Reminiscences of Ware's Past Part 2 - 6th May 1982

The meeting opened with the Chairman, DR ROGER LOWERY, introducing the four speakers for the evening, all of whom had been born in Ware. They were DR G. W. (BILL) MAY, whose father and grandfather had also been general practitioners in Ware; MR J.E. (JIMMY) CRANE, who formerly ran a market garden on the London Road; MR S. E. (SID) HORNSBY, who in 1925 opened the garage at the corner of Clement Street and Star Street; and MR F.M. (FRANK) SUCKLING, who in 1982 retired from running the long-established family building firm in Church Street.

The proceedings opened with the showing of slides of old pictures of Ware, mostly from the 1900-1910 period, by two members of the Ware Society, Mr. J Maurice Edwards and Mr. Stuart Timmons.

As usual, the pictures evoked many memories and a great deal of animated conversation, which it is impossible to set down here. But here are a few points from the reminiscences evoked by the picture show.

Before the First World War, there was a pub at the western end of Musley Lane called The Standard, which was kept by a Mr. Sell, who let out sacks to the malt-makers and later ran The Lion in New Road.  In Priory Street (formerly Mill Lane) there was a malting called the tan-yard and the Mill Stream, Black Swan and King's Head pubs - an Italian organ-grinder lived in the street.  In the High Street, opposite the bottom of New Road and near the Bird-in-Hand pub, was the workshop of Bateman the shoemaker - he made "list shoes" for the malt-makers, which had inch-thick soles of laminated leather, for use on the faggot-fired kilns. Beside the Common Wharf in Star Street was Henry Page's barley drying store, now reduced in height and used as a furniture warehouse.  Barley was stored there during wet seasons and it was run by a Mr. Abbott, who lived in Postwood Road and had been in charge of the drums of the Hertfordshire Regiment in about 1910. Mr. Harvey who ran a coach business from the Town Hall lived in a house in Baldock Street, opposite what is now Ware Music.

DR LOWERY: Talking to our speakers at the beginning, there was a suggestion that Frank Suckling was the one with the oldest memories of the town, having been to school in Ware.

MR SUCKLING: Yes, but so did Jimmy Crane.

MR CRANE: Yes, I spent all my schooldays at Ware St. Mary's, which was found behind the church.

DR LOWERY: And whereabouts were you?

MR SUCKLING: At Christ Church.

MR CRANE: St. Mary's was better than Christ Church! (laughter)

MR SUCKLING: I remember when I was at school that we marched down the High Street in 1908, which was the half-centenary of Christ Church which was built in 1858.

DR LOWERY: Yes, and what was the school like in comparison with what there is there now?


MR CRANE: You mean the building? Well, that is not used now.

MR SUCKLING: Well, the old St. Mary's is used as part of the Ware College of Further Education. They do woodwork and such things there.

MR CRANE: During my time there, they built a new extension for a girl's school, which was upstairs. But apart from that, it is just the same as when I was there.

DR LOWER: And when did it stop being used as a school?

MR CRANE: Only a few years ago, when they built the new school up at Kingshill. (in 1962 - ed.)

DR LOWERY: What about the old grammar school, up at the top of Musley Hill, that is now Musley Infants? When was that operating as a grammar school?

MR SUCKLING: It was operating up to 1905, so I am told by people older than myself. It was built in 1857 and it was altered in, I think, 1887 and extended. I think it was closed as a grammar school - so I am told by people older than me, such as Bill Pavey up at Musley. When he moved to Ware, that school was empty and that was 1905.

DR MAY: So up to 1905, it was a secondary school.

MR SUCKLING: Yes,it was a central school, taking the senior pupils from all the schools in Ware.

DR LOWERY: So the grammar school then moved down to Scott's House at Amwell End, did it?

DR MAY: No, that was Ware Grammar School for Girls which started in 1906, when the boys went to Hertford. I attended the kindergarten section of Ware Grammar School until 1916.

MR SUCKLING: Ware Grammar School many years ago used to be at Churchgate. Do you remember Everards' and Jimmy Davy, who had the plumbers' business? Well there. And I believe there was a builder there prior to that. Where the [Text Box: FOur,ID t R.5] telephone exchange is now.

DR MAY: Churchgate - Jaggs and Edwards, you mean?

MR SUCKLING: No, just opposite to Jaggs and Edwards (which was a famous Ware bakery - ed.)

DR MAY: I wondered if we would see tonight a picture of the forge, that used to be just along there.

MR CRANE: That was on the corner of Church Street, opposite the War Memorial.

DR MAY: There was the police station, next door.

MRS RHONA HUGGINS: No, it wasn't next door. The police station was a little further up Church Street.

DR LOWERY: Yes, the police station was just round the back of the forge. But was that the only forge in Ware?


DR LOWERY: But people talk about that as the forge.

MR. CRANE: Well, that was the most public one. There were about six forges in Ware.

MR SUCKLING: Jim Copse's was one.

MR. CRANE: Yes , Wells's Goodfellows', old Charlie Berry down in Bowling Road next door to where this lady (Mrs Huggins) lives.

DR MAY: Obviously, the forges were the predecessors of the modern garages, because you had to shoe the horses and now you change the tyres.

DR LOWERY: One of the interesting things about Ware is that it looks as if it is Ware in the valley and Musley on top of the hill. How much was that a division, or did the two really merge together ?

