Author Topic: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history  (Read 2724 times)

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Offline Editor

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Soon to make way for flats, the Swan Lodge in Bell Bar was once an important coaching inn on the Great North Road. According to the local greenbelt society, it's “the last link in Bell Bar’s coaching history”. Now developers are preparing to demolish it. The local authority has given the green light for a block of flats to be built in its place. Take a look at the history of the place, and browse some rare maps recording how Bell Bar has changed over the years. Some interesting material shared by local historian Peter Miller.

The Swan, Bell Bar, Hertfordshire
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Offline chicken legs

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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2016, 08:48:05 am »
Very interesting reading, David.  I knew the old Great North Road had gone through Hatfield House grounds but I didn't know the original route was through Bell Bar.  Thank you for the post.
 
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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2016, 08:50:23 am »
Very interesting reading, David.  I knew the old Great North Road had gone through Hatfield House grounds but I didn't know the original route was through Bell Bar.  Thank you for the post.

Thanks for the feedback. The real work was done by local historian Peter Miller and the late Bill Killick. Peter is popping round this morning along with another local historian. Perhaps we can dig up some more interesting local history stories.  :)
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Offline epiphany

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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2016, 12:00:23 pm »
Very interesting reading, David.  I knew the old Great North Road had gone through Hatfield House grounds but I didn't know the original route was through Bell Bar.  Thank you for the post.

Hi Chicken Legs,

There is an article written by Bill Killick in this sites excellent history section that describes the route of the old Great North Road through the Parish of North Mymms.

http://www.brookmans.com/history/road.shtml
 
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Offline chicken legs

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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2016, 12:23:46 pm »
Thank you Epiphany. I will pass the link to my husband who has studied local history over the years.
 

Offline nikkigreenleaf

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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2017, 05:26:15 pm »
Dear All

My grandfather, Mr Greenleaf owned and lived in Swan Lodge for many years - probably around 30 or more. When I saw posts in this forum about the Swan I tried to reply as a guest and my mother and I spent about an hour sending you all sorts of info but just as I pressed send I was timed out. It's taken me more than a year to get back!

If you're interested I was born in Bell Bar in 1960 and brought up there until I went away to university. My parents bought the house from two sisters, the Boulters who lived in our dining room, festooned with cobwebs. My father took them out for a drive - they'd never been in a car or seen street lights. They ran the village stores which we took over, and I remember sitting there on a three-legged stool with a lady called Peggy who worked in the shop. One hilarious day, our cleaner fell through the ceiling upstairs in the house and landed in the Anchor butter in one of the large fridges! My sister was born in 1966 and I think my parents closed the shop shortly after that when the supermarkets arrived - the cinema in Darkes Lane, Potters Bar became a supermarket and I spent many hours waiting in the car park after school - I've never liked supermarkets since! I think I saw my first film, Mary Poppins in that cinema but my mother would remember.

My grandfather and father owned Brookmans Park Motors on the Great North Road, as well as in Bradmore Green - some people may remember Gordon Simmons who ran the one in Bradmore Green?

We lived in the Old Bakery and also owned the chapel opposite where we parked the cars, and my grandfather owned a Georgian house opposite which after he sold to the Adams was pulled down in around 1964(?) and a bungalow built in its place. The Salvadori's (who were members of the Brookmans Park Golf Club) bought it in around 1967 (possibly earlier). It was later replaced by a house.

We owned the pony field alongside and either side of the Cock o'the North. I remember Hans from the Dutch Nursery on the corner of Bell Lane and the Great North Road before they had the house built that is now the Dutch Nursery. My mother still owns the old coach station opposite. My father kept a couple of vintage buses there which he thought were fabulous but which I didn't have much interest in! on a Monday he'd use one to take disabled children to somewhere in Essendon (I'll ask my mother for details), and I remember the Hari Krishners using it!

If anyone's interested in the history from around 1940 onwards my mother now in her 80s is a good source of information, and needless to say we have several photos that might be of interest? Her mother Zoe Smalley (my grandmother on the other side) was the honorary ladies captain at the golf club for what seemed like an eternity and lived in the Bothy (sandwiched between the clubhouse and the car park!). I even remember Chancellors School being built! My mother grew up in Moffats Lane, and I went to Mrs Robertson's kindergarten which I can still remember - especially playing with trays of sand!

