by Mrs Rosie Simmonds
I was born in Welham Green, left at the age of ten, and returned 52 years later. Our old house has been demolished and the site occupied by the Men's Institute. The fresh water tank is still there, having acquired a new lid. The well on the green, from which no doubt the village took its name, has been decapitated and its top covered by a concrete slab.
Sozzled on Porter
One of my earliest recollections is of going to Sunday school and on the way meeting an old man bent nearly double. He wore a very clean smock, a red handkerchief round his neck, and on his head was what was known as a 'Billy-Cock' hat. He would be going to the Sibthorpe Arms, where, with porter at three ha'pence a pint, (and good stuff at that I've been told), he would be able to get fairly well sozzled for a shilling - that is if he had a shilling to spend, which is doubtful.
The Water Cross, now called the Watersplash, was a place where the water ran unhindered across the road. There was a wooden footbridge at the side which is now covered by a road bridge. We used to paddle there and on down the stream, through the fields to the pond, catching minnows and stickleback along the way. The pond was quite a large one and was full of 'jock'. Wild forget-me-nots grew round the edge and there was one patch of king cups and marsh marigolds. There are no fish in the stream now, and the pond is absolutely choked with weeds. A fallen tree lies in it. A few forget-me-nots still strive for life in one spot. The footbridges are still in place where the stream runs through the park, but we always preferred to cross by the stepping stones a little further on. It was better still to run and jump over, but when we had a mishap and got our feet wet, somebody would be sure to 'tell mum'.
Now the stepping stones are invisible and the whole valley is a bed of reeds, which is to the advantage of the wildfowl. Many have taken up their abode in safety there, and although not often visible, they can be very plainly heard. The crab-apple trees, which used to delight us when we were children, are till there and still bear fruit and the stream still forces its way through to the swallow holes as Waterend. The contour of the land here alters after every flood and there has been quite a change in the last four years.
We attended school at Waterend and had to walk there, a mile and a half, in all weathers. In dry weather, we went by way of the park and swallow holes or through the fields from the stile at the top of Dixons Hill. There was a pond just inside the first field, which has now become an ornamental affair in a private garden. The discipline in school was very strict and the cane treated with great respect. It was seldom used and was referred to as the 'doctor'. Swearing was a terrible crime, and should a child be guilty of such an offence, our Governess would, with a bowl of very soapy water, thoroughly wash out that dirty mouth. There were trees opposite the school and we would watch the red squirrels running up and down, and jumping from one tree to another. Now children are taken to school by bus, the footpaths have naturally disappeared through disuse and there are no red squirrels. Waterend was altered a good deal owing to the Barnet by-pass having been cut through it, but the old cottages in Warrengate Road still remain with the Maypole, a 1512 public house, and the Woodman, also pretty ancient.
We used to walk from Sunday school to Church up the Church field. The footpath is still there and to the left, the Hockey Lane estate has sprung up. Hockey Lane was formerly called Occupation Lane. The Church has lost its steeple, but in the intervening years, has advanced from candles to oil-lamps and thence to lighting by electricity. The bells have been increased from six to eight. The Church itself is beautifully kept and is a credit to the verger. The approach to the Church by road is by a magnificent avenue of lime trees. People change with the years and places alter beyond recognition, but these trees look just the same after half a century.
The 1914-1918 War Memorial is at the bottom of the avenue, at the junction of Tollgate road and Dixons Hill Road, set in the centre of a green triangle with maple trees on guard at the sides. I remember a large white gate at the top of Tollgate Hill, though it was not in use at that time. I do remember Bell Bar or the Swanley Bar or Warrengate, but the names remain to remind us of the Tollpence paid at these points.
The Barnet by-pass now cuts across the bottom of Dixons Hill Road and Wakeley's Nurseries have sprung up on one side, and North Mymms Café on the other. Bungalows now reach almost to the top of the hill where we have the Scout House. This has now no connection with the Scouts, but it is the headquarters of the Women's Institute and serves a very useful purpose in the neighbourhood. The old cottages at the top of the hill are well remembered, but the pond has been filled in, as have all the other wayside ponds in the neighbourhood. I suppose there was a good reason for doing this, but I miss the ponds more than anything. They were picturesque and great fun to slide on in the winter. The old thatched cottages near the pond have disappeared and trees have been planted in their place. 'The Laurels' has been enlarged and become Welham Manor.
Betty Peilard's Corner
St Paul's cottages looked just the same as ever, but are now generally called 'ten house row'. There was no shop at White's Corner 50 years ago - in fact it was known as Betty Peilard's Corner. The cottage she lived in has also gone and the first council house built in North Mymms just after the First World War started there. There has been some development in Dellsome Lane, including six shops, three of which are used for the school canteen. There are also many council houses and the playing fields which consist of the children's playground, the bowling green and the football pitch. All this is adjoining Bush Wood, where we gathered primroses. The Boy's School was in Dellsome Lane. Formerly only boys of seven years and over attended here. All infants went to the Girl's School at Water End.
Balloon Corner is at the junction of Dellsome Lane, Huggins Lane and Parsonage Lane. The two latter are almost built up now and there is a stone to signify that here the first balloon came down. Following Huggins Lane to Marshmoor, which was certainly what its name indicated, we have several large factories which extend in both directions - to Travellers Lane and to the back of Holloways Lane. This was just a lane with no buildings at all 53 years ago, now it is built over on both sides. Nash's Corner has altered very little. A bus shelter now stands on the green where once felled trees were kept for the use of John Nash, the village carpenter and undertaker. We very often played on the trees and when we heard of a death in the village, we would creep up Nash's yard to see if he was making a coffin. He would look up from the job and say: "Sling your hook".
Bull's lane has altered very little, and is still a pleasant country walk. Skimpans Farm is here, a very old building, and looks just the same as always, but the pond, like the others, has been filled in. In this lane is an overhead railway bridge, where we used to "holler" and wait for the echo. Foxes Lane, where we went blackberrying, is now impassable, almost. It was never much more than a cart track. The stream, which ran across, is now piped.
The one place, which seems to have remained unaltered, is Bradmore Lane. This is owning to the fact of its being in the Green belt. There is a footpath from this lane leading to the fields behind Potterells. This was a house of great importance in the village, being the residence of Mr and Mrs Cotton Curtis, who had a very large family and retinue of servants. These gentry used to travel by carriage and pair with coachman and groom in front and two footmen sitting like statues at the rear. There is now a railway station at Brookmans Park. Formerly we ahd to walk to Hatfield or Potters Bar to get a train.
There is not much difference at Rookery Corner except that the Smithy has given way to a café. I remember sitting here with a few other children one Bank Holiday Monday to see the first motor car go along the Great North Road. We stayed all day and went home in triumph having seen three (no doubt it was the same car each time). What changes in half a century we had seen. The "Double-4" was as far away from the house as possible. There was no water laid on, no gas or electricity, no newspapers delivered except those that came by pose, no telephones or cinemas or whist drives and of course no wireless sets or televisions. But we had a musical evening at home, each one doing in turn. Occasionally there was a concert in the Boys School - severely censored by the vicar. One could go on indefinitely recounting changes in North Mymms which is rapidly becoming a built-up area. One cannot stop the march of time. There has been some progress - but I still feel sad about the ponds. I'm glad the crab-apple trees are still there.
Memories of Mrs Rosie Simmonds who was born in Welham Green, left at the age of ten, and returned 52 years later. These memories were written in 1953.