MR CRANE: Before the First World War, there was not a lot up at Musley. Those first homes, the council houses, just by the grammar school, as you call it, were built in 1926. There are sixteen houses there. And where those council houses are built, there used to be Allenbury's cricket field.

MR SUCKLING: And during the First War, they had the horses of the yeomanry there.

MR CRANE: Yes, the Northumberland Yeomanry were up there.

DR LOWE RY: So, if Allenbury's had their cricket ground up there at Musley, what went on in this area down here, where Allenbury's - or now Glaxo's have their sports field now?

MR CRANE: They used to grow blackcurrants and peppermint down here. They wanted a ton of the hay of the peppermint to make one gallon of peppermint. And they used to grow their own blackcurrants for the Allenbury's Blackcurrant Pastilles.

DR LOWLRY: Was that an extensive thing around here?

MR CRANE: No, just that one field, where Allenbury's old sports ground was. They did not at that time have anything on the other side of Harrison's Lane, as they have now, because that was the brickfields. It is still called that.

MAN IN THE AUDIENCE: Was that where they built the barges?

MR CRANE: No, the barges were not built at the brickfield. There was a dry dock down Star Street and the barges used to go in the dry dock when they needed repairing. Right at the end of Star Street, what we call the tumbling bay - right beside that, where Pope and Meads have got their works. And that

was a dry dock and if any of the barges wanted repair - they used to tar them very heavily in those days - they always used to be taken there.

DR LOWERY: And was there a particular firm which ran the dry dock?

MR SUCKLING: Yes, Albany's.

DR LOWERY: Because Albany's used to be river carriers.

MR CRANE: Yes, but they used to be corn merchants as well, and coal merchants.

MR SUCKLING: There are remains of barges still up at Allen and Hanbury's sports field. They were brick barges, were they?

DR MAY: No, they just dumped them there.

MR CRANE: Yes, up in the brickfield which is Allenbury's sports ground now, there used to be a cutting, that went from the River Lea right up to the top of Park Road. And some years ago, all the old barges were taken up there and dumped. And a lot of people went up there and took them to pieces and went home and burned the wood. But there are still one or two barges up there now.

MR HORNSBY: Prior to that, the barges used to go up there to be loaded with sand and gravel - and bricks.

MR CRANE: And these barges used to bring rubbish home from London and they used to burn a lot of it when they fired the bricks in the brick-kilns. There were two brickfields - number one and number two. Number one brickfield was between Harrison's Lane and the Cut, and number two brickfield was on the other side of the Cut.

DR MAY: And there was an old footbridge over the top.

MR CRANE: You used to be able to walk through there, but now I think Allenbury's - or Glaxo's - have done away with that walk.

MRS HUGGINS: No, they have put another footpath there.

MR CRANE: But the path used to go right through to what we called the Cat and Monkey. That was a house and the gentleman who was there used to have a ferry across the river and you used it if you wanted to walk to Hertford.

He was Mr. Mickleborough and he used to charge a penny to take you across the river. It was where the viaduct bridge is now. You could walk right along under Ware Park, by the old French's Corn Mill, and right through to Bengeo and come back through Ware Park.

DR LOWERY: When did that operate as a ferry?

MR CRANE:    Oh, it must have been fifty years ago.

DR MAY: It stopped between the wars, I should think.

MR CRANE: And the old house was allowed to fall to pieces.

DR MAY: You used to be able to hire boats there, I seem to remember, because boating was a great thing in the nineteen twenties. People used to row boats up and down the river then.

MR CRANE: There used to be boats at the island at Ware Lock.

MR SUCKLING: And one of the children that lived there drowned as a result. In the Cut between the brickfields.

MR STUART TIMMONS: It was also a great rendezvous for cyclists. They used to put on special teas for cyclists at the ferry house.

MR DAVID PERMAN: Can I ask you what Ware was like in those days generally as a town, and as a community?

DR MAY: It was five or six thousand strong. That's what we are talking about. It was much smaller.

MR PERMAN: Was it a very closely-knit town?

MR CRANE: Yes, because everybody lived in Ware itself. There used to be a thousand people living in Amwell End. In Amwell End, there were at least five yards with very small houses in and each of them only had one door, that was the front door. And everything had to go through that. And one gentleman who lived down there had fourteen children and many of them made double figures. And there were five of these yards down Amwell End and over all of the shops, that were there then there were people living. There was the Chapel Yard on the right-hand side, where those new shops are now and there were about thirty houses in there. Dozens of people used to come out of there and dozens of children.

MR PERMAN: It is said that they built the Mission Hall down there because they did not want the Amwell End people to come to the churches in Ware. Is that true?

DR MAY: I don't know about that, but the Mission Hall was built in association with Christ Church.

MR CRANE: And there was another thing, the Mission Hall was quite a nice little place and there was a clock on it. That was the only way that people living in these yards knew the time, by coming out and having a look at the Mission Hall clock.

DR LOWERY: Where was the Mission Hall?

MR CRANE: Right next to the cinema, or what used to be the cinema. When the Jarrow march was on - I don't know if anybody here can remember it - the people on the march stayed in Ware one night on their way to London and they were put up in that Mission Hall.

MR HORNSBY: The march was in October, 1936.

MR TIMMONS: I can remember them coming down Baldock Street.