I could go on and on - between us all, Gordon at the garage, my grandmother at the golf club, and the three generations it seemed we knew most people in Brookmans Park then. We probably didn't of course but it seemed that way, especially Brookmans Avenue, Moffats Lane, Georges Wood Drive, Mymn's Drive etc. My grandmother used to go to cocktail parties and play bridge. She didn't drive so we used to take her, and over the years it seemed to me she went to a great deal of the houses! the Atkins, Duvals, Betty Denton, the Geeks, Dr Dwyer and Jean Dwyer etc. etc.

i can remember every shop in Brookmans Park - I see one of your members remembers a furniture shop there - so do I, it was sandwiched between the butchers with the post office/newsagent to the left, and the toy shop where we spent many hours to the right. Tycons on the corner.  Regent Fruit Stores was on the other corner. I remember the opening of McCourts the bakers by the library, then to the right, Todd the jeweller, the wet fish shop, and Coombs the chemist.

So I've digressed from Swan Lodge. It had a railway carriage in the garden which my grandfather filled with classic cars, a scary well, Victorian greenhouses, and according to my father, a ghost! The garden was bigger but my grandfather sold off some of the land where houses now stand. The garden was packed with flowers and a friend and I used to pick daffodils to display for Easter at St Mark's Church, Wildhill. I know the church was sold. After my father died, my mother, Gordon Simmons and I went there and met whoever had taken it over - I wonder what has become of it now, and those buried in the churchyard? does anyone know?

If anyone's interested in knowing more, do get in touch. It would be lovely to share memories.

Nikki Greenleaf






 
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Offline epiphany

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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2017, 08:04:45 pm »

I used to pick daffodils to display for Easter at St Mark's Church, Wildhill. I know the church was sold. After my father died, my mother, Gordon Simmons and I went there and met whoever had taken it over - I wonder what has become of it now, and those buried in the churchyard? does anyone know?


Hi Nikki

Thanks for taking the time to write such an informative piece.

St Marks Church is still there and is now a Greek Orthodox Church: https://hertfordshirechurches.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/community-of-the-twelve-apostoles-kentish-lane-woodhill-greek-orthodox-formerly-st-mark/

You will probably be interested to see the images below which are taken from Mike Allen's Images of North Mymms

We would be very interested in scanning any photographs you may have - please can you pm me your email address?
 
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Offline Nimbus

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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2017, 11:02:55 pm »
In the 1960 film "Village of the Damned" (based on John Wyndham's novel "The Midwich Cuckoos") there is a fleeting glimpse of the rear of a small coach resting in a ditch consequent on the unconscousness of the occupants. The shot is too short to confirm the ownership of the coach, but the resemblance to the coach in Ron Kingdon's photo above struck me immediately. The setting is not dissimilar to the Great North Road a couple of hundred yards from the garage, although much of the location filming is known to have been around Letchmore Heath, near Aldenham.

Does Nikki remember one of the family's coaches being hired for film work?

What an imposing domestic building that lost Georgian house was!
 
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Offline nikkigreenleaf

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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #8 on: November 04, 2017, 12:45:01 am »
THANK YOU - these photos are fabulous! I wish the Georgian house were still there or that I could even remember it. I do still have a chair that belonged to the family who lived there then, Titmus.

Seeing the photos the following springs to mind:
- phone no.for Brookmans Park Motors on the back of the coach was 52201, ours was 52200.
- the mast behind the Old Forge belongs to the BBC and the garage (my father on Sundays and late shifts) used to collect people from the station for their rota - I remember going once or twice in the car and the building was a bit formidable. I liked to turn into Bell Lane by the Clarks on the corner (like a lodge? on the bumpy road as we called it which was tarred up to Pine Grove in the 70s) because they had a railway track in the garden with lots of trains (marginally more interesting to me than old buses!).
- the open window at the side in the photo of the Old Bakery in 1962 was my parents bedroom, where I was born! Dr Dwyer from Brookmans Avenue resided over the birth. My father and Gordon Simmons were waiting for the wail downstairs in the kitchen, then my father was called upstairs and when he came down he said 'it's a girl'!
- in the 1966 photo of the Old Bakery/Bell Bar Stores there are two statues on the bay window under my bedroom window. They were given to my mother by Ann Waters (think she lived in Moffats Lane?). They were stolen, presumably someone thought they were lead but they were only Spelter. I remember the policeman arriving and looking up at the window. It was about 8pm on a Sunday evening, and I was scared he might tell me off because I should have been in bed asleep!! It must have been summer because the light was shining through the curtains and I didn't want him to see me! - how funny.
- the car in the yard behind was my mother's, it was pale blue, an old Jaguar

I've spoken to my mother about the possibility of one of the coaches being in 'Village of the Damned' but she can't remember for sure. But the smallest 29-seater was definitely hired out for a film at Borehamwood film studios, and thinks it was hired out more than once. Also one of the caravans from the Hatfield and District Caravan Co (owned by my father at Bremners Garage on the Great North Road towards Hatfield) was used in a film with Sophia Loren in London near the Thames, and again on another occasion with Joan Collins. Bizarrely I don't remember this at all.

