Reminiscences of Ware's Past Part 1 - 28 Jan 1981
Dr Lowery (chairman): Some time ago, it was suggested that it would be profitable for the Ware Society to have a meeting in which we invited a number of long-term residents of the town to come and tell us something about their memories of the town, their thoughts about the town, and possibly what they feel about the town’s future as well as its past. As a reminder, here is a map of Ware as it was in 1939.
Well, just a word or two about our speakers. The speakers for this evening are Mrs Brogden, who told me she is a relative newcomer to Ware, having only lived here for 26 years; Mrs Brogden has had considerable connections in the past with Presdales School, something which has changed enormously over the years, and she lives very close to here in the centre of the town. Then there is Mrs Baker, who was born in the town, and has been involved in town affairs for very many years, both in cultural affairs like Ware Choral Society and organisations like the Townswomen’s Guild; later she was on the old Urban District Council and after the reorganisation of local government she was on Ware Town Council and became the first Town Mayor. Last, because he is the only gentleman on our panel, but not least, there is Mr “Sonny” Sharp, a very long term resident of the town, who has been involved in many things both political through the Town Council and, more recently, on the Magistrates’ Bench. I span a coin to decide the order in which they should speak and that is how it came out, Mrs Brogden first, then Mrs Barker and finally Mr Sharp.
Mrs Brogden: Well I can only begin with my first impression of Ware when I came here in 1954. I came down actually for an interview for the post of Science Mistress at Presdales, or as it was then Ware Grammar School, and I thought I will go and see what the chances are of renting a house and have a look around. The very first think i saw were our nice attractive gazebos on the river front, and that absolutely delighted me. I was struck on Ware from that time on. I can remember wandering up the river and, of course the footpath was in pretty poor condition even then. Years later it was even worse, but it was walkable when I first came down. I was fascinated by the gazebos. Then I when to have a cup of coffee in a very nice little restaurant in Amwell End – they had a Hovis bread sign and it must have been next door to the pub at the turning to the railway station, that is the Spread Eagle. And this was a lovely little old house. Of course I found that there were not any houses to rent in Ware, like anywhere else, but that didn’t matter. I loved the High Street from what I saw of it. In those days the old Saracen’s Head was still there and they had not quite reached the stage of pulling it down – that came about six months later and there were the fascinating shops on the bridge, the old bridge before we had this present one built. So they were very nice impressions of early Ware.
Actually we wanted to get a grant for converting a house, renovating it, and at that time the government was giving grants, but I’m afraid we drew a blank with the council, because their policy was not to restore old properties. And that unfortunately was the policy for a number of years, and a great many buildings were pulled down, amongst them, of course the Saracen’s Head and then later Cannon’s Farm went too. And I suppose it was the fact that Amwell House was threatened, which was where the old Grammar School was, that first made Dr Violet Rowe (History Mistress at the school – ed.) decide that something had to be done. She put out an appeal first of all to save the house, and we all signed it, and eventually it was saved from demolition. And then she said we ought to have a society, the Ware Society, so she got busy. I can remember going to the first meeting, and I’m sure you can too and we started Ware Society.
Well, we had a pretty tough time for many years; rather knocking our heads against a brick wall but, eventually, things began to brighten up. I think the first really bright spot that we found was when Dr Rowe and I went to County Hall to see the planners and they said yes, it’s our plan that the whole of Ware High Street remains as a unit, and we don’t want it demolished and we are going to fight for that. And we were so delighted – I can remember coming away, feeling that at last there was some sign of Ware not going to be completely spoiled. There, now I think I’m going to hand over to Mrs Elsie Barker to go on from there.
Mrs Barker: Well I could go on all night.
Dr Lowery: We get put out a ten o’clock
Mrs Barker: You want to know what I can remember, and looking round I know there are one or two of us who can remember, but perhaps I can remember further back because I am older.
My fist recollection was that the market was held in the old Market Square. I was very young, quite a toddler, and there was a cheap-jack there and, of course, there were no stalls: everything was on the ground. There was a man with crockery, you know and he would throw the china up in the air and put them on his arm, and he would say “It’s alright for two bob” or something like that. And where the – what’s that furniture shop, where the old Home and Colonial was, that used to be a butchers shop called Stallabrass. And of course there wasn’t gas then like there is now. And they had flares coming out like they had at the fair. Oh, and of course the Salvation Army played every Sunday in that Market Square, and banged the drum and sang, and their band was quite strong then. I think it’s a bit they don’t have a strong band now.
Audience: Where was that?
Mrs Baker: I’m talking about where Ware Garage was – that’s where the Market Square was. Of course Ware was just pubs and maltings. And the High Street was mostly private houses – where the Post Office was; next to whats was Wells and furniture shop was - that was a house, Hammond’s, Hitch’s further up Baldock Street; Richardsons lived in another big house near the Post Office; Dr Butcher lived where W H Lee, the estate agents, were; there was a jeweller’s shop where Goodsall’s was and another where the blind shop used to be (corner of Church Street – ed) both named Ketterer’s. There were maltings behind the private houses in the high Street, which was useful for taking the malt down to the barges on the river. And of course the barges were pulled by horses, right up to London. Star Street was just wide enough for a cart to go down and it was mostly big carts with the malt and they could just go down Star Street and Kibes Lane, quite narrow streets.
Going up Star Street, where the North Met was, there were two pubs there and going along by the river there were about four little cottages. Another thing about Ware is that it was town of yards – there was Spread Eagle Yard, Red Cow Yard, Sam’s Yard, Caroline Court and now it’s very interesting to see that this idea is coming back again. They are putting house down behind these gateways – and they are doing it near the Post Office, they’re talking about doing it down Crib Street, and all these things come back. I hate to see Ware spoiled. I hated seeing the Broardmead flats being built without the pitched roofs, I was strongly against that. But the argument was that if they had pitched roofs you wouldn’t be able to see the beauty of Ware from Hertford Road, which is rubbish because you never could see it anyway. And also I was sorry to see the shops at the bottom of Bridgefoot go and the old Saracen’s Head. There were mullion windows at the back and it was a most interesting place. What Ware has lost, because people have not been interested, is amazing. Even the old door knockers, which had a history, because they depicted the trade of the persons that lived in those houses, they have gone. Perhaps I’ve said enough ...