MR CRANE: And where the Drill Hall in Amwell End is today there was a yard there full of small houses. And up at. Poles the name of the family living there was Hanbury and it was they who had the Drill Hall built. And I have often wondered who handed it over to the Military. It was built

for the T. A. (Territorial Army), but it was also built for people in Ware to use. Eventually it became Crown property. It is now owned by East Herts District Council.

DR LOWERY: Can anybody enlighten us on that point? Does anybody know the history of the Drill Hall?

MR SUCKLING: They used to have very good roller-skating in there and a very good floor for it.

MR CRANE: I can only say there were yards there before it was built by the Hanburys, who used to live at Poles.

MR SUCKLING: And they had Scott's Grotto too.

MR CRANE: No not that Hanbury family, not Allen and Hanbury's. The Poles family was the brewing family of Truman, Hanbury and Buxton. The Buxtons lived at Easney and the Hanburys lived up there at Poles.

MR SUCKLING: The Crofts owned some of the maltings and the Sandemans lived at Presdales. They were all in the drink trade.

DR LOWERY: These yards in Amwell End - were they built by firms or did they just develop?

[Text Box: 11] MR SUCKLING: They go back much further than anybody here can remember.

MR GERALD SAYE RS: Which speaker has got something to say about Caroline Court?

DR MAY: Yes, well who was Caroline?

DR LOWERY: Where was it?

MR CRANE: It was a yard up Baldock Street, where Charvill's garage is (Now Ermine Court). I think there were twenty to twenty-five houses in there. There was a big cobbled drive-in and houses on both sides, all around.

MRS HUGGINS: Then a little way down there was Monkey Row, by the baker's shop.

MR CRANE: There was Monkey Row, yes. And up Mr. Surridge's yard, there were houses up there too.

DR LOWERY: Where was that, Surridge's yard?

DR MAY: Behind Mr. Surridge's shop (the hairdresser's on the opposite side of Baldock Street to the yards just mentioned - ed.)

MR ALEC SURRIDGE: Next to Page Calnan's (now Brown's builders' merchants), there is a side gate which goes up to what is my garden now. It is much bigger now, because when I first went there I remember there were five or six old people living up there. Their houses were pulled down and it became a private garden.

MAN IN THE AUDIENCE: Yes, there was an umbrella man, an umbrella repair man living up there.

DR MAY: Can you remember the name of the yard?

MR SURRIDGE: It was Albert Yard.

MR. CRANE: And of course there were yards in Crib Street. There was Red Cow Yard and another one opposite, though I cannot remember the name of it. And there was another one at the bottom of Crib Street. Even in Church Street there was one yard.

MR HORNSBY: I lived in the Red Cow.

LADY IN THE AUDIENCE: Where was the Red Cow? Can you tell us which was the Red Cow, please?

MR HORNSBY: It was a double fronted house and it has a green door now. Number forty.

MR CRANE: It was closed in 1912.

MR SUCKLING: They shut a good many pubs in Ware.

MR HORNSBY: I was born in the Oriental Tavern in the High Street, where Mr. Timmons's shop is (Claire's Cards). That was the Oriental Tavern.

MR CRANE: There were six pubs in Crib Street. There was the Cabin, then the Green Man and then the Albion, then the Red Cow, then the White Horse at the corner of Francis Street and the Prince of Wales. My grandmother used to keep the Prince of Wales and my grandfather worked up in the brickfields. Everybody that worked in the brickfields drank a lot of beer and they used to send a boy with a wheelbarrow to go and fetch the beer. And my grandfather used to send home to his wife for the beer from the Prince of Wales and, eventually, she had to get out, because she went broke. He forgot to pay. But all these people that worked in the brickfields when it was a damp or wet day, they just packed up work and went straight to the pub and stopped there till twelve o'clock at night. And a good many of these pubs in those days had a skittle alley at the back and they used to play skittles all day long. I remember my mother getting a bit upset with my father, because there was a pub where Ware Garage now is called the Wheatsheaf and you had to go up Church Street to get round the back of it. And one day my mother got fed up with my father being in there for quite a long time, so she pushed about three of us round there in the pram and pushed it in there and left us.

MR HORNSBY: That's how the expression came of being weaned on beer.

MR CRANE: There's no doubt that the women used to have a tough time in Ware, and the men used to work hard but, while working hard, they drank hard. And they did not get a lot of money. Another thing in Ware was that it was infested with rats. And all of these malting firms used to give the men tuppence for every tail. They used to cut the tail off and hang it up. When one of the officials of the malting firm came round, they would put them in for tuppence a tail at the end of the week. And very often they would take them round from one malting to another.

MR SUCKLING: They used to keep cats in most of the maltings. And one owner, who was very particular, had two holes cut in his door, one for the kitten and one for the cat.

MR CRANE: The men had to work hard. Now my father was only a very small man and they used to have ladders to carry the barley off of the carts up to the loft. And the men used to run up these ladders with the sacks, which weighed two and a quarter hundredweight and they used to get three-halfpence to carry two sacks up there. And they would work on it all day long with very little food, as well.

DR LOWERY: But, Dr May, with people carrying two and a quarter hundredweights up ladders, what sort of medical problems did they come back with ?

MR CRANE: They didn't have any troubles at all. You have only to look at their families and their families prove they were fit.

DR MAY: Fit to drop.

