Living in Watford 1965-1991

Ann Gater (nee Simpson)

Folk Club at the Pump House, 1970s
Neville Marshall donation to Watford Museum

I lived in Watford, 1965 – 1991. I was born in Barrow in Furness but at only a few months old my parents moved to Watford.

We lived in Railway Cottages off St Albans Rd by the Railway Club. They were old victorian terraced houses which belonged to the railways, my dad worked on the railways. No bathroom (Tin Bath hung on a nail on the wall in the garden) and an outside freezing toilet. Two big rooms downstairs, front room with a coal fire that you could not light because it smoked out the next doors front room and a big back kitchen with a fire you could use. The bedrooms were in the roof, three in total. Two small rooms at the back and one large room at the front. The windows were sash and very low to the floor which was wooden and had small holes in. My brother and I used to post pencils down into the front room!

The coal man and bottles of pop

I remember the coal man arriving and a lorry used to come around full of bottles of pop. The insurance man used to call and I think Benskins Brewery with the big shire horses used to come down the road to the Railway Club as well. I lived there until I was 11 and then we were one of the last families to go up to The Harebreaks, Woodside.

I went to Holy Rood School (Percy Rd) then went to Greenbank school near Leavesden and finally St Michaels in Garston. Such memories came flooding back!!

The Pumphouse

The Sundays I spent at a club I think called The Pumphouse listening to Blues Groups and coming home to my dinner in the bin, New Penny Nightclub in Queens Road, Baileys Nightclub with the chicken in a basket dinners which then became Paradise Lost (never as good without the live groups)

My first job was working in Clarendon Road at a florist opposite the Watford Palace Theatre Dorothy Heathcote Florists who then moved into Market street. I remember going as a child into Cassiobury Park Golf Course and rolling down the bunkers and then running away from the keepers. Swimming in the locks and rivers etc around the park, spending all day there on a weekend from 09.00 till late and then using the phone box near the entrance where the old Peace Memorial Hospital was to phone home to say I was OK…could not do that nowadays.

The Saturday morning clubs at the Odeon Cinema, going up to the pond in town to the bakers who also owned a restaurant (black n white building) cannot remember its name, sorry. The Harlequin Centre being built and destroying the top of town and most of the bottom of it as well!

The old sewing machine shop

I remember as a very little girl going into Liptons in Market Street which was a small shop, the outside market near where they built the flyover and the new one near my beloved C&A. I remember Clements at Christmas time, the old sewing machine shop in Clarendon road, Going to John Lewis for my uniform in Queens Road.The toy shop on St Albans Road next to Woolworths, Froggys clothes shop along there as well. Swimming at weekends at the Leggets School Pool (cant remember how its spelt)

So many memories that keep coming back…I often think about Railway Cottages and the amazing childhood I had there. Unfortunately the houses were protected by a plaque hung on the wall in between our house and next doors so they could not be pulled down BUT one day it went missing, we were moved and they were demolished..I do not know to this day whether anything is there now in its place? I remember the elderly gentleman who lived in the old railway station house, Mr Messenger, when he died it became a car sales/hire office I think.

A rosy childhood

I have friends who still live in Watford but it saddens me to visit because it has had its heart ripped away and is not the vibrant place I remember but then again at 48 yrs old everything looks rosy to me from my childhood!! Thank you for making my day..keep on posting!!

This page was added on 19/09/2013.

Comments about this page

  • The new penny was great like a big family if you was a regular.
    Sunday nights was New Romantics nights. The owner was Mr Harris.
    The Top Rank, then Baileys with the Head doorman Kenny Rivers the old tattooist from Bedmond green who started in a tent in his back garden. Then Ken moved to Bushey arches where little Daves is, was. Now Paul Bond owns it I think. The coach makers arms the Oliver, Tony bells. Wimpey bar. Past and present record shop St Albans road. Harry’s kebabs. The odeon cinema. Saturday morning pictures at Clarendon road cinema and the flea pit cinema opposite end to boots chemist. Woolworths where McDonald’s is now Great days, times.

    By Bob (24/03/2021)
  • At the top of this page, someone mentioned about the “Pop man” that used to come round every week on a lorry.
    My dad was the pop man for a while!
    When, many years later, I told him that I was going out with a girl from Rushton Avenue, he told me how, when he delivered the pop, the kids around that area would stop him and keep him occupied by making him do his daft impressions. In the meantime, other kids would nick the pop off the back of the lorry!!
    When it came to our parents to meet each other. my dad went into my then fiance’s house, saw her mum and shouted, “Bloody hell, not you!!”
    She was one of the kids that made him do silly things and impressions to give her brothers time to nick the pop!!

