A History of Watford's Diversity

From the 18th century to recent times

Claude and Edith Buxton

18th century

The story of diversity in Watford dates back to when it was still a sleepy market town in the the eighteenth century. At this time, there was a great expansion in Britain’s black population. Plantation owners were returning to England, bringing back their personal slaves, and some of these were set to work as servants in English stately homes such as Cassiobury. The lives of these first black residents of Watford can be traced in paintings, gravestones and parish records.

19th century

Watford changed beyond recognition in the nineteenth century. The opening of the railway in 1837 led to a massive influx of new residents. By the end of the Victorian period, Watford was already established as a commuter town. Watford Football Club was formed around this time, and in 1898 the Cother brothers became the first in a long tradition of black players.

20th century

In the 1930s, when the Buxton brothers were growing up to become famous boxers in the town, Allan Buxton recalls that they were the ‘only dark skinned family in Watford’.  However, in the post-war years, Watford acquired a rich and diverse set of communities. This website features stories of arrival, including the mesmerising first person accounts of Caribbean women arriving to the cold and racism of 1950s England, and an account of the hard-working lives of Poonam White’s parents, who moved here from India in the 1960s.

This page was added on 24/08/2006.

Comments about this page

  • I have just found your website and so pleased to see mention of the Buxton family. I lived in Valley Rise when young in 1950 to around 1974 and my best pal at Langleybury School was Derick Barnes who lived over the road with his Mum Doris and Dad who unfortunately divorced her.

    He had two sisters Ione and Juanita. Ione I believe married and went to America but Juanita stayed and didn’t know what became of her. Hope she’s ok as I really fancied her, she was my first real crush.

    I remember Alec Buxton came to see Derick’s Dad and Doris when he won the Lonsdale Belt. It went round my waist twice. Allan then started a Youth Club up at Woodside Community Centre which I attended with a Basketball Club which Allan started and his Boxing club but didn’t fancy it as I had just started Judo at Watford Tech and Ovaltine training 5 nights a week and then went into the deep sea fishing out of Grimsby and then the Army then marauding around Africa gun running. Derick I believe was interested in the Young Vic theatre group but lost contact soon after.

    Please give my regards to Allan and Derick if he is around and of course Juanita and Ione. I hope they have had good lives.

    By Norman Cordell (08/06/2014)

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