MR CRANE: They used to work all day and then, very likely, they had allotments to go and work on in the evenings. And then they might go to the pub and stop till twelve o'clock, because the pubs were open in those days from six in the morning till twelve at night.

MR HORNSBY: Then they used to chuck stones up at the pub windows early in the morning to make them open. Their tongues were hanging out with thirst.

DR MAY: Early in the morning, yes, that was the thing.

MR CRANE: During the First World War, I worked on munitions at Waltham Abbey. I had to catch a train and my younger brother, we used to have to catch a train at Ware Station at five to five. I lived in West Street, in the house that is now described as the oldest town house in Hertfordshire -number two - all the family lived there. And we used to have to walk down the street by what is the Brunch Bar now, but that was Mrs Lee's and there would be a queue outside there at a quarter to five in the morning, waiting for a cup of tea. And all these fellows who were waiting there were people who drove horses and carts. And what they used to do was go to the stable and feed their horses and while the animals were having their breakfast the men would go back to Mrs Lee's and have a cup of tea. And that used to happen every morning, even Sunday mornings. The malt-makers used to work at two o'clock. Now I have read some of these stories about Ware and about these gateways along the High Street. Now I think it's a sin for these gateways to disappear, as they have been disappearing. Many of these firms have built new shops and done away with the gateways. In some of the literature that you see on old Ware, they will tell you that these gateways were from the coaching days. Well, the truth was in my time that these gateways were made with a little wicker gate in the middle, and that was for the men to go through in the early hours of the morning, probably at two o'clock, so that they did not disturb the people that lived up above. All the way down the south side of the High Street, these gateways used to be and they all had one or two maltings down each yard. Over the top of these gateways, the gentry were living all down the right-hand side of the High Street, as you go down the High Street from here at the Priory. There was only one bank and where the Post Office now is, that was where Frederick Hitch, the builder, used to live. They were practically all private houses, all down the High Street. And when these men went to work, they used to open the little gates, so as not to disturb the people up above. And they were the people that owned the maltings and the malting firms rented them from them. As far as coaching was concerned, it was the Saracen's Head where everything used to go. The reason for having all these maltings along the High Street was the access to the river and, when these barges went to London, they would bring a load of foreign barley back.

MR HORNSBY: What about the entrance here with the high timber gates? Where are they now?

MR CRANE: There were two lots of gales to the Priory, one set in the High Street and one in Priory Street. Now a few years ago, I was chairman of the Ware War Memorial Committee right at the end, before it was wound up, and I went to a meeting when only two members turned up - Mr. Southall (former Ware Town Clerk) and myself. And we started on the question of these gates. And I said, there is one thing I would like to ask you, Mr.Southall, and that is what happened to the gates from the Priory? Now anyone who knew the gates from the Priory would know they were beautiful gates.

MR HORNSBY: All studded.

MR CRANE: You couldn't find anything like them in this country today.

And Mr. Southall told me that the gates were put in the outhouses which used to be in Priory Street and they simple disappeared. And that was the only answer he could give me. I should say they are on somebody's estate now. Now during the First World War, this building, the Priory, was a hospital and the soldiers used to stand up at the top there in their blue uniforms.

MR SUCKLING: Dr. Stewart was in charge here.

DR MAY: Dr. W. G. Stewart MBE was the Medical Superintendent, Mrs. Stewart was the Matron and this room was one of the wards. I remember coming in here.

DR LOWERY: When was that, in the 14-18 war?

DR MAY: Yes, in 1914, when so many of the big houses - and this was a private house in those days - when so many houses in this neighbourhood and all around were given over to become convalescent homes. That is what they were. These chaps from the war were dealt with in hospital and then sent out to recuperate in the country. And one saw them walking around the town in their blue uniforms, with red ties. They still wear them, so I understand, and the RAMC still issues them, but naturally one does not see them as one did. And the flag of course, the Red Cross flag that they had up at the Priory gates, is in the Parish Church now. And there is a plaque somewhere. Is there not a plaque outside, saying this was a hospital? I can't remember.

MR CRANE: Of course, the last family that lived here was named Walters. They found Mrs. Walters suffocated in a smoke-filled room somewhere here. And then Mrs. Croft bought it and handed it over to the town on a 99-year lease. That's what I understand, because I remember seeing it in the Mercury that it was on a half - a - crown (12.5p) a year rent. And we have had over fifty years of it, so 1 don't know what will happen when the 99 is up. But, of course, the Crofts were a big family in Ware. The Library is their old house.

MR SUCKLING: Their town house.

MR CRANE: Yes, and then they built Fanhams Hall. And when there was a fire at the Victoria Maltings at Amwell End, a lot of timber was taken from that malting up to Fanhams Hall when it was being built.

DR LOWERY: Were Crofts maltsters?

MR CRANE: It was Henry Page and Co. They were big maltsters. And of course there was Lord Croft, he was a young man in those days. He joined the Hertfordshire Regiment, and in Ware, if you wanted a job with Henry Page and Co, you had to join the Hertfordshire Regiment. The Hertfordshire Regiment was part of the British Expeditionary Force that went to France in 1914 and, eventually, they were called the "Old Contemptibles". In Ware today, there are still five Old Contemptibles alive and there are not many towns in Britain can say that. There are five alive today and they are all over 85, coming up to 90. That was Brigadier Croft then, and after the war he was made Lord Croft and he died of a heart attack, going back to London one night.

