A Life in Watford

Christine Partridge (nee Sharman)

St Albans Road, 1960s
Watford Museum

Like many, I was born in King Street Maternity Hospital in 1944. My Grandfather owned and ran the Gents Barbers, G. H. Sharman & Son, at 99, Vicarage Road, near the Cemetery. This was in the family for over 150 years. His first premises was on the corner of King Street. The family originated from Long Buckby in Kettering. Mr. & Mrs. Percy Wells owned the newsagents nearby where my mother did cleaning. Mrs. Beckett had a lovely bakers shop on the corner of Farraline Road and as a child I used to venture in with caution and stand at the top of some steep steps leading to where the bread was baked, but I was always warned never to go down there. A Gibson’s butchers was on the other corner.

My Father’s new job

Although trained as a barber, my father decided, at the age of 14 to take a job at W. H. Lavers, Timber Merchants in Merton Road where he worked until he retired. We lived on the Harebreaks Estate in Middle Way. I remember the immediate families from the Halward’s, Butcher, Jefferies, Violet, Culverhouse, Wright, Needle, Bunnage, Frost, Atkins, Holbrow. I went to Alexandra Infants School, Parkgate Junior and Leggatts Way Secondary Modern. On leaving I was told by the school I would have to work at Yeatmans sweet factory in Cherry Tree Road, later owned by Mothercare, but my mother hoped for more, sending me to the Commercial College in St. Albans Road, North Watford near Haynes Pram Shop and close to Bushey Mill Lane, where I learnt shorthand/typing. Mr. Haynes also had a cycle shop on the opposite side of the road near Longspring.

Taking a sledge for paraffin

The council offices were at the bottom of Beechwood Rise with Dodds hardware shop, an alladins cave nearby. I used to take my sledge with wheels on to get a gallon can of paraffin filled then drag it home. Underhills was the newsagent where I’d buy a packet of Smiths crisps with the little blue bag of salt for tuppence and take it to the Odeon Cinema nearby for Saturday morning ‘flicks’ costing sixpence to get in. I’d crush my crisps to tiny pieces to make them go further. Threshers off-licence was further up the road with a bank on the corner.

Leaving school

On leaving school I worked as a junior for the Hertford Handbag Company in Sutton Road. Blowers Ink Company were located on the ground floor. I then joined the Watford Observer working at the offices in the High Street and took a Saturday job at Finlays tobacconists opposite. I didn’t last long there, I was useless at figures. Does anyone recall the legend of The Fig Tree in St. Mary’ Churchyard, I remember that well. It was then on to Odhams the printing giant in North Watford until it closed in 1983.

North Watford holds a lot of memories for me as my maternal family originated in Parker Street, off Leavesden Road. Callowland Girls School at the bottom of Leavesden Road and the boys school further up on the left. Redrups butchers, Girlings Bakers, Mrs. Finch’s grocery shop where mum would buy a quarter of butter a week with her rashion coupons and the broken biscuits were a joy. Froomes, another grocers, Mr. Christie’s chemist where he made up all sorts of potions, a real chemist. I still have a bottle of his made up linament which is just a keepsake.

So many memories

Mrs. Rumsby’s hairdressers with the gents downstairs and ladies upstairs. Gregoes fish and chip shop and greengrocers and Albans greengrocers and a cycle shop nearby where I bought my racing bike. So many memories. There was a pet shop near Christ Church in St. Albans Road, the Co-op shoe shop one side and general homeware store on the other where customers paid for their goods and the assistant would put the money into a circular canister, push it into a fitment above her and it whizzed off the what appeared to me as a child, a box suspended in the sky. Someone up there used to take the money, then send the change winging down. I was fascinated. The Co-op also had a dentist, and foodshop and naturally a Gibsons where we’d buy a pound of eights sausages, a Kinghams further up and not forgetting Spurriers bakers, Timothy, Whites and Taylors and Woolworths. I could go on.

This page was added on 21/08/2011.

