• 27Feb

    Recently I searched for old photographs of Hemel Hempstead on the Internet and came across this site which bought back so many memories of growing up there in the 70’s. It is worth a look if you too remember how it used to be, some classic shots amongst them.hemel1961small.JPG

    On a trip back last year I was amazed how much Hemel has changed but then I can think back quite a way and guess most towns change a LOT in 30 odd years. It was a new town in the green belt in the 1960’s (this photo was taken by Dad in 1961) and the aspirations were clear and quite quaint when you look back now. A couple of my friends have continued to live in the area and probably don’t notice the changes the way I do… although I did get favourable comments that there is now a decent department store in the form of a new Debenhams!

    Here are some of the shops I remember which won’t interest you if you don’t know Hemel or don’t like shopping!! The shops I most remember in the Marlowes are Peacocks which was a decorating store selling wallpaper and general DIY goods. The purple peacock logo caught my eye above the window and there was many a trip there on Saturdays with my parents. That was near the magic roundabout end and on that corner was a large WHSmiths (Blockbusters video shop when I last saw it). Beyond was the green and wall where we’d wait for the bus. The Seafarer Restaurant nearby was great with it’s bright orange seats and canteen-like service. We’d go there for fish & chips during school holidays. I most remember the walls which had large bronze effect wall murals of what I took to be either Bodica and her chariots with horses galloping in front or something to do with “In The Hall Of The Mountain King”. They were stunning when I was at that impressionable age and I can still picture them so clearly – perhaps they were actually cheap plastic things, who knows.

    Further up on the same side, Garlands was full of exciting ornaments and gadgets. That was the first place I saw those big clocks with ball bearings moving around to tell the time. Then was Taylor & McKenna (light blue & white logo), a toy and model shop. Dad used to go upstairs as there was a great choice of those small enamel paint pots with coloured lids he liked to use, they had a very recognisable smell. He also bought clay for modelling, diecast figures and model plane kits. Next to that shop was an open bit, slightly recessed, with a pond and fountain. I think there were some mosaic murals round the side of fishes. There was a ramp going round the back which we walked up to get to the Wimpy Burger Bar. Ahh, Wimpy, home of many holiday treats. I always wanted, but could never finish, the Knickerbocker Glory!! Then there were some more shops I can’t remember, a big open area, then Boots and Sainsburys. This open area had seats around and was a popular place to stop for a rest. Boots was where my Auntie worked for a while and I remember seeing her on the front tills in her uniform but not wanting to disturb her! She must have loved that kind of job as she enjoyed chatting with people so much. Before that she worked in the old Co-Op building near the multistorey car park. Boots is where I first remember being let loose around town with a friend. The first single I bought was in there, of all things “It’s My Party And I’ll Cry If I Want To” by Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin, perhaps I shouldn’t admit to that 😮 We’d also spend ages around the make-up counter.

    Memories of Sainsburys revolve around their old sturdy brown paper bags with the orange logo on and several favourite things to buy – twiglets in the old Peak Frean packaging and toffee apples hiding amongst the boring fruit and crisps. I had a mishap in Sainsburys when very small. Mum sat me in the front of the trolley and went further down the isle to buy something. I decided to lean out to pick something off a shelf and tipped the whole trolley over!! It must have made quite a crash and shocked Mum no end… although upset, I walked away unscathed.

    Then came the “high pavement” bit, not a lot up there but I did have my ears pierced in the hairdressers. Crossing over from Sainsburys there was a downstairs sweet shop, possibly Maynards, with a restaurant upstairs that we went into regularly for toasted teacakes and coffee (now a pizza restaurant?). Up a bit further was the open air market. I enjoyed wandering round there many Saturdays and bought several fashion statements of the time including a maroon leather jacket, those clear blue plastic macs (very fetching) and teabag shoes. I distinctly recall all the two tone clothes hanging up and hearing Fat Larry’s Band playing “Zoom” so I guess that was early 80’s. Woolworths is the only shop still further down I think. It used to be a much better shop and the photo booth was always a pull – the photos to prove it are somewhere in my scrapbooks ready to embarrass various friends. Was The Living Room nightclub next door? I never did go there as I left Hemel before I was at that age but it was popular with Longdean’s sixth form.

