Rickmansworth From the Watford Observer  

    Autumn 1908

    Geoff Saul

    During the first week of October probably the most significant matter to concern the Watford Union Workhouse was the arguments in the Guardians’ meeting about the ways to reduce their costs. The last discussion had reached the ears of the staff and quite obviously they were not happy. At the Guardians meeting Wednesday last [1st week in October] a letter was read from the Superintendent Nursing officer about the use of pauper nurses:

    ‘We respectfully inform you that the report on nurses at the last meeting of the Board, published in the papers, [WO] has caused an uncertain feeling among your nursing staff. It is difficult enough to do our work among pauper patients without their being able to read that you think that paupers could do our work as well or better than we can. We most strongly protest against it, and we beg to say that we cannot understand why we are spoken of in such a manner by the Guardians, as we know of no fault being found by you or your Medical Officer. The tendency these days is to raise the status of the nursing profession instead of lowering, and we are of opinion that that it is the view of the Local Government Board that the employment of paupers in nursing the sick has at all times been discountenanced.’


    The chairman of the Board of Guardians said he would do all he could to pour oil on troubled waters. The Clerk agreed to write that they had no intention of employing etc., etc.  The matter was not referred to again.


    Following his marriage Capt. Gilliat wrote to the Watford Rural District Council resigning his seat as he was now living in Northampton. There were tributes to him. A special meeting of Chorleywood residents was held in the Masonic room in Chorleywood Hotel to make a presentation to the newly wed Captain. It was organised by Mr H. Darvell with the support of Messrs H. Field, A. J. Bates, W. Pullen, W. Wright, J. Wilson & W. Thompson. Another event concerning Chorleywood came when Arthur Wright, a member of the Working Men’s club of Chorleywood married Kate Lack in All Saint’s, Croxley Green. At a smoking concert of the club a telegram was sent him offering congratulations.


    There was more news from Chorleywood concerning the new ‘Church Room’ in Chorleywood west. A café chantant to provide funds to furnish the new room was held on Saturday evening in the Masonic Room in CW Hotel and two ladies , Mrs Goss and Mrs Atlay, provided the entertainment. Present were: Vicar Cecil Hughes, the Hon Clarence and the Hon Mrs Graves, Mrs Hoare, Mrs Sport, Mr & Mrs Meaville, Mr & Mrs Gilbert, Dr Walmsley (Char X), Mrs Gilbert (Curson St) and party, Mrs Hartland (Sutton, Surrey), etc .. The spread from which they came is interesting. The new Church Room was going to be used to supplement the services at the Parish Church during winter months, then only the Vicar would have to cross the Common ….  A matter he and his successors complained about before a priest was appointed. The opening of the new Church Room by the Bishop of St Albans was fixed for Monday 20th November.


    On the national news front: A meeting of licensees in Watford sent a delegation to London to protest about the Licensing Bill, now actually in Parliament, and father and son, J. R. & V Scully (Salter’s Brewery) were among those travelling. Tariff reform was in all the correspondence columns again after a lull. More locally though, and of wider significance, John Kerr of Loudwater House complained about British investment abroad , in Germany and the USA rather than at home, at the annual meeting of Messrs Dick, Kerr & Co Ltd.


    The Bowls section of the Cricket & Bowls Club reported on the summer tournament results:  20 matches were fixed, 4 cancelled, 9 won and 7 lost. The points score was favourable, 989 - 966. The AGM was held in the Victoria Hotel [Long Island … now] November 9th. Philip Thornton was in chair. There were present a good number of playing and non-playing members including Drs Stanley Davies, A. McCall, E. A. Peters & A. E. Clarke; Messrs G. J. M. Atkins, T. Bevan, T. Paramor and J. H. Hingley. Bruce Kerr wrote congratulating the club on the satisfactory balance sheet, they had a balance in hand of 19/1d. There were some minor outstanding accounts including subs. The effect of the last rise in the subscription was asked: the club now had 11 more members! Dr Clarke pointed out that they had had a wet season. Thanks were given for those who raised money for the improvements. The elections followed.


    That other long standing Rickmansworth institution the Penny Reading Society entered its 45th year, T. W. Bevan was in the chair, the programme of songs, recitations and humour hardly differing from the 1st year. The clientele had changed because of the expansion of ‘villadom’ the middle classes had taken over. Lord Ebury had ceased to be President.


    Following the fatal motor accident reported last quarter another occurred on Batchworth hill, however not fatal this time.