Dr Lowery: You said earlier, something about shops on the bridge. It was a bit like London Bridge, was it, with shops actually n the bridge?
Mrs Barker: No, the shops were beside the bridge. There was a greengrocer’s shop, the Bird in Hand ... and another thing was the old lamp posts, which were made of cast-iron. I think these concrete monstrosities that they put up now – I mean there was beauty and craftsmanship in those old lamp-posts. And there used to be an old chap who came round and he had a funny neck, with a lump out of the side, and he had to come round and do something with a pole to turn the lamps on. Do you remember that?
Member of the audience: I work for the lamp-post manufacturers at Great Amwell and we have down there the only street light, lamp-post museum in England. All of the old ones that you are talking about are down there in the yard.
Dr Lowery: When is it possible to go and have a look at them?
Member of the audience: Well it would have to be arranged through someone at work, but you can see quite a lot from the drive itself.
Dr Lowery: That’s Concrete Utilities, isn’t it? On the back road to Great Amwell.
Member of the audience: That’s correct.
Mrs Barker: I wish they would all come back.
Mr Sonny Sharp: One piece of information – this town was the first town in England to have concrete lamp-posts. The North Met have still got – or did have, because I worked for the North Met (Northern Metropolitan Electricity Company – ed) – did have a photo that was in the National Review showing off Ware and its marvellous lamp-posts. The first town in England to have concrete lamp-posts.
Dr Lowery: Who used to make them? Was that Concrete Utilities?
Mr Sharp: That was Concrete Utilities, that was old Mr Marques who’s now dead, who was the first owner. He was the first owner. He was an Australian, by the way.
Dr Lowery: Perhaps we could progress on to you.
Mr Sharp: Well, Elsie has touched on one or two things. I would like to talk first of all about the small residential building that there were in the yards of Ware. When you think of Amwell End, there was Chapel Yard, Cherry Tree Yard, Eagle Yard, Sam’s Yard. Well, in Chapel Yard, to look at that small piece of ground now, there was 18 residential buildings without the other yards. Caroline Court was mentioned. Now there was 11 cottages and another 14 behind, making 25 altogether, and there must have been about 100 people living there. And these courts and yards were 300 or 400 years old. Mention was also made of the Saracen’s Head. There are photographs of that in the possession of the Town Council and they have got a collection upstairs. Now this is a copy of one of them which I will pass round for you to look at. It’s the rear part of the Saracen’s Head, where the cattle market and poultry market used to be held every Tuesday. Where the parking is now is where they used to have the pens and all the cattle. And on the extreme there was a building where they held the poultry market. Now that was some time in the Twenties, I think that was taken. That is the rear of the Saracen’s Head. The old clock on the wall on the right hand side is over the kitchen, because it was a commercial hotel at one time. And I’ve been upstairs at one time and it was so old, one of the passages had a floor on the slant, and you didn’t know if you were right sided or the passage. The Saracen’s Head was supposed to be about 1200, built during the 1200s, now I can’t vouch for that of course.
Now I’ve got two old photos of Ware, one of the High Street and one of Amwell End. I can’t date them, but I can make a point that the Pictures is there – now the Pictures was built in 1911 and I was born in 1911, so two things happened in 1911.
Mr Gerald Sayers (owner of Ware Hardware Stores): and under the clock was the motto Tempus Fugit. The market at the Saracen’s Head was on Tuesdays and Saturdays and it was open all day.
Mr Sharp: I think if we are going to talk about the changes to Ware and that’s what I’m interested in – well it’s not what I’m interested in but that’s what I think you want to hear about – well there was a residential area at both ends of the town. There were Caroline Court and the others at Amwell End and also in the vicinity of the Priory. Now when you think of those small gardens which are now over there against the Church, there were two old cottages first, then there were two little shops, then there was York’s which did horse-shoeing. And when I was a child at St Mary’s School (in Church Street - ed), when Croft’s had chasers, to shoe them the first time they always used to sling them up in the air so that they couldn’t kick so much, and that was I think better than us going to the Palladium, because the was our pleasure of going to watch them shoe. And by the way there was the old Police Station, which I must not forget, and that was right against the Church gate.
And Elsie spoke of the Salvation Army and I am going to let myself down here a little bit, because I was born in Gladstone Road, and they used to come up to the Gladstone Hall because that was their first hall before they had the new one built in Baldock Street. And as a youngster I’m afraid we used to throw bricks on its tin roof. I must be quite honest about that. Then during the war period (1914-18), the army took this place over in Baldock Street and they shifted back to Gladstone Road for a time. And then they reversed the order, the army took the one over in Gladstone Road and used to have the old field-ovens out in the road and do the catering. As a boy, I wouldn’t go to school, without I went up to the Rose and Crown and had a ride on one of the horses, because there was all the Yeomanry and Artillery that was stationed in Ware. Also, when you’re talking about changes, I think the Priory Street where Mrs Brogden lives must come in for a mention.
Mrs Brogden: Oh, that was very different when we came.
Mr Sharp: You had Black Swan Yard, just by where you lived, and I think there was something like seven or eight houses down there. As far as the Salvation Army is concerned, they used to have their meetings on a Saturday night and the same people used to go and get saved there once a month and then get drunk for the other three Saturdays. And of course that was where the old saying was “We’ve got 19s 11d ...” and someone purposely threw tuppence in so they went over the pound and then they wanted the next pound. Anyway, the same one used to go and get saved.