    Craftsmith was the best ever arts and crafts shop on one side of Bank Court. It had an upstairs that went part way over the centre of the court and I’d often buy things in there. On the other side of the court was Raynes, an (even then) old fashioned women’s clothes shop. There was a display window on the corner in front of the doorway where I used to play hide and seek every time we passed when very young! The only other shop I really remember was the fishmongers near the end. It always had weird things in the window like big prawns and pink Taramoslata, loved the name so memorised that before I knew what it was. Inside they had fish tanks around the walls high up so I liked watching those enough to put up with the smell when we went in. At the end on that side stood the Wagon & Horses pub, perhaps the Co Op building was after that. Then who can forget the big multi storey car park in Moor End Road with the famous orange and yellow ball revolving on the top.

    The water gardens were lovely, we mostly parked at that end where there were trees between each row of cars. We crossed a bridge over the river and I often took our stale bread to feed the ducks and swans there. There were a few shops in Waterhouse Street, one had a working model of a railway in the window which always fascinated me. I mustn’t forget to include the Dacorum Pavillion, home of many local Ideal Home Shows which I loved even at that age! I guess there was a goodie bag and a few stalls which appealed to me. It was always bustly with lots to see, people demonstrating new things you hadn’t seen before. We went at other times but can I remember what for now. The last event I saw there was Leo Sayer in concert, the building brought back so many memories with the different levels and open areas in between the entrances to the main hall and stage. I picture the decoration as being lots of burgundy velvet curtain and gold details.

    hemelodeon.jpgWe also went to the Odeon cinema frequently, alas no longer there, and had dinner in Seapride next door afterwards. This photo was taken from a website, alas not by me!

    In summer holidays Mum and I would often walk along the footpath through the water gardens beside the River Gade to an area further up where there was a large pond. I’d take my fishing net and bucket and catch tiny fishes… which I put back of course (just found the pic below which brings back some happy memories). There was also a playground with fantastic castle walls to climb on, it even had ramparts which were tricky to walk along. There is a picture of this area on the website mentioned above but surely it was much much bigger than that!!

    Further up was the large playground on the other side of Warners End Road and behind the Registry Office. fishingsmall.JPGA great place in the summer as there was an open swimming pool, climbing frame, swings, seesaw, and the infamous rocking horse I fell over the front off when very small. There was a tunnel through the hillside, a big round concrete hole leading through to the main part of Gadebridge park, very exciting to run through or over at that age. The park itself was lovely, home to the fun fair in the hols and a bowling club area. St Mary’s Church, still lovely, sits to one side with its walled gardens.

    The Old Town I loved even before doing Local Studies in the 1st year of Longdean. At that time we took rubbings of the pastoral plates beside the doorways, learnt about the origins of the name Hemel Hempstead and who invented the Quern made out of Hertfordshire Pudding Stone. Some memories never fade! There was a great Wagons art shop up there but the best shop was the pet shop, or was it purely a tropical fish shop? I always stood in front of the fish tanks fascinated by the red and blue Japanese Fighting fish who couldn’t be in the same tank as each other and the scary Scorpion fish who’s tentacles could kill. I could watch them for hours so guess I love fish!!

    When Steve visited recently he reminded me about how the water gardens used to extend further towards the Dacorum. Apparently they ruined the site over 20 years ago ready for development, that never happened and the grounds were left in a mess and all barricaded up. Now the whole area has been redeveloped and they have reintroduced something very similar – better late than never. There was a pond up that end as well and now I remember an underpass and the fact that you walked through it all on the way to the sports centre.

    That’s about all for the town centre itself. When I had a rabbit we’d visit Piccotts End Mill, a little further out of town. You turned off the road, crossed the River Gade, into a large open space where usually a sheepdog or two would be waiting. The old mill was to the left and to the right was a large barn. We mainly went for straw, hay and dog biscuits but I used to look at the horsey stuff when I went through the “Mum I want a pony” stage!! The river had bullrushes and watercress growing at the edges, a very pretty place reminiscent of older times.

