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Post-war memories of Brookmans Park

By DR J. PLOWMAN - October 2017

Bradmore Way, Brookmans Park in the '30s

Note: This is the text of a letter sent to North Mymms Parish Council recently. It's been digitised and shared with this site by Mike Allen, local historian, archivist and photographer. The book the letter refers to, North Mymms Pictures From The Past, was produced by The North Mymms Local History Society. The author of the letter, Dr J. Plowman, asked for the following memories to be published on the site, and included his address (at the end) should anyone want to contact him.


To The North Mymms Local History Society:

Whilst on a visit to friends they showed me a copy of your "Pictures from the past", which was of great interest because next week will be the 60th anniversary of our coming to live in Brookmans Park following our wedding.

I bought 48 Bradmore Way in the July of 1947, and my wife Hazel and I lived there until 1973. Hazel died three years ago but I am sure that she would have enjoyed your pictures of the places where we were so happy.

I am nearing 93 so remember coming with my parents before the war to see the houses being built with columns in George's Wood Road. My father was very interested but was prevented from buying one because the trains went two hourly and he worked in central London. We occasionally visited BP for a drink at the hotel thereafter.

The houses in Bradmore Way were built at different times, 48 being one of the first in 1928. We arrived just after the road was made up, Peplins Way, which loops round, was made up some years later.

Your picture on page 32 shows part of the corner of the front garden at the extreme left hand top corner. At no 46 lived the Hamptons, at 47 the Watsons, at 49 the Redhouses, at 53 the Sharps, at 54 the Coopers, and at 58 the Pidcocks.

The Pidcocks were a little older but all of the rest had children who became our friends and with whom we are still in touch save for Richard Sharp who moved away becoming a patent agent as a mechanical engineer.

Trevor Hampton, a television producer, has lived for many years at Letty Green the other "children" now about 70 are more widely placed.

Mr Pidcock was a schoolmaster who was married to a Dutch lady. As a senior army officer he had entered a village in Holland to tell them that the Germans had been driven out and he was met by the mayor - his father in law. Their little granddaughter was always caught short level with our house after discovering that we had sea life wall paper in our cloakroom! Mary Redhouse was president of the area National Trust.

You show the railway porter. There was also in a little building on the approach slope an Irishwoman name of Mary who was a friend to every visitor to the ticket office.

In those days we had a resident policeman whose house was in Bluebridge road not far from the bridge. You have a picture of a shop which I think in our time was Mrs Underhub, whole sold high quality ladies wear, much visited by Hazel. Opposite was a large electrical shop on the corner below the garage in which window I saw my first colour television.

Opposite almost to 48 was the entrance to the primary school, built a year or two before our arrival and which acted as a village hall for social affairs and where the parents held fund raising days and bonfire night gatherings. The parents worked very hard to build a swimming pool for the children, there being plenty of land surrounding the school.

Brookmans Park was situated between the two main roads running north and south, the Great North Road from antiquity and the Barnet by Pass build just before the war.

On the old road there were many places of historical renown, the Rookery as a haunt of highwaymen and their girlfriends, and of course the broadcasting station with its aerials. This dated from the earliest days of 2LO. We went on an official visit one day and saw the power was supplied by engines from German U boats.

At one time we were troubled by music on our telephone, quite nice music, but a nuisance when talking. We ran it to earth when we found that our telephone line passed through a tree top and the insulation had worn through turning it into an aerial.

There was a very strong garden club with several shows a year in the school hall. One of our supporters was always late, and the rest of us were exasperated so once we started off on time to teach her a lesson.

The parish church was a very active body, our numbers included five bank managers, six organists, several accountants, the MD of a contractor in church building, and me as a structural engineer.

I was chairman of the fabric committee. During this time we renewed the lighting, renewed the heating restored the tower, renewed the guttering etc, replaced the worn out tiling with handmade tiles. One of the tiles was found to have the foot mark of a young deer when it was made. This I gave to the church historian who had been the school mistress at Welham green.

To pay for all of these works there were major festivals each year based on the church building. The very strong flower arranging club sometimes invited another club to join in filling the church with very lovely displays. Our organists in turn gave recitals and there were special services with visiting preachers.

Our church owned some very early silver so I arranged a display in the sanctuary. There was a very early tankard made of carved amber, its pair was in the British museum and our tankard was on permanent load to the museum so we "borrowed" it back and I mounted in on a very slow turntable with a light inside the whole forming the centre piece. For security we had someone with a cosh sitting in one of the choir stalls!

These events usually lasted over three or four days and we sent advertising leaflets to ail the major London hotels. Our local bigwig lived next to the church in North Mymms Park, a bachelor his widowed mother lived with him.