Some more random info from my mother: my grandfather bought the garage and bungalow behind it, in Bell Bar the day World War II broke out! Swan Lodge was a night club at the time. She remembers being taken there by Trevor Muddiman (lived at the top of the Avenue) some time later. When my grandfather purchased the Swan and installed the railway carriage, it was on the site of old stables where Miss Paley had a riding school in the 1930s and where my mother had riding lessons. Apparently my father did too which I find hard to imagine!

The baker, Ernie Boulter at the Old Bakery died when grandpa bought the Old Bakery and his two sisters Nan and Emily continued living there. Then my parents got married and moved into the back of the property. There was still a grain store upstairs with a shute into the back yard. Nan smoked like a chimney, her hair was grey at the front and yellow at the back from the smoke. When I was a few months old she kept wanting to see me but my mother wasn't too keen! then she had a heart attack and went into Barnet General. It was then that my father took Emily to visit her and she'd not only not seen street lights but was terrified of them!

Mrs Mack and Dan Hobden lived in Lower Farm, and the blacksmith was in their yard (previously in the Titmus' forge as marked on one of your maps).

A circus moved into Lower Farm just after the war and used it as winter quarters with all the animals in the outbuildings.

My father and Gordon Simmons went to an auction and bought a brougham for a club which was kept in Swan Lodge yard, and which was used for fundraising - my mother has a photo.

Thanks for the info about St Marks - yes, the Greek Orthodox church, that was who we met but I didn't know they were still there. I remember Gordon Simmons telling me that he was reading a lesson there when it was announced that war broke out. He lived up at Wildhill nor far from Sir Geoffrey Church's at Woodside Place.

It might be a while before I'm able to dig out photos for you but hopefully by Christmas. My email address is greenleaf@btinternet.com so feel free to contact me that way. Thanks again for responding so quickly, that was a lovely surprise.

Nikki

 
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Offline Nimbus

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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2017, 01:23:16 am »
I should have gone a-Googlin' earlier!
Interesting things happen if you Google for '883CPP coach'!
On Flickr there's a freeze frame from the 1963 film 'Clash by Night' showing the front of this very vehicle! Another site (the Internet Movie Cars Database) identifies it more specifically as a Karrier 98A with Reading Lilliput body.
On the same page are a number of stills from 'Village of The Damned' showing the similar 'crashed' coach. It looks like the rear panel has been covered to remove ownership details, but the Greenleaf insignia remains on he side! Opinion on the page suggests the blurry registration is 'NXW 12'. The same site has a photo of '883 CPP' in 1958 in Hereford when it was operated by Ardenvale Tours, Knowle, and further stills of it from 'Clash by Night'.


See: http://www.imcdb.org/vehicle_52336-Karrier-98A-BF.html
 
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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2017, 07:58:33 am »
When I saw posts in this forum about the Swan I tried to reply as a guest and my mother and I spent about an hour sending you all sorts of info but just as I pressed send I was timed out. It's taken me more than a year to get back!

Hi Nikki, welcome to the forum, and thanks for all the memories you have shared. Would you like me to compile them into one document and add them to the site's history section along with similar contributions that other local residents have shared over the years?

By the way, I am sorry you had problems sharing this information a year ago. The forum allows guests to read, but there has never been an input area for forum guests to write and post. But the main thing is that you are now a registered forum member and are now able to share such interesting information. Please let me know if you are okay with my adding your recent shared memories in our history archive.
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Offline nikkigreenleaf

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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2017, 07:45:15 pm »
Dear Editor
It's a real pleasure to have such quick feedback, thank you. No problem about last year, just by chance we saw someone asking for information about Swan Lodge, and I thought I'd reply. My mother was with me and she had all sorts of gems which I've since forgotten. If anyone has questions about people or places/buildings from 1940s until about 1990 now is the time to ask her, most things she remembers still but her memory is just beginning to fade.
Yes please do compile and post to the history page, you never know some things might be interesting for people who had relatives around at the time. I'll try to think of anything historic that might be of interest, regarding buildings etc.
I didn't say much about the golf club but my grandmother Zoe Smalley and her son Peter (my mother's brother) I understand were quite a formidable twosome - he had the drive (held the record of a hole in one at...the difficult hole, can't remember the no.9th??), and she was good at putting. Uncle Peter married Anne Thomas whose parents lived in the Close off Brookmans Avenue. They moved to Barkway, near Royston when they married, about 60 years ago now, he died sadly but she's still in the same house, I went to see her recently.
My mother's best friend Julia Bowles (daughter of commander Bowles) lived in the Avenue, they owned the Lady magazine, and were related to the Mitford sisters. Some of those memories might possibly be interesting.
Photos we have are not very plentiful unfortunately, my mother moved house recently and many are still in boxes...perhaps we'll dig them out over Christmas!
Nikki
 