MR. SUCKLING: Lord Croft was in the Cabinet as Secretary for War in this last war.

MR CRANE: He was a very good chap and the Croft family is sadly missed in Ware today.

DR LOWERY: Harking back to the point you made earlier about the Priory being a convalescent home, was there ever a hospital in Ware? I know there is the old people's hospital up at the top.

DR MAY: There was a hospital at the Cannons Hotel, run by the County Council, until it moved to Ware Park. The Cannons Hotel (later called the Ware Moat House) was a private house before that. (see Reminiscences No. 1).

MR SUCKLING: The Bartletts were the name of the people who lived there then.

DR MAY: Now can we establish when it was turned into a hospital? About 1920?

MR SUCKLING: No, it went to Ware Park in -1922.

DR MAY: It went to Ware Park in 1922; well, it must have been established long before that then. That is the only hospital that there has been in Ware. But the one you mentioned, Mr. Chairman, Western House started as a workhouse. Because it was a workhouse it had an infirmary for the aged -what are now known as the geriatrics of course - and then in 1938, I suppose, a special block was built, which is now the hospital part of it. Then the lower part on this side of the road was built again at much the same sort of time for the tramps, of course in the old days, the casuals, these people off the road, the so-called gentlemen of the road. They could come in for a night but they had to do a day's work. Then they were passed on to another parish. Then in 1938, just before the outbreak of the Second World War; the people from the Barnet Infirmary were evacuated to Ware. They came to live in that block there and that is why it is called Barnet Block, and has now been turned into Willowfield. That is the story of that part there. That is the only medical institution that has been in Ware at all.

DR LOWERY: Up to what time did it operate as a workhouse up there?

DR MAY: Well, it slowly evolved. It changed its name, like lunatic asylums, that are no longer called lunatic asylums. I think that if you look at various maps you will see that it started as Ware Workhouse, and then it was a Public Assistance Institution, and then I think it was politely called an infirmary. And what is it called now? A hospital, I suppose.

MR CRANE: When I went to school at St. Mary's, there used to be a hundred boys and girls, who came down from the workhouse to St. Mary’s for school. And they used to give them a cup of tea and a slice of bread and margarine for their breakfast in the Vicar's Room. They probably got a cup of soup at lunchtime. But then they went up to Western House at night, because their mothers and fathers were up there. When the families could get out, they used to walk from Ware to Bishop's Stortford and then spend another night there, or else go to Royston.

DR LOWERY: Because these were the next Union Workhouses?

MR CRANE: Yes, that is how it used to be.

DR LOWERY: When one hears the word workhouse, one wonders if there were public works around the town for them.

MR CRANE: No, the main thing they did up there really was cutting up railway sleepers and chopping it up for kindling wood. Then they went round the town taking it to little shops, which were selling it to the public. There were inmates up there who were able to work for local people.

DR MAY: It was called a workhouse, because you worked in it. You couldn't pay your rent, but you paid in kind.

MR MAURICE EDWARDS: They had a bit of gardening to do, as well.

DR MAY: Yes, they grew vegetables and all the rest of it. They were self-supporting, of course, in the old days.

MR PERMAN: Dr May, your father was a doctor in the town?

DR MAY: And grandfather.

MR PERMAN: and your grandfather. Are there any stories about them and their medical practice? I mean what was the relationship between the doctors of Ware and their patients in those days?

DR MAY: They were on call 24 hours a day - that is the biggest difference compared with today. You were never off duty. You merely left the town to do something and they couldn't get you. You were literally on duty 24 hours a day and that remained the case until 1948, when the Health Service came in.

MR SUCKLING: Talking about Dr May, I remember a little story that used to go about in pre-war days and that was: why do horses like traveling up and down New Road? And the answer was there was a Greenfield at the top (the baker and grocer) a Greenfield at the bottom (grocer) and Oates and Mays in the middle (the Rev. Alfred Oates, Vicar of Christ Church 1880 - 1914, and the Doctors Mays).

MR CRANE: Of course, Dr May's father was one of the first people that had a car in Ware.

MR HORNSBY: No, Dr Boyd.

DR MAY: Yes, Dr Boyd had the first car.

MR SUCKLING: When I was a boy there were four cars in Ware - Dr Boyd, Dr Butcher, Mr Parker (the chauffeur to Dr May) and Mr D Wickham.

DR MAY: In 1907 we had a Humber and in 1912 we had a De Dion Bouton.

MR CRANE: But it didn't always start, did it?

MAN IN THE AUDIENCE: How many doctors were there in Ware?

MR SUCKLING: Four - Boyd, May, Stewart and Butcher.

DR MAY: Dr J. A. Bell MC and bar, took over from Dr H.O.F. Butcher whose father was Dr Henry Butcher of Ware, and Dr J. R. Colville took over from Dr Stewart at 63 High Street.

MR HORNSBY: And Dr Ellis was with Dr Bell. He was here in the twenties and delivered our first child - he was Major Ellis and used to limp and suffered with his chest.

MR CRANE: Dr Butcher's surgery was at 23 High Street, where W.H. Lee's the estate agents now are.

MAN IN THE AUDIENCE: There is a tombstone in St. Mary's churchyard to a Dr Mead, who is said to have died aged 149 years. They even have the months and days. Does anyone know anything about that?

