GUIDED WALK  - Saturday 16th May 2009




Diane Chambers

About 20 of us gathered outside M & S and Geoff began by explaining that around 1806 a steam-powered silk mill was built on the site and this was subsequently bought by Franklin’s Mineral Water Co. in about 1902.  What is now “Druids” used to be “The Western”, pub of some antiquitity.  The “Fox and Hounds” was, until c.1960, the meeting place of the Foresters Friendly Society.  Opposite - now flats - is where Parsonage Road Infants’ School opened in 1854 and next to it - now Rickmansworth Flooring - was the School House.

On the wall of The Ricky Kebab and Fish House is a plaque commemorating the setting up of the Rickmansworth Volunteer Fire Brigade in 1869 by Dr. Henderson. The building housed two engines with a room above where the firemen met, and was let out, and on the top floor was accommodation for the caretaker.  Next door was the Police Station.  On the same side the smaller timber framed buildings used to house the Royal Herts Laundry and a coal merchants.  What was until recently Victoria Pharmacy used to be a bakery.

The junction at Station Road was where the turnpike from Pinner to Uxbridge met the road to Chorleywood, at that time called Chorleywood Lane.  “The Foresters Arms” was on one corner and the clothiers Ibottson’s, established c. 1880, on the other (now Hampton’s). Behind, the buildings are set back.  Until the 1970s The Tree restaurant, and the tree it was named after, were there. Further on were some cottages and “The Sportsman” public house.

The currently vacant building next to NatWest bank was the site of “The Sugar Loaves” pub until 1887 when its licence was transferred to the newly built Victoria Hotel (now Long Island) opposite the then new Metropolitan Line Station.  London and County Bank built a bank on the site which later became Westminster Bank and then NatWest until they moved into the adjoining building in recent times. High on the wall of M & Co. are two stones which commemorate the building in 1682 of the Fotherley Alms-houses -5 single storey terraced houses opening onto the street.  F.W. Woolworth occupied the site until 1971.  Next to the |Alms Houses used to be another pub - “The Queen’s Arms”.  

Bury Lane, which crosses the High Street, was built by Henry Fotherley-Whitfeld from The Bury to his new house (in 1740), Rickmansworth Park House.  On the corner was, until 1964, the “Cart and Horses” (now a pharmacy, see opposite).  Behind it, a new residential building, “The Forge”, takes its name from the real forge of the 19th century.  Opposite (now Café Nero) were doctors’ houses around 1900 and in the 1950s The Fifty Shilling Tailors.  On the side of the Boots (Chemists) building is a doorway which was bricked up in 1847. This used to be a Baptist Chapel. What is now Upper Crust and a dentists used to be a bakers and hairdressers - Sidney Barnes.

On the same side Nationwide had been a drapers for 150 years – Chivers, Pattersons and Nelsons.  Sue Ryders was a hardware shop called W.A.Carr, now sited in New Road.  Behind the façade “The Old Town Hall” a Town Hall was built in 1869 (now offices) replacing the former Market Hall which had itself replaced the Old Market Hall built in 1542 in the middle of the High Street.  This had to be moved as traffic through the town had increased and movement was being impeded.

On the corner of Church Street the road name plate, like a number in the town, dates from the 1900s.  The building on the corner (now Corals) dates from the late 19th century and has a rounded corner and roof.  Prior to 1910 the Post Office was here until moving into purpose-built premises on the other side of the High Street next to “The Swan”.  A little further along from “The Swan” was the “George Inn” and a bit further on “The Bell” (where the Library now is).  It was one of 12 pubs in the town which were closed in 1912 by the local licensing justices who had questioned how many pubs were needed. The building was demolished in 1966/7 for the construction of Northway.

Looking up Church Street the modern shops with flats above replaced the “Eight Bells” pub and the Red Spider tea rooms.  A little further up on the left was “The Three Horseshoes” (now Maurizio’s).

On the other side of the crossroads stands Basing House, lived in By Dr. Henderson until his death in 1929 when it was purchased by Rickmansworth Council for council offices.  Where Watersmeet is now was once “The Limes” - another doctor’s surgery.  Opposite was the Odeon cinema.

Although the guided walk ended there a number of us went into the library to view the exhibition of photos of past and present Rickmansworth and looked at the display of photos and memorabilia in the window of the wine merchants F.L. Dickens (previously Palmers) which was also a grocer at one time.

I have two overriding memories from this walk.  One is to look more at what is around you, particularly above your head. Despite living here for over 30 years I’d never noticed the plaque on the M & Co. wall.  The other is to wonder at what Friday or Saturday night must have been like 100 or so years ago with so many pubs in the town.