It was part of the amusement to go down there. We didn't go and kick old people down or anything like that. We made our own enjoyment. I still think it was a pity Buryfield was taken over in 1921. I played there so many times myself, when Buryfield Tear-shirts used to play Musley Ummers and we had only two coats down for a goal-post. You know the word “participation” was mentioned by the chairman when he was talking earlier, and I think that was the difference in those days. People did participate.
Dr Lowery: When you say the Buryfield was taken over – it always was an open space as a recreation ground wasn’t it?
Mr Sharp: It was a complete open space. There was a triangle path. There were three little cottages, where you go in now, only two with front to the road, one you had to go round the back to enter. Then there was the path from there and it came out to the top of the cottage in Buryfield Terrace, it ran right across the middle. And I think I’m right in saying it was 1921 when a public meeting was called, and I can remember my old chap talking about it. There was only 13 people attended. And it was then in the hands of the Charity commission, I think half of it had been left by Parker and half by a man named Harrison. Now I’m just speaking what I was given to understand.
One thing I will add, and Elsie has reminded me of this, is about all the pubs. Even in my memory. and I’m not a boozer but I have had a drink in all of them – coming up Amwell End, there was of course the Malakoff in London Road and the John Gilpin, but there was also the George in Amwell End opposite the Picture Palace. There was the Old Bull or the Bull’s Head on the bridge, I don’t know which.
Mr Sayers: The New Bull.
Mr Sharp: The New Bull, I’m sorry, and then there was – well everyone one called it Frank Cassell’s or the Ship, but I think it was called the Victory, actually.
Mr Sayers: It was always called the Ship. You could have a drink downstairs on the tow- path.
Mr Sharp: I could tell you one joke about that, well it’s not a joke it’s the truth. A certain person...
Mr Sayers: The G.I.s used to like the Ship, I don’t know why.
Mr Sharp: ... had a little argument with Frank Cassell who used to keep it in those days, and he was a rather biggish fellow and he could reach round the counter and – everyone used to slate their beer in those days – and he wiped it clean. And he tipped everyone off and they were going in and saying “No, I’ve only had two pints” on the Friday. And that was done and that was a fact.
Mr Sayers: While we are on the Ship – the memory comes and goes – there was a seat there with a hole in it. And they used to drop old pennies, you know the pennyworth of copper, and then they dropped it through there and first one to cover one of the others, took the lot. That was there in my time.
Mr Sharp: Well, then coming over the bridge, you had the Bird in Hand and that was the first place where I saw the penny pianola, with the roll and all the slots in, that was the first place where I ever saw one of them. Then there was the Star across the road, and then the Bay Horse, which is now the Victoria Wine Company. There used to be all stud work in front of the Bay Horse which they plastered over when the Victoria wine company took it over. Then coming up the town, well, of course, Crib Street had so many pubs – you had the Cabin, the Prince of Wales, the Albion, of course, the White Horse and the Red Cow, all in Crib Street. Then going up Baldock Street, on the present roundabout, you had the Wagon and Horses, the Chequers, the Brewery Tap which at one time was a perk for the foreman at the Brewery because he had the Brewery Tap which is now the little betting shop. The foreman of the Brewery always had that.
Mr Sayers: Wells and Winch.
Mr Sharp: No, that was McMullens. No Wells and Winch’s was this Brewery Tap; I’m talking about the Star Brewery Tap up the other end of Baldock Street. There were two Brewery Taps in Ware, this one and the Star Brewery Tap, which as I say was a perk for the foreman.
Mr Sayers: There was another one in New Road.
Mr Sharp: Yes but that wasn’t called the Brewery Tap. That was Sy Barker’s. Oh yes there was the Red Lion in New Road as well, but of course Sy Barker used to brew his own beer and always kept it at a halfpenny cheaper than anyone else. When McMullens and all the rest, Christie’s from Hoddesdon was fourpence, that was threepence-halfpenny. That’s why everyone went up to Sy Barker’s. And of course they used to have rabbit shows in their room at the back. I used to take the old chap’s Belgian Hares when he was showing them. (Silas Barker owned the Two Brewers, New Road – ed)
Dr Lowery: Is that the cottage which is now called Tavern Cottage?
Mr Sharp: That’s right. Practically opposite the Church (Christ Church – ed). It had a pleasant piece of land at the back. There’s still the remains of the brewery there.
Mr Richard Andrews (who born at 20 Crib Street): On the subject of pubs, my father told me that in his day there were 104 pubs in Ware. And the reason for these pubs was that they were inns when the men who had brought the barley down from Norfolk and Suffolk, mostly by pack mule and perhaps later on, by little wheeled vehicles, had to put up for the night before they went back to Norfolk and Suffolk. And when renovations are being made at places like the French Horn, and they take out the fire-place, they will come across a bill for putting up four horses and a carrier – three and fourpence, including ale. And that rather proves the fact that that’s what the pubs were for, not so much drinking places because I don’t think the locals had all that much money to spend on that. They were putting-up places for the men who brought the barley, because Ware was at that point in time the biggest centre for the making of malt, before the brewing industry moved to Burton-on-Trent and took the malt making with it.
Dr Lowery: What about the industries in Ware, apart from malt making?
Mr Andrews: It was malt in the winter and bricks in the summer and the same men worked in both. And I have heard it said that when the change over took place – the last week of malting was about the end of April and always in the last couple of weeks the malt-makers had a fortnight of what was known as “bug-blinding”, in which the maltings were all whitewashed ready for the next season – and in the interim period they would begin to mould bricks up in the Ware Brickfields, which is behind Allenbury’s now, the new Allenbury buildings. The hand moulded bricks were stacked and if there was a storm the men had to get up from the maltings to the brickfields in double quick time in order to throw covers over the bricks – otherwise they would have been washed away. I’ve heard that said, but not in my time mind you.
