Monday 17 August 2015

Our market stall was a big success!

Last Saturday's market stall on St Albans Market was a big success! Well done to all those who organised and helped, especially Jennifer Taylor. Here's Jennifer reporting on the day, with photos by Martin Reed:

On a fine Saturday in August, members of the SRA Committee, assisted by 4 enthusiastic residents, manned a stall at the market with a view to promoting Sopwell as a fascinating area in which to live and, of course, to sell copies of Sandy Norman's book "Sopwell: a history and collection of memories".

We were allocated a stall in front of the town hall and, with the stall sporting the fine new Sopwell Residents Association banner (in St Albans colours), we laid it out with photographs and information texts.

The stall soon proved to be quite a draw to the shoppers and passers by, locals and visitors to St Albans alike. Some of the old aerial photographs, most of which were taken immediately post-war, generated considerable curiosity with locals trying to pin-point the streets they could recognise, which in turn gave rise to jolted memories and stories - especially in relation to the gas works! The five piles of Sopwell walk leaflets were quickly snatched up, as were the leaflets on the Nunnery Green Space.

We were supported during the day by visits from all three of Sopwell Ward's councillors, Eileen Harris, Janet Smith and Iain Grant and also by the Mayor, Cllr Salih Gaygusuz, each of whom stayed for a while and chatted to stall visitors.

Friday 14 August 2015

August 2015 update

Due to a couple of unforeseen accidents, I find myself again laid up with a broken leg! Someone up there must think it's funny! So I have not been in a fit state let alone Internet access to write a post or update the Sopwell Memories website. So apologies. I am writing this in the hope that soon I will be back on-line and can set a few wheels in motion.

Back last winter, the Sopwell Residents Association booked a stall for a Saturday market in St Albans to showcase the Memories Project, to sell copies of our publication: Sopwell: a history and collection of memories and to circulate our set of five Sopwell history walk leaflets. The event is this coming Saturday, 15th August. It's the charity stall so should be somewhere in the middle. 

Please come along and say hello. Tell your friends. Buy the book - if you haven't done so already. I am sorry I cannot join my colleagues as I am not yet mobile but I will be there in spirit.

Sandy Norman

Monday 10 August 2015

Visit our stall on the St Albans Market on Saturday, 15th August

We would like to invite you to visit the Sopwell Residents Association stall on the St Albans Market on Saturday, 15th August.

You will be able to:
  • learn more about the Sopwell Memories project and website,
  • share any memories you may have of the Sopwell area of St Albans,
  • get a free set of five Sopwell history walk leaflets,
  • buy copies of our Sopwell history book at a reduced price.

Although we are in profit now and have money in the book fund to spend on community projects, we need to sell more copies of our book "Sopwell: a history and collection of memories", as we have lots left cluttering up Sandy's house!

The books will be sold at a reduced price - reduced from £15 to £10 - so a real bargain!

Come and say hello. We should be somewhere in the area in front of the old Town Hall.

Friday 17 April 2015

Thanks for the memories!

These days I am not doing an awful lot of original research but instead relying on kind souls to point me in the right direction or sending me stuff. So I wish to thank everyone (especially on Facebook) for their finds relating to Sopwell. The odd photo turning up here and there gets me all excited again and I start writing more posts on the website.

Mayor officially opening first house in Eywood estate
Mayor officially opening first house on the Eywood estate
Thanks must go to fellow historian, Mike Neighbour, who has been indexing photos in the Herts Advertiser. He has sent me some wonderful photos – well not that wonderful in quality as they are as they appeared in the paper – but nevertheless they have added interest to stories which I researched for my book on Sopwell.

One shows the fire at Sopwell Nunnery farm in 1931; another is the erection of houses on the Eywood estate (Doggetts Way and Wilshere Avenue) in 1932; and the third story is about the unsolved murder of Steven Varley in the allotments in 1948.

So three new posts on the Sopwell Memories website for you to enjoy!

Sopwell Meadows by George Henry Moon
Sopwell Meadows by George Henry Moon
Also thanks to Derek Roft, a friend on Facebook, who has drawn my attention to two lovely paintings by George Henry Moon of Sopwell Meadows. This is the area in the Ver Valley near the Verulam golf course and Sopwell Mill. You can see the Abbey in the background.

When I last looked, there were nearly 27,500 hits on the website which is good which makes it all worthwhile.
Sandy Norman

Saturday 14 February 2015

Well, well, well!

Few more posts uploaded to the website to tell you about and an exciting rediscovery!

Posts uploaded lately are: the Cottonmill Swimming Baths, Cottonmill Club, St Stephen’s, Mercer’s Chronometers and one on Miss Lydia Lightfoot of Holywell Hill which has been contributed by Lindsay Seagrim-Trinder. Lydia was born way back in 1875 so what a lovely link to the past that was.

Some time ago I uploaded an item about St Stephen’s Vicarage which described the house and the garden. This was written in the early 1920s by the incumbent Rev. Fielding Ould who wrote down a history of the church in a wonderful almanac which I was given permission to read. This is just one of the fascinating extracts: “The Vicarage garden and grounds (of about 2¼ acres) are of great natural beauty. They include an orchard walled on two sides and adjoining the churchyard, a large lawn on the east side of the house and a small lawn on the west on Watling Street side, a large walled kitchen garden, a glade at the south side of the large lawn, two shrubberies with trees, a pleasant little wood with fine trees opening from the bottom of the large lawn. There is an ancient and picturesque well with the wheels and cogs of wood. It has not been used since the town water became available.” [My italics]

And, I have a photo of this well which dates from the early 18th century illustrating how picturesque it was.

The structure around the well is no longer there but the well is! It has recently been rediscovered near St Stephen’s Church car park. There is nothing to see but a hole in the ground and it will have to be covered over in some way, of course, as it is a danger to man and beast, but what an exciting find! And it is another link to our history. There must be loads of wells in our area of course. Lydia Lightfoot had one in her garden at 61 Holywell Hill and the “Holy Well” is just up the road. It would be good to plot more of them. Let me know if you find one.

Sandy Norman

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Roads and railways

Happy New Year to all my readers!

Now that I am not obliged to write a blog on a regular basis, I am afraid I have not been doing so. However, I have not been lazy! I have been working on my own family tree which has been sadly neglected since I started on this project.

Rail ticket

I have posted several new items on our website and have added more memories and photos to existing posts. For example, I found some quality photos, courtesy of the Smallford Station Project website, of the Hatfield rail link from the 1950s showing the watercress beds in Riverside Road (now the Watercress Wildlife Area) and children playing on the line – naughty, but we know it went on. Did you know that it is the 150th anniversary of the Hatfield Rail link this year? I am sure there will be celebrations. And talking of watercress, there was a comment sent to me about another family called the Paynes who also grew watercress in St Albans. The family lived in Pageant Road. Does anyone recall this?

New Barnes Mill c1970s
New Barnes Mill c1970s
I have also been looking at the census returns for those Sopwell roads and buildings that existed from 1851 - 1911. There weren’t that many of them in the early days. Going as far back as 1851, there was only St Stephen’s Vicarage, St Stephen’s (near the church), Sopwell Mill, Sportsman’s Hall and New Barns (sic). By 1861, it is clear that St Stephen’s is what is now called Watling Street. I have written about Prospect Road and St Julian’s farm and am presently working on St Stephen’s Vicarage. So keep watching.

The website is proving very popular and we have had nearly 20,000 visitors which isn’t bad. We haven’t interviewed anybody lately but we are still willing to do so if we get a whiff of a good memory.

Sandy Norman