He was a major General in command of London District. When he attended church he sat in the front pew and read one of the lessons then he would return to his seat and settle down and I always expected him to reach into his pocket and draw out his pipe for a smoke. His mother was renowned for going to the gates and hitch hiking up to the shops because she did not drive a car.

There was a good range of shops. One a butchers, Mr Findell and his son in law Jimmy. Findell very serious and worried. Jimmy was given to writing witticisms on a board outside the shop. In those days dogs were welcome in shops and he used to try it on with our Dalmatian. One day Porgy looked up at him and replied with three upper class woofs. Findell lived a little above Folly Arch and one day a van removed the entire contents of his home, I never heard of the thieves being caught.

We had two murders there in our time, early on there was a murder on the golf course at the southern edge of the parish where the professional was Jackson in his early years. From memory a young woman was left hit on the head on one of the greens. It was much reported for a long time.

The road leaving the shops rises over the railway bridge by the station and had fields on either side. To the south there was for many years a pony, retired by a lady who had grown up. The pony was called Merrilegs and knew all the commuters on the way to the station and was aware that some of them had carrots!

The field on the north side eventually had a small block of flats built upon it. One of the ground floor of which was lived in by an elderly man on his own whom people thought should have been in a retirement home. His daughter, a friend of ours, and her family lived just off the Avenue and visited him every day. One day there was no answer to her knock and looking thorough the letter box she saw him tied in the kitchen chair with a gag in his mouth. He had choked to death.

Our neighbour opposite had two horses for his daughters who lived at the end of our road in a field with a shelter made of old doors. A drop out had been camping out in this shelter and he decamped, the police soon found him on a Green Line coach, he was the murderer. The whole area was sickened by this needless crime.

The chapel of ease, St Michael's was an old building converted for use in the upper part of Brookmans Park just above Moffats house. The old farmhouse cited in the nursery rhyme. In our time the land around it was built upon with houses. I think that the chapel was sold after we left in 73.

You have pictures of some of the Wren family, the daughter taught in the Sunday school and lived at the beginning of Colney Heath. In another picture there is Mr Shadbolt, the builder, who was rather deaf and in our time celebrated fifty years as a church warden.

On the eastern side of the Great North Road there is a turning which leads to Essendon and on this road there is a small church which had its bell mounted on the apex of the roof for many years but which was stolen about 1970.

I have mentioned our dog, he was a friend to all of the children who called me "Porgy's dad", he disliked a Scotty dog from Peplins who was always out, unwashed and had a pronounced limp. One day he "marked" our gate post and Porgy was loose and chased him - it cured the limp for good.

Down the lane leading from the station to the by-pass there were several swallow holes which in winter time ran full with a turning motion. On the golf course, just above our boundary there were several lakes with newts and other wild life. The frogs and toads had an age old path downhill across our road at mating time. We and our neighbours spent a lot of time picking them up to save their being run over. The newts were plentiful, unlike those which stop builders these days, and ate the fish in our pond.

Hazel for many years was a guide at Hatfield house, on the edge of North Mymms, the home of the Salisbury's. I helped out at busy times by selling guide books saying "Guide books are half a crown" in a suitably refined voice.

At the end of the season the caterers, Symonds, treated the guides and their other halves to a lunch which was attended by the family to say thanks for a successful year. One year they had a jubilee and we were all invited to an evening meal, A Guards orchestra played and their grandchildren watched from the gallery. One of the guides who was a friend had her husband with her, George, who was very left wing and reluctant to be seen at Hatfield. Until he saw the marquess's daughter in law, and he could not stop saying "What a smasher". She really was a very lovely woman. Years later she became the marchioness and was famous for restoring the gardens around the house. She died a year or so ago.

During our time in Brookmans Park the great local event was the opening of the veterinary college field station, where we all went. Quite a number of the students were lodged in the village and they were very interested in all the pets and were very welcome.

The scouts had a large hut built beside the railway on the road to Welham Green. Raymond Redhouse was the senior scout master and it was a very popular group.

Further down the road at its lowest point was a small sewage works. This became redundant when the larger area scheme took over and the site was in due course sold to the Roman Catholic church who built a little church upon it. This became named by us locals - St Luke on the Loo.

On a visit the house where Florence Nightingale lived in retirement I saw an old map of North Mymms which showed the land on the opposite side of the road to where the scout hut is now had a row cottages which have now disappeared.

The great event of our time in Brookmans Park was the great snow of 1962-63. We did not see the grass for three months, the temperature dropped to 9 degrees F, our milkman carried the bottles from the level of the shops because the road was impassable and there were no cars moving at all. Of course there were a lot of freeze ups because in those days very few people had central heating. In our garden there was a very old oak tree and it was a picture for weeks.

October 2017

DR J. PLOWMAN

3 Gorse Meadow
Bourton On The Water
Gloucestershire
GL54 2DY

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