    The second week of October began with the news that the widow of the widely known Vicar of Chipperfield, Rev’d J. C. Clutterbuck had died aged 100. She left 11 children, one of whom was Admiral Clutterbuck, 23 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. It was JCC who addressed the Institution of Civil Engineers on the subject of the Springs and Bournes of Hertfordshire of which he had kept records for many years. The quite remarkable paper which is to be found in the Institution’s Transactions.


    The Old Age Pension Act was now resulting in positive action, 75 year olds and above were asked to register in order to be checked out to be able to receive their future pension in January next. In the first week it was reported the number applying exceed 20 from 75 – 95 year olds. 20 forms had been returned of which only 1 was from a male.


    The working of the OAP Act was delegated to County Councils in the main. It was their responsibility to oversee the arrangements in the different kinds of authority within their boundaries. The Act stipulated the formation of an Advisory Committee with some local representatives.  For the Rickmansworth part of the Watford Union area, W. R. Woolrych of the Rural District Council, S. A. Bateman of the local Foresters’ Court and Colin Taylor of the UDC were nominated. None of the Guardians were nominated inspite of their being deeply concerned with OAPs in the Union building.


    The Croxley Mill Repairers and the Papermakers sat down to a joint dinner in the Institute building following their soccer match with Mr J. Coutts, a Croxley UDC Councillor in the chair.


    In West Hyde there was a rick fire in a field which presented difficulties for the Rickmansworth VFB. A rick was completely burnt out because of the distance from a water source.


    The Rickmansworth Madrigal society held their first 1st winter season practice this week.


    At the Rickmansworth Urban District Council meeting Surveyor, Albert Freeman reported on the road widening at Moneyhill where the road had now been made up and paths & kerb were being fixed. Work had commenced on Ebury road where he hoped to have 4 new lamps erected and connected to the gas main by the next Council meeting (2 weeks later). On the sewage farm: 6.5 acres of mangolds were ready for harvesting and he was awaiting tenders. As Inspector of Nuisances he had no Infectious Disease outbreaks to report. As Gas Works manager he reported the new retorts were being set but mouth pieces had not arrived and he had written a letter to Messrs Gibbons Bros from whom a telegram had been received that the pieces were to be despatched the next day.


    In the middle of the month one of the rare County Court cases involving Rickmansworth was reported. One of Lord Ebury’s tenants was disputing a delapidations charge on his quitting a tenancy and had refused to pay. The Judge stopped the proceedings and dismissed the jury during the first day because he thought it was a matter which should be settled by arbitration. The Clerk was instructed to ask the Institute of Chartered Surveyors to take the dispositions and recommend a settlement. Early in December the appointed surveyor recommended a charge of £9 odd which the Judge ordered together with costs to be paid by the departing tenant.


    The problems of the well in the Vicarage road Union building were resolved when it was discovered that a rusted grating was causing the blockage. Of more concern was the ingress of rain water into the new workhouse building. By the will of Luke Davey mentioned last quarter one of his nephews, a pauper inmate, received a bequest of £100. Mr Paramor the Rickmansworth Relieving Officer took charge of the bequest and paid the money into the Union ‘Common Fund’ from which the nephew would be given 3 pence a week, most likely to be spent on sweets.


    Since their formation Unions about the country had begun to share experiences and seek to act in unison.  The West Ham Union wrote to Watford about the present state of unemployment and after discussion the Watford Board agreed to write a letter similar to that sent from West Ham to the Prime Minister urging measures be taken to provide useful work. This was only one example of general concern over the state of unemployment

    A St Albans Diocesan Conference was held in Watford and two of the items for discussion were ‘A call for the elderly to retire’, and,: ‘The Church’s Relation to Socialism’. The latter was spoken to by Canon Helmsley Henson who moved:

    ‘That the Christian Church has no commission to direct the economic development of Society, and no adequate equipment for such a function. That Socialism, as one form of economic organisation, is neither approved nor condemned by Christianity, save in so far as it may imply violation of fundamental morality. That the Clergy, as officially charged with the defence and exposition of spiritual truth, are, in some important respects, ill-equipped for the discussion of economic problems, and little likely to contribute to their solution. Finally, that in view of the extreme complexity of social  questions, and of the circumstances of English life, which inevitably connect the handling of such questions with the normal strife of political parties, it is highly expedient the official exponents of Christianity should not associate themselves publicly with the advocacy of, or resistance to, specific projects of social change.’ 

    There followed an attempt to justify...

    Mr C. F. G.  Masterman, M.P., for West Ham followed. He said he found himself in complete intellectual disagreement with every sentence that Canon Henson had uttered. (laughter). That came from the 17th October number.