Mr Sharp: They had what they called the pug. They used to bring all the pug down from the back of the new estate which it is now, which is Parkside and Trapstyle. Of course it gets its name from the river – where the two paths joined into one, we always used called that the Trapstyle. Well, that’s where I learned to swim, then of course I graduated and I got thrown off the bridge when I was about nine. In Ware you had some very good swimmers, because everybody had to swim – you got thrown in the river.
Mrs Rosa Cooper (a Town Councillor): While you are talking about Ware Trapstyle I think people ought to know that of course Elsie (Barker) was responsible for suggesting that name for the new estate and of course non of the rest of the councillors knew what it meant. It was a name used because of Elsie and her knowledge of Ware’s past.
Mrs Barker: There has always been a mill apparently on the site of Allen and Hanbury’s, well it’s Glaxo now, and that lane was always called Mill Lane. But why have they changed it to Priory Street, it’s Mill Lane, there’s a mill down there. I don’t like changes. The old names, the original names, should be kept, that’s my opinion.
Dr Lowery: When was it changed from Mill Lane?
Mrs Barker: I don’t know. It was always Mill Lane and anyone who’s lived in Ware all their life will always call it Mill Lane. I refuse to call it Priory Street.
Mr Sharp: I still call it Mill Lane. And one other name that hasn’t changed that I think is a pity. I tried to alter it when they rebuilt the Cannon’s Hotel. You see all the ground that did go with the Canon’s Farm was all called Canon’s Park, but it was the religious canon not the one that goes “bang”. There was only one “n” in the middle. This new firm altered the name and if we had altered it at court, which we had the option to do, might I add, we could have closed the place until they re-applied to alter the name again. But I would still like to see it called by the old name, because it was always called Canon’s Park all the fields, where Kingshill is built now was all called Conon’s Park. And of course then Cannon’s Hotel, when I first remember it, during the war period when I was quite young (I’m talking about the 14 – 18 War now) was a hospital, a blue Cross Hospital, and I lived in Gladstone Road and we used to look over the wall and they used to walk up and down the drive, because the entrance was from Watton Road. There was a large door with the entrance only to the kitchens opposite where the entrance is now and there was a small bungalow where the gardener lived opposite the “New Rose and Crown” and a drive up to the Cannon’s Hotel, which was then the hospital, afterwards it was turned into the sanatorium before they shifted it to Ware Park and then got it made into a hotel. (Later in 1981, the Cannon’s Hotel came under new management and was renamed “ The Ware Moat House” before being demolished to build Snowdrop House)
Lady in the audience: The police station that isn’t anymore – what was that?
Mr Sharp: Well, it was a police station when I was a boy and if you look at the wall, where it’s part wore-out, well that’s where we used to sit when I was a lad. (This building is at the corner of Watton road and Gladstone Road and in 1982 was restored and opened as Powell’s Funeral Service – ed)
Another lady: Then what was the police station up against the church wall?
Mr Sharp: That was the original police station and of course it was called the police station, but I never remember it acting as one. That was before this old one, which is defunct, was built.
Mr Sayers: But there was a forge on that corner, you see. The police station was just a little bit further up Church Street.
Mr Sharp: That’s right the police station was right against the entrance to the church gate.
Mrs Barker: It was really the lock-up.
Mr Sayers: You can see it in picture postcards – but that’s the end of the bake house not the end of the police station. Where the ruins now are. (At the end of West Street next to what is now the rose garden where the Maltmaker Statue stands)
Mr Sharp: Yes, and the Angel Head was up the other end. And I must admit that we as lads, when I was at St Mary’s (the junior school, which was then in Church Street – ed) there was some used to go and torment old Mr Wright, and when he wasn’t looking took his buns.
Mrs Barker: I think it very odd that someone who was so naughty when young should later become a magistrate. But there is one story that was told me by my father. Where the Library is now used to be the house of Mr Croft (R B Croft, managing director of Henry Page, the town’s main maltster – ed). And opposite was a haberdashers, run by Mr Henderson, who used to go round the villages with a horse and cart. Now Mr Croft don’t like sitting at his window watching this horse, which was stabled at the end of that block. You know where the telephone kiosks is there is a red brick wall. Well that red wall wasn’t there originally, because Mr Croft paid for that wall to be built round this poor horse so he couldn’t see it. And I think that’s true.
Man in the audience: Another point, reminiscing about the bakery. I left school and started work there and Mr Wright had been there more than 68 years and he retired when he was 82. It was only about 12 years when he wasn’t there out of all his life.
Mrs Barker: Of course, Ware used to have more rats than any other town, I’m sure. I mean some of these maltings – especially one in Wadesmill Road, past Cannon’s, there was along malting and it came right down with the guttering. And it was nothing to walk along that path and see rats running along with their tails hanging down the side. There must have been a lot of disease.
Mr Sayers: I’ve got a story about rats. That shop on the corner (of East Street – ed) was the Ware Hardware Stores, – and I still own it as a matter of fact. Upstairs, you see, I’d pulled up the floor boards and all between the joists was completely full of walnut shells. They had pinched them from the International Stores next door and there was about a ton of walnut shells beneath my floor boards.
Mr Sharp: On top of what Mr Sayers said as far as the rats was concerned, I think Ware had as many pigeons as London did at one time. All round the maltings.
Mrs Cooper: Talking about that old malting, Elsie, wasn’t there a stained glass window found in it? And it was taken to bits. Didn’t the Ware Urban Council have it all taken out?
Mrs Barker: Which malting?
Mrs Cooper: The one next to Cannon’s. I seem to remember something about a window.
Miss E Warner: A seventeenth-century arched window.
Mrs Cooper: And it went to Cambridge I think. But I can’t remember what exactly happened to it.