    At the other end of town in Station Road was the Art Centre where I went during half term a couple of times. A lovely old building with rickety floors. Always children’s crafts in the window. I did some painting and can’t for the life of me remember what else or who I went with. Next to that is a pub, still there, called “Ye Old Projectionist” which has lots of cinema related things. Nearby is the Dacorum Sports Centre where I used to go swimming often. I haven’t seen it since the big refurbishment. At one time I went to classes and we went with the school as well. There was an outside pool which great fun in summer and always very busy. If anyone wants to set me straight on any mis-rememberings or has more to add, please put your comments below.

213 Responses

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  • Richard Bunker Says:

    i used to be the fabric buyer for Craftsmith and the Hemel Hempstead branch was the first of a few dotted all over the country. i used to walk from the station to the shop and took a short cut across a meadow full of cows hahahah happy days indeed.

  • sue Says:

    How lovely Richard! Craftsmith inspired my early creativity, it was a fantastic shop. I seem to remember a quirky bit of floor space being a walkway across the Bank Court entrance?

  • Greg Says:

    There was also a cycle shop next to the CO-OP with a walk way in between. It was the one before Don Farrell took over the shop in 1963
    Anyone know its name ( around 1961)

  • Brian George Says:

    Not sure I remember the name, but there was a cycle shop on the raised part of the shopping centre further along on the right hand side. I went in there and I bought a bike there with my Father when I was 15 or so. Triumph bike. Replacement for one that got stolen from a cycle rack opposite the entrance to John Dickinson and Company where I had started working. The police at Hemel Hempstead got it back, but I had bought another one by then.

    There was an Express Dairy shop near the cycle shop I remember.

    Brian George.

  • Brian George Says:

    Just realised you are talking about an earlier time period than 1965 for the cycle shop than I remember.
    Brian

  • Dave Says:

    I lived with my parents and brother above Barclays Bank, shown in the main photo, from 1958 to 1973. We used to plant up the flower bed visible at the front of the bank and played around the water gardens as children

  • sue Says:

    Oh that’s lovely, thank you for sharing your memories.

  • Martin Brown Says:

    Hellloooo….

    Anyone got any idea what happened to Karen Head? I went out with her when I was 15 (early 1970’s..71 / 72). She attended Longlands School. I know she lived in Windmill Road with her husband and kids a long time ago and I bumped into her now and again up to around 15 years ago, then she vanished.

    She’d be around 61 or 62 I think now. Another ex of mine who vanished was Christine Trotter who used to live in Leverstock Green in Micklefield Road…She’d be in her late 50’s I think.

    Martin

  • gary saunders Says:

    I lived in Bennett’s end 1960 to 1987. Attended longdean school 1971 till 1976. Move to Arizona in 1986 and been here ever since. Those pictures certainly bring back fond memories. thanks for posting.

  • Brian George Says:

    Hello Martin,

    I went to the Bennets End Secondary Modern school, later called Mountbatten Comprehensive. Didn’t like it much. Lot of bullying went on. Left in 1965 at the age of 15. Went to work at John Dickinson and Company Ltd, Apsley Mills. The Mechanised Accounting Dept which used Power Samas and ICL punch card and tabulating machines to churn out the invoices. My late Mother worked elsewhere in the Mills as a Supervisor in the offices there. Over 18 years she was there for.

    The Secondary Modern school at Bennets End was built as part of the New Towns Commission building programme as I recall. Their headmaster was a Mr Fowler who came from Nottingham. They had an Arts teacher called Mr Atkinson. A Deputy Head called, I think, Mr Gardiner. Or Gardner. He tried to get me interested in a few things. They had the CSE or General Certificate of Education.

    I was in the Rugby team they had for the school. Wing Three Quarter. I think we were quite successful but I don’t really recall now all the schools we played against.

    My own employment history is on the website if you look up my name.
    Nice to speak to you!

    Regards

    Brian.

  • Pam Christou (Turton) Says:

    Hi Brian
    I think I would have been in the same year as you but I left in 1966 and transferred to Apsley Grammar School next door to Bennetts End. I don’t remember you but it was a big school really. The head was (you were right) Cyril Fowler. The deputy head when we first started there was Mr Dunkley who then got a headship somewhere else. The new deputy was a Mr Ghent and following him was Mr Diane, who was in fact still there when my daughter started the school. Miss Deans was the headmistress followed by Miss Sinclair later
    The art teacher you are right was Mr Atkinson, who was a horrible man who called every e by their surnames or substituted their names for ones such as Tinribs! He was very keen on black and white sculptures made from old junk metal, strips of hessian and plaster of Paris. There was another art teacher called Mr Richardson, who also taught italic handwriting.

