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Brookmans Park in the 1950s
by Peter Kingsford

Moffats Lane

Just over 40 years ago, one got off one's bike and pushed it up Moffats Lane. It was impossible to ride up for the Lane was a farm road, an unmetalled country lane with the north side lined with 1930s houses and the south side, farm land.

When you reached the top, Moffats Farm was a working farm, though a small one, run by old Mr and Mrs Canham. The farmhouse itself was not, needless to say, as spick and span as it is today. It had stood there for 500 years.

On the opposite corner stood a larger Edwardian house behind a high wall, now gone.

Apart from Moffats, where the Colonel and his family lived, there were no more houses until you reached the metalled lane.

On the right-hand side, an old lane led down hill to the old disused sewage plant, where boys used to explore. This was before the Parish Council bought Gobions Open Space and the whole area was wild and adventuresome.

Few Cars

The top end of Moffats Lane had a number of building plots. The Close and Moffats Close had not been built. It was all much more open and the views eastwards to the hills were extensive. Mymms Drive, at the junction with Moffats Lane was open ground.

There were few cars about, I did not have one myself. Every morning I used to cycle through Welham Green, down Dixons Hill Road to the traffic lights at the bottom and go up the A1 to Hatfield Technical College, which I helped Dr Chapman to open in 1952.

Children walked or cycled to the Primary School, unlike the practice now. The school, opened only the year earlier, was presided over by the Welsh Mr Harris ("Harry Boy") who believed in the cane for small children. (click here for an editor's note about Mr Wilfred Harris) But there were some excellent teachers there, notably Miss Raine, and most of the parents got what they wanted, success in the 11+ examination.

Local Shopping

Shopping was too, of course, on foot or bike. A high proportion of people shopped in Bradmore Green, for there were no supermarkets. WJ Duncum, the gaunt, energetic butcher, ran his shop very efficiently. He also taught Institute of Meat students at the Technical College.

Bread was to be had at Harman's the Bakers, now Jan's Pantry. Plenty of fish was available in Linton's shop near the present pharmacy. Groceries were bought in Moon's shop where the insurance business recently was. The pharmacy stood where it stands now, under Mr Coombes senior, as did the Spenholme's greengrocery. Thus all the basic needs could be met on Bradmore Green.

Eating Out

Anyone who fancied a light lunch could enjoy it in the cafe run by two Scots ladies, where you can now get a Chinese take away. Or you could get a good cup of coffee there while you were waiting for the laundrette, a few yards away, to finish its work.

In any case there was nowhere else, for Brookmans Park Hotel hardly justified the name of a hotel. The public bar, now transformed into a comfortable place for good fare, was a noisome, dark, dingy den where the main attraction was the darts board.

Clothing

If you were a full time housewife, and most married women were then, you could get your hair done at Irene's and if you wanted some haberdashery, it was available from Mrs Jennings at the Wool Shop. You could get the children's shoes at the shoe shop and their clothing, more formal then, at the men's outfitter. Shoes, which were more repairable then, could be soled and heeled on the spot next door, and that went for the adults too. The men, before the days of DIY, went to Tycon's hardware shop and to the electrical shop where the Raj Tandoori now stands.

Newspapers were delivered by Saxby's where stamps, etc were also sold. The County Library was also there, but if you needed cash from the bank you had to go elsewhere. If you wanted to move, there was only one estate agent in the hut on the green; the spread of 'house for sale' signs and the proliferation of agents was to be in the future.

Bradmore Green was a better, more varied shopping centre then than now.

Doctors

If you felt ill, it required only a short wait in Dr Dwyers's little waiting room at the side entrance to his house in Brookmans Avenue for him to give you a prescription and some sound advice. Higher up the Avenue was Dr Royston. Although a consultant at Barnet Hospital, he would come via Dr Dwyer in an emergency, a service for which I was grateful.

The Good Old Days

Altogether, Brookmans Park was a quieter and pleasanter place to live in than now. There was more open space, fewer cars, no school traffic rush hour, nor a commuter one, public transport was adequate, and the shopping more varied.

Employment was more secure, 'house for sale' rarely appeared, and burglary was almost unknown.

The churches were fuller and Brookmans Park had its own chapel, though the Roman Catholics had no church. One can look back on it with pleasure and regret.

by Peter Kingsford


Editor's Note:
A relative of the late Wilfred Harris has written to this site asking for "mention to be made of the hard work and commitment that he, with colleagues and parents gave pupils and put into the school when it opened and over the following 20 years to make it a focus for the community - encouraging the building of the swimming pool (now gone) and the start of Village Day to name but two things."

The relative says that when Mr Harris died in 1992 the family received a "huge number of sad and affectionate letters at the time from former pupils, parents and colleagues. He rarely forgot a name or face and delighted in news of former pupils at the school, which he continued to receive until his death both from the former pupils and their families."

At the time this article was first published on this site two correspondents wrote to the old 'Have Your Say' Forum about Peter Kingsford's comments regarding Mr Wilfred Harris. The two contributions are published below.

"As someone who was born and brought up in Brookmans Park, I attended the local primary school in the 1960s. Reading Peter Kingsford's account of the village in the 1950s, I have to say that I found his reference to Mr A.W.Harris as someone 'who believed in the cane for small children' offensive. It is true that he caned children who, by the standards of the day, deserved it, but my lasting impression of him is of a kind and compassionate man who believed that manners and good behaviour could get one far. I am sure that there are others who attended the school and feel the same way; it is a pity that Mr Kingsford, who one must assume did not attend, could not check his facts before publicly denigrating someone who did much for the whole community in his lifetime and is sadly missed by many." Peter Woods

Another writer defended the author Peter Kingsford.

"Mr Woods might find Peter Kingsford's words offensive. I find Mr Wood's treatment of Mr Kingsford offensive. I too was born and brought up in Brookmans Park and attended the school. Mr Woods is the one who should check his facts - Peter Kingsford would not have attended the school - it wasn't built when he was at school. John Kingsford, his son, was in the same class as I was in the 1950s. Mr Harris was a good man and as Mr Woods so rightly says did much good for the whole community. I would put forward that I also think that Peter Kingsford has done a lot for the community, by his very informative writings." Mary Morgan

Both e-mails concerning the comments about Peter Kingsford's article were forwarded to the North Mymms Local History Society (NMLHS) when they were posted on this site. The relative of Mr Wilfred Harris has also been in contact with the NMLHS.


Also in this series
Jubilee Memories - Mary Morgan
Jubilee Memories - Ann Gillard (Bush)
Jubilee Memories - Colin Hawksworth
Brookmans Park in the 1950s - Peter Kingsford

Related Information
North Mymms Pictures From The Past
Forum discussion on 50s memories


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