MR CRANE: It's a misprint. But do you know anything about it, Dr May?

DR MAY: I know where the tomb is and it's long before my time. No, but someone must have put it up as a prank, surely.

MR PERMAN: Early in the nineteenth century, there was a chemist on the north side of the High Street, in Land Row, which was advertising Dr Mead's potions and medicines. So one theory is that the tombstone was carved, or at least re-carved, in the nineteenth century and that was not unconnected with the chemist who was selling Dr Mead's medicines.

MR CRANE: Well, the only chemists there were in the town in my young days were Mr Gregory - and that was taken over by Mr J.H.S. Lewis, who was there for many years - and of course Woollatt and Coggin. They were the only two chemists in my time.

MAN IN THE AUDIENCE: There was also Mr Tudge, the chemist, surely?

MR CRANE: No, as Mr Suckling said, there was Greenfield at the bottom of New Road and that is where Mr Stanley Tudge took over. He took it over from a man named Mr Harwood, who was running an old style tobacco business from that shop. But Greenfields had been shut up for some time then.

DR MAY: It is part of the Bell pub, now.

MR CRANE: There was even a malting down Kibes Lane.

MR SUCKLING: There were lots of things down Kibes Lane.

DR LOWERY: Yes, one of the things down Kibes Lane is the Quaker Burial Ground. Was that used within living memory or is it going way back?

MR CRANE: Well, I have never known it used.

MR SUCKLING: This gentleman asked what sort of a community Ware was and I will tell you that there was hardly any noise in the town and few vehicles about. And if anyone was seriously ill, they would lay straw in the road to deaden what sound there was.

MR CRANE: Of course, the old horse-drawn carts had iron tyres and the roads were granite and they really used to rumble along. And there used to be all different carts up and down Ware from about a quarter to six in the morning until about half past six in the evening. And there were lots and lots of light carts and pony traps coming in with milk for Allenbury's. There would probably be something like a hundred vehicles coming to Allenbury's with milk every morning, Sunday mornings as well. That was in the days when they used to make the baby foods and all that sort of thing. Allenbury's were carting milk from the station after it had come by train from various parts of the country. There was milk all day long going down Priory Street.

DR MAY: Yes, they were noisy old carts and so as to deaden the noise they used to put straw on the street. I well remember the High Street being covered when somebody was ill in the one of the big houses. I can't remember which house it was.

MR SUCKLING: I remember that outside Mr Meadow's house.

LADY IN THE AUDIENCE: What was the state of the roads in those days?

MR CRANE: Hard. Granite.

MR SUCKLING: And old cobbled streets. Old Star Lane was just wide enough to get one vehicle up or down and that was all cobbles. And on the corner there was Endersby's, the harness maker, and then there was a pub.

MR CRANE: Two pubs. Yes, Star Street was very narrow - they used to call it Star Lane in those days. And when there was a fair come into Ware, it used to be in Clement Street. There were no houses in Clement Street in those days. And if the fair had to come down Star Lane, it would very often get wedged with its vehicles.

MR SUCKLING: Do you remember the little public toilet that there used to be in Star Lane? If you go down there now, you can still see the two brackets in a wall where the cistern used to hang.

DR LOWERY: Talking about Star Street or Star Lane, there is a building down there with "Phoenix Coach Works" written on the side. What was that?

MR CRANE: It used to be Maples, who had it for a furniture store.

MR HORNSBY: When Maples used to travel with furniture from London to Cambridge, they used to stop in Star Street where there was a green and they would shift the box from one horse to another.

DR MAY: When was your garage built there?

MR HORNSBY: 1925. (Mr. Hornsby's garage was part of the Ware Garages with other premises in Church Street - ed.)

MR CRANE: There were a lot of caravans there belonging to a man called Cox. There was also a portable theatre. In the winter it was in the Town Hall and in the summer in Clement Street. They did melodramas - a murder every night - and they were about here for several years. They would probably go to Stanstead Abbotts for a couple of months and then they would come back to Ware.

DR LOWERY: Where was that held, in a tent?

MRS HUGGINS: No, it was held in a long building.

MR SUCKLING: Where they used to hold the fairs years ago, was where we used to play cricket.

MR CRANE: Yes, years ago, when there was a Ware cricket team.

DR LOWERY: No, Clement Street where the ditches were.

MR CRANE: And on the left-hand side of Clement Street, there used to be a family of fair people, who made it their permanent home in the wintertime. Smith was the man's name.

MR HORNSBY: Blood cox!

MR CRANE: And Blood Cox lived in Star Street on the corner. He was called that because he dealt with the horses.

MR SUCKLING: And he would deal with people too! (Laughter)

LADY IN THE AUDIENCE: Can you tell us about the farmer with the cows in Star Street. When I was little, I used to be stood on the table to watch the cows go by twice a day.

MR SUCKLING: That's right, and they used to go over the Ware tollbridge to the pasture down behind here on the Meads. And a flock of sheep would often come down the High Street too.

MR CRANE: It was Walter Lee who owned the cows.

ANOTHER LADY: Do you have any tales of flooding in Ware? I remember the last big flood in Ware. But how often did that used to happen?

MR HORNSBY: I used to live in Amwell End and every year in the wet season, there were barrels with boards on them on the left side, as you were going down Amwell End, and you had to walk on the boards to get to the safe parts.