Mr Sharp: I don’t want to start a witch-hunt again, but I think it was a pity that ever the Priory gates was taken down. But that was a witch-hunt as to what happened to them afterwards. And there’s been a lot of suggestions as to where they finished and where they didn’t go. I wouldn’t like to make a guess.
Mr Sayers: There was nothing very old about them.
Mrs Barker: Of course, when they made the malt and the raked the fires out every day, from the wood ash there used to be boys waiting to collect all the kiln coals, as they called them. They used to put them on their backs in sort of kettles and take them round to the houses. They used to empty them in the baths which people had got in the middle of the room to keep them warm. I think they used to be about a shilling, well perhaps not that – sixpence then.
Mrs Lisa Huggins (whose mother, Mrs Wren, had a fish and chip shop at the bottom of New Road): My mother used to have some. She used them to cook the herring rows.
Mr Sharp: I’ve had to go to your mother’s and get a penny herring many a time.
Mrs Cooper: What would you say has been the most rapid period of change, because I have lived in Ware for – well 21 years because my daughter was born here – and an awful lot of changes have taken place in the time that I’ve been here.
Mrs Barker: Were you here when Kibes Lane was changed?
Mrs Cooper: No
Mrs Baker: Well, you see, that was where the bargees used to live and up in Musley Hill there’s a row of cottages – or there were, I don’t know if they’re still there – and it had got “Skippers’ Row” on it. So that were the skippers lived and the bargees lived down in Kibes Lane.
Mrs Cooper: So what would you say? Roughly the last 40 years was the most rapid change.
Mrs Barker: Since the war – first world War, well between the wars.
Mr Sharp: I think the big change was - perhaps Elsie will agree with me – with the coming of Mr A W Grantham as the Surveyor of Ware (Urban District Council – ed). He was so go-ahead, he was very young, only 21 when he took the job as Surveyor at Ware. And he came from Yorkshire. You see, we were talking about Caroline Court a few minutes ago, but ware Swimming Pool was the cheapest built swimming pool I think in England.
Mr Sayers: Five thousand pounds.
Mr Sharp: That was for the simple reason that it was built with all the bricks that were pulled down from Caroline Court. That was when Caroline Court was pulled down, when Ware Swimming Pool was built.
Mrs Warner: Ware had a swimming pool well before Hertford.
Mr Sharp: And much more cheaply. Even now, I think anyone on East Herts Council will tell you that I think Sawbridgeworth was the highest the year before last – every person who went in to swim at Sawbridgeworth was costing something like 80p because they were still paying the interest charges on the money they had borrowed when they built Sawbridgeworth swimming pool. And this one at Ware was the cheapest. It was costing something like 20p for every person that went in there swimming – above the entrance charge. This was the cheapest swimming pool in East Herts and yet they still talked about closing it. It is still worth a bit of capital being spent on it.
Mr Sayers: They thought it would be a good idea to have a beach all the way round the side, you see, so that people could lounge out in the sun. They had to concrete it in the next week because all the beach went into the pool.
Mrs V Dawson: Reverting to Kibes Lane again, I know a family from Ware, I think a fairly old family named Ditton, and they had this expression – I don’t know if you’ve heard it – that whenever one of the children came in and was particularly scruffy, the mother used to say: ‘Oh, you look absolutely disgusting, you look as if you’ve just come from Kibes’. I don’t know if this was a family expression or if Kibes Lane had got this reputation.
Mr Sharp: Oh, yes. On top of that, when I was a kid, one policeman wouldn’t go down there on his own on a Saturday night. And if you remember what – well you wouldn’t, because you only look fifteen ...
Mrs Dawson: Thank you.
Mr Sharp: ... the houses in Kibes Lane was built in such a way that the bedrooms came out, you could practically reach one another across it. I don’t know what you would see if you really tried to look across. Well perhaps you couldn’t reach across.
Mrs Huggins: No, you’re wrong there.
Mr Sharp: I know, but they did come out didn’t they? There wasn’t a lot of room.
Mrs Huggins: No. My parents lived along there.
Dr Lowery: And they used to have a fish shop near there?
Mrs Huggins: Yes, in New Road.
Dr Lowery: When did the Kibes Lane housing come down?
Mrs Baker: Between the wars. And this when they used a lot of the bricks to build the council housing up on the Common.
Dr Lowery: Where do you mean by the Common?
Mrs Baker: Musley Common.
Mr Sharp: Queen’s Road was called the Common at one stage and then they renamed it.
Mrs Cooper: I seem to remember saying that they used to be dead enemies, those that came from the Common.
Mr Sharp: Well we always called them Musley Ummers, for some reason.
Mr Sayers: it was never called the Common until they put the houses there.
Mrs Barker: No, it was a Common, it was Common Land.
Mr Sharp: And then they used to call part of it the Vineyard.
Mrs Barker: It was all fields
Mrs Warner: There were houses on one side of Trinity Road only, on the left, and when you got to the top of Trinity Road there was a lane going to Great Cozens. Of course we used to go on nature walks there. I used to go to a private school, I don’t know if anyone else here went to it – Miss Waller’s School – and on Saints’ Days we used to go to Christ Church to their service and then we had a nature walk. I don’t know if we did much nature, but we certainly trudges up New Road and Trinity Road.
Mr Sharp: And the old original Grammar School for Ware, I can’t remember it of course, but there is a notice – or was a notice, was in Kibes Lane, and on one door it said “Boys” and on the other door it said “Girls”. That was about 150 yards down Kibes Lane on the left-hand side. The Campkins lived in one house ...
Mrs Huggins: No, that was a lodging house.
Mr Sharp: Originally it was the Grammar School, and it had the notice “Boys” and “Girls” over the doors.
Mr Sayers: The real original Grammar School was at the top of Musley Hill. Charlie Ward – I don’t if anybody remembers him – was educated there and one or two of my contemporaries were educated there.
