Le Quesne.  As the name suggests, he came from the Channel Islands.  His carriage and coachman were well known throughout the town and surrounding villages.

Elm House, later renamed Ardenoak House, stands at the junction of Langdon Street
and the High Street.  Now a Grade II listed building.

Beyond Griffins Lane (now Langdon Street) was a meadow extending extending as far as Gowers Street (now Queen Street).  The meadow was owned by the Elliman family, who were drapers in the High Street.  Eventually they had a house (Westcroft) built on it and lived there.  They were related to the Ellimans of Slough, who produced the famous Elliman’s embrocation.  Before any houses were built on this land an attempt was made to dig gravel, but the product was not clean enough and this was given up.

The road at the Western end of this meadow became known as Gowers Street because Mr John Gower had his house and stables built there, but when it was properly made up and kerbed and channelled it was officially named Queen Street.

Passing on to Henry Street we should pass the terrace of five small cottages, each with its tiny front garden.  Three of these having been converted into shops the gardens have disappeared , leaving a nice wide pavement or forecourt.  These cottages have brick fronts but the back walls were mainly built of flints.

The five cottages in Western Road.

The Baptist Chapel a few yards further on - now demolished - never seemed to attract a large congregation, but thanks to the liberality of two or three members was able to carry on some time after similar chapels had closed.  The house next door, demolished at the same time, was occupied for many years by Mr Fred Rolfe, after he moved his business from Albert Street.  It is believed that the intention was to build a good shop on this site, but apparently something prevented this and the only result of the demolition has been the creation of an eyesore.

Beyond Chapel Street and with its gateway in Western Road was Fincher’s builder’s yard, with its stables , stores, machinery, carpenters shop, etc.  The boss of the business was Mr John Fincher, but the day-to-day management was in the hands of Mr Bert Cook, a man liked and respected by all who had dealings with him, whether as employees or customers.  Finchers had their own brickfield at Buckland Common where they made good multi-coloured bricks.  Many of the houses they built could be recognised by the bricks and the workmanship.

A few yards further on was Amsden’s coal yard and stables.  This was not a big business, but they always had a couple of real good horses, and their harness and trolleys were always kept in top-notch condition.

Near the end of Western Road on the other side of the Street, was the ironworks of the Crawley Brothers.  their business was mainly agricultural and industrial blacksmithing and forging, and not horse shoeing, which was done by the various farriers scattered about the Town. 

Next to Crawley’s place was Mr Parrot’s coach building works.  Most of the vehicles built here were in the light category, such as pony traps, governess carts, wagonettes, etc. and some excellent skilled work went into their manufacture.  Both these properties have been replaced by Wright & Wright’s motor works and showrooms.

At the corner of Duckmore Lane was a row of cottages.  In the gable and facing Western Road was built a cross of black bottles, bottoms outward.  It was only a gimmick, but the name bottle cross for this corner of Town persisted for many years, long after the cottages were demolished.

The Bricklayers’ Arms at Bottle Cross

 On the Town side of the cottages was a public house, the Bricklayers’ Arms, and a stonemason’s yard.  The land behind these properties belonged to the Rothschild estate, and when the site was leased it was included in the same field.  But it was a poor stony field and eventually it was planted with trees and in due course became known as “The Spinney”.  By the time part of it was cleared to make room for Woodland Close it could have been described as a wood.  But before any of these alterations could take place the road was narrow with a high bank and tall overhanging hedge, and was well named Dark Lane.  This was the recognised name as far as Chapel Street after which it became Park Road.

Above: Park Road looking towards the Natural History Museum.
Photos courtesy of Jill Fowler and Mike Bass.
Below: Park Road viewed from the opposite direction. Louisa Cottages were extended in 1901.

The “Furlong” was much as it is today, except that the trees in the grounds have grown out of all proportion, some of them now being eighty feet high, but across the road the “Weaving Shop”, which was then a busy canvas factory, has been gone many years, and the site is occupied by a clump of trees.  The looms were operated by middle-aged and elderly men but there was a constantly changing quota of boys doing a job called “quill winding”.  The wage for this was half-a-crown a week, so few boys remained long but left as soon as anything else offered.