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Offline nikkigreenleaf

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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #12 on: November 04, 2017, 08:16:39 pm »
Nimbus - how amazing is that! isn't Google incredible. If my father were still alive it sounds like you two would have had a great deal in common! I will look at these links in more detail, thank you. Fascinating about the insignia of the leaf on the side - a giveaway!
Another interesting point about the signwriting is that Gordon Simmons worked for the Greenleafs for 43 years running Brookmans Park Motors. Prior to that he trained in graphics and was a signwriter. He used to tell me he did the signwriting for all the vehicles. I am almost certain that this would have been his hand - all the info on the rear too!
I'm now (almost) excited to go and find that box of bus photos! I can imagine my father would have that big grin on his face now!
As well as buses I don't know if you're interested in other vehicles but we had a burgundy-coloured Austin 7 too (reg.no began OU2) - Gordon drove my sister to the church on her wedding day in it. My mother gave it to Gordon after he retired and in his final years he sold it to the Walducks (Imperial hotels). Mr Walduck was delighted as he remembered it belonging to "Greenie".
"Greenie" was my grandfather WEC Greenleaf and every year (before the war I think) he used to race (Austins?) from John O'Groats to Lands End, and was one of the fastest drivers, lapping London at 99mph. I DO have all those albums and his medals so if you're interested I can look up the correct information.
We also had a red Alpine that was super fun but I had to double declutch! After Bell Bar we moved to Much Hadham and I used to take it through the ford in trepidation, trying to keep up the revs before the water came over the door in the deepest part!
And a silver shadow Rolls Royce (it was enormous and smelt of leather) etc.
Like me my mother wasn't very interested in vehicles so she took up breeding ponies and bred the winner of the House of the Year Show before retiring. She started out with my aunt Anne Smalley who is still continuing with my cousin Claire to this day with many of their ponies qualifying for HOYS.
Like buses, I wasn't really into horses either!
 
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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #13 on: November 04, 2017, 09:17:38 pm »
We also had a red Alpine that was super fun but I had to double declutch! After Bell Bar we moved to Much Hadham and I used to take it through the ford in trepidation, trying to keep up the revs before the water came over the door in the deepest part!

Nikki - This looks suspiciously like your Alpine nestling in the tin Chapel, although looking at the Sunbeam logo on the boot the image is from a slide and has been reversed.

(Another image from Mike Allen's Images of North Mymms)
 
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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2017, 09:46:23 pm »
Nikki - I thought you would be interested to see this article from 2001 about the (overly IMO) restored Chapel.

 
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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #15 on: November 05, 2017, 03:45:41 pm »
I wish the Georgian house were still there or that I could even remember it. I do still have a chair that belonged to the family who lived there then, Titmus.

An interesting account of the old Georgian house was published in the August 1972 edition of 'Hertfordshire Countryside' (page 32):

'A story is recalled of the forge that used to stand on the corner of the old Great North Road at Bell Bar, occupied by Sid Titmuss, described in Kelly's directory of 1929 as a threshing machine owner. Here oxen were shod before being driven by road to the London market. The upper part of the building was full of ancient relics—cavaliers' boots, obsolete farm tools and ploughing implements, all many hundreds of years old. When the demolition men arrived these valuable relics were thrown in a heap in a neighbouring field, burnt and lost for ever.'

Images from Mike Allen's 'Images of North Mymms'


 
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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #16 on: November 05, 2017, 05:04:19 pm »
With Nikki's permission, I have copied and pasted her memories, shared in this thread, and added it to the site's history section. I have sent her the link to proof read. You can read it here.
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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #17 on: November 05, 2017, 06:12:43 pm »
Wow Epiphany, how incredible, you are a real source of information. Yes that's the Sunbeam Alpine all right, loved it to bits. And those two chairs beside it have been reupholstered and are in my mother's bedroom!
Seeing that window at the top of the chapel, I remember doves - actually they were probably pigeons nesting in there!
David - I'm working on the piece for memories so it is more interesting!
I'll have lots of photos for your archives too...
Nikki
 
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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #18 on: November 05, 2017, 06:34:26 pm »
David - I'm working on the piece for memories so it is more interesting!