Mr Sharp: And then they called it the Central School. Dick remembers that, don’t you, Dick?
Mr Andrews: That’s right.
Mr Sharp: When they reopened it, the first master there was a man named Loretto.
Mr Sayers: A famous headmistress of course, at Ware Grammar School was Miss Brough, and her sister became a Hollywood star.
Lady in the audience: Why was it called the Vineyards, because there is still a road up there that is called the Vineyards and I’ve looked for vines and can’t find any.
Mr Sharp: I can’t tell you why, but they tell me they did grow some grapes there many years ago and it was always called the Vineyards.
Dr Lowery: Doesn’t it go back to the time when this was an ecclesiastical building down here.
Mr Sharp: This was the Priory and it goes back from that date. (The building now called “The Priory” was in the Middle Ages a friary of Franciscan Greyfriars – the Alien Benedictine Priory was somewhere north of St Mary’s Church – ed) But that was always since I was a lad called the Vineyards, I can’t go any further than that.
Mrs Huggins: You used to go up Dark Lane ...
Mr Sharp: ... Well Dark Lane still exists.
Mrs Huggins: ... and the Vineyards where up there, and they used to pay the rent at Wards – not Wards, Crofts – they used to have an allotment up there.
Lady in the audience: You have to back to the days when, if you walked up New Road, say, to the south of Musley Hill you were then out in the country. In other words, the buildings ceased from this point onwards. Was that between the wars, or further back than that?
Mr Sharp: Well, if you went over that to what we knew as the Rising Sun, but then you had Mr Burton who had a house built – he was the governor of Hitch’s – on the left. And then you had to go up to Fanhams Hall before you had any more buildings.
Mr Andrews: Well, I married in 1935 and my first house was in Garland Road and I could walk to the top of Garland Road and be in fields. The houses in Musley Lane were not there. Dark Lane led immediately into the fields. That was what? - fifty yards from my house in Garland Road.
Mrs Baker: There was only about half a dozen houses in King Edward’s Road.
Man in the audience: I was just going to change the subject to that lady who moved her house to Norfolk.
Mrs Barker: Miss Savidge, yes it was a great pity she’s gone.
Mr Sharp: It was called Monkey Row, it was on the right hand side where the present (Baldock Street – ed) roundabout is. There used to be Ketterer’s which used to repair furniture, there was Porter’s builder’s yard, well previous to that it was Hunt’s. Then a man name Porter had it, then there used to be a house for a youth club.
Mrs Cooper: Yes it was very close to the Bull’s Head.
Mr Sharp: Well, yes, just the other side of there, between there and the Waggon and Horses. It was a little passage that went right down.
Mrs Cooper: Well, yes the Waggon and Horses came down, what? – twenty years ago.
Mr Sharp: And one of the biggest shames of that corner, I think, was one of the most marvellous trees there ever was, the big mulberry tree. They took that down when they built the roundabout. That was one of the finest tree I ever did see.
Mrs Brogden: Well, that isn’t so very long ago.
Mrs Cooper: What was the little baker’s behind?
Mr Sharp: Marshalls.
Mrs Cooper: It was a little baker’s shop and Miss Savidge’s house was behind it, originally it was one house. There was a little passage way.
Mr Sharp: That’s right it was Monkey Row.
Mrs Cooper: Yes, I always remember thinking how funny that someone named Miss Savidge should live in Monkey Row.
Miss Warner: She got to take the baker’s shop to Norfolk as well, you see.
Mrs Cooper: That’s right, she was allowed to take the baker’s shop as well. The whole thing caused a tremendous furore, of course.
Mrs Baker: She’s a marvellous lady and she has still got that lovely smile of contentment. She’s content, she’s not interested in worldly things, she just wants to do her thing and get on with preserving the house. Whether it will really happen I don’t know, because it’s enormous. And when you look at the tiles that have to go on to this wide expanse of roofing, you wonder. I think Mrs Foster is there and she has been to see her more times than I have, and she probably knows how it is progressing.
Mrs Foster: Well, it’s going very slowly because she fell off the ladder and cut her leg. And naturally, you know, things have just slowed up. If she were well off, well naturally she could have some professionals to help her finish the job for her. But the roof is a momentous task, putting all those slates up. I don’t think she will ever, unfortunately, live in it. But she is such a remarkable woman.
Mrs Baker: Perhaps Ware Society ought to send a working party up to Norfolk to help her.
Mrs Cooper: This is where Ware Society comes in because, of course she need never have moved. That’s why it’s important to have pressure groups like the Ware Society. I mean quite a number of us on the council – it was Ware Urban District Council then – supported her but there was just no question. This roundabout had to be built.
Mrs Barker: She’s very talented she knows what she’s doing.
Mr Sharp: She’s an exception in as much as she was one of the first women to try and compete in a man’s world at her age. And I don’t think any other country would have allowed her to put it up. I would like to see her put it up.
Man in the audience: Where is she putting it up?
Mrs Foster: Well-next-the-Sea, Norfolk.
Mrs Barker: And you can imagine how cold it is up there, when the wind blows. Yes, she lives in a caravan.
Mrs Cooper: I suppose the one good thing that came out of it was that the County council had to take it down brick by brick and timber by timber.
Mrs Barker: But, you know, every brick and every piece of wood was numbered and put on this site. And the interesting thing is that when I went up there when they were dismantling the roof and the rafters were just cut from trees, and not as they do now when they plane them, but they were just wood from the tree with wooden pegs. And you know that horrible weed, bellbind – everybody’s got it - well that was twisted round these timbers and you know that stuff had not rotted.
Mr Sayers: There are many old ships timbers that have been finally used for houses.
Mrs Brogden: Yes, we have what obviously was the pole for moving the rudder from the shape of it, and that has been put in as one of the uprights in our house (1 Priory Street – ed).