Twenty yards up the farm road at the side was the footpath to West Leith, but when Lord Rothschild bought the weaving shop and had it demolished, this path was closed and replaced by the “New Path” off Dark Lane.

About this time the farmhouse at Home Farm suffered a disastrous fire and was destroyed.  It was a freezing cold night, and the firemen were covered with ice when they came off duty in the morning.  The present house was built a year or two later.

Almost opposite the farm drive was Arnold House, originally built as a sort of vicarage for St. Martha’s Church.  It was altered and enlarged years ago, and named The Old House.

One of the two Downs Villas was occupied by Miss Green, and in it she had a small select private school for young children.

The landlord of the Castle public house was Mr Lloyd.  Opposite to the castle, where now is just a bare meadow, were the substantial buildings and playing field of Mark Young’s Academy for Young Gentlemen, known as Prospect House.  This was a high-class boys’ school with accommodation for numerous borders, as well as a considerable number of boys.  Although the school was still commonly referred to as “Mark Young’s”, the head was in fact “Mr Maull”, and he carried on until it closed and was demolished by order of Lord Rothschild.

Prospect House School, viewed from The Castle public house.
Photos courtesy of Jill Fowler and Mike Bass.

The meadow between here and Hastoe Lane was known as Wright’s Meadow, being used by Wright’s the butchers in Akeman Street to contain bullocks and sheep for a few days until wanted for slaughter.  The ponies used in the business were also  “turned out ” when not required for work, and many a boy has had his moment of glory when given a “leg up” and allowed to ride up to the meadow.

At the other corner of Hastoe Lane the Quaker Cemetery was still nice and tidy, as relatives of some of the people buried there were still alive and able to take care of it.  The Quakers’ Chapel had not long been cleared away [Ed. In 1760 the “meeting” which had previously been held at Weston Turville in Buckinghamshire moved to Tring where it remained until 1818 when a meeting house was built in Berkhamsted. (Source, the National Archives)], and people still told stories of listening outside and hearing nothing for long periods until the spirit moved one of the congregation to speak.

Louisa Cottages

The site of the almshouses (Louisa Cottages) was occupied by some old cottages and a public house, the Jolly Sportsman.  These were cleared away in the tidying up of Park Road and Louisa Cottages were built in 1892 [Ed. Nos. 1-5 ‘1893’: 6-8 ‘1901’ - see date plaques on front bays].  It was commonly thought that it was lady Rothschild’s idea to have them built.  They were intended for old retired employees who had worked for many years on the Tring Park Estate.  The land now occupied by the Museum was the site of a set of farm buildings, the one facing Akeman Street being a large black barn.

The top of Akeman Street, “large black barn” on the right

When the Museum was built all the bricks and tiles were taken up by hod carriers, and by the time the roof was put on it was a great height for this.  In fact it so affected the nerve of one of the hod carriers, an older man, that he became mentally unbalanced, and at the weekend he was walking up and down the street reciting the Lord’s Prayer in a loud voice.  Possibly he had recited it silently to himself each time he went up with a load.  Anyway he was never able to work again.

Tring Natural History Museum as originally built

Akeman Street was the most populous and busy street in the Town, and there were about fifteen shops, some doing a considerable trade.  The first of these was Wright’s butcher’s shop, where Mr Alt (Albert) Wright lived on the premises, and the slaughterhouse at the back provided all the meat for this shop and Wright’s other shop in the High Street.

The former Swan beershop

The beershop opposite, The Swan, was a Rowsham Brewery house, and Rowsham beer was an acquired taste, so it had its small but faithful quota of regulars.  Rodwell’s Brewery was in full production next door, but only a small part of their beer was consumed in Tring, being mostly sold in the neighbouring villages where it had a good name.

Next door to the Brewery house was Wade’s shop, a general store that sold, among other things, newspapers, including Lloyd’s Weekly News, which came out on Friday.  This eventually became Lloyd’s Sunday News, and survived under this name for many years, but some time ago it was taken over by one of the other Sunday papers and that was the end of that.  This shop in later years was used for various trades, being at one time a dairy, and at another a jeweller’s and clock shop, reverting between times to a private house as at present.

