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

  • Hello Christine,
    Thanks for your reply,
    Yes, I remember seeing you in Woodmere Avenue, I was on my way to the North Watford Club where I was, at that time, on the Committee. It was mentioned at the next meeting that a Mr. Sharman had withdrawn his application for membership. I rather think I knew the reason, don’t you? The model ship was actually a Nelson style 3-gun-deck ‘Ship Of The Line’. I appreciate the fact that you still have the painting I did for you. Do you remember the occasion of Saturday morning ‘flicks’ when you sent a young schoolgirl down, from the back to nearer the front, where I was sitting, with a message on a piece of a cigarette packet? Was she one of the various names you mention in your original post:- Faith, Sarah Duce, Katie, Susan Long (nee Lambrick), Margaret Snowdon, Julia Holbrow? I don’t remember any of your friends – Anne Henderson, her sister Maud or Christine Pullen. I don’t remember Alan Aldred or Diane Cooper. Keith Halward and I were childhood enemies/friends! I DO remember playing with you all in Clive King’s garden. I remember Janice Williams who’s garden backed on to mine. I well remember you wearing a blue blouse and matching skirt. IMPORTANT, I used to have a photo of you, which I took, on a summer afternoon and in it you look lovely reclining on the grass in a flowing white dress, near a lake. Do you still have it because I’d love to scan it to make a copy? The crossroads where all the crashes happened were Fuller Road and Middle Way – I was nearly injured when one of the cars ended up on top of our garden gate where I’d been swinging on! I didn’t previously mention that I used to go into Haynes cycle shop, in the shopping parade between The Leggatts Rise Estate Office and the North Watford Odeon. I was bought my childhood clockwork train set there and later, when I started work at Watford Display Co. my first bike.
    You have far more memories about those times than me – but you ARE a year younger that me!
    Keep well and avoid the bug!!

    By Trev Makepeace (19/01/2021)
  • Hello Trevor,
    I’ve just seen your comment and so pleased to hear from you. I hope you’re well. So many years have passed since those happy days of yesteryear and whilst hard times, I wouldn’t change them for anything. Do you recall some years ago, probably more than I care to remember, I was driving down Woodmere Avenue towards Bushey Mill Lane and I stopped when I recognised you from our school days coming out of your house. I did stop and get out of my car to introduce myself, but you were in a hurry to get somewhere. I remember our childhood with such fondness. You and Tony Jefferies used to walk around the Leggatts Way school playground pretending you were both carrying a large sheet of glass and boys would avoid walking through the gap for fear of breaking it. Such a laugh and harmless fun. I remember your fathers shed where you built the model Cutty Sark galleon in fine detail. A masterpiece. You were always a clever lad and I could see so much potential in you. I would come round and watch you creating this work of art. I still have the oil painting you painted for me of the Cutty Sark which I still have. You were truly gifted. I remember the skeleton you had in your bedroom and to this day I can reel off the bones in the body from head to toe, just as I learnt them from you. I remember we used to look out of our bedroom windows and could see each other across the road. We also played with Clive King a few doors down from you, also Brian Turner opposite you, but a fit further down. I used to play with Ann Henderson from Longsprings, she had a sister Maud, and we would all play in Clive’s garden. Do your remember Keith Halward who lived opposite me, I think he married Christine Pullen, and Janice Williams who lived in the corner of Thrums. Her parents had a huge cherry tree in their garden which we would wait impatiently for the fruits to become ripe before for eating. Yes, I remember your parents well. I recall you said your mum looked like Mariliyn Monroe with her blonde hair. Your nan was a lovely lady who lived in your front room and preferred to take her meals in her room. Your parents always made me welcome and had a party to which I was invited, and I remember wearing a turquoise blue blouse and matching skirt. You always took pride in your appearance and your DA hair style was your pride and joy. I do remember writing to Odhams as I could see the potential in you and I remember your mum brought me a lovely bunch of flowers as a thank you. In fact I too worked at Odhams Watford for over 14 years until its closure in 1983. Only a few years ago I took a walk around all the streets on the Harebreaks estate reminiscing over the past, but so many streets and houses unrecogniseable. It was heartbreaking to walk along Middle Way and Fuller Road with many of the lovely manicured front gardens long gone and St. Albans Road a shadow of its former self.
    Yes, Trevor I still remember our times together as children so long ago. Do you remember the Salvation Army used to meet up at the junction of Middle Way and Fuller Road on Sundays for their service and they would make collections from the houses. The Butcher family opposite me were members of the Salvation Army. Also, all the accidents at that dangerous junction where no-one gave way. Happy Days.
    I did see a comment from an Alan Aldred who was asking if anyone remembered him and his wife, the former Diane Cooper from The Harebreaks. I used to play with Diane and responded so many times, but although it said my comments had been accepted, they never appeared which is sad.
    I wish you all the best and stay safe in these troubled times. Christine.