Mr Sharp: To go back to the barges, when they had barges at Skipp’s – which used to take the sand and ballast to London, they used to have a chain-horse down on the Bridgefoot and a boy with it to pull the barges over the bridge. And they used to have a chute practically opposite French’s Mill now, where they used to tip the sand and ballast. But little Jerry Irons, as we used to call him, he was the first chain-horse boy that I can remember. And he used to stand down at the bottom of the bridge and as the cart went up they hooked the chains on and the chain-horse helped them over the bridge.
Mr Sayers: To go under the bridge.
Mr Sharp: Over the bridge, because that was where they used to chute the ballast and that was opposite what was old Dr Cox’s first surgery and the Scouts’ place along as you are going towards French’s (in Viaduct Road – ed).
Mr Sayers: But nobody’s mentioned the fact that, because of the service that Ware bargees gave during the Plague of London, they were given free transit to London, they never had to pay any dues. They were the only people that could go free on the Thames.
Mrs Brogden: They were supposed to be given free beer at all the inns along the way.
Mr Sharp: They could go on the Thames without a pilot or something like that.
Dr Lowery: Yes I wonder how you qualified as a Ware bargee.
Miss Warner: And also quite a number of people from nearby also went as Ware men.
Mr Sharp: The old saying was when you said you were a Ware man, they used to say you have to go down and look over the bridge to see if it’s raining. Then you come from Ware.
Mr Sayers: Somebody was found in the Thames drowned and they could not identify him. But someone said he’s a Ware man. How do you know that? They’ve got warts across their tummy where they lean over the old bridge.
Mr Sharp: Another thing, which was true as well, was a joke up at Rye House, if you pushed them over the other side when you found the body you got a shilling more in Essex than you did in Hertfordshire.
Mr Andrews: In answer to the question of how did you qualify to be a Ware man, this did work because I know a family of three boys, the family move to Rotherhythe, which is on the Thames in south-east London. And each of those three boys became Watermen without being bound apprentice. They joined lighterage firms on the Thames, and they may not have had a lighter of their own at the beginning , but at least they went without being bound apprentice – because they were Ware men. They had the freedom of the Thames.
Mr Sayers: There was a charter granted for that, wasn’t there?
Mr Andrews: That’s it. That was because of the plague. The bodies were brought down from the plague and they were supposed to have been buried in Buryfield. (Subsequently disproved, Ware supplied food to London and the bodies stayed in London)
Mrs Barker: And Dead Lane (eastern end of Church Street – ed).
Mr Perman: There’s a story told to me by George Albany (of G Albany and Son, the last lighterage firm on the Lee in Ware - ed) before he went to Australia. He said that when they built the new bridge in the thirties, they did not take into account that the barges wouldn’t go underneath it in ballast. And this was ridiculous because his father was on the committee which oversaw the building of the bridge.. So if they had barges in ballast they had to get the lock keeper at Ware Lock to lower the river so that they could bring the barges in ballast under the new bridge.
Mr Sayers: I’ve never seen one of their barges go under the new bridge.
Mr Sharp: Oh yes, well lately there were not so many but they used to have what we called flat barges. I’ve swam in there, I wasn’t a strong swimmer but I’ve swum from the Trapstyles to Hertford Lock and back, it was a steady old breaststroke. And in those days the barge traffic was quite good. You’ve got to realise that Skipp’s had something in the region of 18 to 20. When you talk about going to London and back, they used to allow three days to take a full one up and bring another one back. They allowed three days for the double journey.
Dr Lowery: And these were horse drawn barges?
Mr Sharp: Horse barges. And when you come to think of it, they went with them at 90 tons and they took them up to 100 tons. Well I still think it could have developed as the cheapest means of transport. They use now quite a lot up as far as Brimsdown. Brimsdown power station still has all its coal brought in by barge – or sorry, it did, because it’s not working now. I’m thinking about the time when I had to go there for four and half years and it used to have all the coal in then by barge.
Lady in the audience: I’ve heard they used to keep the horses down near the station. Am I right?
Mr Sharp: I can only remember them in Park Lane, in Park Lane or Watton Road. There was an entrance behind the Rose and Crown and they were Page’s horses I often wondered what would happen because they used the same horses for funerals and I wondered what would happen if they needed them for the fire engine at the same time.
Lady in the audience: When they had a fire they had to go and catch the horses.
Mr Sharp: That was the old steam engine, but they had a hand one as a stand-by. There was a steam man, who actually looked after the engine, when I was a kid.
Dr Lowery: Well where was the fire station at that time, because this is a relatively new one here?
Mr Sharp: In Church Street behind the church, next to the United Services Club, or the Sales Room as they call it now. (Sales Rooms are now Godwin House apartments)
Mrs Barker: That used to be called Dead Lane.
Mr Sharp: Yes Dead Lane, not Church Street.
Mr Andrews: Just a little bit from there. Opposite where the office block on the corner of Crib Street is, beside the churchyard, there was a cottage where old Mr Wright whom we were talking about, lived He was a baker at Jaggs’s – that is Jaggs and Edwards, in West Street. And right beside the cottage was a terrifically tall building that housed the fire escape that had to be pushed when they took it out. And when they had exercises in Ware on a Saturday night, they used to take it out and put it up to Gideon Talbot’s motor shop, the tallest building in Ware High Street. And once they had got the ladder up there, to get it nearer they used to push with two sorts of handles. And they had a long canvas sheet that they could put the men in to slide down. And of course the local boys, when they knew there was going to be an exercise, when down there to be taken to the top to get a free slide down the fire escape. And that building stood there and had terrific doors and that’s where they kept the tender, because it was so high and they could wind it with handles and draw the rest of the ladder up.. And the tallest building in Ware High Street, as I say, was Gideon Talbot’s motor shop. And next door to me in Garland road, their lived the chairman of the fire brigade, dear old Arthur Chapman, who was chairman of the Ware Urban District Council, I think on a number of occasions. The Ware Fire Brigade was his pride and joy. (Gideon Talbot’s motor shop and petrol pump were at 45 High Street
Mrs Barbara David: We used to live at Tavern Cottage in New Road, which as we heard earlier had the small brewery behind it. And I’ve been told that in summer the firemen used to turn up there with a dray and load the dray up with beer and roar around the countryside for the day. And when they came back, there would be a huge meal laid on for them in the big room at the back of the Two Brewers – that room is not there any more ...