Just round the corner in Albert Street was the blacksmith’s shop of Mr Dan Lines, where he and his sons were busy shoeing some of the many horses then in use in the Town, including some from Rothschild’s stables.  At  this time an attempt was made to “break in” some zebras to work in harness, and some were actually driven by Mr Harding, the head coachman, but it was noticeable that while they were as fleet as deer when at liberty in the Park, they were as stubborn as mules when in harness.  One would have done as well with a pair of good donkeys.

Walter Rothschild’s zebra carriage (1898).
Nearside front is a horse, used to control the three zebras.

Opposite Albert Street was the archway leading to Surry Place, now vanished, but then comprising seventeen cottages, all occupied, and some of them by quite large families.  It was a mystery how they packed them all in.  Batchelor’s shops were convenient for these people as they sold a wide range of goods, from groceries and confectionary to hardware and drapery.  Mr George Batchelor preached on Sundays at a chapel at Dunstable, and one pony (Tom) pulled him there and back for twenty years without mishap.

Batchelor’s, Akeman Street.

The Royal Oak next door, by Bank Alley, was kept by Mr Kemp.  This was one of the pubs that opened at 6 a.m., but it was more notable for the “musical evenings” which occurred there.  Several times a year a party of young men would drive here from Chesham in two or three wagonettes or a pair horse break and have quite a party.

Across the road from the Royal Oak, on the site of the present W.V.S. room was a boot and shoe factory, employing thirty or forty people.  This belonged to Mr Harry Stevens, whose home was lower down the street.  Like the Chesham factories, production line methods were used here and people used to hand-made boots and shoes were apt to refer to this as “Chinese Labour”.  Albion Place, just below the “Snolshop” consisted of four cottages facing the street, and four at the back of the yard.  These latter had no back doors, being half submerged in the ground.

A few steps further on came Willow Court, two cottages in the street, two behind.  One of the front ones was a grocer’s shop, run by Mr Charley Stevens, who later emigrated to Canada. 

Opposite to this was Mr Jack Rolf’s bakery and shop, a good business with a large shop trade and a couple of ponies and carts for the rounds.  At the side of this shop was the gateway leading to Mr John Brown’s malting.  This occupied the back land behind the properties facing the street.  ~It is said that when Mr Brown decided to have it built he retired to his room for twenty-four hours, and worked out all the quantities in his head.  He then sent for the builder and repeated to him all the quantities of brickwork, timber, floorboards, slates, doors, windows, etc., leaving only labour to be estimated.  The resulting building was a credit to both owner and builder.

To produce malt they of course needed barley, and one of the suppliers was Mr Dawe of Wendover.  It was usually delivered by farm wagon in loads of two tons drawn by two horses, one in the shafts and one in chains.  As the gateway was narrow, and Akeman Street not very wide, and the wagon having only a quarter lock, it was quite a performance to get it into yard, entailing several shunts.  Once in there was plenty of room.

A few doors down the street, at No. 22, lived Mr Avery, a newsagent, and the first to sell Sunday papers in Tring.  Almost opposite Avery’s shop was Denmark Place, half-a-dozen cottages endways to the street with no back doors and not much room in front, being alongside Honour’s Yard. 

Back to the Eastern side of the street, Mr John Green’s general store and off-licence (noted for the quality of their snuff).  The opening at the side of this shop gave access to The Slipe, later known as Pleasant Row and now demolished.

On the left is the entrance to Clement’s Yard.  On the right The Harrow public house.
Photo courtesy of Jill Fowler and Mike Bass.

Three doors further down the street Mr Grace’s Mill, producing at that time mainly straight meals for pig and poultry feeding, and crushed oats for the many horses and ponies working in the district.  The modern dairy Nuts, laying pellets, and balanced feeds had not yet been invented.  The three shops opposite the Mill were Mrs Piggot’s tea shop, Billy Bordycutt’s grocery, and Grace’s bakery (no connection with the Mill).  One of Mr Grace’s daughters had a private school, which she carried on in the schoolroom belonging to the disused chapel at the top of the yard, when came the name Tabernacle Yard.  Billy Bordycutt was for some years the goalkeeper in the Tring Town Football Club.

Gerald Massey, poet and author
(1828 - 1907)

The Harrow Yard was lined either side with cottages, crammed in to the last available foot of space.  The Harrow public house was an inconvenient old place, and never had the makings of a good inn.  Three stone steps outside the front door were a trap for anyone who had taken “one over the eight”.