Comments about this page

  • My belated response is to Nick Parker (24.2.17 comment). It’s sad this revamped site is so difficult to navigate with comments disjointed. There’s continuity anymore. However, I recall vividly the Foxens pram shop. If my memory serves me well, the daughter, or a relative of the owner, called Pam originally lived at Herkomer Hall in Bushey with her family, and married my late cousin David Anthony. They had two children and Pam now lives in Cornwall and I think runs a B&B.

    By Christine Partridge (nee Sharman) (11/05/2017)
  • Haynes cycle shop and pram shop were owned by my Grandfather, Laurence Foxen. My eldest brother was born in the flat above the pram shop.

    By Nick Parker (24/02/2017)
  • Today the name kinghams popped into my head. I looked it up and it was subsumed into Waitrose. I too was born in king street maternity hospital in 1948. I recall my grandmother taking me to kinghams on the 311 bus from bushey. I spent the first 5 years living with my grandparents at 316 park avenue bushey. The bungalow is still there. We moved to a council house in scottswood road number 56. I went to highwood school then to Watford technical high school before we moved to Leighton buzzard in 1963. I remember my mum worked in the finance department in cawdells. She was on the receiving end of the money canisters posted through the tube system from the tills. I recall eating cockles in Watford market and ice cream from rossi’s in the high street. A lifetime ago now.

    By John rickman (19/10/2016)
  • Hello does anyone remember the Haney family?

    By Faith (25/07/2016)
  • My great grandmother Clara Duce moved from rural Cambridgeshire to Watford in the 1860’s. She bought a shop with yard and accomodation at 197 High street, opposite the Benskins brewery. She is credited with being one of the first people to sell fish and chips. They went on to have several other shops in the town, including one in Vicarage road, where my grandfather was born. They also had shops in High Wycombe, Reading and Windsor. 197 High street was a very old building with tunnels under the yard, and a grapevine reputed to be a cutting of one from Hampton Court.

    By Sarah Duce (22/11/2015)
  • I was really interested to read Christine Partridge’s story about G H Sharman’s barber shop, as he was my great-great grandfather! (I’m related to his son, George Herbert Sharman, who joined the Navy. You probably couldn’t get much further from the sea than Watford…)

    By Katie (23/03/2014)
  • What a wonderful site! I lived in Croxley Green between 1961-70 and my first job was on Saturdays at a cake shop in Market Street, Watford. I have been racking my head to remember it’s name and this morning I woke up with “Spurriers” coming to mind. My Google Search brought up this website and the comments have brought back so many memories. I used to do the family shopping for my mother on Saturdays for years and it was whilst doing it one Saturday that I discovered a sign in Spurriers window for a Saturday girl! In I went and I began the following Saturday (still did the family shopping in my lunch hour!) and continued on Saturdays and in the school holidays until I went off to Uni. There were other branches in the neighbourhood and I used to relieve at those as well, particularly in the school holidays – I particularly remember one in St Albans Road out past Watford Junction station, and Radlett (where Una Stubbs came in one day). I vividly remember the day of the World Cup – I was relieving at another store (?Bushey) and both the shop and the street were deserted all afternoon! The shop opened up a whole new lot of experiences for me! Everything had to be added up in your head as you went along, as the old pop-up cash registers did not do that for you. Some ladies (I cannot remember men asking me to do this!) would not trust my mental arithmetic and get me to repeat as a check! Thank you so much for this site – I will come back to it and read in more detail later. I have lived in Australia since 1980 but do return to the UK fairly regularly and hopefully one day will get the chance to visit Watford again. The plans for revamping the town centre were put forward whilst I was still at school and at the time the idea of fly-overs seemed very alien….. We had moved to Hertfordshire from Cornwall and at first I would call Trewins TREwins because that was how that name was pronounced in Cornwall. My mother would tell me that no-one would understand me if I persisted! Susan Long (nee Lambrick).