MR SUCKLING: The last serious floods in Amwell End were in 1947 and they came up to the level of the counter in the Spread Eagle pub.

MR HORNSBY: Many a time I have seen the table floating about in the kitchen.

MR CRANE: I have seen a rowing boat down Amwell End.

DR LOWERY: Was it an annual occurrence to have flooding in Amwell End?

DR MAY: Has there not been one since 1947? I would have thought there had been one since then.

MR SUCKLING: That was the last serious one.

DR LOWERY: There was a flood in 1968, wasn't there?

MR SUCKLING: That was in September time, I seem to recall.

MR HORNSBY: Ware was the forerunner of central heating and they did it by means of kiln coals.

MR CRANE: In Ware, there was a lot of brown malt made, which they don't do now, and that was all made for porter and stout, and this brown malt was fired with faggots and billets. And all through the summer, you would see the local farmers, especially from High Cross way and all in that direction, carting faggots and billets into Ware. Now if you go to Mr. Suckling's yard (in Church Street) you will see a big wooden building there and they used to fill that up with faggots all through the summer.

MR SUCKLING: They were wind-dried.

MR CRANE: And it was mostly hornbeam and it was grown all in that direction, to the north of Ware, and they would stack it in what they called faggot-hovels. In Mr. Suckling's yard, there were brown maltings all the way round that yard and also at the top of your yard, Mr. Timmons, that was No.4 which was Henry Page's Malting and they used to make brown malt in there too. And they all had to share these faggots and they would burn about twenty faggots for a kiln of malt. Now from these faggots and these billets there was a lot of ash and it was called by the maltmakers kiln coals. And it used to be taken round by boys on their backs in a big oval kettle. In the pubs, where there were no fires or other heating, they had old washing baths and these boys used to take these kettle-loads of kiln coals, each holding about a bushel, and shoot them into these baths and these used to stand in the bar of the pubs to keep the customers warm. And each kettle load cost threepence.


MR CRANE: But if they took them to a private house, it was only a penny. But I always remember there was a pub in East Street, called the Dolphin - I dare say many of you know Mrs Barker, well her parents kept it - and there used to be some old chaps sitting there all day long. And they used to have a poker, because the coals used to go dead on the top until they gave them a little stir and they would all flare up again. But very often we had to take the best kiln coals to the fishmongers in Ware. This lady's mother used to have them (Mrs. Huggins' mother, Mrs. Wren, kept a fish shop at the bottom of New Road - ed.). But the fishmongers used to give us a little bit more than the pubs did. And near the end of the season because it was a seasonal job, maltmaking, the reason being when it was hot the malt used to grow too quickly - the men who were curing the malt used to put out these kiln coals with water and then take them in sacks to the fishmongers, so that they could carry on through the summer. Then they were able to start these kiln coals up with a piece of paper and start them with a few nobby ends of wood.

MRS HUGGINS: Yes, my mother used to put logs on top.

MR CRANE: And they used to cure their own fish in Ware, in them days. Not like it is now, been in store for about two years.

MR HORNSBY: We used to have a baked potato in the kiln coals or roast chestnuts.

MR CRANE: Yes, a lot of people had no other means of fuel. And if you put a kettle on these kiln coals it would boil in no time. When we were making malt, we used to try to use all the English barley first. All the local farmers used to send their barley into Ware and, if it was a damp year, it had to be taken to dry, as I have said, down in Star Street and that was called Leak Yard. And it had to be kept dry so that it didn't germinate. Now, you will find that two men had to work twenty-eight quarters of barley. That was a normal two men's job in the maltings. And this barley was steeped in water for eighty hours and then the water was drained off and had to be thrown out of the cistern into another part, which was called the couch-frame. And then they would put that twenty-eight quarter of barley usually into three parts, on three different floors in the malting. Now this malt had to be taken along the floors and it used to take about fourteen days and usually there were three different lots of barley growing along these floors. If it was very hot weather, they would usually have to turn it at least twice a day. That was why it was a seasonal job, because in the cooler weather in the winter they would turn it just once. But if the weather was very bad and sharp, they would have to try to thicken it up, because it had to grow. When this barley had been steeped, it was called the "young end" and it had to go to the "old end". When it got to the old end, after about fourteen days, it was put on the kiln. And it was all one big circle all the time. Now all this barley had to grow and, if you look at a kernel of barley, you will see at the back of the kernel there is a shoot, which would normally be the ground shoot, coming up the back of the kernel. When it got three parts of the way up, it would be put on the kiln. At the same time, it would be sending out a lot of little roots, just as it would as if it were in the ground. And if it was very warm weather, these ends would get tangled all up and make it lumpy and these chaps had to knock it about and make it all free. Now when it had been on the kiln - it was four days if it was pale malt, but if it was brown malt it was only on for one hour because it had such a fierce heat underneath - then they had to put it through strains and get all those roots off. It used to be dust. Now there used to be a firm down Star Street, called Glastop Hammonds, and they used to deal in this dust from the maltings. And one of their best customers was W. H. Wills for woodbine cigarettes, and this fine root stuff was mixed in with tobacco and that is what they used to smoke in those days.

MR SUCKLING: Five a penny for Woodbines.

MR HORNSBY: I understand now that the brown malt is used for coffee.

MR CRANE: It was a very tough life. The chaps they only wore a shirt and a pair of trousers - they did not wear anything else.