    We had a brilliant Mths teacher when I started called Mr Peter Springett. We were terrified of him initially but he was a brilliant teacher. Music teacher Mr Calladine followed by Mr Sampson. Mr Bingham – Geography and Miss Coles but I don’t think she lasted long. Mr Roland – French, he was excellent too, Miss Rymer English, Mr Matthews English also brilliant, followed by Mr Carruthers. There was a horrible history teacher called Mr Hall, he arrived after Mr Shirrrah left. Science was Mr Day, rather volatile, Mr Wheeler and Miss Pocock for Biology. She was followed by a Miss Montgomery. There was Mr Bride the metalwork teacher and Mr Collins the woodwork teacher. Mrs Barbara Collins the needlework teacher, another needlework teacher but I can’t remember her name. For Domestic Science we had Mrs Day and Miss Jordan. I think I can remember most of them.
    I was very keen on hockey and made the first 11 in the first year, which was a bit of an achievement I think.

    I have to say I was very happy there. I am a teacher myself and now live in Cyprus. Nice to reminisce sometimes.

  • Bran George Says:

    Hello Pam,

    re the names you mention.

    I remember Mr Bride the Metalwork teacher. I had the idea of building a go kart. Hopelessly beyond my aspirations I have to say. I was always in their drilling holes and things on this piece of angle iron I fantasized was part of the chassis of the mythical go kart. Heaven knows what I thought I was doing. I remember the metalwork room very well, especially the brazier in the corner. Mr Bride never seemed to question people as to what they did. Including me. Don’t know why.

    Mr Ghent you mention as the deputy head. Well I thought it was Gardner, but now you come to mention it the name Ghent does ring a bell. Quite a tall well built man as I recall.

    As for the metalwork images and Mr Atkinson. All I remember was that he wanted us to painy bowls of fruit, usually hanging up in the rafters.

    I went around with a chap called Chris, and another called David. The latter went to live in Deal, Kent as I recall. We called each other the three musketeers when at school. Amateur Radio was all the rage. Chris was very into Morse Code. I built radios from kits of parts after I left school. Used to get practical wireless magazine. Which I have bought a number of copies of recently for old times sake. Very good.

    At Bennets End there was an English teacher, tall thin chap whose name I forget. I wrote an article on radios and he thought I had copied it from Practical Wireless. I was writing about crystal radios at the time. I should have challenged him over his attitude. I can remember his superior mocking tone even now. Should have reported him really.

    It sounds as though your experiences were a lot more conducive than mine. But memory plays tricks (on my part anyway).

    Nice to talk to you.

    Regards

    Brian.

  • Pam Christou Says:

    Hi Brian

    Thanks for your reply. Yes, I think you should’ve challenged that teacher on his comments and attitude. Mr Matthews was quite tall with grey hair and a moustache. I don’t think that it could’ve been him but there again, you never know. I think he left at the end of our t hird year. There was another English teacher called Mr Baker, he taught me English literature and I think he may have been half Indian. Who knows? But he could have a superior, mocking tone at times. He lived in Leverstock Green I think. I noticed that Mr Daine came out as Mr Diane before when I wrote. Should’ve checked the autocorrect!

    I think I’d need your friends’ surnames for me to remember them. I do remember a David Adams, David Lesage, good at football, and a David Hingston. I used to go around with Valerie Sunasky, Carol Wallington, Christine Hopkins and sometimes Jean Barker.

    Talking about your magazine, I managed to find a copy of a book that I had when I was about 5! I’d given it to my Godson but when he grew out of it his mum threw it away!!! Anyway I tracked one down through Abebooks and bought it. It was a pop-up book called ‘The adventures of Tuffy’, about a little cat. Anyway I got it back so I’m very happy. Some people never grow up do they?

    Anyway Brian, great talking to you too.

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