Across the street Clement’s Yard was also lined with cottages.  The one at the entrance arch had at one time been occupied by the mother of Gerald Massey, the Tring poet.  The shop on the other side of the arch was that of Mr Burr, barber.  His prices were the same as Dan Bedford’s, one penny for a shave and two-pence for a haircut.  The sweetshop just below was kept by May Randall and was very popular.  It has had many different proprietors since then, but has always been a sweetshop.  Of course the “Wood Green Bouncers” and “Jap Nuggets” of 1890 have long been superseded by other confections.

Akeman Street Chapel was universally known as Glover’s Chapel, named after Mr Richard Glover who was pastor for many years in the early part of the century.   In 1832, during his ministry, the Chapel was rebuilt and enlarged, and is one of the few to have inscribed on its outer wall its vital statistics, 51 ft square.  The Chapel was always famous for the quality and volume of the singing.

Akeman Street Baptist Church (Glover’s Chapel)

The site of the present small car park and public conveniences was a walled garden which belonged to Mr Butcher of Frogmore House.  With the co-operation of Lord Rothschild the wall was taken down, the earth cast away, and the site handed over to the Urban District Council who put it to its present useful purpose.

The Victoria hall was much as it is today, except for the fact that the caretaker (Mr Fenner) and his family lived on the premises, in the rooms on either side of the entrance.  A very popular occasion at the Hall was the annual Parish Tea, organised and arranged by some of the ladies of the Parish Church congregation.  Among the most notable events taking place here were the various balls arranged by the Rothschilds.  One of the fine orchestras who played for these was the famous “Blue Hungarian Band”.

The Blue Hungarian band were a popular draw in Britain
over almost five decades between 1880 and the 1930s.

Between the Hall and Mr Jeffery’s back yard were three or four old cottages which had been equipped with the old-fashioned bowed windows.

That completes the circuit and here we are back at the “George Corner”, having cast the eye of memory over most of Tring as it was in the eighteen nineties.


by Joseph Budd


Joseph & Florence Budd on their
Silver Wedding day in 1936

I was born in November 1886, and though I did not know it at the time, I was born an uncle, with half a dozen nephews and nieces, some of them teenagers.  The explanation is simple, really.  My father, who was born in 1826, married twice, the first time in 1846.  This wife bore two sons and a daughter, who all grew up, married, and had families of their own.  She died, however, in 1880, and four years later he married my mother, so when I arrived in 1886 their combined ages totalled one hundred (sixty and forty).  They were wonderful parents to me, and I also had a nursemaid who was more like a big sister.  One of my first memories of her is an occasion when she carried me pick-a-back nearly two miles.  My father had gone to Chesham with the pony and trap, and we went to meet him so as to ride back.  Now there are two roads from Hastoe to Cholesbury.  We took one road, he happened to come the other way.  Eventually we turned back, but by this time I was tired and she carried me.  When we got nearly home we met the pony trap coming to rescue us, so we were able to ride the last two or three hundred yards.

Nobody grumbled, no-one was grumbled at, it was dismissed as “just one of those things”.

Another memory, before I was “breeched” concerns a new coat. I remember it was white, with some blue facings and I was to wear it the next day (probably Whit Sunday).  Anyway, after I had had my bath, I was dressed again and the coat tried on to make sure it was just right.  I walked about a bit to be admired, stepped back and fell full length in the bath, on my back.  I was fished out, dried, and comforted, but I don’t think I ever wore the coat again.  I expect it was spoilt.

Another early memory is of being taken to Velvet Lawn Flower Show in the pony trap.  We took a visitor with us, a cousin of mine, who was a Colour-Sergeant in the Gordon Highlanders, dressed in his full regimental uniform including the kilt.  When we dismounted from the trap he took my hand and led me up the field to where the Band was playing.  I was the proudest boy in the field, because I thought he was wonderful in his gay uniform, but I had one reservation; there were thistles and they pricked my legs.