    By dave (16/08/2020)
  • Hi there everyone. I came across these pages just by chance and felt the need to (try) and revive my memories. I moved to Watford in 1970 when I was 19 and worked for ICL as an Computer Engineer. One of my customers was the Unemplyment Offices on Orphanage Road, with almost 100 young ladies working there, obviously my favorite customer. Shortly after that I move into a flat with a work mate in St. Johns Road. Our front door was under the stairs to the Main entrance on the second floor, and we had parties there almost every fortnight. As most of the parties were wild and loud we regularly invited the neighbours, in hope of suppressing any complaints. To avoid any trouble we also invited a few friends from the local Police station, and a patrol car often stopped by just to say hello. Our hallway was plastered with ‘found’ traffic signs and it was amazing that none seemed to notice them *grin*. Sometime around 1971-72 Dave Catlin (my flatmate) and I moved to a house in Rickmansworth Road where we rented the downstairs back flat. Upstairs were 4 students and we often ‘meditated’ to good music like Jethro Tull, Cream and other great music in one of the upstairs room. Sadly my memory has faded on the names of those great guys. My favorite nights out were with another mate named Graham Page, and we regulary spent our evenings in the New Penny. Does anyone remember the two brothers who owned it and checked your tickets when you entered? One of their wives ran the Cloakroom if I remember rightly. Around 1973 I changed my work and started at a Watford Company named Parker-Hannifin. Also in 1973, working as a volunteer for the Youth service, a group of us travelled by bus to visit the Partnered Town Mainz in Germany. Then in 1974 I had a big going-away party at Bailey’s for all my friends and moved to Germany and have been here ever since.

    By Malcolm Smith (26/11/2018)
  • I have just been reading all the comments people have made and it took me back to my child hood in Watford.i was born in Kings St Maternity Hospital in 1951and lived in Herbert St until our house was demolished to make way for the new ring road.We were then moved to the Meriden Estate (inside loo etc) i went to Lea Farm School in 1960 and was in a class with janet and tony freeman (same birthday as mine,wonder where they are now).i spent a lot of time in the highstreet around Musicland and the wimpy bar (happy days).I will write again .

    By Terry (Buster)Freeman (27/07/2018)
  • I’m looking to find any information on behalf of my mother, Jenny Sturgess who lived in Garston, went to Francis Coombe school and was the cousin of the Tickner family.
    Her parents were Michael (Mick) and Yvonne Sturgess (nee Perry) and they lived on Harris Road in Garston at the time of her birth in 1966 until shortly after her dad’s death in 1973.

    Michael worked for Shell Mex and BP based in Hemel and died in January 1973 driving his petrol tanker for Shell in Ealing we believe.

    Michael lived in Devon Road Watford and there may be links to Derby Road.

    Yvonne had family that lived on Gladstone Road, again, surname Perry (Albert and Dorothy; Albert may have worked for Benskins Brewery). Yvonne then moved to Poole, Dorset and died there also.

    Any information, memories or even just recognising the names would be so good to hear. Please contact me at lisathequeen@hotmail.co.uk

    Thank you all. X

    By Lisa Smith (02/01/2018)
  • Hi, has anybody got some old photos or more information about The Old Station House (inside or outside)?
    I would be very interested to learn more about the building and its history.
    I’m looking into creating a historical display about the building for the Watford Heritage Open Days this year.

    By Barbara (04/07/2017)
  • Did any one live in Watford 1960 to 1970 I live on king George’s avenue

    By Phil wyld (10/06/2017)
  • Can any one help me find the PARADE STUDIOS around the 1960s .

    ( The Child )( Gregg Couper & Co., Photographer & Photographic Dealers, High Street, Watford ).

    By Navil (21/01/2017)
  • That Sunday Blues club at the pump house brings back memories circa 1978/79/80 – played my first live song there on a borrowed electric base with friends before most people had arrived that afternoon, and later remember Foxie (?) from the band The Ruts playing some great blues guitar.

    By Richard Woods (30/09/2016)
  • LOL Viola I can totally relate!!!!!! If I spent as much time writing as I did emailing I would have 15 novels completed by no&noD.w#8217;t worry about the water, caffeine is more nutritious!! Really, it is.

    By Keiwan (30/01/2017)
  • My Grandparents William and Rose Messenger lived in the Old Station House from about 1930 to 1980. My father Edward (Ted) and his younger sister were brought up there. I have many happy memories of spending Christmases at the Old Station House. When my Grandparents moved out it became a car showroom.

    By Steve Messenger (07/08/2016)
  • My mam was brought up in old station house, watford . Her parents Rose and William Messenger were her parents. My grandfather was a porter for the railways for many years. My mam s now 91 years young and she met my dad during the war they married and returned to Hebburn where she still lives.