Great, just email me the text when you are ready and I will replace. David
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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #19 on: November 06, 2017, 07:46:56 pm »
Nikki - This looks suspiciously like your Alpine nestling in the tin Chapel, although looking at the Sunbeam logo on the boot the image is from a slide and has been reversed. (Another image from Mike Allen's Images of North Mymms)

I've flipped the image horizontally so it's now the right way round.
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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #20 on: November 06, 2017, 07:50:40 pm »
Some images of the 303 bus outside Swan Lodge, Bell Bar, from Mike Allen's collection. Might stir a few more memories. Does anyone know the woman getting on the bus? Perhaps Nikki will recognise her?



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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #21 on: November 06, 2017, 08:09:23 pm »
Those last two scenes could almost be recreated today. LYF 249 is RT 4190, which survives in preservation, in East London. You'd still need to use monochrome film though, as it is now in LT Central Area red livery.
 
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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #22 on: November 07, 2017, 09:56:30 pm »
well goodness me, most disconcerting though because when I knew the bus route, the stop was on the Great North Road, the other side of the telephone/post boxes' triangle. For those who don't know, the 303 was green (not red), and there was another one too, was it the 716 (Nimbus?) one was called the Green Line. I used to go with Dexie Warner from 28 Bell Lane up to London shopping and for special treats. We'd sometimes wait HOURS for a bus...

There was a lady who lived in the Farm Yard who had a huge number of children - as a child she reminded me of the "lady who lived in a shoe, had so many children she didn't know what to do". She would go and meet one, or some from the bus every day, and run over the road carrying her baby. The bus stop must have moved VERY shortly after this photo was taken because it was around this time in 1966, 67? I said 'that lady's going to drop her baby right in the middle of the Great North Road' - about two days later she came running into the shop with blood running out of the baby's head... My mother was called from the house, and whisked her off to QE2.

The lady in the photo I'm sure isn't her, is she carrying a bunch of flowers? I don't recognise her but I bet my mother will. At 08.20 she must have been living in Bell Bar?

Intrigued to know what's in the boot of that mini. And there's that beloved old breakdown truck - after I learned to drive, it was always coming out to rescue me when I broke down. And that covered area behind the garage is where the cars were valeted - I can almost make out the pigeons who seemed to want to nest there, much to my grandfather's eternal annoyance!
 

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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #23 on: November 07, 2017, 10:19:03 pm »
well goodness me, most disconcerting though because when I knew the bus route, the stop was on the Great North Road, the other side of the telephone/post boxes' triangle. For those who don't know, the 303 was green (not red),

Voila! Green 303 at the bus stop over the road.....



 

Offline nikkigreenleaf

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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #24 on: November 07, 2017, 10:34:44 pm »
there we are! is there a date? is that the same car in the same position outside the Swan? it can't be much later than the May 66 photo can it? months rather than years I think?
 

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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #25 on: November 07, 2017, 10:44:53 pm »
Correct! Same year 1966.
 
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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #26 on: November 08, 2017, 12:02:43 am »
Yes, the Green Lines were 717, which was replaced by the 716. In our era they were operated by the chunky but neat little RF single-deckers, and later by the Routemaster, the 'deluxe' version with fashionable twin headlamps, and power operated doors to the rear platform.

The routes in those days seemed more useful. Pretty direct to WGC, whereas now you get to wander round Essendon way. Perhaps they reckon direct traffic goes via the railway.
 
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Offline nikkigreenleaf

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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #27 on: November 08, 2017, 12:13:55 am »
Yes I remember the chunky single decker one, used to sit up the front near the driver but seem to remember the driver was in a separate cabin behind glass? - not in the bus like now? I don't remember anything like power operated doors! Didn't the conductor come and issue a ticket, and on the 303 s/he's be at the back as we steeped on? maybe. I actually remember the interminable wait more than anything else. Used to go up to north London somewhere, possibly Palmer's Green?

On the pic of the 303 does it say Stanborough? I remember going to some outdoor pools there once with someone, they were fun. My mother can't remember them, says there were lakes there.

My grandfather used to have housekeepers who'd take me to even more exciting places like Battersea Fun Fair, with a walk through the tree canopies in Battersea Park. I suppose we went on the bus.
 

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Re: The end for The Swan in Bell Bar - a look back at the inn's history
« Reply #28 on: November 08, 2017, 11:28:41 am »
For anyone interested in seeing more pictures of local buses and coaches over the years we have two threads about this running in the site's forum. Links below.

Did you travel by bus or train in the 60s & 70s? Pics & memories
Local coaches serving North Mymms in the '50s, '60s & '70s
The Brookmans Park Newsletter has been supporting the village and our local community since 1998 by providing free, interactive tools for all to use.
 

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