We often went for a ride in the pony trap during the afternoons, and one day we were at Wendover.  We were told “there is a steam Navvy at work on the new railway” so we went that way to see it.  In my minds eye I would see a big mechanical man, twice the size of a live navvy and complete, right to his “yorks”, the leather straps round his trouser legs.  The reality was very different, just a machine with a scoop at one end, and no resemblance to any navvy who ever lived.  I was disappointed.  It was of course much smaller than the earth-moving machines in use today.

My father used to go to Ashridge House once a week to collect kitchen waste (dripping etc.) and often took me for the ride.  It was “open house” there, and bread, beef, and beer were to be had for the asking.  This had formerly been the custom at many country mansions, but I think it had nearly died out and Ashridge was one of the last to stop it.  Most of the beef was reared on the Estate and they baked their own bread and brewed their own beer.

Joseph with his daughter Olive
on her wedding day in 1938

One day we went to Ashridge, not to the Mansions, but to the “Woodyard”.  This was the place where the Estate carpenters worked, making field, gates etc.  There were some apple trees there and my Father had bought the crop.  He put up his ladder and started picking.  There were some inviting paths winding among the trees and I started to explore.  A little way down one path I saw a hole in the ground and as I walked by some wasps came out and buzzed round me.  I turned and started to run, stumbled, and fell.  This alarmed the wasps and scores of them swarmed out of the nest and attacked me.  I was stung all over my head, face, neck, arms, hands, and legs.  It occurred to me when I got older that someone had an unthankful job of rescuing me.  I know I had to be brought home and there was no more apple-picking that day.  When we went again about a week later the wasps nest had been burnt out.

From the 1st May to the 1st November each year our Pony was turned out in a meadow each night and fetched in the morning.  He was very docile, and I was able to ride him while I was still very young.  In the morning I would walk up with whoever was fetching him and ride back, and in the evening ride up and walk back.

The time came for me to go to school.  I could have gone to the National School infants department, but my parents preferred that I should attend a private one.  There were several to choose from, and I was fortunate in the one they chose.  I loved it from the start.  I was lucky in that I had already learned the alphabet, but the “pothooks” and “hangers” were new to me.  I soon got the knack of them, and coasted along quite comfortably.  I got some unofficial instruction at home from my mother and my former nursemaid.  The latter also taught me the Alphabet backwards, in a metrical version.

It ran ---------- Z Y X   and W V
                       U T S    and R Q P,
                       O N M and L K J,
                        I H G,
                       F E D, and C B A.

It was a lot easier to learn than the right way version.  I also learned about this time the jingle:

Tring, Wing and Ivinghoe
Three Churches all in a row
I could take me shoes and stockings off
and jump over ’em.

At the top of Akeman Street, on the site of the present “Louisa Cottages” there stood at that time a Public-house, the “Jolly Sportsman”, and some old cottages.  Lord Rothschild bought the lot and had them demolished.  The timber was carted away, and the bricks cleaned and packed up in stacks of a thousand each.  This made a wonderful adventure playground for the young children of Akeman Street, and many were the hours we spent there.  All too soon the site was finally cleared, and “Louisa Cottages” built to serve as Almshouses for old employees on the Estate after they finished working.  The year was 1892, and I believe they bear the date somewhere.

One afternoon while we were still playing there, we heard a noise, and looking down Akeman Street saw quite a number of people congregated near Surrey Place.  Being, like all children, inquisitive, we teamed down there to find out what the commotion was all about.  The answer we got was “Rough Musicking; go and ask your mother for something to make a noise”.  We didn’t know what the idea was, but we could make a noise alright, and did so, running about among the people like dogs at a fair.

When I was two or three years older I asked my parents what it was all about, and they explained.  A certain woman who lived in Surrey Place had earned the reputation of being a “Scold”, yet had the impudence to take out a “summons” against her husband, alleging cruelty.  The neighbours couldn’t stand for this, so they conspired together to spoil her case.  Some of them volunteered to appear as witnesses on her behalf, and actually went to the Court, but when they gave evidence they testified that the Husband was the most harmless and inoffensive man possible, and that any quarrels or rows between the couple were entirely the fault of the wife.  The case was dismissed, of course, and the “Rough Musicking” was intended to show what the neighbours thought of her, a sort of feminine tar and feathering.

Among the noise-making implements were an old bugle, tin trumpets, tin tea trays, and oil drum, and a large wooden packing case.  I also remember someone fetching a gallon of beer from the Royal Oak public house (they were open all day).