    By jean johnson (30/05/2016)
  • Hi Again…Yes Railway Cottages were opposite Fishburns. We had no front garden. You walked in your house off the cobbled street. I think the Railway Club is still down the same street and I also think Bedford Street is at the back of where the houses were. The back gardens were long and thin with coal bunkers at the bottom. Going to find the page on the Pumphouse Blues Club, I loved going there every Sunday. 

    I have told my friends who still live in Watford about this page. It is so lovely to remember all the good times I had when I lived there. I will return to this page again and again!

    By Ann Gater (09/11/2013)
  • Ann Gater: Where exactly were the railway cottages? My great grandfather lived there in 1851 according to the census, but I could never suss out where it was. Were they on the same side of the railway as the old Watford Junction station, which is now a garage, opposite Fishburns? Sad to think that it’s been pulled down anyway, but time marches on! The Pumphouse has a page on Facebook, for those of us that remember watching blues bands there :) 

    With regards to Rozalex: my dad used to have a factory in Harlesden (started by my grandfather) and as a child I remember there was a shiny chrome plated machine on the wall which dispensed Rozalex barrier cream. I remember the smell and the consistency of the stuff. Me and my brothers used to put it on whenever we visited the factory, so that our hands didn’t get too dirty playing there. 

    I also remember……the machine on Watford High Street Station that you could put tuppence in and it would stamp an aluminium label or nameplate…. Yes it had a huge dial that you would set to one letter at a time. Brilliant! 

    I must confess that I skimmed through some of the letters here, so as not to waste another day wading through nostalgia, but I seem to recall that the coffee shop down by St Mary’s was Lyons Coffee house? 

    Also remember the public baths! I actually used them once, when going to an interview when I didn’t have time to go all the way home to Croxley and back. You bought a ticket and the attendant showed you to a room with a bath in it. You hired a towel. It all seemed very posh, but I suppose it was left over from when a lot of the houses didn’t have a bathroom. Just a tub in front of the fire. 

    I was briefly shocked a few years ago when my daughter started at Watford Girls Grammar and told me that nobody there knew how to strike a match to light the bunsen burner! I guess kids today never encounter a naked flame or an open fire unless they hava a gas cooker, and even then it’s all automatic. I still remember using a sheet of the Watford Observer (which still had full size pages) over the front of the fireplace to draw the fire up, and watching the newspaper going brown as the flames got higher. Then that moment of panic as the paper caught fire, like the map at the start of Bonanza, and you’d have to make sure that all the burning bits of paper went up the chimney and not on the carpet. 

    It is odd that we took for granted walking everywhere, when now most people wouldn’t even dream of walking from Watford High St to the Junction. I knew all the shortcuts and back alleys in Watford, as I lived in Croxley and every few yards saved took time off the extra 2 or 3 miles that I had to walk to get home from Watford. 

    It is good to share memories that you can picture so vividly in your mind, as if it were this morning, and to realise that there are many other people from previous and more recent generations that know exactly what you mean. So many good times!!

    By Phil How (09/10/2013)
  • Very interesting post Ann, I felt the same thing when I first started reading some of the stories on this page.

    Your ‘post’ resurrected a memory for me when you mentioned the Leggetts Way Swimming Pool. My younger brother Clive and I belonged to the Watford Life Saving Club at the Watford Baths and did some voluntary life guard duties at Rickmansworth Aquadrome during the summer weekends. We had a small outboard boat and would patrol the edge of the lake keeping an eye on the swimmers (and the young ladies I suspect…. we were only 19 and 20). When the North Watford Pool opened in 1971 I think, my brother and I were employed as the first two lifeguards. We worked most weekends and evenings keeping the changerooms clean and tidy and making sure no one got into trouble in the pool. I can only remember one of the female lifeguards, Melanie Tearle, who used to go to my old school Watford Tech, she was a very nice girl and an excellent swimmer and we had a laugh with her. 

    Great days, infact my brother met his wife there, twin sisters that used to swim VERY regularly… I always thought they liked the swimming but the probable truth was they liked a particular pool attendant more than that and it wasn’t me!! 

    I remember the railway houses too, they had no front gardens, as you came off St. Albans Rd they were in a terrace, my brothers and I used to play “Knock up Ginger” every time we passed, it was always the last house away from the main road as we could disappear up the alley way to Leavesden Rd, we had a fright one day as the occupant was waiting for us and chased us for a second or two…. hope that wasn’t your house? Innocent fun, makes me smile when one of these stories triggers a memory.

    By Doug Petty (24/09/2013)

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