    By Susan Long (nee Lambrick) (05/07/2013)
  • Such wonderful memories of Watford I remember Mrs Beckett the Bakers, she had a huge cat that would sit in the window of the shop. Also the Watford steam laundry shop on the corner of Farraline Road. And Southwoods the Greengrocers along with Duce the Fish & Chip shop in Vicarage Road and also the wet fish shop opposite the Cemetry.

    By margaret snowdon (23/02/2012)
  • Christine 🙂 It’s astonishing and sad how easy it is to lose connection with your beginning, so I’m thrilled to get any news of Watford. I want you to know how much I value and enjoy your remarkable memory. (Loved your tale of ‘Knocker’ and the back stage visit.) I recall playing in the “rec” at the top of the Harebreaks, the wooden seat on that big old roundabout and the creaking sound of the swings , collecting beechnuts to eat and acorn cups to decorate. I remember the carnivals in Cassiobury Park and the walks along the canal up to the Watermill House…so beautiful. My brother, Michael, went to Leggatts Way secondary school. I went to WGGS then St. Albans Art School and eventually became an art teacher in the high schools in North Vancouver. I emigrated to Vancouver in 1967 and returned to visit only once, in 1982, but my mother had moved away from Middle Way. I miss you all.

    By Julia Holbrow (09/02/2012)
  • Julie Holbrow – Hello, How nice that you remember me after all these years, especially as you live so far away in Vancouver. It just goes to show what an excellent article this has turned into with so many people contributing their memories of Watford. I too remember the Butcher boys from Middle Way, with their nicknames. There was Tiny (Quentin), Knocker (Vivian), Bunty (I think was Michael) and Bib, but I can’t recall his real name. They had a dog called Paddy who scared me to death everytime I saw roaming about the street. Their cousin was the late comedy actor Terry Scott (Owen), who was born in Watford. When I was 15 ‘Knocker’ invited me to the Whitehall Theatre in London to see Terry Scott, Brian Rix, Elspeth Gray and Hugh Lloyd in the Whitehall Farce ‘One for the Pot’. We met up with the stars after the show which was a real treat. I seem to recall Terry Scott based the song ‘My Brother’ on his cousin ‘Knocker’. Living on the Harebeaks estate I recall spending time as a child playing in the ‘rec’ at the top of The Harebreaks, having fun on the swings, round-a-bout, climbing frame and sea-saw. The old air raid shelters which we were forbidden to venture near, but always did. I used to cut through the ‘rec’ to and from Leggatts Way School. Then there was the Watford Carnival which everyone looked forward to. The beautifully decorated floats would all congregate up The Harebreaks. So much hard work and effort into making this day a special day for everyone. With bands playing, they would make their way up St. Albans Road towards Rickmansworth Road and Cassiobury Park where a funfare drew massive crowds and so much fun was had by all. We used to walk all the way there and all the way back. No thought of transport ever entered our heads in those days. Happy days. My thanks also to all those making contributions which is a joy to read.

    By Christine Partridge (nee Sharman) (08/02/2012)
  • Christine Partridge – How wonderful to read your posting! You triggered so many flashbacks… I’m Julia Holbrow (now in Vancouver B.C.) I lived between the Smith family and the Davis family and I remember the fair haired Halwards and all the Butcher boys who had nicknames beginning with “B”. I remember the horse and cart salesman slowly making his way along the street selling his produce and the avid gardeners racing to collect the horse’s droppings .. the street games , the box-carts..the prolonged snow battles with the “Thrums” kids.. The 346 bus travelling along the Harebreaks road was as welcome a sight as a favourite family member.

    By Julia Holbrow (30/01/2012)
  • Just an amendment to my previous article. I think Mrs. Beckett’s bakery shop was on the corner of Fearnely Street, not Farraline Road as stated, which was further down Vicarage Road. Time plays games with memories but it’s so nice to recall such happy times. Wish we could say that about today. Keep the memories flooding it. Wonderful.

    By Christine Partridge (nee Sharman) (23/08/2011)

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