It was about this time the Museum was built.  The site had been occupied by a set of farm buildings, the one on the street frontage being a long black timber barn which had several knot-holes very convenient for little boys to peep through.  All these buildings had been cleared away, and the new construction grew and grew, and eventually the hod-carriers were taking up the tiles for the roof.  By this time it seemed a great height to us, and also to the workmen.  One of the hod-carriers broke under the strain.  He was an older man, and one week he spent all Saturday afternoon walking up and down the street reciting the Lord’s Prayer in a loud voice.  He never worked again.

We saw so much horse-riding that every little boy’s ambition was to do likewise.  Every morning, soon after seven o’clock, the riding horses from the Mansion went by on their morning exercise, about ten grooms each riding one and leading one.  These were from the “Hunting Stables”, the carriage horses were kept in another lot of stables and had their own grooms.  These carriage horses were all roans, and were used in matched pairs and four-in-hand teams, the latter usually driven by Mr Harding, the Head Coachman.  In after years I saw other “four-horse men”, but never one as neat and capable as Mr Harding.  He always drove with the four reins in his left hand “with a finger for each rein”, and steered with his right hand.

In addition to all these horses, Mr Harding was also responsible for the care of half a dozen Zebras which Mr Walter Rothschild had bought.  When they first arrived they were turned loose in the Park with the Emus and Kangaroos, but in such a big bit of ground they were wild as hawks, so they were caught again and moved to a small meadow up Hastoe Lane, known as “Gibbs’s Close”.  Here they had the company of a dun coloured cob, about the same size as themselves, about 14½ or 15 hands.  They soon began to follow him about the meadow, and became much more docile.  I suppose they recognised his superior intelligence.  Two men were detailed to look after them, so that they did not get alarmed by strangers, and it was not long before one or two became quiet enough to wear harness.  After a few days they could be led, one at a time, side by side with the horse, and presently in the same way “shut in” to a pair horse wagonette.  The horse being well trained would go on either side of the pole, so it was possible to train a “near-side” Zebra and an “offside” one.  It was noticeable that the horse did most of the work, whichever he was with.  Still the day came when it was possible to drive the pair of Zebras without the horse.

An effort was made to train a four in hand team but the nearest they got was two Zebras for wheelers and one Zebra and the horse for leaders.  This necessitated four grooms on foot to lead them, and two of them had to break the eleventh Commandment.  Everyone knew that you should never attempt to lead a horse from the off side.  The Coachman was on the dickey seat, holding the reins and driving the team to a certain extent, but it was a clumsy, fumbling sort of progress.  It did not seem likely that they would ever be “useful”, and also they were terribly expensive.

Once or twice a year a man came round with a “drove” of thirty or forty Welsh cobs and ponies, which could be bought at prices from about eight to ten pounds upwards, and these when “broken in” were real working animals, and would probably do good service for fifteen to twenty years, and in some cases even more.  They were of course quite wild having been bred on the Welsh Hills in a state of nature and just rounded up and driven across country like a flock of sheep.

The high spot of this affair came when someone among the onlookers showed interest in one particular pony, and the man in charge sent one of his lads in to fetch it out.  It was just about like trying to fetch the ball out of a Rugby “maul”, but sure enough in a couple of minutes out he came, the pony with a halter on, and ready to be run up and down the street a few times to show his action.  Seller and buyer would then adjourn to the nearest pub, and settle the deal over a couple of pints.

For less excitement but more entertainment there were the occasional German Bands, with their programmes of mostly Marches and Polkas.  Some people spoke of them with sarcasm, but they were generally very good.  It did not seem possible that it could be worth their while to come, yet some of these bands came, year after year, during the summer.  They usually had about ten or twelve musicians, and they might change three or four from one year to another, but some could be recognised.  There were two lodging houses in operation, the Black Horse and the Red Lion, so they were alright for accommodation.  At both the charge was sixpence per night for a bed.

Another lot of foreigners would be a party of either Russians or Poles with a “Dancing Bear”.  Of course, the bear didn’t dance, just shuffled about on its hind feet.  People laughed at the clumsy antics, and I probably did so when I was very young, but one day when I was seven or eight a bear looked me in the face, and the pitiful look in his eyes made such an impression on me that I never watched another.