Mr Sharp: That’s right, that’s where they used to hold the rabbit shows.
Mrs David: As far as I can tell it was a fairly notorious occasion.
Mr Andrews: We were talking about horses and the fire engine. Of course they had to go out and catch the horses, but often they were grazing down by Ware Lock. The horses belonged to John Page, the coal merchant, who was captain of the fire brigade. As a youngster, I remember they had one horse which was a tubed horse. It had a tube put in its throat so that it could breathe more freely. And after the horse stage, the fire engine used to be pulled by the Urban District Council dust cart. That happened for quite a number of years. That of course had to be recalled from its other duties.
Mr Sayers: When I came here in 1920, the Blue Coat boy was still in the niche by Bluecoat Yard in East Street.
Mr Sharp: Your shop was originally a pork butcher.
Mr Sayers: No Cooper’s the bakers.
Mr Sharp: I mean your present premises in East Street. That was Chapman’s that moved from Hertford, where they were in Maidenhead Street.
Mr Sayers: It was the Abbey Theatre for eighteen months, run by two brothers; then one of them died and I took over from him. It was a joint production.
Mr Sharp: They weight 51 stone between the two brothers.
Mrs Baker: Opposite to you in the High Street, where the Building Society was. That was a hairdressers and before that it was a clock-maker’s shop Ketterer’s. I always remember that as a child, because he was a big man and he had a big lump on his head and it always fascinated me.
Mr Sharp: Wasn’t he German? And what was the other side?
Mrs Baker: No he was not German. On the other side, where that blind shop is, there was a jeweller’s shop and they were German. Of course in those days if anyone was German or had German ancestors, you looked at them s if they were something to do with the Devil. And what a change there has been since those days. I also remember when there were not many Catholics in Ware and at that time you couldn’t understand them and you were suspicious, or something like that. Now, thank God, those attitudes have gone and that is all for the better. Now there are as many Catholics and Church of England. Ware of course was full of churches and chapels. We had the Quakers in church Street. Where the Auction Rooms are was the old Independent Chapel and there was the Catholic apostolic Church in New Road, there was the Mission Hall in Amwell End.
Mr Sharp: The one with the clock on the front.
Mrs Barker: We had our pubs and we had our churches.
Lady in the audience: You also had the Brethren in Coronation Road.
Mr Sharp: Yes, next to where Cruse’s have the bakehouse now. In Church Street, or Dead Lane, was the Plymouth Brethren.
Mr Perman: There was a Catholic Church in Dead Lane at one time. That’s where they were before they moved to King Edward’s Road, surely
Mr Sayers: There used to be an old boy, who used to call it his chapel, stuck round the back there in Church Street. I forget his name.
Mrs Huggins: Cutmore.
Mr Sayers: Cutmore’s Chapel, that’s it, round the back of the garage. He used to get out a Bible and preach himself.
Mr Sharp: He was going to start his own political party. He said everyone was going to have two acres and a cow.
Mr Andrews: I have a photo at home that belongs to my father, showing him when he was a boy of thirteen standing on Ware Market Place at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Ware Town Band is playing there and the Bandmaster is old Mr Endsby. His daughter, Doris, still lives in Musley Lane. And in the picture Ketterer’s Jewellers is there and the French Horn is here with the decorated front. Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee – 1897.
Mrs Barker: Didn’t they have all the tables up the High Street.
Mr Andrews: Not in this picture.
Mrs Brogden: There is a picture of that.
Mrs Barker: I do hope anyone who has any old photographs of Ware or anything that is of interest will feel that they can give them to the Town Council, because in time they hope to have a room where they can keep all these things. There is quite a collection now. I have given some old pictures. And instead of keeping them stuffed away in a drawer, I would hope people can rake them out and give them to the Town Council, because they will be taken great care of and treasured. Whereas, as you know, sometimes when people die and leave things which are not treasured because children don’t want them.
Mr Sayers: Recently I had a picture of the betting shop when dear old Doris was living there.
Mrs Barker: Mrs Hall.
Mr Sayers: Yes, that’s right. And I had a photo of that and I gave it to the betting shop, because I thought they would hang it up. But it got lost and that’s a pity.
Dr Lowery: The other thing about photographs, of course, is that they can be copied. They can be copied and the owners can have the originals back.
Lady in the audience: Mr Sharp, I wonder if you can tell me the answer to a question. Clement Street or Star Street, all of that area, where I was born was always called the “ogies” (pronounced “owe-jees” – ed). Do you know why?
Mr Sharp: It was only because it was a tip in the first place. All tips in those days were called ogies.
Dr Lowery: how do you spell that?
Mr Sharp: I’m not too sure.
Man in the audience: Commenting on Clement Street, there used to be a rather nasty ditch that ran down there – it used to be a meadow at one time behind where Ware Garage was.
Mr Andrews: All tips used to be called ogies in those days. But that was also where the old Ware Town Cricket club used to have its ground.
Mr Sharp: Marsh Lane used to be called the same.
Lady in the audience: Perhaps it came from the word osiers for willow because a lot of willows grew in marshy ground.
Dr Lowery: Well, perhaps on that note we can close and you can speculate on osiers and ogies. Can I thank our speakers and all of you who have taken part for a most fascinating evening? It is something we in Ware Society would certainly like to do again. Thank you all very much. Good night.