DR MAY: Now who talked about Ware Cricket Club? Where was that, because I played for Ware Cricket Club in 1930 and it had no ground then, so we had to play away matches I remember.

MR SUCKLING: We used to have to play at Highfields.

MR CRANE: Windmill Fields, too. Mr. Girling, who used to keep the Railway Hotel in Ware, was one of the leading cricketers.

DR MAY: When did the Ware Cricket Club stop then?

MR SUCKLING: Before the war.

DR MAY: Yes, about 1935.

MR SUCKLING: No, before the 1914-18 war, because I am talking about when they played in Clement Street.

MR CRANE: The last I knew of Ware Cricket Club they played on Ware Football ground.

DR MAY: Now what date are we talking about now, because ten years either way makes no difference to us.

MR CRANE: I should say about 1935.

DR MAY: Yes, that is the time when I played. I was always roped in because I was the only chap who had a car. We always played away and we went round all the villages and we had a lovely time on Saturday afternoons. But what about the Ware Lawn Tennis Club?

MR HORNSBY: That was played in Star Street, at Albany's by the side of the old stables.

DR MAY: Why I ask that is because my aunt one year won the Ladies' Challenge Prize. We have a clock at home and it says "Ware Lawn Tennis Club: Ladies' Challenge Prize" and I assume it's about 1890. I don't remember a tennis club at all but you remember it off Star Street. Then, of course, we had a rugby club in Ware, in Hoe Lane.

MR CRANE: It is still there. The Old Hertfordians.

DR MAY: No, that is a different one. I am talking about one behind Andrews', the vet's, house.

MR SUCKLING: As far as I can remember, it was Hertford Rugby Club and there was no fencing around the pitch at all. Lower Presdales had a slope to it and, as they played on the slope, that did not last very long.

MR CRANE: Ware Football Club played there too in 1921 - before that  they played at Crane Mead - but with the slope at Lower Presdales they won all their matches. Then they went up Watton Road, just by Fanshawe Crescent, on a field that they used to call John Page's Field - and they played there for nearly two years and that field was not very big. And, after that, they kidded the council along to let then have Ware Recreation Ground, which was at Buryfield. When I was a boy all the boys used to play up there, all kinds of sports, and there used to be seats all round it and poplar trees. And how they ever took it away from the children of Ware, I don't know.

DR LOWERY: That is Buryfield, now the football ground?

MR CRANE: Yes, half of it belonged to Ware Park and the other half belonged to the Ware Charities in those days.

MR SUCKLING: There used to be sheep grazing there, too.

MR CRANE: Yes, Harry Baker, the butcher who used to be in Baldock Street, always kept sheep there.

DR MAY: I remember that at the Kingshill field, which is now Kingshill estate, some team used to play football up there. Which team played there?

MR CRANE: We used to have comic football matches in Ware for charity and they used to play at Kingshill.

MR TIMMONS: On the Kingshill estate in 1933, the Ware Town Tennis Club had tennis courts. The site was just beyond where Mr. Harris used to live, at Weathered Oaks, which was the last house. And high up on the field there there were grass tennis courts. My wife and I met there for the very first time we ever went out together and played tennis there.

MR CRANE: There were Little Horse Lane and Big Horse Lane up there.

MR TIMMONS: This was in Big Horse Lane.

DR LOWERY: One of you just now mentioned Windmill Field. Was there ever a windmill there?

DR MAY: No, that must have been long before our time.

MAN IN THE AUDIENCE: When we first moved to Ware in 1958 into Chadwell, there was a house being pulled down there, called Chadwell House. Can you tell us anything about Chadwell House?

MR CRANE: Well, the Chalmers Hunts, the solicitors, used to live there. The old Mr. Chalmers Hunt, who had his offices in the High Street, where Mr. Timmons has his shop now. Then they moved from there and went up to Rush Green.

MR SUCKLING: That was in about 1933. But the widow of the old man remained there and did not go to Rush Green.

MR CRANE: Old Mr. Chalmers Hunt was a real fisherman and used to do a lot of fishing in the New River. And if you go into Chalmers Hunt's offices today, you will see big trout in glass cases that old Mr Chalmers Hunt caught in the New River.

DR MAY: Then Chadwell House was turned into a roadhouse, with a swimming pool, and it became flats, before it was pulled down.

MR CRANE: And there were lots of stories associated with it too.

DR LOWERY: Well, gentlemen, on that sort of angler's tale, perhaps we ought to draw to a close. I am sure that in the way of such meetings there are an awful lot of things about which people would like to chat with you privately. So, may I on behalf of the Ware Society and all the people who have come here this evening thank you all very much for giving us the benefit of your memories of Ware, and we hope that you will all have many more memories in the future. So, thank you all very much indeed.

Note: subsequent to the meeting, the following note about the May family was received:

1877 - Harry May MD came to Ware to succeed Henry Bate and lived at Woodleigh, 95 New Road;

1900 - his son George Ernest May joined him in general practice;

1901 - Harry May retired to Dorset and died in 1906;

1908 -George William May born, joined his father in general practice (1931), marned (1936) and lived at Denham Lodge, 83 New Road; 1948 -

G. E. and G.W. May resigned from general practice and were succeeded by Jack Edgehill Moore;

G. W. May was a full-time consultant ophthalmic surgeon from 1,948-1973.