    The inquest took place in Rickmansworth on the passenger killed in the crash on Batchworth hill. Locals described the passage of the car as it descended various parts of the hill. It was found that the brakes were faulty. In early November the driver of the car, Thos Ed Jackson, was charged with driving without a current licence, his having expired a day or so before, and was fined £1 with costs.


    The concern of the Guardians for the unemployed was echoed by Dr Sharman who called a meeting in the Fire Station to consider how to assist them. W. S. Morice took the chair. They wanted the UDC to keep a register as had been done last year. They formed a committee including Messrs H. B. Couchman, Lord Ebury’s estate manager, C. A. Dark, A. K. Paine, (furniture shop) T. C. Galley, (leather manufacturer), WSM, C. Wright, C. W. Richardson with power to co-opt. These were mainly local employers.


    The month ended with a report presented to the Guardian of the Workhouse by the Visiting Commissioner for Lunacy, Dr S. Coupland who had visited the Workhouse on 22nd September:


    ‘When I visited this workhouse today I found the inmates enjoying a good and substantial dinner of meat pudding and potatoes. Four inmates of each sex are classed as imbeciles, and the orders for their detention were produced to me. All but two of the men, one of whom was in bed in the infirmary in new and well equipped buildings, and the other is in one of the infirm wards, where the more feeble inmates are lodged, were in the dining hall. They were quiet in behaviour and neatly dressed, and are, I am informed, variously occupied. I visited the day rooms and dormitories, and found them properly kept and in good order. There is a good service of baths, which are given weekly to the imbecile inmates. The Workhouse possess a padded room of modern construction in a detached building, which also contains a ward with two beds and sanitary offices. I learnt that the padded room is seldom used, and that there has been no employment of mechanical restraint, but the register for the record of the latter could not be found, the Master being away on leave.’


    In their second meeting of the month the UDC decided to protest to the County Council about the damage to the roads caused by motor buses, New road Croxley being mentioned in particular.


    The UDC endorsed the proposed register of Dr Sharman’s meeting which would be kept in the Council offices. The efforts of the Unemployed Committee were being noticed as employers had been circulated and the unemployed themselves were the subject of poster notices calling on them to register between 9 and 10 am in the morning. The ongoing work in Ebury road were expected to create about 20 vacancies until the end of the year. The state of the road was the subject of more complaints too: ‘Last winter this thoroughfare, with no street lamps, was little short of a quagmire.’ And the question is still being asked by the users of the road, ‘when are the proper channelling and kerbing to be carried out?’ Further delay may mean that the weather conditions will not admit of this part of the proposed improvement being carried out this year.


    On other matters a letter was ordered thanking Lord Ebury for his generosity in giving land for the widening of the Uxbridge road at Moneyhill. A month later the Rev’d Murray of St Peter’s, Mill End wrote that the road widening about Moneyhill had led to an increase in the speed of cars along that part of the Uxbridge road and suggested that a warning about school children should be erected. The information was sent to the County Council for action by the Highways Committee.


    An offer of £56 had been received for the UDC’s mangolds! Lastly it was reported to the County Council that the cost of the actions against Lord Ebury in respect of the bridges was £219.

     November 5th did no pass without an incident, a youth flung a cracker in front of a horse and cart, unfortunately for him in sight of the local bobby. The boy’s father was said to be furious, a fine of 2/6 was inflicted … Three bonfires were described about Chorleywood Common, one facing the Hammer, one in Artichoke dell and the other in the Bottom. [now there are some local names, but can you place them on a map?] A good supply of fireworks was available.

    The Penny Reading Society held its second meeting of the season in the Town Hall on Wednesday 5th November last. The Vicar was in the chair. As a departure from the usual practice a lantern show was presented. Mr Pike manipulated the lantern. Otherwise the programme was as usual.


    The Watford Petty Sessions heard a most unpleasant case when the tenant of Pipers Farm was charged with cruelty to sheep, too many of which had come in an overcrowded cattle truck from Scotland and on arrival some were found to be dead. Wm Creighton was find £2 with costs of £2-5-6. Evidence was given by Ernest James Facer, a goods clerk at the Church St station.

    Over the last few years there have been odd letters from a correspondent speaking in the name of a part of St Mary’s. Dr F. S. D. Hogg, the superintendent of the Cedars Inebriates Home at Moneyhill wrote complaining about the noise of church bells and detrimental effect on those who were sick, 6 am he felt was a bit early. In reply ‘Loyalist’ wrote a week later, ‘It was the King’s birthday!’ Inevitably there was another letter, this one suggesting 6 am was unnecessarily early but protest was not unpatriotic. Finally at the end of November Dr Hogg wrote again. He said that the bells were rung on days other than royal birthdays also!