    By Christine Partridge (nee Sharman0 (18/01/2021)
  • Hi Christine,

    Have you seen my original post sent on 27/12/2020?

    Trev.

    By Trev Makepeace. (09/01/2021)
  • To Christine Partridge (nee Sharman). There’s one other family name you don’t mention (perhaps because we didn’t live in Middle Way – we were in Fuller Road. It’s the family name of Makepeace and I’m Trevor (Trev) the only son of Mr & Mrs Makepeace. It’s pure chance that I came across your article when I was researching the history of Leggatts Way Secondary Modern School (we were both pupils there). I think Leggatts was a lovely example of 1930’s school architecture and I’m so sorry it was demolished. My father, Cyril, also attended Leggatts as one of the first ‘batch’ of pupils, when it opened around 1935/6, and he was in the school’s first 11 football team! (Also, like you, I attended Parkgate Junior school). I knew of all the family names you mention, particularly that of Jeffreries, because Tony Jefferies was my long time mate until he went to live in Canada. I was also born in King Street and so many more of the places you recall are the same for me. Like you, I went to the Saturday morning pictures at the North Watford Odeon, a classic style building which I was so sorry to see disappear – why DID it have to go? We used to get our chocolate covered mice at Underhills to take to the ‘flicks’ and, from Dodds Hardware, we kids used to get our fireworks – we knew Norman Dodd very well. Some other shops we used, Woodleys grocers and S.W.Cornes the chemist, both in St.Albans Road, and on the corner of Parkgate Road, Gibsons butcher is one I still use today. At weekday lunchtimes a lot of us Leggatts pupils would go into the ‘rec’, next door, to play ‘hide’n’seek until the very Loud Yeatmans/Goodies Sweets hooter would blow (I think it was around 1:25pm), when we would ‘scuttle’ back into school before the whistle blew for afternoon lessons. I’m sure you remember the beautiful old Cassiobury Park gates, where the Watford Carnival passed under (having started in The Harebreaks) and on its way into the park. I’ve still got a photo of those park gates which I took before they were demolished (like the rest of good old Watford). Apparently, the ‘reason’!? (excuse) for their demolition was for the widening of Rickmansworth Road! I very well remember your parents – it was your Mum who explained to me the story of the fig tree growing out of an old tomb in the church yard. (Apparently, it was a person buried there, who stated that ‘if there is a God a fig tree will grow out of my heart after I’m buried’). (I remember your Dad smoking St.Julien pipe tobacco in his pipe).
    On leaving school I spent around 2 years working in Watford Display Co. who were silk screen printers. But, I think, of more interest to you is that, until I retired, I spent the remainder of my working life at Odhams Press – latterly I.P.C. Media, Magazines – and it was through you that I got employed there!

    I’m sorry this message is all ‘jumbled up’ I tried to reply to you in the best way as I thought of everything you mentioned! Even so, I’ve probably overlooked some memories.

    I reckon that so many of your memories are the same as mine.

    They really were good days to remember and it’s been so nice to share them with you.

    Trev.

    By Trev Makepeace (27/12/2020)
  • 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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