There were of course many other itinerant entertainers, and one turn that always attracted notice would be a man doing a “One man Band” performance.  The instruments might vary from one artist to another, but an essential in every case was a set of Panpipes tied in front of the chin in such a way as to not need a hand.  A drum on his back was struck with a drumstick tied to one forearm and projecting back a foot or more.  Above his head would be a pair of cymbals, and these were worked by a cord attached to one heel.  As mentioned above, different men found different ways of using their hands.

Two quieter occupations were those of “Sword-swallower” and “Fire-eater”, both of which were rather spectacular, and never failed to “astonish the Natives”.

Not many weeks passed without a visit by one or more street pianos, commonly (and incorrectly) called barrel organs, and street singers were also plentiful.  Altogether it is amazing how many people got a living without doing anything useful.  Take a Knife thrower, a Rope spinner, or a Contortionist, their turns were clever, but no-one was any the better for seeing them.

In addition to all these, there were a number of “travelling people” who did provide useful services, for instance, the knife sharpener, colloquially known as a “razzer grinder”, though a razor was the one edge tool for which his grinding barrow was not suitable.  If a gipsy took up this trade he usually had a couple of side lines, namely clothes pegs and potato nets, probably hawked from door to door by his wife.  If one of the nets happened to come out a size larger than normal, and if it somehow happened to find its way down a rabbit hole, and if by chance a rabbit went down the same hole and was caught in the net, well, that was one meal provided for.

I once saw a gipsy stop at the local butcher’s shop, and he asked the proprietor if he could “do with a good rabbit”.  On receiving a favourable reply he took two bags into the shop and emptied twenty-six rabbits on to the floor.  The butcher commented “Not bad for one nights work”, to get the indignant reply “Two nights”.  The price paid was eight-pence each, and they would retail at about a shilling.

A few years later this same man camped again on Aldbury Common, and was sitting by his fire one evening when he had an epileptic fit.  He rolled over and one leg went on the fire and stayed there.  By the time someone found him the leg was so terribly burned that it had to be amputated at the thigh, and he was on crutches for the rest of his life.

Other fairly regular callers were mat menders, repairing coconut mats; saw sharpeners; chair caners; and “much fakers” (umbrella menders), and during the summer, fly-paper men.  These latter generally wore an old top hat with a flypaper round it, business side out and covered with flies, which abounded everywhere.  They were harboured to a great extent by the horse-dropping with which every street was liberally littered.

Every year about the 1st of May we were entertained by “Jack in the Green”.  If the first happened to be Sunday the event moved to Saturday.  This show was organised by the local chimney-sweeps, two families who were in stern competition all the rest of the year, but co-operating on this day.  One of the party played a melodion, and the rest of the party “danced” to the music.  The centre of it all was the “Green”, a bee-hive shaped construction of hazel rods covered with boughs of green leaves, inside which was concealed a strong young man.  He held the whole thing clear of the ground, and revolved in a more or less stately manner, while the rest of the party danced (or shuffled) round him singing the “Sweeps song”.  This went to the tune now called Shepherds Hey, and had several verses, after each of which was sung the refrain -

The first of May, the first of May,
Sweeps go a-dancing all May Day.

They may have started out intending to dance all day, but they collected coppers from onlookers in each street, and as there were twenty-three public houses in the town, open all day, and beer was two-pence a pint, some of the party would be the worse for wear by mid-day, and the show petered out.

One Mayday I remember in particular was that of 1895.  One of the boys I played with, about my own age, had a little sister about five years old, and when I went indoors for something she was there with my mother.  She had come to show her “Maypole”, a posy of flowers on a stick.  We duly admired it, and just then the sound of music came from outside the kitchen window.  On looking out we saw it was Jack in the Green and his gang.  As she had never seen them before I was told “take her out and let her see them properly”.  I shot off, expecting her to follow, but then I had one of my first lessons in etiquette, I was told “hold her hand and take her out nicely”, which I did.  We watched them for a few minutes, but she wasn’t struck with them because their faces were blacked.  Of course I had seen it all the year before so I was not supposed to be impressed.