    St Mary’s was in the news again advertising a concert on the evening of 25th November in the Town Hall in aid of the ‘church organ completion fund’; tickets from 3/- numbered and reserved, to 1/- at the back. Mr Alleyne J. Warren, L. mus; TCL, ARCO would be directing.


    There was a considerable amount of other church news, mainly concerts of the various local Men’s Societies. The Diocesan Inspector had also visited St Peter’s school to test the children’s biblical knowledge. He returned a very encouraging report.


    A short history of the Rickmansworth Swimming Pool appeal was published.

     One of the curious features of the time was the public announcement of the connection of an individual to the telephone exchange, with their exchange number; In the case of Mrs Loder, tenant of Moneyhill House it was 22!

    The VFB were in the news again this quarter after they went to a fire at Chalfont Newlands park, it was yet another rick fire. The rick was insured.

     Another most unfortunate case of cruelty came before the Magistrates when Walter Colley of CW Bottom was charged with cruelty to Joseph Carroll’s dog. Colley had thrashed it knocking an eye out and it subsequently had to be destroyed. The Inspector said it barked at everybody … Colley was fined £1 and costs.   

    At the second monthly UDC meeting a plea was made that the road down Batchworth Hill should be straightened. Mr Couchman, Lord Ebury’s Estate Manager, made a suggestion that the road be straightened just above the cottages, it would provide a considerable amount of work … a decision was postponed. It transpired that a letter had been written to the Local Government Board about a grant for the work involved in assisting those out of work. The LGB replied that there were no grants except in situations of extreme distress. With a population of under 10,000, the Rickmansworth UDC was too small to have a Distress Committee!


    One more quite significant development was in the offing, again on land donated by Ld Ebury, for a recreation ground, unfortunately the actual site was not mentioned. It was almost certainly what is now known as the Aquadrome. Plans for its development had been received from Couchman, Freeman and one other. Lord Ebury would be asked to decide on the one to be adopted.


    The final part of this UDC meeting concerned the extension of the UDC area. Suggestions had come from the Residents/Ratepayers Association and Mr Wedderburn after the last application (He was the Inspector who heard that application) and now Colin Taylor was urging the meeting to make a decision because Watford was considering seriously its own expansion, never mind a take over of Rickmansworth! Unfortunately there were several absentees and the majority preferred to wait. Most of the additional land was at present agricultural or waste, but clearly destined to be built on soon.


    At the end of November the announcement was made of the opening of the Palace Theatre in Clarendon road, Watford [Members will have seen the announcement recently of its financial difficulties, 100 years later almost to the week!] Another item with current connotations concerned the Board of Guardians, they discussed the ‘visiting of boarded-out children’. The committee which had overseen this was a committee of one! The report was very satisfactory! The unemployment situation was raised and a suggestion emerged that the County Council should be asked to form a Distress Committee for the Watford Union area.


    The situation of Heronsgate in relation to the UDC and the Rural District Council was obviously not clear, particularly to the residents! The roads in Heronsgate were in a poor state and the residents petitioned the Rural District Council to have them repaired. The Council’s surveyor pointed out that Heronsgate roads were private and the responsibility of the residents alone. Neither he nor his predecessor had ever set foot in the enclave. Nevertheless he would look into the matter.


    The school in Croxley was in the news having won a piano in a national newspaper competition, ‘Sunday Circle’. On the last Saturday of the month they held a concert with children and some adults performing. There was a reward for the Misses Dickinson and Gurney ‘ … who chased the votes.’


    On 24th Mary Ann Peddle, wife of Alfred died aged 74.


    December Observer began with a very sad prosecution by the RSPCC to which little background was given. Alfred Windmill (C01/10.29), a labourer had lost his wife, Alice (no sign of burial in the local records), some months ago. He was charged with neglecting his children, three of whom had been taken into the Workhouse (Care, today) leaving only a 16 yr old daughter in the house. [He appears to have lost another child in 1904] The house was described as in a dreadful state, he was given month imprisonment with hard labour. There was no further information.


