Brookmans Park Newsletter
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Changes in half a century 1900-1953
Memories of Mrs Rosie Simmonds who was born in Welham Green, left at the age of ten, and returned 52 years later.
This is the first of two pieces about her memories which was written in 1953.
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 Mens 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 hapence a pint, (and good stuff at that Ive 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.
For part two of Mrs Rosie Simmonds memories click here