Two or three other boy playmates of mine had sisters and it seemed to me as an only child that they never appreciated them as they should have done.  Most of them belonged to one or other of the various Sunday Schools, the choice depending on which sect the parents were suppose to belong to.

I was in an odd position, my Father being a Baptist and my Mother Church of England, so I was taken to Akeman St. Chapel on Sunday mornings, and to Church in the evenings.  I never joined any of the various subsidiary youth organisations, yet I was invited to some of their outings, (subject to paying my fare).  For instance, the Band of Hope attached to High Street Chapel went by excursion train to a musical festival at the Crystal Palace and I went with them.  The fare was half a crown.  When we walked through the grounds we boys were impressed by the life-sized models of prehistoric monsters, (made, I believe of concrete).  We now learned that for a hundred million years the world was ruled by the Mastodon, the Iguanodon, the Pterodactyl and other similar creatures long before the human race existed.  It was difficult to imagine a world without people, but we had to believe it, because the various plaques said so.

Presently we trooped off to the refreshments tents, bought bottles of ginger beer, and ate our sandwiches.  Afterwards we were shepherded into the Crystal Palace itself and the actual Musical Festival.  After some speeches several choirs sang different items which they had learned and practised, all being rewarded by polite applause.  Toward the end some of the choirs were mustered into one Choir of five thousand voices, accompanied by the organ.  After singing three or four pieces they ended with the Halleluiah Chorus.  Young as I was, this item made an impression on me which I have never forgotten.  At the time, about 1895, I had never listened to a phonograph record, probably I had never seen a “talking machine”, and the only way one could hear a great number of people singing was to hear it live.  In all ways it was a day to be remembered.

About the time the little school I attended closed, and it became necessary for me to enrol at the National School in the High Street.  Boys who already went there told me such dreadful tales about The Stick (the cane) that I was a terribly worried little boy on the Monday when I started there.

To my surprise the people were quite kind and after doing some reading and writing and answering some questions I was put in Standard Three.  This was too easy to last, and after six weeks I was in Standard Four.  I remember the poetry lessons in Three were a piece called “Lord Ullin’s Daughter”, which suited me fine, as I happened to learn it at home some months before, off my own bat.  I believe the author was a gentleman named Campbell, anyway I still remember some parts of it.  For instance, it began —

A Chieftain to the Highlands bound
Cries, “Boatman do not tarry
And I’ll give thee a silver pound
To row us o’er the ferry”.

It went on for about fifteen verses, some of which I have forgotten, but the last verse runs —

’Twas vain, the loud waves lashed the shore
Return or aid preventing
The waters wild went o’er his child
And he was left lamenting.

As I joined Standard Four at the beginning of a new school year I was starting level with the rest of the Class.  I soon found I was well able to keep up with the rest of them, and the thrill of learning something new all the time encouraged me to do my best.  Also, I had seen a couple of boys caned in front of the Class, and the fact that, in my opinion, they had asked for it made me the more determined not to follow their example.  As a matter of fact I was never caned, but the fact that the cane was there, and could and would be used if necessary made it a powerful deterrent any time one was tempted to do something one knew was wrong.

Of course were were not at school all the time, and there was plenty of time for games in the evenings and on Saturdays and when the Summer came a good deal of our spare time was spent in the Woods.  I should think we explored nearly every yard from Stubbins Wood to the Crong.

About this time my grandfather, (my mother’s father), was pensioned off from his work.  He had been employed by the Grand Junction Canal Co at their Bulbourne works for nearly fifty years, but was still active and well preserved.  He often took me for long walks, and pointed out the particular spoils to be gathered in the different seasons and in the different fields and woods.  For instance, primroses in Evans’s Spring, bluebells in Grove Wood, foxgloves in High Scrubs, and white violets on the bank of Grimes’s Ditch, (Grimsdyke).  Blackberries and hazel nuts from most of the hedges in that part, and dog-daisies from the dogdaisy field, which was called “Gadmer Park”. Strawberry Wood lived up to its name and it was possible to fill a small basket, yet the other Woods produced hardly any.  Near the top of Pavis Wood was a spot, about twenty yards each way, where Bee Orchids grew.  For wild raspberries the most favoured place was Wick Wood, though there were others.

Ed. At this point Joseph’s reminiscence reaches an abrupt end.