    In Chorleywood the New Church Room was dedicated by the Bishop on Nov 30th. The parish church organist, H. Field, played with the choir of Christ Church leading the singing. There followed a description of the new Room: It was timber built on a brick foundation. It had a tiled roof and was match boarded internally. It measures 20 ft by 16 and the chancel end was about 12ft by 10. It had seating accommodation for 230 worshippers, or 300 for a lecture or concert. The entrance was at the west end. The ceiling was distempered white and the walls were stained a light oak with art stain. The room was so constructed that the chancel could be screened off when the building was used for secular purposes. The cost of the building was almost £430. It had been erected by Mr C. R. Fenson of Chorleywood from the original designs of Mr C. Richardson. The chancel was lighted by a three light stained glass window which was designed fixed and presented by Messrs Morris & Co, Ruskin house, Rochester Row, SW. The room was lighted by gas and heated by the latest kind of hot air gas radiators.


    Most of the furniture was presented by parishioners, and included the cross and candlesticks, Mrs Atlay; two red alms bags, Mrs Cox; white alms bag, Miss Cross; two red markers, Nancy Fort; carved oak lectern, Mr & Mrs Scott, Bible, bound by Mr Le Santy, Mrs Hughes, fair linen cloth Miss Cullen; chalice rest, Mrs Shorrocks; kneeler for reading desk, Miss Gregory; communion vessels, Mrs Shorrocks; altar cloths, Miss Mead; worked cross on altar cloth, Miss Stone; oak alms box, Mr Wilson; oak chair, Miss Goodhart; white book marker, the Nurse; alms desk, Miss C. Goodhart; the bell, Dr & Mrs Fort; font, Mrs Wallis; vestry table, Mr Kent; white stole, Miss Mead; white credence cloth (worked by Mrs Cooper), Miss F. Stone; three altar kneelers (worked by Mrs S. L. Green), Mrs Jordan and Miss M. Fassnidge; coverings for altar and harmonium worked by Mrs Bell; white book marker, in remembrance of P. Grover; Edward VII Prayer book, Mr Matthews; white alms bag, Miss Boug; white book marker, Miss M. Boug.


    The usual monthly entertainment of the Penny Reading Society continued this month with W. S. Morice in chair. The Town Hall was filled on Saturday evening with an Entertainment Troupe from London and the Ebury hall was booked for the nights of the 16th and 17th for the infants from the Church of England school to perform for their parents. The hall was again booked for St Mary’s to consider forming a Missionary Association with Vicar Parkinson in the chair. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel met a week earlier and maybe this new move developed from then. The Tennis club held a whist drive in the Ebury hall last Wed eve with 20 tables, various prizes were available.


    On the political front the House of Lords rejected the Government’s Licensing Bill on the 2nd Reading and many indignation meetings were held locally and nationally. Tariff Reform was also much debated again. A peal was rung for the Queen’s birthday though not at 6 am!


    Probably the most important event at the beginning of the 2nd week in December 1908 was the opening night of the new Palace Theatre. The Board of Guardians met in this week too and discussion continued about the housing of boarded-out children, how much notice should be taken of their (parents’?) denomination. It was long and protracted with no clear outcome. The Palace management offered the inmates of the Workhouse a free visit to the theatre during the first week.


    The Heronsgate residents’ petition about the repair of their roads came to a climax with a report from the County Surveyor. He recalled that the residents complained about the action of the Rickmansworth Gas Works laying gas pipes without regard to the roads being private … There the matter ended.

    After a long silence the Rickmansworth Forester’s Court reported presentations in the Court Room in the Fox & Hounds of a Gold medal and ribbon each to Bros Parker & Darby, ‘For merit’. Bro Parker was the long serving Court Secretary. Hon Bro Charles Barton-Smith made the presentations. It emerged that of the 400 employees at the Croxley mill, no fewer than 300 were members of one Friendly Society or another.


    The immediate number before Christmas itself brought the news from the UDC that Lord Ebury having seen the plans for the new recreation ground and was prepared to leave the layout to the Council but wanted action before April. In reply the Council pointed out that trees could not be planted before the next autumn, and, there was no money in the year’s estimates. The work would cost a 2d rate. Albert Freeman, the Council Surveyor reported Ebury road nearly completed, with the metalling and rolling soon to be done. The last number of the year published on Boxing Day contained little local news, rather, more about the season’s amusements.

     [Nov The 4th anniversary of the W. Cong occurred Wed last. The church was filled, tea followed and speeches were made. Subject was ‘Christian duties’ & What do the Free Churches stand for, by Rev’d Silas Hocking: Be imbued with optimism, the older he got the more he became impressed with the fact of the influence one part of the community had upon another For religion to be real must seek out the means of doing good to their fellowmen. Sermons should be used to stir fellow men – a means to an end. Chose as an example the environment of the slums …

    Rev’d J. Stuart: then spoke about Christian Duties not - reported.]